Friday, May 20, 2011

Hawking on the End of Philosophy

Stephen Hawking says philosophy is dead because it is not keeping up with science. The video is here (most of the talk is actually about M theory).

Kaiser says it may be the physicists who dropped philosophy. To a large extent this is all a natural consequence of the academic division of labor.

Many, many philosophers have suggested they are the culmination of philosophy, and therefore that philosophy has in a sense come to an end. All have been disappointed. I think the argument that philosophy has not reached a crescendo, but has simply run its course, has more potential. Of course we'll always have a need for logic and clear thinking. If you want to call that "philosophy", then fine. But as a goal-oriented endeavor (rather than a tool building endeavor) I think Hawking has hit on something. Philosophy ought to be more like mathematics - it ought to produce tools for scientists, and perhaps amuse itself with interesting puzzles every once in a while. Philosophy can also, of course, have a historical dimension too.


  1. Maybe you miss the point of philosophy.. It's not at all supposed to be like mathematics, or anything else. It's not "logic or clear thinking."

    The reason philosophy seems to not be as "productive" of other hard disciplines is because philosophy is the mother of all disciplines. Philosophy never "answers" anything because as soon as philosophers begin getting more and more precise in their discoveries, they cease becoming philosophers and become natural scientists, economists, mathematicians.

    Philosophy is that which produces all disciplines. And it's strange to say that it's dropping behind "science" when science is a type of philosophy! Moreover, what kind of philosophy is Hawking discussing? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Aesthetics, Ethics, Cosmology, Ontology? Philosophy as a general category isn't dropping behind anything.

  2. If philosophy is just critical thinking "which produces all disciplines" then obviously it's not dead. I think I made this clear in the post.


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