An unobservable (also called impalpable) is an entity whose existence, nature, properties, qualities or relations are not directly observable by man. In
philosophy of sciencetypical examples of "unobservables" are atomic particles, the force of gravity, causation and beliefs or desires. However, somewho? philosophers also characterize "all" objects — trees, tables, other minds, microbiological things and so on to which humans ascribe as the thing causing their perception—as unobservable.
"Unobservables" is a reference similar to
Immanuel Kant's distinction between noumena (things-in-themselves, i.e., the raw things before passing through the senses and the mind becoming perceived objects) and phenomena (the perceived object). According to Kant humans can never know noumena; all that humans know is the phenomena. Kant's distinction is similar to John Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Secondary qualities are what humans perceive such as redness, chirping, heat, mustiness or sweetness. Primary qualities would be the actual qualities of the things themselves which give rise to the secondary qualities which humans perceive.Fact|date=April 2007
The ontological nature and epistemological issues concerning unobservables is a central topic in philosophy of science. The notion that a given unobservable exists is referred to as
scientific realism, in contrast to instrumentalism, the notion that unobservables such as atoms are useful models but don't necessarily exist.
Metcalf [W. V. Metcalf, 1940, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7, No. 3 , pp. 337-341] distinguishes three kinds of unobservables. One is the logically unobservable, which involves a contradiction. An example would be a length which is both longer and shorter than a given length. The second is the practically unobservable, that which we can conceive of as observable by the known sense-faculties of man but we are prevented from observing by practical difficulties. The earth before it existed would be an example. The third kind is the physically unobservable, that which can never be observed by any existing sense-faculties of man.
hidden variable theory
if a tree falls in a forest
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unobservable — index impalpable Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 … Law dictionary
unobservable — adj. * * * … Universalium
unobservable — adjective That cannot be observed … Wiktionary
unobservable — (Roget s Thesaurus II) adjective Incapable of being apprehended by the mind or the senses: impalpable, imperceptible, imponderable, inappreciable, indiscernible, indistinguishable, insensible, intangible, invisible, unnoticeable. See KNOWLEDGE … English dictionary for students
unobservable — adjective not able to be observed … English new terms dictionary
unobservable — un·observable … English syllables
unobservable — un ob•serv′a•ble adj … From formal English to slang
unobservable — /ʌnəbˈzɜvəbəl/ (say unuhb zervuhbuhl) adjective not able to be observed. –unobservably, adverb … Australian English dictionary
unobservable — adj. not observable; imperceptible … Useful english dictionary
science, philosophy of — Branch of philosophy that attempts to elucidate the nature of scientific inquiry observational procedures, patterns of argument, methods of representation and calculation, metaphysical presuppositions and evaluate the grounds of their validity… … Universalium