Thursday, 10 April 2008

Richard Feynman: an interim update

I have indicated a delay in my series of posts on Richard Feynman, as I try to do some homework. I think it might be useful, though, to give an indication of what I feel my starting point is for part 4.

I think my starting point has to be the perspective outlined in my post Richard Feynman: part 2. This is largely based on his book The Character of Physical Law. I may stand to be corrected by anyone who has read Six Easy Pieces and Six Not-soEeasy Pieces in more detail than I have, but my reading of them so far suggests that, in so far as the points made in part 2 are concerned, they are in line with The Character of Physical Law.

I also outlined some questions in part 3 1/2. Part 4 will need to try to pick those questions up.

But, in addition to the three books referred to above (where Feynman is speaking directly about physics itself), Richard Feynman also spoke/wrote more directly on questions relating to the meaning of scientific enquiry, including the question of religion in relation to science and the relation of science to other academic disciplines. Some lectures are published in The Meaning of it All; other material appears in The Pleasure of Finding things Out; and there might also be odd bits in the autobiographical Surely, you're joking Mr Feynman. And there are the points from the Lectures on Physics pointed out by Mike Gottlieb in a comment.

Some questions arise from my grouping of Feynman's works in this way.

Qn 1: Is there any difference that can be seen between Feynman's views as expressed in the two groups of works? Does he say things in the second grouping that he does not say in the first?

And, following from this:

Qn 2: Can the advocacy of doubt in science that is a major feature of the second group of works be found in the first group? Or is it unrelated to them?

And related to this:

Qn 3: Where does Richard Feynman's atheism fit in? Does it come "before" his study of nature or does it come "after", as a consequence of, his study of nature?

I do expect to post part 4 sometime during the present year ....

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