22 January, 2018

New Special Issue: The Philosophy of Physics

Lee Smolin and the Philosophy of Physics
Special Issue 56 - The Philosophy of Physics

I’ll get the first controversial statement out of the way: There is no Philosophy of Physics!

At least, not any longer.

Having committed myself to the study of Physics some 60 years ago, I chose it as my specialism at University entirely because, historically, the discipline had always tried to both understand and fully explain reality - I was then presented with a worldwide major retreat from such essential objectives, established mainly by the triumph of Bohr and Heisenberg at Solvay some years before, and the gradual acceptance of their Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, literally everywhere.

It was, of course inevitable, though I couldn’t see it at the time.

The seeds had been set long ago, with our generally pragmatic approach to investigating the physical world, which was only further complicated by the inclusion of Idealism from Mathematics, and of a Plurality underlying all attempts at explaining phenomena.

From its very outset Physics was actually a strange amalgam of Materialism, Idealism and Pragmatism, a distorted reflection of the world which could only prosper while its discoveries could be profitably used. And, the methods of carefully cultivating experimental situations (to make them easier to study), and idealistically mapping pure ideal forms onto studied situations, began to wrest the subject from its explanatory role, from ‘Natural Philosophy’, and into that of mere technological implementation.

In the end, the old explanations began to fail, and were abandoned for the seeking of equations. Attempts to truly understand reality were jettisoned, and what had been Physics greatest asset was lost.

I am convinced that quantum mechanics is not a final theory. I believe this because I have never encountered an interpretation of the present formulation of quantum mechanics that makes sense to me. I have studied most of them in depth and thought hard about them, and in the end I still can’t make real sense of quantum theory as it stands

Lee Smolin, 2005

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