• Fooloso4
    1.1k
    The word 'fact' comes from the Latin facere -to construct.fresco

    The Latin for construct is 'construo'. Facere means more generally to act or do, and by extension to make or construct. Regardless of the etymology the question remains whether a fact is an artifact.

    Bohr can be paraphrased as saying, ''atomic particles' are the names we give to particular types of expected interaction we have as observers'.fresco

    I am not going to get into the debate of the Copenhagen interpretation. I know enough to know that I am not properly equipped to enter into such a discussion. Although there are some who think it has been settled, the debate continues between those who are so equipped.

    There is no 'representation' implied. If 'breaking atomic bonds' is a concept which observers find useful to predict further observationfresco

    I used representation in response to the quote by Kant cited by Wayfarer. The images of molecules breaking chemical bonds is not simply a concept useful to predict further observation it is itself something observed happening, the observation of a process. The process is real.

    Added:

    The description of the process may be incomplete or inaccurate but the history of science shows that we are capable of providing more accurate descriptions over time. The more accurate the description the closer it is to the way things are, not simply from the human conceptual and observational perspective, but in relation to the events themselves.
  • fresco
    549
    As a pragmatist I consider the 'reality' debate to be futile and I doubt whether 'refinement of limits of applicability of scientific paradigms' can be equated with your term 'accuracy'.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    As a pragmatist I consider the 'reality' debate to be futile and I doubt whether 'refinement of limits of applicability of scientific paradigms' can be equated with your term 'accuracy'.fresco

    As a pragmatist I would think you would be concerned with what works. Let's, as you suggest:

    Consider the demise of 'the aether'fresco

    It either exists or does not exist, or, given your aversion to the term, it is either present and plays a role in the physical world or does not. The assumption of its presence played an important role in the advancement of our understanding of light and gravity. The wave theory of light, was based on the theory of the luminiferous aether.

    Einstein concludes an address in 1920 "Ether and the Theory of Relativity":

    Recapitulating, we may say that according to the general theory of relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an ether. According to the general theory of relativity space without ether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time (measuring-rods and clocks), nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense. But this ether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable media, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it.

    With regard to the classical notion of the aether Einstein retained only the notion that space has physical properties. Part of the progress of science is through its mistakes, but another part is through the correction of its mistakes. But there can be no mistakes or corrections if there is no accuracy of description and explanation.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    ... science measures time in units relative to the rotation of the earth around the sun and distances of kilometers and so on.
    — Wayfarer

    This is simply not true. Physicists use light. The geological time scale is based on prior events of earth's history.
    Fooloso4

    I'm referring to the units of measurement. Of course the geological time scale is concerned with the age of the earth. But the units in which it is measured are devised by humans and settled by convention. And again, for there to be a scale, a perspective, then the act of measurement.

    I have previously quoted this passage in relation to this issue, but it's worth re-stating:

    The problem of including the observer in our description of physical reality arises most insistently when it comes to the subject of quantum cosmology - the application of quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole - because, by definition, 'the universe' must include any observers. Andrei Linde has given a deep reason for why observers enter into quantum cosmology in a fundamental way. It has to do with the nature of time. The passage of time is not absolute; it always involves a change of one physical system relative to another, for example, how many times the hands of the clock go around relative to the rotation of the Earth. When it comes to the Universe as a whole, time looses its meaning, for there is nothing else relative to which the universe may be said to change. This 'vanishing' of time for the entire universe becomes very explicit in quantum cosmology, where the time variable simply drops out of the quantum description. It may readily be restored by considering the Universe to be separated into two subsystems: an observer with a clock, and the rest of the Universe. So the observer plays an absolutely crucial role in this respect. Linde expresses it graphically: 'thus we see that without introducing an observer, we have a dead universe, which does not evolve in time', and, 'we are together, the Universe and us. The moment you say the Universe exists without any observers, I cannot make any sense out of that. I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness...in the absence of observers, our universe is dead'.

