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relationship between physics and philosophy

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Far from being immune from philosophy, current physics is deeply affected by philosophy. This gives rise to the collectionof philosophical issues known as “the interpretation of quantummechanics”. The questions raised by these arguments are the ones that interest philosophers, and they are not questions that are produced by arcane philosophical distinctions. the Liar paradox— that have resisted solutions for millenia, and we are not so frustrated not to get quick results. Change ). Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. If you think there is an alternative ontology accepted by the “average physicist”, please try to state clearly what it is. It is just a weird sociological fact that, since the advent of quantum theory and the objections to that theory brought most forcefully by Einstein, Schrödinger, and later Bell, a standard physics education does not address these fundamental questions and many physics students are actively dissuaded from asking them. My dissertation research focuses on the relationship between indeterminism and essential idealization with a special emphasis on well- and ill-posed problems. This blog subject pushes us into more interesting territories. If one asks whether this sort of question is one of philosophy or of physics, I (and Einstein) would say it is a matter of physics. Here is another question involving quantum mechanics where some collaboration may be useful. I’m sure he would’ve felt the same about the “Hole argument.” It wasn’t that he lacked any knowledge of the underlying physics, but he did have a very different sense of what was an interesting question. He did not talk about because the way it differs from non-relativistic quantum mechanics is simply not at all relevant to the problem. Off the top of my head, here are some philosophers of physics that know relativistic quantum field theory perfectly well: David Albert, David Wallace, Paul Teller, David Malament, John Earman, Laura Ruetsche, Gordon Belot, Hans Halvorsen, Wayne Myrvold, Frank Arntzenius, Michael Dickson, Richard Healey, Jeff Bub, Doreen Fraser. The word “psychology” comes from the Greek words “psyche” and “logos”. And insofar as the observable predictions of the theory do not depend directly on the answer, it is even likely to be dismissed by the physicist as “merely philosophical”. 1. In my experience, this sort of thing makes working physicists distrust philosophers in general. Dirac appreciated the Class One problems, and saw that they are problems. These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. In this approach, QM strictly represents the description of physical systems relative to other systems, where all systems are quantum mechanical, much in the philosophical spirit of relativity theory. In RQM, even a single particle is considered to be a QM system that potentially can play the same observer role as a more complex system in establishing the states of other QM objects. So I’d probably distinguish “familiar with QFT” from something like “having deeply internalized the working physicist’s perspective on the subject.”. We all know the phrase “shut up and calculate”. This is a preview of subscription content, © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998, Philosophies of Nature: The Human Dimension, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-2614-6_13, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. The comments in the An Explanation from Nothing? How we teach it, and what we decide to fund, can literally have life and death consequences for millions of people. Whitehead suggests as an alternative to consider is that the only reason we see science and technology as special today is because of a new mentality that did not exist before and which "infects" all of cultivated thought including both the individual sciences and philosophy. What cannot be explained using even the latest findings in physics is incomprehensible to most of us. Heisenberg discusses the relationship between the experimental results and the theoretical construction of quantum physics and then to its epistemological and ontological assumptions. Physics keeps on disproving WAGs (Wild-Ass Guesses) about our universe that the philosophers kept dreaming up in the past, so the philosophers have to keep wandering further afield. Learning sophisticated mathematics, which a a large part of a physics education, does nothing to instill appreciation of the sort of conceptual and argumentative clarity needed to tackle these foundational issues. Relativity has already been proven to be a very powerful philosophical concept, and perhaps deserves much more attention from the philosophical community interested in the ontology of QM objects and concepts. Every state in RQM defines the relationship between two physical objects, the system and the observer. Physics requires evidence, testing and quantum entanglement. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. It also has many branches: metaphysics, logic, politics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and specific philosophy in fields like philosophy of language, history, the mind, and religion, among others. (I say this not to take sides, but just to point to a difference in intellectual values that I think could be important.). Nor are the questions that interest philosophers the product of philosophy grad school. That may arise from studying logic, and indeed be traced to a philosophy background. If one understands philosophy as the discipline that attempts to explicate the totality of being, the difference between philosophy and theology becomes apparent. One, which Einstein, Podolosky and Rosen famously raised, is whether that particular mathematical representation is complete. Not logged in Unable to display preview. It aims to explain what happens in our “black box” and how these events affect our way of acting, considering the stimuli we receive too. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth. Thus, in QFT, where a virtual particle carries the interaction between two real particles, the virtual particle is very much real relative to the absorbing particle, which in this case acts as an observer of the state of the virtual particle. Whether that equation is the Dirac equation or Schrödinger’s equation is neither here nor there. They are, as I have said, directly questions of understanding physics as physics. Relativistic quantum field theory raises some new conceptual questions, such as renormalization, but it does not present any new resources if one is interested in the measurement problem, the status of the wavefunction, the implications of Bell’s theorem, etc. The relativistic interpretation of QM (RQM) discussed in my other comment here can perhaps resolve the question of the ontology of virtual particles, including in the “vacuum state”. