I was attracted to philosophy because it is the most minimalistic art I can think of. To express ideas, you use only the most minimal, the most reduced resources: no body (as in theatre), no figures (as in pictorial art), no voice or sound (as in music), no story (as in literature)—just thoughts. They are ordered, ideally crystal-clear and sharp, but they are just..
A persistent challenge to philosophy is whether it is rendered obsolete by science. Consider this exchange on the philosophy of mind:
Cognitive scientists are working to understand many issues raised by Kant—do you think the scientists are going to get conclusive answers to the question about consciousness and the mind—and other minds—and if they are, doesn..
The following is a guest post* by Adam Briggle and Robert Frodeman, both professors of Philosophy at the University of North Texas and co-authors of Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st Century Philosophy. This essay originally appeared in The Guardian and is reposted here with permission of the authors.
In yet another excellent interview at 3AM: Magazine, Richard Marshall talks with Elliott Sober (Wisconsin). There is a lot of interesting material in this interview, including Sober’s takes on the criticisms of evolutionary theory by Jerry Fodor (Rutgers) and Thomas Nagel (NYU).
On Nagel, he says:
Nagel thinks that “remarkable facts” can’t have low probabiliti..
What if I told you there was an easy, scientifically-proven, five-minute method for improving your teaching? Just five-minutes, and your teaching ratings go up. No, I’m not talking about giving your students candy when you have them fill out the course evaluation forms. I’m talking about an actual improvement in learning outcomes, based on real science. How much wou..
egardless of whom you want to assign the task of reaching across the line , presently little crosses it. Few practicing physicists today care what philosophers do or think.
And as someone who has tried to write about topics on the intersection of both fields, I can report that this disciplinary segregation is meanwhile institutionalized: The physics journals won’..
A few reporters at Vox conducted an unscientific survey of scientists to unpack the sense they’ve been getting that “science is in big trouble.” The result is a list of the seven biggest problems facing science, based on responses from 270 scientists. (more…)
“Far from being years of ‘enduring failure,’ the last 150 years have been philosophy’s best.”
So argues Scott Soames (University of Southern California) in an essay on the influence of academic philosophy in The New York Times column, The Stone. Framed as a response to “When Philosophy Lost Its Way,” by Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle (University of North Texas), ..
What is the name of the phenomenon by which someone who is an acknowledged expert in one area is led to be overconfident about his or her knowledge in other areas? It’s a specific version of illusory superiority, and it may be related to the Dunning-Kruger effect (a product of the correlation of overconfidence and lack of skill), but I’m wondering if it has its own ..
Don Howard (Notre Dame) has a post up at his Science Matters blog called “On the Pseudoproblem of Interdisciplinarity.” It begins by recounting some of the familiar complaints about the obstacles to interdisciplinary work that he has heard over the years:
From the beginning of my life in the academy, back in the 1960s, I have heard again, and again, and again the..
institutionalization of philosophy made it into a discipline that could be seriously pursued only in an academic setting. This fact represents one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy.
So argue Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle (both of University of North Texas). Philosophy’s institutionalization in the modern research university was a kind of “pu..
In an essay at Aeon, Huw Price (Cambridge) writes about “reputation traps.”
His example of this is scientific research on cold fusion, or low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), “the controversial idea that nuclear reactions similar to those in the Sun could, under certain conditions, also occur close to room temperature.” Cold fusion held out the promise of clean an..
Brian Robinson and Michael O’Rourke, both at Michigan State University, lead The Toolbox Project, an initiative which provides “philosophical yet practical enhancement to cross-disciplinary, collaborative science.” It is a fascinating and innovative use of philosophy to facilitate interdisciplinary research, and has been up and running for over a decade. I asked the..
Alan Love (Minnesota), C. Kenneth Waters (Calgary), Marcel Weber (Geneva), and William Wimsatt (Minnesota, Chicago) have won a $2.1 million grant from the Templeton Foundation for their project “From Biological Practice to Scientific Metaphysics”. The funding will support, among other things, summer institutes, lectures, post-docs, and graduate students. More infor..
