The Philosophy of Physical Science

The Philosophy of Physical Science

The Philosophy of Physical Science

The Philosophy of Physical Science

Excerpt

This book contains the substance of the course of lectures which I delivered as Tarner Lecturer of Trinity College Cambridge in the Easter Term 1938. The lectures have afforded me an opportunity of developing more fully than in my earlier books the principles of philosophic thought associated with the modern advances of physical science.

It is often said that there is no "philosophy of science", but only the philosophies of certain scientists. But in so far as we recognise an authoritative body of opinion which decides what is and what is not accepted as present-day physics, there is an ascertainable present-day philosophy of physical science. It is the philosophy to which those who follow the accepted practice of science stand committed by their practice. It is implicit in the methods by which they advance science, sometimes without fully understanding why they employ them, and in the procedure which they accept as giving assurance of truth, often without examining what kind of assurance it can give.

There should be no conflict between the claim that a philosophy is scientifically grounded and the claim that it is, so far as it goes, a true philosophy. But in a specialised work of this kind the primary object must be to ascertain and discuss the philosophy which, whether true or not, is the present philosophy of physical science in the sense stated above. Those of us who believe that science, notwithstanding continual failures and readjustments, is slowly drawing nearer to the truth, are content that philosophic truth should be reached by the same method of progressive advance.

In order to make sure of our scientific foundations it is found necessary to enter rather deeply into the principles of relativity theory and quantum theory. Since the intention is . . .

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