October 4, 2010
Below are the three emails I sent to Mr. Harriman after I began reading the published version of his book, The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics. Each spawned a thread of interleaved discussion.
Dr. Peikoff said that my criticisms of Mr. Harriman’s book “often go to the heart of the philosophic principles at issue.” Unless indirect references such as the above are included, I would have said “a few times” rather than “often,” but regardless, here is an example, from a discussion about gravity. I express reservations about the principle that an inchoate concept provides a “red light” to induction and sympathize with William Whewell’s view that a concept’s final formation completes rather than begins an induction.
I didn’t mention this in the email exchange (references to Objectivism in my exchanges with Mr. Harriman were rare) but this part of Whewell’s philosophy might fit well with Ayn Rand’s intriguing statement in the ITOE workshops that concepts implicitly contain propositional knowledge.
For those who don’t know him: William Whewell (1794–1866) was the last major advocate for a conception of induction that gained currency in Copernicus’ time and then dominated the philosophy and practice of science from the time of Galileo and Harvey to that of Darwin and Maxwell. It is too bad a discussion of writings on induction from those times was not part of Mr. Harriman’s book. Comparisons between what the scientists were taught to do and what Mr. Harriman said they actually did do would have helped highlight the new and distinctive features of the theory Mr. Harriman presents.