Science & Philosophy: The Divide


          One of the main focuses here in The Diogenes Society is to look at things critically, and with a cynical eye. Most of you who keep up with science and philosophy would have heard the outcry from the philosophical community in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s dismissal of philosophy. Thats being said please take a look at the article below (Originally published on BigThink):

What’s the Latest?



Neil deGrasse Tyson recently joined the ranks of Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman, and Lawrence Krauss when he called philosophy “distracting” and criticized it for not offering the kinds of tangible gains of science. In general, there are three main arguments that physicists have leveled at philosophers: “there’s the argument that philosophers don’t really gather data or do experiments, there’s the argument that practicing physicists don’t really use any philosophy in their work, and there’s the refrain that philosophers concern themselves too much with unobservables.”



What’s the Big Idea?



The distinctions that these questions posit between philosophy and science are ultimately untenable, says Ashutosh Jogalekar, a chemist and biotech worker at a startup in Cambridge, MA. Looking back on history, early scientists were often called “natural philosophers” because their thinking concerned the true state of nature. Even modern thinkers like Bohr and Heisenberg realized “that they simply could not talk about these far flung implications of physics without speaking philosophically.” Science is not a rote investigation that excludes the creativity and originality of philosophy, and philosophy often steps in to fill the gaps at the edges of scientific progress.



Read more at Scientific American



New_big_think_image by ORION D. JONES

This idea that philosophy has somehow become obsolete is a purveying idea that floats around a large portion of the scientific community…but not all! (See Sean Carroll’s defence of philosophy) The most disturbing part of all this is that the idea is held by very popular scientists, who hold the sway over the minds of many. I know this because I also am a big fan of scientists like Feynman, Tyson, Krauss and Hawking.

          I cant help but pity these public intellectuals. For such intelligent individuals to utter such statements is a clear indication that they lack any formal philosophical education. If they knew the benefits of philosophy of science, and how it asks the questions that leads science to search for the answers then perhaps they may change their positions. However, it seems that they have such a disdain for philosophy that they would not even be open to the idea… This is a sad state of affairs, and I think that it will only get worse.
          I love science, it is a passion of mine and it will always be. Since I was small I wanted to be a physicist, and now I am a student of philosophy of science. I chose that path because how important I felt philosophical inquiry was to science. I think that they are the same thing, but they ask different questions. Science without philosophy would feel shallow, and philosophy without science would feel futile!
Photo credit: Shutterstock

By: Steven Umbrello


  • I have to say I’m a little weirded out now because I just posted something on this very topic. In in my first post, I used the famous Kant quote: “Thoughts without intuitions are empty…etc,” with my own twist, just as you have, in the final sentence.

    I think what some (emphasis on some) scientists are really trying to discredit about philosophy has something to do with their hidden philosophical presuppositions, but I can’t quite figure out what they are because what they say makes so little sense to me. I’m really tempted to call it lazy in that they don’t want to face those big questions or be challenged in that way. I noticed that all the science majors dropped out of the philosophy of science course that I took, even though there was certainly a lot of science to be consumed and I could have used their help.

    I’m curious to hear what you have to say about progress and whether or not it’s important in philosophy. And, more specifically, whether or not philosophy should progress in the same way science does.

  • I think that philosophy certainly progresses. For example, until Edmund Gettier wrote his famous paper called “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”, everyone held the Aristotelian view that knowledge was in fact justified true belief. In his three page paper Gettier crushed that notion that was held for over 2000 years. This is what I call progress. But would scientists call it progress?

    I think that science and philosophy progress in very different ways…and I think this is okay. Philosophy should not, nor should it be expected to, progress in the way science progress, nor should science progress in the fashion that philosophy progresses. If they did they would be somewhat indistinguishable from one another.

    You used the word ‘lazy’, and I think that is a fair descriptor. I recall in a discussion between Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss (whom I both love) where Dawkins was mentioning a debate he participated in. He told Krauss that the mediator kept stopping the debate because he wanted to clarify. Dawkins said (I will paraphrase here) that: the mediator tried to clarify, but he was a philosopher, so clarifying meant making things more convoluted.

    I think this is what they all have in their heads. That philosophy has gotten to the point where all we do is try to redefined terms to make our theories true. This is true to an extent, but it is simply a process we use to try to come to the bare-bones truth of things. We are trying to answer the big questions a priori.

    Likewise Krauss, in a debate with the theologian Dr. William Lane Craig, told him (paraphrase) that: you can go try to answer questions from your armchair, ill go investigate the mysteries of the universe. To be honest I really liked the response, it was quite funny. Craig is the greatest debater, orator and rhetorician I have very seen, and I have never seen him speechless….EVER, until Krauss said that.

    This seems to be the nature of things now, however not all scientists are like this. The only unfortunate part is that the scientists who are like this have a lot of press and publicity, thus spreading their views far and wide. Like I said, I love these scientists, but they are far from perfect.


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