is science against philosophy?



I am asking this because I've seen articles, graphics, and quotes of science against philosophy. I believe Hawking have said something about philosophy being killed by science, this article:

Dear Anthony,

I will not spare your convictions-this century you philosophers have contributed nothing to the understanding of science. Certainly nothing that is of slightest relevance to practising scientists such as myself.

This is a great pity as science is the foremost achievement of our culture. It is the best way to understand the world. But it involves ideas that are “unnatural” in that they do not conform with common sense. Just consider the Earth going round the Sun or the big bang. I looked to the philosophers of science for illumination as to what, for example, is meant by a scientific understanding and why science works. Alas, I found nothing but obscurity and lack of interest. They seem to be interested in philosophy, not science.

source: article

and others. Please enlighten me on why is that?


Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 135

Question was closed 2013-12-26T23:29:38.737

7There really isn't much to say. Judging from comments Hawking has made (for instance, in the preface to The Grand Design, where he proclaims "philosophy is dead") he hasn't kept up with any developments in philosophy since roughly the 1950's. He seems to think that logical positivism is cutting edge philosophy and infers from that erroneous opinion that philosophy has nothing to offer. These are my observations, I post it as a comment because I am not well acquainted enough with Hawking's various comments to back this up with citations. This, however, is the impression I have. – Dennis – 2013-07-31T03:31:58.797

Feynman, among other top physicists, too had this disdain for philosophers: IMO, the fault is entirely with how philosophy is practised. Many bad ideas (e.g. deconstructionism) continue to be taken seriously despite being indistinguishable from random garbage (e.g. the Sokal affair).

– prash – 2013-07-31T07:37:20.090

1Deconstructionism is fine, the failings of a journal notwithstanding. It has been a massive boon to e.g. History. The error (From philosophers, not physicists) lies in equating our understanding of the world WITH the world and so thinking that a philosophy for analyzing how we perceive things can make any claims about how the world actually is. To find out what the world is like, use positivist empiricism. To find out how those facts of the world have influenced our policies, our history and even our terminology, use Deconstruction - an ontological accompaniment to reductionism. – medivh – 2013-07-31T08:06:21.290


@prash: Feyerabend had an opinion: “The withdrawal of philosophy into a “professional” shell of its own has had disastrous consequences. The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrodinger, Boltzmann, Mach and so on. But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth — and this is the fault of the very same idea of professionalism which you are now defending.”

– Nikolaj-K – 2013-07-31T08:25:35.420

I agree that philosophy today has very little impact or relevance on science outside of the specific area of philosophy of science. That doesn't make philosophy obsolete except for scientists. :-) There are interesting things happening, especially in philosophy of religion, f ex Alain de Botton, leading to things like Syntheism, an attempted synthesis of atheism and religion. – Lennart Regebro – 2013-07-31T09:58:35.380

@Kidman: I'm not sure that one can say that the younger generation are brighter than the older ones, they certainly are more technically versatile. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T00:25:39.517

@prash: its generally acknowledged that Social Text was lax with its editorship - but more to the point, they weren't expecting hoax papers, a certain amount of trust is required. Secondly the Bogdanov affair shows similar problems are possible in Physics/mathematics. I recall reading that a topologist Alexandrov, in a different era, was getting more & more depressed because every week there seemed to be more & more papers on topology and he couldn't keep up with the flood; – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T00:29:35.113

@Prash:until he realised that only a small fraction of them were of any real importance, or rather one begins to discern themes and directions that are important as well as important papers and books. An objection about incomprehensibility was registered by, I think Yang (a physicist), who said that there are mathematics books you can't read past the first page, and there are books you can't read past the first sentence. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T00:34:52.777

@Kidman: and if we are being philosophical, we can at least notice that the younger generation by coming after have more techniques to play with - though they may complain that there is so much to learn that it may be humanly not possible to keep up - as Voevodsky said a while ago. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T00:38:36.120

@NelDoozy: Who is Anthony? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T00:40:02.313


@MoziburUllah: I agree that there is a practically unmanageable amount of low-quality papers in every field. Yet, I sympathize with Weinberg's criticism "The papers of Edward Witten, [... space/chop ...] are notably easier for a physicist to read [...]. In contrast, Derrida and other postmoderns do not seem to be saying anything that requires a special technical language, and they do not seem to be trying very hard to be clear. But those who admire such writings presumably would not have been embarrassed by Sokal's quotations from them."

