Friday, February 25, 2011

Response Paper 7: Dettelbach on Humboldt
This reading from Dettelbach was very interesting indeed. It was an enjoyable read because of the way it depicted Alexander von Humboldt. I had heard about how Humboldt had been empirical and was a stickler for details. I had not known that some people did not think that Humboldt was a scientist. The people that wrote his biographies thought that he was not a scientist because he often used very romantic ways to describe the world around him, even though he was considered a “bastion” of empiricism. I think that just because of his Romantic idealism Humboldt should not be discredited as a scientist. I still think that Humboldt is still very much so a scientist. His scientific ways are different then most scientists. I like the brand of science that Humboldt has. I can still sense from this reading that Humboldt is a hard empirical scientist. However, this hard side of his is balanced out by his Romantic side. I think this is a very interesting combination to find in a scientist. He has qualities of a hard empirical scientist and also an enlightenment philosopher. This scientist is not just looking for hard data like an empirical scientist but he is also amazed by the wonders of the natural world and is just looking for a way to explain the way that nature works. This was supported by later in the text when it said that Humboldt described the job of the “experimental philosopher.” Humboldt used experimentation not to test hypotheses to turn them into theories, but rather to further analyze both phenomena and concepts of the natural world. I think that this philosophy of science is one that would be perfect for exploring the natural world. A scientist that follows this philosophy would always be intrigued by the natural world around them. This would always drive them to find out what the intricate details of how the world works. I also got the feeling from this paper that the philosophy that Humboldt had is very versatile when it came to scientifically studying many different types of things. The example in the text was comparing chemical and physiological experiments could be recorded and compared together. This seems like it could be a very valuable skill for a scientist to have. All in all, Humboldt was a certainly a one of a kind scientist.

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