According to StevenWeinberg, it is the goal of elementary particle physics to search for the final laws of physics, i.e. a simple set of principles from which everything we know about physics can be derived. The main criterion that guides the search for such a set of principles is, according to the author, the sense of inevitability of physical theories, which Weinberg conflates with the idea of beauty. The theoretical physicists’ task is, in this sense, to (...) look for constraining principles, such as symmetries and renormalizability, that increase the sense of inevitability of physical laws. It is the goal of this paper to discuss Weinberg’s arguments in favor of reductionism, as well as his conception of final theory and the associated concept of “inevitability.”. (shrink)
Like many other scientists, I was amused by news of the prank played by the NYU mathematical physicist Alan Sokal. Late in 1994 he submitted a sham article to the cultural studies journal Social Text, in which he reviewed some current topics in physics and mathematics, and with tongue in cheek drew various cultural, philosophical and political morals that he felt would appeal to fashionable academic commentators on science who question the claims of science to objectivity.
In this essay I examine a recent argument by StevenWeinberg that seeks to establish local quantum field theory as the only type of quantum theory in accord with the relevent evidence and satisfying two basic physical principles. I reconstruct the argument as a demonstrative induction and indicate it's role as a foil to the underdetermination argument in the debate over scientific realism.
Karl Giberson and Mariano Artigas offer an informed analysis on the views of Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and StevenWeinberg; carefully distinguishing science from philosophy and religion in the writings of the oracles.
I examine the construction process of the “Higgs mechanism” and its subsequent use by StevenWeinberg to formulate the electroweak theory of elementary particle physics. I characterize the development of the Higgs mechanism as a historical process that was guided through analogies drawn to the theories of solid-state physics and that was progressive through diverse contributions in the sixties from a number of physicists working independently. I also offer a detailed comparative study of the similarities and the differences (...) that exist between the approaches taken in these contributions. (shrink)
The theoretical physicist Paul Dirac rejected, explicitly on aesthetic grounds, a successful theory known as quantum electrodynamics (QED), which is the prototype for the family of theories known as quantum field theories (QFTs). Remarkably, the theoretical physicist StevenWeinberg, also largely on aesthetic grounds, supports QED and other QFTs. In order to evaluate these opposing aesthetic views a short introduction to the physical properties of QFTs is presented together with a detailed analysis of the aesthetic claims of Dirac (...) and Weinberg. It turns out that Dirac rejected QED, without regard to its success, because this theory fails to yield to what he perceived as beautiful mathematics, whereas Weinberg's support of QFTs is founded primarily on the physical concepts of the theories. In particular, he relies on symmetries that are the basis for the construction of the extremely successful current fundamental theories of particles physics. This success was decisive in leading to Weinberg's conviction of the beauty of QFTs. As a result of the evaluation of these approaches, the factors causing scientists to perceive a theory as being a fundamentally beautiful theory are discussed in detail. (shrink)
Might the world be structured, as Leibniz thought, so that every part of matter is divided ad infinitum? The Physicist David Bohm accepted infinitely decomposable matter, and even StevenWeinberg, a staunch supporter of the idea that science is converging on a final theory, admits the possibility of an endless chain of ever more fundamental theories. However, if there is no fundamental level, physicalism, thought of as the view that everything is determined by fundamental phenomena and that all (...) fundamental phenomena are physical, turns out false, for in such a world, there are no fundamental phenoma, and so fundamental phenomena determine nothing. While some take physicalism necessarily to posit a fundamental level, here I present a thesis of physicalism that allows for its truth even in an infinitely decomposable world. (shrink)
Might the world be structured, as Leibniz thought, so that every part of matter is divided ad infinitum? The Physicist David Bohm accepted infinitely decomposable matter, and even StevenWeinberg, a staunch supporter of the idea that science is converging on a final theory, admits the possibility of an endless chain of ever more fundamental theories. However, if there is no fundamental level, physicalism, thought of as the view that everything is determined by fundamental phenomena and that all (...) fundamental phenomena are physical, turns out false, for in such a world, there are no fundamental phenomena, and so fundamental phenomena determine nothing. While some take physicalism necessarily to posit a fundamental level, here I present a thesis of physicalism that allows for its truth even in an infinitely decomposable world. (shrink)
