Truth and Physics Education

Dissertation, University of Auckland (2010)

Authors
Robert Keith Shaw
University of Auckland (PhD)
Abstract
This thesis develops a hermeneutic philosophy of science to provide insights into physics education. Modernity cloaks the authentic character of modern physics whenever discoveries entertain us or we judge theory by its use. Those who justify physics education through an appeal to its utility, or who reject truth as an aspect of physics, relativists and constructivists, misunderstand the nature of physics. Demonstrations, not experiments, reveal the essence of physics as two characteristic engagements with truth. First, truth in its guise as correspondence enables a human being to prepare for the distinctive event of physics. Second, the event of physics occurs in human perception when someone forces a hidden reality to disclose an aspect of itself. Thus, the ground of physics is our human involvement with reality achieved by way of truth. To support this account of physics, the thesis reports phenomenological investigations into Isaac Newton’s involvement with optics and a secondary school physics laboratory. These involve interpretations of Heidegger’s theory of beings, schema and signification. The project draws upon, and contributes to, the hermeneutic phenomenology of modern physics, a tradition in continental philosophy that begins with Immanuel Kant, and advances particularly from Martin Heidegger to Patrick Heelan. The thesis advocates an ontological pedagogy for modern physics which has as its purpose each individual student’s engagement with reality and truth. Students may achieve this through demonstrations of phenomena that will enable them to dwell with physics, an experience that contrasts with their embroilment in modernity, and which perpetuates nature’s own science.
Keywords philosophy of science  phenomenology  hermeneutics  Newton  Western metaphysics
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