[LINK] Why Talk to Philosophers: Physicist Sean Carroll Discusses "Common Misunderstandings" about Philosophy

by shminux 5y23rd Jun 20141 min read59 comments

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Why Talk to Philosophers? Part I. by philosopher of science Wayne Myrvold.

See also Sean Carroll's own blog entry, Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy

Sean classifies the disparaging comments physicists make about philosophy as follows: "Roughly speaking, physicists tend to have three different kinds of lazy critiques of philosophy: one that is totally dopey, one that is frustratingly annoying, and one that is deeply depressing". Specifically:

  • “Philosophy tries to understand the universe by pure thought, without collecting experimental data.”
  • “Philosophy is completely useless to the everyday job of a working physicist.”
  • “Philosophers care too much about deep-sounding meta-questions, instead of sticking to what can be observed and calculated.”

He counters each argument presented.


Personally, I am underwhelmed, since he does not address the point of view that philosophy is great at asking interesting questions but lousy at answering them. Typically, an interesting answer to a philosophical question requires first recasting it in a falsifiable form, so that is becomes a natural science question, be it physics, cognitive sciences, AI research or something else. This is locally known as hacking away at the edges. Philosophical questions don't have philosophical answers.