The Relationship between Physics and Philosophy
The comments in the An Explanation from Nothing? post by Sean Carroll (linked here to his blog) and Lee Smolin are very helpful. They move the discussion in a good direction. So let’s put an end to the kerfuffle (or brouhaha) over whether David’s review of Krauss’ book was fair and whether Krauss response was inappropriate.
The issue was raised by Carroll and Smolin and Krauss himself of exactly what the relationship between physics and philosophy of physics can be and should be. Obviously, there are some questions and problems that properly belong to one field but not the other. For example, physicists make proposals about what laws and chances there are while philosophers of physics are interested in what laws and chances are. Physicists produce explanations and argue that one theory is better supported by evidence than another without having explicit accounts of explanation or support. These jobs properly belong to philosophy.
However, there are some issues and problems where collaboration seems the way to go. I (and I hope others) would be interested in some discussion of issues in the history of philosophy/physics where collaboration did pay off (even if is just Einstein collaborating with himself!) and some current issues where it looks like collaboration may lead to progress. My own two cents is that the discussion of non- locality (exactly what are the consequences of nature failing to satisfy Bell’s inequality) has been advanced by work that involved both physicists and philosophers and interactions between them though there is still a lot of confusion on this topic. (One can still find people saying that what Bell showed is that hidden variable theories are impossible because they are non-local).
Here is another question involving quantum mechanics where some collaboration may be useful. Sean in the post in Cosmic Variance mentions that in quantum mechanics the states of the universe are “wave functions.” I am not sure whether he means by “wave functions” mathematical entities or whatever concrete things or stuff satisfy a certain mathematical description. My question concerns the second construal; In other words, what is the ontology of quantum mechanics?
It would be really good to see more collaboration between physicists and philosophers on this issue. Anyway, the blog is open for successful past and current collaborations (and also unsuccessful ones).