I whole-heartedly believe a number of their “interpretations” in the paper are correct. However, I also find some of their thoughts extremely puzzling, in light of drawing certain interpretations to their logical conclusion, as one philosopher, Kant, has hundreds of years ago. I will give a little technical breakdown of the paper —just bear with me through the math/math-speak, which I only include for the sake of the clarity that my colleagues in the sciences would prefer—, and then discuss issues I see. Given that I have been, for a long time, working with another philosopher of physics on a scientifically-technical philosophical paper that forcefully argues some of the same points, I will not comment on those items I agree with, so as not to give anything away from unpublished work.
I get questions regularly about the bizarre nature of contemporary physics. I am sure practicing physicists with PhDs get these more regularly than I, yet I occupy an interesting and rare position in the academic disciplinary landscape: I’ve studied science, particularly physics, into the graduate level, and I am actively developing my expertise in the history and philosophy of science, particularly physics, as well as being a lifelong student of more traditional philosophy (e.g., analytic, contemporary, and Eastern). The question most regularly asked of late has been: What are physicists talking about with all of this “non-verifiable” theory; it sounds like philosophy? By this, they mean the fact that there is this apparent post-empirical turn, and the lack of requirement of empirical data to substantiate proposed theory. I’d like to spend some length explaining my thoughts on this, including a suggestion to all practicing scientists, regardless of discipline.
There was a very nice turnout at Duquesne University’s 7th Annual graduate conference in philosophy (themed “Nomos and Physis”). A big thanks goes to the Duquesne Department of philosophy and Matt Lovett for running such a well-organized event. The spread of papers presented was diverse array of subtopics: Phenomenology and Nature; Nature In Itself, Nature for Us; Nature in Ancient Philosophy; Contemporary Ontologies and Nature. The general sentiment around the room seemed to be that the questions, discussion, and commentary was productive. Probably the most fascinating element of the conference —I know not if it was by design or happenstance— was that the papers reflected holistic approaches to philosophical considerations pertaining to Nature. Continue reading →
I recently read an article by Jesus Mosterin, called “The Unity of Particle Physics and Cosmology?” (pg. 165-176 in The Problem of the Unity of Science edited by Agazzi and Faye). The article is very interesting, because it proposes something I hadn’t heard before, namely, that the Casimir effect might be the phenomenon that is the conceptual key to unifying quantum and cosmological scales. The idea is that vacuum energies associated with a cosmological constant, Λ, might be the cause of the effect (there are numerous interpretations); but there is/are a problem(s), which has been noted by Steven Weinberg, Alan Guth, and others. In particular, the one that immediately comes to the fore is the problematic nature of the consequences of a varying cosmological constant. (Keep in mind that the early universe seemed to have an enormous vacuum energy present, while, now, all we have is this rinky-dink Casimir effect of quantum mechanical origin.) Continue reading →
This is a paper I am preparing for a graduate conference at Duquesne, whose theme is “physis and nomos.” The paper is to be sent in on December 1, 2012, so any comments before then are especially welcome, but comments afterword are also welcome.
The intention of this post is plural: to illustrate how patently unqualified Lawrence M. Krauss is to make any kind of philosophical statement; to convince the reader of how bad his book, The Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, is; and to provide a moral about what happens when someone’s thought is so ideologically driven that the individual becomes set at all costs to demonstrate a particular result, even if it means affirming the consequent. Having now read the book, my opinion has changed of Krauss (see my related post), and I can say that I no longer have any sympathy for him. Perhaps the most interesting point about my take on the book is that I actually agree with what he is arguing for, so much so that I am preparing a paper for a graduate conference on just this topic: the universe from nothing. Therefore, it should be clear from the outset that there is certainly no clash in ultimate beliefs between us. Continue reading →
In her opinion article “Physicists Versus Philosophers” (in The Philosophers Magazine Issue 58, 3rd Quarter 2012), Ophelia Benson presents a short, but interesting, account of friction between philosophers and physicists. I was a bit bothered by a number of elements presented in the article, and provoked to sympathy for the physicists, by way of reflection. “Sympathy,” not because I side with the comments of physicists, like “‘The only people, as far as I can tell, that read works by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science’”; but because of all of the changes in tides and shifts in power away from physics. It really is a tumultuous time in academia. Take a second to consider it. Many (maybe most?) scientists and philosophers no longer believe in ontological reduction down to the level of physics. Continue reading →