It has been widely believed since the nineteenth century that modern science provides a serious challenge to religion, but less agreement as to the reason. One main complication is that whenever there has been broad consensus for a scientific theory that challenges traditional religious doctrines, one finds religious believers endorsing the theory or even formulating it. As a result, atheists who argue for the incompatibility of science and religion often go beyond the religious implications of individual scientific theories, arguing that (...) the sciences taken together provide a comprehensive challenge to religious belief. Scientific theories, on this view, can be integrated to form a general vision of humans and our place in nature, one that excludes the existence of supernatural phenomena to which many religious traditions refer. The most common name given to this general vision is the scientific worldview. The purpose of my paper is to argue that the relation of a worldview to science is more complex and ambiguous than this position allows, drawing upon recent work in the history and philosophy of science. While there are other ways to complicate the picture, this paper will focus on differing views that scientists and philosophers have on the proper scope and limits of scientific inquiry. I will identify two different types of science—Baconian and Cartesian—that have different ambitions with respect to scientific theories, and thus different answers about the possibility of a scientific worldview. The paper will conclude by showing how their differing intuitions about scientific inquiry are evident in contemporary debates about reductionism, drawing upon the work of two physicists, StevenWeinberg and John Polkinghorne. History is more complex than this simple schema allows, of course, but these types provide a useful first approximation into the ambiguities of modern science. (shrink)
This compelling study of the origins of all that exists, including explanations of the entire material world, traces the responses of philosophers and scientists to the most elemental and haunting question of all: why is _anything_ here—or anything _anywhere_? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why not nothing? It includes the thoughts of dozens of luminaries from Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas and Leibniz to modern thinkers such as physicists Stephen Hawking and StevenWeinberg, philosophers Robert Nozick (...) and Derek Parfit, philosophers of religion Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne, and the Dalai Lama. The first accessible volume to cover a wide range of possible reasons for the existence of all reality, from over 50 renowned thinkers, including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, StevenWeinberg, Robert Nozick, Derek Parfit, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, John Polkinghorne, Paul Davies, and the Dalai Lama Features insights by scientists, philosophers, and theologians Includes informative and helpful editorial introductions to each section Provides a wealth of suggestions for further reading and research Presents material that is both comprehensive and comprehensible. (shrink)
In the first section of this paper, I discuss a quantum mechanical account, which is endorsed by the MIT physicist, Alan Guth, of the origin of what Guth believes to have been an absolutely first universe. I argue that, though his explanation is unsound, there is no reason to think that it needs to be replaced by a supernaturalist one. In the second section, I argue that though Professor StevenWeinberg's tentative explanation of the apparent fine-tuning of the (...) cosmological constant is unacceptable, we need not accept a supernaturalist account of the coming about of intelligent life. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the view that the aim of science is to produce true or approximately true theories about nature. It is a view which not only is shared by many philosophers but also by scientists themselves. Regarding Kuhn’s rejection of scientific progress, StevenWeinberg once declared: “All this is wormwood to scientists like myself, who think the task of science is to bring us closer and closer to objective truth.” But such a realist view on scientific theories (...) is not without problems. The paper discusses some arguments for and against the ontological commitments that scientific theories may entail. The upshot is that scientific realism according to which the semantic content of theories should be understood literally is not sustainable. Instead, it is argued that only realism with respect to entities can be reasonably and practically maintained. Finally, the paper discusses structural realism which presents itself as a modern alternative to scientific realism which may meet both the optimistic no-miracle argument and the pessimistic meta-induction argument. My conclusion is that such a position is neither attractive nor defendable. (shrink)
Near the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims that “our discussion will be adequate if its degree of clarity reflects the subject matter.” Those who seek to give a proper “theoretical” account of some enterprise, but who neglect this wise Aristotelian counsel, do so at their own peril. Aristotle is urging that sound theory should reflect and elucidate actual practice. When philosophical speculation loses touch with such practice, it tends to caricature what it ought to clarify. For example, (...) class='Hi'>StevenWeinberg points out the disparity that often exists between the view of science one finds expounded by some contemporary “philosophers of science” and that presupposed by those really engaged in scientific research: “From time to time I have tried to read current work on the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Alfred North Whitehead advanced a version of multiverse theory in 1929 that bears a remarkable affinity to the revolutionary ideas of current cosmological speculation. He postulated his theory for some of the very same reasons as those advanced today by leading cosmologists and physicists such as Martin Rees, Lee Smolin, Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark and StevenWeinberg, but his theory has largely gone unnoticed.
