Carl G. Hempel exerted greater influence upon philosophers of science than any other figure during the 20th century. In this far-reaching collection, distinguished philosophers contribute valuable studies that illuminate and clarify the central problems to which Hempel was devoted. The essays enhance our understanding of the development of logical empiricism as the major intellectual influence for scientifically-oriented philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists of the 20th century.
Quantum field theory (QFT) combines quantum mechanics with Einstein's special theory of relativity and underlies elementary particle physics. This book presents a philosophical analysis of QFT. It is the first treatise in which the philosophies of space-time, quantum phenomena, and particle interactions are encompassed in a unified framework. Describing the physics in nontechnical terms, and schematically illustrating complex ideas, the book also serves as an introduction to fundamental physical theories. The philosophical interpretation both upholds the reality of the quantum world (...) and acknowledges the irreducible cognitive elements in its representation. The interpretation is based on an analysis of our ways of thinking as the are embedded in the logical structure of QFT. The author argues that philosophical categories are significant only if they play active and essential roles in our knowledge and hence constitute part of the theories in actual use. Thus she regards physical theories as primary, extracts their categorical structure, and uses it to rethink key philosophical questions. Among the questions this book tries to answer are: What are the quantum properties independent of measurements? How do we refer to individual things in a continuous field? How do theories relate to objects? What are the general conditions of the world and of our ways of thinking that make possible our knowledge of the microscopic realm, which is so intangible and counterintuitive? As a penetrating analysis of vital themes in contemporary science, the book will engage the interest of students and professionals in physics and philosophy alike. (shrink)
This book is a critical introduction to the long-standing debate concerning the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics and the problems it has posed for physicists and philosophers from Einstein to the present. Quantum theory has been a major infulence on postmodernism, and presents significant problems for realists. Keeping his own realist position in check, Christopher Norris subjects a wide range of key opponents and supporters of realism to a high and equal level of scrutiny. With a characteristic combination of rigour (...) and intellectual generosity, he draws out the merits and weaknesses from opposing arguments. In a sequence of closely argued chapters, Norris examines the premises of orthodox quantum theory, as developed most influentially by Bohr and Heisenberg, and its impact on varous philosophical developments. These include the ideas developed by W.V Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Michael Dummett, Bas van Fraassen, and Hilary Puttnam. In each case, Norris argues, these thinkers have been influenced by the orthodox construal of quantum mechanics as requiring drastic revision of principles which had hitherto defined the very nature of scientific method, causal explanati and rational enquiry. Putting the case for a realist approach which adheres to well-tried scientific principles of causal reasoning and inference to the best explanation, Christopher Norris clarifies these debates to a non-specialist readership and scholars of philosophy, science studies and the philosophy of science alike. Quantum Theory and the Flight From Realism suggests that philosophical reflection can contribute to a better understanding of these crucial, current issues. (shrink)
Once in a century an overview shakes the mold of preconception and makes a world model fall into shape. This is such a book—absorbing, provocative, original, skeptical, and often very funny in spite of formidable scholarship. The focus of the book is on the change in self-perception which physics might bring about if it were made in some way empathically real to non-physicists. The common man’s “existential” attitude is a product now of nineteenth-century, mechanistic models. But in pursuing this, the (...) author lays out a comprehensive survey of impending changes in the philosophy of science, and ranges through physics, biology, mathematics, Jungian psychology, and evolutionary theory, turning also to look at other, non-Western-scientific, world models. “In the task of reshaping the world model of scientists and others, only commitment to the discipline of science will do. It can be combined with enough controlled lunacy to bring conventionally self-evident ideas of reality into question , but it has to produce testable predictions.” “What we are now looking at is the prospect of ‘Jungian physics’: a physics model which also addresses the image-forming mechanism and possibly even the non-locality of mind.” “The hard-hat model of an objective reality has had to yield to a growing perception that the objective is, in form at least, a construct: what we appear to see is a function of the manner of seeing , but with the awkward complication that the cogitating I arises from the structures which it sees and orders.”. (shrink)
Of Minds and Molecules is the first anthology devoted exclusively to work in the philosophy of chemistry. The essays, written by both chemists and philosophers, adopt distinctive philosophical perspectives on chemistry and collectively offer both a conceptualization of and a justification for this emerging field.
