Physics & Philosophy

On Physics and Philosophy
by Bernard d’Espagnat

Among the great ironies of quantum mechanics is not only that its conceptual foundations seem strange even to the physicists who use it, but that philosophers have largely ignored it. Here, Bernard d’Espagnat argues that quantum physics–by casting doubts on once hallowed concepts such as space, material objects, and causality-demands serious reconsideration of most of traditional philosophy.

On Physics and Philosophy is an accessible, mathematics-free reflection on the philosophical meaning of the quantum revolution, by one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject. D’Espagnat presents an objective account of the main guiding principles of contemporary physics-in particular, quantum mechanics-followed by a look at just what consequences these should imply for philosophical thinking.

The author begins by describing recent discoveries in quantum physics such as nonseparability, and explicating the significance of contemporary developments such as decoherence. Then he proceeds to set various philosophical theories of knowledge–such as materialism, realism, Kantism, and neo-Kantism–against the conceptual problems quantum theory raises. His overall conclusion is that while the physical implications of quantum theory suggest that scientific knowledge will never truly describe mind-independent reality, the notion of such an ultimate reality–one we can never access directly or rationally and which he calls “veiled reality”–remains conceptually necessary nonetheless.


From Physics to Philosophy
by Michael Redhead, Jeremy Butterfield, Constantine Pagonis

This collection of essays by leading philosophers of physics was first published in 2000, and offers philosophical perspectives on two of the central elements of modern physics, quantum theory and relativity. The topics examined include the notorious ‘measurement problem’ of quantum theory and the attempts to solve it by attributing extra values to physical quantities, the mysterious non-locality of quantum theory, the curious properties of spatial localization in relativistic quantum theories, and the problem of time in the search for a theory of quantum gravity. Together the essays represent some of the last decade’s research in philosophy of physics, particularly interestingly within the philosophy of quantum theory.

Philosophy of Physics
by Tim Maudlin

This concise book introduces nonphysicists to the core philosophical issues surrounding the nature and structure of space and time, and is also an ideal resource for physicists interested in the conceptual foundations of space-time theory.

Tim Maudlin’s broad historical overview examines Aristotelian and Newtonian accounts of space and time, and traces how Galileo’s conceptions of relativity and space-time led to Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity. Maudlin explains special relativity using a geometrical approach, emphasizing intrinsic space-time structure rather than coordinate systems or reference frames. He gives readers enough detail about special relativity to solve concrete physical problems while presenting general relativity in a more qualitative way, with an informative discussion of the geometrization of gravity, the bending of light, and black holes. Additional topics include the Twins Paradox, the physical aspects of the Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction, the constancy of the speed of light, time travel, the direction of time, and more.

  • Introduces nonphysicists to the philosophical foundations of space-time theory
  • Provides a broad historical overview, from Aristotle to Einstein
  • Explains special relativity geometrically, emphasizing the intrinsic structure of space-time
  • Covers the Twins Paradox, Galilean relativity, time travel, and more
  • Requires only basic algebra and no formal knowledge of physics


Physics and Philosophy
by Werner Heisenberg

Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg’s classic account explains the central ideas of the quantum revolution, and his celebrated Uncertainty Principle. The theme of Heisenberg’s exposition is that words and concepts familiar in daily life can lose their meaning in the world of relativity and quantum physics. This in turn has profound philosophical implications for the nature of reality and for our total world view.

‘It carries the reader, with remarkable clarity, from the esoteric world of atomic physics to the world of people, language and the conception of our shared reality’ Paul Davies.


