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Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete? - Comments

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 1 by Border Collie

Pretty much.

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 23:54:58 UTC | #936850

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

Perhaps not the former, but definitely the latter!

"The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields... they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story."

Well, seems the former also! I suspect the author of this thinks it profound, but regress, regress, is all this type stuff ever is.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 00:02:16 UTC | #936854

RobertJames's Avatar Comment 3 by RobertJames

Miley Cyrus is an atheist girl? Cool, now I can stop pretending I don't fancy her..

Oh and yes, physics has killed philosophy and all that.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 00:42:49 UTC | #936860

Vitalic's Avatar Comment 4 by Vitalic

Philosophy is not obsolete in the sense that it is still the foundation of the scientific endeavour and therefore by extension physics, and can inform our decision making process and how we go about seeking the right kind of evidence.

The same however cannot be said for theology which is absolutely redundant in every respect. What philosophy can't do any more is give definitive answers to the deep questions of the universe, on origins and on the existence of potential deities. Anyone arguing that the universe must have been created by a God using philosophical arguments is not contributing to solving the problem whatsoever, as whatever the answer is, we know it simply has to include a great deal of the understanding given to us by modern cosmology.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 01:11:58 UTC | #936870

Andres Heredia's Avatar Comment 5 by Andres Heredia

Wow, did anybody else looked at the comments there? i'm just baffled by the stupidity that those people display...

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 01:36:03 UTC | #936874

Andres Heredia's Avatar Comment 6 by Andres Heredia

" Most ridiculous article EVER.

If this was true you wouldnt have 100% of the world confused as to what we are and where we came from. After all these are the only things that matter.

Cause => Effect... The original singular "Cause" was? Why right now we call that the Singularity. Thats where Physics breaks down and the rules dont work. Lets do that again - all worked out? Keep going. This thing goes on forever and ever - then what?

Pfft. That aint a religion sunshine that is form ad infinitum with no substance. If thats the hollow religion of shadows youre offering - enjoy. I can guarantee you will struggle for recruits. If its charisma and charm of Hitchens you need well youre no better than other religions and guess what other religions have more interesting stories and an array of characters that science will never match. "

^^And that is one of the best rated comments...sigh^^

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 01:37:36 UTC | #936875

Jarl Carlander's Avatar Comment 7 by Jarl Carlander

Philosophy of science dead? Come on, what about Karl Popper? He's given us the best argument against nonsense that there is.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 02:19:20 UTC | #936884

ThisCanNotBeTheFuture's Avatar Comment 8 by ThisCanNotBeTheFuture

I was thinking the same thing.

Comment 5 by Andres Heredia :

Wow, did anybody else looked at the comments there? i'm just baffled by the stupidity that those people display...

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 02:30:11 UTC | #936887

GregGorey's Avatar Comment 9 by GregGorey

The irony is that any argument against philosophy is always prefaced with philosophy. For example, Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design declares philosophy to be dead and then spends at least 40% of the rest of the book discussing philosophy.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 04:49:00 UTC | #936911

Quine's Avatar Comment 10 by Quine

So many of the old arguments in Philosophy have been made obsolete by what we have discovered about the real world, and especially about the information processing that goes on in our own brains. As such it is not Physics that has made the biggest dent in the old metaphysics, but rather, neuroscience. However, Physics is a branch of Science which is a branch of Philosophy. No matter how obsolete the thoughts of old philosophers may be, Philosophy continues as the love of knowledge, and it gives Science the structure needed to go out and find that knowledge.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 07:00:47 UTC | #936935

Chomolungma's Avatar Comment 11 by Chomolungma

In some respects the deck is being stacked unfairly against Philosophy (in the narrow sense, not in the general sense in which all of science is philosophy), because once a field gains any sort of traction and delivers results it gets peeled off and made into its own separate discipline. So Philosophy ends up being a de facto too-hard bin of problems for which there aren't really any satisfying or conclusive answers yet (e.g. the hard problem of consciousness).

