Physics and the Phenomenal World

Part of the Nijhoff International Philosophy Series book series (NIPS, volume 53)


One of the main problems of the philosophy of science is that of arriving at a plausible conception of the relations between (1) the phenomenal or commonsensical world that is apprehended in perception and described by natural language and (2) the world of standard physical theories, or of such fundamental theories of the microstructure of matter and radiation as: Newtonian mechanics, the Maxwell theory of electromagnetism, special and general relativity, and quantum mechanics. The rise of mathematical physics has long been seen by many as dictating a dismissal of the phenomenal world — the world macroscopically organized in objectual forms, shapes, secondary qualities and states of affairs — from the realm of properly ontological concerns and as dictating a concomitant ‘psychologization’ of phenomenal structures. There is, then, a reductionist assumption common amongst philosophers to the effect that it is only microphysical reality that has a structure of its own (that the world as it is in itself is a matter of ‘minute, widely-separated colourless particles’2). In fact, however, the discovery of atoms or quarks in no way served to eliminate molecules, macromolecules, or indeed macroscopic objects together with their macroscopic properties from the realm of physics — all are physical systems of a perfectly well-defined sort.3


Phenomenal World Galilean Group Apparent Contour Covariance Principle Naive Physic 
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