Is Nature Supernatural: A Philosophical Exploration of Science and Nature

Altmann, Simon L.

Published by Prometheus Books, 2002
ISBN 10: 1573929166 / ISBN 13: 9781573929165
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Synopsis: Mathematical truths are often so compelling that some mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers posit a purely nonmaterial realm of eternal truths accessible to the mind alone. Mathematical physicist Simon Altmann carefully criticizes this revival of dualistic philosophy ß la Plato in this highly stimulating book. Has mathematics and physics discovered a new supernatural world, or is this mental cosmos simply an outgrowth of natural evolutionary processes? This is the crucial philosophical issue that Altmann elucidates.
Altmann provides a thorough philosophical basis to understand the meaning of natural law, the scientific method, and causality in science. He reviews the classical approach to time, space, and the laws of mechanics, and discusses the implications of relativity theory. Key modern concepts, like randomness, probability, and time's arrow are explained, and the nature of mathematics and G÷del's theorems is discussed in depth. A mystery-free treatment of quantum mechanics, Schr÷dinger's cat, and the famous Bell inequalities follows. He also assesses the reactions of various philosophical schools to these developments - idealism, physicalism, cultural relativism and social constructivism. The book concludes with a fascinating dialogue on science and belief.

Educated lay readers will welcome Altmann's engaging and lucid exposition.

Review: Reading Is Nature Supernatural? is like taking a prep course for a cocktail party hosted by nerds. Weighing in with well over 600 pages of daunting subject matter, Simon Altmann's book grapples with big questions like "causality," "how to handle space and time," and "quantum states." Sound like fun? Surprisingly, the book is lucid, interesting, and even humorous. Altmann, an Oxford mathematical physicist, is such a gifted expositor and teacher that attentive readers will be rewarded with comprehensible explanations of the central problems in logic, mathematics, and physics, including quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg principle, and general relativity.

Altmann's central argument is that mathematical truths are empirical. That is, they emerge from our experiences, not from some purely conceptual realm or Platonic heaven. While Altmann's main thrust holds little interest for nonspecialists, he is such an engaging and funny writer that many of the chapters can stand alone. In particular, the chapters on probability, paradoxes like Zeno's Achilles and the Tortoise, and his early chapters on logical principles and causation are good reading on their own. --Eric de Place

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Title: Is Nature Supernatural: A Philosophical ...
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good

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