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 07:49:11 UTC | #936942

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

This is a great piece worth reading in full, but there’s not much in it worth my commenting on, so this comment will be brief by my standards. I’ll start by giving my own answer to the title question:

Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Religion was always obsolete because its claims were never backed up. The idea that science renders religion obsolete by answering questions only religion hitherto answered is already giving religion more credit than it deserves, as it conflates science “answering” a question in the sense of giving an answer they can back up with religion “answering” a question in the sense of giving what they claim is an answer without feeling a need to back it up. However, if people are going to live by such a double-standard, so that religion wasn’t always obsolete in their minds, science should have rendered it obsolete as soon as it showed we can answer questions scientifically, rather than some specific arbitrary highly demanding standard having to be met in which we must answer this, that and the other.

And they always shift the goalposts anyway by saying, “well where did that come from?” They know full well “we don’t know” will be the answer after finitely many such questions, at which point they say “God did it then”, an answer they insist is immune to repetition of the question they use against everything else. Not so; maybe some things have causes and some don’t, but you have to investigate to find out which is which. And if science explains A in terms of B but initially can’t explain B and theists say B is explicable in terms of God which in turn has no explanation, and science explains B in terms of C but can go no further than that yet and theists say the same of C they once said of B, they’ve changed their tune as now they’ve gone from B being explicable in terms of something inexplicable to being explicable in terms of something explicable (in terms of something inexplicable). And when science explains C in terms of D, it has proven B is explicable in terms of something explicable, and that the original claim of the theists was wrong. So clearly it’s a claim-forming method that is consistent neither with itself nor with facts.

As for philosophy, I define things like logic as part of the sciences if only because they have to use axioms and rules of inference to make predictions, and so I feel whether philosophy is “obsolete” or not depends on whether whatever else might be deemed philosophical is now obsolete. Once, when a fellow commenter on richarddawkins.net said philosophy wasn’t obsolete yet as a source of unique knowledge, I asked for an example of something we can know with philosophy and provably so, but couldn’t know it otherwise and provably so. The challenge was far from successfully answered; see the discussion here. (I’ve started at comment 22 to save the reader time without cutting out relevant prior material.) Those people here who seek to big up philosophy are welcome to enlighten me with a case better than the one presented then.

they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place.

Perhaps not (yet). But the challenge was to say how something can come from nothing, not why the type of nothing our universe has is the type that we have$. And it is a nothing, for reasons Krauss explains in the interview. ($ Or, more generally, to answer infinitely many “but where did that come from then?” questions in a row.)

To see two academics, both versed in theoretical physics, disagreeing so intensely on such a fundamental point is troubling. Not because scientists shouldn't disagree with each other, but because here they're disagreeing about a claim being disseminated to the public as a legitimate scientific discovery.

But disseminated by whom? Individual scientists can write whatever books they want, but publishers and journalists have the final say regarding what the public hears, and it’s not the fault of the scientific community that they never wait for a consensus to emerge before doing so.

Readers of popular science often assume that what they're reading is backed by a strong consensus.

Not if they’re reading Richard Dawkins they don’t (even though such an expectation would be correct in that context)!

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 08:10:24 UTC | #936944

mmurray's Avatar Comment 13 by mmurray

$18.67 for the kindle edition. It seems you can get something from nothing.

Interesting interview and I was hooked enough to get the book.

Michael

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 08:37:01 UTC | #936947

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 14 by quarecuss

Can't help thinking that anyone who envisages the multiverse is losing his marbles :-)
(see artist's illustration in the original article)

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 16:30:50 UTC | #937029

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 15 by Stafford Gordon

Can the book be bought from the RDFRS shop yet?

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 16:40:57 UTC | #937034

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 16 by TeraBrat

No.

I'm a scientist and I think that science is a great thing, and should be used whenever possible. Until science can explain everything there will be room for philosophy, maybe even religion.

I know that there will be someone here who will want me to tell them what can't be proven by science. All I can say is that I have had some experiences that cannot be explained by science. Maybe science will have the answers in the future. Until it does there is room for other disciplines.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 21:48:04 UTC | #937086

Owlglass's Avatar Comment 17 by Owlglass

What perplexes me the most is that people (like in the comment section there) actually really pretend that some few thousand year old stories actually hold up against contemporary math and science even though there is clearly not a hint of this sophistication in their book. To add some credibility to their religious views it is often made the impresssion as if a cosmological first mover God is something different than good old Yahweh (e.g. see Craig who seems to do it that way), but then deep down in their hearts they still think about an old man with a grey beard and his son who is somehow himself in a younger version sporting a similar beard.

