Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

The Logical Leap: Induction in PhysicsThe Logical Leap: Induction in Physics by David Harriman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harriman presents his application of Rand's theory of concepts to an elaboration and defense of a theory of induction, particularly in physics. He draws interesting and novel connections between concept-formation, abstraction, and induction. He makes some strong and controversial claims about induction and certainty, some of which I am still mulling over. The basic format is to present the theory in outline and then, using the history of science, to show how induction in physics has worked. His presentation is clear and concise. His narrative is clean, without much of the distracting polemics sometimes seen in some followers of Rand and Peikoff. There is some controversy about some of the details of the history he presents. Having little expertise or experience in this area, I am not competent to judge this. If the criticisms are accurate, this would surely be a fault of the book. It would demonstrate carelessness or sloppiness. Nevertheless, I do not think these alleged faults, on their own, undermine Harriman's central claims about induction. He is not after all engaged in the history of science as such, but using that history as a way of illustrating the theory of induction. I say this not to excuse such possible errors, but only to put them into context. Even with these possible faults, I'd recommend the book to those interested in Rand, epistemology, or the history of science.

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