The Nature of Scientific and Other Hypotheses

E. C. Owen
1950 Bulletin of the British Society for the History of Science  
of Paper read on 16th January, 1950 Philosophy is knowledge gained by the analysis of knowledge, or by the re-synthesis of the products of such analysis. Knowledge is derived by two processes, perception of externality, and introspection. Facts are products of perceptions stored in the memory, and may be either public or private. Public facts are scientific, legal or historic. Historic facts depend upon memories of people already dead. Legal facts depend upon the memories of the living.
more » ... the living. Scientific facts have both these characteristics and in addition are demonstrable at will to any intelligent audience. Facts, in general, have a scientific, a legal and a historic aspect. Scientific facts are physical, chemical or biological. The facts of biology are about living things. Physics is concerned with the properties common to all things, chemistry with the way in which properties change from thing to thing. Private facts are those which are known for certain only by the individual. My belief that other people's minds contain private facts is based on analogy with my own private facts and on my belief in behaviouristic psychology. Private facts have a cognitive, an affective and a conative aspect. All facts are products of experience and, being the basis of our actions, are built into some sort of philosophic system by each of us. This process of building may be called creation in the same sense as the word is used of art. Facts, once stored in the memory, are systematised by ideas (concepts) supplied by the mind itself. Of supreme importance among these concepts are hypotheses. By means of these, both public and private facts become logical deductions from hypotheses. Hypotheses are scientific, fantastic, ethical or abortive. Scientific (and perhaps the other) hypotheses may be quantitative, qualitative, or spatial. Deductions from qualitative or spatial hypotheses are made by logic; from quantitative ones by mathematics. Fantastic hypotheses are the basis of works of art and imagination. Ethical hypotheses are formulated in all religions and political creeds. Abortive hypotheses are those about which there is no consensus of intelligent opinion. There is a circle in mental development from facts to hypotheses and back to facts, but hypotheses are far less numerous than facts and they therefore lessen the burden on the memory. The metrical side of mathematics is a product of counting, which is the conscious repetition of successive 1 acts of attention, and is therefore psychological. Whatever the nature of the hypotheses induced by scientists to form a single coherent system of externality, it is a vain hope to think that any such system will stand the test of time, for sensuous entities cannot give accurate information about the super sensuous, and most hypotheses are statements of relations between supersensuous entities based on analogy with sensuous ones. Science in the synoptic sense is not a static picture of the universe. It is merely an attempt to write a grammar of the universe. Analogy is the life blood of induction and without induction neither the world's favourite scientific theories nor its religious or political creeds would have been thought of. Confusion as to the nature of induction has arisen because of the failure to distinguish between public and private facts and the consequent reluctance terms of use, available at https://doi.
doi:10.1017/s0950563600001792 fatcat:robmyo74xvhm7gwa23esr73rqq