What are the laws of physics? -- The stuff that kicks back -- Point-of-view invariance -- Gauging the laws of physics -- Forces and broken symmetries -- Playing dice -- After the bang -- Out of the void -- The comprehensible cosmos -- Models of reality.
In this sequence of philosophical essays about natural science, the author argues that fundamental explanatory laws, the deepest and most admired successes of modern physics, do not in fact describe regularities that exist in nature. Cartwright draws from many real-life examples to propound a novel distinction: that theoretical entities, and the complex and localized laws that describe them, can be interpreted realistically, but the simple unifying laws of basic theory cannot.
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE Vol. 5, number 1, Autumn 1991, pp. 79-87. R.M. Nugayev. -/- The fundamental laws of physics can tell the truth. -/- Abstract. Nancy Cartwright’s arguments in favour of phenomenological laws and against fundamental ones are discussed. Her criticisms of the standard cjvering-law account are extended using Vyacheslav Stepin’s analysis of the structure of fundamental theories. It is argued that Cartwright’s thesis 9that the laws of physics lie) is too (...) radical to accept. A model of theory change is proposed which demonstrates how the fundamental laws of physics can, in fact, be confronted with experience. -/- . (shrink)
Are the laws of nature real? Do they belong to the world or merely reflect the way we speak about it? And if they are real, what sort of entity are they? These questions have been intensely debated by philosophers. Modern cosmology, however, has given such questions a new twist by introducing a unique perspective on physical reality, the perspective which I shall call the cosmological point of view. In this perspective, the universe as a whole presents itself as (...) a single individual entity that undergoes a radical change with time. Laws of physics, on the other hand, have both local and global significance. They characterize how things behave locally. But they also characterize the entire universe. This suggests an interesting connection between the universe as a whole and what laws of physics hold in this universe. From the cosmological point of view, these two totalities, the laws of physics and the universe, may be related. But how exactly? Are the laws “inscribed” in the fabric of the universe or do they in some sense “precede” it in the order of being? If the latter, what is a “medium,” over and above the physical universe, in which physical laws are “written”? If the former, are they but a consequence of the universe’s very existence? And if so, how could the laws of physics survive the dramatic change the physical state of the universe underwent in the course of time? (shrink)
The most recent challenge to the covering-law model of explanation (N. Cartwright, How the laws of Physics Lie) charges that the fundamental explanatory laws are not true. In fact explanation and truth are alleged to pull in different directions. We hold that this gets its force from confusing issues about the truth of the laws in the explanation and the precision with which those laws can yield an exact description of the event to be explained. (...) In defending this we look at Cartwright's major case studies and sketch an amended covering-law model of explanation. (shrink)
It has been argued that the fundamental laws of physics are deceitful in that they give the impression of greater unity and coherence in our theories than is actually found to be the case. Causal stories and phenomenological relationships are claimed to provide a more acceptable account of the world, and only theoretical entities — not laws — are considered as perhaps corresponding to real features of the world.This paper examines these claims in the light of the (...) author's own field of research: high energy physics. Some of the distinctions upon which the above conclusions are based are found not to be tenable in practice. Examples from experimental particle physics are presented which suggest an important role of the underlying theoretical structure which cannot be overlooked. It is argued that the fundamental theories must, in fact, be treated as being as worthy or unworthy of ontological commitment as the entities they postulate or the phenomenological relationships they inspire. Whilst it is conceded that aspects of the current theoretical formalism belie literal interpretation, it is maintained that revision in these particular areas need not affect the symmetry principles, particle spectra, or coupling strengths that largely determine the empirical content of the theory. (shrink)
The status of fundamental laws is an important issue when deciding between the three broad ontological options of fundamentalism (of which the thesis that physics is complete is typically a sub-type), emergentism, and disorder or promiscuous realism. Cartwrights assault on fundamental laws which argues that such laws do not, and cannot, typically state the facts, and hence cannot be used to support belief in a fundamental ontological order, is discussed in this context. A case is made (...) in defence of a moderate form of fundamentalism, which leaves open the possibility of emergentism, but sets itself against the view that our best ontology is disordered. The argument, taking its cue from Bhaskar, relies on a consideration of the epistemic status of experiments, and the question of the possible generality of knowledge gained in unusual or controlled environments. (shrink)
For many decades, the proponents of `artificial intelligence' have maintained that computers will soon be able to do everything that a human can do. In his bestselling work of popular science, Sir Roger Penrose takes us on a fascinating roller-coaster ride through the basic principles of physics, cosmology, mathematics, and philosophy to show that human thinking can never be emulated by a machine.
We address the question of whether it is possible to operate a time machine by manipulating matter and energy so as to manufacture closed timelike curves. This question has received a great deal of attention in the physics literature, with attempts to prove no-go theorems based on classical general relativity and various hybrid theories serving as steps along the way towards quantum gravity. Despite the effort put into these no-go theorems, there is no widely accepted definition of a time (...) machine. We explain the conundrum that must be faced in providing a satisfactory definition and propose a resolution. Roughly, we require that all extensions of the time machine region contain closed timelike curves; the actions of the time machine operator are then sufficiently “potent” to guarantee that closed timelike curves appear. We then review no-go theorems based on classical general relativity, semi-classical quantum gravity, quantum field theory on curved spacetime, and Euclidean quantum gravity. Our verdict on the question of our title is that no result of sufficient generality to underwrite a confident “yes” has been proven. Our review of the no-go results does, however, highlight several foundational problems at the intersection of general relativity and quantum physics that lend substance to the search for an answer. (shrink)
We address the question of whether it is possible to operate a time machine by manipulating matter and energy so as to manufacture closed timelike curves. This question has received a great deal of attention in the physics literature, with attempts to prove no- go theorems based on classical general relativity and various hybrid theories serving as steps along the way towards quantum gravity. Despite the effort put into these no-go theorems, there is no widely accepted definition of a (...) time machine. We explain the conundrum that must be faced in providing a satisfactory definition and propose a resolution. Roughly, we require that all extensions of the time machine region contain closed timelike curves; the actions of the time machine operator are then sufficiently "potent" to guarantee that closed timelike curves appear. We then review no-go theorems based on classical general relativity, semi-classical quantum gravity, quantum field theory on curved spacetime, and Euclidean quantum gravity. Our verdict on the question of our title is that no result of sufficient generality to underwrite a confident "yes" has been proven. Our review of the no-go results does, however, highlight several foundational problems at the intersection of general relativity and quantum physics that lend substance to the search for an answer. (shrink)
Is it possible to take the enterprise of physics seriously while also holding the belief that the world contains an order beyond the reach of that physics? Is it possible to simultaneously believe in objective laws of nature and in miracles? Is it possible to search for the truths of physics while also acknowledging the limitations of that search as it is carried out by limited human knowers? As a philosopher, as a Christian, and as a (...) participant in the physics of his day, Leibniz had an interesting view that bears on all of these questions. This paper examines the status of laws of nature in Leibniz's philosophy and how the status of these laws fits into his larger philosophical picture of the limits of human knowledge and the wise and omniscient God who created the actual world. (shrink)
"The Emperor's New Mind" by Roger Penrose has received a great deal of both praise and criticism. This review discusses philosophical aspects of the book that form an attack on the "strong" AI thesis. Eight different versions of this thesis are distinguished, and sources of ambiguity diagnosed, including different requirements for relationships between program and behaviour. Excessively strong versions attacked by Penrose (and Searle) are not worth defending or attacking, whereas weaker versions remain problematic. Penrose (like Searle) regards the notion (...) of an algorithm as central to AI, whereas it is argued here that for the purpose of explaining mental capabilities the architecture of an intelligent system is more important than the concept of an algorithm, using the premise that what makes something intelligent is not what it does but how it does it. What needs to be explained is also unclear: Penrose thinks we all know what consciousness is and claims that the ability to judge Go "del's formula to be true depends on it. He also suggests that quantum phenomena underly consciousness. This is rebutted by arguing that our existing concept of "consciousness" is too vague and muddled to be of use in science. This and related concepts will gradually be replaced by a more powerful theory-based taxonomy of types of mental states and processes. The central argument offered by Penrose against the strong AI thesis depends on a tempting but unjustified interpretation of Goedel's incompleteness theorem. Some critics are shown to have missed the point of his argument. A stronger criticism is mounted, and the relevance of mathematical Platonism analysed. Architectural requirements for intelligence are discussed and differences between serial and parallel implementations analysed. (shrink)