– prash – 2013-08-01T01:00:56.643

@prash: I'm sure that there is a substantial contingent in the humanities that will agree with you. But its hardly fair. I'm sure that hardly anyone from the humanities could read or get anything out of Wittens papers. Its also true that there is a substantial language barrier between mathematics & physicists - if Derrida was fashionable nonsense, only time will really be able to tell, so far his reputation has survived. After all, in mathematics Group Theory was judged as fashionable nonsense, and when it penetrated physics, people started complaining about 'gruppenpest' – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T01:23:41.783

@prash: And a similar story can be said about category theory, people still joke about it calling it 'abstract nonsense', which when you think of the laymans view of mathematics as the abstract science par excellence seems rather ironic. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T01:26:16.433

@prash:I'm certainly not competent to read or judge the quality of Wittens work by myself, I do it simply by gauging his reputation amongst people whose reputation I can evaluate. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T01:33:37.713

If science can answer all the questions in philosophy and do it in a better (verifiable) way, then what is the point of philosophy? For instance, cybernetics and information theory could handle epistemology. What I say may be right or wrong, but I think this is the POV of many scientists, and it hasn't been falsified so far.

– Trylks – 2013-08-01T10:59:10.223

"is science against philosophy?" a bit of a strange way of putting it. "Science" doesn't have an opinion, scientists have. And there are scientists who can appreciate philosophy and there are those who cannot, the latter group probably being in the majority indeed though, with Hawking being one of the most prominent representatives of this group. What they should realise is that you in fact can't avoid doing philosophy: rejecting philosophy is doing philosophy. If they would study the subject and not just attack the straw-man they constructed, they would know that. – Ben – 2013-08-03T00:10:38.860

1@MoziburUllah: WRT "so far [Derrida's] reputation has survived". Depends on whom you ask. He never had any reputation with many philosophers & scientists, which brings us to OP's question. WRT 'gruppenpest', you are talking about aspects of a field that experts were working out, using various mathematical tools. I have analogous preferences for various approaches in my own field too. In contrast, refer to Weinberg's comments on Derrida's statements on a field that Weinberg knows (and you, presumably) quite well: relativity. – prash – 2013-08-03T16:56:46.187

@Prash: What did Derrida say about relativity? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-03T18:54:04.770

1@MoziburUllah: Derrida: "The Einsteinian constant is not a constant, is not a center. It is the very concept of variability -- it is, finally, the concept of the game. In other words, it is not the concept of something -- of a center starting from which an observer could master the field -- but the very concept of the game." Weinberg: "I have no idea what this is intended to mean." It was in the previous link I gave. Sokal's site seems to be down, but the content is available on the wayback machine. – prash – 2013-08-03T19:07:40.017

@prash: and whats the context of this, is it from an essay or a book? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-03T20:09:35.927

@MoziburUllah: Apparently, it was at a talk, as explained on page 276 of this PDF file.

– prash – 2013-08-03T21:52:56.870

@prash: I've had a good look at the quote in the context of that talk. It doesn't add up. But the explanation is too long to put into a comment - its in an answer below. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-04T02:54:37.330

Putting on hold pending somewhat more constructive/neutral framing of the question. Aligning the headline a bit more closely with the body of the question might help with this. --At any rate, it's certainly not going to be constructive in general to attempt to re-litigate the Science Wars here; so it might be best to zoom in on as specific concerns as possible. This is complicated territory, so keep in mind the community is here to help you work through how to pose some of these problems as neutrally as we can (as the material allows.) – Joseph Weissman – 2013-12-26T23:29:25.983



The article you quoted says:

this century you philosophers have contributed nothing to the understanding of science. Certainly nothing that is of slightest relevance to practising scientists such as myself.