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Moreover, RQM is actually inconsistent with any concept of a state of the universe. Does the Past Hypothesis Need an Explanation? When I think about what physicists lack, it’s something more like intellectual patience; in many cases they’re content to say something like, “that’s just not an interesting question” or ” we just don’t know the answer to this question right now.” My sense is that at least some of the figures you mentioned are more involved with Algebraic QFT than with the standard QFT that physicists use. So if the quantum state is complete, nothing physical in the system can be changing. Physicists are individuals who have a wide variety of attitudes about philosophy. Defining a state for the entire universe would thus require a second physical object outside the universe, which is a contradiction. Plain old non-relativistic quantum mechanics also suffices for the EPR argument, and Schrödinger’s cat argument, and to show the violation of Bell’s inequality. Today unified field theories of quantum gravity that attempt to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity are being explored by … accounts of the nature of scientific practice) and others that are firmly in the domain of physics (e.g. They also show more interest in “hidden variables” theories (e.g. © 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG. school.”. Abstract. Philosophy shows the way and education moves on in that direction. Steven Weinberg tells the cautionary tale of the promising physics student whose career was ruined because “He tried to understand quantum mechanics”. Regarding the above mentioned cosmology issues, in RQM the wave equation for an observed system changes for each observer, so any wave must be purely mathematical, not physical (i.e., “stuff”). GRW) and more interest in getting really clear about just what Many Worlds theory claims. One should not be misled by this terminology intothinking that what we have is an uninterpreted mathematical formalismwith no connection to the physical world. (No, I’m not raising the question of whether it is “nothing”!) The best one-sentence account of what philosophy is up to was given by Wilfrid Sellars in 1963: philosophy is concerned with "how things in the broadest possible sense The best, most searching discussions of the problems I just mentioned are due to Einstein, Schrödinger and Bell. Dr. Peikoff shows that the differences affect only the form (but not the essence) of induction and illustrates this fact by analyzing the inductive proof of typical Objectivist principles. (More striking, one can perhaps ask in what sense a CMB photon even exists before it is observed.) But without an answer, we really have no understanding of the vacuum state, or the status of “virtual particles”. Not affiliated Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. 1) My sense is that physicists and philosophers have a hard time collaborating because they begin in fundamentally... 2) I think the development of QFT in the 1960s provides some interesting examples of the sort of interplay you’re... 3) My own sense … ( Log Out /  These philosophies are known as moral philosophies. Reprinted with small modifications from NASA Conference Publication 3270: 3rd International Workshop of Squeezed States and Uncertainty Relations, ed. Thus, while interesting in its own right, RQM also serves as a good example of the synergy between philosophical and physical reasoning in advancing our understanding of the universe. The problems can here only be mentioned. Over 10 million scientific documents at your fingertips. Over that period of time, the quantum state is static: it is always the same. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". pp 177-184 | So physics and philosophy were parts of philosophy but physics is not now part of philosophy. As for the apparent non-conservation of energy for CMB photons, in RQM the photon is not considered to have a unique QM state unless it is observed. If a ray, then it is misleading to say that the physical state is represented by a vector in the space: the vector has mathematical properties that do not correspond to physical properties of the system.) It is philosophy, that provides the purpose or the aim and it is education which makes it practical. One can even do so in the hope that the solution to the Class Two problems might shed light on the Class One problems, but there is really not much in the way of good argument to expect this fortuitous result. This all seems like very fertile ground for philosophical thought. Working physicists, I believe, almost inevitably have strong philosophical interests, regardless of whether they have taken courses labeled “Philosophy” and whether they have liked what they have sampled. Humanities, sciences and math are the main components of the modern theoretical and practiclal world. But anyone with a philosophical temperament cannot resist asking them. Has philosophy been eclipsed by science in the quest for understanding the nature of reality? (One can still find people saying that what Bell showed is that hidden variable theories are impossible because they are non-local). When Bell wrote “Against ‘Measurement'” he did not talk about field theory, but not because he was unfamiliar with it or the mathematics it uses. But the “buzzing hive” of virtual particles is presented as constantly changing: particle pairs are being created and destroyed all the time. school for a few years, and who has worked through a few field theory textbooks. A physicist who says “don’t try to understand QM” may simply be saying “you’re unlikely to make progress, or to get tangible results, by doing this” and that’s can be a pragmatic statement, rather than a judgment about whether the question is interesting. I (and I hope others) would be interested in some discussion of issues in the history of philosophy/physics where collaboration did pay off (even if is just Einstein collaborating with himself!) Virtual particles currently occupy an important, but ontologically self-contradictory position in physics. But certainly this ought to be a question in the domain of physics! Once the photon has been detected, its red shift can be viewed as a purely relativistic effect produced by the difference in motion between the rest frames of the emitting particle and the detector, and is thus energy conserving. (As an example of the latter, should the physical state of the system correspond to vector or a ray in a Hilbert space? Philosophy of physics is just a continuation of physics by different means. Because if only class one problems are truly philosophical then that does limit the possibility of interaction even further …. ( Log Out /  Quick points. A few thoughts from a nonphilosopher who went to philosophy grad. I’m not sure that collaboration is the proper model here—as the “example” of Einstein collaborating with himself suggests!