This paper develops a means–end analysis of an inductive problem that arises in particle physics: how to infer from observed reactions conservation principles that govern all reactions among elementary particles. I show that there is a reliable inference procedure that is guaranteed to arrive at an empirically adequate set of conservation principles as more and more evidence is obtained. An interesting feature of reliable procedures for finding conservation principles is that in certain precisely defined circumstances they must introduce hidden (...) particles. Among the reliable inductive methods there is a unique procedure that minimizes convergence time as well as the number of times that the method revises its conservation principles. Thus the aims of reliable, fast and steady convergence to an empirically adequate theory single out a unique optimal inference for a given set of observed reactions—including prescriptions for when exactly to introduce hidden particles. (shrink)
Social constructionists believe that experimental evidence plays a minimal role in the production of scientific knowledge, while rationalists such as myself believe that experimental evidence is crucial in it. As one historical example in support of the rationalist position, I trace in some detail the theoretical and experimental research that led to our understanding of beta decay, from Enrico Fermi’s pioneering theory of 1934 to George Sudarshan and Robert Marshak’s and Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann’s suggestion in 1957 and 1958, (...) respectively, of the V–A theory of weak interactions. This is not a history of an unbroken string of successes, but one that includes incorrect experimental results, incorrect experiment-theory comparisons, and faulty theoretical analyses. Nevertheless, we shall see that the constraints that Nature imposed made the V–A theory an almost inevitable outcome of this theoretical and experimental research. (shrink)
In the present paper we face the problem of estimating cell probabilities in the case of a two-dimensional contingency table from a predictive point of view. The solution is given by a double stochastic process. The first subprocess, the unobservable one, is supposed to be exchangeable and invariant. For the second subprocess, the observable one, we suppose it is independent conditional on the first one.
According to Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, a proper science is organized according to rational principles and has a pure a priori rational part, its metaphysical foundation. In the second edition Preface to the first Critique, Kant claims that his account of time explains the a priori possibility of Newton’s laws of motion. I argue that Kant’s proof of the law of inertia fails, and that this casts doubt on Kant’s enterprise of providing a priori foundations for Newton’s (...)physics. (shrink)
Philosophy of physics is a small but thriving research field situated at the intersection between the natural sciences and the humanities. However, what exactly distinguishes philosophy of physics from physics is rarely made explicit in much depth. We provide a detailed analysis in the form of eleven theses, delineating both the nature of the questions asked in philosophy of physics and the methodology with which they are addressed.
In 'Quiddistic Knowledge' (Schaffer ), Jonathan Schaffer argued influentially against the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. In this reply I aim to show how a coherent and well-motivated form of necessitarianism can withstand his critique. Modal necessitarianism -- the view that the actual laws are the laws of all possible worlds -- can do justice to some intuitive motivations for necessitarianism, and it has the resources to respond to all of Schaffer's objections. It (...) also has certain advantages over contingentism in the domain of modal epistemology. I conclude that necessitarianism about laws remains a live option. (shrink)
This paper is the first of a two-part reexamination of causation in Descartes's physics. Some scholars ? including Gary Hatfield and Daniel Garber ? take Descartes to be a `partial' Occasionalist, who thinks that God alone is the cause of all natural motion. Contra this interpretation, I agree with literature that links Descartes to the Thomistic theory of divine concurrence. This paper surveys this literature, and argues that it has failed to provide an interpretation of Descartes's view that both (...) distinguishes his position from that of his later, Occasionalist followers and is consistent with his broader metaphysical commitments. I provide an analysis that tries to address these problems with earlier `Concurentist' readings of Descartes. On my analysis, Occasionalism entails that created substances do not have intrinsic active causal powers. As I read him, Descartes thinks that bodies have active causal powers that are partly grounded in their intrinsic natures. But I argue ? pace a recent account by Tad Schmaltz ? that Descartes also thinks that God immediately causes all motion in the created world. On the picture that emerges, Descartes's position is both continuous with, and a subtle departure from, the Thomisitic theory of divine concurrence. (shrink)
The success of particle detection in high energy physics colliders critically depends on the criteria for selecting a small number of interactions from an overwhelming number that occur in the detector. It also depends on the selection of the exact data to be analyzed and the techniques of analysis. The introduction of automation into the detection process has traded the direct involvement of the physicist at each stage of selection and analysis for the efficient handling of vast amounts of (...) data. This tradeoff, in combination with the organizational changes in laboratories of increasing size and complexity, has resulted in automated and semi-automated systems of detection. Various aspects of the semi-automated regime were greatly diminished in more generic automated systems, but turned out to be essential to a number of surprising discoveries of anomalous processes that led to theoretical breakthroughs, notably the establishment of the Standard Model of particle physics. The automated systems are much more efficient in confirming specific hypothesis in narrow energy domains than in performing broad exploratory searches. Thus, in the main, detection processes relying excessively on automation are more likely to miss potential anomalies and impede potential theoretical advances. I suggest that putting substantially more effort into the study of electron–positron colliders and increasing its funding could minimize the likelihood of missing potential anomalies, because detection in such an environment can be handled by the semi-automated regime—unlike detection in hadron colliders. Despite virtually unavoidable excessive reliance on automated detection in hadron colliders, their development has been deemed a priority because they can operate at currently highest energy levels. I suggest, however, that a focus on collisions at the highest achievable energy levels diverts funds from searches for potential anomalies overlooked due to tradeoffs at the previous energy thresholds. I also note that even in the same collision environment, different research strategies will opt for different tradeoffs and thus achieve different experimental outcomes. Finally, I briefly discuss current searches for anomalous process in the context of the previous analysis. (shrink)
The paper takes issue with a widely accepted view of mental causation. This is the view that mental causation is either reducible to physical causation or ultimately untenable, because incompatible with the causal completeness of physics. The paper examines, first, why recent attempts to save the phenomena of mental causation by way of the notion of supervenient causation fail. The result of this examination is the claim that any attempted specification of the most basic causal factors which supposedly underlie (...) a causal transaction cannot account for the counterfactually necessary connections with the effect in question. By contrast, the specification of these factors at a higher-level would allow establishing such connections. The paper closes with a discussion of how this view of autonomous ligher-level causation grounded on counterfactual relations can be made compatible with the physicalistic commitment to a complete specification of the particular causes of any physical effect exclusively in physical terms. (shrink)
That laws of nature play a vital role in explanation, prediction, and inductive inference is far clearer than the nature of the laws themselves. My hope here is to shed some light on the nature of natural laws by developing and defending the view that they involve genuine relations between properties. Such a position is suggested by Plato, and more recent versions have been sketched by several writers.~ But I am not happy with any of these accounts, (...) not so much because they lack detail or engender minor difficulties, though they do, but because they share a quite fundamental defect. My goal here is to make this defect clear and, more importantly, to present a rather different version of this general conception of laws that avoids it. I begin by considering several features of natural laws and argue that these are best explained by the view that laws involve properties, that this involvement takes the form of a genuine relation between properties, and, finally, that the relation is a metaphysically necessary one. In the second section I start at the other end, and by reflecting on the nature of properties arrive at a similar account of natural laws. In the final section I develop this account in more detail, with emphasis on the nature of the relation between properties it invokes. Along the way several natural objections to the account are answered. (shrink)
Not much. I demonstrate this by constructing a model of a memory system governed by deterministic, time reversible laws only, thereby showing that the mere fact of our having memories solely of the past does not necessitate an indeterministic, time asymmetric or stochastic physics, essentially thermodynamic processes or a primitive notion of time asymmetric causation.