    (Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life, p 271. Linde is one of the originators of 'inflation theory' of the Big Bang.)

    I am not going to get into the debate of the Copenhagen interpretation. I know enough to know that I am not properly equipped to enter into such a discussion. Although there are some who think it has been settled, the debate continues between those who are so equipped.Fooloso4

    When LaPlace's daemon held sway, then science was happy to shout it from the rooftops. When Copenhagen comes along, the whole issue is kicked into the long grass. :yikes:

    I know that I can't 'do the math', but I've read a lot about the Einstein-Bohr debates and interpretations of quantum physics, and I think from a strictly philosophical perspective, a few cogent observations can be made.

    One of them is how many of the books and articles on these issues talk about it being a debate about 'the nature of reality'. The nature of the wave function collapse is a vexed philosophical question, it's not strictly speaking a scientific question at all so much as a metaphysical one - not science, but the implications of science. And one of the currently preferred resolutions is the many-worlds interpretation. I have joined Physics Forum and asked questions about this issue, one of which was this: if the Everett relative state formulation is a solution, then what problem is it attempting to solve? The answers to this question were not at all clear, and it generated a lot of controversy (which is given short shrift on that forum). I think I have an insight into why, but many of those considered 'properly qualified' are not able to adjudicate it. So I feel quite comfortable to draw my own conclusions on that basis.

    Do molecules break atomic bonds or is it this just a "mere representation"?Fooloso4

    The same question can be asked of all manner of principles in physics and chemistry. As I already replied these are practically and pragmatically sound; as pointed out, one can accept empirical realism without conceding that it represents the ultimate facts of the Universe, which is what is at issue.
  • fdrake
    2.7k
    (Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life, p 271. Linde is one of the originators of 'inflation theory' of the Big Bang.)Wayfarer

    You quote that a lot, but you never emphasise that it describes an ontic (real) conception of time immanently rather than an ontological (ideal) conception of time transcendentally. Observers are even characterised as "interacting systems" and one system coupling to another creates a relational time through their reciprocity, no human 'observer' involved at all.
  • Wallows
    9k
    Interesting how this discussion has evolved. I think, aether's modern understanding under the logical positivists would be 'logical space'.

    Does this sound vaguely familiar to you, @Wayfarer?
  • Wallows
    9k
    In regards to QM. I believe, given my limited understanding, that the wave-function is inherently metaphysical by nature. I don't know if it's a top-down order or entropic bottom up emergent phenomenon that encompasses the sum total of all possible worlds; but, just throwing that out here.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    What I argue is that all knowledge has a subjective pole or aspect which is itself never visible to empirical observation but which is still fundamental to the act of knowing. That's how I read Kant. I think Kant's insights are fundamentally true, but in my experience most scientific realists don't understand him. Kant himself was also a lecturer in science, a practical man, but he well understood the ethical implications of the scientific revolution in a way that many others seem not to.Wayfarer

    Well of course all knowledge "has a subjective pole": this is so obvious that I think you are grossly underestimating the intelligence of scientific realists.

    Of course empirical reality has both objective and subjective elements, the salient question is whether the Real (or the noumenal if you like) has a fundamental "subjective pole", and then if you want to say it does, what that could possibly mean.
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    Observers are even characterised as "interacting systems" and one system coupling to another creates a relational time through their reciprocity, no human 'observer' involved at all.fdrake

    Which systems are not created by human observers? This point is addressed in various places in Davies' text - there are those who argue that if you set up a measuring system and leave it unattended, then it is still performing measurements, but there are others who say that until the measurement is interpreted by a scientist, then it's not valid to speak of it as 'a measurement'.

    We might imagine one of those spacecraft that has been sent out into the far reaches of the solar system, when it looses contact with the base station; it is still collecting data, but nobody is being informed by that data. And the precise meaning of the distinction between 'data' and 'information' is that 'when data are processed, interpreted, organized, structured or presented so as to make them meaningful or useful, they are called information. Information provides context for data.'

