Reviews of Herbert Dingle's books
1. Science and Human Experience (1931), by Herbert Dingle.
Science Progress in the Twentieth Century (1919-1933) 27 (108) (1933), 743-744.
This volume contains the substance of four lectures on "The Nature and Scope of Physical Science," which Professor Dingle delivered at the Royal Institution in 1931, and an additional chapter on "Science and Religion." Here we have, if not exactly a confession of faith, then at least a philosophy of science and a good deal besides. Scientists, and astronomers more particularly, have in recent years written a great deal on philosophy. It is not always very clear where precisely they draw the line between their science and their philosophy. One sometimes has the feeling that what they understand they call science; what they don't understand they call philosophy. Naturally, there is ample room for such philosophy; and one ought to feel grateful to those who have the courage to think aloud about such problems. Considering its small size, this book has a remarkably varied and attractive list of contents, ranging from the birth of modern science to relativity and the quantum theory, and including such fascinating and contentious topics as the relation of science to art, to literary criticism, and to religion. And on all these themes the author writes in a way that should interest the general reader as well as the student. There is only one criticism I shall venture to make, and even that one I make with some diffidence. It seems to me that Professor Dingle's use of the terms 'experience' and 'conception' is rather ambiguous, possibly confused, and that the lack of sufficient clarity in his use of these terms, which constitute the key to his philosophy of science, obscures or even undermines his exposition of his main theses.
1.2. Review by: G B Brown.
Philosophy 7 (27) (1932), 339-341.
Professor Dingle has set out to determine the nature and scope of science in relation to human experience generally, and in doing so he has produced a very readable and stimulating book. He first suggests a definition of the scope of science and then traces in outline the gradual progress of physical science from the Middle Ages onwards. His definition is as follows: Science is "the recording, augmentation, and rational correlation of those elements of our experience which are actually or potentially common to all normal people". By experience he means "everything of which we are conscious except rational conceptions." It seems odd to leave out rational conceptions, or what Jung would call directed-thinking, and include fantasy-thinking, feelings and emotion. However, although the latter are included in "experience," they are ruled out of science by not being "common," and with regard to judgment in this respect "we must have regard to particular events and not to life as a whole." In this way he excludes the sense of beauty for instance, since, although common as a whole, there is no invariable agreement in particular instances. "Potential" experiences are those which are not actual only through accidental circumstances and not from inherent character.
1.3. Review by: Carroll Lane Fenton.
The Sewanee Review 40 (4) (1932), 496-499.
Dr Dingle approaches problems "solved" by Jeans and Eddington in their own field of astrophysics, and in addition offers some cautiously wrought conclusions on the significance of science in the field of art. Defining science as "the recording, augmentation, and rational correlation of those elements of our experience which are actually or potentially common to all normal people," he distinguishes it both from religion and from art, whose experiences he finds to be individual. ... As for that freedom of the will which so often has been held prerequisite to artistic creation and moral responsibility: "Science has, and can have, nothing to say on the question. To Science, will is a quality of the mind, and mind is an abstraction from behaviour. It is a sort of parameter in terms of which observations can be expressed, and its only characteristics are those which enable it to express observations." One can no more ask whether the will is free than he can ask whether time is free: both are abstractions, and the question is without scientific meaning.
The Philosophical Review 48 (2) (1939), 229-230.
The desire of the layman to know more and more about science, argues Professor Dingle, creates paradox. For the scientist can meet this desire only by discoursing about such absurdities as curved space, the uncertainty principle, and wavicles; man honestly and sincerely seeks enlightenment, but he is only led further into the "bog of nescience". The resolution of the paradox lies in a recognition that the methods employed by science are incompatible with those of common-sense understanding. Reason and experience - the two basic factors of consciousness - function differently in the two modes of study. According to the common-sense method, reason combines diverse atomic experiences (sense-data) into spatial clusters, thus forming molecules which are called physical objects, e.g., lumps of sugar, billiard balls; but in science reason classifies atomic experiences of the same kind, e.g., sights or sounds, thus forming molecules which are collections of similar elements. Hence the correlations of common sense are expressed as between sugar, billiard balls, and such things, while the correlations of science integrate motion, light, sound and others of the same class.
2.2. Review by: E. N.
The Journal of Philosophy 35 (4) (1938), 108-109.
These Lowell Lectures for 1936 by the well-known English astrophysicist make provoking as well as interesting reading. Professor Dingle's aim is to make intelligible the achievements of recent physics by analysing its method, rather than by drugging his readers' minds with pictorial but misleading accounts of the content of physical theory. His general thesis is that theoretical physics is a creature of reason, whose raison d'etre is the correlation of experience to form a logical system; theoretical physics must not be taken as formulating "the truth" about an "objective world" of individuals existing antecedently to the operations of reason. The fundamental assumption from which this conclusion is developed is that science is a process going on in our "consciousness" and that it refers to nothing "outside" the latter. Accordingly, it is maintained that within the field of consciousness an originally undifferentiated and unrelated "experience" serves as the raw material for "reason": reason breaks up experience into various "atoms," and then correlates them to obtain a coherent logical scheme. For this purpose various "scientific objects" or "postulates" are invented, such as electrons, light-rays, and mass-points. Experience can exercise no restraint upon the character of these inventions, and it is a fundamental error in analysis, according to the author, to assign to these postulates the status which experiences have in the field of consciousness.
