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Thread: Philosophy and science and Relativity

  1. #1 Philosophy and science and Relativity 
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    Is there really do you think a difference between science/physics and philosophy?

    Really, do they not all speak of relativity?

    General Relativity, Special Relativity, Thought experiments - is there a blurred line between Schroedinger's cat and a philosophical thought experiment?

    If all things are relative to the observer, who or what is the observer? All things too?
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  2. #2  
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    Here's an old joke:

    The dean calls in the chair of the physics department one day to complain. "You people are so expensive with your lab equipment. Why can't you be more like the math department? All they need are pencils and trash cans. Or how about the philosophy department? They don't even need trash cans!"
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    Perhaps to the philosopher, trash does not exist?
    Maybe she (the philospher) is non existentialist? (and yes it did hurt my brain to think that up) :-)
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    I think it's more a reference to the fact that they talk about it so don't need paper. LOL.
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    Ah so Jilan G Hopper!

    I think, so (according to Rene Desartes) there-to-for I am.

    If I do not think - do I have to go Zen then?
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    G Hopper, you've lost me sorry!
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    It is a reference to an old TV show called "Kung Fu" - where there the main character in the show is in a high phase of learning and is asked what he hears by an old blind man who although old and blind is totally an awesome person. The young young man replies in various intellecual ways, and the old blind man replies "but do you hear the grasshopper at your feet?" The learning one is from then on often referred to as "G"rass Hopper. It probably loses a lot in my translation.
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    Ah so, if you said Grasshopper I would have got it!
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    Is there really do you think a difference between science/physics and philosophy?
    Yes. Very much so. However it's been argued, and I agree, that you can't do physics without doing philosophy at the same time. My site is private and I don't wish to give away my identity so if you'd like to read it a paper I have on the subject then I'll PM the URL of the paper I have on my website. Just send me a PM to let me know.

    I made sure that when I was an undergraduate I took philosophy of physics. If you're interested in the subject and want to read more about it then I can give you the references to some great books on the subject. But be warned; it's not an easy subject to follow!
    Last edited by Physicist; 09-07-2014 at 04:41 PM.
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    Yes, quite interesting. A philosophy about physics and its purpose. Now it would seem to me a reasonable thing to think that there are reasons to reason, and to my way of thinking, we are after all, all thinking beings. So in physics we experiment yes? Not only do we experiment, we also think. One could not experiment very effectually without a good deal of thought, I don't think.

    Philosophy can be about physics, but can physics be about philosophy? The very name "physics" suggests it is about the physical, but the mind may not be limited to the physical, I think.
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  11. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    Philosophy can be about physics, but can physics be about philosophy? The very name "physics" suggests it is about the physical, but the mind may not be limited to the physical, I think.
    That's hard to say in general but there might be specific cases where it can be. I've just never thought about it before. Can you give me an example?
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    What example are you asking for?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    What example are you asking for?
    An example of how physics could be about philosophy? I.e. what would it mean or imply? Just some idea of what you mean by that. Thanks.
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    I am not sure it can be. Physics is about physics, and I guess to me, philosophy is about everything, because to me it is about the mind, and things that we cannot experiment on in science and physics, but the mind does certainly not ignore physics, in fact it is the mind that comes up with ideas like space and time. I think modern quantum physics is starting to see though that the mind actually has effects on the physical world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    I am not sure it can be. Physics is about physics, and I guess to me, philosophy is about everything, because to me it is about the mind, and things that we cannot experiment on in science and physics, but the mind does certainly not ignore physics, in fact it is the mind that comes up with ideas like space and time. I think modern quantum physics is starting to see though that the mind actually has effects on the physical world.
    To see what philosophy is all about please see Philosophy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Is it better than Stanford Universities ideas? Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post

    You've got me. I'm a physicist/mathematician, not a philosopher. Sorry.
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    Physicist. Everyone is a philosopher and you are for sure a good thinker, and you have created and will continue to create your own paradigms and philosophical systems as we all will.

    There are just unlimited ways we can approach and think about the world.

