Empiricism Without the Senses: How the Instrument Replaced the Eye

Ofer Gal*, Raz Chen-Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The optical instruments developed through the seventeenth century allowed peering into the very far and the very small; a spectacle never before experienced. The telescope, and later the microscope, was now expected to answer fundamental questions and resolve cosmological riddles by direct observation into the foundations of nature. But this ability came at an unexpected price and with unexpected results. For Kepler and Galileo, the new instruments did not offer extension and improvement to the senses; they replaced them altogether. To rely on their authority was to admit that the human eye is nothing but an instrument, and a flawed one at that. Rather than the intellect’s window to the world, the human senses became a part of this world, a source of obscure and unreliable data, demanding uncertain deciphering. Accurate scientific observation meant that we are always wrong.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationStudies in History and Philosophy of Science(Netherlands)
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages27
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in History and Philosophy of Science(Netherlands)
ISSN (Print)1871-7381
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1958

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010, Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


  • Astronomical Observation
  • Elemental Sphere
  • Human Sense
  • Pinhole Image
  • Visible Object


Dive into the research topics of 'Empiricism Without the Senses: How the Instrument Replaced the Eye'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this