PhilSci Archive

Causal Fundamentalism in Physics

Zinkernagel, Henrik (2009) Causal Fundamentalism in Physics. In: [2007] EPSA07: 1st Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Madrid, 15-17 November, 2007).

Download (186Kb) | Preview


    Norton (2003 and 2006) has recently argued that causation is merely a useful folk concept and that it fails to hold for some simple systems even in the supposed paradigm case of a causal physical theory – namely Newtonian mechanics. The purpose of this article is to argue against this devaluation of causality in physics. My main argument is that Norton’s alleged counterexample to causality (and determinism) within standard Newtonian physics fails to obey what I shall call the causal core of Newtonian mechanics. In particular, I argue, Norton’s example is not in conformity with Newton’s first law. Moreover, Norton’s reformulation of this first law (in an instantaneous form) seems insufficient as a replacement for the original version since the notion of inertial frames in the resulting reformulated theory lacks a physical justification, and since an intelligible notion of time in Newtonian mechanics appears to be closely tied to Newton’s first law in its standard form. I will finally suggest how, given a plausible relationist account of time, the causal core of Newtonian mechanics may play a central role also in relativity and quantum theory.

    Export/Citation:EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
    Social Networking:

    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Additional Information: To appear in M. Dorato, M. Rédei and M. Suárez (eds), EPSA 2007: Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Springer 2009).
    Keywords: Causality, Determinism, Newtonian mechanics, Dome
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
    Specific Sciences > Physics
    Conferences and Volumes: [2007] EPSA07: 1st Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Madrid, 15-17 November, 2007)
    Depositing User: Henrik Zinkernagel
    Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2009
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:18
    Item ID: 4690

    Actions (login required)

    View Item

    Document Downloads