Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics

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Overview

Hermann Weyl (1885-1955) was one of the twentieth century's most important mathematicians, as well as a seminal figure in the development of quantum physics and general relativity. He was also an eloquent writer with a lifelong interest in the philosophical implications of the startling new scientific developments with which he was so involved. Mind and Nature is a collection of Weyl's most important general writings on philosophy, mathematics, and physics, including pieces that have never before been published in any language or translated into English, or that have long been out of print. Complete with Peter Pesic's introduction, notes, and bibliography, these writings reveal an unjustly neglected dimension of a complex and fascinating thinker. In addition, the book includes more than twenty photographs of Weyl and his family and colleagues, many of which are previously unpublished.

Included here are Weyl's exposition of his important synthesis of electromagnetism and gravitation, which Einstein at first hailed as "a first-class stroke of genius"; two little-known letters by Weyl and Einstein from 1922 that give their contrasting views on the philosophical implications of modern physics; and an essay on time that contains Weyl's argument that the past is never completed and the present is not a point. Also included are two book-length series of lectures, The Open World (1932) and Mind and Nature (1934), each a masterly exposition of Weyl's views on a range of topics from modern physics and mathematics. Finally, four retrospective essays from Weyl's last decade give his final thoughts on the interrelations among mathematics, philosophy, and physics, intertwined with reflections on the course of his rich life.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
This work edited by Pesic is an interesting collection of Hermann Weyl's essays, letters, and manuscripts. Though Weyl certainly made important contributions to mathematics and physics, this collection gives a broader picture of his work and thinking. Including many previously unpublished works and photographs, Mind and Nature presents what Weyl saw as the connections between mathematics, physics, and metaphysics.
Physics Today
Weyl's Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics is of more interest to historians or to philosophers like me, but I still heartily recommend it to physicists and mathematicians. A selection of philosophical writings from the period 1921-55, it is beautifully edited with an introduction and scholarly endnotes by Peter Pesic. Mind and Nature includes several treasures. . . . What a pleasure, what a privilege, to read and contemplate Hermann Weyl's monumental achievements.
— Jeremy Butterfield
Mathematics Teacher
Edited by Peter Pesic . . . these works show a side of Weyl deeply concerned about the nature of infinity, knowledge, and truth. . . . Rarely are we given insights into the thinking of great mathematicians of the past. Even more rarely are we given their thinking presented with such thought and obvious care. This book should produce a reflective response among the teachers of mathematics who read it.
MAA Reviews
[T]hese books have much to stimulate the philosopher of science today, perhaps because of, rather than in spite of the heavily idealistic leanings. More importantly, they still have much to offer the philosophically minded physicist and mathematician.
— Jeremy Gray
Metascience
Pesic has collected here a selection of Weyl's writings that beautifully present the underlying synthesis of philosophy, mathematics and physics in his work, and in particular those that have remained unpublished, untranslated or that have simply fallen out if print. . . . One must be content with dipping into these essays and relishing their fecundity and insight.
— Steven French
Physics Today - Jeremy Butterfield
Weyl's Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics is of more interest to historians or to philosophers like me, but I still heartily recommend it to physicists and mathematicians. A selection of philosophical writings from the period 1921-55, it is beautifully edited with an introduction and scholarly endnotes by Peter Pesic. Mind and Nature includes several treasures. . . . What a pleasure, what a privilege, to read and contemplate Hermann Weyl's monumental achievements.
MAA Reviews - Jeremy Gray
[T]hese books have much to stimulate the philosopher of science today, perhaps because of, rather than in spite of the heavily idealistic leanings. More importantly, they still have much to offer the philosophically minded physicist and mathematician.
Metascience - Steven French
Pesic has collected here a selection of Weyl's writings that beautifully present the underlying synthesis of philosophy, mathematics and physics in his work, and in particular those that have remained unpublished, untranslated or that have simply fallen out if print. . . . One must be content with dipping into these essays and relishing their fecundity and insight.
From the Publisher

"This work edited by Pesic is an interesting collection of Hermann Weyl's essays, letters, and manuscripts. Though Weyl certainly made important contributions to mathematics and physics, this collection gives a broader picture of his work and thinking. Including many previously unpublished works and photographs, Mind and Nature presents what Weyl saw as the connections between mathematics, physics, and metaphysics."--Choice

"Weyl's Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics is of more interest to historians or to philosophers like me, but I still heartily recommend it to physicists and mathematicians. A selection of philosophical writings from the period 1921-55, it is beautifully edited with an introduction and scholarly endnotes by Peter Pesic. Mind and Nature includes several treasures. . . . What a pleasure, what a privilege, to read and contemplate Hermann Weyl's monumental achievements."--Jeremy Butterfield, Physics Today

"Edited by Peter Pesic . . . these works show a side of Weyl deeply concerned about the nature of infinity, knowledge, and truth. . . . Rarely are we given insights into the thinking of great mathematicians of the past. Even more rarely are we given their thinking presented with such thought and obvious care. This book should produce a reflective response among the teachers of mathematics who read it."--Mathematics Teacher

"[T]hese books have much to stimulate the philosopher of science today, perhaps because of, rather than in spite of the heavily idealistic leanings. More importantly, they still have much to offer the philosophically minded physicist and mathematician."--Jeremy Gray, MAA Reviews

"Pesic has collected here a selection of Weyl's writings that beautifully present the underlying synthesis of philosophy, mathematics and physics in his work, and in particular those that have remained unpublished, untranslated or that have simply fallen out if print. . . . One must be content with dipping into these essays and relishing their fecundity and insight."--Steven French, Metascience

Choice
This work edited by Pesic is an interesting collection of Hermann Weyl's essays, letters, and manuscripts. Though Weyl certainly made important contributions to mathematics and physics, this collection gives a broader picture of his work and thinking. Including many previously unpublished works and photographs, Mind and Nature presents what Weyl saw as the connections between mathematics, physics, and metaphysics.
Physics Today
Weyl's Mind and Nature: Selected Writings on Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics is of more interest to historians or to philosophers like me, but I still heartily recommend it to physicists and mathematicians. A selection of philosophical writings from the period 1921-55, it is beautifully edited with an introduction and scholarly endnotes by Peter Pesic. Mind and Nature includes several treasures. . . . What a pleasure, what a privilege, to read and contemplate Hermann Weyl's monumental achievements.
— Jeremy Butterfield
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691135458
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter Pesic is Tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His books include "Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability and Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature".
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Table of Contents


Introduction 1
1921 Ch 1. Electricity and Gravitation 20
1922 Ch 2. Two Letters by Einstein and Weyl on a Metaphysical Question 25
1927 Ch 3. Time Relations in the Cosmos, Proper Time, Lived Time, and Metaphysical Time 29
1932 Ch 4. The Open World: Three Lectures on the Metaphysical Implications of Science 34
1934 Ch 5. Mind and Nature 83
1946 Ch 6. Address at the Princeton Bicentennial Conference 162
ca.1949 Ch 7. Man and the Foundations of Science 175
1954 Ch 8. The Unity of Knowledge 194
1955 Ch 9. Insight and Reflection 204
Notes 223
References 241
Acknowledgments 253
Index 255
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