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Empirical evaluation has for many years been utilised to validate theories in other science disciplines. One of the first well-known reported examples of empirical evaluation occurred when Galileo wanted to prove that the rate of descent of objects was independent of their mass. This would disprove a theory put forward by Aristotle that the rate of descent is directly proportional to their weight. To prove his theory Galileo dropped two balls made from the same material but different masses from the top of the Tower of Pisa. When the experiment was performed Galileo's theory was proved correct through the empirical evidence collected. What this story demonstrates is the importance of empirical validation to verify or disprove theories and hypotheses. The purpose of this chapter is to emphasise the importance and difficulties of empirical evaluation in the domain of SPLE.
In addition to physics, experimentation plays a vital role in other disciplines. For example, medicine as a discipline did not really exist before experimentation was applied to this area (Basili, 1996). Instead, remedies and cures to illnesses were passed around based on hearsay, or from generation to generation. When experimentation was applied to medicine real progress was observed, with extra resources diverted to areas showing promise. Applying experimentation can speed up the progress of a discipline by quickly eliminating futile approaches and incorrect theories. Furthermore, experimentation can potentially open up new areas of research by uncovering unexpected results.
In a number of remarks, dating back to the early 1930s, Wittgenstein drew an explicit analogy between his methods of philosophical enquiry and psychotherapy. So, alongside the famous remark from Philosophical Investigations directly on this (see below), we have other remarks from the Big Typescript and from his dictations to Friedrich Waismann for Moritz Schlick. These are those places where Wittgenstein explicitly coins the term by way of elucidating his method. Here are some samples of his explicit references to therapy:
Our method resembles psychoanalysis in a certain sense. To use its way of putting things, we could say that a simile at work in the unconscious is made harmless by being articulated. And this comparison with analysis can be developed even further. (And this analogy is certainly no coincidence.)
(Diktat für Schlick 28, in Baker 2003: 69e–71e)
One of the most important tasks is to express all false thought processes so characteristically that the reader says, “Yes, that's exactly the way I meant it”. To make a tracing of the physiognomy of every error.
Indeed we can only convict someone else of a mistake if he acknowledges that this really is the expression of his feeling. // … . if he (really) acknowledges this expression as the correct expression of his feeling.
For only if he acknowledges it as such, is it the correct expression. (Psychoanalysis.)
What the other person acknowledges is the analogy I am proposing to him as the source of his thought. […]
Consider some questions: What is thinking? What is understanding? What affords us the right to say of someone that they are thinking? What are the criteria of correctness for employment of the word “understanding” (i.e. what grounds do we have for predicating of someone understanding)? Is there something common to all instances of “thinking” and of “understanding” that helps us here? Indeed, could there be some thing or process underlying instances of thinking and understanding (respectively) that could satisfy us?
Two more questions. What view(s) did Wittgenstein hold on “thinking” and on “understanding”? Did Wittgenstein offer us an answer to the questions “What is thinking?” and “What is understanding?”?
One of the areas of philosophy to which Wittgenstein is taken to have contributed most is philosophical psychology, and he certainly had things to say about thinking (and thought) and understanding (see e.g. PI §§138–55 for a discussion of “thinking” and §§327–76 for a discussion of “understanding”). But does that mean he held or propounded, qua philosopher, (philosophical) views on these issues? Wittgenstein is taken by many to have held that much of mental life, what we call thinking, is linguistic in some deep way, and thus being committed to the notion that that which cannot speak cannot think. Consider the following passage from Matt Cartmill (a sadly indicative example, selected for its availability – i.e. its Google-ability – online):
Many Western thinkers have … insisted that because animals can't talk, their mental lives are defective in big ways, or even nonexistent. “Thinking”, wrote Wittgenstein, “is essentially the activity of operating with signs”. […]