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Questions tagged [philosophy-of-physics]

If your question is more physics and less philosophy, consider asking it on Physics.SE (possibly with the soft-question tag).

35
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12answers
9k views

Why is the complex number an integral part of physical reality?

In modern physics, the quantum wave distribution function necessarily uses complex numbers to represent itself. If physics defines the physical reality, then what we are saying by the statement above ...
17
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1answer
320 views

Are mathematical suppositions of physical theories determined uniquely according to Aristotle and Plato?

Does mathematics apply to physics in one way or multiple ways? What do Aristotle and Plato think? It would seem that Aristotle thinks mathematics can be applied to physics in one way only because, ...
15
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11answers
9k views

What are some arguments against the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment?

I read this article about how this guy in Switzerland did an experiment that he thought proved the Simulation Hypothesis of reality (link: http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.1847). I have also been reading ...
14
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10answers
5k views

Interpretation of the butterfly effect

It is said that in certain circumstances, a tiny change, like the flap of a butterfly's wings, can lead to enormous changes, like a tornado somewhere. However, it should be clarified what "change" ...
12
votes
7answers
644 views

Are infinities in physics (or in any other materalist philosophy) actually possible?

Aristotle made a distinction between infinities that were in potential (dunamis) and in actuality (energia); and stated that actual infinities did not obtain in the physical world. This is the basis ...
11
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4answers
299 views

How can we take the ontologies of our best physical theories seriously?

It seems to me that numerous features of our best physical theories thus far (most notably in my humble and near-meaningless opinion: the whole notion of renormalization in quantum field theory) ...
10
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2answers
645 views

Is Aristotle's resolution of Zeno's paradoxes vindicated by motion in the intuitionistic continuum?

In Physics VIII.8, Aristotle refers to his usual resolution of Zeno's paradox of motion: We should make the same response to anyone who uses Zeno's argument to ask whether it is always necessary to ...
10
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3answers
1k views

Can the observer be the observed?

As a supplement to this question as to whether particles can be observers, supposing that the answer is yes. One could suppose a setup where particle A is observing particle B, but what to stop us ...
10
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1answer
652 views

What does Heidegger mean by saying that Bergson's concept of time is essentially spatial?

In Being and Time, Heidegger writes: This task as a whole requires that the concept of time thus gained be distinguished from the common understanding of it. The latter has become explicit in an ...
10
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2answers
393 views

What is the ontological status of information that is permanently inaccessible to any conceivable observer?

Rovelli & others, in Relational Quantum Mechanics (RQM) take the simple ontological picture of the Copenhagen Picture and relativise it. This is what I was suggesting in this question, though I ...
9
votes
8answers
3k views

Does Popper's theory of falsification apply to mathematics?

Mathematics is generally & popularly judged a science in the basic duality: science - humanities. As enemies and collaborationists. The border heavily & fiercely policed. However, it seems to ...
8
votes
8answers
2k views

Schrödinger's cat being “both dead and alive”

Famously, Schrödinger's cat is found to be both dead and alive within a closed system - at the mercy of quantum mechanics. But why is the cat "both dead and alive"? For the Copenhagen interpretation, ...
8
votes
5answers
426 views

Are artificially synthesized chemical elements natural?

Humans have synthesized elements that do not exist in nature, at least not around here. This strikes me as a serious philosophical hairball: where does a philosophical naturalist put these critters? ...
8
votes
4answers
398 views

Who first proposed the homogeneity of physical law?

Its taken as granted that physical law does not vary in space and time; everywhere and at everytime it is the same. When was this properly suggested? My first inclination would be Newtons physical ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Best books on philosophy of physics

I'm looking for recommendations on graduate level books concerning philosophy and physics, or preferably the philosophy of physics. I'm currently reading 'After Physics' by David Albert, and 'The ...
8
votes
1answer
416 views

What is the relation between calculus and Aristotle's view of infinite divisibility?

