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By Rom Harré (auth.)

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Example text

A growing interest in the relation of experience to knowledge led to Locke's influential distinction between ideas and qualities, that which was in the mind and that which was in the world. The science of mechanics was possible, according to Locke, because some ideas resembled the real qualities of things (the primary qualities ofbulk, figure, texture and motion) though many did not (ideas of secondary qualities such as feelings of warmth and sensations of colour). Furthermore he though Newton's work had demonstrated the rightness of extending the scope of primary qualities to include the fine structures of things (Bacon's latent configurations), structures which were beyond the powers of the human senses to experience.

A revival of the Humean view of science as a collection of rules of thumb grounded in habit began in continental Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, particularly in the work of Ernst Mach and his followers. Mach said (1894), 'The communication of scientific knowledge always involves description, that is a mimetic reproduction of facts in thought the object of which is to replace and save the trouble of new experience. This is really all that natural laws are. Knowing the value of the acceleration of gravity and Galileo's laws of descent, we possess simple and compendious directions for reproducing in thought all possible motions of falling bodies.

Our three methods of explanation of happenings satisfy both these aspects of explanation at once. We give an antecedent happening to account for the happening to be explained. This will be acceptable as an explanation only if it is the subject of a generalization linking it to the happening to be explained. Now we often say that when we are made aware of the general 'connection' between this kind of cause and this kind of effect we have made an advance in our understanding of the workings of nature.

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