Date of Award
Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)
Colby College. Philosophy Dept.
The development of a philosophy of physics is an individual task. One can be assisted in the task by an extensive study of the three basic theories of nature--physical, mathematical and functional. Assistance also comes from a study of the manner in which other men have synthesized the theories of nature and their own experiences into philosophies of physics. A theory of nature can best be studied by historically defining the theory and by then examining specific concepts seen in the light of this theory. One finds that the physical theory of nature posits matter and motion as the basic entities in nature and describes phenomena in nature in terms of these basic entities. The physical theory is found to be the theory that is first developed whenever mankind or an individual man is faced with a seeming enigma in nature. It is the lowest level theory. The mathematical theory of nature, one finds, is the theory of static form, and logical structure. This theory takes form to be the basic entity in nature, and it appears historically after man has gathered great amounts of information by using the physical theory, and after man has discovered a need for forms and categories into which he can put his knowledge in order to render it manageable. A functional theory is the last in the cycle of theories employed by mankind or by the individual in his unceasing attempt to explain the universe around him. The functional theory, one sees, is an all encompassing theory. It incorporates both form and matter by making them secondary entities in a universe whose basic feature is change. If there is a basic entity in this most sophisticated (highest-level) theory of man, it is the event--a type of smallest division of the changing world. This theory, one flnds, comes about from man's inability to be satisfied with static form as the mode of expressing a world of sensed change.
Physics -- Philosophy
Recommended CitationDudley, Ann, "Philosophies of physics" (1960). Senior Scholar Papers. Paper 74.
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