Short Answer Questions (submit online)
- How did modern physics overturn one of Kant's central philosophical claims?
- What is an interpretation of a physical theory?
- Explain Laura Ruetsche's distinction between a Pristine and an Adulterated interpretation of physics.
For Further Discussion
- The Philosophy of Physics. Historically, the demarcation between philosophy and physics has been blurred at best. But that does not mean that there isn't a meaningful distinction between the two.
- How do you view the difference between philosophy and physics?
- Is there a difference between metaphysics and physics that goes beyond the location of Aristotle's books on a shelf?
- Do you think any of the philosophy of physics questions listed under "Specific Disciplines" belong more to physics than to philosophy in any natural sense? Or that any of them belong more to philosophy than to physics?
Interpreting Classical Mechanics. We discussed what it means to interpret a theory of physics, and in particular the theory of Classical Mechanics developed by Newton and his followers.
- What is an interpretation, roughly speaking?
- How (if at all) is an interpretation different from a representation?
- One interpretive question about Classical Mechanics is, What does Classical Mechanics say the world is like? The answer we considered was, "It says the world is made of masses in motion and forces." Why was that answer chosen?
- Is this a reasonable answer to give? (Why or why not?)
- There are some objects that may at first appear difficult to make sense of in the ontology of masses and forces: waves, fields, continuum surfaces, and beams of light. What kind of interpretation do you think should accomodate such views?
- It has recently been fashionable to suggest that it is not objects (like forces and masses) that make up the furniture of the world, but structures. Is this a reasonable view? Why or why not?
- Pristine vs Adulterated interpretations. Ruetsche identifies two different standards for what an interpretation of physics is.
- What is the difference between a Pristine and an Adulterated interpretation?
- Is it reasonable to expect that a Pristine interpretation will be available in all theories of physics?
- Is the interpretation of Classical Mechanics in terms of atoms (i.e. particulate masses) a Pristine or and Adulterated interpretation?
- Could an interpretation like this play a role in whether or not we believe Classical Mechanics is true? i.e. does it give us reason to be (or not to be) a realist about Classical Mechanics?
- Ruetsche's problem of multiple interpretations is, roughly, that the reasons to believe a theory appear to depend on which interpretation we adopt, she argues give us reason to doubt that the theory is true. Do you agree? If not, what premise of her argument would you deny?
- Does it make sense to believe in a plurality of interpretations, or should the interpreter of physics just seek the One True interpretation of a theory?