Is philosophy dead? ⇒ Massimo Pigliucci on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s views about philosophy

Read the article of Biologist and Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci’s post (Neil deGrasse Tyson and the value of philosophy ) on the contemporary modern scientists views about Philosophy and its discourse in scientiasalon blog.

The article is interested and thought-provoking for reading that Pigliucci depicts the scientist’s aggressive opinion (specially his friend Neil deGrasse Tyson and other modern scientists) about the necessity of philosophical discourse and to rebuttal the opinion by his own critical words.


“It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse Tyson [1] has done it again: he has dismissed philosophy as a useless enterprise, and actually advised bright students to stay away from it. It is not the first time Neil has done this sort of thing, and he is far from being the only scientist to do so. But in his case the offense is particularly egregious, for two reasons: first, because he is a highly visible science communicator; second, because I told him not to, several times.” …

“Well, Neil, consider this your follow-up call, just as you requested. Not that you didn’t get several of those before. For instance, even fellow scientist and often philosophy-skeptic Jerry Coyne pointed out that you “blew it big time” [8] when you disinvited philosopher David Albert from an event you had organized at the American Museum of Natural History, and that originally included a discussion between Albert and physicist Lawrence Krauss (yet another frequent philosophy naysayer [9]). Moreover, when you so graciously came to the book launch for my Answers for Aristotle a couple of years ago, you spent most of the evening chatting with a number of graduate students from CUNY’s philosophy program, and they tried really hard to explain to you how philosophy works and why you had a number of misconceptions about it. To no avail, apparently.”…

“The philosopher explores that landscape by constructing arguments, entertaining counter-arguments, and either discarding or refining a certain view. The process does not usually lead to one final answer (though it does eliminate a number of bad ones), because conceptual space is much broader than its empirical counterpart, which means that there may be more than one good way of looking at a particular question (but, again, also a number of bad ways).”…

“You and a number of your colleagues keep asking what philosophy (of science, in particular) has done for science, lately. There are two answers here: first, much philosophy of science is simply not concerned with advancing science, which means that it is a category mistake (a useful philosophical concept [11]) to ask why it didn’t. The main objective of philosophy of science is to understand how science works and, when it fails to work (which it does, occasionally), why this was the case.”…

“…A common refrain I’ve heard from you (see direct quotes above) and others, is that scientific progress cannot be achieved by “mere armchair speculation.” And yet we give a whole category of Nobels to theoretical physicists, who use the deductive power of mathematics (yes, of course, informed by previously available empirical evidence) to do just that. Or — even better — take mathematics itself, a splendid example of how having one’s butt firmly planted on a chair (and nowhere near any laboratory) produces both interesting intellectual artifacts in their own right and an immense amount of very practical aid to science. No, I’m not saying that philosophy is just like mathematics or theoretical physics. I’m saying that one needs to do better than dismiss a field of inquiry on the grounds that it is not wedded to a laboratory setting, or that its practitioners like comfortable chairs.”…

“…Physics became independent with Galileo and Newton (so much so that the latter actually inspired David Hume and Immanuel Kant to do something akin to natural philosophizing in ethics and metaphysics); biology awaited Darwin (whose mentor, William Whewell, was a prominent philosopher, and the guy who coined the term “scientist,” in analogy to artist, of all things); psychology spun out of its philosophical cocoon thanks to William James, as recently (by the standards of the history of philosophy) as the late 19th century. Linguistics followed through a few decades later (ask Chomsky); and cognitive science is still deeply entwined with philosophy of mind (see any book by Daniel Dennett). Do you see a pattern of, ahem, progress there?” …

Read more at: Neil deGrasse Tyson and the value of philosophy at Scientia Salon



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