One of the first books to address what has come to be known as the philosophy of cosmology, Universes asks, "Why does the universe exist?", arguing that the universe is "fine tuned for producing life." For example, if the universe's early expansion speed had been smaller by one part in a million, then it would have recollapsed rapidly; with an equivalently tiny speed increase, no galaxies would have formed. Either way, this universe would have been lifeless.
Space and time are the most fundamental features of our experience of the world, and yet they are also the most perplexing. Does time really flow, or is that simply an illusion? Did time have a beginning? What does it mean to say that time has a direction? Does space have boundaries, or is it infinite? Is change really possible? Could space and time exist in the absence of any objects or events? What, in the end, are space and time? (...) Do they really exist, or are they simply the constructions of our minds? Robin Le Poidevin provides a clear, witty, and stimulating introduction to these deep questions and many other mind-boggling puzzles and paradoxes. He gives a vivid sense of the difficulties raised by our ordinary ideas about space and time, but he also gives us the basis to think about these problems independently, avoiding large amounts of jargon and technicality. His book is an invitation to think philosophically rather than a sustained argument for particular conclusions, but Le Poidevin does advance and defend a number of controversial views. He argues, for example, that time does not actually flow, that it is possible for space and time to be both finite and yet be without boundaries, and that causation is the key to an understanding of one of the deepest mysteries of time: its direction. Drawing on a variety of vivid examples from science, history, and literature, Travels in Four Dimensions brings to life some of the most profound questions imaginable. (shrink)
In this work the distinguished philosopher Milton Munitz provides a lucid account of the chief empirical findings and theories of recent cosmology and a systematic assessment of their broader philosophical implications.
Statistical mechanics attempts to explain the behaviour of macroscopic physical systems in terms of the mechanical properties of their constituents. Although it is one of the fundamental theories of physics, it has received little attention from philosophers of science. Nevertheless, it raises philosophical questions of fundamental importance on the nature of time, chance and reduction. Most philosophical issues in this domain relate to the question of the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics. This book addresses issues inherent in this reduction: (...) the time-asymmetry of thermodynamics and its absence in statistical mechanics; the role and essential nature of chance and probability in this reduction when thermodynamics is non-probabilistic; and how, if at all, the reduction is possible. Compiling contributions on current research by experts in the field, this is an invaluable survey of the philosophy of statistical mechanics for academic researchers and graduate students interested in the foundations of physics. (shrink)
Underpinning all the other branches of science, physics affects the way we live our lives, and ultimately how life itself functions. Recent scientific advances have led to dramatic reassessment of our understanding of the world around us, and made a significant impact on our lifestyle. In this book, leading international experts, including Nobel prize winners, explore the frontiers of modern physics, from the particles inside an atom to the stars that make up a galaxy, from nano-engineering and brain research to (...) high-speed data networks. Revealing how physics plays a vital role in what we see around us, this book will fascinate scientists of all disciplines, and anyone wanting to know more about the world of physics today. (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)
This collection of essays explores different perceptions of space, taking the reader on a journey from the inner space of the mind to the vacuum beyond Earth. Eight leading researchers span a broad range of fields, from the arts and humanities to the natural sciences. They consider topics ranging from human consciousness to virtual reality, architecture and politics. The essays are written in an accessible style for a general audience.