2.3. Review by Arthur Eddington.
Science Progress (1933-) 32 (128) (1938), 772-775.
Professor Dingle is one of many who have attempted to elucidate this meeting-point of physics and philosophy. "Through Science to Philosophy" is a happy title; but, of all the recent books on the subject, I should be inclined to single out Dingle's as the one to which it is least apt. From the beginning the outlook is that of critical philosophy; and the reader must face some 200 pages of discussion of such subjects as Consciousness, Experience, Truth, Words, Reason, etc., before he is deemed sufficiently inoculated against modern heresy to be allowed contact with current scientific ideas. Thus the order of thought seems rather to be "through Philosophy to a right comprehension of Science." I think that this treatment misses one of the most significant features of the present drawing together of philosophy and science; theoretical physicists, through the inescapable demands of their own subject, have been forced to become epistemologists in the same way that pure mathematicians have been forced to become logicians. Most amazingly it has been found that the study of the nature of scientific knowledge is not an idle luxury, and that it is actually an aid in the search for knowledge to know the nature of that for which we seek. It is this compulsory abandonment of the naive realism of the older scientific outlook which has appealed to most modern writers; but Dingle scarcely recognises the existence of a route by which the scientific study of the universe has, through its own practical development, independently reached conclusions comparable with those of philosophy. Dingle rather goes out of his way to give the impression that his hand is against every man. Doubtless some of his contentions will arouse opposition; but his insistent magnification of imperceptible differences seems to me exaggerated. At the outset he assumes the role of protector of the plain reader bewildered by paradoxical utterances of scientific experts ... we are given an "extraordinary miscellany of absurdities" collected from Dirac, Eddington, Planck, Bohr and Jeans.
Philosophy 17 (66) (Apr, 1942), 181-183.
In the book at present under review, Professor Dingle gives his own treatment of the foundations of relativity. Only one chapter is devoted to the General Theory, and the major part of the book is intended by the author to be an introduction to Professor McCrea's valuable little monograph in the same series, 'Relativity Physics'. Dingle is a physicist rather than a mathematician. Consequently, his chapter on the experimental foundations is stimulating and up to date. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the book as a whole, for the author does not appear to have a clear conception of how to build up the theory rigorously and in the light of recent research. A few instances of his attitude will be given, showing how it serves to augment rather than to dispel confusion. ... Dingle seems to have missed the main point of the theory, which is that classical kinematics needs to be replaced by a new kinematics rigorously derived from precise concepts of length and time. It is not sufficient merely to tinker with our ordinary intuitive ideas. Because he appreciated this vital epistemological point, Einstein was the first to grasp the inner meaning of the Lorentz formulae and thereby to make a fundamental advance. It would seem that Dingle is still living in the afterglow of pre-Einstein physics, for his methods are intrinsically of a similar type to those of Fitzgerald and Lorentz.
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 3 (9 (1952), 89-91.
When a distinguished philosopher of science essays a contribution to the theory and practice of literary criticism, we are whole-heartedly prepared to applaud such versatile enterprise; and, after reading Professor Dingle's book, we can still applaud the zeal and rigorous cerebration that he brings to a subject outside his bailiwick. At the same time, if we consider the book in itself, as we must, and ask whether it helps much to clarify and systematise the traditional aims and methods of criticism, we cannot - at least this reviewer cannot - say that it does.
Philosophy 21 (79) (1946), 183-184.
In this pamphlet Professor Dingle tries, without taking sides, "to locate the source" of the conflict between Science and Religion. Leaving on one side special clashes, hoping to give readers a sporting chance of resolving these for themselves, he deals with the general problem created by having two different, and largely incompatible, attitudes towards "what is essentially a homogeneous body of experience." Being in the main unconscious of this, the religious and scientific standpoints sometimes get mixed up and there is discord. In the Middle Ages such a duality did not trouble men who could comfortably include everything within one theological system. "Into this simple unison of thought there broke with the Renaissance the discordant note of modern science," with its independent direct appeal to experience. "A duality of outlook was introduced into the world, and the division thus created has never been repaired." One day the sciences, including the youngest, Psychology (which can handle religious experience scientifically) may give us a unified world-picture, but that day is not yet. (Philosophy will presumably synthesize the scientific data.) Meanwhile we must be "content with partial pictures, each limited to the experiences which provide its justification. There can then be no possibility of conflict." As religious experience does not warrant inferences as to physical laws or facts of history, Professor Dingle cautions theologians not to extend their theology beyond "the human experience which called it forth." Scientists likewise are told that their chief error "has been to condemn as illusory all experience which is not useful for their own restricted purposes." Professor Dingle has, in a short space, suggested a possible eirenicon. Those to whom his outlook appeals may well share his hope that Science and Religion, combining their interpretations may recover for us, "though in a very different form from that of mediaeval times, the unity of outlook which the advent of modern science took from us.
Science Progress (1933-) 39 (154) (1951), 394.
Professor Herbert Dingle has produced a brilliant little book, which every critic, whether his job is with literature or with the other arts, would be the better for reading. It falls into two parts. The first part is largely destructive. He takes the work of various critics of the last hundred years, who have assumed what they claimed to be a scientific standpoint, and shows how little science there is about some of what they say. His conclusion is that the critic's business is not with any psychological analysis of the writer, made in the belief that it will throw light on poems or plays - nor yet with straightforward biography, attempted for the same purpose. His job is simply with the material. The facts at the disposal of the critic are the poems themselves, not the dark ladies who are assumed to have inspired them. The scientific critic will argue, not from the dark ladies to the sonnets, pointing out how they would explain this, that, or the other passage ; but from the poems themselves to the real poet. And we can argue only to the poet - not to "the man." In the second part, the author prints three of his own critical studies which were originally written without actual reference to the views set out in the rest of the essay, but which he claims as exemplifying them. They are studies of Wordsworth, Swinburne, and Browning, the two first being perhaps the most successful.