Although many philosophers do not consider Thomas Kuhn to be a great philosopher, there are at least two reasons to do so. First, he helped to remap our culture and created for it a new structural plan, and second even without being educated in philosophy his work bears an important metaphilosophical message. I took his work and applied consequences on the field of philosophy which helped me to view our culture not as an epistemological and ontological hierarchy reaching from formal (...) sciences down to rhetoric, but as a spectrum of viewpoints with rigidity of norms on one end and constant change on the other. There are still those who think Kuhn should not be taken seriously. Among them there are both analytic philosophers and natural scientists. StevenWeinberg serves as a great example. He believes that by virtue of his participation in the actual process of making physics he knows all the problems of philosophy of his discipline. He uses terms which philosophers were deciphering for a long time without any contemplation over their meaning. Kuhn is one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century and although he was afraid to articulate all consequences of his revolutionary work, he did a great job in showing us that the privileged position science has in our culture in not entirely justified. (shrink)
The question of the limits of reason, not just within philosophy but also in the modern sciences, is arguably more important than ever given numerous recent commentaries on “life”, “reality”, meaning, purpose, pointlessness and so on, emanating not from philosophers or metaphysicians, but rather from physicists and biologists such as StevenWeinberg and Richard Dawkins. It will be argued that such commentaries concerning the “pointlessness” of the universe, or the purpose of “life’, and other such things, are flawed (...) and unconvincing, not least because they seem to overlook or forget a number of well known and significant philosophical contributions on the question of limits, particularly by Kant, but also by Hume, Russell and Sir A J Ayer. (shrink)
As an emerging discipline, neuroeconomics faces considerable methodological and practical challenges. In this paper, I suggest that these challenges can be understood by exploring the similarities and dissimilarities between the emergence of neuroeconomics and the emergence of cognitive and computational neuroscience two decades ago. From these parallels, I suggest the major challenge facing theory formation in the neural and behavioural sciences is that of being under-constrained by data, making a detailed understanding of physical implementation necessary for theory construction in neuroeconomics. (...) Rather than following a top-down strategy, neuroeconomists should be pragmatic in the use of available data from animal models, information regarding neural pathways and projections, computational models of neural function, functional imaging and behavioural data. By providing convergent evidence across multiple levels of organization, neuroeconomics will have its most promising prospects of success. (shrink)
In this paper we propose to argue for two claims. The first is that a sizeable group of epistemological projects – a group which includes much of what has been done in epistemology in the analytic tradition – would be seriously undermined if one or more of a cluster of empirical hypotheses about epistemic intuitions turns out to be true. The basis for this claim will be set out in Section 2. The second claim is that, while the jury is (...) still out, there is now a substantial body of evidence suggesting that some of those empirical hypotheses are true. Much of this evidence derives from an ongoing series of experimental studies of epistemic intuitions that we have been conducting. A preliminary report on these studies will be presented in Section 3. In light of these studies, we think it is incumbent on those who pursue the epistemological projects in question to either explain why the truth of the hypotheses does not undermine their projects, or to say why, in light of the evidence we will present, they nonetheless assume that the hypotheses are false. In Section 4, which is devoted to Objections and Replies, we’ll consider some of the ways in which defenders of the projects we are criticizing might reply to our challenge. Our goal, in all of this, is not to offer a conclusive argument demonstrating that the epistemological projects we will be criticizing are untenable. Rather, our aim is to shift the burden of argument. (shrink)
The article contests Affeldt's critique of Mulhall's "Stanley Cavell: Philosophy's Recounting of the Ordinary," by asking how deep the conflict between what Affeldt proposes as Cavell's account of Wittgenstein's notion of grammar and that of Baker and Hacker really goes. It argues that Affeldt's critique is successful against one interpretation of the claims that grammar consists of a framework of rules and that criteria function as a basis for judgment, but that other interpretations of these claims are available and appear (...) consistent with both Cavell's and Wittgenstein's positions. It concludes by suggesting that the real issue is how to combine a sense of the normativity of grammar with that of the role of the personal in grounding grammatical remarks. (shrink)
Recent experimental philosophy arguments have raised trouble for philosophers' reliance on armchair intuitions. One popular line of response has been the expertise defense: philosophers are highly-trained experts, whereas the subjects in the experimental philosophy studies have generally been ordinary undergraduates, and so there's no reason to think philosophers will make the same mistakes. But this deploys a substantive empirical claim, that philosophers' training indeed inculcates sufficient protection from such mistakes. We canvass the psychological literature on expertise, which indicates that people (...) are not generally very good at reckoning who will develop expertise under what circumstances. We consider three promising hypotheses concerning what philosophical expertise might consist in: (i) better conceptual schemata; (ii) mastery of entrenched theories; and (iii) general practical know-how with the entertaining of hypotheticals. On inspection, none seem to provide us with good reason to endorse this key empirical premise of the expertise defense. (shrink)
