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String theory, Einstein, and the identity of physics: Theory assessment in absence of the empirical

van Dongen, Jeroen (2021) String theory, Einstein, and the identity of physics: Theory assessment in absence of the empirical. [Preprint]

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Abstract

String theorists are certain that they are practicing physicists. Yet, some of their recent critics deny this. This paper argues that this conflict is really about who holds authority in making rational judgment in theoretical physics. At bottom, the conflict centers on the question: who is a proper physicist? To illustrate and understand the differing opinions about proper practice and identity, we discuss different appreciations of epistemic virtues and explanation among string theorists and their critics, and how these have been sourced in accounts of Einstein’s biography. Just as Einstein is claimed by both sides, historiography offers examples of both successful and unsuccessful non-empirical science. History of science also teaches that times of conflict are often times of innovation, in which novel scholarly identities may come into being. At the same time, since the contributions of Thomas Kuhn historians have developed a critical attitude towards formal attempts and methodological recipes for epistemic demarcation and justification of scientific practice. These are now, however, being considered in the debate on non-empirical physics.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
van Dongen, Jeroenj.a.e.f.vandongen@uva.nl
Additional Information: To appear in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, special issue on "Non-empirical physics from a historical perspective"
Keywords: String theory, Einstein, non-empirical physics
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Gravity
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Mr. Jeroen van Dongen
Date Deposited: 30 May 2021 23:09
Last Modified: 30 May 2021 23:09
Item ID: 19122
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Gravity
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 29 May 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19122

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