Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century

By Stuart G. Shanker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

The philosophy of physics
Rom Harré
WHAT ARE THE BRANCHES OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF PHYSICS?
One convenient way of dividing up the investigations that make up the philosophy of physics could be the following:
1 Analytical and historical studies of the development and structure of the leading concepts used in the science of physics, such as 'space-time', 'simultaneity' and 'charge'.
2 Naturalistic and formal studies of the methodologies that have been characteristic of physical science, including experimentation and theory-construction, assessment and change.
3 Studies of the foundational principles of significant examples of physical theory.

These three sorts of investigations can be found throughout the long history of philosophical reflection on the nature of physical science. For instance, in the writings of Aristotle [6.2] (c. 385 BC) there are extensive discussions of many of the questions that still concern philosophers of physics about the nature of the properties of matter. Conflicting views about the methodology of physics are easily identified in the writings of the ancients. For example, Plato's remark that the task of astronomers is to 'save the appearances' has been contested, interpreted and reinterpreted. In Lucretius' De rerum natura [6.31] there is a sketch of a metaphysical foundation for a general physics supposedly applicable everywhere in the universe based on the idea of a world of unobservable material atoms.

It seems that these three clusters of studies could also be found in the philosophy of chemistry. To disentangle what it is that is characteristic of studies in the philosophy of physics, I shall have to say something about what distinguishes physics from all other natural

-214-

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Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • General Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Chronology xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Chapter 1 - Philosophy of Logic 9
  • Bibliography 39
  • Chapter 2 - Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century 50
  • Chapter 3 - Frege 124
  • Bibliography 153
  • Chapter 4 - Wittgenstein's Tractatus 157
  • Notes 187
  • Chapter 5 - Logical Positivism 193
  • Bibliography 210
  • Chapter 6 - The Philosophy of Physics 214
  • Bibliography 233
  • Chapter 7 - The Philosophy of Science Today 235
  • Chapter 8 - Chance, Cause and Conduct: Probability Theory and the Explanation of Human Action 266
  • Chapter 9 - Cybernetics 292
  • Bibliography 313
  • Chapter 10 - Descartes' Legacy: the Mechanist/Vitalist Debates 315
  • Notes 366
  • Glossary 376
  • Index 444
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