According to an increasing number of authors, the best, if not the only, argument in favour of physicalism is the so-called 'overdetermination argument'. This argument, if sound, establishes that all the entities that enter into causal interactions with the physical world are physical. One key premise in the overdetermination argument is the principle of the causal closure of the physical world, said to be supported by contemporary physics. In this paper, I examine various ways in which physics may (...) support the principle, either as a methodological guide or as depending on some other laws and principles of physics. (shrink)
An influential position in the philosophy of biology claims that there are no biological laws, since any apparently biological generalization is either too accidental, fact-like or contingent to be named a law, or is simply reducible to physical laws that regulate electrical and chemical interactions taking place between merely physical systems. In the following I will stress a neglected aspect of the debate that emerges directly from the growing importance of mathematical models of biological phenomena. My main aim (...) is to defend, as well as reinforce, the view that there are indeed laws also in biology, and that their difference in stability, contingency or resilience with respect to physical laws is one of degrees, and not of kind . (shrink)
Standard objections to the notion of a hedged, or ceteris paribus, law of nature usually boil down to the claim that such laws would be either 1) irredeemably vague, 2) untestable, 3) vacuous, 4) false, or a combination thereof. Using epidemiological studies in nutrition science as an example, I show that this is not true of the hedged law-like generalizations derived from data models used to interpret large and varied sets of empirical observations. Although it may be ‘in principle (...) impossible’ to construct models that explicitly identify all potential causal interferers with the relevant generalization, the view that our failure to do so is fatal to the very notion of a cp-law is plausible only if one illicitly infers metaphysical impossibility from epistemic impossibility. I close with the suggestion that a model-theoretic approach to cp-laws poses a problem for recent attempts to formulate a Mill-Ramsey-Lewis theory of cp-laws. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Appealing to the failure of counterfactual support is a standard device in refuting a Humean view on laws of nature: some true generalisations do not support relevant counterfactuals; therefore not every true general fact is a law of nature—so goes the refutation. I will argue that this strategy does not work, for our understanding of the truth-value of any counterfactual is grounded in our understanding of the lawhood of some statements related to it.
R.I.G. Hughes presents a series of eight philosophical essays on the theoretical practices of physics. The first two essays examine these practices as they appear in physicists' treatises (e.g. Newton's Principia and Opticks ) and journal articles (by Einstein, Bohm and Pines, Aharonov and Bohm). By treating these publications as texts, Hughes casts the philosopher of science in the role of critic. This premise guides the following 6 essays which deal with various concerns of philosophy of physics such (...) as laws, disunities, models and representation, computer simulation, explanation, and the discourse of physics. (shrink)
Abstract Intentional mental states have causes and effects. Davidson has shown that this fact alone does not entail the existence of psycho?physical laws, but his anomalism makes the connection between the content and causation of intentional states utterly mysterious. By defining intentional states in terms of their causes and effects, functionalism promises to explain this connection. If intentional states have their causes and effects in virtue of their contents, then there must be intrinsic states (of the people who have (...) them) which are ?local causal surrogates? for the propositions believed, desired, or whatever. We can define these intrinsic states in terms of the laws that govern them, but these laws alone are not sufficient to account for intentional content. To do that we need to invoke laws which link these intrinsic states with their contents. Such a ?wide? functional account is sketched; it combines a suggestion of Ramsey's about truth conditions with a ?feedback? account of the content of desires. (shrink)
Physics, once known as “natural philosophy,” is the most basic science, explaining the world we live in, from the largest scale down to the very, very, very smallest, and our understanding of it has changed over many centuries. In Black Bodies and Quantum Cats , science writer Jennifer Ouellette traces key developments in the field, setting descriptions of the fundamentals of physics in their historical context as well as against a broad cultural backdrop. Newton’s laws are illustrated (...) via the film Addams Family Values , while Back to the Future demonstrates the finer points of special relativity. Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” serves to illuminate the mysterious nature of neutrinos, and Jeanette Winterson’s novel Gut Symmetries provides an elegant metaphorical framework for string theory. An enchanting and edifying read, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats shows that physics is not an arcane field of study but a profoundly human endeavor—and a fundamental part of our everyday world. (shrink)
This is an updated (25 April 2013) and revised version (after one iteration with referees) of a draft of the book on the notion of fundamental length I have been writing for the last couple of years, covering issues in the philosophy of math, metaphysics, and the history and the philosophy of modern physics, from classical electrodynamics to current theories of quantum gravity.
