This Oxford Handbook provides an overview of many of the topics that currently engage philosophers of physics. It surveys new issues and the problems that have become a focus of attention in recent years. It also provides up-to-date discussions of the still very important problems that dominated the field in the past.
In the late 20th Century, the philosophy of physics was largely focused on orthodox Quantum Mechanics and Relativity Theory. The measurement problem, the question of the possibility of hidden variables, and the nature of quantum locality dominated the literature on the quantum mechanics, whereas questions about relationalism vs. substantivalism, and issues about underdetermination of theories dominated the literature on spacetime. These issues still receive considerable attention from philosophers, but many have shifted their attentions to other questions related to quantum mechanics and to spacetime theories. Quantum field theory has become a major focus, particularly from the point of view of algebraic foundations. Concurrent with these trends, there has been a focus on understanding gauge invariance and symmetries.
The philosophy of physics has evolved even further in recent years with attention being paid to theories that, for the most part, were largely ignored in the past. For example, the relationship between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics-once thought to be a paradigm instance of unproblematic theory reduction-is now a hotly debated topic. The implicit, and sometimes explicit, reductionist methodology of both philosophers and physicists has been severely criticized and attention has now turned to the explanatory and descriptive roles of "non-fundamental,'' phenomenological theories. This shift of attention includes "old'' theories such as classical mechanics, once deemed to be of little philosophical interest. Furthermore, some philosophers have become more interested in "less fundamental'' contemporary physics such as condensed matter theory. Questions abound with implications for the nature of models, idealizations, and explanation in physics. This Handbook showcases all these aspects of this complex and dynamic discipline.
About the Author
Robert Batterman is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Pittsburgh. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence (Oxford, 2002). His work in philosophy of physics focuses primarily upon the area of condensed matter broadly construed.
Table of Contents
1. For a Philosophy of Hydrodynamics Olivier Darrigol
2. What is Classical mechanics anyway? Mark Wilson
3. Causation in Classical Mechanics Sheldon Smith
4. Theories of Matter: Infinities and Renormalization Leo P. Kadanoff
5. Turn and Face the Strange...Ch-ch-changes: Philosophical questions raised by phase transitions Craig Callender and Tarun Menon
6. Effective Field Theories Jonathan Bain
7. The Tyranny of Scales Robert Batterman
8. Symmetry Sorin Bangu
9. Symmetry and Equivalence Gordon Belot
10. Indistinguishability Simon Saunders
11. Unification in Physics Margaret Morrison
12. Measurement and Classical Regime in Quantum Mechanics Guido Bacciagaluppi
13. The Everett Interpretation David Wallace
14. Unitary Equivalence and Physical Equivalence Laura Ruetsche
15. Substantivalist and Relationalist Approaches to Spacetime Oliver Pooley
16. Global Spacetime Structure Jon Byron Manchak
17. Philosophy of Cosmology Chris Smeenk