    Well of course all knowledge "has a subjective pole": this is so obvious that I think you are grossly underestimating the intelligence of scientific realists.Janus

    But this subjective pole is inextricably a part of scientific observation, which hitherto has been implicit or 'bracketed out'. That is the point of 'mind-independence' - the assertion that these measured entities exist whether they are being observed or not. That is the crux of the debate about quantum physics and philosophy. So I'm arguing against the mind-independent nature of the knowledge even of those entities which are customarily said to be completely independent of observation. I'm saying that knowledge of those objects is also subject-dependent, as per the essay that was being discussed in June on the 'blind spot in science'.

    The salient question is whether reality has a fundamental "subjective pole", and then if you want to say it does, what that could possibly mean.Janus

    Means a lot! In theistic philosophy, that 'ultimate subject' is conceived as 'God' or 'supreme being'. But I think the reality is more quotidian - that the subjective nature of reality manifests in the form of human beings, who then forget to take account of the role that the mind plays:

    Materialism is the attempt to explain what is immediately given us by what is given us indirectly. All that is objective, extended, active— that is to say, all that is material — is regarded by materialism as affording so solid a basis for its explanation, that a reduction of everything to this can leave nothing to be desired (especially if in ultimate analysis this reduction should resolve itself into action and reaction). But we have shown that all this is given indirectly and in the highest degree determined, and is therefore merely a relatively present object, for it has passed through the machinery and manufactory of the brain, and has thus come under the forms of space, time and causality, by means of which it is first presented to us as extended in space and active in time. From such an indirectly given object, materialism seeks to explain what is immediately given, the idea (in which alone the object that materialism starts with exists), and finally even the will from which all those fundamental forces, that manifest themselves, under the guidance of causes, and therefore according to law, are in truth to be explained. — Arthur Schopenhauer, World as Will and Representation

    Interesting how this discussion has evolved. I think, aether's modern understanding under the logical positivists would be 'logical space'.

    Does this sound vaguely familiar to you, Wayfarer?
    Wallows

    :roll: All I know about positivism, is that they wish to declare metaphysics meaningless and validate every proposition against observable states of affairs.
  • Wallows
    9k
    :roll: All I know about positivism, is that they wish to declare metaphysics meaningless and validate every proposition against observable states of affairs.Wayfarer

    True, I should have just left it as logical space.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    But this subjective pole is inextricably a part of scientific observation, which hitherto has been implicit or 'bracketed out'.Wayfarer

    It is rightly bracketed out by science, though, just as the question of the existence of the external world is rightly bracketed out by Husserl. Science deals with the world as it is discovered via the senses. Subjectivity and objectivity don't come into it, apart from the requirement that observers be objective (in the sense of trying to be aware of and eliminating subjective biases).

    Means a lot! In theistic philosophy, that 'ultimate subject' is conceived as 'God' or 'supreme being'. But I think the reality is more quotidian - that the subjective nature of reality manifests in the form of human beings, who then forget to take account of the role that the mind plays:Wayfarer

    The problem with this idea is that we know the universe existed long before humans, so what was the "subjective nature of reality" prior to us appearing on the scene?
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    I'm referring to the units of measurement.Wayfarer

    Light is used as a unit of measurement.

    But the units in which it is measured are devised by humans and settled by convention.Wayfarer

    Of course. There is no human activities, including measurements, that are not devised by humans

    I have previously quoted this passage in relation to this issueWayfarer

    Our understanding of time, the quantum world, and the universe as a whole are based on inadequate theoretical models. Trying to draw conclusions based on what we do not understand is fraught with problems.

    When LaPlace's daemon held sway, then science was happy to shout it from the rooftops. When Copenhagen comes along, the whole issue is kicked into the long grass.Wayfarer

    Both are very much alive for scientists and philosophers, and both lead to questionable speculative conclusions.

