Philosophy is not Dead

Philosophy is not Dead June 29, 2014

Dishearteningly, I hear frequently from my fellow godless hominids that “philosophy has nothing more to add to learning about the world. Science has taken over“. I don’t agree.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take being hit by a car to convince you of this.

I think the word “philosophy” suffers a lot from definition-scramble. Listening in on those talking about it, they rarely define what they mean. I get the impression that they think philosophy is talking about Hume’s or Descartes’ contributions. Maybe they mean complete abstract ponderings that don’t deal directly with observable practical reality – the very ivory tower of mental masturbation.

Others, I think, would assert that philosophy has constructed the foundations of science, and now it’s done. Science is at the wheel now.

Depending on how broadly “philosophy” is defined, the scientific method is a philosophy – so on that level, it’d be like arguing that we don’t need philosophy anymore, because we have philosophy now.

But that’s stretching the point, perhaps beyond recognition… but I think I have an example of a modern day philosophical problem that science is facing.

Peer review’s credibility is degrading.

We let our guard down, and while we weren’t looking, the creationists crawled in any started gnawing away at the foundation. They’ve created their own peer reviewed journals, because they have difficulty getting theistic notions past otherwise credible peer review journals.

For the rest of us, of course, we understand that a small group of “Yes Men” waving past any publications that match the statements of faith is not credible. But they are undergoing peer review. Maybe they’ll realize that the statements of faith undermine their credibility, and discard them… and just continue doing the same thing unofficially. Their Bible may not change (supposedly), but they certainly can adapt. They are the master bullshitters.

Are we sure we’ve philosophically tied up the loose ends enough to rule them out? Have we considered their arguments for making their own journals? Does it call into question the legitimacy of the standard scientific peer review process? How do we know? Does peer review need to start stipulating what the reviewers believe in real about the world? Will peer review itself need to be reviewed to make sure it’s “done right”?

I don’t know that we can just dismiss them… maybe not because there’s legitimacy in what they’re doing, but in terms that we’re not defining and nailing down the process enough.

Also, science has limits – those limits imply that philosophy could need to step in.

Are there other realities? What does that even mean? How do we study or investigate “other realities”? What happened “before” the Big Bang? How do we study that?

Unless we appeal to philosophy, we may not even be able to understand what it is we’re trying to explore, let alone have the tools needed to do so – and if we discard philosophy as dead, we may run into a wall we can’t circumvent with our current scientific method.

Philosophy isn’t some phase that humans went through, and now we’re done. It’s a core and integral aspect of modern science.



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