This book is written by someone who holds that physics and the metaphysics of cause and law broadly strive to achieve a common goal: to undstand what our physical system is constituted by, and both how, and why it evolves in the way that it does. It seems to me that the primary tools of the scientist are empirical evidence, mathematics, and although this is perhaps less appreciated, imagination - these are fundamental to any great scientific breakthrough. For us, (...) the metaphysicians, imagination, science, and a priori reasoning form the foundation of our enquiries. I believe that for the metaphysician, reasoning without due consideration of science will inevitably lead to unjustified, and probably false conclusions. In this thesis I provide an analysis of a number of metaphysics of cause and law, as well as a conceptual analysis of both, to show how closely a consistent account of causation must be linked with laws of nature. I then attempt to give metaphysics explanations of our best scientific theories(in particular, least action principles and the general theory of relativity) in terms of the metaphysical views discussed, in order to judge their compatibility with science. I conclude that any successful metaphysic will be a broadly Humean one. (shrink)
The paper argues that it is possible for an incompatibilist to accept John Martin Fischer’s plausible insistence that the question whether we are morally responsible agents ought not to depend on whether the laws of physics turn out to be deterministic or merely probabilistic. The incompatibilist should do so by rejecting the fundamentalism which entails that the question whether determinism is true is a question merely about the nature of the basic physical laws. It is argued that (...) this is a better option for ensuring the irrelevance of physics than the embrace of semi-compatibilism, since there are reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities are necessary for moral responsibility, despite Fischer’s claims to the contrary. There are two distinct reasons for supposing that alternate possibilities might be necessary for moral responsibility—one of which is to do with fairness, the other to do with agency itself. It is suggested that if one focuses on the second of these reasons, Fischer’s arguments for supposing that alternate possibilities are unnecessary for moral responsibility can be met by the incompatibilist. Some possible reasons for denying that alternate possibilities are necessary for the existence of agency are then raised and rejected. (shrink)
The problem of the peculiarcharacter of chemical laws and theories is a central topic in philosophy of chemistry. Oneof the most characteristic and, at the sametime, most puzzling examples in discussions onchemical laws and theories is Mendeleev''speriodic law. This law seems to be essentiallydifferent in its nature from the exact laws ofclassical physics, the latter being usuallyregarded as a paradigm of science byphilosophers. In this paper the main argumentsconcerning the peculiar character of chemicallaws and theories are (...) examined. The laws ofchemistry are natural laws to the same extentas are the laws of physics. The law discoveredby Mendeleev is a normal law of nature. It isnot a law of physics, nevertheless, it is exactin the same philosophical sense as are the lawsof physics. The periodic system of chemicalelements was established by constructing anidealized system of idealized elements. Thefundamental idealization substantiated byexperimental chemistry was the chemicalelement as a place in the periodicsystem. (shrink)
entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) This entry will attempt to provide a broad overview of the central themes of Leibniz’s philosophy of physics, as well as an introduction to some of the principal arguments and argumentative strategies he used to defend his positions. It tentatively includes sections entitled, The Historical Development of Leibniz’s Physics, Leibniz on Matter, Leibniz’s Dynamics, Leibniz on the Laws of Motion, Leibniz on Space and Time. A bibliography arranged by topic (...) is also included. A working draft is available here (comments, as always welcome): draft. (shrink)
The modern sciences are divided into two groups: law-formulating and natural historical sciences. Sciences of both groups aim at describing the world, but they do so differently. Whereas the natural historical sciences produce “transcriptions” intended to be literally true of actual occurrences, laws of nature are expressive symbols of aspects of the world. The relationship between laws and the world thus resembles that between the symbols of classical iconography and the objects for which they stand. The natural historical (...) approach was founded by Aristotle and is retained in such present-day sciences as botany. Modern physics differentiated itself from the natural historical sciences and developed a symbolizing approach at the hands of Galileo and Descartes. Our knowledge of the physical domain is provided by two disciplines: the law-formulating science of physics and a natural historical science on which we depend in the everyday manipulation of our surroundings. (shrink)
The two books discussed here make important contributions to our understanding of the role of spacetime concepts in physical theories and how that understanding has changed during the evolution of physics. Both emphasize what can be called a ‘dynamical’ account, according to which geometric structures should be understood in terms of their roles in the laws governing matter and force. I explore how the books contribute to such a project; while generally sympathetic, I offer criticisms of some historical (...) claims concerning Newton, and argue that the dynamical account does not undercut ontological issues as the books claim. *Received January 2009; revised March 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 1423 University Hall MC 267, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Niels Bohr, founding father of modern atomic physics and quantum theory, was as original a philosopher as he was a physicist. This study explores several dimensions of Bohr's vision: the formulation of quantum theory and the problems associated with its interpretation, the notions of complementarity and correspondence, the debates with Einstein about objectivity and realism, and his sense of the infinite harmony of nature. Honner focuses on Bohr's epistemological lesson, the conviction that all our description of nature is dependent (...) on the words we use and the ways we can unambiguously use them. (shrink)
Late in the nineteenth century, physics noticed a puzzling conflict between the laws of physics and what actually happens. The laws make no distinction between past and future—if they allow a process to happen one way, they allow it in reverse.1 But many familiar processes are in practice ‘irreversible’, common in one orientation but unknown ‘backwards’. Air leaks out of a punctured tyre, for example, but never leaks back in. Hot drinks cool down to room temperature, (...) but never spontaneously heat up. Once we start looking, these examples are all around us—that’s why films shown in reverse often look odd. Hence the puzzle: What could be the source of this widespread temporal bias in the world, if the underlying laws are so even-handed? Call this the Puzzle of Temporal Bias, or PTB for short. It’s an oft-told tale how other puzzles of the late nineteenth century soon led to the two most famous achievements of twentieth century physics, relativity and quantum mechanics. Progress on PTB was much slower, but late in the twentieth century cosmology provided a spectacular answer, or partial answer, to this deep puzzle. Because the phenomena at the heart of PTB are so familiar, so ubiquitous, and so crucial to our own existence, the achievement is one of the most important in the entire history of physics. Yet it is littleknown and underrated, at least compared to the other twentieth century solutions to nineteenth century puzzles. Why is it underrated? Partly because people underestimate the original puzzle, or misunderstand it, and so don’t see what a big part of it is addressed by the new cosmology. And partly for a deeper, more philosophical reason, connected with the view that we don’t need to explain initial conditions. This has two effects. First, people undervalue the job done so far by cosmology, in telling us something very surprising.. (shrink)
The book demonstrates a new method for reading the texts of Aristotle by revealing a continuous line of argument running from the Physics to De Caelo. The author analyzes a group of arguments that are almost always treated in isolation from one another, and reveals their elegance and coherence. She concludes by asking why these arguments remain interesting even though we now believe they are absolutely wrong and have been replaced by better ones. The book establishes the case that (...) we must rethink our approach to Aristotle's physical science and Aristotelian texts, and as such will provoke debate and stimulate new thinking amongst philosophers, classicists, and historians of science. (shrink)
What are laws of nature? During much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Newton’s laws of motion were taken to be the paradigm of scientific laws thought to constitute universal and necessary eternal truths. But since the turn of the twentieth century we know that Newton’s laws are not universally valid. Does this mean that their status as laws of physics has changed? Have we discovered that the principles, which were once thought to be (...)laws of nature, are not in fact laws? (shrink)
Universal laws which are shown not only in a material world, but also in spiritual, represent a crystal lattice of knowledge. This base lattice is a basis for more specific and various phenomena of our life. Various sciences study the different sides of our life. However, there are common laws for all sciences, shown both in physics, and in biology; both in chemistry, and in economy; both in psychology, and in genetics.
