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Sat, Nov 14, 2015 - 05:26 PM

Does philosophy have anything useful to offer in the 21st century?

Are Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss right when they say that philosophy is dead and science is the best method in understanding the universe?


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Bo Bennett, PhD

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

I am the host of this show :) For my complete bio, please see http://www.bobennett.com.
PrintSun, Nov 15, 2015 - 04:19 PM
Two very different questions, and the second question has two parts that have different answers. First, the first part of your second question: "Are Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss right when they say that philosophy is dead..." Clearly this is a opinionated statement suggesting that science has replaced philosophy in many aspects, perhaps meant as a nod to Friedrich Nietzsche's famous "God is Dead" statement. Has science replaced some areas where people used to turn to philosophy? I would say so. Just like science has replaced religion when it has filled our gaps of the unknown, science has done the same for more secular philosophical ideas such as some moral questions dealing with our propensity to risk our lives for others. The second part of the question, "...and science is the best method in understanding the universe?" I would also agree, but with a caveat that I will explain in a bit.

"Does philosophy have anything useful to offer in the 21st century?" Of course. Don't forget that science is based on "the philosophy of science," in other words, the foundation of science itself is a philosophy. In addition, there are still many questions that are beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. Without philosophy, what's left? Religion, which, is in itself a philosophy, so technically that isn't even left. Some people argue that even moral issues can be determined scientifically—I strongly disagree. Science can inform morality, but not the underlying philosophy. How do we define morality? What is the best-possible world? How do we handle moral dilemmas? The list of questions go on, and this is just on the topic of morality. Science may be the best method for understanding the universe, but only for scientific issues and that does not mean we can get rid of philosophy.

Philosophy is not dead. It may have been overshadowed by science as of late, but it is alive and kicking, and in my opinion, will continue to kick for the foreseeable future.
Bo Bennett, PhD
My Latest Book: https://www.uncomfortable-ideas.com
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David McDivitt
Sunday, November 15, 2015 - 03:08:11 AM
I see no one has answered this, so I will offer something. A lot of sciencey people speak against philosophy. From what I've seen, these are usually realists, or people who advocate scientific-realism. Philosophy does not provide black and white answers. When things are gray or murky, a realist is more likely to throw it out and pursue something less gray and murky.

Psychology as a discipline came directly from philosophy as a branch of philosophy. Psychology is often referred to as a “soft” science. Why is that? Well, psychology does not deal with supposed real physical things, such as biology or physics might. But psychology uses the Scientific Method and is very much science. Behavioristic psychology is very technical with experimentation, publication, hypotheses, evidence, and applications that benefit us. Compare with theoretical physics, also considered science, is pure theory, has no evidence, yet is seldom criticized. Obviously there is a bias toward realism.

Philosophy has a great deal to offer. Science is not the only way “to think”. For example, in science it's necessary to begin with a formal hypothesis, guess, or idea, and state what it is. How do people come up with that? Other type thinking is necessary, such as intuition or speculation. What matters is, when people do enter the scientific process, they do it properly, but anything can potentially lead up to that point. A lot of humanity is involved on the periphery of science no one ever talks about. Why does a scientist or researcher choose a particular project? Why is it meaningful?

Ethics is a direct instantiation of philosophy. Without ethics there could be no science. To a great extent ethics is superior to science acting as a governing agent. Does that not place philosophy above science? Our values establish why we do things and philosophy very much deals with values.

By questioning the need for philosophy, should we all be scientists instead? How exactly should the entirety of human history be represented, except through philosophy, showing changes in ideas and thought? Is such not important?

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