Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker: Major Texts in Philosophy by Michael Drieschner

By Michael Drieschner

This booklet offers a suite of texts by means of the German thinker and physicist Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (1912-2007), to be used in seminars on philosophy, generally epistemology and the philosophy of physics or foundations of quantum mechanics, but in addition for classes on German philosophy of the 20 th century or the philosophy of technology. such a lot texts seem in English for the 1st time. Weizsäcker grew to become recognized via his works in physics, later turning into popular as a thinker and an analyst of up to date tradition and politics. He labored intensively on tasks for the prevention of nuclear conflict and for peace usually. – Texts approximately classical philosophy are incorporated in addition to on good judgment, at the philosophy of biology and at the philosophy of arithmetic, on “death” in addition to on “power”.

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When Romeo and Juliet is performed, Juliet exists as certainly as does Romeo. But they exist only ‘for the play’; ‘in reality’, Juliet is Miss Miller. To Homer, Zeus exists and works wonders; to the modern physicist, the atom exists and works wonders. Is the atom less of a myth than Zeus? Is there a different existence than ‘existing to’ someone? Then the purported certainty by Descartes might be nonsense, because it would be an answer to a senseless question. Perhaps I don’t mean all that I have just said so seriously?

We want to accurately observe what we encounter daily, and possibly also what we can technically produce; on such observations we want to base our physics. What role does mathematics play in this empirical scheme? The empiricist does not deny that we can formulate the laws of nature in a mathematically simple way, and he must explain how this is done. Although a somewhat superficial empiricism had recourse to the invention of historical myths—for example, to the myth of a purely empirical Galileo—the newer, more sophisticated empiricism long ago started asking itself about the role of mathematics in empirical science.

8 36 3 A Description of Physics I will not discuss the unsolved internal problems of the mechanistic world view,9 since this approach has become obsolete anyway. We do have an atomic physics today, to be sure. But according to our present knowledge, the chemical atoms are anything but small billiard balls, anything but extended lumps of matter. They can be separated into elementary particles that can in turn be transformed into one another; and the laws of transformation are described by a non-intuitive physics, for example by the mathematical formulas of quantum theory.

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