John Carroll undertakes a careful philosophical examination of laws of nature, causation, and other related topics. He argues that laws of nature are not susceptible to the sort of philosophical treatment preferred by empiricists. Indeed he shows that emperically pure matters of fact need not even determine what the laws are. Similar, even stronger, conclusions are drawn about causation. Replacing the traditional view of laws and causation requiring some kind of foundational legitimacy, the author argues that (...) these phenomena are inextricably intertwined with everything else. This distinctively clear and detailed discussion of what it is to be a law will be valuable to a broad swathe of philosophers in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
In his paper "Miracles: Metaphysics, Physics, and Physicalism," Kirk McDermid appears to have two primary goals. The first is to demonstrate that my account of how God might produce a miracle without violating any laws of nature is radically flawed. The second is to suggest two alternative accounts, one suitable for a deterministic world, one suitable for an indeterministic world, which allow for the occurrence of a miracle without violation of the laws of nature, yet do not (...) suffer from the defects of what McDermid terms the ’Larmerian’ model. I briefly describe my model, reply to McDermid’s criticism of it, and evaluate his alternative accounts. (shrink)
The present work is focussed on the completeness of physics, or what is here called the Completeness Thesis: the claim that the domain of the physical is causally closed. Two major questions are tackled: How best is the Completeness Thesis to be formulated? What can be said in defence of the Completeness Thesis? My principal conclusions are that the Completeness Thesis can be coherently formulated, and that the evidence in favour if it significantly outweighs that against it. In opposition (...) to those who argue that formulation is impossible because no account of what is to count as physical can be provided, I argue that as long as the purpose of the argument in which the account is to be used are borne in mind there are no significant difficulties. The account of the physical which I develop holds as physical whatever is needed to fix the likelihood of pre-theoretically given physical effects, and hypothesises in addition that no chemical, biological or psychological factors will be needed in this way. The thus formulated Completeness Thesis is coherent, and has significant empirical content. In opposition to those who defend the doctrine of emergentism by means of philosophical arguments I contend that those arguments are flawed, setting up misleading dichotomies between needlessly attenuated alternatives and assuming the truth of what is to be proved. Against those who defend emergentism by appeal to the evidence, I argue that the history of science since the nineteenth century shows clearly that the empirical credentials of the view that the world is causally closed at the level of a small number of purely physical forces and types of energy is stronger than ever, and the credentials of emergentism correspondingly weaker. In opposition to those who argue that difficulties with reductionism point to the implausibility of the Completeness Thesis I argue that completeness in no way entails the kinds of reductionism which give rise to the difficulties in question. I argue further that the truth of the Completeness Thesis is in fact compatible with a great deal of taxonomic disorder and the impossibility of any general reduction of non-fundamental descriptions to fundamental ones. In opposition to those who argue that the epistemological credentials of fundamental physical laws are poor, and that those laws should in fact be seen as false, I contend that truth preserving accounts of fundamental laws can be developed. Developing such an account, I test it by considering cases of the composition of forces and causes, where what takes place is different to what is predicted by reference to any single law, and argue that viewing laws as tendencies allows their truth to be preserved, and sense to be made of both the experimental discovery of laws, and the fact that composition enables accurate prediction in at least some cases. (shrink)
Making Sense of Inner Sense 'Terra cognita' is terra incognita. It is difficult to find someone not taken abackand fascinated by the incomprehensible but indisputable fact: there are material systems which are aware of themselves. Consciousness is self-cognizing code. During homo sapiens's relentness and often frustrated search for self-understanding various theories of consciousness have been and continue to be proposed. However, it remains unclear whether and at what level the problems of consciousness and intelligent thought can be resolved. Science's greatest (...) challenge is to answer the fundamental question: what precisely does a cognitive state amount to in physical terms? Albert Einstein insisted that the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple and can be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. When one thinks about the complexities which present themselves in modern physics and even more so in the physics of life, one may wonder whether Einstein really meant what he said. Are we to consider the fundamental problem of the mind, whose understanding seems to lie outside the limits of the mind, to be essentially simple too? Knowledge is neither automatic nor universally deductive. Great new ideas are typically counterintuitive and outrageous, and connecting them by simple logical steps to existing knowledge is often a hard undertaking. The notion of a tensor was needed to provide the general theory of relativity; the notion of entropy had to be developed before we could get full insight into the laws of thermodynamics; the notice of information bit is crucial for communication theory, just as the concept of a Turing machine is instrumental in the deep understanding of a computer. To understand something, consciousness must reach an adequate intellectual level, even more so in order to understand itself. Reality is full of unending mysteries, the true explanation of which requires very technical knowledge, often involving notions not given directly to intuition. Even though the entire content and the results of this study are contained in the eight pages of the mathematical abstract, it would be unrealistic and impractical to suggest that anyone can gain full insight into the theory that presented here after just reading abstract. In our quest for knowledge we are exploring the remotest areas of the macrocosm and probing the invisible particles of the microcosm, from tiny neutrinos and strange quarks to black holes and the Big Bang. But the greatest mystery is very close to home: the greatest mystery is human consciousness. The question before us is whether the logical brain has evolved to a conceptual level where it is able to understand itself. (shrink)
Abstract It is argued that psychological explanations involve psychological generalizations that exhibit the same features as laws of physics. On the basis of the ?systematic theory of lawhood?, characteristic features of laws of nature are elaborated. Investigating some examples of explanations taken from cognitive psychology shows that these features can also be identified in psychological generalizations. Particular attention is devoted to the notion of ?ccteris?paribus laws?. It is argued that laws of psychology are indeed ceteris?paribus (...)laws. However, this feature does not distinguish them from the laws of physics, because such laws are found in physics as well. Moreover, the laws invoked in psychological explanations are genuine laws of psychology; they are not laws of other disciplines that are brought to bear on psychological problems. The conclusion is that if there are laws of physics then laws of psychology exist as well. (shrink)
This paper combines naturalized metaphysics and a philosophical reflection on a recently evolving interdisciplinary branch of quantum chemistry, ab initio molecular dynamics. Bridging the gaps among chemistry, physics, and computer science, this cutting-edge research field explores the structure and dynamics of complex molecular many-body systems through computer simulations. These simulations are allegedly crafted solely by the laws of fundamental physics, and are explicitly designed to capture nature as closely as possible. The models and algorithms employed, however, involve (...) many approximations and significant degrees of idealization of their target systems. Therefore, for philosophers of science the pivotal question of whether relying only on the fundamental laws of physics supports a reductionist or realist stance arises. One conceivable answer to this question is that the irreducible approximations and idealizations support rather anti-realist positions. After reviewing an influential attitude in the philosophy of computer simulations and the debate concerning scientific realism, I offer a fair interpretation of such ab initio modelling in quantum chemistry within a naturalistic metaphysical framework that gives rise to a specific type of ontic structural realism. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the relationship between model, theories, and laws in the practice of experimental scale modeling. The methodology of experimental scale modeling, also known as physical similarity, differs markedly from that of other kinds of models in ways that are important to issues in philosophy of science. Scale models are not discussed in much depth in mainstream philosophy of science. In this paper, I examine how scale models are used in making inferences. The main question I (...) address in this talk is ``How are fundamental laws involved in the construction of, and inferences drawn from, experimental scale models?'' We shall see that there is a refreshing alternative to the mainstream view that models can serve only as intermediaries between theory and experiment. Using the methodology of scale models, one can use observations on one piece of the world to make inferences about another piece of the world, without involving an intermediate abstract model about which one reasons. The philosophical significance of that point to philosophy of science is that the method of physical similarity, which provides the basis for inferences based upon scale models, is a qualitatively different way in which fundamental laws can be used in analogical reasoning that is truly informative. Finally, as this method provides a formal basis for case-based reasoning, it may be helpful in formalizing methods used in some of the so-called ``special sciences''. (shrink)
During the last decades the physico-chemical conception of self-organization of chemical systems has been created. The chemical systems in natural-historical processes do not have any creator: they rise up from irreversible processes by self-organization. The issue of self-organization in physics has led to a new interpretation of the laws of nature. As Ilya Prigogine has shown, they do not express certainties but possibilities and describe a world that must be understood in a historical way. In the new philosophical (...) understanding of nature priority is not ascribed to any single type or level of entity, but to historical processes, to processes of endless generation and change. (shrink)
We review studies on catching that reveal internalization of physics for action control. In catching free-falling balls, an internal model of gravity is used by the brain to time anticipatory muscle activation, modulation of reflex responses, and tuning of limb impedance. An internal model of the expected momentum of the ball at impact is used to scale the amplitude of anticipatory muscle activity. [Barlow; Hecht; Shepard].
