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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontologist Aptitude Test? - measuring ontologies

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2009 09:48:35 -0500
Message-id: <4B2E3943.6060408@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Chris,    (01)

Thanks for mentioning that paper by Kuhn:    (02)

CP> You may be interested in Kuhn's paper - Kuhn T. S. 1961.
 > The function of measurement in modern physical science. Isis 52(168),
 > 161-193.  (http://www.jstor.org/pss/228678 ).
 >
 > He argues that if you look at the history of science, it is only
 > when a topic matures that one is able to measure reliably.
 > And that Kelvin's [quotation] is historically inaccurate.    (03)

Unfortunately, JSTOR wants $14 for a copy.  But the opening paragraph,
which is free, makes the point.  (Copy below.)    (04)

Re Kelvin:  Many of his famous quotations are ones that he never said.
One of my favorites is    (05)

    Better a rough answer to the right question
    than an exact answer to the wrong question.    (06)

This one, by the way, makes a point that is opposite to the one
about measurement.  But for that reason, it's more appropriate.    (07)

John
_______________________________________________________________________    (08)

The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Science    (09)

By Thomas S. Kuhn    (010)

At the University of Chicago, the fašade of the Social Science Research
Building bears Lord Kelvin's famous dictum:  "If you cannot measure,
your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory." Would that statement be
there if it had been written, not by a physicist, but by a sociologist,
political scientist, or economist?  Or again, would terms like "meter
reading" and "yardstick" recur so frequently in contemporary discussions
of epistemology and scientific method were it not for the prestige of
modern physical science and the fact that measurement so obviously bulks
large in its research?  Suspecting that the answer to both these
questions is no, I find my assigned role in this conference particularly
challenging.  Because physical science is so often seen as the paradigm
of sound knowledge and because quantitative techniques seem to provide
an essential clue to its success, the question how measurement has
actually functioned for the past three centuries in physical science
arouses more than its natural and intrinsic interest.    (011)

Let me therefore make my general position clear at the start. Both as
an ex-physicist and as an historian of physical science I feel sure
that, for at least a century and a half, quantitative methods have
indeed been central to the development of the fields I study. On the
other hand, I feel equally convinced that our most prevalent notions
both about the function of measurement and about the source of its
special efficacy are derived largely from myth.    (012)


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