This already implies science is the only possible item of interest in this world, that it is the sole arbiter of value. If philosophers have contributed nothing towards science, then they can't be doing anything of interest; lets put this another way to show just how bizarre this statement is - this century you musicians have contributed nothing to the understanding of science. Certainly nothing that is of slightest relevance to practising scientists such as myself.

Philosophers are interested in philosophy, and not doing science - there are scientists to do science. The same goes for artists, musicians, poets etc.

This is a great pity as science is the foremost achievement of our culture.

Why this need to place values in some kind of linear pecking order? Even in science the crude caricature of physics underlying chemistry which underlies biology is hugely suspect. Even a cursory examination of the historical record reveals a symbiotic relationship between various strands of science. Science is a great achievement, but lets keep some perspective.

Gandhi brought independence to India, Nelson Mandela threw of Apartheid. These are great achievements. Does it mean anything to compare them, or to compare them to science?

But it involves ideas that are “unnatural” in that they do not conform with common sense.

This appears to be a new way of saying just how great science is because it is anti-intuitive. It runs against common-sense. It seems to have arrived in greater force since the invention Quantum Mechanics, with scientists falling over themselves saying - it can't be true, because it isn't mad enough to be true.

But running against common-sense is true of almost all metaphysics - Brahman in Indian philosophy is not something you touch with your hands. Maya - reality is an illusion. The greek gods - where were they? Or where exactly is heaven or hell situated? Or God? Men, and women have spoken and argued over many many things that run against common sense down the ages.

Just consider the Earth going round the Sun

Well the philosophers of Greek Antiquity got there first. The air was rife then fevered speculation that ran greatly against standard common-sense. One may want to call them scientists, and some do; but it is a historical fact that they didn't see themselves in that way. Feynman in one of his books, said that the most important physical fact was that everything was made of atoms. This is the great scientific fact from which so many results flow. He seemed completely unaware that this idea had occurred two millenia ago and had been discussed by the Greek atomists and in India, by the Jains & Buddhists. That Newton in his Principia Mathematica, quoted Lucretius De Rerum Natura, which was a philosophical poem that presented these ideas. He would have also been unaware that Epicurus said that atoms moved randomly (the clinamen), which came as something of a great surprise after three centuries of Newtonian determinism.

or the big bang.

Cool. Now please explain to me what asserted the laws of world? Or how they came about? Did they too appear out of the void? Was there ever a void? In the Christian creation story, there was a formless void from which God created the universe - from a certain perspective there is a little difference between that story and the big bang - its just a matter of details.

I looked to the philosophers of science for illumination as to what, for example, is meant by a scientific understanding and why science works. Alas, I found nothing but obscurity and lack of interest. They seem to be interested in philosophy, not science.

Philosophers of science may be looking at different questions than this author is interested in. Why science works in tradition of Baconian science and the scientific method is straight-forward enough, but that is not the full story. The interesection of science, technology, politics and ethics is investigated in quite a few different directions that the author does not seem to be interested in. The whole programme of questioning the enlightment ideals, for example, by Baudrillard or Lyotard and Feyeraband is simply could not have occurred to scientists since they're far too invested in in these ideals. Of course one can suggest that is a late flowering of the whole Romantic movement launched by Rousseau and kept going by poets and artists as an indictment of an unthinkingly technocratic age. But would a scientist of this authors stripes know what that means?

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 1

@Trylks, Probably the author of the article doesn't completely understand what philosophy is and, as Mozibur Ullah said, thinks philosophy tries to answer same questions. It is more like a hatespeech rather than constructive reasoning. Philosophy mostly concerned with the nature of things by arising questions about them, not making hypotheses or stating conjectures. – Turkhan Badalov – 2018-01-06T01:41:51.833


Your point is that philosophers are as useful as musicians in the pursue of knowledge? Because musicians are not very useful. I think this is a matter of pragmatism, check again your first quote with this perspective. In the last paragraph you say he is interested in different questions, why should anyone be interested in something that is useless? That is the key point IMHO.

