Murdoch describes the historical background of the physics from which Bohr's ideas grew; he traces the origins of his idea of complementarity and discusses its meaning and significance. Special emphasis is placed on the contrasting views of Einstein, and the great debate between Bohr and Einstein is thoroughly examined. Bohr's philosophy is revealed as being much more subtle, and more interesting than is generally acknowledged.
Philosophy of Physics has emerged recently as a scholarly important subfield of philosophy of science. However outside the small community of experts it is not a well-known field. It is not clear even to experts the exact nature of the field: how much philosophical is it? What is its relation to physics? In this work it is presented an overview of philosophy of physics that tries to answer these and other questions.
Quantum theory is one the most important and successful theories of modern physical science. It has been estimated that its principles form the basis for about 30 per cent of the world's manufacturing economy. This is all the more remarkable because quantum theory is a theory that nobody understands. The meaning of Quantum Theory introduces science students to the theory's fundamental conceptual and philosophical problems, and the basis of its non-understandability. It does this with the barest minimum of jargon and (...) very little mathematics in the main text. Readers wishing to delve more deeply into the theory's mathematical subtleties can do so in an extended series of appendices. The book brings the reader up to date with the results of new experimental tests of quantum weirdness and reviews the latest thinking on alternative interpretations, the frontiers of quantum cosmology, quantum gravity and potential application of this weirdness in computing, cryptography and teleportation. (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)
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)
Why does time pass and space does not? Are there just three dimensions? What is a quantum particle? Nick Huggett shows that philosophy -- armed with a power to analyze fundamental concepts and their relationship to the human experience -- has much to say about these profound questions about the universe. In Everywhere and Everywhen, Huggett charts a journey that peers into some of the oldest questions about the world, through some of the newest, such as: What shape is (...) space? Does it have an edge? What is the difference between past and future? What is time in relativity? Is time travel possible? Are there other universes? Huggett shows that answers to these profound questions are not just reserved for physics, and that philosophy can not only address but help advance our view of our deepest questions about the universe, space, and time, and their implications for humanity. His lively, accessible introduction to these topics is suitable for a general reader with no previous exposure to these profound and exciting questions. (shrink)
Reading Bohr: Physics and Philosophy offers a new perspective on Niels Bohr's interpretation of quantum mechanics as complementarity, and on the relationships between physics and philosophy in Bohr's work, which has had momentous significance for our understanding of quantum theory and of the nature of knowledge in general. Philosophically, the book reassesses Bohr's place in the Western philosophical tradition, from Kant and Hegel on. Physically, it reconsiders the main issues at stake in the Bohr-Einstein confrontation and (...) in the ongoing debates concerning quantum physics. It also devotes greater attention than in most commentaries on Bohr to the key developments and transformations of his thinking concerning complementarity. Most significant among them were those that occurred, first, under the impact of Bohr's exchanges with Einstein and, second, under the impact of developments in quantum theory itself, both quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. The importance of quantum field theory for Bohr's thinking has not been adequately addressed in the literature on Bohr, to the considerable detriment to our understanding of the history of quantum physics. Filling this lacuna is one of the main contributions of the book, which also enables us to show why quantum field theory compels us to move beyond Bohr without, however, simply leaving him behind. (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)
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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
Introduction: Historical background.--The law of causality and experience (1908)--The importance of Ernst Mach's philosophy of science for our times (1917)--Physical theories of the twentieth century and school philosophy (1929)--Is there a trend today toward idealism in physics? (1934)--The positivistic and the metaphysical conception of physics (1935)--Logical empiricism and the philosophy of the Soviet Union (1935)--Philosophical misinterpretations of the quantum theory (1936)--What "length" means to the physicist (1937)--Determinism and indeterminism in modern physics (1938)--Ernst Mach and (...) the unity of science (1938). (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.
Purpose: To examine the role of reductionism in the theoretical development of modern physics -- more specifically, in the quest for a complete unification of physical theory -- from the perspective of radical constructivism (RC). Approach: Some central features of the impact of RC on philosophy of physics are pointed out: its position of scientific relativism, with important implications for the validation of scientific propositions; and the notion of sharing constructed knowledge among individual knowers and its consequences (...) for science teaching. The issue of reductionism is then discussed with regard to (a) the hierarchical explanatory ordering of physical phenomena; (b) the idea of a "theory of everything" (TOE); and (c) some of its implications for the methodology and sociology of science. Findings: It is argued that the ontological status of the hierarchical structuring inherent in the sought-after TOE will depend on the individual knower's epistemic position concerning the notion of truth in science. In the relativist epistemology of RC, any true/false dichotomy of theories is without meaning. A hierarchical ordering is just one of many possible strategies that may be chosen for the construction of physical theories; and such a strategy may then be considered successful only to the extent that it yields a theory that is viable. Implications: The paper serves as an illustration of the impact of RC on the ongoing search in physics for a "final theory.". (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)
This book examines a selection of philosophical issues in the context of specific episodes in the development of physical theories. Advances in science are presented against the historical and philosophical backgrounds in which they occurred. A major aim is to impress upon the reader the essential role that philosophical considerations have played in the actual practice of science. The book begins with some necessary introduction to the history of ancient and early modern science, with major emphasis being given to the (...) two great watersheds of twentieth-century physics: relativity and, especially, quantum mechanics. At times the term 'construction' may seem more appropriate than 'discovery' for the way theories have developed and, especially in the later chapters, the question of the influence of historical, philosophical and even social factors on the very form and content of scientific theories is discussed. (shrink)