The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics
by Robert Batterman

This Oxford Handbook provides an overview of many of the topics that currently engage philosophers of physics. It surveys new issues and the problems that have become a focus of attention in recent years. It also provides up-to-date discussions of the still very important problems that dominated the field in the past. In the late 20th Century, the philosophy of physics was largely focused on orthodox Quantum Mechanics and Relativity Theory. The measurement problem, the question of the possibility of hidden variables, and the nature of quantum locality dominated the literature on the quantum mechanics, whereas questions about relationalism vs. substantivalism, and issues about underdetermination of theories dominated the literature on spacetime. These issues still receive considerable attention from philosophers, but many have shifted their attentions to other questions related to quantum mechanics and to spacetime theories. Quantum field theory has become a major focus, particularly from the point of view of algebraic foundations. Concurrent with these trends, there has been a focus on understanding gauge invariance and symmetries. The philosophy of physics has evolved even further in recent years with attention being paid to theories that, for the most part, were largely ignored in the past. For example, the relationship between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics—-once thought to be a paradigm instance of unproblematic theory reduction—-is now a hotly debated topic. The implicit, and sometimes explicit, reductionist methodology of both philosophers and physicists has been severely criticized and attention has now turned to the explanatory and descriptive roles of “non-fundamental,” phenomenological theories. This shift of attention includes “old” theories such as classical mechanics, once deemed to be of little philosophical interest. Furthermore, some philosophers have become more interested in “less fundamental” contemporary physics such as condensed matter theory. Questions abound with implications for the nature of models, idealizations, and explanation in physics. This Handbook showcases all these aspects of this complex and dynamic discipline.

Writings on Physics and Philosophy
by Wolfgang Pauli

Like Bohr, Einstein and Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli was not only a Nobel laureate and one of the creators of modern physics, but also an eminent philosopher of modern science. This is the first book in English to include all his famous articles on physics and epistemology. They were actually translated during Pauli’s lifetime by R. Schlapp and are now edited and annotated by Pauli’s former assistant Ch. Enz. Pauli writes about the philosophical significance of complementarity, about space,time and causality, symmetry and the exclusion principle, but also about therole of the unconscious in modern science. His famous article on Kepler is included as well as many historical essays on Bohr, Ehrenfest,and Einstein as well as on the influence of the unconscious on scientific theories. The book addresses not only physicists, philosophers and historians of science, but also the general public.

Philosophy Of Physics
by Lawrence Sklar

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.

Philosophy of Physics
by M. Bunge

This book deals with some of the current issues in the philosophy, methodology and foundations of physics. Some such problems are: – Do mathematical formalisms interpret themselves or is it necessary to adjoin them interpretation assumptions, and if so how are these as sumptions to be framed? – What are physical theories about: physical systems or laboratory operations or both or neither? – How are the basic concepts of a theory to be introduced: by ref erence to measurements or by explicit definition or axiomatically? – What is the use ofaxiomatics in physics? – How are the various physical theories inter-related: like Chinese boxes or in more complex ways? – What is the role of analogy in the construction and in the inter pretation of physical theories? In particular, are classical analogues like those of particle and wave indispensable in quantum theories? – What is the role of the apparatus in quantum phenomena and what is the place of measurement theory in quantum mechanics? – How does a theory face experiment: single-handed or with the help of further theories? These and several other questions of the kind are met with by the research physicist, the physics teacher and the physics student in their everyday work. If dodged they will recur. And a wrong answer to them may obscure the understanding of what has been achieved and may even hamper further advancement. Philosophy, methodology and foundations, like rose bushes, are enjoyable when cultivated but become ugly and thorny when neglected.

The Philosophy of Physics
by Dean Rickles

Does the future exist already? What is space? Are time machines physically possible? What is quantum mechanical reality like? Are there many universes? Is there a ‘true’ geometry of the universe? Why does there appear to be an arrow of time? Do humans play a special role in the world?

In this unique introductory book, Dean Rickles guides the reader through these and other core questions that keep philosophers of physics up at night. He discusses the three pillars of modern physics (quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and the theories of relativity), in addition to more cutting-edge themes such as econophysics, quantum gravity, quantum computers, and gauge theories. The book’s approach is based on the idea that philosophy of physics is a kind of ‘interpretation game’ in which we try to map physical theories onto our world. But the rules of this game often lead to a multiplicity of possible victors: rarely do we encounter a simple answer.

The Philosophy of Physics offers a highly accessible introduction to the latest developments in this exciting field. Written in a lively style, with many visual examples, it will appeal to beginner-level students in both physics and philosophy.


What Is Real?
by Adam Becker

The untold story of the heretical thinkers who dared to question the nature of our quantum universe
Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity’s finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr’s students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin. And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.


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