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This book examines a selection of philosophical issues in the context of specific episodes in the development of physical theories and presents scientific advances within their historical and philosophical contexts. Philosophical considerations have played an essential and ineliminable role in the actual practice of science. The book begins with some necessary introduction to the history of ancient and early modern science, but emphasizes the two great watersheds of twentieth-century physics: relativity and quantum mechanics. At times the term "construction" may seem more appropriate than "discovery" for the way theories have developed and, especially in later chapters, the discussion focuses on the influence of historical, philosophical and even social factors on the form and content of scientific theories.
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Scientific knowledge, because of its putative certainty and objective method of discovery, is often seen as essentially different from other types of knowledge. As popularly understood, physics and philosophy might seem to be far removed from one another. However, this book demonstrates the essential and ineliminable role that philosophical considerations play in the construction of scientific knowledge. The discussion of central philosophical issues is anchored in the specific historical context and in the actual content of the relevant scientific advances.Review:
'For anyone who really wants to understand physics, this is a splendid and beautifully written book ... this book is an excellent introduction to a historically based philosophy of science, with accurate reporting of many examples from physics, and much attention to primary sources. I would recommend it strongly as an adjunct to standard textbooks of physics for students who seek a real understanding of their subject.' Michael Redhead, Physics World
'... I think that Cushing has done an excellent job. If I again teach a course similar to his I will certainly consider using his book as a text ...'. Anthony Leggett, The Times Higher Education Supplement
'As a chronological text in the history and philosophy of science for undergraduate students of the physical sciences, this book is unexcelled.' J. Leplin, Endeavour
'Altogether, the book provides a good overview of the basis underlying 3000 years of physical knowledge ...'. H Rechenberg, Institute of Physics Publishing
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