Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Invitation to a talk by:

Dr Kristian
                            CamilleriDr Kristian Camilleri,
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne:

The Physicist as Philosopher: Divergent Ideals of the Unity of Knowledge, 1930–1960

Book cover, Heisenberg and the
                          interpretation of quantum mechanicsThe first decades of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of a new figure on the European intellectual landscape – the philosopher-physicist. During this period many leading physicists cast themselves in the role of philosophers as they grappled with the transformation in the foundations of their discipline and even with wider questions. Einstein, Weyl, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Bohr were among the more prominent physicists of this era who saw their work as physicists as deeply connected with philosophy. Much of the recent historical scholarship has focused on the epistemological problems posed by new developments in relativity and quantum theory, and the debates over the status of space, time and causality that took place in the 1920s and 30s. While this is certainly one important aspect of the kind of philosophical activity that physicists engaged in, it represents only part of a much larger story. In this paper, I argue that a more complete understanding of the philosophical ambitions of the philosopher-physicist requires that we pay attention to the discourse on the ‘unity of knowledge’, which rose to prominence during this period. While this is normally associated with ‘unity of science’ movement spearheaded by Otto Neurath, one can find a wide range of different views on this subject. In this talk I will attempt to trace two dominant perspectives on the unity of knowledge that emerged in the 1930s and 40s: (i) the positivist-enlightenment and (ii) the neo-humanist ideal. Each represented a different response to question of the value of science and its relationship to philosophy.

Werner Heisenberg
Hermann Weyl
Erwin Schrödinger
Wolfgang Pauli
Werner Heisenberg
Hermann Weyl
Erwin Schrödinger

tirsdag, den 7. maj 2013, kl. 17.00

Info om selskabet
In English