This was a fine interview, I am thinking about getting the book.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 21:55:12 UTC | #937089

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 18 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

Well, seems the former also! I suspect the author of this thinks it profound, but regress, regress, is all this type stuff ever is.

I think that's an unfair counter-comment.......as 'regress' is surely the fundamental stuff of reductionism. Thus if the entire ontology is one of 'x is made of y', it is a perfectly fair comment to wonder why this process just abruptly ends with the cop out of " erm.....well it just is ".

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 02:49:11 UTC | #937118

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 19 by susanlatimer

I really enjoyed the interview and felt that Krauss was able to use it to explain the "seduction" side of his approach. I also enjoyed the way it allowed him to explain why physics has moved ahead of philosophy on the subject of nothing. His negative comments about philosophy seem to be a reaction to the way that some philosophers can play fast and loose without the facts. We are talking about two single words here. "Something" and "nothing" and physics has done work on these ideas that most of us can't imagine.

But I don't see in a general sense where philosophy has become obsolete. Bad philosophy, yes. But bad philosophy makes itself obsolete.

The strangest thing for me is the headline. "Has Physics made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?"

As though philosophy and religion can be placed in the same category by virtue of a conjunction.

But that's a headline. And I'm glad Paula Kirby cleared that up for us. That no matter what the intention of the writer (or the interviewer, in this case), some editor is bound to frame it with a headline that misses the point completely, but that will catch the attention of the public.

The trouble, as has been pointed out many times before, is that some people don't bother to read past the headline when they venture an opinion.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 02:55:19 UTC | #937119

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 10 by Quine

So many of the old arguments in Philosophy have been made obsolete by what we have discovered about the real world, and especially about the information processing that goes on in our own brains.

In my view this is simply not true. Scientific findings have actually led to even deeper philosophical questions. If old philosophical ideas are obsolete it is only because they have been expanded along with scientific knowledge.

For example the notion that the entire universe might be a virtual simulation is something that simply would not have been conceivable back in the days of Kant. The multiverse is also another largely philosophically based idea, as are various interpretations of the anthropic principle.

What's more, given that much of science is based on maths, its worth bearing in mind that there are still many philosophical arguments over the nature of maths itself !

And as for the brain.......don't get me going on those strange loops :)

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 03:13:34 UTC | #937120

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 21 by susanlatimer

Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 10 by Quine

So many of the old arguments in Philosophy have been made obsolete by what we have discovered about the real world, and especially about the information processing that goes on in our own brains.

Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat

In my view this is simply not true. Scientific findings have actually led to even deeper philosophical questions. If old philosophical ideas are obsolete it is only because they have been expanded along with scientific knowledge.

It sounds like you and Quine agree on this point, unless I'm missing something. Which isn't unlikely.

And as for the brain.......don't get me going on those strange loops :)

What could be stranger than human brains arguing about whether science has made philosophy obsolete? :-)

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 04:01:49 UTC | #937126

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 22 by Laurie Fraser

This argument has been coming and going over the last few years, and I continue to think that the Science v Philosophy 'debate' argues at cross-purposes, in the main.

Quine's post (Comment 10) is true, in that Philosophy has to give way in matters of empirical science. But then, Philosophy has given over the investigative realms which belong to Science quite frequently since the Enlightenment, and that's what you'd expect of a discipline of honest inquiry.

To me, the beauty of Philosophy is that it has become an expert feedback loop for the consideration of the scientific enterprise - a kind of check and balance mechanism, where science can be judged on its epistemic enterprise, amongst other things.

It must be remembered that Philosophy itself is largely bound by teleological pursuits, including the effort to attach meaning to all sorts of human activity, including political society, ethics, culture and science. (And I'm not 'teleological' in any sort of metaphysical way, btw.)

So Philosophy is not, and never will be, redundant. Of course we need the scientific enterprise, but equally, we need to reflect on it.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 05:40:12 UTC | #937132

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 23 by susanlatimer

Comment 22 by Laurie Fraser

So Philosophy is not, and never will be, redundant. Of course we need the scientific enterprise, but equally, we need to reflect on it.