– Trylks – 2013-08-01T10:53:30.840

@Trylks: You've misunderstood me. Whether or not you like music, I suppose you can agree that musicians make music, as poets make poetry, and as philosophers do philosophy; why should the author brazenly expect them to do science or even the philosophy of science? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T11:42:43.497

I don't see a conflict between music and science. However philosophy and science seem to pursue the same single thing, knowledge, hence the comparison between both and the reason why the comparison with music is misleading. – Trylks – 2013-08-01T13:23:13.913

2@Trylks:The choice of music was chosen to emphasis a contrast. The point I'm making is that though science & philosophy may pursue knowledge, they are of different kinds. Is there for example a science of Justice or politics? Surely not in the same way as Physics or chemistry. By suggesting that they pursue the same ends, you appear to suggest they must be the same thing. There is a philosophy of aesthetics, can there be a science of such a thing? Are you claiming music is useless BTW? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T13:32:39.910

There is science for all those things, justice: game theory et al., politics: operations research et al., aesthetics: an application of cognitive science. Sure philosophical and scientific knowledge are different, scientific knowledge is verifiable thus more useful thus better. Time ago, philosophy was the only option for some areas but since cybernetics there are no knowledge areas where science cannot be applied rendering philosophy outdated.

– Trylks – 2013-08-01T14:24:17.670

We all enjoy music, that's its purpose and serves it well. In the pursue of knowledge music is not really useful. To each one its own. – Trylks – 2013-08-01T14:27:34.560

@Trylks: Just because there is an application of science or mathematics to politics or justice, doesn't make game theory equivalent to justice or politics to operational research, I'm afraid. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T15:42:25.853

of course justice is not equivalent to games theory, it's just a concept in games theory. Similarly politics is just a domain where we can apply operations research. Both give us verifiable knowledge, quantitative and qualitative, why would we choose to ignore that knowledge and use well argued and educated opinions? If philosophy is about knowledge, it will use maths for these topics, and once you get to the maths, what else could you need? The definitions are usually trivial, and when not they have to be axiomatic anyway, there is no knowledge over there, only opinions. – Trylks – 2013-08-01T16:39:56.827


This is an answer to a specific issue brought up in the comments on the theme of the OPs question. That is the nonsense that is the Derridian quote 'The Einsteinian constant is not a constant' in the context of Structuralism & Science. I'm putting it here as its obviously too long to go in a comment.

Derrida wrote Sign, Structure & Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences to present at a symposium at John Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1966 titled The Language of Criticism & the Sciences of Man. The intention of the symposium was to clarify the field of structuralism and define some of its common problems across disciplines. One should not be misled by the 'Sciences of Man' to suppose that they were primarily interested in the hard sciences - they were not - but to sciences applied to man, that is the study of man in his own being, for example sociology, anthropology or literary criticism

After the oral presentation by Derrida of his paper, Hyppolite, a French philosopher, and translator of Hegel, in an attempt to understand Derridas 'centre for a structure' asked the following question:

With Einstein, for example, we see the end of a kind of privilege of empiric evidence. And in that connection, we see a constant appear, a constant which is a combination of space-time, which does not belong to any of the experimenters who live the experience, but which, in a way, dominates the whole construct; and this notion of the constant - is this the center?

Now Derridas essay, was not on Relativity, nor did it make any substantive scientific claims. It is primarily on the structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss although it touches on the thought of Foucault, Althusser & Lacan. So why does Hippolyte choose an example from the Physical Sciences to interrogate Derridas notion of the 'centre'? Putting this question aside, let us examine his.

His question admits a fairly straight-forward reading. Einstein famously did Gedankenexperiments, that is thought experiments rather than rely on empirical experiments in the tradition of empirical science; one can say here that there is a break with tradition, a break that continues with speculative forms of physics such as String Theory or Loop Quantum Gravity.

