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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Cristinel Stoica: on 3/13/18 at 10:58am UTC, wrote Dear Sylvia, Very good essay. You said "If we want to see things for what...

Don Limuti: on 2/27/18 at 4:26am UTC, wrote Hi Silvia, I know when an essay is good when I read the whole and feel as...

Steven Andresen: on 2/22/18 at 6:36am UTC, wrote Dear Silvia If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...

jason Roy: on 2/20/18 at 5:02am UTC, wrote Get the simplest method where you can get online tutorial about how to ...

Steve Dufourny: on 2/19/18 at 13:21pm UTC, wrote Hello dear Mrs Wenmackers, Congratulations for your essay, I liked it a...

Dean Rickles: on 2/16/18 at 10:49am UTC, wrote Hi Sylvia. Liked the essay a lot. But curious as to why you line project...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 2/14/18 at 1:17am UTC, wrote Respected Prof Sylvia Wenmackers, You are exactly correct in the...

Juan Ramón González Álvarez: on 2/6/18 at 23:24pm UTC, wrote Is physical chemistry more applied or less abstract than solid state...


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FQXi FORUM
July 19, 2019

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Seek Fundamentality, and Distrust It by Sylvia Wenmackers [refresh]
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Author Sylvia Wenmackers wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 18:49 GMT
Essay Abstract

Physics has inherited two projects from the ancient natural philosophers: one searches for concrete elements, the other for abstract principles. At least since Comte, there is a prevalent, reductionist idea that both the natural world itself and our theories are organized in strata, which match perfectly. By making this assumption explicit, we can investigate it critically and consider an alternative picture: that of physics as a platform game. This enables us to embrace pluralism about theoretical foundations and to reject overly bold claims about what is fundamental in the concrete world.

Author Bio

Sylvia Wenmackers is a professor in the Philosophy of Science at KU Leuven (Belgium). She studied Theoretical Physics and obtained a Ph.D. in Physics (2008) as well as in Philosophy (2011). In her current project, she explores the foundations of physics, with a special interest in infinitesimals and probabilities.

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 17:04 GMT
Sylvia,

Excellent essay. The power of philosophy is there. Two concepts of natural metaphysics were “substance” and “cause”. The universe is *spontaneous* and the logical causality is built in.



In my essay I claim the following: “...we have something like the “how gravity works” of Newton, the “how gravity works” of Einstein, the “how gravity works” (MOND) of Milgrom, etc. Do we really need anymore “how gravity works” theories? These theories are just a sample from a large number of possible theories or descriptions for the very same event. On the other hand, asking the question “why gravity works” would address the only possible logical reason for this one event to happen by itself.”

The essay suggests such single substance, single cause and single logical operation. These are, I believe, ontological fundamentals.

All the bests,

Marcel,

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Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 17:53 GMT
Dear Professor Wenmackers,

I read your essay with pleasure - it is a brilliant piece of work. Absolutely spot on in addressing the question asked in the contest, and providing new insights. My compliments!

With regards,

Tejinder

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Francesco D'Isa wrote on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 13:05 GMT
Dear Sylvia,

I really appreciated your essay, it's interesting and well written, I wish you all the best for the contest! I've to say that I loved your style as well: the platform metaphor was great and it was funny to find xkcd quoted in an essay.

You write that

> ‘Fundamental’ can be used as a comparative notion.

and I completely agree; I reach similar conclusions in my essay about Nagarjuna and absolute relativism. Then in the end you say,

> This allows me to explain the title of this essay: while we look for what is fundamental, we should not jump to conclusions about the physical world once we believe we’ve found something. ‘Fundamental’ is best left as an epistemic term, rather than an ontological claim .

I also agree, but in a more broader sense I wonder: we have good and sound reasons to distrust our means to know the world, but does not every refusal of any epistemic > ontological link lead to skepticism? Of course, skepticism is always an honest philosophical point of view, but it should lead to distrust himself as well.

All the best,

Francesco D'Isa

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Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Feb. 6, 2018 @ 23:24 GMT
Is physical chemistry more applied or less abstract than solid state physics? In what planet? The rest of the Fig 3 diagram is misleading as well.

The particles described in gauge quantum field theory aren't real. E.g. the electron that appears in the Lagrangian of the Standard Model is not a real electron like those one can find and measure in the laboratory, but a fictitious and unphysical electron named bare electron. It is only after a renormalization procedure that those bare electrons are eliminated from the equations and replaced by real electrons. Regarding the footnote 8, let me emphasize that what we measure in the lab are particles, not fields.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 14, 2018 @ 01:17 GMT
Respected Prof Sylvia Wenmackers,

You are exactly correct in the OP...."Physics has inherited two projects from the ancient natural philosophers: one searches for concrete elements, the other for abstract principles. At least since Comte, there is a prevalent, reductionist idea that both the natural world itself and our theories are organized in strata, which match perfectly.'..... Very...

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Member Dean Rickles wrote on Feb. 16, 2018 @ 10:49 GMT
Hi Sylvia. Liked the essay a lot. But curious as to why you line project (2) up with epistemological only? Who said the principles (archai) can't be viewed ontological? What is the argument? I give a couple of examples in my own essay, and a few others have done the same.

Best,

Dean

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Feb. 19, 2018 @ 13:21 GMT
Hello dear Mrs Wenmackers,

Congratulations for your essay, I liked it a lot.

I am happy to see a belgian thinker, I come from Belgium also, near Bergen in wallonia

Best Regards

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 06:36 GMT
Dear Silvia

If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the final days of the contest, will you consider mine please? I read all essays from those who comment on my page, and if I cant rate an essay highly, then I don’t rate them at all. Infact I haven’t issued a rating lower that ten. So you have nothing to lose by having me read your essay, and everything to...

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Don Limuti wrote on Feb. 27, 2018 @ 04:26 GMT
Hi Silvia,

I know when an essay is good when I read the whole and feel as if I learned something. Seek Fundamentality, and Distrust It! The maps of hierarchies and platforms were effective in getting the point across.

Thanks for an excellent essay,

Don Limuti

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Mar. 13, 2018 @ 10:58 GMT
Dear Sylvia,

Very good essay. You said "If we want to see things for what they really are, we must escape the intricate poetry of our language", and indeed we seem to agree that mathematics provides a clearer, though more abstract, language. We agree also on "it seems wiser to reserve the adjective 'fundamental' to abstract, formal and mathematical entities", and that a pluralist view, acknowledging subjectivity, contextualism, and relativity, is essential. You said "Fundamental (or funny, beautiful, or important) to whom? And in what context?". We have personalized Ockham's razors, shaped by our own personal experiences, which are subjective. So "what's fundamental" is as relative as "what's simple". I also liked your patchwork view of physics showing more applied theories and subfields. Yes, I think it is justified to see the fundamental [at other levels too]. Here are some possible updates to the xkcd "Comte’s hierarchy" [1, 2] :)

Good luck with the finals!

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica, Indra's net

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