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Tendency toward idealization in science

"[...] almost all the sciences exhibit this 'tendency toward idealization'. Physics, e.g., sets up theses about ideal gases, althought it is well known that non such gases exist. Again, in mechanics, the concern is with motions which run their course under conditions never actually realized. Physics does this, we submit, because it is the only possible way for knowledge to approach the reality. first of all, one sets up laws which hold rigorously only for ideal gases; for real gases, they hold only within a rather error of approximation. Only after the first step are we in a position to transform these laws with a view toward reducing the initial error of approximation. To begin by instantly demanding an absolute agreement between the laws and reality is to set much too difficult a problem for ourselves."
("The World-Picture and the Conceptual Apparatus" (1934), in K. Ajdukiewicz, The Scientific World-Perspective and other Essays (1931-1963), ed. by J. Giedymin, Reidel, Dordrecht 1978, p. 88).

 

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