The 'constant' that he alludes to could be the speed of light, which was the speculative move of Einsteins that framed his entire theory. But this does not make sense, as Hippolyte says that this constant is a combination of spacetime. This points us in the direction of the spacetime metric on a four-dimensional manifold, an elegant reformulation of Einsteins theory of relativity by his friend Minkowski, and in this reformulation the metric is an invariant, that is a constant.

This already shows that Hippolyte is well-informed about about the structure of Einsteins theory in a broad-based way. But what can he mean by saying that it doesn't belong to any of the experimenters who live the experience? How can a metric belong to anyone? The spacetime metric is a mathematical fiction it belongs to no-one. Further we do not live and experience spacetime but live and experience space and time. These ideas are distinct - they would have to be, otherwise Minkowski wouldn't have had to invent spacetime.

Minkowski uses this metric to anchor his interpretation of Einsteins theory, which explains why Hippolyte says 'it, in a way, dominates the structure'.

Derrida replies:

The Einsteinian constant is not a constant, is not a center. It is the very concept of variability - it is, finally, the concept of the game. In other words, it is not the concept of something — of a center starting from which an observer could master the field — but the very concept of the game which, after all, I was trying to elaborate.

The first thing to note is that there is no such notion as an 'Einsteinian constant' in physics, but Derrida is not referring to any concepts in physics in a specific way, here he is using the qualifier 'Einsteinian' to name the constant that Hippolyte brings up in his question.

Now Derrida says that this constant 'is not a constant and not a centre'. What can this mean? It is this Derridean statement that has caused something of a ripple in science quarters.

It is this statement that is quoted in Sokals hoax paper, and in the book he cowrote with Bricmont - Fashionable Nonsense - they say it is the papers

first major gibberish quote, namely Derrida’s comment on relativity (“the Einsteinian constant is not a constant . . .”). We haven’t the slightest idea what this means— and neither, apparently, does Derrida

but they generously add

but as it is a one-shot abuse, committed orally at a conference, we shall not belabor the point.

Weinberg in a reponse to his critics in the New York Times says:

[when] I first encountered this paragraph, I was bothered not so much by the obscurity of Derrida’s terms “center” and “game.” I was willing to suppose that these were terms of art, defined elsewhere by Derrida. What bothered me was his phrase “the Einsteinian constant,” which I had never met in my work as a physicist.

Well, we've shown that Einsteinian constant is just the name that Derrida has given to the constant in Hippolytes question. The real question is about the Derridean terms 'constant', 'centre' and 'play'. The wikipedia article referred to above has this to say about 'centre':

The "center" is that element of a structure which appears given or fixed, thereby anchoring the rest of the structure and allowing it to play. In the history of metaphysics specifically, this function is fulfilled by different terms (which Derrida says are always associated with presence): "eidos, archè, telos, energia, ousia (essence, existence, substance, subject) aletheia, transcendentality, consciousness, or conscience, God, man, and so forth."[11] Whichever term is at the center of the structure, argues Derrida, the overall pattern remains similar. This central term ironically escapes structurality, the key feature of structuralism according to which all meaning is defined relationally, through other terms in the structure. From this perspective, the center is the most alien or estranged element in a structure: it comes from somewhere outside and remains absolute until a new center is substituted in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. "The center", therefore, "is not the center."

Roughly, the centre should organise or structure the whole, but looked at historically, different centres have been substituted,leaving the structure the same. But the structure, by the theory of structuralism, should determine the centre. It does not - hence it escapes structurality - (and hence Post-Structuralism). Thus 'the Einsteinian centre/constant is not a centre/constant'.

Essentially Derrida is saying that Hippolytes example drawn from the physical sciences is not a good example of his ideas, this is only to be expected as he Derridas paper is on the human sciences and not the physical or mathematical ones in this specific form.

