Experiment and Experience. On Ernst Mach’s Theory of Scientific Experimentation
This paper focuses on Ernst Mach’s theory of scientific experimentation. As I shall show, Mach presents an extraordinarily wide perspective on scientific experiments, bringing together heuristic, evolutionary, historical and didactical aspects. For Mach, experimentation is not reduced to controlled testing in a laboratory. It rather describes a quite general human, and even animal, activity to explore the world. By relying on such a broad notion of experiment, however, his theory has to deal with a wide range of objections. I shall analyse these objections by confronting Mach’s theory with Franz Brentano’s straightforward criticism. I shall conclude that Mach’s theory entails some unsolvable inconsistencies. These inconsistencies lead to some important questions that still pose challenges to the philosophy of scientific experimentation.