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The Philosophy of Physics (The Evolution of Modern Philosophy)

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521562591
ISBN-10: 0521562597
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...an astonishingly rich and detailed summary of the principal theories in physics from Galileo to the present day, explaining their historical, conceptual, interpretive, speculative, and empirical sources.... this book is extraordinarily rich in excellent history, from the ancient Greeks to the present.... Those willing to put in the work needed to study this book will be rewarded with what I believe is a most worthwhile perspective on the legacy we have inherited from Galileo onward." Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics

Book Description

This magisterial study of the philosophy of physics both introduces the subject to the non-specialist and contains many original and important contributions for professionals in the area. Modern physics was born as a part of philosophy and has retained to this day a properly philosophical concern for the clarity and coherence of ideas. Any introduction to the philosophy of physics must therefore focus on the conceptual development of physics itself. This book pursues that development from Galileo and Newton through Maxwell and Boltzmann to Einstein and the founders of quantum mechanics. There is also discussion of important philosophers of physics in the 18th and 19th century and of 20th century debates.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Evolution of Modern Philosophy
  • Hardcover: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521562597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521562591
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,862,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding book about the conceptual development of modern theoretical physics, from Newton to Quantum mechanics, and its philosophical implications. The general slant of the work is mainly historical and philosophical, but it also makes extensive use of mathematics (calculus and vector spaces). A summary of the contexts may be in order here.
The first chapter provides some background to Newtonian physics. The second, discusses Newton's concepts of mass, force, space, time and gravitation, and finishes with a technical section on Lagrange's analytical formulation of mechanics. The next chapter is strictly philosophical and offers an assessment of Kant's contribution to philosophy of nature in his Critique of Pure Reason. The chapter devoted to the 19th. Century deals successively with Non Euclidean geometries, field theories, and thermodynamics. It also reserves a long section for the work of the scientists-philosophers: Whewell, Peirce, Mach, and Duhem. The chapter on relativity stresses the geometrical approach, providing a detailed account of Minkoski's spacetime. It follows a review of the philosophical problems of special relativity, such as conventionality of simultaneity or the twin's paradox, and briefer sections on general relativity and relativistic cosmology. The chapter on quantum mechanics is quite technical and a bit tortuous. It begins with the older formalism of matrix and wave mechanics, and then it presents the standard Hilbert space formalism. There is a thorough analysis of philosophical problems, including the EPR argument, the measurement problem, hidden variables theories and quantum logic.
The last chapter contains general philosophical reflections on the nature of physical theories.
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Format: Paperback
Torretti has done an excellent job of weaving the history and philosophy of physics into a rich ,flowing narrative that keeps the reader interested to the end of the book.Nor does the mathematical analysis get in the way.One can read this book and obtain great intellectual profit while simultaneously skipping most of the math.Torretti takes the reader on a journey that starts back in the 17th century with Galileo and Newton.He then moves on through the 18th and 19th centuries,covering the contributions of Kant and Boltzmann before arriving in the 20th century ,where he covers Mach,Einstein,Planck,Bohr,Heisenberg,and Schrodinger.All of the chapters are excellent.However,in my opinion,chapter 6 is the most interesting.It covers the famous 1926 meeting between Bohr,Heisenberg,and Schrodinger over how to deal with the apparent conflicts between Quantum Mechanics(microscopic particles )and General Relativity(macroscopic aggregates).The conflict between Einstein and Bohr over quantum mechanics and the famous exchanges between them centering on the concept of action at a distance, as presented by Einstein,Podolsky, and Rosen in their thought experiment concerning the mathematical spin properties of two particles and what interpretation makes sense(from Einstein's realist position)about the results,is very well done,although Torretti appears to be too eager to accept the philosophical conclusions of Bohr's argument(the purely mathematical points of debate ended in a draw,in my opinion.Bell's 1964 proof established that if the EPR argument is accepted,then quantum mechanics is not only incomplete,but inconsistent).If one accepts Bohr's argument,then a general field theory unifying the macro and micro analysis is not possible and you are left with distinct and separate fields of study forever.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The basic problem with this book is that it does not deliver what the book promises. There is no original philosophical arguments in the book. It is mostly a compilation of basic physics and informal history of the field. Very disappointing for those looking for real philosophy of physics.
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This book, as much as I've read thus far, is easy to read and understand and gives the reader a "notion" of the origin of thoughts in Physics to glom onto.
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