Thursday, July 26, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fallacies physicists fall for

In his essay “Quantum Mechanics and Ontology” in his anthology Philosophy in an Age of Science, Hilary Putnam notes that “mathematically presented quantum-mechanical theories do not wear their ontologies on their sleeve… the mathematics does not transparently tell us what the theory is about.  Not always, anyhow” (p. 161).  Yet as Putnam also observes:

The reaction to [such] remarks of most physicists would, I fear, be somewhat as follows: “Why bother imposing an ‘ontology’ on quantum mechanics at all?... [Q]uantum mechanics has a precise mathematical language of its own.  If there are problems with that language, they are problems for mathematical physicists, not for philosophers.  And in any case, we know how to use that language to make predictions accurate to a great many decimal places.  If that language does not come with a criterion of ‘ontological commitment,’ so much the worse for ‘ontology.’”…

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Crane and French on science and Aristotelianism

I called attention recently to the new anthology Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science, edited by William Simpson, Robert Koons, and Nicholas Teh, to which I contributed an essay.  (If the price of the print version puts you off, you might consider the much more affordable electronic version.)  Tim Crane reviews the book in the latest First Things.  As I also noted recently, Steven French has reviewed it at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Laws of nature at Fermilab

Recently I spent a day at Fermilab and gave a talk on the topic ”What is a Law of Nature?”  I had a wonderful time and thank the kind folks at Fermilab for their hospitality.  You can now watch the video of the talk at the Fermilab website.  Abstract of the lecture here.  The handout to which I refer in the course of the lecture can be found here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The ad hominem fallacy is a sin

An argumentum ad hominem (or “argument to the man”) is the fallacy committed when, instead of addressing the merits of an argument someone presents you with, you attack the person himself – his motives, some purported character defect, or the like.  This disreputable tactic has, of course, always been common in public controversies, but resort to the fallacy seems these days nearly to have eclipsed rational public discourse.  A large segment of the country has made it a matter of policy never to engage its political opponents at the level of reason, but only ever to demonize them and shout them down.  Even in the Church, recent years have seen the ad hominem routinely deployed against even the most respectful and scholarly critics of Pope Francis’s doctrinally problematic statements concerning divorce and remarriage, capital punishment, and other matters.