This high-level study discusses Newtonian principles and 19th-century views on electrodynamics and the aether. Additional topics include Einstein's electrodynamics of moving bodies, Minkowski spacetime, gravitational geometry, time and causality, and other subjects. Highlights include a rich exposition of the elements of the special and general theories of relativity.
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)
"A pleasure to read. Gracefully written by a scholar well grounded in the relevant philosophical, historical, and technical background. . . . a helpfully clarifying review and analysis of some issues of importance to recent philosophy of science and a source of some illuminating insights."--Burke Townsend, Philosophy of Science.
Responding to Hasok Chang’s vision of the history and philosophy of science as the continuation of science by other means, I illustrate the methods of HPS and their utility through a historico-critical examination of the problem of “time’s arrow‘, that is to say, the problem posed by the claim by Boltzmann and others that the temporal asymmetry of many physical processes and indeed the very possibility of identifying each of the two directions we distinguish in time must have a ground (...) in the laws of nature. I claim that this problem has proved intractable chiefly because the standard mathematical representation of time employed in the formulation of the laws of nature “forgets‘ one of the connotations of the word ”time’ as it is used in ordinary language and in experimental physics. (shrink)
The subject of this paper is objectivity from Kant's point of view: or better, my own perspective on Kant's perspective on objectivity. More precisely, I want to draw attention to some aspects of the latter, which I believe are too narrow and must be widened before we can benefit from a Kantian approach today.
Se explican dos ideas capitales de la epistemología de Bachelard y su relación mutua: la ciencia es fenomenotécnica, la ciencia inventa sus conceptos La producción de fenómenos con arreglo a esos conceptos certifica su idoneidad.We explain two main ideas of Bachelard’s philosophy of science and their mutual relation. Science produces phenomena and creates its own concepts. Production of phenomena according to these concepts certifies their aptness.
In this paper I take a sceptical view of the standard cosmological model and its variants, mainly on the following grounds: (i) The method of mathematical modelling that characterises modern natural philosophy-as opposed to Aristotle's-goes well with the analytic, piecemeal approach to physical phenomena adopted by Galileo, Newton and their followers, but it is hardly suited for application to the whole world. (ii) Einstein's first cosmological model (1917) was not prompted by the intimations of experience but by a desire to (...) satisfy Mach's Principle. (iii) The standard cosmological model-a Friedmann-Lematre-Robertson-Walker spacetime expanding with or without end from an initial singularity-is supported by the phenomena of redshifted light from distant sources and very nearly isotropic thermal background radiation provided that two mutually inconsistent physical theories are jointly brought to bear on these phenomena, viz the quantum theory of elementary particles and Einstein's theory of gravity. (iv) While the former is certainly corroborated by high-energy experiments conducted under conditions allegedly similar to those prevailing in the early world, precise tests of the latter involve applications of the Schwarzschild solution or the PPN formalism for which there is no room in a Friedmann-Lematre-Robertson-Walker spacetime. (shrink)
Se distingue entre 'cosas reales' en el sentido ordinario de pragmata, intrínsecamente vinculadas a la práctica de la vida, y en la acepción técnica, de inspiración teológica, en que entiende la expresión el llamado "realismo cienífico". Este concibe a la realidad como algo bien definido independientemente de la acción y el pensamiento humanos y, sin embargo, capaz de ser descrito adecuadamente en un lenguaje humano. Tras ridiculizar esta idea, el artículo examina algunos ejemplos, tomados principalmente de la teoría de la (...) gravitación, que demuestran que la ciencia, en su práctica efectiva, busca entender la realidad en el sentido ordinario de la palabra, no en el sentido artificial que le dieron los teólogos del medioevo y los realistas científicos.A distinction is made between real things in their ordinary sense as pragmata -inherently linked to our living praxis- and in the technical, theologically inspired sense of so-called scientific realism. In the latter sense reality is supposed to be well-defined independently of human action and human thought, and yet to be adequately describable in human language. After pouring ridicule on this idea, the paper discusses some examples, mainly from gravitational physics, which show that in actual practice science seeks to understand reality in the ordinary meaning of the word, not in the contrived meaning bestowed on it by medieval theologians and scientific realists. (shrink)
Prompted by Hasok Chang’s conception of the history and philosophy of science (HPS) as the continuation of science by other means, I examine the possibility of obtaining scientific knowledge through philosophical criticism and reflection, in the light of four historical cases, concerning (i) the role of absolute space in Newtonian dynamics, (ii) the purported contraction of rods and retardation of clocks in Special Relativity, (iii) the reality of the electromagnetic ether, and (iv) the so-called problem of time’s arrow. In all (...) four cases it is clear that a better understanding of such matters can be achieved —and has been achieved— through conceptual analysis. On the other hand, however, it would seem that this kind of advance has more to do with philosophical questions in science than with narrowly scientific questions. Hence, if HPS in effect continues the work of science by other means, it could well be doing it for other ends than those that working scientists ordinarily have in mind. (shrink)
"A pleasure to read. Gracefully written by a scholar well grounded in the relevant philosophical, historical, and technical background.... a helpfully clarifying review and analysis of some issues of importance to recent philosophy of science and a source of some illuminating insights."—Burke Townsend, Philosophy of Science.
Assuming, with Hasok Chang, that the history and philosophy of science can contribute to scientific knowledge, particularly when it is a matter of disposing of groundless or useless notions, I examine the case of the luminiferous ether, and seek to ascertain what factors may have kept it alive until 1905, when Einstein declared it superfluous.
With Humean empiricism and its agnostic stance regarding the future as a foil, I take a bird’s eye view of the links between past and future prescribed by ordinary concepts of everyday things and processes, and by scientific models of phenomenal situations. I argue that they entitle us to claim knowledge of the future—including, where appropriate, its necessary course—in a humanly affordable sense of ‘knowledge’.