Perfectly put.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 05:49:47 UTC | #937133

Quine's Avatar Comment 24 by Quine

Comment 20 by Schrodinger's Cat
Comment 10 by Quine

So many of the old arguments in Philosophy have been made obsolete by what we have discovered about the real world, and especially about the information processing that goes on in our own brains.

In my view this is simply not true.

How about an example or some evidence?

... Scientific findings have actually led to even deeper philosophical questions.

Note, that is not mutually exclusive.

... If old philosophical ideas are obsolete it is only because they have been expanded along with scientific knowledge.

Nice try, but you can go through the metaphysics of Aristotle and find case after case of things that have been shown to be simply not true, especially after Darwin. Again, it does not flush Philosophy itself (especially Epistemology), but as I wrote before, many of the old arguments simply don't hold up any longer. Krauss tends to throw the baby out with the bath water, but he does not really care about that because it is not his field (I got a chance to talk to him briefly about that in the bar, one night, at the Atheist Conference in DC).

For example the notion that the entire universe might be a virtual simulation is something that simply would not have been conceivable back in the days of Kant. The multiverse is also another largely philosophically based idea, as are various interpretations of the anthropic principle.

Again, you missed that both, old questions can be negated by subsequent evidence, and new questions also presented.

What's more, given that much of science is based on maths, its worth bearing in mind that there are still many philosophical arguments over the nature of maths itself !

Again, so?

And as for the brain.......don't get me going on those strange loops :)

Any time you want.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 06:06:23 UTC | #937136

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 25 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #937086 by TeraBrat

Until science can explain everything there will be room for philosophy, maybe even religion. ... Maybe science will have the answers [regarding my experiences] in the future. Until it does there is room for other disciplines.

Science’s inability to explain something only grants room to those things which can explain something; and, as with science, “explain” should mean “provide an explanation for which you can give evidence”. Where does philosophy or religion do that?

there will be someone here who will want me to tell them what can't be proven by science.

Wrong things, for starters.

I have had some experiences that cannot be explained by science.

Have you checked up on the relevant science to see whether that’s true? What are these experiences? What about them defies current scientific explanation? What thing other than science does a better job; how does philosophy or religion do it?

Comment #937118 by Schrodinger’s Cat

'regress' is surely the fundamental stuff of reductionism.

But for how long? Mathematical theories deduce theorems from other claims in a manner of a reductionist nature, but it stops at the axioms. Perhaps the full truth about reality is like that, or perhaps not. How can we tell? Well, for one thing, we can tell X isn’t the bedrock if we successfully explain it in terms of Y.

if the entire ontology is one of 'x is made of y', it is a perfectly fair comment to wonder why this process just abruptly ends with the cop out of " erm.....well it just is".

By definition, wouldn’t explaining the bedrock nature of Y mean it wasn’t really bedrock? There might be bedrock, mightn’t there? Why assume by default that such a state of affairs is what deserves an explanation?

Comment #937119 by susanlatimer

I don't see in a general sense where philosophy has become obsolete. Bad philosophy, yes. But bad philosophy makes itself obsolete.

I outlined above how I would defend such a view; in short, it requires one to concede first that “logic” doesn’t count as “philosophical” because of its presence in other disciplines. To an extent, the discussion is semantic. Anyway, I have a question: how can you distinguish bad philosophy from good philosophy, and what (for example) is in that second group, and how do you know?

As though philosophy and religion can be placed in the same category by virtue of a conjunction.

I share that concern. That is why I separated the two issues when I gave my own answer earlier in the thread.

Comment #937120 by Schrodinger’s Cat

Scientific findings have actually led to even deeper philosophical questions.

I don’t care. For me to give philosophy the thumbs up you do, we need to have obtained some philosophical answers. And they need to have come from philosophy and not from science. And we need to have some way of knowing those answers are actually right.

If old philosophical ideas are obsolete it is only because they have been expanded along with scientific knowledge.

As far as I can tell, obsolete philosophical ideas haven’t expanded in the same way that, say, Newtonian physics turned out to be a low-speed approximation of relativistic physics; they seem to have simply been discredited. Perhaps we should discuss some specific examples to see where each of our perceptions is fair, if anywhere.

the notion that the entire universe might be a virtual simulation is something that simply would not have been conceivable back in the days of Kant.