6.2. Review by: John Holloway.
Philosophy 25 (95) (1950), 361-363.
That literary criticism should become a science like everything else is a natural hope in our time; perhaps it is natural also that attempts to make it so are often the work of non-scientists, and fare accordingly. Professor Dingle is not one of these. His book is, first, a brilliant destructive analysis of some influential modern attempts to found criticism as a science, and second, a modest proposal that in one subordinate respect the methods of science, if not its conclusions, can lead to informative results. Of these two, the former is particularly valuable at a time when crude speculative psychoanalysis or confused and vulgarized physiology are so often advanced as a substitute for criticism or as its essence. Professor Dingle easily shows that psychoanalytic biography is both irrelevant to criticism, and as unscientific as it well could be.
Revista Española de Pedagogía 11 (42) (1953), 309-310.
Under the direction of the compiler H Dingle, a group of outstanding specialists offers us a thorough panoramic view of the tree of science during the last hundred years. The initial date of the year 1851 is that of the Great Exhibition of the United Kingdom, also significant because of a gigantic economic and social resurgence. In the prologue and in the epilogue, H Dingle insists on the problem of the unification of the sciences, a goal that has been achieved during this century, in contrast to the ideas that prevailed in the nineteenth century pointing to arbitrary limits between the branches of knowledge coming from the same trunk.
7.2. Review by: L M Miall.
Science Progress (1933-) 39 (156) (1951), 773.
This book consists of twenty chapters by seventeen different authors, each describing the progress in a particular branch of science in the last hundred years, the concluding one, by the editor, being a consideration of the significance of science. The writers are all very distinguished in their respective fields; they have in many instances played important parts in the discoveries about which they are writing; and it would be impertinent to criticise their subject matter. The balance of the book as a whole is, however, surprising. There are four chapters on physics, two each on chemistry and astronomy, single ones on geology, meteorology, evolution, genetics, histology and physiology, biochemistry, and medicine, two chapters, one of them short, on the coming of man and his subsequent development, and two on psychology. There is scarcely a mention of the vegetable kingdom, no botany, plant physiology, or plant biochemistry, and little on zoology, except for man, who one feels has a disproportionate amount of attention.
7.3. Review by: I Bernard Cohen.
Isis 43 (4) (1952), 377-378.
The topics covered in 'A century of science' include energy, field physics, particle physics, structure of the atom, structure of molecules, chemical elements, geology, the earth's atmosphere, the constitution and evolution of stars, the structure of the universe, organic evolution, the coming of man, the progress of homo sapiens, genetics and embryology, physiology and histology, biochemistry, medicine, general psychology, medical psychology, and a concluding section on the significance of science. The only field that seems to be missing is scientific education. The volume ends with a most interesting essay, by the editor, on the significance of science. Here the nineteenth-century view of science is contrasted with our present notions in a most important and illuminating way. Not only is there a discussion of the change of view with regard to the law of causality, but also the nature of scientific law itself. The breakdown of nineteenth-century assumptions in science is placed in proper perspective in terms of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, i.e., the lines laid down by Galileo and his successors - but with due respect to the Cartesian abstractions. It is pointed out how the collapse of nineteenth-century philosophy of science was a necessary consequence of the breakdown of the classical science of that time, and the reader will wish only that Professor Dingle had given himself more space in which to develop these ideas. Perhaps he will take the occasion soon to write a longer work tracing this development step by step.
7.4. Review by: F M Wadley.
The Scientific Monthly 74 (3) (1952), 188-190.
The editor expresses the opinion that boundaries between fields of biology and other sciences are disappearing and that discoveries of the past century are revolutionary. This book is a definite addition to the literature of science and culture.
7.5. Review by: William P D Wightman.
Philosophy 27 (100) (1952), 87-90.
The century which has passed since the Great Exhibition of 1851 has, it is generally agreed, witnessed a greater development of scientific knowledge and its application to human purposes than has the remainder of recorded history. As to whether this has been to the benefit of mankind there is far less agreement. This confusion, in which the wildest of claims are matched only by the wildness of the denunciations, is too often based on inadequate knowledge, if not actual distortion of the facts. It is the purpose of this book ... to set down the facts, as well as may be in the compass of 316 pages of text, as a final court of appeal. It may frankly be doubted whether any such aim could be achieved under such conditions - selection is inevitable; so that what emerges is not "the" facts, but those which have seemed most representative to the eighteen men of good will, experts in their several branches, who have contributed to it. ... The volume concludes with a stimulating essay by the Editor, Professor Dingle, on 'The Significance of Science'. Some might beg leave to doubt whether "this enquiry, this process of self-examination so to speak, on the part of science" can be legitimately carried out by science itself, that is, by the methods whereby scientific knowledge has been acquired. Nor is it quite clear what Professor Dingle means in saying that "the 'real' world is not only unknown and unknowable but inconceivable - that is to say, contradictory or absurd." This seems to the reviewer a dangerous statement to make at the end of a "century of unparalleled progress." Doubtless the conceptual apparatus - that of independent, "frozen" objects - has proved inadequate to the task of giving precise, even if limited, knowledge of a world beyond the selective experience of physics. But doubtless also, if our progress towards becoming a previously unrecorded type of supernova can be halted in time, this apparatus will be reshaped as fundamentally as was that which it has replaced.
