Is Philosophy of Science Dead?

“Philosophy is dead,”.  So says Stephen Hawking in his new book, The Grand Design.  He elaborates on this statement by stating, “Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”  This has stirred up a hornets nest in the vaunted halls of that once most noble of studies, Philosophy.  

I first read about this at Skepchick.org when Jen post it in her Quickie entries.  The next day Sam Ogden posted The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) with the question, “Is Philosophy Dead?”.  In that article he linked to at article in Philosophy Now which takes issue with Hawkin’s stance on philosophy.  

It is an interesting article, but I think it fails to make it’s case.  The reality is that science, especially biology and physics, has advanced to the point where their theories are suffciant to explain the vexing issues that philoshers have been pouring over for millenia.  When we are at the point in scientific knowledge that we can reasonably answer the question, “Where did we come from?”, philosophy becomes an wasteful and pointless exercise.  Philosophy now finds itself in the position of trying to answer questions that have no more relevance than, “How many angle can dance on the head of a pin?”.  

In reading the article in Philosophy Now, I am reminded of that paragon of rationality and atheism, Douglas Adams, who in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has the following exchange between two philosophers and the computer Deep Thought:

MAJIKTHISE:

You just let the machines get on with the adding up and we’ll take care of the eternal verities, thank you very much. 

VROOMFONDEL:

yeah. 

MAJIKTHISE:

By law the quest for the ultimate truth is quite clearly the unalienable prerogative of your working thinkers 

VROOMFONDEL:

That’s right. 

MAJIKTHISE:

I mean what’s the use of us sitting up all night saying there may – 

VROOMFONDEL:

Or may not be 

MAJIKTHISE:

[Softly] …or may not be… [louder] a god, if this machine comes along the next morning and gives you ‘is telephone number? 

VROOMFONDEL:

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! 

VROOMFONDEL:

We demand that that machine not be allowed to think about this problem!

MAJIKTHISE:

We’ll go on strike! 

VROOMFONDEL:

Tthat’s right. You’ll have a national philosopher’s strike on your hands. 

DEEP THOUGHT:

Who will that inconvenience? 

Douglas had a way of using humor to focus and crystalize important issues.  I have a very strong feeling what side of this argument he’d come down on.

 

 

 

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