Quantum Philosophy: Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science

Quantum Philosophy: Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science

Quantum Philosophy: Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science

Quantum Philosophy: Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science

Synopsis

"I cannot think of any physicist who has ever embarked on a more ambitious philosophical project."--Jeffrey Alan Barrett, University of California, Irvine

Excerpt

This essay has a leading thread, whose origins may be retraced to Francis Bacon's The Great Instauration: one day, the principles of science will be so close to the heart and the essence of things that philosophy will be able to find in them its own foundations. Let us temper that wish and speak only of philosophy of knowledge; let us, on the contrary, bolster it and say that such a day has arrived, and there you have the summary of this book.

The time has come to force our way out of a current crisis in epistemology. There is indeed a crisis, for unlike the flourishing situation in the history of knowledge, the philosophical reflection about science has lost its way—or stagnates. The fashionable authors see only uncertainties, paradigms without enduring principles, an absence of method, and a presence of erratic revolutions, precisely when we should be trumpeting the success of a science whose extent and consistency are unprecedented. To counter this deficiency we can turn only to ancient thinkers, no doubt wiser, but also unable to provide the required antidote, for their science is no longer ours; it has progressed too much.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the origin of this crisis is to be found in an event that no one has fully recognized in all its significance: the irresistible irruption of the formal approach in some fundamental sciences such as logic, mathematics, and physics. As a consequence, these disciplines have become practically impenetrable, which explains the capitulation or the adventurousness of so many commentators, not to mention the disarray of the honest man or woman who wonders what those who should understand these subjects are talking about.

A good part of this book retraces this rise toward formalism and shows its necessity, not only in mathematics, but also in the foundations of relativity and quantum physics, and in the theories dealing with all that makes up the universe, space, and particles. As a counterbalance, another part of the book shows how to loosen that formalism and overcome it. The path was shown by certain advances in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, thanks to which it was possible to resolve a good number of difficulties that were hard to accept even in this domain where, more than in any . . .

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