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Scientific RepresentationParadoxes of Perspective$
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Bas C. van Fraassen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278220

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278220.001.0001

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The Problem of Coordination

The Problem of Coordination

(p.115) 5 The Problem of Coordination
Scientific Representation

Bas C. van Fraassen

Oxford University Press

The term ‘problem of coordination’ had appeared in Mach's writings on mechanics and thermodynamics; was salient in the discussion of the relation between mathematical and physical geometry that extended from the 19th century into the 20th; and came to special prominence through the writings of Schlick and Reichenbach when logical empiricism was beginning to break with the neo-Kantian tradition. The questions What counts as a measurement of (physical quantity) X? and What is (that physical quantity) X? cannot be answered independently of each other, which brings up the famed ‘hermeneutic circle’. This chapter examines this apparent circularity by focusing on the one hand on its more abstract consideration by Reichenbach, and on the other hand the practical response in history examined by Mach and Poincaré, with the conclusion that pure or presuppositionless coordination is neither possible nor required.

Keywords:   Mach, thermometer, temperature, Schlick, Reichenbach, Poincaré, time measurement, clock, hermeneutic circle, convention

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