This book is about how to understand quantum mechanics by means of a modal interpretation. Modal interpretations provide a general framework within which quantum mechanics can be considered as a theory that describes reality in terms of physical systems possessing definite properties. Quantum mechanics is standardly understood to be a theory about probabilities with which measurements have outcomes. Modal interpretations are relatively new attempts to present quantum mechanics as a theory which, like other physical theories, describes an observer-independent reality. In (...) this book, Pieter Vermaas summarises the results of this work. The book will be of great value to undergraduates, graduate students and researchers in philosophy of science, and physics departments with an interest in learning about modal interpretations of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Thomas Holden presents a fascinating study of theories of matter in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These theories were plagued by a complex of interrelated problems concerning matter's divisibility, composition, and internal architecture. Is any material body infinitely divisible? Must we posit atoms or elemental minima from which bodies are ultimately composed? Are the parts of material bodies themselves material concreta? Or are they merely potentialities or possible existents? Questions such as these -- and the press of subtler questions hidden (...) in their amibiguities -- deeply unsettled philosophers of the early modern period. They seemed to expose serious paradoxes in the new world view pioneered by Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. The new science's account of a fundamentally geometrical Creation, mathematicizable and intelligible to the human inquirer, seemed to be under threat. This was a great scandal, and the philosophers of the period accordingly made various attempts to disarm the paradoxes. All the great figures address the issue: most famously Leibniz and Kant, but also Galileo, Hobbes, Newton, Hume, and Reid, in addition to a crowd of lesser figures. Thomas Holden offers a brilliant synthesis of these discussions and presents his own overarching interpretation of the controversy, locating the underlying problem in the tension between the early moderns' account of material parts on the one hand and the program of the geometrization of nature on the other. (shrink)
In this book, Hodgson presents a clear and compelling case against today's orthodox mechanistic view of the brain-mind, and in favor of the view that "the mind matters." In the course of the argument he ranges over such topics as consciousness, informal reasoning, computers, evolution, and quantum indeterminancy and non-locality. Although written from a philosophical viewpoint, the book has important implications for the sciences concerned with the brain-mind problem. At the same time, it is largely non-technical, and thus accessible to (...) the non-specialist reader. (shrink)
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Remi Brague in this wide-ranging (...) cultural history. Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality. Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own. (shrink)
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.
In this sweeping survey, acclaimed science writers Paul Davies and John Gribbin provide a complete overview of advances in the study of physics that have revolutionized modern science. From the weird world of quarks and the theory of relativity to the latest ideas about the birth of the cosmos, the authors find evidence for a massive paradigm shift. Developments in the studies of black holes, cosmic strings, solitons, and chaos theory challenge commonsense concepts of space, time, and matter, and demand (...) a radically altered and more fully unified view of the universe. (shrink)
What do we really know? What are we in relation to the world around us? Here, the acclaimed playwright and novelist takes on the great questions of his career—and of our lives Humankind, scientists agree, is an insignificant speck in the impersonal vastness of the universe. But what would that universe be like if we were not here to say something about it? Would there be numbers if there were no one to count them? Would the universe even be vast, (...) without the fact of our smallness to give it scale? With wit, charm, and brilliance, this epic work of philosophy sets out to make sense of our place in the scheme of things. Our contact with the world around us, Michael Frayn shows, is always fleeting and indeterminate, yet we have nevertheless had to fashion a comprehensible universe in which action is possible. But how do we distinguish our subjective experience from what is objectively true and knowable? Surveying the spectrum of philosophical concerns from the existence of space and time to relativity and language, Frayn attempts to resolve what he calls “the oldest mystery”: the world is what we make of it. In which case, though, what are we? All of Frayn’s novels and plays have grappled with these essential questions; in this book he confronts them head-on. (shrink)
Here, for the first time, development studies encounters the set of ideas popularly known as 'Chaos Theory'. Samir Rihani applies to the processes of economic development, ideas from complex adaptive systems like uncertainty, complexity, and unpredictability. Rihani examines various aspects of the development process - including the World Bank, debt, and the struggle against poverty - and demonstrates the limitations of fundamentally linear thinking in an essentially non-linear world.
That space and time should be integrated into a single entity, spacetime, is the great insight of Einstein's special theory of relativity, and leads us to regard spacetime as a fundamental context in which to make sense of the world around us. But it is not the only one. Causality is equally important and at least as far as the special theory goes, it cannot be subsumed under a fundamentally geometrical form of explanation. In fact, the agent of propagation of (...) causal influence is electromagnetic radiation. In this examination, the authors find support for a rationalist approach to physics, never neglecting experimentation, but rejecting a simple empiricist or positivist view of science. (shrink)