Impact of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics on Philosophy

In H. S. Virk (ed.), History and Philosophy of Science. Amritsar, Punjab, India: pp. 67-77 (1988)
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In present times, Science has undergone a drastic change due to the critical examination of its methods of acquiring scientific knowledge. It has become more and more contiguous to philosophy. Relativity theory and Quantum Mechanics have revolutionized our concepts of classical physics in their analysis of matter and have created not only a new mathematical symbolism but a revision of a large number of its basic concepts. Relativity has shown that all material objects and processes exist in the integral form of space-time, of which the relations of space and time are different but inseparable aspects. Its modification of our classical concepts of mass, length, force, the law of addition of velocities, the principle of simultaneity along with a new interpretation of laws of conservation of energy, momentum and angular momentum are of a more universal nature. The theory of relativity has demonstrated for the first time the inner necessity of the idea of dialectical contradiction in the theoretical development of the concepts of physics. Quantum mechanics has continued which began in physics with the advent of the theory of relativity. With the development of quantum mechanics, the notion of a strict continuity in the spectrum of values of physical quantities is no longer valid, the classical concept of trajectory is rejected, the principle of classical determinism is questioned. It has shown that the basic laws of nature are not dynamic but statistical and that the probabilistic form of causality is the fundamental form while classical determinism is just its limiting case. In this article, an attempt is made to present a comprehensive picture of the impact of relativity theory and quantum mechanics on a large number of concepts of philosophy. It has been shown that these theories have called for a drastic revision of the seminal kernels of the traditional philosophy of science.

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Devinder Pal Singh
Center for Understanding Sikhism


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