It is a common complaint among the educated, but not professionally scientific, public that the physics of this century has become absurd.... It is worth an effort to see why physics, which in fact has never become irrational, can appear as though it had. I believe the root cause is that in this century a change has come over the metaphysics that underlies the physicist's practice and that he is largely unconscious of this fact. The change I speak of is from a view that regards physics as a study of the nature of an external world to a view that regards it as an attempt to find rational relations between the elements of our experience. The older physicist believed in Nature and thought of himself as making experiments to see what She was like. She was there whether he could observe her or not. But the modern physicist thinks first of all of what he observes in his experiments and is not interested in anything that he cannot possibly observe. He looks for relations between his observations and ignores everything else. But he still expresses his results as though they were discoveries of the essence of Nature, because he is so used to this way of speaking that he does not realise that his discoveries no longer conform to it. When they are expressed as the characteristics of a world existing outside us and independently of us, which causes our experience by its impact on our sense organs, these discoveries require such a world to have contradictory properties. Hence, by retaining this form of expression, the physicist finds himself presenting his perfectly rational achievements as though they were nonsensical.
8.2. Review by: R. L. A.
Philosophy of Science 21 (1) (1954), 76.
In this work Professor Dingle has collected a series of his essays on the history and philosophy of science. In his opening essay, the development of scientific self-criticism is called for; the need for such criticism is effectively demonstrated by historical illustrations from the history of science. With one exception the historical essays deal with classical astronomy and physics. The interpretations of the past, however, are provocatively modern; they are delightful and informative reading even for the professional. On the other hand, this reviewer found the philosophical essays to contain (in the main) a restatement (modified in only minor respects) of 18th century British common-sense empiricism. It is very annoying to a reader to find himself in disagreement with most of the "obvious" or "self-evident" philosophical principles asserted by the author. Philosophy has suffered no lack of criticism, but yet it seems to repeat past errors with more frequency than has science.
8.3. Review by: Waldo H Furgason.
The Scientific Monthly 78 (5) (1954), 329.
Readers of Professor Dingle's 1937 book 'Through Science to Philosophy' will find in this new volume an extension of that point of view which "recent developments of science forced us to take if we were to obtain a true understanding of the problems of science and philosophy." Pointing out two anomalies of the current philosophic outlook with reference to (a) the subject-object relation as employed in the thought process (that is, mind being used for both the subject and the object), and (b) the concept of time (that is, we tend to regard ourselves as existing not only in the present but also in the past and future), he proposes a new viewpoint which could serve to resolve both difficulties. His viewpoint, very clearly presented, advocates that "The Subject should be regarded as inevitably stationed in the present and the Object as inevitably in the past. ..." The two factors of philosophizing, (a) Reason, which is active, subjective in character, and eternally present (no location in time), together with (b) Experience, which is passive, composed of objective raw material and "petrified in the past" (is located in time), are characterized as having a fundamental and important distinction. This distinction recognizes that the ultimate facts of experience are indestructible (though its facts may be redistributed) whereas the contribution of reason can be destroyed, if the assumption is made "that a particular sense-datum is already postulated as an elementary experience."
8.4. Review by: Edward H Madden.
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 15 (1) (1954), 121-122.
The journals in which these essays originally appeared are not available everywhere so this collection, unlike many, serves an important function. Professor Dingle's contribution in the historical essays (mainly on astronomy) is not original research but an organization of material into broad yet precise patterns. The result is excellent intellectual history with biographical data skilfully interwoven. The reader will learn much from his delineation of Aristotelian and Medieval cosmology, and the astronomy of Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Kepler. Copernicus's astronomy clearly emerges as half medieval-half modern (he never relinquished the old concept of concentric spheres) and as heliostatic rather than heliocentric. Dingle devotes his history of modem observational astronomy to Tycho, Galileo, Flamsteed, Bessel (one of three who discovered stellar parallax, an important confirmation of Copernican theory), Adams and Leverrier (co-discoverers of Neptune), and Thomas Wright. Galileo, having laid the logical foundations of modern science as well as having contributed much to its findings, everywhere emerges as the hero of the piece. Elsewhere Dingle clearly exhibits the differences between logical and historical development in science and traces out the history of 18th century physics.
8.5. Review by: I Bernard Cohen.
The American Historical Review 59 (2) (1954), 347-348.
The author of the volume is an astrophysicist and writer on the philosophy of science who was appointed a few years ago to the chair of history and philosophy of science at University College, London. He has brought together here a number of essays, some of which are historical and others philosophical. They are almost all devoted to critical appraisals of science from a philosophical point of view illuminated by the history of science, and in this sense they are not original contributions to the history of science as such. Professor Dingle presents the thesis that the historian-philosopher of science can become a "scientific critic" and exert the same useful influence on the development of science that the literary critic supposedly exerts on creative writing. Literature, we are told, "in its naked simplicity has no intrinsic standards" and "was thus led by necessity to become self-critical." But "science has intrinsic standards. A scientific statement must, directly or indirectly, express experience and be subject to the test of experience." And so, says Professor Dingle, "A critical effort within science ... can direct the movement itself, so that blind alleys are avoided and the path of progress illuminated; and, still more important for the world as a whole, it can make science self-conscious and aware of the significance of what it is doing in relation to other human activities." The critical reader will not be fully convinced that men trained in the philosophy and history of science will be able to exert so positive an influence on the scientific enterprise as a whole, even though it is possible that individual practicing scientists may become more critical if they are grounded in philosophy and know some history of science.
