Essay A Research About Stephen Hawkings

9178 Words Aug 31st, 2015 37 Pages
Hawking contra Philosophy
Christopher Norris presents a case for the defence.
Stephen Hawking recently fluttered the academic dovecotes by writing in his new book The Grand Design – and repeating to an eager company of interviewers and journalists – that philosophy as practised nowadays is a waste of time and philosophers a waste of space. More precisely, he wrote that philosophy is ‘dead’ since it hasn’t kept up with the latest developments in science, especially theoretical physics. In earlier times – Hawking conceded – philosophers not only tried to keep up but sometimes made significant scientific contributions of their own. However they were now, in so far as they had any influence at all, just an obstacle to progress through their
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Science is Philosophical
Professor Hawking has probably been talking to the wrong philosophers, or picked up some wrong ideas about the kinds of discussion that currently go on in philosophy of science. His lofty dismissal of that whole enterprise as a useless, scientifically irrelevant pseudo-discipline fails to reckon with several important facts about the way that science has typically been practised since its early-modern (seventeenth-century) point of departure and, even more, in the wake of twentieth century developments such as quantum mechanics and relativity.
Science has always included a large philosophical component, whether at the level of basic presuppositions concerning evidence, causality, theory-construction, valid inference, hypothesis-testing, and so forth, or at the speculative stage where scientists ignore the guidance offered by well-informed philosophers only at risk of falling into various beguiling fallacies or fictions. Such were those ‘idols of the theatre’ that Bacon warned against in his New Organon of 1620, and such – albeit in a very different philosophic guise – those delusive ideas that, according to Kant, were liable to lead us astray from the path of secure investigation or truth-seeking enquiry. This was sure to happen, he warned, if the exercise of pure (speculative)

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