Jim Holt on physics and philosophy

Today, in the Opinion Pages of the Sunday Review of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, Jim Holt offers a conciliatory note on the relationship between physics and philosophy, where he reflects on what physics learns from philosophy and where he invites physicists to “[s]top the [c]hurlishness”. What started this recent “kerfuffle” about the usefulness of philosophy to physics was, of course, Lawrence Krauss’s intemperate reaction to David Albert’s blistering review of his recent book. That contemporary physicists often find philosophy useless in their effort to understand the innermost workings of nature, is, as unfortunate as it is, often matched, equally deplorably, by contemporary philosophers who find science and the factual claims it produces as altogether irrelevant to their efforts to understand the innermost workings of our world…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Jim Holt on physics and philosophy

  1. Walter Hehl, Switzerland

    The relationship of physics and philosophy is that philosophy makes human (i.e. naive) conclusions on the base of the physical knowledge of its time. These conclusions become obsolete through progress (atoms, time, space, brain and “Geist”). Jim writes e.g. “Demokrit invented the atoms”, i.e. “philosophy is great”: Demokrit had from (naive physical) experience two models (of matter but also of thinking about matter) available, solid bodies and fluids. He decided for solids, but that’s it. The key issue is that we humans have no chance to think in terms of the real world (large or small), we cannot even ask the right questions outside our “mesocosm”. Many questions we have to ask are nonsense in itself (only our psychology). In principle, we cannot solve “paradoxes” because we cannot think them. No way! In physics, the experiments guide us to a superhuman world, and this is “more than naive”.
    Of course, I am a physicist but I have a (philosophical?) book written on this. Helas, in German. More marketing on this on request only.

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