    Consider your math. I am no mathemetician, I can barely spell calculus, but all these math systems are made from the minds of people, are they not?
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  19. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    Everyone is a philosopher and you are for sure a good thinker...
    You are very kind. Tell that to x0x too. Lol!! He's been spreading trash about me on this forum since I got here with claims about how stupid I am. We ignore him of course but it confuses newbies.

    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    I can barely spell calculus, ...
    Me too.

    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    ...but all these math systems are made from the minds of people, are they not?
    Yup.
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    Dear Physicist...
    Quote Originally Posted by Physicist View Post
    To see what philosophy is all about please see Philosophy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    ...the Wikipedia article is necessarily a very general one, but what matters relevant to physics is the nature of space and time in their relation to matter.

    Space & time are primary conditions of our existence hence vitally important as philosophical subjects - the fact that we get all these paradoxes from special relativity (SR) indicates the philosophical nature of space & time. They are not reducible to mere scientific study by physics - those who claim otherwise being merely confused positivists.

    Problem is that most physicists do not understand philosophy at all - Einstein the spectacular exception!

    TFOLZO.
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    Is there really do you think a difference between science/physics and philosophy?
    On the surface yes, these are very different disciplines; however, the ultimate aim is the same in both approaches, namely a desire to better understand the universe and our place in it. Physics approaches this aim by asking how the universe works, whereas philosophy asks why it works that way, with a particular focus on the role of the human mind in all of this. I do not understand these two disciplines to be diametrically opposed, they are just two different ways to tackle the same issue - our desire to better understand ourselves and the universe we live in. I think physics and philosophy complement each other in important ways.
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  22. #22  
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    I beleive someone agees with you Markus!


    "I have long thought that Western science and Eastern philosophy should join together to create a really complete and full-fledged human being for the modern world. Only in this way will we emerge strengthened from our present condition and become whole". (1)
    -His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama
    History of Madhyamika
    The Sanskrit word "Madhyamika" means "one who holds to the middle". The concept of "The Middle Way" in Buddhism begins with the Buddha's description of his path to enlightenment as one which avoids the extremes of indulging in worldly pleasures, on the one hand, and engaging in severe ascetic practices on the other. The Middle Way of Madhyamika refers to the teachings of Nagarjuna, who, at a time when the Mahayana teachings were falling into decline, wrote his Six Treatises, four of which directly expound the doctrine of sunyata, or emptiness.
    Emptiness refers to the ultimate nature of all things. It is the key concept in this physics. One who correctly understands emptiness is described as free from the extremes of existence and annihilation. To fall to the extreme of existence is to hold that, in the final analysis, phenomena truly exist. To fall to the extreme of annihilation is to hold that phenomena don't have any kind of existence at all. According to the theory of emptiness, phenomena exist in a relative state only, a kind of 'ontological relativity'. The term used to describe this mode of existence is dependent arising, which describes how it is that something which is empty of true existence can have any sort of existence - only in relation to something else. Phenomena are regarded as dependent events rather than things which have their own inherent nature; thus the extreme of permanence is avoided. By the same token, dependent existence is something more than none, and so annihilation is avoided. These doctrines of emptiness and dependent arising are central to all schools of Madhyamika.
    The works of Nagarjuna and his immediate follower Aryadeva are considered the basis of interpretation and understanding by later Madhyamikas. There is much that the two "Model Text" Madhyamikas did not directly establish, however, and in the centuries after their passing (the dates are disputed, but essentially we are talking about the first few centuries A.D./ Common Era) the loopholes were exploited by various scholars interested in establishing their notions on these open subjects as the highest interpretation. There are many ways in which the different interpretations were and are divided into "schools of thought" or "tenet systems", etc. In India, the scholars seem to have been content to argue their positions without concerning themselves about labeling their system. When Buddhism began to spread into Tibet, however, the effort to organize and delineate the arguments led to various systems of classification.
    During the early propagation of Buddhism in Tibet (c. 650-850 CE), one way to divide the schools of Madhyamika was to use the position held regarding certain aspects of ultimate truth, a method Tsongkapa (2) described as deluded.(3) Using position on the conventional (as opposed to ultimate) status of external objects as the criterium was an improvement, in that it classified schools of Madhyamika in a way that reflected the source-school of their assertions. Here, the system of Bhavaviveka, which attributed conventional existence to external objects, was called Sautrantika-Madhyamika, and the system of Santaraksita, which denied conventional existence to externals, was aptly named Yogacara-Madhyamika. This situation was nevertheless deficient because it failed to include the position of Candrakirti, who made even more subtle distinctions on the nature of external objects.
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    Lord Kelvin was one of the leading physicists of his generation. He was Professor at the University of Glasgow for five decades. The current physics building in the university is called the Kelvin building in honour of him. When I was an undergraduate there the building had a prominent sign on its facade declaring, Department of Natural Philosophy.

