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Ernst Waldfried Josef Wenzel Mach (Feb. 18, 1838 - Feb. 19, 1916)

  • Ernst Mach Introduction

    Ernst Mach was born in Moravia on Feb. 18, 1838. Ernst Mach attended an Austrian Gymnasium in Moravia, graduating at seventeen, entering the University of Vienna as a student of mathematics and physics in 1855 and matriculating in 1860. Ernst Mach was a naturalist and a monist, as well as an anti-materialist in the sense of being an anti-mechanist. Although materialism can make as much use of evolution as naturalism, Mach's evolutionary perspective viewed nature as a dynamic process.
  • The Unity of Economy and Science

    Ernst Mach first understood science as 'okonomisch',economical in English, in 1864 through discussions with his friend E, Hermann, a political economist. Mach believed the purpose of science is to give the most economical description of nature as possible because science is to provide conceptions which can help us better orient ourselves to our world. "The biological purpose of science is the improvement or better adaptation of memory in service of the organism's development."
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    Ernst Mach's contribution to the Philosophy of Science

    Modern psychologists regard Mach as the forerunner of the idea of neutral nets in perception. Mach discovered that the eye has a mind of its own, that we perceive not direct stimuli, but relations of stimuli.The visual system operates through a process of continual adaptation of the present sensation to previous ones. What were once thought of as errors of the brain, Mach showed to be an adaptation.
  • Mach Bands

    In 1865, Ernst Mach published the first of a series of remarkable articles on what are now known today as Mach Bands. Mach was credited for discovering lateral inhibition in our sense organs, the idea that our senses pre-process information before sending it to the brain. Mach argued that perception works through perceiving the relations between stimuli, and this process is at the root of all life. The same process that drives evolution, drives perception, and even drives science.
  • Gestalt Theory

    Gestalt Theory emphasizes that the whole of anything is greater than its parts. For Ernst Mach, the seminal article of Gestalt Theory begins with a review of ideas found in Mach's 1886 Analysis of Sensations. Sensations are not simply raw experiences, but the interaction of experience with a pre-formed cognitive structure. Experience requires an 'a priori', but that 'a priori' is itself formed by experience. For Mach, this process is at the basis of all perception.
  • Anti-Atomism debate with Planck

    Mach's opposition to atomism has become one of his best known legacies, with Mach seen as anti-realist about unobservable entities. Mach's concerns about atoms were often specific to the various competing theories of the time. Mach and Max Planck, a German theoretical physicist, had an exchange where they differed on how to make science free of human subjectivity, and how to achieve a unified science. Planck formulates a vision of a human-independent science in reaction to Mach's opposite view.