Testing as a bootstrap operation in physics

Joseph Agassi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Science uses its firmest conclusions to arrive at new ones which may well completely destroy these, previously firmest, conclusions. The perceptive may notice that when the previously firmest conclusions are demolished we may remain in the dark with conclusion worth replacing it with. But only when we replace it with a firmer conclusion can we speak of a bootstrap operation rather than of a refutations. Often, to conclude, the ad hoc nature of a fact-like statement is rooted in the theoretical background against which it is couched; given a different theoretical background and it fully falls into place, as the expression goes. If an observation report is at once a corollary of our scientific theory, then it is unproblematic. If it conflicts with our scientific theory, either we reject the theory or try to find an excuse for not rejecting it. When, however, a small theory which well integrates in our theoretical background is attacked by a well corroborated fact-like theory and all its defences are refuted, then a revolution may be under way. Such events may be rare, but they are the more interesting ones. At times we alter our whole theoretical outlook around a rather fact-like theory which then gets refuted. We then look silly from any viewpoint except that which takes the process to be a bootstrap operation!

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for General Philosophy of Science - Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1973


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