    Physics and the other sciences grew out of philosophy. Without logic, a branch of philosophy, the scientific method could not be practiced. And explication of that method was arguably best handled, not by a scientist, but by the philosopher Karl Popper.

    I'm slightly surprised no one else has mentioned any of these links between physics and philosophy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Hanke View Post
    On the surface yes, these are very different disciplines; however, the ultimate aim is the same in both approaches, namely a desire to better understand the universe and our place in it. Physics approaches this aim by asking how the universe works, whereas philosophy asks why it works that way, with a particular focus on the role of the human mind in all of this. I do not understand these two disciplines to be diametrically opposed, they are just two different ways to tackle the same issue - our desire to better understand ourselves and the universe we live in. I think physics and philosophy complement each other in important ways.
    It's the domain of inquiry that is different with philosophy. By this I mean that philosophy seeks to help us determine things such as what the sources of knowledge are, how do we know what we know etc.

    Some of the areas of inquiry are Epistemology, Logic, Metaphysics, Ethics and political philosophy, Aesthetics etc. One of my favorite areas, the one that I actively use a great deal of my time in physics, is logic, i.e. the study of the principles of correct reasoning.
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    I've really enjoyed a lot of the Buddhist philosophical approaches - they are certainly challenging to my western mind but also very interesting for me. It seems to me they tend to regard mind as also a function of the space-time continuum. I am not sure how scientifically accurate this article I found is, but it does bring up some interesting parallels with quantum physics... Rational Buddhism: Buddhism, Quantum Physics and Mind
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    It's the domain of inquiry that is different with philosophy.
    Thank you, "domain of inquiry" is the term I was looking for
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    So what does domain of inquiry mean to you? Probably more importantly to me personally at this point in time to me Markus, is what does freedom of speech mean to you? When you impede this on others, or hire others to impede their freedom, just what do you think you do to yourself and unto others? It does not matter how much math you know if you do not use it wisely and humanely with acceptance of all.

    Do you understand this? It is the domain of the inquiry of philosophy. As you said, the "why"
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    So what does domain of inquiry mean to you? Probably more importantly to me personally at this point in time to me Markus, is what does freedom of speech mean to you? When you impede this on others, or hire others to impede their freedom, just what do you think you do to yourself and unto others? It does not matter how much math you know if you do not use it wisely and humanely with acceptance of all.

    Do you understand this? It is the domain of the inquiry of philosophy. As you said, the "why"
    I believe what he meant was that even though the ultimate aim is the same for both philosophy and physics it is philosophy that seeks to help us determine things such as what the sources of knowledge are, how do we know what we know etc., not physics.

    Markus knows what freedom of speech is as much as anybody else. Freedom of speech means that you have the right to your own opinion and you have the right to apply and be granted a permit to speak your views in public or in the appropriate way on the internet. This does not mean that freedom of speech means that you can go on any forum and say what you want to to anyone who is willing to listen to them. However there are always restrictions imposed on it by the government.