The prisoner 's dilemma game has acquired large literatures in several disciplines. It is surprising, therefore, that a good definition of the game is hard to find. Typically an author relates a story about captured criminals or military rivals, provides a particular payoff matrix and asserts that the PD is characterized, or illustrated, by that matrix. In the few cases in which characterizing conditions are given, the conditions, and the motivations for them, do not always agree with each other or (...) with the paradigm examples elsewhere. In this paper we describe several varieties of PD's. In particular, we suggest there are two distinctions among PD's with philosophical significance, the pure/impure and the utilitarian/nonutilitarian distinctions. In the first section, we explain and characterize the two distinctions. In the second, we discuss an issue of moral philosophy that illustrates the significance of the former. (shrink)
Using empirical evidence to attack intuitions can be epistemically dangerous, because various of the complaints that one might raise against them (e.g., that they are fallible; that we possess no non-circular defense of their reliability) can be raised just as easily against perception itself. But the opponents of intuition wish to challenge intuitions without at the same time challenging the rest of our epistemic apparatus. How might this be done? Let us use the term “hopefulness” to refer to the extent (...) to which we possess a good capacity for the detection and correction of the errors of any fallible source of evidence. I argue that we should not trust putative sources of evidence that are substantially lacking in hopefulness (even if they are basically reliable), and that we are indeed already operating under such a norm in our ordinary and scientific practices. I argue further that the philosophical practice of the appeal to intuitions is, in these terms, badly hopeless... (shrink)
Theists believe that God is eternal, but they differ as to just what God's eternality means . The traditional, historic view of most Christian philosophers is that eternality means that God is timeless. He is ‘outside’ of time and not subject to any kind of temporal change. Indeed, God is the creator of time. Lets call this view divine timelessness.
The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9463-7 Authors Don Howard, Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA Bas C. van Fraassen, Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA Elena Castellani, Department of Philosophy, University of Florence, Via Bolognese 52, 50139 (...) Florence, Italy Laura Crosilla, Department of Pure Mathematics, School of Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT UK Steven French, Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Décio Krause, Department of Philosophy, Federal University of Santa Catarina, 88040-900 Campus Trindade, Florianópolis, SC Brazil Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
After more than a decade of reflection on obedience experiments based on a laboratory model of his own design, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram is clearly confident that the experimental results make a substantial and striking contribution towards understanding human nature: Something … dangerous is revealed: the capacity for man to abandon his humanity, indeed, the inevitability that he does so, as he merges his unique personality into larger institutional structures.
The Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium has been argued by Sober, Stephens and others to represent the zero-force state for evolutionary biology understood as a theory of forces. I investigate what it means for a model to involve forces, developing an explicit account by defining what the zero-force state is in a general theoretical context. I use this account to show that Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium is not the zero-force state in biology even in the contexts in which it applies, and argue based (...) on this that drift should not be understood as an evolutionary force. (shrink)
In a recent paper Weinberg (2007) claims that there is an essential mark of trustworthiness which typical sources of evidence as perception or memory have, but philosophical intuitions lack, namely that we are able to detect and correct errors produced by these “hopeful” sources. In my paper I will argue that being a hopeful source isn't necessary for providing us with evidence. I then will show that, given some plausible background assumptions, intuitions at least come close to being hopeful, (...) if they are reliable. If this is true, Weinberg's new challenge comes down to the claim that philosophical intuitions are not reliable since they are significantly unstable. In the second part of my paper I will argue that and why the experimentally established instability of folk intuitions about philosophical cases does not show that philosopher's expert intuitions about these cases are instable. (shrink)
The practice of appealing to esoteric intuitions, long standard in analytic philosophy, has recently fallen on hard times. Various recent empirical results have suggested that philosophers are not currently able to distinguish good intuitions from bad. This paper evaluates one possible type of approach to this problematic methodological situation: calibration. Both critiquing and building on an argument from Robert Cummins, the paper explores what possible avenues may exist for the calibration of philosophical intuitions. It is argued that no good options (...) are currently available, but leaves open the real possibility of such a calibration in the future. (shrink)
The work of Arthur de Gobineau has presented scholars with a number of interpretive problems concerning his status as a race theorist, his place in the history of racial thought, and the influence of his work on subsequent thinkers. This essay addresses the particularly vexing issue of the origins of Gobineau's racism from the perspective of his affiliation with French royalists in the 1840s and challenges the existing scholarship on the derivation of L'Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines by placing (...) the Essai in the context of his international experience as a member of the French diplomatic corps. Although disillusioned with legitimist politics during the July Monarchy, Gobineau never abandoned his youthful ideological priorities. From the perspective of his royalist past, the Essai appears as part of an extended rumination on the decadence of the French aristocracy and its failure to stem the tide of revolution and bureaucratic centralization. As such, Gobineau's racism can best be understood as a royalist heresy rather than a continuation of his aristocratic elitism or a clean break with his earlier preoccupations. (shrink)