Forming Concepts in Physics

By Georg Unger

Parker Courtney Press, 1995
ISBN 1-888182-50-4 
203 pages; paperback; $25.00


This advanced book is an account of the astonishing revolutions in physics during the first half of the twentieth century. The author gives careful attention to the process of thought and imagination that gives rise to physical concepts. The new role of probability theory and its various interpretations are treated with unusual care. This book is for those readers, trained in physics, who are interested in the philosophical foundations of phenomenological science.


“In his seminal study of contemporary science, Georg Unger explores the conceptual foundations of twentieth-century physics, including quantum theory, probability, relativity and mathematics. He does so in a way that relates them to both phenomenology and Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. This book can act as a model for understanding modern science from a spiritual perspective.” —Arthur Zajonc, Professor of Physics, Amherst College, author of Catching the Light: the Entwined History of Light and Mind



I. Introduction

On the Aims of this Book

The Role of Thinking in Physical Research

“Relations and Laws”

The Worldview: Does it Belong in a Discussion on Thinking in Physics? 

II. A New View of Nature?

Phenomenon and Natural Law

What, then, is Natural Law?

Natural Law

Concepts and Laws having Content through Thinking

Cognitive Character in Concept Extension

The Manner in which an Axiom is Experienced (really Thought) Using the Parallel Postulate as an Example

The Creation of a Concept (Transfinite Numbers)

Does a Picture of the World exist which arises out of Thinking that grasps Reality?


Quantum Physics Requires a New Concept

New Physics Requires Mathematically Ideal Elements

III. The Method of Gaining Knowledge

The Role of Thinking Revisited

Cognition and Thinking

Natural Scientific Method

The Experience of Thinking

IV. The Transition to Twentieth-Century Physics

What Actually Happened

Present Shape of the Atomistic World View

V. The New Phenomena

The Limits of Classical Physics

Phenomenal Atomism

More about the New Phenomena

A Concept of Matter and the Boundaries of Sense Reality

VI. The Concepts of the Foundations of Quantum Theory According to D.I. Blochinzew

Quantized Light


Bohr’s Theory

DeBroglie’s Waves

Phenomenological Results

Statistical Interpretation

The Waves of the New Mechanics – Structures of Information as Physical Reality

The Laws of Motion of Particles

VII. The Concept of Probability

Historical Notes

Comparison with Geometry

Intuitive Basic Assumptions

The Subjective Perspective

Chance and Necessity

The Elementary Concept of Probability

Elementary Calculus of Probability

Connection between the Logical Concept of the Accidental and the Mathematical Concept of Probability

Overcoming Determinism

Mixing Characteristics

The Law of Large Numbers

Summary and Review

VIII. Theory of Relativity and its Conceptual Constructions

Observations Regarding the Speed of Light

Kinematics as  a free Creation of the Human Spirit

The “Theory of Relativity” as a Non-Galilean Metric

Critique of Simultaneity

Length-Contraction and Time-Dilation

About Metrics in General

The Metrics of Velocities

Relativistic Mechanics

Mass-Energy Equivalence

Speed of Light as a Limiting Speed

Synopsis of the Special Theory of Relativity

So-called General Relativity Theory

The Observer in the Box

The Tensor Calculus

Geometrization of Mechanics

Concluding remarks

IX. Some Concrete Concept Formations

Classical Laws of Conservation and Matter

Matter as State


The Concept of the Quantum Mechanical State

Bohr’s Model

The Novelty of the World of Particles and Quantum Events


The Fundamental Probability Propositions of Quantum Physics

X. The Phenomenology and Mathematics of the New Physics

Phenomenology in the New Physics

Excursion into those Concepts which are Grasped, …yet not Grasped

The Significance of Mathematical Concept Formations in Classical and Modern Physics

Equations and Differential Equations

The Differential at the Border of the Non-Perceptible

The Path from Differential Equations to Operators

Mathematical Structure as a Substitute for Naïve Reality

The Superposition of Quantum Mechanical States

Resolution of a State into Component States

XI.Physical World and Spiritual Science

The Relationship of Supersensible Entities to Sense Perception

The Supersensible World in the sense of Anthroposophy

Spiritual Entities have Relationships which cannot be derived solely from Sense Experience

About the Distance between the Subsensible World of Elementary Particles and the Supersensible World of Elemental Beings

Is the Current Path of Theoretical Physics the Only Possible One?

Total Gestalts in Physics

Energy-Free Transmission of Information and the Future of Physical Formulas

Rudolf Steiner’s Counterspace, a Thought Form Still to be made more concrete

The Duality Principle

Counter Space

Possible Physical Applications

Non-Relativistic Simultaneities

Total Gestalts

Homeopathic Dilutions (Potencies) and Cosmic Influences as Examples