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The Book of Evidence$
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Peter Achinstein

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195143898

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195143892.001.0001

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Evidence for Molecules: Jean Perrin and Molecular Reality

Evidence for Molecules: Jean Perrin and Molecular Reality

(p.243) 12 Evidence for Molecules: Jean Perrin and Molecular Reality
The Book of Evidence

Peter Achinstein (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Jean Perrin's argument for the existence of molecules on the basis of his 1908 experiments with Brownian motion is examined. Various interpretations of that argument, including hypothetico‐deductive, Wesley Salmon's common‐cause idea, and Clark Glymour's bootstrapping claims, are examined and rejected. The argument is reconstructed as an eliminative‐causal one, and it is shown how it conforms to the requirements of potential evidence. It is also argued, against antirealist interpretations of Perrin, that Perrin himself was applying a realist argument to the existence of unobservable molecules rather than an instrumentalist one to the truth of the observational consequences of the molecular theory.

Keywords:   bootstrapping, Brownian motion, common cause, eliminative‐causal reasoning, evidence, Glymour, hypothetico‐deductive, instrumentalism, Perrin, realism, Salmon

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