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Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) [Hardcover]

by Tim Maudlin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 22, 2012 0691143099 978-0691143095 1st Ed.

This concise book introduces nonphysicists to the core philosophical issues surrounding the nature and structure of space and time, and is also an ideal resource for physicists interested in the conceptual foundations of space-time theory.

Tim Maudlin's broad historical overview examines Aristotelian and Newtonian accounts of space and time, and traces how Galileo's conceptions of relativity and space-time led to Einstein's special and general theories of relativity. Maudlin explains special relativity using a geometrical approach, emphasizing intrinsic space-time structure rather than coordinate systems or reference frames. He gives readers enough detail about special relativity to solve concrete physical problems while presenting general relativity in a more qualitative way, with an informative discussion of the geometrization of gravity, the bending of light, and black holes. Additional topics include the Twins Paradox, the physical aspects of the Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction, the constancy of the speed of light, time travel, the direction of time, and more.

  • Introduces nonphysicists to the philosophical foundations of space-time theory

  • Provides a broad historical overview, from Aristotle to Einstein

  • Explains special relativity geometrically, emphasizing the intrinsic structure of space-time

  • Covers the Twins Paradox, Galilean relativity, time travel, and more

  • Requires only basic algebra and no formal knowledge of physics

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Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) + Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity: Metaphysical Intimations of Modern Physics
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Editorial Reviews


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

"Taking up the conceptual foundations of classical and modern physics, Maudlin explains in a clear manner how Einstein's special and general theories of relativity emerged from Newtonian mechanics and Galilean relativity. . . . This is a solid work that deserves careful study and rewards readers accordingly."--

"I would highly recommend Philosophy of Physics to anyone who wants to get a deeper historical and philosophical perspective on the nature of space and time, as well as to any physics student who has been confused by the twin paradox."--Robert M. Wald, Physics Today

From the Inside Flap

"Exceptionally clear and comprehensive, this engrossing volume will be extremely useful to students. Most introductions to space-time and relativity are written by physicists, but readers interested in a careful examination of the philosophical foundations of the subject are much better served by starting here. I had fun reading this book."--Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

"Maudlin adroitly guides readers through the mathematical, physical, and philosophical subtleties of Newtonian physics and special and general relativity. The book is filled with lucid and original observations, and succeeds in presenting material that was previously only accessible to those who could stomach significant amounts of differential geometry. A major contribution."--David Wallace, University of Oxford

Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Ed. edition (July 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691143099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691143095
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for interested amatures July 27, 2012
By Michael
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This isn't "philosophy of physics for dummies" by any stretch, but for someone who last took physics in 1975 and who only has taken an intro to philosophy course, this was an excellent overview of historical and modern philosophy of the physics of space and time. The author uses next to no math (thank goodness) and his prose expositions are clear and to the point. I imagine the book would also appeal to those with more knowledge of both subjects, as the author suggests that some of his positions are controversial. I'm looking forward to part 2 on matter based upon his exposition of space and time in this volume. Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Physics for Philosophers October 18, 2012
First, it should be understood that this is not so much a philosophy of physics as it is physics for philosophers. This volume does not so much cover the many philosophical issues that have arisen from millennia of trying to know the rules governing the material world. Instead, it introduces the scientific issues that underlie these questioning traditions.

That said, this is a brilliant introduction to the enigmatic field of physics, tilted toward the philosopher's perspective. Most of the writers here are physicists not philosophers. But the tone is not overly mathematical. It is refreshingly buoyant, dwelling more in the realm of meaning and presence than in the cold interplay of systems.

Somehow I am reminded of Parlett's THE Book of Word Games -- perhaps it is the pleasure that this kind of inquiry creates, rather than any topical connection.

Highly recommended for philosophers, the philosophically inclined, or those simply wishing to understand what physics may MEAN -- not simply SAYS. For those who wish to be filled with the brilliant lines, spaces, and internal structures that physics and its philosophical implications can create in the soul.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A concise, accessible, enjoyable, responsible and rewarding survey of the historical development of the physicist's conception of space and time.

I say it's concise because this volume weighs in at about 200 pages and covers spatial/temporal geometries from Aristotle, Newton, Galileo and Einstein.

There's certainly a bit of math in the book, but not so much as to exclude the layperson. The descriptions and diagrams provided are about as clear as they can be, given the subject.

I say it's responsible because the author makes use of clear arguments, makes assumptions and missing pieces clear and follows up with recommended readings.

The text is rewarding because it clears up many misconceptions about the theories it covers and gives a fresh, clean take on the subject. I can certainly say this book helped sharpen my understanding of special & general relativity.

There's more physics than philosophy in this text. It serves as an excellent description of space and time for a philosopher. I don't see that it would give the physics student a strong philosophical hook, though it's certainly more philosophical than the average physics text. (The exception would be a relatively sizable discussion of the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke on Newtonian absolute space, which I enjoyed having studied that debate previously.)

Overall a worthwhile read for anyone looking for an introduction to philosophy of physics, or anyone who could stand to improve their understanding of the theories presented.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By K. Long
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Back in my student days, one of my housemates was a philosophy student. When we'd talk physics I'd invariably start writing equations, and he'd always pepper me with questions about what was *really* happening behind all that math. His questioning on the fundamentals really helped sharpen my thinking about physics.

Tim Maudlin's "Philosophy of Physics" will similarly hone your thinking, at least for the narrow part of physics it covers (space, time, relativity, and kinematics). The issues of inertial versus non-inertial frames, the postulates of relativity, time dilation, and Lorentz contraction are "simple" in the sense that any good physics undergraduate can do calculations with them competently, but the careful definition and interpretation of these concepts has sometimes stumped even first-rate physicists. Maudlin does a nice job of clearing up some of the misconceptions about these topics found in popular physics texts.

Very little math is used. Certainly any physics, math, or engineering student will find this book "easy" in the sense of not needing any mathematical heavy lifting. Don't let that simplicity fool you into thinking it's a mindless read, or worse, not worth reading at all: this is a book about clear thinking about subtle concepts, not about struggling through mathematical complexities.

It's a well-written book with clear explanations. I highly recommend it to every scientist who wants to understand relativity and mechanics at a deeper level.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent November 22, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
well written,not difficult. nice summation of the underlying principles for physical systems that you thought you understood. very happy with it
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