Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Theoretical Physics

Rate this topic


Rainer
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Quantum Field Theory, Theory of Relativity, and M-Theory.

I have studied Objectivism and read/had many discussions on things like Quantum Superposition.

I wonder if hundreds of years of bad epistemology has ruined physics. Is physics dead?

For the most part, Quantum Superposition seems to be made into a bigger deal than it is--it doesn't violate the Law of Identity...well...it may...but if it were to, then we all know what that would mean.

As for General Relativity...I'm do not have a M.S. in Physics...but I've noticed a certain Objectivist from ARI hold a slight misconception of General and Special Relativity.

Anyways, normally I don't ask questions, but this might be the only time I will: I want to know if there is an official Objectivist position on theoretical physics I can study.

Thanks,

Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder if hundreds of years of bad epistemology has ruined physics.  Is physics dead?

I think it is important to separate the philosophically minded theoreticians in physics ( a relative handful) who, in general, suffer from a rather poor epistemology and metaphysics, from the overwhelming number of practicing physicsts who are predominantly rational and evince a rather healthy epistemology. To this last I would add, it is of necessity, since the nature of the work requires direct contact with reality. How else could we have achieved the magnificent advances in our understanding of and control over the world in which we live? Need I mention lasers, magnetic resonance imaging, computers, Global Positioning System, scanning electron microscope, etc. ...

As for General Relativity...I'm do not have a M.S. in Physics...but I've noticed a certain Objectivist from ARI hold a slight misconception of General and Special Relativity.

Anyways, normally I don't ask questions, but this might be the only time I will: I want to know if there is an official Objectivist position on theoretical physics I can study.

The only "official Objectivist position" on anything is that which Ayn Rand wrote on the subject and those writings which were approved by her during her lifetime. There is hardly anything in this category written on physics. In the appendix to Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology there is some discussion relating to science in general, but Miss Rand was not a physicist and primarily discussed science from a philosophical perspective.

Is there some specific question(s) that you have?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only "official Objectivist position" on anything is that which Ayn Rand wrote on the subject and those writings which were approved by her during her lifetime.

More than that, even if Rand had taken positions on physics, they would be outside the scope of philosophy. In other words, they still wouldn't be an "official Objectivist position."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More than that, even if Rand had taken positions on physics, they would be outside the scope of philosophy. In other words, they still wouldn't be an "official Objectivist position."

Yes, but to the degree that Miss Rand expressed views outside of philosophy -- and god knows she expressed quite a bit! -- since she was the first Objectivist one could construe those views as being part of an "offical Objectivist position," though not a part of the philosophy of Objectivism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Physics contribution to technology is glorious indeed.

But I have been considering getting my B.S. in Physics at the moment, and while I've come in contact with a lot of freakish physicists in my time, it never deterred me.

But what has been irritating me is that I think Einstein has been the only one who has advanced theoretical science with a rational epistemology. Einstein was an epistemologist who espoused neither conventional rationalism or empiricism. Basically, as far as I know, he wasn't a total victim of a variation of the analytical-synthetic dichotomy--and I think general and special relativity were genuinely good contributions.

Einstein said something about how a neglect of epistemology by the entire field of physics could catch up down the road. He didn't say that it would be doomed--but I almost wonder if it has hit that point.

Some physicists working on M-Theory have said that the epistemology that has lead physics so far may not be able to handle reality any longer. Of course, every fellow physics major I've met has either laughed at the suggestion that the all-mighty scientific method and physics are somehow dependant upon "soft" philosophy. Others have told me that Jesus or someone will lead us.

I'm not slamming the scientific method...but if it were flawed, and combined with the epistemology of most physicists is going to lead to a few centuries of wild-goose chasing.

All I want to know is if there is hope for Physics (which only Objectivism could possibly grant)...if indeed it is doomed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All I want to know is if there is hope for Physics (which only Objectivism could possibly grant)...if indeed it is doomed.

