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Why physicists need philosophy

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At a party, on a plane, in the locker-room, I’m often asked what I do. Though tempted by one colleague’s adoption of the identity of a steam-pipe fitter, I admit I am a professor of philosophy. If that doesn’t end or redirect the conversation, my questioner may continue by raising some current moral or political issue, or asking for my favorite philosopher. The reply “No, I’m not that kind of philosopher, my field is the philosophy of physics” typically induces silence as my interlocutor peers into the chasm separating C.P. Snow’s two cultures while I go on about how Einstein changed basic beliefs about space and time. But now I have to be ready for a different response. “How can philosophers add anything to what physicists have been able to achieve without them? Richard Feynman made fun of philosophy, Steven Weinberg finds it useless, Neil de Grasse Tyson thinks it’s a waste of time, and Larry Krauss and Stephen Hawking say physics has answered big questions about our place in the. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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