    I know that I can't 'do the math' ...Wayfarer

    It is not about the math. We simply do not understand what is going on. We do not even have agreement as to what the theories mean.

    ... without conceding that it represents the ultimate facts of the Universe, which is what is at issue.Wayfarer

    You overstate the case. It is not about ultimate facts. We plod along. Some are committed to explanations in terms of the stuff of the world, others claim that this is not sufficient. My position is that a great deal of progress has been made by those who are committed to the former, while the nay-sayers chase a moving target.




    .
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    The problem with this idea is that we know the universe existed long before humans, so what was the "subjective nature of reality" prior to us appearing on the scene?Janus

    The passage of time is not absolute; it always involves a change of one physical system relative to another, for example, how many times the hands of the clock go around relative to the rotation of the Earth. When it comes to the Universe as a whole, time loses its meaning, for there is nothing else relative to which the universe may be said to change. This 'vanishing' of time for the entire universe becomes very explicit in quantum cosmology, where the time variable simply drops out of the quantum description. It may readily be restored by considering the Universe to be separated into two subsystems: an observer with a clock, and the rest of the Universe. So the observer plays an absolutely crucial role in this respect. — Paul Davies

    That's all for now.
  • fdrake
    2.7k
    Which systems are not created by human observers?Wayfarer

    Plenty. Most of them, in fact. Most of nature does not resemble a city. You will probably equivocate here on the concept, but the concept is not the thing. Taking an empirically realist stance towards scientific objects means those which are discovered do indeed exist, regardless of how they impress upon our understanding (IE, how we express their nature in concepts), it is still a fact that they exist. There really are molecular interactions, chemical interactions, quantum interactions, that our eyes do not grace. This does not make them less real.

    You make it sound as if Lovecraft's Azathoth is real, dreaming reality, let us hope he does not wake and destroy us all.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    So you deny that we have any reason to believe this Universe began approximately 14 billion years ago and that humanity came on the scene approximately 2.5 million years ago?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    This is simply not true. Physicists use light.Fooloso4

    In the International System of Units (SI), the unit of time is the second (symbol: s ) . It is a SI base unit, and it has been defined since 1967 as "the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom".[12] This definition is based on the operation of a caesium atomic clock. These clocks became practical for use as primary reference standards after about 1955 and have been in use ever since. — Wikipedia
  • fresco
    549

    You are trying point out to 'absolutists' what to me seems the obvious untenability of their position. It seems to me the substantive problem here is that generally pulling the rug away from fixed axioms (In the spirit of the Incompleteness Theorem) is inevitably iconoclastic of 'philosphical debate' per se.
    In short, 'turkeys are not going to vote for Christmas' !
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k


    Here is an interesting discussion between Davies and scientists from several different disciplines entitled "The Reality Club": https://www.edge.org/discourse/science_faith.html
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    I recall reading that original article and the responses to it a few years back. I like Paul Davies' books. But I don't know if I agree with his central claim that 'science rests on faith'. The way I put it is, naturalism assumes the consistency of natural laws, that F invariably equals MA and so on. But religious faith is different, because it puts an obligation on you, if you accept it, then it's important to act in accordance. Whereas the kind of confidence that science has in the regularity of nature is simply axiomatic or presumptive, and always subject to modification; there's nothing personal at stake.

    But furthermore, I don't think science will ever explain why f=ma or e=mc2. I think one of the vast confusions of our age comes from the notion that science is going to, as Hawking put it in his Brief History of Time, 'see into the mind of God', although of course Hawking was fiercely atheistic. So I think Paul Davies' search for 'deeper laws' that explain the laws we see is misplaced. It comes out of the Enlightenment or positivist notion of science superseding religious metaphysics. It leads to a lot of disingenuous and completely meaningless speculation in my view.

    (Another book I read recently was Jim Baggott's 'Farewell to Reality - Fairytale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth' (tough read, but worthwhile.) If more nitwit scientistic commentators like Coyne read that book, we'd all be better off for it.)

