Ralph D, particle physics, and BS

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Sat Jun 17 19:00:06 MDT 1995

I'll just remark that while Kuhn is not a practicing physicist, his Ph.D
is in theoretical physics. Also, as you remark in the context of Bohr,
practi8caing physicists aren't necessarily distinguished philosophers of
science--although the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics does
better as philosophy of science than many physicists' attempts. I agree
that philosophers of science (and physics in particular) need a good
knowledge of some scientific field and moderate competence in physics. On
the othewr hand there is such a thing as competence in philosophy. Failure
by some philosophically minded physicists (Penrose is an instance) to
recognize this leads to embarassing results. I think rather better of Kuhn
than you do--I haven't read his black-body book, but Structure is a great
work, relativist non-sequiters and all, and the Copernican Revolution is a
nice piece of history. His prose could be more precise. But i wouldn't
trade greater precision for his fruitfulness.

Incidentally Feyerabend is another physically competent philosopher of
science, although even wackier than Kuhnin somw wsys. And the old logical
positivists, many of them, had real competence in physics. Reichenbach
knew relativity theory inside and out. Frank taught physics at Harvard.
The positivists are underrated.

--Justin Schwartz

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