Rainer, every classical field of physics has advanced substantially since the nineteenth-century, and entirely new fields have been created. The classical views of mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, etc. now have a much broader perspective than before, and there is a cetain synergy which unites many different classical fields under broader principles discovered in the twentieth-century. Now we also have, not only relativity and quantum mechanics, but serious inquiries into condensed matter physics, plasma physics, etc.

Indeed, theory on the fundamental level can (and has) benefited from the philosophical foundation of Objectivism, and to the degree that Objectivism effects changes in our culture then to that degree the sciences will follow. But, keep in mind that science already represents a true beacon of rationality and accomplishment, the highest of what our culture offers. If our society is not doomed, then certainly physics is not doomed. If you want to help in leading the way, if you love physics enough, then go and get that degree(s) you want and show the others where your hope leads.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny, I've met English majors who would make better physicists than most physicists I know.

Anyways, I suppose no matter which direction I go, living the Objectivist's life is a daunting one. If physics is in a bad way, as it seems, it will take a lot of untangling--more than a lifetime of work. As I am recalling more and more of it all I am reminded of how messed up it is. I'll keep trying to understand the epistemology of science before I entirely reject it as a career.

Most of the work in philosophy is done as well--so two major passions of mine hold no promise of original and exciting work...not for philosophy mainly.

Maybe I'm thinking of the universe as malevolent.

Or maybe I'll just be an English major.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Funny, I've met English majors who would make better physicists than most physicists I know.

I suspect you live a somewhat sheltered life.

Most of the work in philosophy is done as well--so two major passions of mine hold no promise of original and exciting work...not for philosophy mainly.

Maybe I'm thinking of the universe as malevolent.

Or maybe I'll just be an English major.

Yikes! If you really think that philosophy and physics "hold no promise of original and exciting work," then perhaps you should become an English major. :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't quite understand what you mean, and I hope you weren't making an effort to be insulting.

I took what you said seriously ("[philosophy and physics] hold no promise of original and exciting work") and I answered in all seriousness: if that is what you really believe then you would be better off in another field. Afterall, why would anyone choose to make a career in work that was boring and un-original?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are those who would pursue uninterested things....

I think it is a misunderstanding. Philosophy is MAINLY where original work is impossible, or it seems, I can serve no role greater than some soldier for Objectivism. If I want to be a professional philosopher I'd end up writing short bits on technical aspects...which have pre-established fundamentals...so I would not be working on anything original; not in the sense that I mean it. I wouldn't want to be original in that sense.

If I am wrong, I hope someone will tell me.

As for physics, I admit there can be some original and new work possible. I'm still open to physics--it just may not be worth 8 years of being told weird epistemology and being asked to apply it, for a doctorate. Hell, 4 years could be a stretch for me.

What I was referring to mostly by "I hope you were not making an effort to be insulting." Was the comment "I suspect you live a somewhat sheltered life."

Not that I was at all insulted....

Anyways, thanks for discussing this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is a misunderstanding. Philosophy is MAINLY where original work is impossible, or it seems, I can serve no role greater than some soldier for Objectivism.  If I want to be a professional philosopher I'd end up writing short bits on technical aspects...which have pre-established fundamentals...so I would not be working on anything original; not in the sense that I mean it.  I wouldn't want to be original in that sense. 

If I am wrong, I hope someone will tell me.

Would you consider, for instance, the development of a complete theory of induction that was consistent with Objectivist principles to be unoriginal and just a minor point done by a menial "soldier for Objectivism?" I would not.

As for physics, I admit there can be some original and new work possible.  I'm still open to physics--it just may not be worth 8 years of being told weird epistemology and being asked to apply it, for a doctorate.  Hell, 4 years could be a stretch for me.
We seem to have two different views of the state of physics.

What I was referring to mostly by "I hope you were not making an effort to be insulting."  Was the comment "I suspect you live a somewhat sheltered life."

If anything, it was your remark ("Funny, I've met English majors who would make better physicists than most physicists I know.") that was insulting, not my response. What you said was insulting and demeaning to physicists, and what I said was meant to imply that perhaps you have not really met many real physicists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the work in philosophy is done as well--so two major passions of mine hold no promise of original and exciting work...not for philosophy mainly.