According to an article by Rowan, Aristotle very practically, pointed out that there was a threshold to get something moving when there is resistance to friction: 'one man cannot move a ship' as ...
8
votes
3answers
496 views

Presentism and simultaneity

Presentism is the position that all that exists, exists in the present. Though one can speak of the past, and of events in the past, strictly speaking (in this position), there is no temporal event ...
8
votes
3answers
791 views

Please recommend a good philosophical book on entropy

Can you recommend a good book on entropy? I'm interested in one which balances well philosophy and physics, since at both edges the likelihood of having to read through nonsense increases (physicists ...
8
votes
6answers
620 views

How is existence in presentism reconciled with relativity of simultaneity?

There is a famous question by Einstein which was reported by his biographer, the physicist Abraham Pais, and which expresses his concern with quantum physics: We often discussed his notions on ...
7
votes
3answers
276 views

Are “mathematically possible universes” the same as “logically possible universes”?

I recently watched this interesting interview with physicist Paul Davies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqZN_LGYHJc In the first couple of minutes he outlines some of the problems with a multiverse ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Are actually random events causeless?

Radium atoms decay by emitting alpha particles at random. Are these events without cause? Of course one may take a closer look at radium nuclei to determine a possible reason why they decay; for ...
7
votes
2answers
238 views

What is the tradition of reasoning behind Archimedes's “a priori” derivation of the law of the lever?

Today we get the law of the lever by empirical experiment or see it as a special case of the principle of least action. Assuming only gravity acts, with weights of masses m₁, m₂ and corresponding ...
7
votes
1answer
66 views

Is Popper correct on Anaximanders theory?

In the books of essays by Popper, titled the The World of Parmenides, he writes the following: However this may be, Thales beautiful theory of the support and suspension of the Earth and of ...
6
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3answers
192 views

Why do we want to achieve Unified Theory of Everything?

The elctro-magnetism works fine. Gravity works fine. The two theories can live separately. At atomic scale the electromagnetism theory can be employed and at large scale gravity can be employed. My ...
6
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5answers
940 views

Are “'why' questions” useful in or applicable to the study of science?

Based on the lively discussion of this question over at physics.stackexchange, I thought it might be useful to ask it here as well. The kernel of the debate is whether or not "why" questions are ...
6
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5answers
967 views

How do quantum-mechanical worlds relate to possible worlds?

I am not really familiar with the metaphysics of the "worlds" from the Many Worlds Interpretation of QM. How do these worlds relate to possible worlds in the Lewisian sense? Lewis wrote a short piece ...
6
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5answers
1k views

Can 'Nothing Exist before we measure it'?

Bohr famously said in relation to quantum systems: Nothing exists until we measure it This can't be right, for how can we measure Nothing, something that doesn't exist. It seems it must come into ...
6
votes
2answers
693 views

If Parmenides denied the reality of void, would he then have affirmed the reality of space?

Lucretious, in his poem de rerum natura had atoms moving through the void. It seems at least from a modern perspective that his void is what we would call space. The interesting question, which I ...
6
votes
1answer
124 views

Where did Husserl say that in quantum mechanics spatial localisation is no longer a principle of individualisation?

According to Philosophy & Physics edited by Bernard d'Espagant: I am thinking of a text by Husserl, who was quite removed from physics, who said that the fundamental problem posed by QM is that ...
6
votes
2answers
395 views

Is a law of nature a universal?

Newton described his theory of gravity as universal. I take this to mean that this theory was universally valid, that it brought together both terrestrial and celestial phenomena under one rubric. It ...
6
votes
2answers
709 views

What is the difference between epistemic and ontological when it comes to special relativity?

I'm taking my first philosophy class and am writing my first paper on the notion of simultaneity, yet I find myself reading words such as 'epistemic' and 'ontological' which I'm finding very difficult ...
6
votes
1answer
533 views

Schopenhauer and space-time

Consider the following, fairly famous statement (amongst the cognoscenti of natural philosophy) of Minkowski, a collaborator of Einsteins on the new conception of space and time that Einsteins theory ...
5
votes
6answers
3k views

Is it theoretically possible for a bottomless pits to exist in a finite universe?

