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Fri Apr 27, 2012, 05:40 PM

The Consolation of Philosophy {ahoy science v? philosophy geeks}

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-consolation-of-philos


Recently, as a result of my most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, I participated in a wide-ranging and in-depth interview for The Atlantic on questions ranging from the nature of nothing to the best way to encourage people to learn about the fascinating new results in cosmology. The interview was based on the transcript of a recorded conversation and was hard hitting (and, from my point of view, the interviewer was impressive in his depth), but my friend Dan Dennett recently wrote to me to say that it has been interpreted (probably because it included some verbal off-the-cuff remarks, rather than carefully crafted written responses) by a number of his colleagues and readers as implying a blanket condemnation of philosophy as a discipline, something I had not intended.

Out of respect for Dan and those whom I may have unjustly offended, and because the relationship between physics and philosophy seems to be an area which has drawn some attention of late, I thought I would take the opportunity to write down, as coherently as possible, my own views on several of these issues, as a physicist and cosmologist. As I should also make clear (and as numerous individuals have not hesitated to comment upon already), I am not a philosopher, nor do I claim to be an expert on philosophy. Because of a lifetime of activity in the field of theoretical physics, ranging from particle physics to general relativity to astrophysics, I do claim however to have some expertise in the impact of philosophy on my own field. In any case, the level of my knowledge, and ignorance, will undoubtedly become clearer in what follows.

As both a general reader and as someone who is interested in ideas and culture, I have great respect for and have learned a great deal from a number of individuals who currently classify themselves as philosophers. Of course as a young person I read the classical philosophers, ranging from Plato to Descartes, but as an adult I have gained insights into the implications of brain functioning and developments in evolutionary psychology for understanding human behavior from colleagues such as Dan Dennett and Pat Churchland. I have been forced to re-examine my own attitudes towards various ethical issues, from the treatment of animals to euthanasia, by the cogent and thoughtful writing of Peter Singer. And reading the work of my friend A.C. Grayling has immeasurably heightened my understanding and appreciation of the human experience.

What I find common and so stimulating about the philosophical efforts of these intellectual colleagues is the way they thoughtfully reflect on human knowledge, amassed from empirical explorations in areas ranging from science to history, to clarify issues that are relevant to making decisions about how to function more effectively and happily as an individual, and as a member of a society.

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Consolation of Philosophy {ahoy science v? philosophy geeks} (Original post)
xchrom Apr 2012 OP
Speck Tater Apr 2012 #1
xchrom Apr 2012 #2
longship Apr 2012 #3
bemildred Apr 2012 #4
xchrom Apr 2012 #5
bemildred Apr 2012 #6
libodem Apr 2012 #7
Uncle Joe Apr 2012 #8
xchrom Apr 2012 #9

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 06:44 PM

1. A startling conclusion indeed...

 

He observes that the work of physicists is more useful to him as a physicist than the work of philosophers, and that more progress has been made in physics by physicists than by philosophers. Amazing!

I imagine that the work of veterinarians is more useful to other veterinarians than the work of philosophers, and that more progress has been made in veterinary science by veterinarians than by philosophers as well! How astounding!

And to the philosophers he says: "Please go on talking to each other, and let the rest of us get on with the goal of learning more about nature." And to those who want to know more about the deepest of human concerns, that "is not credible field of modern scholarship". By the standards of physics, I'm sure.

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 07:25 PM

2. I guess the rub is does the philosopher understand

Physics less than the physicist?

The philosophers he's referring to aren't ignorant of what the physicists are doing.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 07:33 PM

3. By line: Physicist Lawrence Krauss

Just thought I'd provide that.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 27, 2012, 09:17 PM

4. Oh good.

Three popcorns, I think.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #4)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 05:13 AM

5. move over -- i brought beer.

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Response to xchrom (Reply #5)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 11:31 AM

6. Oh noes! No beer, you'll never be able to follow all this tricky thinking.

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Response to xchrom (Reply #5)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 01:48 PM

7. Well

It was a pretty good read, thanks for bringing it.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:28 PM

8. This thread needs a theme song.



Thanks for the thread, xchrom.

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Response to Uncle Joe (Reply #8)

Sat Apr 28, 2012, 03:36 PM

9. ...

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