8.6. Review by: Thomas S Kuhn.
Speculum 28 (4) (1953), 879-880.
Twenty essays and addresses, prepared during the past sixteen years, are assembled in this latest volume by Herbert Dingle, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at University College, London. The scope of his Scientific Adventure is wide. Historical subjects range from 'Nicolaus Copernicus' to 'Modern Theories of the Origin of the Universe,' and the philosophical selections proceed from the general 'Philosophical Viewpoint of a Scientist' to the more technical 'Theory of Measurement.' The diversity of the collection is at least partially relieved by the consistency of the author's attempt to exhibit science, in both its historical and philosophical ramifications, as a human achievement arising from man's eternal effort to order the data of his senses. And though the topics are occasionally limited and technical, the content is throughout agreeably accessible to the general reader, for Dingle treads the narrow line between technical jargon and popularization with a stylistic assurance reminiscent of Bertrand Russell's.
8.7. Review by: J D Bernal.
Science Progress (1933-) 41 (161) (1953), 180-181.
Prof Dingle occupies a special place in British scientific thought of today, in that he maintains the Newtonian tradition of science, equally resolutely against the neo-mystics and the dialectical materialists. He blends interest in the inner workings of science with one in its history, in a way very similar to Whewell in the last century but very different from Whitehead in the present one. Indeed, as these essays show, he would agree with most of Whewell's actual conclusions on science and aver that most of the constructions that have been put on its more recent advances add confusion rather than light.
8.8. Review by: H Russell Kahl.
The Journal of Philosophy 50 (16) (1953), 505-507.
This volume is a collection of twenty essays and addresses, written and delivered over the period of the last fifteen years. The introductory essay, 'The Missing Factor in Science' (Inaugural Lecture as Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at University College, London), is an eloquent plea for a critical effort within science similar in function to literary criticism. Pointing out that most criticism of science comes from outside any scientific movement, Professor Dingle indicates that a critical effort from within science can perform at least two functions. "It can direct the movement itself, so that blind alleys are avoided and the path of progress illuminated; and, still more important for the world as a whole, it can make science self-conscious and aware of the significance of what it is doing in relation to other human activities". Part I of the volume is composed of eight essays in the history of science; Part II of eleven essays in the philosophy of science.
8.9. Review by: Philip P Wiener.
The Philosophical Review 63 (4) (1954), 608-610.
That the author's philosophy of science is not as hypothetico-deductive as his science of physics is evident from the very mode of composition of his book. It is a collection of essays written over a period of twenty years and published in various journals such as Nature and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. One of the earliest and most philosophical of the essays is on "Science and the Unobservable," written partly in the tradition of Wittgenstein and Schlick. It is based on their threefold distinction of what is logically, physically, and practically (or technically) possible or significantly admissible in physics. The principle lying behind Albert Einstein's operational analysis of simultaneity (which, Dingle recalls, Jacques Maritain attacked as false in metaphysics even if accepted in physics) is formulated by Dingle as follows: "Nothing which is logically or physically unobservable is significant." To say that absolute simultaneity and infinite space are "not logically unobservable" because they are "conceivable" is a curious use of words. It is also not clear why Dingle finds an assumption of omniscience implied by this principle. His argument is: "If we accept the principle, we close the door to all experience outside that which our present knowledge allows." The obvious reply to this specious argument is that the principle does not close the door to all experience but only to all theories or claims to experiences going beyond what is logically or technically observable in the future as well as in the present limits of our modifiable state of knowledge. Dingle confronts us with too drastic a dilemma in his interpretation of recent physics: "Anyone who regards the recent trend of physics in general, and the theory of relativity in particular, as legitimate science or philosophy of intellectual activity ... must either be an idealist or presume that he is omniscient." Neither horn of this dilemma seems to me to be a necessary consequence of recent or past physics. The "idealistic view that the universe is constructed mentally by logical inference from experience" is scarcely substantiated by Dingle's general remarks about "experience" and "reason"; I have already indicated that the principle of observability does not imply omniscience, but, on the contrary, implies an open disposition to learn from future observations and modify present knowledge.
8.10. Review by: C A Coulson.
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 3 (12) (1953), 382-386.
Readers of this Journal require no introduction to Herbert Dingle. It was he who contributed the first article published in volume one, and whose interest has been central to its growth. His influence as professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at London, and the marks of his thought as centre of a most active research group at University College, are to be found wherever British scientists look up from their preoccupation with doing an experiment to ask, 'What am I really doing?' The present book consists of reprints of some twenty lectures written in the last fifteen years. One half are labelled Historical and the other half Philosophical. Let it be said at once that this book is a joy to read.
8.11. Review by: James R Newman.
Scientific American 190 (6) (1954), 97.