    In any case, I'm not denying empirical facts of science, but pointing out the role of the observing mind in the scientific account. Reality includes the observer, it is not something that exists from no point of view. Or rather, the manner of the world's existence, or what the word 'existence' means or entails is meaningless without a point of view (which is the drift of the Linde quote). It is within the mind or a mind that perspective, duration, relation, and phenomena are synthesized into what we experience as 'the world'. (Interesting etymological fact: the word 'world' is derived from Old English woruld, worold "human existence, the affairs of life.") This is where idealism makes an important point: knowledge relies on a brain, which interprets percepts in accordance with logic, mathematics, and so on. But all of that takes place in a brain/mind. There is no 'light inside the skull', only the appearance of light. But as Schopenhauer says, we forget the role of the mind, having 'bracketed it out' of the reckoning, and then forgotten that we've done it.

    Modern culture tends to view the mind as a product or outcome of a physical process. I think that's incorrect, but not because there is something called 'mind' that exists in any empirical sense. Put another way, given the approach of modern science, then it's correct to say that there is nothing called mind, because it's not measurable, quantifiable or objectifiable. You can't prove or show there is a reality or an object called 'mind' according to the criteria of empirical science, because the mind is never an object of experience (which is why Dennett gets a hearing). The modern understanding is that the natural world pre-exists the mind, based on the evolutionary perspective, meaning that judgements of meaning and purpose (among other things) are ultimately to be categorised alongside the other 'secondary qualities', and as derivative of the physical laws which gave rise to living organisms and then finally intelligent life (as the cherry on top of the cake). But this background understanding is why the whole argument about 'the mysterious nature of consciousness' exists in the first place:

    The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatio-temporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, pp. 35-36

    So the way I'm attempting to argue against that, is not by trying to prove or show that 'mind' or 'spirit' or 'God' exists, but by showing that science relies on reason, and that reason itself cannot be explained as an outcome of natural processes, as the very analysis of natural processes relies on reason, in other words, what it is trying to explain. (This is one of the major points from Husserl's criticism of naturalism.)

    Or put another way, 'naturalism assumes reason'; that is how I would rather express Davies' point. It's not faith, but the simple fact that in order to engage in any kind of reasoned inference, to say why something happens, then we're relying both on the rational nature of the world, and on the mind's ability to grasp it. That's a properly philosophical argument, not one based on faith. (A lot of the emphasis on faith comes from the particular history of Christian dogma and especially Protestant fideism.)

    Now, actually, there's an apologist argument, called the Argument from Reason, which is generally deployed along these lines, to argue for the existence of God. But I don't think you need to argue for the existence of God; I think you only need to understand how reason works, and where it stops, instead of trying to peer into ultimate causes. We have to learn to live with not knowing.
  • Valentinus
    561
    I think it's more that such a distinction was not part of Aristotle's lexicon. No philosophers of his day expressed their ideas in terms of "objective" and "subjective", it's much more characteristic of the modern period, although the significance is more than just lexical.Wayfarer

    I take your point regarding distinctions made then and now. In the context of the Platonic discussion of how beings "participate" in the forms, Aristotle is giving weight toward the cosmos shaping the conditions of knowledge over seeing the intellect as something that is primarily about the centrality of any individual thinker. Both views are pertinent and discussed. It comes down to what is the ground of what that tips Aristotle's hand.
    In the discussion on this thread and looking generally at the "history of philosophy" point of view, it seems how time is framed as an experience ends up being a big change between then and now.