Assuming that our universe is finite, is it still theoretically possible to have a bottomless pit? This all really depends on the definition of bottomless pit. I don't know that I can accurately ...
5
votes
4answers
248 views

Is potential real?

It might be an odd question to some, but to me it strikes quite obviously as something I should've asked a long time ago :-) In physics, potential energy stands for the energy that could be realized ...
5
votes
5answers
642 views

Is isotope dating falsifiable?

I'd like to ask if the dating " saying something has existed for XXXX years " is scientific ? When i try to apply the criterion of being falsifiable i find that the dating fails to satisfy that ...
5
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the opposite of the reductionist approach?

I am searching for two opposite words in philosophy of science to describe two opposite approaches in physics. To illustrate what I am searching for I will use statistical physics and particle physics ...
5
votes
4answers
245 views

Can observers be particles?

Generally Quantum mechanics divides a system into what is to be observed and an observer. This is usually taken to be some macroscopic measuring device (sometimes taken to be some human being in ...
5
votes
7answers
222 views

What books offer a philosophical interpretation of contemporary physics?

What books which offer a philosophical interpretation of contemporary physics? Something just like Russell's Analysis of Matter but not horrid out of date.
5
votes
7answers
215 views

One big theory of Everything (TOE) or multiple “domain specific” theories?

It's common to hear that physicists are trying to find a Theory of everything (TOE). We "logically" consider the more elegant / concise theory as true ... because beauty is thruth ... or is it ? What ...
5
votes
2answers
178 views

How do we know that a photon has some physical form before we observe it?

In physics, the observer effect is the fact that simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the ...
5
votes
1answer
132 views

Can small random pieces produce a deterministic whole?

Quantum mechanics offers some statistical reasoning for small pieces of length in the Universe (please correct me if I'm wrong). To some extent everything has uncertainty. We might even say that it is ...
5
votes
3answers
260 views

Are there laws of Nature?

The laws of physics observably change, that is their expression in terms of mathematics can, both through internal coherance & through physical insight. One supposes that there are actually laws ...
5
votes
5answers
154 views

Is identity an emergent concept?

In the world in which we live, a chair remains a chair - it does not turn into a table; and if there were two chairs in this room, I could distinguish one from the other and I would have no trouble in ...
5
votes
5answers
204 views

If we can't experimentally prove a fundamental law of physics due to human limitations, does that make it false?

The title is worded a bit vaguely so let me expand a bit on it. Say there is some sort of law of physics that's quite obvious if you had more than our basic 5 senses and lived in more dimensions, ...
5
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4answers
1k views

What is the intersection of Physics & Philosophy?

(I've already asked this question on Meta, but as one answer (by Joseph Weissman) pointed out this is already a philosophical question; so I thought it worth asking here). I've asked a number of ...
5
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3answers
457 views

Why are the laws of nature 'always and everywhere the same'?

Spinoza wrote in his Ethics that: the laws and rules of Nature…are always and everywhere the same This so as to deny a categorical difference between man and nature; Spinoza affirms that man is ...
5
votes
2answers
142 views

Discovering inter-atomic forces or taking Newtons law seriously

I've already asked this question on Physics.SE, but it got no response; its not a conventional physics question, but really on how to interpret physical equations and physics. Newtons law of gravity ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Is the number of universes finite, countably infinite or uncountably infinite (and what size of uncountable if so)?

Assuming that the alternative universe theory is correct, how many alternate universes are there? From my understanding an alternate universe "pops up" whenever a particle goes from being in an ...
5
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3answers
133 views

What is the definition of physical? Is that definition clear enough to make the a distinction between physical and non-physical?

Awkwardly synthesizing jobermark's old question Is there a boundary on 'physical'? with my (badly put) question Can physics talk about non-physical entities/concepts, and if not which academic ...
5
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4answers
777 views

How can a particle be at rest?

Newton conceived space as being: Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable. Relative space is some movable dimension or measure of ...