This critique is echoed by Gabriel Stolzenberg , an American professor of mathematics, in an unpublished letter to the New York Times wrote:

A friend of mine was disposed to believe the charge about Derrida. But when she looked at the text, and found that you are making this Big Deal about an unclear answer to an unclear question at the end of a talk that had -nothing- to do with physics, her reaction was (this is not verbatim but it's faithful to the spirit of it), "That's it?? This is all they have on him??"

Finally, this lack of balance between your charge and your evidence reminds me of a conversation between Alik Volpin and Vladimir Bukovsky, two great Soviet dissidents, back in the USSR. Alik was talking about the the importance of obeying the laws, to which Bukovsky replied, "But doesn't the KGB always say, give us the man and we will find the charge?"

And similar sentiments were expressed by Michael Holquist (professor of comparative literature, Yale) & Robert Shulman (professor of molecular biology, Yale) in correspondance with the New York times that was published:

Alan Sokal’s hoax is rapidly ceasing to be funny. An enterprise that originally had all the marks of a good joke is beginning to bring out the worst in respondents.

I'll leave the final word to Plato, in Georgias he has Socrate say:

What’s this, Polus? You’re laughing? Is this yet another kind of refutation which has you laughing at ideas rather than proving them wrong?

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 1

From the introduction to Fashionable Nonsense (page 8): “Let us emphasize that these authors differ enormously in their attitude toward science and the importance they give it. They should not be lumped together in a single category, and we want to warn the reader against the temptation to do so. For example, although the quotation from Derrida contained in Sokal’s parody is rather amusing, it is a one-shot abuse [of terminology]; since there is no systematic misuse of (or indeed attention to) science in Derrida’s work, there is no chapter on Derrida in this book.” – ShreevatsaR – 2017-05-29T10:08:54.627

Thanks for looking into it! I, of course, won't try to refute Derrida. He is far too vague and his works are far too opinion-laden for my taste. – prash – 2013-08-04T04:52:23.290

1Derrida said "A critique of what I do is indeed impossible". The message I (and many others) get is "Nothing to see here. Move along." – prash – 2013-08-05T11:13:26.733

1@prash: People judge Einstein on the papers he wrote. This is what made him famous. You appear to judge Derrida on quotes, how exactly is this scholarly in any-way? Imagine someone poking fun at Einstein at getting quantum physics wrong because he said 'God doesn't play dice'. First what on earth is he doing bring God into it, and second hasn't Quantum Physics shown that random behaviour is an inherent part of the world? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-05T12:55:53.480

1@prash:Of course that shows a lack of awareness that Einstein was one of the instigators of Quantum Theory and that doing physics is not mutually exclusive of being religious. What do you know of Structural Anthropology? – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-05T12:59:53.810

I light of Wikipedia's "weakness of structuralism is that its main propositions were not... subject to verification or falsification. [LS] did not develop a framework that could prove the existence of his concept of the fundamental structures of human thought but simply assumed them to be there, a mistake considering that this concept underpinned all of his work. Consequently, it was comparatively easy for post-structuralists such as Derrida to simply reject this notion."

Can you give me pointers to where Derrida himself produced anything that was subject to verification or falsification? – prash – 2013-08-05T13:42:46.607

Feynman, too, said "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics". Whether Feynman or Einstein themselves ever achieved an intuitive understanding of QM, they made testable and important (i.e. with far-reaching consequences) models for predicting about how physical things behave. It's one thing to say "it is pointless to critique some quotes", it's another thing entirely to say "it is pointless to critique any quote". Derrida's statement was specifically about critiquing the entire body of his work. – prash – 2013-08-05T13:53:29.473

1@prash: yes, the operative word there is 'physical things behave'. Human cultures are not things and can't be studied like things. How do you propose to do the classic physical experiment on a culture? Is verificationism or predictive power wholly true even in the physical sciences? Have you looked at String Theory? Its obviously an important theory, but it has produced no predictions that are capable of being tested in the forseeable future. I'm saying its pointless to critique a work by quotes unless you're already familiar with the broad outlines of the work already. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-05T14:31:07.313

And I do not mean Derridas work, but the work that he's critiquing. The work of Claude Levi-Strauss in particular. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-05T14:32:40.837

let us continue this discussion in chat

– prash – 2013-08-05T14:59:05.553

Awesome "answer", I really appreciate the effort. – Lucas – 2014-05-01T04:50:29.273


What is Ironic (if not a bit sad) is in that book of his he begins it by proclaiming philosophy is dead and then goes on for about a third of the book telling us what his views on the philosophy of science is.

