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What defines a science oriented topic versus philosophy?

  1. Oct 15, 2016 #1
    Not sure where to complain...
    but what makes this topic okay on this site

    while mine not?

    I am asking if when we say something exist in physics, we mean we can measure it. How is it not physics but philosophy?? I think it is a quite scientific topic...

    btw, why the "philosophy of science" tag then?
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 15, 2016 #2


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    I think you have a valid point.

    Possibly, if you had asked your question in the Quantum forum instead of General Physics, and omitted your last line apologizing for philosophy, it might have received different treatment. There is a large grey area between philosophy and "QM interpretation" (which is why I'm tending to prefer shut-up-and-calculate more and more).
  4. Oct 15, 2016 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    @strangerep is pretty spot on with his comment.

    Philosophical topics are generally discouraged on PF, and are viewed negatively by a sizeable portion of our membership. Many people post on PF precisely because they dislike the philosophy discussions that are rampant on other sites.

    The primary exception is the QM forum. It is recognized that interpretational issues are part of the modern professional scientific discourse in QM in a way that they are not in other disciplines. Even so, they are rather tightly constrained and closed as soon as they become problematic.

    You are actively discouraged from discussing this topic here, but if you are to discuss it at all then it needs to be in the context of QM, posted in the QM forum, and consistent with the QM literature on the topic.
  5. Oct 16, 2016 #4
    Okay, I understand your difficulties. I will ask better questions on Quantum physics thread next time.
  6. Oct 16, 2016 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Only an appendix.

    Your primary question has been about the existence of something. E.g. the physical existence of virtual particles is frequently discussed here, in the sense, that members on PF do the Sisyphus work to correct this pop science view.

    Existence, however, in its general meaning has been discussed by philosophers for at least 3,000 years and it brought us nowhere.
    Nobody wants to read another 3,000 posts on this topic on a website dedicated to physics. It makes sense to leave this to the philosophers since say have a far better (historical) background to debate on this. Existence in its physical meaning is an observation of some measurement apparatus or at least a mathematical solution of an equation.
  7. Oct 18, 2016 #6
    For me, any relevant discussion in science must be related to a testable hypothesis. The debate about whether or not something "exists" would need a testable way to differentiate existing from not existing.

    Debating what the definition of "exist" should be is more philosophical. Debating how to conduct an experiment testing for existence using a given definition is scientific.
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