    See Freedom of speech - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas using one's body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

    Every government restricts speech to some degree. Common limitations on speech relate to: libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, hate speech, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, right to privacy, right to be forgotten, and campaign finance reform. Whether these limitations can be justified under the harm principle depends upon whether influencing a third party's opinions or actions adversely to the second party constitutes such harm or not.
    Notice the part about hate speech. Some members were speaking out with hatred and that's illegal.
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    I didn't really see people speaking out with hatred. Beer with Straw was banned, where was he (or she) ever being hateful?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    I didn't really see people speaking out with hatred.
    I wasn't talking about you or what you've seen. I was talking in general. But I've seen it myself because I have previous knowledge of a person I know saying certain things which I knew he meant as being hateful. Knowing them for over 16 years and being cyber stalked by them all that time and been the subject of constant cruelty by them I learned quickly to read between the lines of what they were saying and it was filled with meanness and hatred.
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    Physicist - you can pm me about this if you wish.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    Yes, quite interesting. A philosophy about physics and its purpose. Now it would seem to me a reasonable thing to think that there are reasons to reason, and to my way of thinking, we are after all, all thinking beings. So in physics we experiment yes? Not only do we experiment, we also think. One could not experiment very effectually without a good deal of thought, I don't think.

    Philosophy can be about physics, but can physics be about philosophy? The very name "physics" suggests it is about the physical, but the mind may not be limited to the physical, I think.
    Dear Mayflow,

    I found the text that I was talking about. The book is called Classical Charged Particles by Fritz Rohrlich (2007). You can download it from Classical Charged Particles (3rd Ed.) | F. Rohrlich | digital library BookOS

    The first chapter is entitled Philosophy and Logic of Physical Theory. The first page in the first chapter reads, in part
    These and similar questions clearly indicate that ignoring philosophy in physics means not understanding physics. For there is no theoretical physics without some philosophy; not admitting this fact would be self deception.
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    I myself consider both discipline to be cousin, in the tree of discipline. They have(or should have) in common rationality, reason/logic, and knowledge as main guideline.

    I think philosophy goals is to gain "wisdom". Some kind of knowledge that would help you organize you real life, your "social" interaction with the world. There is a gene in philosophy that make it self aware, reasonable.

    Science goals is indeed to build the "how", to understand inner working of things. But science is never to be wise about anything. The gene as muted to be self critic not self aware.

    Sometime philosophy ans science domains overlaps, sometimes not.

    I like the site less-wrong.com which is some kind of boundaries between the two.
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    Thanks, Boeing, I will check out lesswrong.com - I registered, but it will be a while before I can look around very much. Looks like some pretty smart and quite unique thinking going on there.
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    lesswrong.com
    Interesting ! I might have a snoop around there myself
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  36. #36  
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    Is there really do you think a difference between science/physics and philosophy?

    Really, do they not all speak of relativity?

    General Relativity, Special Relativity, Thought experiments - is there a blurred line between Schroedinger's cat and a philosophical thought experiment?

    If all things are relative to the observer, who or what is the observer? All things too?
    You are repeating an old confusion: between relativity ( a field of physics) and relativism ( a branch of philosophy) . This error has been going on ever science the theory of relativity was first published.
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    Quote Originally Posted by xOx
    You are repeating an old confusion: between relativity ( a field of physics) and relativism ( a branch of philosophy) . This error has been going on ever science the theory of relativity was first published.
    Might you care to explain further?
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    I'll borrow that quote from the definition of relativism.
    Quote Originally Posted by wiki
    the term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference,
    I've always find strange that "science relativity", which in fact create an absolute truth, or more like an absolute recipe to connect all local truths, is called "relativity" and and not "relation-ability".

    But the notion are not so different, especially the bold part. That's where philosophy is too vague for me, or too much self contradictory. Relativism being that the only truth is that all truths are true. Not a very functional definition.
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    If by the speed of light in a vacuum, you mean an absolute truth, in philosophy I know of, a vacuum does not exist without non-vacuums as well. They are as relative to one another, as light is to dark.

    In philosphy I know of it goes something like this: Absolute Truth truth has a slightly different ring to it. Absolute in itself means something that is perfect or complete.

    An absolute truth would be 'yin and yang', 'big and small', et cetera. In other words, these two conditions exist together.

    Or, even though the earth itself is comprised of a multitude of relative existences or realities,
    the absolute truth is that it exists with all these realities as a 'whole', together.

