PHIL 263 - Significant Figures in Philosophy of Science: Einstein

(Graduate students register for 263.)The influences of Hertz, Boltzmann, Mach and Planck on the development of Einstein's philosophical views regarding the scope and limits of physical theory. The distinction between ¿principle theories¿ and ¿constructive theories¿ from Poincaré and Lorentz, to Einstein. The impact of special and general relativity on logical empiricism. How Einstein¿s views changed in response to two core challenges, the advent of quantum mechanics and his three-decades long failure to extend general relativity to a "theory of the total field". We conclude by considering the lasting impact of Einstein's philosophical views, and whether they can be assimilated to contemporary currents in philosophy of science.PREREQUISITES: No detailed knowledge of physics or mathematics is presumed. Some background in philosophy, natural science or mathematics will be helpful. Students will benefit from possession of a modicum of ¿mathematical maturity¿ (roughly equivalent to a familiarity with elementary single-variable calculus or the metatheory of first-order logic).
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