Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Philosophy of Physics

One of the strangest trends in modern academia is the writing of books and papers on philosophical issues, by physicists, who do so without having first read any of the relevant philosophical literature. It would be perverse, and wholly lacking in fundamental academic rigour, to write about, say, the properties of the electron, without having first acquainted oneself with the physics literature on the subject, and yet physicists write about the mind, the creation of the universe, the measurement problem in quantum mechanics, non-locality in quantum theory, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, etc. etc., without making any effort to read what has already been written in the philosophy of physics. As a consequence, they re-discover ideas and errors which have already been enunciated, often many years previously, in the philosophical literature.

Hence, this two-volume, 1522 page work, 'Philosophy of physics', edited by Jeremy Butterfield and John Earman, will go largely unread by physicists. And notably, even one of the articles within, that written by the general relativist, George Ellis, purports to cover philosophical issues in cosmology, but does so without reference to any of the relevant modern philosophical literature.

Nevertheless, given the £125 pricetag for the book, as a service to those without a hedge-fund, I here reproduce the contents, with hyperlinks to those articles freely downloadable.

Introduction(Jeremy Butterfield and John Earman)
1.On Symplectic Reduction in Classical Mechanics (Jeremy Butterfield)
2.The Representation of Time and Change in Mechanics (Gordon Belot)
3.Classical Relativity Theory (David Malament)
4.Non-Relativistic Quantum Theory (Michael Dickson)
5.Between Classical and Quantum (N.P. Landsman)
6.Quantum Information and Computing (Jeffrey Bub)
7.The Conceptual Basis of Quantum Field Theory (Gerard 't Hooft)
8.Algebraic Quantum Field Theory (Hans Halvorson (with an Appendix by Michael Muger)
9.Issues in the Foundations of Classical Statistical Physics (Jos Uffink)
10.Quantum Statistical Physics (Gerard Emch)
11.Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology (George F.R. Ellis)
12.Quantum Gravity (Carlo Rovelli)
13.Symmetries and Invariances in Classical Physics (Katherine Brading and Elena Castellani)
14.Aspects of Determinism in Modern Physics (John Earman)

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