Experimenter's regress argument, empiricism, and the calibration of the Large Hadron Collider
H. Collins has challenged the empiricist understanding of experimentation by identifying what he thinks constitutes the experimenter’s regress: an instrument is deemed good because it produces good results, and vice versa. The calibration of an instrument cannot alone validate the results: the regressive circling is broken by an agreement essentially external to experimental procedures. In response, A. Franklin has argued that calibration is a key reasonable strategy physicists use to validate production of results independently of their interpretation. The physicists’ arguments about the merits of calibration are not coextensive with the interpretation of results, and thus an objective validation of results is possible. I argue, however, that the in-situ calibrating and measurement procedures and parameters at the Large Hadron Collider are closely and systematically interrelated. This requires empiricists to question their insistence on the independence of calibration from the outcomes of the experiment and rethink their position. Yet this does not leave the case of in-situ calibration open to the experimenter’s regress argument; it is predicated on too crude a view of the relationship between calibration and measurement that fails to capture crucial subtleties of the case.
Perovic, S. (2017). Experimenter's regress argument, empiricism, and the calibration of the Large Hadron Collider. Synthese 194 (2), pp. 313-332.
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