On Understanding Physics

On Understanding Physics

On Understanding Physics

On Understanding Physics

Excerpt

This book is based on a course of lectures on the logic of physics given during the last few years to graduate students of physics at McGill University and is offered in the hope that the interest of physicists in particular and scientists in general may be drawn to developments in modern philosophy which promise to be of great importance to learning. These developments are largely due to Dr Ludwig Wittgenstein. Though his writings and teaching have commanded the attention of those interested in mathematical philosophy (to use Russell's term), they are certainly little known by experimental scientists. Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is hardly the book one would expect to attract the interest of working scientists, for in order to understand it one really requires the aid of philosophical discussion to explain the thoughts that are expressed in it, and besides, it has not been understood even by some professional logicians. In his Cambridge lectures since I929, Wittgenstein's method of exposition has necessarily differed from that of the Tractatus, quite apart from any changes of view from what is expressed there; much of his teaching is by means of discussions. This seems to be the right way to teach philosophy; a book is of use only as a source of topics for discussion.

During the years I929-3I, I attended Wittgenstein's lectures in Cambridge and recently have had the pleasure of reading in manuscript, sent to me by Dr Wittgenstein, his lectures given during the session I933-4. The present book is not intended in any way as a report of these lectures, but naturally it bears evidence of their influence, and also of the influence of private conversation with the man whose friendship I am happy to possess. Hoping that the general philosophical reader will in the near future have the opportunity to consult Wittgenstein's own writings, I have hardly dealt at all with questions that naturally belong to the philosophy . . .

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