The American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) has announced its elected fellows for 2014. Among the 401 new fellows are two philosophers: Joseph Pitt (Virginia Tech) and C.Kenneth Waters (Calgary).
Daniel Dennett (Tufts) has withdrawn from the popular World Science Festival upon learning of its funding from the John Templeton Foundation. Dennett, whose opposition to Templeton has been discussed here before, is reported by The Washington Post as saying:
“I would be very happy to have the Templeton Foundation sponsor research on religion and science,” he said..
What are the boundaries of philosophy? Why are they there and what is their nature? How do such boundaries structure the way philosophers approach understanding people, events, relationships, institutions, and so on? A few recent pieces around the Internet explore versions of these questions.
Justin E.H. Smith (Université Paris Diderot) argues at Berfrois that th..
Last week, Susanna Siegel and Steven Pinker (both of Harvard) participated in a debate about the role of the humanities and the sciences in the study of the mind. The debate was videotaped and can be watched here (update: link fixed). Below is Professor Siegel’s summary of the event, the topic of which raises questions about the value of the humanities more general..
In 2012, physicists Lawrence Krauss claimed that “…science progresses and philosophy doesn’t”, and Neil deGrasse Tyson infamously echoes such opinions… Lots of high profile physicists make dead wrong claims about a subject in which they are not experts, repeating misperceptions even after philosophers keep correcting them. This is like listening to creationists re..
Cosmology’s hot streak has stalled. Cosmologists have looked deep into time, almost all the way back to the Big Bang itself, but they don’t know what came before it. They don’t know whether the Big Bang was the beginning, or merely one of many beginnings. Something entirely unimaginable might have preceded it. Cosmologists don’t know if the world we see around us is..
In his contribution to A Teacher’s Life: Essays for Steven M. Cahn, David Rosenthal (CUNY) raises questions about philosophy’s fit with the humanities and the sciences, framed around the study of history.
A striking difference between those fields we classify as humanities and those we regard as sciences is the attitude within each field toward its history. Learning..
In the world of Star Trek, a rule called the “prime directive” prohibits our heroes from interfering in the development of alien cultures. I don’t think they had in mind the kind of “cultures” that could be grown in a Petri dish, but, as it turns out, NASA has predicted that we will find extraterrestrial life within the next 20 years, and that the life in question w..
You and a number of your colleagues keep asking what philosophy (of science, in particular) has done for science, lately. There are two answers here: first, much philosophy of science is simply not concerned with advancing science, which means that it is a category mistake (a useful philosophical concept) to ask why it didn’t.
BOOM! By now you have probably read abo..
That’s Neil deGrasse Tyson on majoring in philosophy. Chris Hardwick, over at Nerdist, interviews the famed astrophysicist and host of Cosmos, and one of the topics is philosophy (starting at 20:19). deGrasse Tyson thinks there is too much questioning in philosophy. Still, he has one question for philosophers: “Why are you wasting your time?” Sigh. There’s no one li..
Through the Wormhole is a television show on the Science Network hosted by Morgan Freeman. Its latest episode is about the direction of time and features Craig Callender* of UC San Diego in its first segment. So pretty much Morgan Freeman does his magical cosmic opening thing and then introduces and discusses time with Callender, who also goes paddle-boarding and ha..
1. Cosmological study concludes that there should be nothing, rather than something.
2. Those with episodic amnesia are not “stuck in time“, says Carl Craver (Washington U. in St.Louis).
3. Does a simulation of time-traveling photons help resolve the grandfather paradox?
4. Biology and politics: people are more likely to vote if they have low levels of cortisol, a s..
Scientific American has published an excerpt from the introduction to The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays, a new collection edited by Elliot Samuel Paul (Columbia) and Scott Barry Kaufman (NYU). In the various contributions, “philosophers draw on scientific research and scientific work is informed by philosophical perspectives.” Paul and Kaufman are two of the..
Massimo Pigliucci, currently professor at CUNY and soon to be holder of the K.D. Irani Professorship in Philosophy there, takes the occasion of his 50th birthday to reflect on his first five years as a professor of philosophy (following 26 years as a biologist) and on the discipline as a whole, particularly the relationship between philosophy and science.