A Collection of Polish Works on Philosophical Problems of Time and Spacetime
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In he was an "opponent" judge of Matvey Bronstein's thesis—the first deep investigation of quantum gravity. He is the author of the first Soviet monograph on GTR.
And, finally, he was an energetic and tireless participant in the discussions during the s and s on understanding GTR. This concerned his attitude toward cosmology, the role of coordinate conditions and especially privileged systems of reference, the principles of relativity and equivalence and the philosophical status of GTR.
His stand on the last issue seems to be the most enigmatic because he unequivocally declared his adherence to dialectical materialism and connected it with his understanding of GTR. Such an attitude did not attract sympathy among physicists, although Fock's human dignity and honesty were beyond doubt.
Philosophical Issues in Science
This situation has already attracted the attention of historians Graham , Here I shall try to reveal the roots of Fock's position in his scientific activity proper and to analyze the nature of the communication gap between Fock and his physicist colleagues. To do this, it is necessary to take into account the following factors: Fock's specific methodological stand, which was intermediate between theoretical physics and mathematics; his predisposition to a philosophical world view; his inclination to schematism or mathematization in life outside natural science; and finally the relatively narrow empirical basis of GTR in the s to s.
It is not easy to discuss these factors in academic terms since they manifested themselves in horrible social circumstances.
They were embodied concretely in Fock's personality—he was an honest, dignified, fearless and, strange as it may seem, law-abiding person. To reveal these elements of the explanation and to connect them in a united scientific-psychological complex, one should consider the evolution of Fock's views. The date is February 5, It was the seventh year of Peter Kapitsa's disgrace. Fock recalled the following of his early acquaintance with GTR:. Frederiks, professors in Petrograd University, were the first who familiarized Russian physicists, who worked in Petrograd, with the theory of gravitation recently created by Einstein.
This was at the very beginning of the s when the blockade of Soviet Russia had just been broken and scientific literature from abroad began to arrive. In the Physical Institute of the University a seminar gathered where, among other things, lectures on Einstein's theory were delivered.
The participants of the seminar were teachers and students in their last year and at that rime there were very few. The basic speakers on the theory of relativity were V. Frederiks and A. Friedmann, but sometimes also Yu. Krutkov, V.
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Bursian and others spoke. I remember the talks of Frederiks and Friedmann clearly.
Philosophy of physics
The style of these talks was different: Frederiks deeply understood the physical side of the theory, but did not like the mathematical computations; Friedmann stressed not physics, but mathematics. He strived for mathematical rigor and attributed great importance to the full and exact formulation of the initial preconditions.
The discussions that arose between Frederiks and Friedmann were very interesting. This recollection, with its "duet of acting characters"—mathematics and physics—as we shall see, can tell us much about Fock's position itself.
On the other hand, "the full and exact formulation of the initial preconditions" was very characteristic of Fock himself. The earliest documented testimony of Fock's interests in GTR is his handwritten summary of his lecture in a philosophical circle dated What should be noted especially is that this summary is half philosophical.
Fock begins with:. I am going to give an account of the physical foundations of the theory of relativity and to point out some contacts with philosophical problems. But I consider myself to be an ignoramus in philosophy, and therefore I do not claim to solve, or even to put philosophical questions in correct form. In this respect I wait for the assistance of my listeners. After a few words about the historical origins of GTR, Fock turns to. The really existing is defined as being perceived by all identically.
If two observers see differently, it is clear that they see not the whole object but facets of it. One had to admit as really existing not space and time separately but their combination; instead of r 2 and t 2 the interval r 2 — c 2 t 2 really exists. Fock summarizes the content of general relativity in the following way:. Geometry has absorbed physics. From the formal point of view it is all the same, but it is more satisfactory for our intuitions. As well now the physicist believes in the existence of atoms and electrons neither more nor less than in the existence of common "large" objects.
If he was a "naive realist," he has remained the same. But he replaced entities that he considered before as really existing. It is possible to go further. Physics strives to break up phenomena into the simplest elements.
What Is Cosmology? Definition & History | Space
But the simplest elements are not commonplace to us; besides that, they as the simplest are undefinable. The familiar i. But so far as we have not given definitions for elements, there are no definitions for these combinations either. And we give a definition for the latter.
We take the quantity G mn. We do not say that it is equal to zero when matter is absent, but in another way: being equal to zero means that matter is absent, i. From this short text one can draw some important conclusions. In in Soviet Russia the philosophical approach to natural science was still a purely private affair. To lecture at a philosophical circle meant a certain predisposition to a philosophical outlook.
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It is difficult to attribute Fock's view in to some -ism e. His striving to comprehend the epistemological bridge between physical reality and theory is beyond doubt. In the philosophical viewpoint of the year-old theorist, it is possible to see some ideas of the classics of relativity. Instead of the ideas of general relativity, covariance and equivalence, which were usual for the majority of accounts of GTR, in Fock's account what prevails is the geometrical approach, based on the concept of absolute space-time.
The other interesting feature is this: Fock mentions "the possibility of finite but boundless space" and does not mention the possibility of a nonstatic universe, while Friedmann's popular book was finished the day! Friedmann's famous paper was dated May In the following one and a half decades Fock was busy with quantum theory on the whole.
Some interesting traits for the relativistic portrait of Fock may be revealed in his participation in the defense of M. Bronstein's thesis in Gorelik and Frenkel Fock assessed highly this investigation, which was concerned mainly with the quantization of weak gravitational fields. He did not, however, attach importance to one of Bronstein's conclusions, which may have been the most interesting from the general physical and philosophical points of view, but the least definite mathematically. Based on a quantum-relativistic analysis of the measurability of the gravitational field beyond its weakness and nongeometrical character , Bronstein deduced that, in a complete theory of quantum gravity, the concepts of space and time would have to be generalized radically.
In Fock's words of , one can see some distrust of GTR: he admits that the theory of strong fields may be changed and doubts the special role of the gravitational radius. See Gorelik and Frenkel Fock took up the Einstein theory of gravitation in full measure at the end of the s, preceded by some important events in his philosophical and social biography. At the beginning of the s, Fock discovered dialectical materialism for himself hereafter I shall use the common Soviet abbreviation Diamat.
We know from A. Aleksandrov's testimony Aleksandrov , that Fock read Lenin's book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in and found in it something interesting and important for him and he regretted that this book was inculcated in a "police" way. Two decades later Fock, in the introduction to his book on GTR, remarked:. The philosophical side of my views on the theory of space, time and gravitation was formed under the influence of the philosophy of dialectical materialism, in particular under the influence of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. The teaching of dialectical materialism helped me to approach critically Einstein's point of view concerning the theory created by him and to think it out anew.
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