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Blog

Has today’s science rendered philosophy obsolete?

By Hamish Johnston
Facebook poll

In their 2010 book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow expressed the opinion that philosophy was dead as a useful vocation – and that it was now scientists who must address the big questions such as “How was the universe created?”.

Of course this is not the first time that scientists – primed by the many triumphs of their craft, particularly in the last few centuries – have put down philosophy, and the debate about its usefulness will continue.

A recent instalment pits the biologist Lewis Wolpert of University College London against Steve Fuller, who is a philosopher at the University of Warwick. It was organized by the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI) and you can watch it on the IAI’s video website. Also sticking his oar in on the side of philosophy is Jonathan Derbyshire, who is culture editor of the New Statesman. You can watch the debate here.

In this week’s Facebook poll we are asking which side of the fence you sit on – Hawking’s or the philosophers’.

Has today’s science rendered philosophy obsolete?

Yes
No

Let us know by visiting our Facebook page, and as always please feel free to post a comment to explain your answer.

In last week’s poll we asked what many would consider a philosophical question: In your interpretation of quantum physics, do objects have their properties well defined prior to and independent of measurement?

64% of you answered no – and when the same question was put in 2011 to professional physicists who study quantum theory, the result was 48%. The most popular response then was “yes in some cases”, which garnered 52% of the vote. In our poll, by contrast, only 18% went for that option.

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3 comments

  1. Carles Perelló

    Philosophy is attached to our living, like language, although not so evident. It gives meaning to our life. What for do we have the mind we have? It looks from the top of the piramid of human experience, including knowledge, and places us in the world.

  2. Carles Perelló i Valls

    Philosophy is how we look at the world from the top of the piramid of knoledge. Without it we are blind

  3. Peerally

    The opposite is true and Hawking’s Grand Design, paradoxically, has made it even more so. Science and philosophy (including religion) are inextricably interconnected. This is because science explains phenomena(origin of universe, origin of life, origin of matter, what is consciousness, life etc)while philosophy,including religion, interprets those phenomena. In a world of values, scientific and philosophical, we need both explanations and interpretations. So crucially we need to allow those disciplines to flourish and interact and together we can better rationalise the universe and existence. However I must emphasize,it cannot be overemphasized, that it is science that should first produce the explanations, the right explanations. The rest will follow suit. The right explanations will produce the right interpretations.

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