Objectivists are prolific and they have indeed covered a vast amount of intellectual territory: from epistemology to law to financing to history to romance...you name it! But this is a testament rather than a blockade to the amount of work that can still be done in philosophy, all of it original and exciting.

The formal philosophy of Objectivism is composed of Miss Rand's writings and those of which she approved during her lifetime. There is, of course, nothing more that can be added to philosophy in this sense since she is gone (God bless her). But we are still in the inductive stage in our development of a philosophy of reason. Look at Dr. Peikoff's recent lectures on induction or Dr. Binswanger's recent lectures on consciousness. Both of these are groundbreaking lectures. It is an exciting time to be an Objectivist!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If anything, it was your remark ("Funny, I've met English majors who would make better physicists than most physicists I know.") that was insulting, not my response.

Yeah, sorry.

We seem to have two different views of the state of physics.

I'm not certain of mine. I'm curious what another objectivist would think. So, what is your view?

Anyways, thanks to all so far. I'm just trying to sort things out--thanks for the help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Philosophy is a professional field--and if you specialize in Objectivism, I would consider it to be the most rational field one would ever come across. Science would be second.

I know what you meant though. Anyways, I assumed you would have more to say than that. But if not, then I'll venture to say I'm not in disagreement with you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is not uncommon for students to leave studing physics because they are dismayed with the poor epistemology in the presentation and understanding of modern theoretical physics. One alternative is to put up with it, learning it without accepting it as right, in order to stay in the field and either try to eventually straighten it out or to go on to specialize in some area that is already more sensible.

Another approach is to leave theoretical physics and find a curriculum in "applied physics" or "engineering physics" or "applied mathematics" which concentrates on advanced study of some area of "classical" physics (whatever they call the program).

Stephen Speicher pointed out earlier,

The classical views of mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, etc. now have a much broader perspective than before, and there is a cetain synergy which unites many different classical fields under broader principles discovered in the twentieth-century.
There are many such areas in which different kinds of research is being done. No one who likes physics and is good at it should have to leave the field entirely just because they don't "get along" with quantum mechanics and the presentations and formulations of related contemporary aspects of modern advanced physics.

Quantum Mechanic said

I left the field of physics because of some of the things discussed here... Math seems to be the last area of science nearly untouchable by irrationality.

Beyond the fact that mathematics at least still follows strict rules of logic, it has not been immune from the affects of bad epistemology. Any field you go into will require thinking very hard about epistemology if you want to really understand it and not just follow the trends.

This is not something you can do with an understanding of Objectivist epistemology alone or a with a knowledge of the technical subject matter alone. The philosophies of the special sciences (philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, etc.) necessarily require an explicit understanding and accounting of the subject matter as well as sound general epistemological principles. There is an enormous potential for good work in any of these fields at many different levels of theory and application -- they are wide open.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
You know, I left the field of physics because of some of the things discussed here.

I am now pursuing a couple of math degrees.  It seems to be the last area of science nearly untouchable by irrationality.  (that was a very, very bad pun)

Maybe I can draw you back in. I've turned physics inside out by applying objectivist reasoning to common observation at www.dynamictensegrity.com. We've been looking at things backwards. The aether component of an aether/matter system is by far the more massive. As such, it is the driver, the matter is just along for the ride. This is one of two fundamentals you have to understand to accept the Dynamic Tensegrity model. The other is that there is no such thing as "empty space". If there were truly nothing between two objects, they would be adjacent by definition. There's a new sherriff in town, Dynamic Tensegrity. If you find it has merit, pass it on. As Buckminster Fuller once said "If the truth is known, tell it, and tell it right now!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've turned physics inside out by applying objectivist reasoning to common observation at www.dynamictensegrity.com.

What you call "reasoning" has little to do with Objectivism, whether you spell it with a small "o" or with a capital "O" as it should be spelled. You should just refer to your physics theory as your own and leave Objectivism out of it entirely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...