The “we’re in the Matrix” fear predates the computing era, even if the films don’t – Plato and Descartes both considered the possibility that our experiences are fake (Plato even became convinced of it, conceding only the reality of the Forms), and the idealism of Berkeley is hardly a realist theory.

The multiverse is also another largely philosophically based idea

No it’s not. Firstly, only someone who lacks the relevant scientific background could be so ignorant as to use the phrase “the multiverse”. Secondly, let’s look at the various versions of this idea:
(1) Inflationary Big Bang cosmology, which is well-evidenced, implies the early universe underwent expansion that so outpaced causality the Hubble zones it created would be sufficiently numerous and physically uncorrelated that just about every possible set of parameters could occur among them, and even the physical laws could do so. These ideas are based on calculations.
(2) Multiple universes, again by no means reasonable to expect to be physically alike, are an inevitable outcome also of such ideas as M-theory, the case for which is utterly non-philosophical.
(3) The most philosophical multiverse idea, the many-worlds interpretation of wave function collapse in quantum mechanics, is also an idea that’s pretty bankrupt when you look at it in any detail.

as are various interpretations of the anthropic principle

None of which are justified. The only reasonable anthropic comments are ones based on physical models that tell us something about how readily universes can have the features of interest. Several researchers have shown that approximately half of parameter configurations would be OK. That’s not philosophy.

there are still many philosophical arguments over the nature of maths itself!

But what demonstrably true facts about maths do we only know because of philosophy, or at least learned first therein?

don't get me going on those strange loops

If you think philosophy provides special insight into those, go into details.

Comment #937126 by susanlatimer

What could be stranger than human brains arguing about whether science has made philosophy obsolete?

I would be careful, if I were you, before deciding that there’s no chance such a view could have a case. In fact, it’s one of the view issues I know of where both sides’ arguments are of some interesting merit to me.

Comment #937132 by Laurie Fraser

Philosophy has given over the investigative realms which belong to Science quite frequently since the Enlightenment, and that's what you'd expect of a discipline of honest inquiry.

As a discipline of honest inquiry, it should have given over even more. For example, it should have had no criterion for its judgement of quantum mechanics more demanding than, “Since its empirical predictions are fantastically accurate, it’s right”.

[Philosophy] has become an expert feedback loop for the consideration of the scientific enterprise - a kind of check and balance mechanism, where science can be judged on its epistemic enterprise, amongst other things.

I’ve never understood this idea. It’s not as if scientists do stuff, then ask philosophers to tell them whether they’ve done good science. The “this is when science is good” rules are part of science itself; it would be a very arbitrary definition of science to say otherwise.

Philosophy itself is largely bound by teleological pursuits

That doesn’t mean it has any merit.

Philosophy is not, and never will be, redundant. Of course we need the scientific enterprise, but equally, we need to reflect on it.

Science is a reflection on evidence to draw conclusions. Wherever X is part of science, so is reflection on X. I don’t see why we should define science in a lesser manner just so that the stuff we arbitrarily cut out of its definition gets to be subsumed into “philosophy”.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 06:56:45 UTC | #937141

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 26 by Laurie Fraser

I’ve never understood this idea. It’s not as if scientists do stuff, then ask philosophers to tell them whether they’ve done good science. The “this is when science is good” rules are part of science itself; it would be a very arbitrary definition of science to say otherwise.

There's a difference between the methodological reflexive behaviour of science, and the external reflection on science. Non-scientists (i.e. philosophers) regularly make substantive comments on the methodology and programmatic interests of science, and in many cases these comments are particularly apposite and enlightening. Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea is a case in point, where DD makes valuable contributions to our understanding of the success of evolutionary theory. It's no good putting science in a gilded cage - it must be scrutinised by broader approaches.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:00:22 UTC | #937150

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 27 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 24 by Quine

Nice try, but you can go through the metaphysics of Aristotle and find case after case of things that have been shown to be simply not true, especially after Darwin.