    I saw this when I found the other passage. I wonder how far he intends for us to push the analogy. The tool requires the hand to manipulate it. If the intellect is analogous that suggests that the reception of forms by the intellect and senses is not passive.Fooloso4

    Aristotle agreed with that. That is an element in him saying that the influence of the sensed/known thing is not like setting another thing into motion. The receptivity of the ensouled being to become other things than itself at the same time it was being itself is not explained but presented as a phenomenon. And that element relates to the problem of presenting "forms" shaping "passive" matter. If the imagination is like this passive stuff, why is it so darn busy? The begged question was about figuring what is dead.
  • Janus
    8.5k
    You are trying point out to 'absolutists' what to me seems the obvious untenability of their position. It seems to me the substantive problem here is that generally pulling the rug away from fixed axioms (In the spirit of the Incompleteness Theorem) is inevitably iconoclastic of 'philosphical debate' per se.fresco

    I don't think that's what's going on here at all. @Wayfarer is not really saying anything cogent at all; which is revealed by his inability to answer questions like this in any coherent way;

    So you deny that we have any reason to believe this Universe began approximately 14 billion years ago and that humanity came on the scene approximately 2.5 million years ago?Janus

    The way I see it philosophical debates are not about 'how thing are' in any absolute sense, but about what it is reasonable to say. What Wayfarer says is not reasonable or even coherent because he will say that he does not disagree with what science tells us about the world, but...and the problem for his position is that he can never articulate just what that caveat, that "but" is.

    It's not clear what you think you mean by "pulling the rug away from fixed axioms" (or how you think that relates to Godel's incompleteness theorems), and it's even less clear how or why you think that would be "iconoclastic of 'philosophical debate' per se".

    How about some more sense and less nonsense? Or else act in accordance with your faith, and keep quiet...
  • Valentinus
    561
    The way I see it philosophical debates are not about 'how things are' in any absolute sense, but about what it is reasonable to sayJanus
    Where do we get this criteria of what is "reasonable to say"?

    How is that approach better than others?
    I presume you will need to refer to this "other thing" to go forward.
  • fresco
    549

    I suggest you use the word 'nonsense' as a response the demise of 'the given' identified by pragmatists like Rorty (which equates to 'the 'pulling the rug from axioms'). This implies that 'philosophers' have nothing authoritative to say about the content of 'epistemology' other than why they have nothing to say! So questions like 'Is it reasonable to believe that the universe is 14 billion years old ?' are rendered vacuous, because they are predicated on particular views of 'time' and 'the universe' which are not given, they are human constructs whose reasonable use is contextually bound.
    So as for what is 'reasonable' to say, I suggest that 'philosophers' might confine their remarks as to the ethics involved in control aspects of epistemology.

    (NB My use of the phrase 'in the spirit of the Incompleteness Theorem' should be self evident. If not, ignore it !)
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    So questions like 'Is it reasonable to believe that the universe is 14 billion years old ?' are rendered vacuous, because they are predicated on particular views of 'time' and 'the universe' which are not given, they are human constructs whose reasonable use is contextually bound.fresco

    The question of the age of the universe cannot be dismissed as vacuous by invoking Sellars' "myth of the given". Of course the determination of the age of the universe is not a given. I don't think anyone here has said otherwise. The question of the reasonableness of accepting the age of the universe can be turned around - is it reasonable to deny the age of the universe? And if so then on what basis? The age of the universe represents our best estimate given the current state of our understanding, methods of calculation, instrumentation, principle assumptions, and so on, all of which are subject to change, resulted in a revised estimate.
  • fresco
    549
    You still don't get it. Nobody except perhaps a religious fundamentalist is likely to question 'the age of the universe', because current views on the matter consensually 'work'. Therefore the issue of 'reasonableness' is vacuous. The question is a 'straw man'. However it is also the case that views about 'time' and 'universe' are human constructs open to revision on the basis of 'better' paradigms. Should those paradigms arise, then it will be 'reasonable' to question our current views.
    As far as I know, relative to some of the issues involving 'time' and 'matter' in frontier physics (Rovelli, for example), 'the age of the universe' has zero status in terms of 'interest value'. And when discussing 'vacuity' of philosophical questions in physics, we might bear in mind Richard Feynman's riposte to such questions..'Shut up and calculate !'
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    You still don't get it.fresco

    No, it is that you do not get it, and you don't seem to be aware of what 'it' is.