I will not spare your convictions-this century you philosophers have contributed nothing to the understanding of science.

Even if this is true why would it matter? Is a discipline only of worth if helps understand science? (Whatever that means)

Certainly nothing that is of slightest relevance to practising scientists such as myself.

Questions of epistemology may very well be very important to science. It is the foundations
from with we come to conclusions. Questions of ethics can also have a influence.

...or the big bang.

To be honest the three main religions of the west have been discussing a universe with a beginning for many centuries. It is true before the discovery of the background radiation they mainly had to take it as a matter of faith but it is not really like philosophers have never discussed such a thing or phenomenon.

What to me is the main problem is that if you deny the importance or the influence on philosophy then you are going to assume positions without any way of reviewing them critically. It is like a person accepting a religion on blind faith with no critical process influencing his or her decision. Which to me is a bad way of doing things especially if you are going to be this champion for reason, deciding you will help humanity out of its ignorant state.

Neil Meyer

Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 2 161


There is a good saying - "There are many translators who know foreign language, there are many translators who know their own language - and only great translators know both."

The moral is that to judge about philosophy and science together you should be both scientist (practicing one) and philosopher (thinking one). Unfortunately last hundred years there have been not so many great thinkers who are capable(had conditions) of that.

There are many good philosophers many good scientists - but almost none of them is a match for universal thinkers of the past (for example Leibniz). If you want to know what is science to philosophy read Leibniz, Descartes. They think a lot about this stuff.

We live in different times - no need for deep universal thinkers. Our times needed only advertising scientists fighting for grants.

Philosophy is not against science or vice versa - just some narrow minded people are talking about things they do not know.

Don't read Hawking he is not good. Feynman did not manage to grow as a philosopher. Read Leibniz, Descartes they will teach you a lot.

Asphir Dom

Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 208

"Last hundred years" there has been a lot of action. What about Bertrand Russel? What about the Vienna Circle? We could even argue that the positivism of these philosophers is what actually updated it to philosophy 2.0 (aka science). We can even argue that science is to the death of philosophy as birds are to the extinction of dinosaurs.

– Trylks – 2013-08-01T10:49:23.887

@Trylks Good example, but he is not similar to the friends from past. He is an interesting mix between science,philosophy and activism. I would say he was great advocate of new ideas rather than their source. And btw he was admiring Leibniz too :) – Asphir Dom – 2013-08-01T11:03:27.087

@Trylks: Wittgenstein, who is seen as an exemplar of the Vienna postivists was pretty dismissive of them. Carnap said 'I guess he's not one of us'. I think its the other way around - its the success of science that provoked the development of positivism in philosophy. – Mozibur Ullah – 2013-08-01T13:38:32.640

@MoziburUllah it is the success of science, but it was mixed with philosophy until some people decided to separate both, then the positivism was born and a virtuous cycle of feedback between positivism and science started. – Trylks – 2013-08-01T14:30:56.747

@Trylks Your point is self-defeating as this entire discussion falls within the realm of philosophy, not science. Can science delineate the development of positivism and its relation to philosophy and science? – called2voyage – 2013-08-01T16:27:16.107

@called2voyage this discussion falls in and out of science. In: as (meta)science, there is where we have knowledge about how well different methods obtained knowledge in the past. Out: there is where opine about that knowledge, but opinions are not knowledge. In short, philosophy leads to assertions (through reason, observation, etc.) if they are verifiable then we speak about science and knowledge, if they cannot be verified then we speak about opinions. How is this self-defeating? – Trylks – 2013-08-01T16:43:48.063