    That is my current philosophical understandings of absolute and relativity.
    Last edited by mayflow; 09-16-2014 at 12:31 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow
    If by the speed of light in a vacuum, you mean an absolute truth
    No, not the constant of speed of light is not that kind of truth, it is some kind of fact. Something you don't really evaluate as being true or false, correct or incorrect, but just measure. The evaluation does not come from a person and his ability to evaluate truths (his knowledge etc), but from the invert of that notion, the exterior, the measures, the facts.

    The absolute truth, in the case of relativity, is the theory that allow everybody to agree to disagree. It "allows" in the sense that all point of view are reconcilable (with the exception of very few singularity ), even if facts are different, they still can exactly reach other point of view, using some identical method. It just is a complete working thing. The bonus is that this truth is limited by facts. All "real" truths are.

    Absolute in itself means something that is perfect or complete.
    I definitely go with "complete". "Perfect" is filled with subtitle like good, efficient, useful... But complete define something you at least can know everything, for example its truth. There is no hidden variable to ruin the house of cards. Best truths are simple (because closer to be complete)

    in philosophy I know of, a vacuum does not exist without non-vacuums as well. They are as relative to one another, as light is to dark.
    I agree, but I think we should be more precise. Vaccum and Void are not the same. A vaccuums as much more properties. To be empty (that means is could be filled), of some sort of things (which could be such and such (but not unicorns)).
    Void is the bare minimum, and it still have some property: a name. Some will even associate some boundaries of void. But I don't. Void is void, and it is already to much to give it a name (making it less void).

    An absolute truth would be 'yin and yang', 'big and small', et cetera. In other words, these two conditions exist together.
    These are absolute direction. Some kind of comparison operator. In the case of Yin-yang, it's fractal. They indeed do exist together because they are the same thing, but in another direction. They are indeed truth if you can apply them to everything.
    Size (big-small) is an interesting case. What the size of "yellow" ? (there is a mix of frequency, should we use that average number to compare ?). What's the size of "love" ?
    Maybe the meta truth here is that we need those operator to build are local truth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    Physicist - you can pm me about this if you wish.
    Hi Mayflow,

    Did you ever read those chapters on the philosophy of science that I sent to you? If so then what did you think about them?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Physicist View Post
    Hi Mayflow,

    Did you ever read those chapters on the philosophy of science that I sent to you? If so then what did you think about them?
    No, sorry. I had forgotten all about it. Lately I have been wondering about physicists and psychology. I haven't read on it or researched any yet, just wondering about it.

    Philosophy I think centers mainly about why things work, and physics about how they work, and psychology more on how the mind works. I do think the lines are fuzzy and blurry though and that they all do inter relate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayflow View Post
    No, sorry. I had forgotten all about it. Lately I have been wondering about physicists and psychology. I haven't read on it or researched any yet, just wondering about it.

    Philosophy I think centers mainly about why things work, and physics about how they work, and psychology more on how the mind works. I do think the lines are fuzzy and blurry though and that they all do inter relate.
    Not a bad idea. Let me know what you run into for reading material. I'd like to take a look too.
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    This is a fascinating thread and poses many variants on the question. Having studied quantum mechanics (as a layperson) for twenty years, it never ceases to amaze me how closely physics and philosophy can come to touch, without actually creating bridges which may seem to have been engineered in advance. I had a long conversation on a coach with a Fermilab scientist who explained that many views within the (scientific) community have to be suppressed, because there is a traditionalist approach to what constitutes "absolute truth" which is reluctant to shift its position, and those working on the most potentially ground-breaking experiments have to be careful where they tread the line. This is surely a shame, to say the least, at a time when we need as much free thought as we can get in finding ways to better deal with life, with the problems faced globally on the planet, and with the resources we seek to maintain as a species. Physics can do more to show the way by shining its light on the nature of "What Is" than any other sector of science, purely by nature of the aspects it studies. I'd love to see more freedom of discussion, and less dependence on the constraints of traditional Positivism. I wonder how many others feel the same?
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  45. #45  
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    I heard an argument one time, and I will have to look this up, that one of the problems Einstein had with relativity was the metaphysics he used in observing it. He split time and space as separate entities and then reconciled them as space time.

    It would not be much of stretch to argue that all time is strictly "fluxing" or "moving space" and in this regard is unstable.
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