Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Philosophy

Supervisor

Wayne Myrvold

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to our understanding of scientific theory pursuit by providing a detailed case study on the development of early quantum theory, from roughly 1900 to 1916.

I first elaborate on why this case should be considered an instance of piecemeal pursuit by presenting the historical quantum conjectures that were being used in different contexts. These conjectures gave varied interpretations of quantization. By comparing these conjectures, I identify a general quantum postulate that captures the underlying assumption common to all the cases. I argue that it is possible to consider a general postulate about quantization even when its proper application is ambiguous in a given context, and that the postulate can be separated from different elements of the framework being used to investigate it.

I show that the quantum postulate can be deemed promising by analysing the support it gains using a Bayesian framework. I first defend the use of such a framework by considering the purported inconsistencies in Planck's introduction of his quantum conjecture and how we should handle these. I then explicate two cases of support for the postulate. First, I show how we can use a particular solution to the Bayesian problem of old evidence to interpret the support the quantum postulate received by accounting for phenomena that had no previous explanation. Finally, I show that the quantum postulate is also supported by a unification argument, where unification is interpreted as informational relevance between the different domains of inquiry.


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