Dingle, professor of the history and philosophy of science at University College, London, is a learned, lively and incisive critic of scientific thought. Trained as an astronomer, he has written textbooks, technical papers and popular books. He is known as a stinging and effective controversialist who is not afraid to challenge accepted opinions. This book is a collection of his lectures and essays on the history and philosophy of science. It discusses, among other things, astronomy in the 16th and 17th century, physics in the 18th century, cosmological theories, time measurement, the laws of nature, the rational and empirical elements in physics, the relation of science to ethics and religion. Dingle's flat, pragmatic approach to abstruse concepts clarifies things refreshingly - if you are persuaded by his analysis. He considers that the single purpose of scientific work is to "arrange experience into a rational system." Much insight and pleasure can be derived from his many-faceted book, whether or not one agrees with all his opinions.
8.12. Review by: C V Durell.
The Mathematical Gazette 41 (338) (1957), 296-297.
In an epilogue to the 'Report on the Teaching of Higher Geometry in Schools' (1953), attention was called to the importance of broadening the education of specialists in the sixth form by general discussions of the relation between science and abstract mathematics and to suggestions of some of the relevant available literature enumerated in the Association's 'List of Books suitable for School Libraries' (1954). Professor Dingle's 'Scientific Adventure' should not only be added to the list but should rank high on it. This book is a collection of essays and addresses published or delivered at various times and on different levels, which none the less exhibit a genuine unity of purpose: an exposition of the philosophy of science which interprets and reconciles modern scientific methods and achievements. The historical essays can profitably be read by every sixth form specialist, whatever his primary interest may be; the philosophical essays make a more direct appeal to the mathematician and scientist, although some require greater maturity than most pupils are likely to have attained. All offer material for discussion and reflection.
8.13. Review by: Bentley Glass.
The Quarterly Review of Biology 30 (4) (1955), 372-373.
Among contemporary philosophers and historians of science, the eminent Professor of these branches of learning in University College, London, stands almost alone. Few indeed combine his breadth of training or his penetration into philosophical matters that all scientists should concern themselves about, and so few do. These collected essays, all but one or two of which have previously been published elsewhere, pre- sent much food for thought, pithily expressed. The introductory essay is entitled The Missing Factor in Science, and was Professor Dingle's Inaugural Lecture in June, 1947. A few quotations will indicate his point of view, although very inadequately. Two consequences of the nature of modern science are, first, "that science, though a genuine philosophy and not a new upstart activity, will never prove a universally satisfying philosophy. For all its impregnable basis and the stability of its superstructure, it is always essentially unfinished." Second, "the history of science is inseparable from science itself.... Science may ignore its history, but if so, it fails." The further consideration of these theses leads to the conclusion that "a critical effort within science. ... can direct the movement itself, so that blind alleys are avoided and the path of progress illuminated; and, still more important for the world as a whole, it can make science self-conscious and aware of the significance of what it is doing in relation to other human activities. It is no small calamity, therefore, that the world of science, with some honourable exceptions, is so indifferent to the attempt to understand and interpret its own activities. It makes no provision for recognizing and encouraging such an endeavour." This is truly a serious indictment. Perhaps it is not altogether justified, but it should serve to awaken somewhat the consciences of many scientists who have indeed never thought about the matter.
8.14. Review by: L Brillouin.
American Journal of Physics 21 (1953), 651.
This is a fascinating book, and the review might be summarized in a short sentence: read it, you will enjoy it, and learn a great deal about the philosophical background of scientific research. But this advice does not exhaust the matter and some of Professor Dingle's ideas should be briefly discussed. Most of the chapters were previously published in scientific journals but they take their full meaning by comparison, and the whole book clearly states the very original point of view of the author on the philosophy of science. The standpoint adopted commands a view of a very wide field, and shows questions concerning the relations of science with religion and the humanities in a new light. The significance of scientific investigation is considered nowadays from a point of view which is entirely different from the old classical one. Science used to be regarded as the examination of an independent external material world which caused and shaped our experience. The present position is to regard science as an attempt to formulate the regularities in our experiences, which represent the primary data. We do not believe any more in an outside world existing independently of the observer. An observation requires a definite coupling between the outside world and the scientist, and represents a perturbation of this world. This change in the philosophical position of the scientist was forced upon him by experimental facts, but its many implications have not been exhausted and remain to be discovered progressively. In the first chapter, "The Missing Factor in Science," the author emphasizes the role that should be played by critics and philosophers in the discussion of basic problems of science. "For all its impregnable basis and the stability of its super structure, science is always essentially unfinished. ... It is a process, stretching through time, in contrast with the instantaneous or eternal character of traditional philosophy." This suggests the need for a critical school, working within the scientific movement itself and performing the function which criticism has performed in literature. "Science has progressed like a ship with an all-powerful engine and no compass or rudder or steersman." A well-equipped school dedicated to the history and philosophy of science could play the role of critics, but this must be done by the scientists themselves. A critical effort within science "can make science self-conscious and aware of the significance of what it is doing in relation to other human activities.
American Scientist 43 (3) (1955), 71A.
In this eighth Eddington Memorial Lecture, Dr Dingle, professor of the history and philosophy of science, University College, London, examines incisively Eddington's claim "that the laws of physics are derivable by pure reason", and rejects it on the ground that empirical observation is necessary. However, Dingle himself shows the influence of positivism in his own point of view when he asserts: "We make observations - pointer-readings... We then construct a logical system with postulates so chosen to hold between the observations. And that is all." Many scientists will rightly say that this is not all that science does. It does not merely construct an abstract logical system but discovers laws of nature, of that external world which Dingle seems to hide behind a curtain of Nominalism. Without raising issues which cannot be confined in a brief review, it may be stated this little work is admirable for its trenchant analysis of Eddington's thought and for its exposition of a prominent trend in the philosophy of science.