With over 150 alphabetically arranged entries about key scientists, concepts, discoveries, technological innovations, and learned institutions, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy traces the history of physics and astronomy from the Renaissance to the present. For students, teachers, historians, scientists, and readers of popular science books such as Galileo's Daughter, this guide deciphers the methods and philosophies of physics and astronomy as well as the historical periods from which they emerged. Meant to serve the lay reader (...) and the professional alike, this book can be turned to for the answer to how scientists learned to measure the speed of light, or consulted for neat, careful summaries of topics as complicated as quantum field theory and as vast as the universe. The entries, each written by a noted scholar and edited by J. L. Heilbron, Professor of History and Vice Chancellor, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, reflect the most up-to-date research and discuss the applications of the scientific disciplines to the wider world of religion, law, war, art and literature. No other source on these two branches of science is as informative or as inviting. Thoroughly cross-referenced and accented by dozens of black and white illustrations, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy is the source to turn to for anyone looking for a quick explanation of alchemy, x-rays and any type of matter or energy in between. (shrink)
Abstract Nominalists, denying the reality of anything over and above concreta, are committed to a reductive account of any law of nature, explaining its necessity?the fact that it not only holds for all actual instances, but would hold for any additional ones?in, for example, epistemic terms (its likelihood/certainty of holding beyond the already observed instances). Nominalists argue that the world would be no different without irreducible modalities. ?Modal realists? often object that this parallels a common phenomenalist argument against believing in (...) a mind?independent external world. However, phenomenalism without translatability into sensory language is incoherent, though any such translation is impossible. The ?as if philosophy is untenable as well. But it is quite possible to formulate inductive methodology's imperatives in non?modal terms. Modal realism purports to give a reason against inductive scepticism, but does not go beyond saying that there is one. (shrink)
Ceteris-paribus clauses are nothing to worry about; aceteris-paribus qualifier is not poisonously indeterminate in meaning. Ceteris-paribus laws teach us that a law need not be associated straightforwardly with a regularity in the manner demanded by regularity analyses of law and analyses of laws as relations among universals. This lesson enables us to understand the sense in which the laws of nature would have been no different under various counterfactual suppositions — a feature even of those laws (...) that involve no ceteris-paribus qualification and are actually associated with exceptionless regularities. Ceteris-paribus generalizations of an‘inexact science’ qualify as laws of that science in virtue of their distinctive relation to counterfactuals: they form a set that is stable for the purposes of that field. (Though an accident may possess tremendous resilience under counterfactual suppositions, the laws are sharply distinguished from the accidents in that the laws are collectively as resilient as they could logically possibly be.) The stability of an inexact science's laws may involve their remaining reliable even under certain counterfactual suppositions violating fundamental laws of physics. The ceteris-paribus laws of an inexact science may thus possess a kind of necessity lacking in the fundamental laws of physics. A nomological explanation supplied by an inexact science would then be irreducible to an explanation of the same phenomenon at the level of fundamental physics. Island biogeography is used to illustrate how a special science could be autonomous in this manner. (shrink)
Hodgkin and Huxley’s model of the action potential is an apparent dream case of covering‐law explanation in biology. The model includes laws of physics and chemistry that, coupled with details about antecedent and background conditions, can be used to derive features of the action potential. Hodgkin and Huxley insist that their model is not an explanation. This suggests either that subsuming a phenomenon under physical laws is insufficient to explain it or that Hodgkin and Huxley were wrong. (...) I defend Hodgkin and Huxley against Weber’s heteronomy thesis and argue that explanations are descriptions of mechanisms. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Philosophy‐Neuroscience‐Psychology Program, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive, Wilson Hall, St. Louis, MO 63130; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Philosophers of science nowadays are inclined to believe in physical laws, but generally, like Hume and Russell, to reject causes. This paper urges the reverse. Explanatory practice in physics argues that we must take literally the causal stories that our theories provide, but the fundamental laws and equations that are essential to modern science are merely instrumental.
: This paper presents a detailed account of Descartes' derivation of his second law of nature—the law of rectilinear motion—from a priori metaphysical principles. Unlike the other laws the proof of the second depends essentially on a metaphysical assumption about the temporal immediacy of God's operation. Recent commentators (e.g., Des Chene and Garber) have not adequately explained the precise role of this assumption in the proof and Descartes' reasoning has continued to seem somewhat arbitrary as a result. My account (...) better reveals the dependence of the second law on fundamental principles about time and causality. (shrink)
Laws of nature seem to take two forms. Fundamental physics discovers laws that hold without exception, ‘strict laws’, as they are sometimes called; even if some laws of fundamental physics are irreducibly probabilistic, the probabilistic relation is thought not to waver. In the nonfundamental, or special, sciences, matters differ. Laws of such sciences as psychology and economics hold only ceteris paribus – that is, when other things are equal. Sometimes events accord with these (...) ceteris paribus laws (c.p. laws, hereafter), but sometimes the laws are not manifest, as if they have somehow been placed in abeyance: the regular relation indicative of natural law can fail in circumstances where an analogous outcome would effectively refute the assertion of strict law. Many authors have questioned the supposed distinction between strict laws and c.p. laws. The brief against it comprises various considerations: from the complaint that c.p. clauses are void of meaning to the claim that, although understood well enough, they should appear in all law-statements. These two concerns, among others, are addressed in due course, but first, I venture a positive proposal. I contend that there is an important contrast between strict laws and c.p. laws, one that rests on an independent distinction between combinatorial and noncombinatorial nomic principles.2 Instantiations of certain properties, e.g., mass and charge, nomically produce individual forces, or more generally, causal influences,3 in accordance with noncombinatorial.. (shrink)
At least three books struggle to emerge from this volume. One book, at the level of popular science, leads us through the development of physics, from Newton's laws to Bell's inequalities, in order to argue for the relevance of consciousness to the understanding of quantum theory. This is followed by a sketch of an interpretation of quantum mechanics. Interwoven with both is a memoir of Walker's teenage girlfriend, who died of Hodgkin's disease nearly fifty years ago. The theme (...) which holds the volume together is Walker's insistence on the importance of looking beyond materialism. (shrink)
The emphasis on models hasn’t completely eliminated laws from scientific discourse and philosophical discussion. Instead, I want to argue that much of physics lies beyond the strict domain of laws. I shall argue that in important cases the physics, or physical understanding, does not lie either in laws or in their properties, such as universality, consistency and symmetry. I shall argue that the domain of application commonly attributed to laws is too narrow. That is, (...)laws can still play an important, though peculiar, role outside their strict domain of validity. I shall argue also that, by way of a trade-off, while the actual domain of application of laws should be seen as much broader. At the same time, what I call ‘anomic’ representational elements reveal themselves as central to the descriptive and explanatory power of theories and model: boundary conditions, state descriptions, structures, constraints, limits and mechanisms. I conclude with a brief consideration of how my discussion has consequences for discussion of understanding, unification, approximation and dispositional properties. I focus on examples from physics, macroscopic and microscopic, phenomenological and fundametal: shock waves, propagation of cracks, symmetry breaking, and others. This law-eccentric kind of knowledge is central to both modeling the world and intervening in it. (shrink)