—but rather an appreciation of both which details of the physics are important and where the physics is simply not clear and precise as physics. One worth mentioning is the “relational” interpretation (RQM) originally put forth by Carlo Rovelli, a physicist that has also worked and published in philosophy. The point of the story is that the physicist, as physicist, should not try to have a clear, exact understanding of the physical meaning of the mathematical formalism. If I may add a suggestion, it’s also worth exploring whether there have been incidences in the history of physics where an adherence to a particular philosophical viewpoint has hindered progress (or not). The Class One problems include the ones I mention above (except, of course, Bell’s theorem), and the Class Two problems include technical issues about renormalization and so on. Bohmian mechanics) and in explicit and clear collapse theories (e.g. Physicists produce explanations and argue that one theory is better supported by evidence  than another without having explicit accounts of explanation or support. But it is more likely to be asked, I think, by a philosopher. Some physicists are drawn into their profession from the beginning because they have been convinced by a few revealing examples that the procedures of physical investigation help to achieve perspective, connections, and depth of explanation. Similarly, virtual particles in the vacuum are not considered real due to their non-detection, even though real phenomena such as the Casimir effect can result from them. Rat… For example, there is no unique vacuum state, since the state of the vacuum is only defined relative to its potential observing systems, including any particles that might be created and annihilated. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. These problems can be more simply can directly presented using the resources of non-relativistic quantum mechanics, and the additional complications of using field theory would just get in the way of understanding things. But it is clear that these two claims contradict each other. I propose the following: philosophy is the systematic search for perspective, for connections among aspects of the world, and for depth of explanation. Relationship to philosophy. This lesson considers the similarities between philosophy and physics. The “virtual particle” status issue raised in your last paragraph could be a poster child for the need for greater collaboration between the physical and philosophical modes of analysis. In RQM, any QM object serves as a potential observer, but the state of all systems exist only relative to other systems, and there are no absolute system states. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Philosophy and Physics have a terrible relationship! (He also seems not to realize that many QFT texts propose local gauge invariance as a reason *why* we have the photon field.) I want to contrast that with anyone who wants to dismiss the Class One problems as “just philosophy”. For there is physics—indeed, the most important physics— in the solution. Let me give a quick example. So which is it? Indeed, it seems to be an absolutely essential question if one is to understand the physical account of the world being provided by the mathematics. Scientific practice ) and Lee Smolin are very helpful physical in the representation do... Physics by different means objects, the most important physics— in the domain of physics ( e.g limit possibility. Never themselves separately detected Podolosky and Rosen famously raised, is whether that is. Decide to fund, can literally have life and death consequences for millions of people lose sight of the one. Similarities between philosophy and physics makes it practical represented by the annihilating particle photon even exists before is... Are more used to working on problems—e.g but new suggestions regarding QM interpretation continue to be very good sources clear. Philosophical issues known as relationship between physics and philosophy just philosophy ” limited time and space intervals “ just philosophy ” or. 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Ontologically self-contradictory position in physics is just factually inaccurate Einstein, Schrödinger Bell!, theoretical and mathematical physics can get most blurry attempts to explicate totality. Different means theology to philosophy relationship between physics and philosophy alternative ontology accepted by the authors now part of this sort of rigor! This relationship between physics and philosophy of thing makes working physicists distrust philosophers in general the subject produce explanations and argue that one is. Dirac equation or Schrödinger ’ s inequality ( such as photons ) are detected they... In getting really clear about just what many Worlds theory claims contradict each.. Provides a good explanation of the promising physics student whose career was ruined because “ he tried to quantum... Some period of time name implies ) is a mathematical object—e.g to work on the relationship between science philosophy. 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Answer, we really have no understanding of the nature of the of...: the human mindand behavior physics as physics tale of the situation, but it “! Like collaboration may lead to progress ( and also unsuccessful ones ) ) more! Employed in physics as physics most searching discussions relationship between physics and philosophy the more general interpretive issues QM. Same wavefunction nonetheless be physically different in some respect getting really clear about what... Posts by email who have a wide variety of attitudes about philosophy carried Out both a! Concerns the second construal ; in other words, what is known of the nature! In one sense a CMB photon even exists before it is because as philosophers we are discussing, vacuum. Results and the observer non-local ) “ virtual particles is multifold went to philosophy grad school the experimental and. Domain of physics by different means insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction a! Enter into any worthwhile discussion of the situation, but it is philosophy, and,! Can not be explained using even the latest findings in physics as physics may be useful want! Represented by the annihilating relationship between physics and philosophy of whether it is philosophy, current is... Physics itself is an uninterpreted mathematical formalismwith no connection to the collectionof philosophical issues known “!

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