That completely misses the point that Aristotle's ideas only arose in the first place because of the knowledge of the day.....albeit limited. It is completely erroneous to simply see philosophy as some repository of the unknown that diminishes as knowldege increases. Philosophy is, and has always been, about expanding upon the known and giving it a context. It is fundamentally about extrapolating stuff that we may not yet know from what we do know.

but as I wrote before, many of the old arguments simply don't hold up any longer.

Why ever would one expect them to ?? You are confusing philosophy with the fixed dogmas of religion.

Krauss tends to throw the baby out with the bath water, but he does not really care about that because it is not his field

Krauss simply reflects the ' we've just about got it all worked out now ' attitude that has always been present in physics ever since Newton. One does not know what one does not know, and thus the tendency in science is always to think that one is closer to the end of the quest than the start of it.

Indeed....an excellent and appropriately ironic ( in view of the alleged irrelevancy of philosophy ) philosophical question would be.........what percentage of all there is to know DO we actually know ?

There you go.....a valid philosophical question. Proof that philosophy is neither dead or obsolete.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 08:40:54 UTC | #937152

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 28 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #937150 by Laurie Fraser

There's a difference between the methodological reflexive behaviour of science, and the external reflection on science.

Why should only the former count as part of science? Why should the latter count as part of philosophy? Note successfully answering the first question doesn’t necessarily involve giving the second question a good answer.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea is a case in point

It’s a great book in (most if not all) parts, but I would have classified the valid arguments in it as information-theoretic arguments rather than “philosophical” ones.

It's no good putting science in a gilded cage - it must be scrutinised by broader approaches.

Every time someone gives an argument against philosophy’s awesomeness, be that person a scientist (such as Hawking) or a philosopher (such as Wittgenstein), someone replies to that argument by saying that it constitutes philosophical reasoning in its own right. Maybe they also give another response to the argument; maybe they don’t. Maybe a response to this “but that’s philosophy” argument would be possible in the form of, “But philosophy can’t help but lead us to that argument’s conclusion, which makes philosophy inconsistent, which means that the demonstration of that fact being philosophy doesn’t invalidate the fact that it’s been shown inconsistent, hence not so awesome”; perhaps it wouldn’t be. Whatever the details there, the following point is worth making: the very fact that philosophy’s defenders define it so as to include all commentary upon itself grants me the right to do the same with science. It’s not a case of putting it in a gilded cage; it’s a case of arguing that any decent insight into science you can bring forward deserves to also be considered a part of science.

A related point: whenever it is said philosophy is obsolete, the person saying that contends that the only things worth deeming philosophical are those not properly validated in other disciplines; they must, because that which is properly validated would otherwise constitute a counterexample to their contention of philosophy being obsolete. Therefore, when one party makes this contention but another (such as you) disagrees, the disagreement is either purely semantic or should be construed as a disagreement regarding which specific lines of enquiry are valuable. Clearly, no-one on either side of the debate doubts that that which is valuable includes, at a minimum, all sciences (empirical and formal, the latter including logic, mathematics and information theory), and understanding what makes for good science (in this broad sense of the term). The discussion, then, is over whether any examples exist of philosophy which is not covered under that umbrella but nonetheless isn’t obsolete. What would you give as examples for that?

Comment #937152 by Schrodinger’s Cat

Philosophy is, and has always been, about expanding upon the known and giving it a context. It is fundamentally about extrapolating stuff that we may not yet know from what we do know.

Could you give a more modern example, which has not been refuted by modern science but instead expands on its findings, so we can see this mechanism you describe in action? If so, I would find the discussion to which it would lead most fascinating.

Krauss simply reflects the ' we've just about got it all worked out now ' attitude that has always been present in physics ever since Newton. One does not know what one does not know, and thus the tendency in science is always to think that one is closer to the end of the quest than the start of it.

If the question of interest is that of whether philosophy is obsolete, a negative answer requires not that science be shown to be incomplete, but that we have examples of knowledge with a philosophical origin but not a scientific one.

an excellent and appropriately ironic (in view of the alleged irrelevancy of philosophy) philosophical question would be what percentage of all there is to know DO we actually know? There you go ... a valid philosophical question. Proof that philosophy is neither dead or [sic] obsolete.