@Trylks I guess this depends on how tightly you define science. You speak of "metascience" which is often not included within science proper. Also, not all verifiable knowledge is verified in the same way, and tight definitions of science sometimes exclude other disciplines with verifiable approaches to knowledge. – called2voyage – 2013-08-01T16:48:24.880

@Trylks Furthermore, the broader science to which you refer has been historically known as philosophy, so the distinction you make does not seem to be as clear in reality. – called2voyage – 2013-08-01T16:49:36.180

@Trylks As an example, mathematics is not usually considered to be within the domain of science, but mathematical knowledge is certainly verifiable--though it may be an abstraction. – called2voyage – 2013-08-01T16:52:26.207

@called2voyage to me the distinction is about verifiability or "feedback". That's why I am interested in the implications of cybernetics on epistemology (sorry for the spam). From there I agreed with RexKerr on a very broad definition of science. Philosophy is even broader than that, not requiring feedback/verifiability. PS: I consider maths a formal science.

– Trylks – 2013-08-01T16:54:30.890

@Trylks With such a broad definition of science, I would agree with you that science is the only useful approach to knowledge. I don't think that the discipline of philosophy is as lax as you seem to make it in terms of verifiability. Though the common use of the term "philosophy" does frequently imply a viewpoint or framework that does not necessarily require feedback/verifiability. – called2voyage – 2013-08-01T16:57:01.343

@called2voyage personally, I don't care about the delimitation of science and philosophy as much as I care about the delimitation of verifiability and feedback. The greed of science for knowledge will lead it to this border if it is not there yet. Philosophy, on the contrary, would suffer some kind of "amputation" to fit into this limit and that would be "painful". So even if this was not the common understanding of science and philosophy it would be sooner or later, but I think this is already true, e.g. wikipedia. – Trylks – 2013-08-01T17:20:34.180


Einstein said the universe, the whole reality, is rational. His famous phrase: "the most irrational thing about the universe is that it's rational". That "rationality", "reason", "intelligence"... Necessarily implies "person"! A "person" is a thinking self-aware entity.

(a computer can do very "intelligent" calculations, and very fast and accurate, etc., however the computer knows nothing!, of course, it's the human person who created the computer who provides "intelligence". Therefore: person is the necessary pre-condition to "intelligence", to "rational", to "logical" ... Concepts!

"Person" is"who" allows the "connection" of ideas, concepts. Without person there's no possibility of "intelligence"! For instance, this simple truth: "the whole can't be smaller that its part/s", or "in a plane triangle the sum of its 3 angles is always, 180 degrees", or "e=m.Cc"... Any one of these "thoughts" is composed of varied ideas, concepts, and these can only be put together (as we show) by a "person" "in" his mind, a thinking (= self-aware) entity!

Therefore: what Einstein said, "I believe in the god of Spinoza, an impersonal god", with all due respect to his genius, is blatant nonsense!

The necessary corollary of expressing that the universe is rational (=reasonable, intelligent) is "person"!

Thus: he is actually saying the universe shows a supreme intelligence, thus a supreme person, and this of course is the same as "the maker of the reality which we know is a personal being", but this is the definition, the concept, of "god"!
Am I wrong?... If you think thus, please explain.

Frankly: this -to my mind!- is a clear (unintended?) expression by that genius of modern science, Einstein: that god is real, is obvious!, and that can be inferred from his own statement. There are other ways, like: "the necessary presumption for "universal vality of reason, science, is the universal intelligence, mind!; again: without this science can't presume of providing universally (for all "space-and-time") valid "laws" (e=mcc, for instance).

Hence: genuine science presupposes the universal mind, the supreme intelligent being, which is a definition -I repeat- of god! Which also shows that "man" is a "mini-copy" of the supreme spirit, we think according to god's mind, else, all the edifice of true knowledge is based on sand! Agree?

Rafael G Chapi

Posted 2013-07-31T03:04:15.477

Reputation: 1