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    #1

    philosophical instrument?

    Hi, native English teacher friends:

    I was reading Sherlock Holmes. And there's a most confusing word in the A Study In Scarlet, Chater 2:
    His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments.

    philosophical instruments?? How can instruments be philosophical?? I thought it was a typo. Checked other online recourses, they're all the same. Seems not a typo.

    Can anyone explain this to me??

    Thanks.

    Hugo from China.

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    #2

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    The term "philosophical" once commonly included what we would now label "scientific". Holmes was fond of dabbling in chemistry and the "fragile philosophical instruments" were, of course, his glass test tubes etc. Although I think this use of "philosophical" might have already had an antique flavour at the time of writing, in 1886.

    not a teacher

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    #3

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    Thank you.:) Mr. Murray

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    The word 'science' is pretty recent in its modern sense. For many years - people used 'Natural Philosophy' and 'Natural Science' interchangeably. ('Scientist' wasn't even coined until 1834.)
    Main modern (restricted) sense of "body of regular or methodical observations or propositions ... concerning any subject or speculation" is attested from 1725; in 17c.-18c. this concept commonly was called philosophy.
    Read more.

    ''Natural scientist' is still what a student of sciences is called at Cambridge. Fortunately (for me), Australian-style abbreviations weren't so popular in my day (pre-Neighbours), but many Cambridge students today will say things like 'I'm a NatSci.' (In my day, going to university wasn't even called 'going to uni'. )

    b

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    #6

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    (In my day, going to university wasn't even called 'going to uni'. )
    I 'went up'. My offspring hoot when I use that expression today.

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    Mine too - and one of them even went up too.

    b

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: philosophical instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Mine too - and one of them even went up too.
    S/he probably came down before mine went to uni.

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