This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...) forward against the truth of universal laws of nature. The paper uses this insight to develop an account of causation that does justice to traditional views yet avoids the arguments of Russell. (shrink)
The traditional “realist” conception of physics, according to which human concepts, laws and theories can grasp the essence of a reality in our absence , seems incompatible with quantum formalism and it most fruitful interpretation. The proof rests on the violation by quantum mechanical formalism of some fundamental principles of the classical ontology. We discuss if the conception behind Einstein’s idea of a reality in our absence, could be still maintained and at which price. We conclude that quantum (...) mechanical formalism is not formulated on those terms, leaving for a separated paper the discussion about the terms in which it could be formulated and the onto-epistemological implications it might have. (shrink)
It has been said that Robert Boyle gave in the century of The Scientific Revolution the “fullest expression” of the view that laws of nature are continually impressed by God (“occasionalism”). So regarded, the universe is anything but an autonomous machine, its ordered operation depending on God’s continuous imposition of lawful, patterned relations between phenomena and his continuous provision of motion for them to actually enter relations. The present paper contests this treatment of Boyle. Evidence is elicited to show (...) that, for Boyle, most physical relations issue from intrinsic dispositions of phenomena, not divine impositions, dispositions determined by corpuscular textures. Members of classes of phenomena have capacities to make specific changes which members of other classes have capacities to receive, these correlative capacities being necessarily connected, subjects in principle of a priori synthetic necessary knowledge. The same view is found in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It is additionally argued that Boyle’s God, the quintessentially active being, imparted motion at the creation, whereafter the motion of (at least most) natural phenomena has derived from natural, not supernatural, impulsion. (shrink)
I argue that, on a dispositionalist account of causation and indeed on any other view of causation according to which causation is a real relation, general relativity does not give causal principles a role in explaining phenomena. In doing so, I bring out a surprisingly substantial constraint on adequate views about the explanations and ontology of general relativity, namely the requirement that such views show how general relativity can explain motion that is free of disturbing influences.
Since there is a hierarchy in levels of the organization of the world (in, for example, its social, biological, physical and cosmic aspects) there is a plurality of aspects of scientific philosophy, each of which takes its bearings from this or that level of the organization of the world. This means that when speaking about the laws of philosophy, it is necessary to specify which aspect is being spoken about. In the course of my argument my guideline is the (...) highest, or cosmic world, but I shall also use examples from the physical world. The first law of philosophy of the cosmic world is: each being has a single basis. (It realizes this basis of itself, i.e. it is a primary basis). The first law of the philosophy of the physical world can be stated as follows: all physical being is unique. The second law of philosophy of the cosmic world is: the basis of all being is active to the point of self-excitement. It is manifest and demonstrable of itself, fracturing unity into multiplicity. The second law of the philosophy of the physical world can be stated as follows: all physical being is active and excitable. The third law of the philosophy of the cosmic world is: the basis of all being excites itself unevenly. The third law of philosophy of the physical world can be stated as follows: every physical being changes by a conversion leap. These then are the three laws of the philosophy of the cosmic and physical worlds: uniqueness, activity, and leap. I end by showing how laws of cosmic ethics and a cosmic aesthetics follow from the laws of the philosophy of the cosmic world. (shrink)
It is a traditional empiricist doctrine that natural laws are universal truths. In order to overcome the obvious difficulties with this equation most empiricists qualify it by proposing to equate laws with universal truths that play a certain role, or have a certain function, within the larger scientific enterprise. This view is examined in detail and rejected; it fails to account for a variety of features that laws are acknowledged to have. An alternative view is advanced in (...) which laws are expressed by singular statements of fact describing the relationship between universal properties and magnitudes. (shrink)
The physicist's conception of space-time underwent two major upheavals thanks to the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Both theories play a fundamental role in describing the same natural world, although at different scales. However, the inconsistency between them emerged clearly as the limitation of twentieth-century physics, so a more complete description of nature must encompass general relativity and quantum mechanics as well. The problem is a theorists' problem par excellence. Experiment provide little guide, and the inconsistency mentioned (...) above is an important problem which clearly illustrates the intermingling of philosophical, mathematical, and physical thought. In fact, in order to unify general relativity with quantum field theory, it seems necessary to invent a new mathematical framework which will generalise Riemannian geometry and therefore our present conception of space and space-time. Contemporary developments in theoretical physics suggest that another revolution may be in progress, through which a new kind of geometry may enter physics, and space-time itself can be reinterpreted as an approximate, derived concept. The main purpose of this article is to show the great significance of space-time geometry in predetermining the laws which are supposed to govern the behaviour of matter, and further to support the thesis that matter itself can be built from geometry, in the sense that particles of matter as well as the other forces of nature emerges in the same way that gravity emerges from geometry. Scientific research is not a process of steady accumulation of absolute truths, which has culminated in present theories, but rather a much more dynamic kind of process in which there are no final theoretical concepts valid in unlimited domains. (David Bohm). (shrink)
Metaphysicians play an important role in our understanding of the universe. In recent years, physicists have focussed on finding accurate mathematical formalisms of the evolution of our physical system - if a metaphysician can uncover the metaphysical underpinnings of these formalisms; that is, why these formalisms seem to consistently map the universe, then our understanding of the world and the things in it is greatly enhanced. Science, then, plays a very important role in our project, as the best scientific formalisms (...) provide us with what we, as metaphysicians, should be trying to interpret. In this thesis I examine existing metaphysical views of what a law is (both from a conceptual and from a metaphysical perspective), to show how closely causation is linked to laws, and to provide a priori arguments for and against each of these positions. Ultimately, I aim to provide an analysis of a number of metaphysics of natural laws and causation, apply these accounts to our best scientific theories, and see how these metaphysics fit in with our concepts of cause and law. Although I do not attempt a definitive metaphysical account myself, I conclude that any successful metaphysic will be a broadly Humean one, and furthermore that given the concepts of cause and law that shall be agreed upon, Humean theories allow for there to be causal sequences and laws (in line with our concepts) in the world. (shrink)
I provide a comprehensive metaphysics of causation based on the idea that fundamentally things are governed by the laws of physics, and that derivatively difference-making can be assessed in terms of what fundamental laws of physics imply for hypothesized events. Highlights include a general philosophical methodology, the fundamental/derivative distinction, and my mature account of causal asymmetry.