9.2. Review by: Harold Jeffreys.
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 7 (26) (1956),174-175.
Professor Eddington's views have been discussed many times with various degrees of comprehension. Professor Dingle's Eddington Memorial Lecture describes them very well, and reinforces his interpretation with many quotations, going back to the Physical Society Report on relativity in 1916. Dingle emphasises that Eddington never claimed to derive anything about the constitution of the world by 'pure reason'; his claim was that those regularities that we call the laws of physics are consequences, not of properties of the actual world, but of our method of observation and interpretation, and thus of conventions. Dingle accepts this statement. The physical world, to Eddington, was different from the external world, but could be held to symbolise it. Dingle rejects this, on the ground that the external world (which he mysteriously calls Victorian) never appears in physics, and should be dispensed with altogether. He traces many confusing arguments in Eddington's works to his determination to retain the external world in spite of its apparent irrelevance to physics. Eddington is often called an idealist; Dingle's objection is that he is not idealist enough. I do not myself believe that anybody could work an idealism such as Dingle recommends; I am sure that nobody does so now.
9.3. Review by: L J Russell.
Philosophy 30 (115) (1955), 380-382.
Eddington saw the point of relativity theory with extraordinary speed and remarkable clarity. He saw its revolutionary effect on earlier theories of an external world. But the belief in an external world which the Victorian physicists held so strongly had too great a grip on him for him to give it up entirely. Relativity theory, Professor Dingle suggests, might be an irresistible force, but the external world was an immovable obstacle. Eddington's philosophy was the result of the clash; and the purpose of this lecture is to bring out the shifts to which Eddington was compelled in order to keep something of the old external world, while doing justice to the consequences which relativity theory forced him to accept. Eddington restricted these consequences to the parts of science dealing with measurement, and he made this include the whole of physics, but only the metrical parts of such sciences as deal with life and mind and religious experience (if there is a part of theology which can be called theophysics). But even here - in relation to metrical experiences - he attempted to establish a connection with the mysterious external world, holding that these metrical experiences give a symbolical account of the independent world, though only of its structure. Certain kinds of non-metrical experiences in biology and psychology, and non-metrical aesthetic and religious experiences, he held to be in a different category. They do reveal the inner nature of that whose structure is given symbolically in the metrical parts of science. The consequences of this on Eddington's philosophy are, Professor Dingle thinks, deplorable. If our real task is to correlate our experiences, then scientific aesthetic and religious experiences must in the end be correlated with one another. We may have to begin by making such correlations as we can - between experiences in science, between aesthetic experiences, between religious experiences - leaving as further tasks linkages between these various fields.
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 13 (52) (1963), 339-340.
It is difficult adequately to review this book in the space available not because it contains much that is new but rather because it attempts to cover so wide a field, all of which is of direct interest to scientific philosophers. Dingle's philosophy, except when it concerns ethics and religion, is beautifully clear and probably already well-known to readers. He is anxious not to be labelled, but it will save time to describe his outlook as a 'philosophy of experience'. ... Dingle properly points out that all our knowledge of the past of the cosmos nevertheless depends on our experience, but he does not want to be labelled 'an Idealist'. ... Here one must mention a serious flaw in the otherwise scholarly tone of the debate. Dingle, as is well known, has been engaged for some years in controversies about Relativity; first, about 'space travel aging' and later concerning a defect which he claims to have found in Einstein's Special Theory. He complains that his views have not received a fair hearing and that those who disagree with him have never adequately explained why, nor refuted his arguments. He points out, justifiably, that majorities are not always right. So far so good; but ... it is a pity to drag so much of this controversy into the debate, and still more, to complain in referring to the views of a distinguished colleague, 'that this nonsense was published in the leading scientific journal'. (It must be added, in fairness, that the same colleague had already referred, in a letter to Nature, to 'the absurdity of the Dingle's views'; but two blacks don't make a white.)
Scientific American 214 (1) (1966), 129-130.
A selection from the historical and philosophical writings of the late F A Paneth, the German scientist who was trained as an organic chemist, switched to the new discipline of radiochemistry, taught at Königsberg until the Nazis came to power and then moved to Britain, where he pursued his distinguished career until the 1950s.
British Journal of Educational Studies 21 (2) (1973), 236.
This book appears to have a strange and unexpected title. It is an account of a controversy between the author and various people - scientists, editors of learned journals, and others - on the validity of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. It may also be considered to be directed towards equating the case under review with a disputation of a more general thesis, namely, that a physical theory is necessarily sound if its mathematics is impeccable - the question of whether there is anything in Nature to correspond to the impeccable mathematics being disregarded. Much of the discussion is presented in the form of original correspondence selected from an accumulation of contributions spread over some thirteen years and enlivened by a running commentary.
12.2. Review by: Lewis Pyenson.
The British Journal for the History of Science 9 (3) (1976), 336-337.
