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Hans Reichenbach: philosopher-engineer

Mcadam, Roger Michael (1992) Hans Reichenbach: philosopher-engineer. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis relates Hans Reichenbach's philosophy of science both to his historical context and to his interest in the physical world. The thesis begins with a review of his life, and notes the most significant influences on him. His early ambition to become an engineer stimulated in him an active interest in understanding physical things, and his enjoyment in disseminating what he knew entailed that he maintained a keen interest in contemporary ideas. By the age of twenty he had turned to philosophy to enhance his appreciation of science, and was influenced by Kant and the neo-Kantian interpretation through Ernst Cassirer. His subsequent work is concerned with providing philosophical explication of the major innovations of twentieth century science, and particularly of the implications of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity and of Quantum Mechanics. The thesis proceeds by summarising Kant's and Cassirer's writings on the philosophy of science before examining Einstein's theories. Subsequent chapters analyse Reichenbach's most significant publications in chronological order, namely The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge (1920), The Philosophy of Space and Time (1928), Experience and Prediction (1938),Philosophic Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (1944), and The Direction of Time (1956). The chapter on Quantum Mechanics is introduced with a summary of the scientific concepts introduced prior to Reichenbach's writing about them. Although he demonstrates the shortcomings of Kant's philosophical justification, the objective Reichenbach set himself throughout his work was to identify the principles that regulate our empirical knowledge. Despite his close friendship with Rudolf Carnap and Moritz Schlick, he differentiated his Empiricism from Logical Positivism, and he refused to accept that Conventionalism could offer a satisfactory analysis of knowledge of the objective world. The final chapter summarises the impact of his writing and his major contribution to philosophy.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Thesis Date:1992
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2012 10:57

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