Keywords: cosmology, laws, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, information, time, evolution ABSTRACT A major goal of science is to discover laws that underlie all regular phenomena. This goal is best satisfied by eternal principles that leave fundamental properties unchanged and unchangeable. Science has been forced to accept that some processes, especially biological processes, are inherently time oriented. It can either forgo the ideal of universal principles, and account for temporality through specific boundary conditions, or else incorporate the sources of change directly (...) into fundamental principles that are the same for all times and places, and for all temporal scales. In the past, unifying principles adequate for biology have caused trouble for physics, and vice versa. Recent work at the intersection of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and information theory suggests that physics and biology can finally be reconciled. (shrink)
In the present paper, I shall argue that quantum theory can contribute to reconciling evolutionary biology with the creation hypothesis. After giving a careful definition of the theological problem, I will, in a first step, formulate necessary conditions for the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the creation hypothesis. In a second step, I will show how quantum theory can contribute to fulfilling these conditions. More precisely, I claim that (1) quantum probabilities are best understood in terms of ontological indeterminism, but (...) (2) reflect nevertheless causal openness rather than divine indifference or arbitrariness, and (3) such a genuinely creative universe can be considered as the work of a loving Creator. I ask subsequently whether these necessary conditions are also sufficient for the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the creation hypothesis. Finally, I will show that relating evolutionary biology with theology via quantum theory could also shed some light on the nature of life. (shrink)
Recently several thought experiments have been developed (by John Carroll amongst others) which have been alleged to refute the Ramsey-Lewis view of laws of nature. The paper aims to show that two such thought experiments fail to establish that the Ramsey-Lewis view is false, since they presuppose a conception of laws of nature that is radically at odds with the Humean conception of laws embodied by the Ramsey-Lewis view. In particular, the thought experiments presuppose that laws (...) of nature govern the behavior of objects. The paper argues that the claim that laws govern should not be regarded as a conceptual truth, and shows how the governing conception of laws manifests itself in the thought experiments. Hence the thought experiments do not constitute genuine counter-examples to the Ramsey-Lewis view, since the Humean is free to reject the conception of laws which the thought experiments presuppose. (shrink)
The ambition of this volume is twofold: to provide a comprehensive overview of the field and to serve as an indispensable reference work for anyone who wants to work in it. For example, any philosopher who hopes to make a contribution to the topic of the classical-quantum correspondence will have to begin by consulting Klaas Landsman’s chapter. The organization of this volume, as well as the choice of topics, is based on the conviction that the important problems in the philosophy (...) of physics arise from studying the foundations of the fundamental theories of physics. It follows that there is no sharp line to be drawn between philosophy of physics and physics itself. Some of the best work in the philosophy of physics is being done by physicists, as witnessed by the fact that several of the contributors to the volume are theoretical physicists: viz., Ellis, Emch, Harvey, Landsman, Rovelli, ‘t Hooft, the last of whom is a Nobel laureate. Key features - Definitive discussions of the philosophical implications of modern physics - Masterly expositions of the fundamental theories of modern physics - Covers all three main pillars of modern physics: relativity theory, quantum theory, and thermal physics - Covers the new sciences grown from these theories: for example, cosmology from relativity theory; and quantum information and quantum computing, from quantum theory - Contains special Chapters that address crucial topics that arise in several different theories, such as symmetry and determinism - Written by very distinguished theoretical physicists, including a Nobel Laureate, as well as by philosophers - Definitive discussions of the philosophical implications of modern physics - Masterly expositions of the fundamental theories of modern physics - Covers all three main pillars of modern physics: relativity theory, quantum theory, and thermal physics - Covers the new sciences that have grown from these theories: for example, cosmology from relativity theory; and quantum information and quantum computing, from quantum theory - Contains special Chapters that address crucial topics that arise in several different theories, such as symmetry and determinism - Written by very distinguished theoretical physicists, including a Nobel Laureate, as well as by philosophers. (shrink)
The study of the physical world had its origins in philosophy, and, two-and-one-half millennia later, the scientific advances of the twentieth century are bringing the two fields closer together again. So argues Lawrence Sklar in this brilliant new text on the philosophy of physics.Aimed at students of both disciplines, Philosophy of Physics is a broad overview of the problems of contemporary philosophy of physics that readers of all levels of sophistication should find accessible and engaging. Professor Sklar’s (...) talent for clarity and accuracy is on display throughout as he guides students through the key problems: the nature of space and time, the problems of probability and irreversibility in statistical mechanics, and, of course, the many notorious problems raised by quantum mechanics.Integrated by the theme of the interconnectedness of philosophy and science, and linked by many references to the history of both disciplines, Philosophy of Physics is always clear, while remaining faithful to the complexity and integrity of the issues. It will take its place as a classic text in a field of fundamental intellectual importance. (shrink)
A magisterial study of the philosophy of physics that both introduces the subject to the non-specialist and contains many original and important contributions for professionals in the area. Modern physics was born as a part of philosophy and has retained to this day a properly philosophical concern for the clarity and coherence of ideas. Any introduction to the philosophy of physics must therefore focus on the conceptual development of physics itself. This book pursues that development from (...) Galileo and Newton through Maxwell and Boltzmann to Einstein and the founders of quantum mechanics. There is also discussion of important philosophers of physics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and of twentieth-century debates. In the interest of appealing to the broadest possible readership the author avoids technicalities and explains both the physics and philosophical terms. (shrink)
Most "art and science" books focus on the science of perspective or the psychology of perception. Hidden Harmony does not. Instead, the book addresses the surprising common ground between physics and art from a novel and personal perspective. Viewing the two disciplines as creative processes, J. R. Leibowitz supplements existing and original research with illustrations to demonstrate that physics and art share guiding aesthetics and compositional demands and to show how each speaks meaningfully to the other. Leibowitz widens (...) our experience and understanding of both domains by exploring how concepts such as balance and re-balance, coherence and unity, and symmetry and "broken" symmetry affect and are affected by artistic vision and scientific principle. He reveals shared themes and understandings in each field and adroitly illustrates the parallels between the dabs of color and layers of images in a work of art and the particles of matter and packets of energy that compose the observable, physical world. Featuring examples of art images and complementary examples of physics concepts, this contemplative work helps us see art and physics as artists and physicists do. (shrink)
After a quarter of a century in print, Capra's groundbreaking work still challenges and inspires. This updated edition of The Tao of Physics includes a new preface and afterword in which the author reviews the developments of the twenty-five years since the book's first publication, discusses criticisms the book has received, and examines future possibilities for a new scientific world.
This history of physics focuses on the question, "How do bodies act on one another across space?" The variety of answers illustrates the function of fundamental analogies or models in physics as well as the role of so-called unobservable entities. Forces and Fields presents an in-depth look at the science of ancient Greece, and it examines the influence of antique philosophy on seventeenth-century thought. Additional topics embrace many elements of modern physics--the empirical basis of quantum mechanics, wave-particle (...) duality and the uncertainty principle, and the action-at-a-distance theory of Wheeler and Feynman. 1961 ed. (shrink)
Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics addresses quantum mechanics and relativity and their philosophical implications, focusing on whether these theories of modern physics can help us know nature as it really is, or only as it appears to us. The author clearly explains the foundational concepts and principles of both quantum mechanics and relativity and then uses them to argue that we can know more than mere appearances, and that we can know to some (...) extent the way things really are. He argues that modern physics gives us reason to believe that we can know some things about the objective, real world, but he also acknowledges that we cannot know everything, which results in a position he calls realistic realism. This book is not a survey of possible philosophical interpretations of modern physics, nor does it leap from a caricature of the physics to some wildly alarming metaphysics. Instead, it is careful with the physics and true to the evidence in arriving at its own realistic conclusions. It presents the physics without mathematics, and makes extensive use of diagrams and analogies to explain important ideas. Engaging and accessible, Appearance and Reality serves as an ideal introduction for anyone interested in the intersection of philosophy and physics, including students in philosophy of physics and philosophy of science courses. (shrink)