Nobel Laureate in physics Wolfgang Pauli studied philosophy and the history of ideas intensively, especially in his later years, to form an accurate ontology vis-à-vis quantum theory. Pauli's close contacts with the Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung gave him special qualifications for also understanding the basic problems of empirical knowledge. After Pauli's sudden death in 1958, this work was maintained mainly in his posthumously published correspondence, which so far extends only to 1939. Because Pauli's view differs essentially from the (...) direction physics research took after the deaths of the founding fathers of quantum theory, this article attempts to describe the main features in Pauli's revolutionary thought, which is based on nature's “epistemological lesson” as revealed by Pauli's atomic research. Pauli's conclusions have important implications for various issues in Western culture, not least with the limits of science and the relation of science to religion. (shrink)
This article argues that by the time of the Groupe des Dix’s dissolution in 1976, at least some of its members had departed significantly from the intellectual framework inherited from America’s Cybernetics Group. Focusing on two key publications of 1977, Edgar Morin’s La méthode, tome 1 : la nature de la nature and Michel Serres’s La naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce. Fleuves et turbulences, I show how the group’s two most philosophically oriented thinkers both broke with (...) the “paradigm of the artificial machine” characteristic of cybernetics, developing in its place a new understanding of Nature centred on the figure of the vortex and the concept of self-production. This renewed understanding of Nature in turn entails an attempt to re-think the foundations of the life, human and artificial sciences via an original articulation of physics, philosophy and poetics. Dans cet article, nous montrons qu’au moment de la dissolution du Groupe des Dix en 1976, certains de ses membres avaient partiellement rompu avec la pensée cybernétique – héritée du Cybernetics Group américain – qui informait ses débuts. Une analyse de deux textes importants datant de 1977, La méthode, tome 1 : la nature de la nature d’Edgar Morin et La naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce. Fleuves et turbulences de Michel Serres, montre comment les deux penseurs les plus philosophiques du groupe ont su surmonter ce que Morin appelle « le paradigme de la machine artificielle » propre à la cybernétique pour développer une compréhension de la nature centrée sur la figure du tourbillon et sur le concept d’autoproduction. Chez Morin, cette pensée renouvelée de la nature s’appuie sur la pensée présocratique de la physis, et chez Serres sur la pensée lucrétienne de la natura. Nous montrons également que l’on peut interpréter les démarches de Morin et de Serres comme une tentative de dépasser la métaphysique, laquelle, de Platon à Norbert Wiener, comprend la nature par analogie avec la technique et donc comme fondée par un acte de la volonté. La compréhension renouvelée de la nature qui émerge dans les textes de Morin et de Serres implique également un nouveau fondement des sciences du vivant, de l’homme et de l’artificiel, qui prendra forme grâce à une articulation originale de la physique, de la philosophie et de la poétique. (shrink)
The author focuses on the tension "realism - idealism" in the philosophy of mathematics, but he does that from the perspective of a theoretical physicist. It is not only that one's standpoint in the philosophy of mathematics determines our understanding of the effectiveness of mathematics in physics, but also the fact that mathematics is so effective in physical sciences tells us something about the nature of mathematics.
During the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, physics was regularly taught as part of instruction in philosophy and the arts at Central European schools and universities. However, physics did not have a special or privileged status within that instruction. Three general indicators of this lack of special status are suggested in this article. First, teachers of physics usually were paid less than teachers of most other university-level subject-matters. Second, very few Central European academics during this period (...) appear to have made a career out of teaching physics. And third, Reformation Era schools and universities in Central Europe emphasized language instruction; such instruction not only was instrumental in promoting the confessional-i.e., Calvinist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic-agendas of those same schools and universities, but also helped to prepare students for service in nascent but growing state governments. (shrink)
Hopkins' Idealism provides a thorough re-examination of the nineteenth-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), whose early writings on philosophy have to date received little critical attention. It is the first full-length study of Hopkins' largely unpublished Oxford undergraduate essays and notes on philosophy and mechanics. The volume also offers radical new readings of some of Hopkins' best-known poems.
Quantum philosophy, a peculiar twentieth-century malady, is responsible for most of the conceptual muddle plaguing the foundations of quantum physics. When this philosophy is eschewed, one naturally arrives at Bohmian mechanics, which is what emerges from Schrodinger's equation for a nonrelativistic system of particles when we merely insist that 'particles' means particles. While distinctly non-Newtonian, Bohmian mechanics is a fully deterministic theory of particles in motion, a motion choreographed by the wave function. The quantum formalism emerges when (...) measurement situations are analyzed according to this theory. When the quantum formalism is regarded as arising in this way, the paradoxes and perplexities so often associated with quantum theory simply evaporate.Bohr's ... approach to atomic problems ... is really remarkable. He is completely convinced that any understanding in the usual sense of the word is impossible. Therefore the conversation is almost immediately driven into philosophical questions, and soon you no longer know whether you really take the position he is attacking, or whether you really must attack the position he is defending. (shrink)
In the course of the history of science, some concepts have forged theoretical foundations, constituting paradigms that hold sway for substantial periods of time. Research on the history of explanations of the action of one body on another is a testament to the periodic revival of one theory in particular, namely, the theory of ether. Even after the foundation of modern Physics, the notion of ether has directly and indirectly withstood the test of time. Through a spontaneous physics (...) philosophical analysis, this article will explore how certain aspects of the concept of ether have appeared in different branches of the history of science. (shrink)