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Sensation and Ernst Mach

Sensation and empirical evidence are the foundation of science.  And according to the Austrian scientist and philosopher Ernst Mach the goal of physical theory is to express the observed facts as simply and economically as possible.

Mach held that scientific laws are summaries of experimental observations, constructed so that humans can accurately describe and understand complicated sensations. He influenced Albert Einstein and the development of relativity. Here is an unusual self-portrait from a good teacher, and a few favourite quotes.1Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, pages 2, 6 and 19. Translated by C. M. Williams and Sydney Waterlow.  The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago and London, 1914.

An icon indicating a quotation.Colors, sounds, temperatures, pressures, spaces, times and so forth, are connected with one another in manifold ways; and with them are associated dispositions of mind, feelings, and volitions. Out of this fabric, that which is relatively more fixed and permanent stands prominently forth, engraves itself on the memory, and expresses itself in language.

An icon indicating a quotation.… I lie upon my sofa. If I close my right eye, the picture represented in the accompanying cut is presented to my left eye. In a frame formed by the ridge of my eyebrow, by my nose, and by my moustache, appears a part of my body, so far as visible, with its environment.

Sensation is analyzed by Ernst Mach to explain the laws of physics.
Figure one from The Analysis of Sensation, by Ernst Mach, 1897.

Thus Mach identifies a pathway to knowledge as an analysis of sensation using language. He honestly shows that he himself is part of the issue. And then he mentions a confusing issue.

An icon indicating a quotation.The useful habit of designating such relatively permanent compounds by single names, and of apprehending them by single thoughts, without going to the trouble each time of an analysis of their component parts, is apt to come into strange conflict with the tendency to isolate the component parts.

So for clarity, we are going to presume that we share several familiar sensations in common.  As the theory of EthnoPhysics is presented, it is linked back to these reference sensations. Then we can easily click for semantic refreshment, and hopefully avoid ‘strange conflict’ in subsequent analysis.

1Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, pages 2, 6 and 19. Translated by C. M. Williams and Sydney Waterlow.  The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago and London, 1914.