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Appearance and Reality

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics

Peter Kosso

Publication Date - August 1997

ISBN: 9780195115154

208 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $89.99

Provides a clear, accessible introduction to the philosophy of physics without using mathematics


Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics addresses quantum mechanics and relativity and their philosophical implications, focusing on whether these theories of modern physics can help us know nature as it really is, or only as it appears to us. The author clearly explains the foundational concepts and principles of both quantum mechanics and relativity and then uses them to argue that we can know more than mere appearances, and that we can know to some extent the way things really are. He argues that modern physics gives us reason to believe that we can know some things about the objective, real world, but he also acknowledges that we cannot know everything, which results in a position he calls "realistic realism." This book is not a survey of possible philosophical interpretations of modern physics, nor does it leap from a caricature of the physics to some wildly alarming metaphysics. Instead, it is careful with the physics and true to the evidence in arriving at its own realistic conclusions. It presents the physics without mathematics, and makes extensive use of diagrams and analogies to explain important ideas. Engaging and accessible, Appearance and Reality serves as an ideal introduction for anyone interested in the intersection of philosophy and physics, including students in philosophy of physics and philosophy of science courses.

About the Author(s)

Peter Kosso is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of Reading the Book of Nature (1992) and Observability and Observation in Physical Science (1989).

Table of Contents

    1. Physics and Philosophy
    Why This Will Require Both Physics and Philosophy
    Standards of Proof
    From Physics to Philosophy
    Useful Philosophical Concepts
    Philosophical Issues
    Philosophical Evidence
    2. Appearance and Reality
    Scientific Observation
    The Conceptual Influence
    The Physical Influence
    Nature as It Is
    Philosophical Arguments about Realism
    Return to Bohr
    3. The Special Theory of Relativity
    The Principle of Relativity
    Space and Time
    Relative and Absolute Properties
    The Foundations of the Special Theory of Relativity
    Consequences of the Absolute Speed of Light
    The Relativity of Simultaneity
    Time Dilation
    Length Contraction
    Mitch's Paradox
    Nothing Can Go Faster Than the Speed of Light
    Summary of the Special Theory of Relativity
    4. The General Theory of Relativity
    General Covariance and the Principle of Equivalence
    Consequences of General Covariance and the Principle of Equivalence
    The Bending of Light
    Gravitational Red-shift (Time Dilation)
    The Curvature of Spacetime
    Mach's Principle
    Summary of the General Theory of Relativity
    5. Relativity and Realism
    Two Separate Questions
    The Way Nature Is
    How Do We Know the Theory is True?
    6. Quantum Mechanics
    Probability, Cause and Effect, and Determinism
    Particles and Waves
    The State Function, Complementarity, and the Uncertainty Principle
    Spin and the EPR Experiment
    Bell's Proof
    Summary of Quantum Mechanics
    7. Quantum Mechanics and Realism
    What to Make of Bell's Proof
    The Quantum/Classical Distinction
    The Copenhagen Interpretation
    The Measurement Problem
    Alternative Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics
    The Many-words Interpretation
    The Consciousness Interpretation
    It's All Quantum Mechanics
    Bohm's Theory
    8. Realistic Realm
    Two Kinds of Questions: Metaphysics and Epistemology
    The Metaphysical Issue
    The Epistemological Issue
    It's Not the End of the World
    References and Suggested Reading
    Philosophical Background
    Quantum Mechanics
    Historical and Biographical Accounts
    Primary Sources