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Philosophical Concepts in Physics: The Historical Relation between Philosophy and Scientific Theories [Paperback]

James T. Cushing

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Book Description

Feb. 13 1998 052157823X 978-0521578233
This book examines a selection of philosophical issues in the context of specific episodes in the development of physical theories and presents scientific advances within their historical and philosophical contexts. Philosophical considerations have played an essential and ineliminable role in the actual practice of science. The book begins with some necessary introduction to the history of ancient and early modern science, but emphasizes the two great watersheds of twentieth-century physics: relativity and quantum mechanics. At times the term "construction" may seem more appropriate than "discovery" for the way theories have developed and, especially in later chapters, the discussion focuses on the influence of historical, philosophical and even social factors on the form and content of scientific theories.

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'For anyone who really wants to understand physics, this is a splendid and beautifully written book ... this book is an excellent introduction to a historically based philosophy of science, with accurate reporting of many examples from physics, and much attention to primary sources. I would recommend it strongly as an adjunct to standard textbooks of physics for students who seek a real understanding of their subject.' Michael Redhead, Physics World

'... I think that Cushing has done an excellent job. If I again teach a course similar to his I will certainly consider using his book as a text ...'. Anthony Leggett, The Times Higher Education Supplement

'As a chronological text in the history and philosophy of science for undergraduate students of the physical sciences, this book is unexcelled.' J. Leplin, Endeavour

'Altogether, the book provides a good overview of the basis underlying 3000 years of physical knowledge ...'. H Rechenberg, Institute of Physics Publishing

Book Description

Scientific knowledge, because of its putative certainty and objective method of discovery, is often seen as essentially different from other types of knowledge. As popularly understood, physics and philosophy might seem to be far removed from one another. However, this book demonstrates the essential and ineliminable role that philosophical considerations play in the construction of scientific knowledge. The discussion of central philosophical issues is anchored in the specific historical context and in the actual content of the relevant scientific advances.

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Since we hope to learn something about science and its operation and since science concerns itself with a certain type of knowledge and its attainment, let us begin with a brief consideration of how we arrive at knowledge. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More like History of Physics June 19 2001
By Muzaffer Muctehitzade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My be I was expecting more from the book based on the title of the book but after all I was satisfied. Author provides a good history of Physics from Greeks to Quantum Theory. In Quantum theory you feel some Philosophical discussions but otherwise it is a science book and a good one with formulas, schematics like a text book. What I liked most was the excerpts from the original writings as the author was making his point. Paragraph from Newton's, Kepler's , Maxwell's, Bohr's, Bell's writings, all those fellows. It is serious book and requires serious reading. Also there is good references for further readings.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good historical overview March 31 2000
By CLARA SHAJRAWI - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book summarizes the history of scientific developments from antiquity to quantum physics. No prior knowledge of science or philosophy is assumed, except the general high school education. The author is a physicist interested in philosophy, but the philosophical dimension of the book is much less obvious than the scientific-historical aspect. It is a clear and nice read, but it is physics rather than philosophy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Physics...No Philosophy March 26 2006
By GrizzlyMike - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This work reads more like a general overview of the history of ideas regarding the physical universe rather than a philosophical treatment of the ideas behind physics. The book merely presents in a linear fashion the major ideas that revolutionized our views of the physical world but goes no further than presenting the theories as matter of fact. There are no discussions into the interplay between the philosophy of ideas and the actual modeling of the physical world using the scientific method. It reads similar to Stephen Hawking's "On The Shoulders of Giants"(a much more interesting work).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good reading May 26 2006
By metacristi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The perfect balance between physics and philosophy, getting to the social dimension of scientific quest its deserved place (usually ovelooked by many scientists, advocates of a (too) strong concept of rationality in science). I liked especially the chapters dedicated to modern physics, underdetermination and theory ladenness are really big problems for modern science, in no case are we entitled to underestimate them (I don't think that Bayesianism, objective or subjective, is enough to reject them). Overall a good reading, especially for those having some previous knowledge of physics, it shows clearly that one must go well beyond the usual cliche that science is only inductive and that we have enough probabilistic justification for the view that it surely approach at least approximate Truth.

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