    The only straw men are of your making - your attack on non-present 'absolutists' and axioms.

    As far as I know, relative to some of the issues involving 'time' and 'matter' in frontier physics (Rovelli, for example), 'the age of the universe' has zero status in terms of 'interest value'.fresco

    It is not that the age of the universe is of no great importance. Any lack of interest is due to the fact that there is general agreement as to its age. Despite Rovelli's claim that the nature of time is “perhaps the greatest remaining mystery”, he does not think that the universe is atemporal. He may not be involved with the question of its age but does not dismiss the question as vacuous.

    Richard Feynman's riposte to such questions..'Shut up and calculate !'fresco

    Rovelli wrote a paper published in Scientific American entitled: "Physics Needs Philosophy / Philosophy Needs Physics". https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/physics-needs-philosophy-philosophy-needs-physics/

    Sean Carroll, Ray Smolin, and others stress the importance of cross-disciplinary work between philosophy and physics. Feynman, who said, "“philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds” is not the final word on this.
  • fresco
    549
    Thankyou for that popularist Rovelli article. The impression I get is that this (commercial) reactonary 'posture' is to suggest 'philosophy' could be a name that might be given to 'a valuable process of hypothesis stimulation and comparison'. Piaget''s constructivist
    'genetic epistemology' seemed to give a more succinct account of a state transition process between 'consensual knowledge' and 'world' without the need to name specific swayers of zeitgeist, 'philosophical' or otherwise.
    I recommend you read Rovelli's 'The Order of Time' before you give judgement on his opinion on 'temporality', especially when he devotes part of it to show how 'time' can be eliminated from the fundamental equations of physics.
  • Fooloso4
    1.1k
    The impression I get is that this (commercial) reactonary 'posture' is to suggest 'philosophy' could be a name that might be given to 'a valuable process of hypothesis stimulation and comparison'.fresco

    What are you going on about? There is nothing commercial or reactionary about what he says. He points to Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Bohr and Einstein for acknowledging the importance of philosophy. Are you going to accuse them of commercial reactionary posturing as well?

    I recommend you read Rovelli's 'The Order of Time' before you give judgement on his opinion on 'temporality', especially when he devotes part of it to show how 'time' can be eliminated from the fundamental equations of physics.fresco

    You completely miss the point he makes with regard to the fundamental equations of physics. Simply put, they are inadequate as an explanation of the universe, precisely because they cannot account for time.

    Rather than pointing to books that some of us have not read, and apparently others have not read carefully enough, I will quote from a couple of interviews with Rovelli that everyone can read.

    When asked in an interview about the biggest unanswered question about time, he responded:

    The biggest of the open questions is: Why is the future so different from the past? This is something that is not written into the laws of physics — the fundamental laws of physics don’t distinguish the past from the future. This is still something mysterious, I believe.
    https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/what-time-physicist-carlo-rovelli-ponders-enigmatic-fourth-dimension-ncna895226

    When asked about the atemporality of the universe he said:

    I do not think that the universe is fundamentally atemporal. The main point of the book is that there isn’t a single notion of time that is either true or false. What we call time is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers. Some of time’s layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions.
    https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/
  • Wayfarer
    8.6k
    [Rovelli] points to Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Bohr and Einstein for acknowledging the importance of philosophy.Fooloso4

    The first three were quite philosophically sophisticated thinkers. Not that Einstein wasn’t also, but Heisenberg gently accused him of ‘dogmatic realism’ as explained below.

    I’m mining some chapters from Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy for insights.

    He says:

    Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is a part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning. This was a possibility of which Descartes could not have thought, but it makes the sharp separation between the 'world and the I' impossible.

    This underwrites my arguments in this thread; it's pretty well behind everything I'm saying. I think we have a habit of thought, that this separation is in fact real, and that 'the world' exists 'out there' totally separate from us; but this is what has been called into question by the 'observer problem'. And that leads to a shift in perspective.