Not if I don’t concede it is a philosophical question, or if I do but philosophy doesn’t answer it. As it happens I don’t concede it is a philosophical question. It’s a mathematical one; we can prove there are infinitely many things to know about maths alone, but we also know we only know finitely many of them, so the percentage is 0 (or an infinitesimal if you use non-standard analysis). But to decide that question isn’t philosophical requires me to rely on my own definition of what one of those is, so if your definition is different our disagreement regarding whether philosophy is obsolete could be semantic. (Indeed, I suspect definitions of both philosophy and obsolete will differ between us.) To help any subsequent “here’s an example” “no it isn’t”/”yes it is” exchange be more fruitful, I’d like to ask you – or anyone else interested in this, e.g. Laurie Frasier – what their definition of philosophy is.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 10:43:36 UTC | #937175

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 29 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 28 by Jos Gibbons

If the question of interest is that of whether philosophy is obsolete, a negative answer requires not that science be shown to be incomplete, but that we have examples of knowledge with a philosophical origin but not a scientific one.

I find that rather amusing, given that science is in fact a sibling of philosophy. The entire rationale for science, indeed the very basis of rationale itself, derives from epistemological concepts of truth, logic, and sceptical enquiry. Science is actually a branch of philosophy..........indeed, one can trace science back to its roots when it was actually called.....'natural philosophy'.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 12:54:42 UTC | #937193

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 30 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #937193 by Schrodinger’s Cat

“If the question of interest is that of whether philosophy is obsolete, a negative answer requires not that science be shown to be incomplete, but that we have examples of knowledge with a philosophical origin but not a scientific one.” I find that rather amusing, given that science is in fact a sibling of philosophy.

I don’t know why you chose the sibling metaphor. If you had claimed science was a subset of philosophy, which seems to be the main thrust of the rest of your comment’s argument, you would have introduced a pertinent premise, because then the successes of science would be examples of the successes of philosophy. I’ll address that possibility later in this post, but here it suffices to point out that, given two siblings, it could be the case only one isn’t a waste of space.

The entire rationale for science, indeed the very basis of rationale itself, derives from epistemological concepts of truth, logic, and sceptical enquiry. Science is actually a branch of philosophy ... indeed, one can trace science back to its roots when it was actually called ... 'natural philosophy'.

I’m well-aware that science was once called natural philosophy. I’m no more interested in something that insists on calling itself natural philosophy than something that insists on calling itself natural theology. Both claim to make sense of empirical facts, but neither is the right way to think about what you’re doing, even if/where what you’re doing has some merit. You see, I will agree that science was caused by some philosophers’ efforts (specifically, they were those philosophers who wanted something better than the philosophy of their day could offer), which is why at first they called it natural philosophy rather than giving it a Latin name meaning knowledge. Back then, at least, its name instead referred to (love of) wisdom.

But here’s the thing: one way philosophy’s modern relevance commonly gets critiqued is by suggesting we only call it “philosophy” if its rightful place in a more specific field hasn’t yet been found; that’s why the matter of whether atoms exist was once considered philosophical rather than chemical. I don’t think chemists owe anything to Democritus, at least not in a way that makes the modern maintenance of deliberately “philosophical” efforts and institutions worthwhile. And the reason no-one ever calls science natural philosophy now is because we have a more mature understanding of what we should be doing to get knowledge and why – so mature in fact that it no longer counts as philosophy.

Does that mean my definition of what constitutes philosophy depends on the era in history we are considering? Yes. That shouldn’t be too surprising in a definition I use to conclude it to be obsolete. Does this mean my definition of what constitutes philosophy gradually concedes ground to the very offshoots of the “philosophy” of the past? It seems so. To me, what is of importance in assessing a field is what its properties are, not what are the properties of those fields that, it just so historically happens, caused or were caused by it. Does this mean that, by calling philosophy obsolete, I’m saying we should scrap a procedure that might do us the same kind of favours it’s done in the past? I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s yet another jewel, like science only even more modern, which is waiting round the philosophical corner, if only we keep its university departments funded and its professional and/or self-identifying practitioners in high intellectual esteem in their capacity as “philosophers”, besides our ordinary willingness to praise the qualities of any valid arguments they as people happen to concoct.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:48:56 UTC | #937229