In the 1950s, after having believed in, taught, and popularized Einstein's special theory of relativity for thirty years, the late Professor Dingle suffered a crisis of confidence. 'According to the special theory of relativity, two similar clocks, A and B, which are in uniform relative motion and in which no other differences exist of which the theory takes any account, work at different rates. The situation is therefore entirely symmetrical, from which it follows that if A works faster than B, B must work faster than A. Since this is impossible, the theory must be false.' As serious, the special theory of relativity, distinct from Lorentz's electron theory, seemed not to be verified conclusively by experiment. Until his death in 1974 Dingle advanced many variations on the same theme, for ever retaining the same misperception: the special theory does not allow symmetry in the sense required for his relativistic paradox. Dingle sees himself as the only one with courage enough to proclaim the emperor without clothes; most British physicists either secretly support him or are hopelessly bound to Einsteinian metaphysics by an orthodox world view. His request for a six-line answer to his paradox has been callously and inexplicably ignored by the physics community. Science is at the crossroads, he maintains. Either it returns to the precepts of free inquiry and open debate, or it degenerates into scholasticism. Dingle has not sorted out the special theory of relativity. Nevertheless, he recounts impressions of the English-language reception of Einstein's work during the 1920s, and he presents an interesting picture of the politics of scientific publication in post-war Britain.
12.3. Review by: H L Armstrong.
Philosophy of Science 40 (2) (1973), 318-319.
Professor Dingle has been well known as a physicist and philosopher of science. He has had to do with, and written on, many subjects, including the theory of relativity. Some years ago he became convinced that the theory cannot be true, as it is usually stated, since it contains certain logical impossibilities. When he tried to publish critical investigations, he soon found that such work was not accepted. Eventually, seeing that he could not explain his criticisms in what has become the usual way, and believing that something ought to be said, he had recourse to publishing the book. ... However that may turn out, it is certainly true that this book is worthwhile for its pointed comments, its glimpses of history, and its insistence on critical thinking.
12.4. Review by: G J Whitrow.
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26 (4) (1975), 358-362.
Professor Dingle has been a tenacious critic of Einstein's special theory of relativity for many years. The present book gives a detailed account of his struggle to get his criticisms published and either rebutted or accepted. It is an astonishing story. Dingle's feeling of disillusion with the theory, on which he had previously written a textbook in the Methuen Monographs on Physical Subjects series, began in 1955 when, in the course of reading Sir George Thomson's book 'The Foreseeable Future', he encountered a speculation arising from the well known clock paradox of relativity, sometimes referred to as the paradox of the travelling twin. This gave rise to a controversy between him and supporters of Einstein, notably Professor W H McCrea. So far from being convinced by his critics, Dingle eventually came to believe that there is a fundamental contradiction in special relativity itself, irrespective of the particular difficulty he had encountered in standard accounts of the clock paradox. If Dingle's argument is accepted, special relativity must be rejected. In its place he is inclined to support a ballistic theory of the transmission of light as advocated early this century by Ritz. Dingle maintains that, contrary to general belief, Ritz's theory has never been tested, since, in his view, deductions from double star observations that were thought to rule it out are inconclusive. ... Two experts in relativity who cannot be accused of failing to consider Dingle's argument are Professor J L Synge and, as already mentioned, Professor McCrea. After a lengthy correspondence, Synge concluded that the contradiction described by Dingle is due to the incompatibility of special relativity with "the concept of clocks that run regularly, as understood by Professor Dingle". McCrea's rejection of Dingle's argument was based, inter alia, on his contention that Dingle had invoked the notion of distant simultaneity which is illegitimate in special relativity.
Nineteenth-Century Fiction 31 (2) (1976), 225-230.
Dingle's 'The Mind of Emily Brontë' does not at all help us to understand Emily, although it raises the sort of question which might prove entertaining for a colloquium on the "Two Cultures." Its author is a scientist and aims to establish a firm grounding for future discussion of his subject by applying ideas about critical procedures which he explored in his earlier 'Science and Literary Criticism' (1949). Dingle hopes to correct an undisciplined ... approach to literature, but [his] work, paradoxically, is in the end reductive ... Dingle is able to detect in Emily Bronte some preoccupation with what seems irreconcilable in human existence though he does not pursue the point. He has an engaging air of sweeping from the laboratory table the detritus of decades of failed critical experimentation and, with notebook and slide rule out, placing himself before his specimen in the calm knowledge that his scientific scrutiny will dramatically reduce possibilities of error. Alas, this is not likely to be so. By concentrating on the texts of Emily's poems, her novel, and her birthday notes, he takes us back to first principles, though not in the way he intended.
13.2. Review by: Judith Hook.
Victorian Studies 19 (2) (1975), 284-286.
Dingle recognises all the difficulties which face a writer on the Brontes. As he rightly remarks of critical writing about Emily, "the judgements which have been passed owe their variety largely to the fact that their basis has been a small amount of biographical fact supplemented by a larger body of conjecture which varies from author to author. ... The external events of her life are ... largely irrelevant". His declared intention, then, is to extract from the evidence of Emily's writings alone an "idea of the type of mind required to produce it." In general, Dingle abides by his own rules although even he occasionally attempts to prove an argument by resource to biography. Using only the evidence of the writings he concludes, somewhat unexceptionally, that Emily's mind is positive, concentrates only on what it is describing, characteristically abstains from generalisations, and is pre-eminently interested in individuals. Yet it is doubtful whether criticism can operate for very long or very productively at this level. "We are not concerned here," Dingle tells us, "with approval or censure but solely with description." But, apart from the fact that such a self-denying ordinance makes for very unattractive, even insensitive, criticism, it tends to neglect consideration of the literary conventions and cultural ambience within which the Brontes wrote.
JOC/EFR November 2018
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