Physics vs. Philosophy, or Why Lovers Somtimes Quarrel

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.

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

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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