Can Physics and Philosophy Get Along?

Gary Gutting in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_31 May. 13 13.17Physicists have been giving philosophers a hard time lately. Stephen Hawking claimed in a speech last year that philosophy is “dead” because philosophers haven’t kept up with science. More recently, Lawrence Krauss, in his book, “A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing,” has insisted that “philosophy and theology are incapable of addressing by themselves the truly fundamental questions that perplex us about our existence.” David Albert, a distinguished philosopher of science, dismissively reviewed Krauss’s book: “all there is to say about this [Krauss’s claim that the universe may have come from nothing], as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.” Krauss — ignoring Albert’s Ph.D. in theoretical physics — retorted in an interview that Albert is a “moronic philosopher.” (Krauss somewhat moderates his views in a recent Scientific American article.)

I’d like to see if I can raise the level of the discussion a bit. Despite some nasty asides, Krauss doesn’t deny that philosophers may have something to contribute to our understanding of “fundamental questions” (his “by themselves” in the above quotation is a typical qualification). And almost all philosophers of science — certainly Albert — would agree that an intimate knowledge of science is essential for their discipline. So it should be possible to at least start a line of thought that incorporates both the physicist’s and the philosopher’s sensibilities.

More here.

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