    He then goes on:

    If one follows the great difficulty which even eminent scientists like Einstein had in understanding and accepting the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, one can trace the roots of this difficulty to the Cartesian partition [i.e. division of res cogitans/extensa]. This partition has penetrated deeply into the human mind during the three centuries following Descartes and it will take a long time for it to be replaced by a really different attitude toward the problem of reality.

    The position to which the Cartesian partition has led with respect to the 'res extensa' was what one may call metaphysical realism. The world, i.e., the extended things, 'exist'. This is to be distinguished from practical realism, and the different forms of realism may be described as follows: We 'objectivate' a statement if we claim that its content does not depend on the conditions under which it can be verified. Practical realism assumes that there are statements that can be objectivated and that in fact the largest part of our experience in daily life consists of such statements. Dogmatic realism claims that there are no statements concerning the material world that cannot be objectivated. Practical realism has always been and will always be an essential part of natural science. Dogmatic realism, however, is, as we see it now, not a necessary condition for natural science.

    Here, I believe that 'practical realism' equates with ‘methodological naturalism’. This is the assumption of naturalistic principles as natural part of scientific method, that we can't take into account anything that can be understood within the naturalistic framework - which is perfectly fine as far as it goes. When this becomes dogmatic or metaphysical naturalism, is when such assumptions are then held to apply beyond the scope of science itself, when they're taken as a statement about 'what the world is really like' (a la pop science intellectuals, some of whom referred to by Rovelli). That is what I call 'metaphysical' or 'dogmatic naturalism' which is highly influential in secular philosophy and culture (often tacitly).

    As for the use of quotes around 'exist' - Heisenberg had acute insight into the sense in which sub-atomic objects straddled the borderline between actual and potential. 'In particular, “real” should not be restricted to “actual” objects or events in spacetime. Reality ought also be assigned to certain possibilities, or “potential” realities, that have not yet become “actual.” These potential realities do not exist in spacetime, but nevertheless are “ontological” — that is, real components of existence. 2' So in this sense, Heisenberg asks 'whether the smallest units are ordinary physical objects, whether they exist in the same way as stones or flowers 3. '. So I think the suggestion of whether they exist 'in the same way' as objects is extraordinarily important; because to most of us, 'existence' has only one value: something either exists or it doesn't. The idea of something on the borderline of existence and non-existence means that it possess a degree of reality.

    Rovelli wrote a paper published in Scientific American entitled: "Physics Needs Philosophy / Philosophy Needs Physics"Fooloso4

    Great column! I was particularly struck by this:

    Space, time, particles and fields get fused into a single entity: a quantum field that does not live in space or time. The variables of this field acquire definiteness only in interactions between subsystems. The fundamental equations of the theory have no explicit space or time variables. Geometry appears only in approximations. Objects exist within approximations. Realism is tempered by a strong dose of relationalism. I think we physicists need to discuss with philosophers, because I think we need help in making sense of all this. — Rovelli

    The main point of the book is that there isn’t a single notion of time that is either true or false. — Rovelli

    Time is not absolute but also observer-dependent:

    This 'vanishing' of time for the entire universe becomes very explicit in quantum cosmology, where the time variable simply drops out of the quantum description. It may readily be restored by considering the Universe to be separated into two subsystems: an observer with a clock, and the rest of the Universe. So the observer plays an absolutely crucial role in this respect. — Paul Davies
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    Nobody except perhaps a religious fundamentalist is likely to question 'the age of the universe', because current views on the matter consensually 'work'. Therefore the issue of 'reasonableness' is vacuous. The question is a 'straw man'. However it is also the case that views about 'time' and 'universe' are human constructs open to revision on the basis of 'better' paradigms.fresco

    If our understanding of time, and the universe, are open to revision, then how is it inappropriate to question the age of the universe? Unless we question this, we will not derive those necessary revisions.
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