Mary Hesse

English philosopher (1924-2016)

Mary Brenda Hesse FBA (15 October 1924 – 2 October 2016) was an English philosopher of science, latterly a professor in the subject at the University of Cambridge.


  • One of the main functions of an analogy or model is to suggest extensions of the theory by considering extensions of the analogy, since more is known about the analogy than is known about the subject matter of the theory itself... A collection of observable concepts in a purely formal hypothesis suggesting no analogy with anything would consequently not suggest either any directions for its own development.
    • Mary Hesse, "Operational definition and analogy in physical theories." Brit. J. Phil. Sci., v. 2, p. 281-294, 1952. p. 291
  • A theory in its scientific context is not a static museum piece, but is always being extended and modified to account for new phenomena.
    • Mary Hesse, Models and Analogies in Science, 1966. p. 4 ; Mary Hesse is quoting here Norman Robert Campbell's Physics from 1920.
  • These three assumptions between them constitute a picture of science and the world somewhat as follows : there is an external world which can in principle be exhaustively described in scientific language. The scientist, as both observer and language-user, can capture the external facts of the world in prepositions that are true if they correspond to the facts and false if they do not. Science is ideally a linguistic system in which true propositions are in one-to-one relation to facts, including facts that are not directly observed because they involve hidden entities or properties, or past events or far distant events. These hidden events are described in theories, and theories can be inferred from observation, that is the hidden explanatory mechanism of the world can be discovered from what is open to observation. Man as scientist is regarded as standing apart from the world and able to experiment and theorize about it objectively and dispassionately.
    • Mary B. Hesse. Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science, 1980. p. VII

Science and the Human Imagination: Aspects of the History, 1955


Mary Hesse, Science and the Human Imagination: Aspects of the History, 1955.

  • It could plausibly be argued that far from Christian theology having hampered the study of nature for fifteen hundred years , it was Greek corruptions of biblical Christianity which had hampered it , and the attitude to nature.
    • p. 40
  • This of course has always been the method of empirical science, which has been suspicious of deductive argumentation unchecked by reference to experiment; but in a more general sense, and outside the practice of science itself, scientists have sometimes been the greatest offenders in adhering to dogmatic ideas against all the evidence, especially when they have tended to limit 'experience' to laboratory experiment.
    • p 89.
Wikipedia has an article about: