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Physics and Philosophy Paperback – February 1, 1981

ISBN-13: 978-0486241173 ISBN-10: 0486241173

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (February 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486241173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486241173
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Originally published in 1942, this book discusses an emerging physical science that brought with it a new message as to the fundamental nature of the world, and of the possibilities of human free will in particular. The aim of the book is to explore that territory which forms a borderland between physics and philosophy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sir James Jeans: Science Made Simple
Sir James Jeans (1877–1946), English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, made substantial contributions to many areas of science including quantum theory, the theory of radiation, and stellar evolution, but is most remembered today for several elegantly written books on science and its meaning for the general reader. Among these are the classics Physics and Philosophy, published by Dover in 1981, and Science and Music, published by Dover in 1968.

In the Author's Own Words:
"Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars."

"Life exists in the universe only because the carbon atom possesses certain exceptional properties."

"The human race, whose intelligence dates back only a single tick of the astronomical clock, could hardly hope to understand so soon what it all means."

From Physics and Philosophy:
"Science usually advances by a succession of small steps, through a fog in which even the most keen-sighted explorer can seldom see more than a few paces ahead. Occasionally the fog lifts, an eminence is gained, and a wider stretch of territory can be surveyed — sometimes with startling results. A whole science may then seem to undergo a kaleidoscopic rearrangement, fragments of knowledge sometimes being found to fit together in a hitherto unsuspected manner. Sometimes the shock of readjustment may spread to other sciences; sometimes it may divert the whole current of human thought."


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Customer Reviews

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As this book makes clear, some philosophy is inevitable.
Steve Reina
As a student studying physics and philosophy this is one of the best books I've read.
a reader
It was much the same with his supposed force of gravitation." (Pg.
Steven H Propp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Michael McClennen on October 6, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is as timely now as when it was first published in 1944. It presents a brilliant summary of what modern physics does and does not say about the nature of the universe in which we exist, in the context of the historical development of physics and the corresponding developments in philosophy. Even better, it is written using language that is accessible to anyone, whether or not they have a background in science. It does not contain any mathematics, and no mathematical background is required in order to understand it.

I wish I had read this book 20 years ago; it would have given focus to my ponderings about the nature of reality, time and mind.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephan on November 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Summed up, in my younger high school years this book guided me through my ponderings of the world and helped point me in a direction which has essentially shaped who I am today, a rational, yet questioning individual which is also what Mr. Jeans I think tries to accomplish with this writing. decades ahead of it's time, Sir. James Jeans talks of the foundational limitations of newtonian (clock-work like) physics as well as quantum level physics as if it was being studied like it is today. James Jeans' book is a remarkable triumph of non-fiction literature by being able to describe the uses and limitations of deep-lying mathematical concepts in almost strictly non-mathematical language. A truly elegant work!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By a reader on March 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a student studying physics and philosophy this is one of the best books I've read. Jeans gives a great survey of modern physic and modern philosophy (I've used this book as a reference several times this semester to clear up some issues since I am taking both modern physics and modern philosophy!) and draws great conclusions from both of them. The book is a wonderful read, a lot of good information but still very enjoyable. Overall one of my favorite books.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mathew Cohn on May 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose it takes a certain kind of person to pick up a book called "physics and philosophy". I imagine that person looks a lot like me: on the outside it would appear that he/she is laying motionless, vegetating and staring off into space; but if you were to peer into his/her brain, you would see that he/she is actually doing mental gymnastics. This person has never been bored because he/she can entertain his/herself simply by asking "what if..." and puzzling out the answer. If I've just described you, you will probably enjoy this book. Granted if you are like me, you've already read much of it because Sir James Jeans has mirrored in this book many of the sort of thought experiments and logical-next-steps that you've entertained yourself with; but, if you're like me, there are a few things in here that you've missed or that you simply haven't had the time to come up with yet.
If you are that kind of person, this book is definitely worth the read - despite the fact that it lacks the sort of word-craftiness and imaginary scenarios that you would find in a book by Brian Greene (which you should also purchase, if you haven't already). :-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on February 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Xenophanes thought that the sun was a fire which got restarted every morning. Socrates believed that there were certain people who by dint of skill deserved the legitimate right to rule over others. Aristotle believed that the universe revolved around the sun (even though he was aware of then contemporary theories suggesting the reverse). St. Augustine believed that there was tribe of people with no heads but with faces and mouths on their chests.

Over the course of the centuries philosophy has been plagued by no shortage of errors. And in some cases, owing to the way in which they set back legitimate scientific discovery and exploration, the errors were not so innocent.

In this one volume, Sir Jeans concisely exposits on the similarities and differences between science and philosophy.

While both fields endeavor to explain reality, science does so according to a method which is definitionally testable and proveable. Eager to make big explanations philosophy all too casually casts testing and parsimony aside in favor of sweeping (and invariably wrong) generalizations.

As this book makes clear, some philosophy is inevitable. Our only connection to the outside world is through our senses. Solopsism is the view that these sensory inputs are nothing but the product of our imaginings. In fact a line of philosophy...by Rene Descartes...built on just this premise. "Cogito ero sum." I think therefore I am. According to Descartes this proved the existence of God because God would not force us to exist alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
Sir James Jeans (1877-1946) was an English physicist, astronomer and mathematician. (Bertrand Russell was fond of quoting him is his books such as Religion and Science.) He wrote other books such as The Mysterious Universe.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1942 book, "The aim of the present book is very simply stated: it is to address... that borderland territory between physics and philosophy which used to seem so dull, but suddenly became so interesting and important through recent developments of theoretical physics. The new interest extends far beyond the technical problems of physics and philosophy to questions which touch human life very closely, such as materialism and free-will. Thus I hope the book may interest many who are neither physicists nor philosophers by profession..."

He states, "It seems fairly clear---although no absolutely compelling proof can be provided---that if any system of bodies whatever is moving continuously in time and space under any system of laws whatever... then the final upshot of the motion must be that predicted by the classical mechanics---all the energy of the bodies must be transferred from matter to radiation... This being so, no minor modification of the classical mechanics can possibly put things right. Something far more drastic will be needed; we are called upon to surrender either the continuity or the causality of the classical mechanics, or else the possibility of representing changes by motions in time and space." (Pg.
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