[ExI] Why Physics Needs Philosophy

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 30 22:53:09 UTC 2016

On Mar 30, 2016, at 3:13 PM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Wed, Mar 30, 2016 Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ​> ​I put your previous rant against philosophy to a professional philosopher, his response was:
>> 'Mortimer Adler is a silly example since he is respected almost solely by non-philosophers.  But I'd put the contributions of Wittgenstein, Putnam, Kripke, Anscombe, Davidson, Sellars, McDowell, Brandom, and Thompson up against any of these supposed "gargantuan philosophical discoveries made by non-philosophers."'
> ​I grant you that not all modern philosophers are as silly as Adler was,

Let me _stress_ this, since it's being missed: I know only one person who put forth Adler as a serious and important philosopher. The professionals I've asked have a fairly low opinion of him. He has no list of students following in his footsteps that I'm aware of. Why anyone would bring up Adler as a key example is beyond me. It's like picking Erich von Däniken to show us how archaeology and history are useless fields.

> and some are interesting people who do a good job explaining the ideas made by others to ​humanities majors​. But what ​original ​discoveries did those professional philosophers make that was even close in important ​to​ the gargantuan philosophical discoveries make by NON-philosophers like Cantor who discovered that there is a infinite number of different types of infinity​,​ or Godel who discovered that some things are true but ​have no proof​, o​r​ Turing who discovered that things can be deterministic but not predictable​,​ or Clausius who discovered Entropy​,​ or Maxwell who discovered that static electricity magnetism and light were ​all ​related​,​ or Darwin who discovered how bacteria can turn into people​,​ or Planck who discovered that everything comes in little packages​,​ or Watson and Crick who discovered that heredity is digital​,​ or Hubble who discovered that the universe ​is​ expanding​,​ or Perlmutter Schmidt and Riess​ who discovered that the universe ​is​ accelerating​,​ or Einstein who discovered that space and time ​are​ not absolute. What discoveries about the nature of reality have​ professional philosophers​ made ​in the last ​couple of centuries​ that ​was​ even in the same ballpark ​in​ importance, or even ​in ​the same continent?

Gödel was a philosopher, no? What about Bertrand Russell, A. N. Whitehead, David Hilbert, and Henri Poincaré? Didn't they all do work in philosophy, in some cases as professionals?

This has descended into a pissing contest. Almost all workers in any field might be seen ultimately as adding very little, especially when set against the giants. (This doesn't mean I accept some "great man" version of history here.) Maudlin's point wasn't about who discovered more stuff. It was about the role of philosophy in the overall process.


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