What Enables Us to Build Machines?

  • Karl Rogers


The innovation of electricity, nuclear power, aeroplanes, rocketry, plastics, computers, etc., has changed the world. However, do scientists understand the powers that they release into the world? What enables us to build machines? This question is a central question for any critique of realist and positivist positions because both will claim that acting upon materials in accordance with the “natural law” will enable us to build machines. The irony is that both positions neglect the productive role of technology in experimental physics, and yet their arguments for the success of physics are premised upon its technological success. My argument against both realists and positivists is that we cannot find any rational or empirical grounds for deciding between physics-as-discovery and physics-as-production once we address the technological character of experimentation. What physics does is produce the process of learning how to create itself as the means to produce its discoveries. As I argued in chapters three and four, the metaphysical project of experimental physics involved understanding natural processes in technological terms from the onset. This has been evident throughout all of experimental physics, including the development of mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and quantum physics. The history of physics is itself comprised of innovating, bringing-together, developing, and explaining a series of heterogeneous machine prototypes.


Experimental Physic Machine Performance Transformative Power Technological Society Labour Process 
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© Karl A. Rogers 2005

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  • Karl Rogers

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