Philosophy of Physics

See also the group’s projects on Philosophy of Time and on Methodology in Philosophy and Science on the main page.

Subproject: The Development and Unity of Physics: Epistemological Themes and their Historical Change (closed)

This book project investigates the question how physics "works" epistemically: what counts as a good explanation in physics, what kind of relations hold between different explanations (between different theories, between different models), and are there historical shifts or changes in these relations?

The first—historical—part of the book introduces important stages in the history of physics by focussing on three major epochs. The chapter on antiquity discusses, among other things, the origin of the term "physics" as well as first attempts towards what might be called an "elementarism" about material reality. The chapter on the early modern period addresses most notably aspects of an increasing mathematisation of physics. And the chapter on the nineteenth and twentieth century highlights the development of classical field theory and of quantum physics and the resulting loss of the intuitiveness of physics.

The second—systematic—part of the book critically reflects the historical changes in the role and relevance of experiments and predictions in physics. There is a detailed discussion of how new physical concepts and theories are formed and of how these formation processes changed in character since antiquity. This leads to a discussion also of the notions of causality and objectivity as well as to questions about reductions between theories and about a possible unity of physics. Moreover, three general explicatory strategies are identified which can be found and which keep more or less stable throughout the whole history of physics. One of these strategies might be called "mereological" and is devoted to finding ultimate material constituents. A different strategy, which might be entitled "explanatory", searches for the "initiators" or causes of physical events (often in terms of forces). And then there is the search for a unified framework of representation. This strategy might be called "holistic" and it is, of course, often related to the mathematisation of physics. Last but not least, connections and transitions between these three strategies become transparent with the help of a further central concept employed in physics, namely that of symmetry.

As compared to other introductory works, the focus of the present book is not on innerphilosophical debates about, for instance, the metaphysical status of spacetime or the opposition between a nominalism and a realism regarding natural laws. Neither does it focus on popular presentations of modern physical theories. Instead, the book's aim is to provide insights into a certain methodological and epistemological unity of physics by showing the continuities and developments in the formation of theories and in the predominant explicatory strategies.


Reviews in: Spektrum der Wissenschaft (Issue 2, 2015), Sterne und Weltraum (Issue 6, 2015) Physik-Journal (14(2), 2015), VSMP Bulletin (127, 2015), Bunsenmagazin (17(6), 2015), Physik in unserer Zeit (46(6), 2015, p. III.

: Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka
Prof. Dr. Dr.

Norman Sieroka

Institution Philosophie (Phil)

Building/room: SFG 4190
Phone: +49 (0)421 218 67830
E-Mail: sierokaprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


Universität Bremen
Institut für Philosophie, FB 9
Postfach 330 440
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28359 Bremen