What books which offer a philosophical interpretation of contemporary physics?

Something just like Russell's Analysis of Matter but not horrid out of date.

  • 1
    Hans Reichenbach wrote around the same time as Russell, but his books have some more substance to them. However, being a logical positivist himself, his interpretation of relativity and quantum theory is very biased. Mar 15, 2016 at 4:29
  • There are quite a few. Maudlin and Reichenbach have several each on physics, Popper and Kuhn, of course, on science in general. Many physicists turn "meta" and write on "philosophical issues," from Heisenberg to Paul Davis to Deutsch, Tegmark, etc. While you do not want "horrid out of date" I'd suggest that it is very interesting to browse through Hegel or Engels on the physics of their day, or the Leibniz-Clark correspondence on Newtonian space. Many of the foundational issues do not go "out of date" horrid or otherwise. Mar 15, 2016 at 18:56
  • Oh, I forgot. Philosopher Roberto Unger and physicist Lee Smolin team up on several works, e.g. The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time. Mar 15, 2016 at 19:01
  • popper's work isn't really what i was looking for. Jo Wehler kinda got my tenor, below
    – user6917
    Mar 15, 2016 at 19:02

7 Answers 7


A helpful introductory sort of book is David Albert's, Quantum Mechanics and Experience.

Lawrence Sklar's Philosophy of Physics is a bit older, but might be useful if you're looking for a broader introduction to the general philosophy of physics.

There's also a collection of papers edited by Lawrence Sklar, Physical Theory: Method and Interpretation that might be of interest.

Finally, a more advanced book, that attempts to defend the relevance of metaphysical theory to the practice of physics is Tim Maudlin's The Metaphysics Within Physics.


Unfortunately I do not know a contempory philosopher of the same rank as philosopher and the same background in science like Bertrand Russell.

As a substitue I recommend

  • Esfeld, Michael: La philosophie des sciences. Une introduction. 2ed. 2009

I know the German edition and I assume both editions have the same text. There are eight chapters, e.g., Space, time matter; philosophy of the Theory of Relativity; the challenge of Quantum Physics; causality and laws of nature.

The book does not cover modern speculations and work in progress, neither different approaches to quantum gravity, notably string theory and loop quantum gravity, nor speculations about multiverses. Herefore I recommend the series of books by

  • Greene, Brian: The elegant universe; The hidden reality; The fabric of the Cosmos.

But Greene is a physicist, not a philosopher.

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    I read Brian Greene's book, and has no philosophy in it at all. I don't think that's what the OP is looking for. Mar 15, 2016 at 4:27

David Deutsch's books "The Fabric of Reality" and "The Beginning of Infinity" both have material on philosophy of physics, especially quantum mechanics.

Julian Barbour's books "The End of Time" and "The Discovery of Dynamics" have philosophical material on mechanics and relativity.

"World enough and spacetime" by Earman is about the absolute-relational debate in spacetime physics.

David Wallace has a load of papers available online


and a book "The Emergent Multiverse", which is about quantum mechanics.


"Biocentrism", by Robert Lanza presents a complete metaphysical framework of life and the universe with quantum mechanics at the center of his arguments.


It is split up into two parts:

pt. I. Philosophy of Nature.

  1. Nature: The Inner Dimension.
  2. Modeling the Inorganic.
  3. Plant and Animal Natures.
  4. The Modeling of Mind.
  5. Human Nature.

pt. II. Philosophy of Science

  1. Defining the Philosophy of Science.
  2. Science as Probable Reasoning.
  3. The Epistemic Dimension of Science.
  4. Conceptual Studies of Scientific Growth.
  5. Controversy and Resolution.

I found the second part particularly interesting because it treats the different schools of philosophy of science and delves into the problems of the logic of scientific demonstration and explanation.

A few other good ones:

See also the resources here.


From Physics to Metaphysics by Michael Redhead


I liked Fritjof Capras The Tao of Physics which ties physics to eastern philosophy, the Tao.

Michael Serres The Birth of Physics riffs off Epicurean physics on the notion of the aleatory and indiscernable clinamen; and he writes in the grand French manner.

Sorabjis *Space, time & matter scholarly in the best tradition and he writes here of physics or rather natural philosophy in late antiquity, though

his interests and competence reach far beyond late antiquity in both directions, reaching as far back to Anaxagoras and forward to Einstein...the book is divided into three parts, per the title; especially in the first part, Sorabji draws connections between the ancient ideas and those of modern relativity and quantum mechanics - a procedure fraught with peril, but one which Sorabji, for the most part, brings off successfully.

There's also Rubensteins Worlds without End an intellectual genealogy of the concept of the mutiverse.

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