December 20, 2005

Einstein and the philosophy of science

Physics Today explores how a philosophical approach to science benefited Albert Einstein -- something Don A. Howard believes that today's scientists should take note of. "Einstein's philosophical habit of mind," writes Howard, "cultivated by undergraduate training and lifelong dialogue, had a profound effect on the way he did physics." Article intro:
Nowadays, explicit engagement with the philosophy of science plays almost no role in the training of physicists or in physics research. What little the student learns about philosophical issues is typically learned casually, by a kind of intellectual osmosis. One picks up ideas and opinions in the lecture hall, in the laboratory, and in collaboration with one's supervisor. Careful reflection on philosophical ideas is rare. Even rarer is systematic instruction. Worse still, publicly indulging an interest in philosophy of science is often treated as a social blunder. To be fair, more than a few physicists do think philosophically. Still, explicitly philosophical approaches to physics are the exception. Things were not always so.
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