The Loss of World in the Image. Origin and Development of the Concept of Image in the Thought of Hermann von Helmholtz and Heinrich Hertz

In D. Baird (ed.), Heinrich Hertz. Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Kluwer Academic Publishers (1998)
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In searching for the origins of current conceptions of science in the history of physics, one encounters a remarkable phenomenon. A typical view today is that theoretical knowledge-claims have only relativized validity. Historically, however, this thesis was supported by proponents of a conception of nature that today is far from typical, a mechanistic conception within which natural phenomena were to be explained by the action of mechanically moved matter. Two of these proponents, Hermann von Helmholtz and his pupil Heinrich Hertz, contributed significantly to the modernization of the conception of science. Paradigmatic for their common contribution to this development is the way in which they employed the concept of image. By considering the origin and the different meanings of this concept we may trace a line of development which begins with Helmholtz's original claim that a universally and forever valid theory provides a unique representation of nature. It continues with the realization that the status of scientific knowledge is capable of revision; and it arrives at Hertz's admission that a variety of theories over a domain of objects is possible, at least at times.
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