Philosophy of Science Colloquium TALK: Marij van Strien (IVC Fellow) | The classical worldview: Its overcoming and its creation


The classical worldview: Its overcoming and its creation

Philosophy of Science Colloquium
The Institute Vienna Circle holds a Philosophy of Science Colloquium with talks by our present fellows.

Date: 04/05/2023

Time: 15h00

This talk is going to be a hybrid event, in-person at NIG (SR 2i) and can be followed via online Plattform.

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During the 1920s and 1930s, many authors, physicists as well as non-physicists, argued that the framework of classical physics had turned out to be too narrow and restrictive. New developments in physics were seen as bringing an end to the strict mechanism and determinism of the nineteenth century, and even as a liberation from an oppressive worldview.
As Richard Staley has shown, the terms ‘classical mechanics’ and ‘classical physics’ itself date from the early twentieth century. This means that the physics of the eighteenth and nineteenth century only became classical in retrospect, when contrasted with the ‘modern’ physics of the early twentieth century.
In this talk, I will look not only at the emergence of the term ‘classical physics’, but I will look more broadly at how the corresponding image of classical physics developed during the 1920s and 1930s. I will ask in how far this image fits the scientific worldview of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. I will argue that no sharp boundary between the classical and the modern can be drawn, and that physics in the nineteenth century was less homogeneous, unified, mechanistic and deterministic than we tend to think. Furthermore, I will reflect on the rhetorical uses of the term ‘classical’. 

NIG, Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien, SR 2i and ONLINE