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"Philosophy is Dead"?


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Initial post: Sep 5, 2010 6:25:12 PM PDT
Reading a little more about Hawking's latest theory that the Universe did not need a God to set the Big Bang in motion as presented in his new book "The Grand Design", (see my previous post), he has also dared to make the bold statement in the introductory sections that "Philosophy is Dead".

According to Hawking, the importance of presenting the theory why or how the universe came into being was reserved for the philosophers, but that field of enquiry is now "dead" as it has not kept up with modern developments in the world of science, especially in the field of physics. So now, philosophers are redundant as scientists have become now the sole leaders in the quest for knowledge.

I think Hawking has misunderstood a very important concept: "Philosophy" comes from the Greek "philosophia" = "love of wisdom". "Science" comes from the Latin "scientia"= "to know".

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "science" is defined as: "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

"Philosophy" is defined as: "the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline."

When you consider these definitions, scientists basically collect new data about our world and the universe, while philosophers study the nature of the new knowledge presented, obviously to find the wisdom in it.

It was always the job of scientists to present us with new knowledge, but philosophers too will always exist to find the truth in the information the scientists present and if it follows sound, logical principles. Hence the reason why philosophers cannot keep up with physicists like Hawking who claim that the "Law of Gravity" is useful evidence that there need not be a God for the Universe to exist or the Big Bang to occur, and that everything occurred via "Spontaneous Creation" with no need to have a Creator present. Where is the "wisdom" in Hawking's statements? As I mentioned in a previous post, there had to be a great Authority at work to create the Law of Gravity--Nothing begets Nothing. The very existence of mathematical equations used by scientists displays that a Great Mind is at work since everything discovered concerning the workings of the cosmos can be explained by numbers. They had to be created by Someone, and the fact that numbers have no end displays this Being is indeed infinite.

Hawking in earlier writings claims the triumph of human reasoning will come when man can find the 'perfect theory' of why or how the universe came into being. That will never happen for the simple reason man cannot discover how God or the Great Being created matter, or the Big Bang, from nothing. It was done by the power of His Will, and no physical evidence of this Great Act of creation can be discovered, especially as we still haven't found the physical boundaries to the universe, with all our knowledge.

Let's take a quick look at the Bible for a moment, since Hawking says philosophy, the "love of wisdom", is dead and foolishness is alive and kicking:

"And he said to man: Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding." (Job 28:28) Hawking does not fear or believe in a traditional God, so he is definitely lacking in wisdom.

"The fool said in his heart: There is no God." (Psalm 52:1) (Self explanatory.)

"As a house that is destroyed, so is wisdom to a fool: and the knowledge of the unwise is as words without sense." (Ecclesiasticus 21:21) This explains why Hawking's comments do not make sense to me.

"Every man is become a fool for knowledge, every artist is confounded in his graven idol: for what he hath cast is false, and there is no spirit in them." (Jeremias 10:14) Has Hawking become a 'fool' for knowledge? Certainly seems that way.

Posted on Nov 18, 2010 10:03:15 AM PST
R. Wexelbaum says:
Perhaps Hawking say that philosophy is dead because he does not want6 to recognize the fact that Phd philosophers such as Adolph Grunbaum have said precisely what Hawking and his coauthor have said.

It is true that you can write a paper for your doctorate that makes a hypothetical statement. You may research and any experiments that you make may lead you to a solution or to an admittance that there can be no logical conclusion. That's research baby! It follows the "scientific method", but it may remain on the borderline of real science...and is no better than innovative philosophy with footnotes.

Hawking attempts to lead a poorly informed audience to believe that he is saying something new and different. Actually all of the concepts he has made have previously been considered by many others...both scientists and philosophers...as well as popular book authors.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2011 10:07:22 AM PST
Your post is frankly the most ignorant I've read as a response to Hawking's statement. Religion has no place in empirical scientific inquiry, and most philosophers, even metaphysicians, do not believe in a "God". Philosophy is not "dead", though it has taken new form in postmodernity. What is dead, is the "old tradition", inclusive of metaphysical speculation regarding the nature of reality. And yes, I have an advanced degree in the field.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2011 3:23:20 PM PDT
I also have an advanced degree, and I know that having an advanced degree does not a philosopher make. Some truck drivers with little education are more intelligent than we academics. Hawking's book The Grand Design makes several statements with little or no foundation, it misrepresents Aristotle, and it claims to prove something merely by explaining how it might be. Explaining how something would be does not prove that it is. This book is an explanation of Hawking's theory, and as such it is interesting, but an explanation is not a proof. Hawking has failed completely, in this book, to prove that his theory corresponds to reality.

Posted on Nov 22, 2011 7:15:35 AM PST
Stephen Hawking is practicing philosophy when he pronounces that "philosophy is dead". According to John Lennox (in his monograph "God and Stephen Hawking"), Hawking is at best a misguided philosopher and at worst he has deceived himself through science and his M-theory. I suggest that everyone interested in this debate read Lennox's little book to see what real philosophers and some scientists think of Hawking's foray into philosophy. Unfortunately, the public views Hawking's pronouncement as gospel because of his reputation as a scientist, whereas the two really do not mix. This is an area where Hawking's has very little if any credibility, and his book "The Grand Design" does nothing to enhance his reputation as a philosopher.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2011 1:22:10 PM PST
All the comments that Michael A. Littlejohn just made are correct, except one. He says that philosophy and science do not mix. That is not precise. The two subjects are different, and eminence as a scientist does not make someone a philosopher, but the two subjects do mix. Both philosophy and science deal with reality, therefore they do mix, but they are not the same. Mr. Littlejohn, I agree with you, but I warn against trying to defend philosophy by attacking science. There is some truth in each subject.

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 1:14:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2011 1:17:07 AM PST
"Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds."
― Richard P. Feynman

Here is a fundamental question: Science informs philosophy and creates topics of debate and discussion, but does philosophy inform science? Has any scientist changed his or her research focus based on some *new* knowledge that emerged from philosophy?

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the probabilistic aspects of QED have spurred endless debates on the "nature of the universe." However, has any physicist changed or added to his areas of research on QED based on some new "discovery" in philosophy?

Ethics, values, and morals can affect scientific research practices such as the use of research animals, and ethics is a legitimate area of philosophical debate that affects science. However, these ethical discussions are not part of science. Rather they are rules that may limit how science may or may not be applied.

I would argue that scientific study and philosophy have a hard line, and this is new empirical knowledge and new theory. As soon as someone develops new theories or gathers new empirical knowledge, they are doing science and not philosophy. The "natural philosopher" is a dead concept.

As someone who studied analytic philosophy, computer science, and applied mathematics, I believe my background in philosophy was invaluable. In particular, my courses in symbolic logic were very useful when constructing proofs in mathematics and when developing algorithms in computer science. Similarly, studying Popper, Russell, Whitehead and even Wittgenstein helped when I took many of my computer science theory courses. While most other computer science students were baffled by the importance of Goedel, I immediately understood the importance of his theorems.

As some of the posters have already discussed, philosophy as a whole is not dead, but the areas of legitimate study have been narrowed. The original post appears to be an attempt to keep religion inserted in scientific debate. Religion is not empirical, and therefore, it has no place in scientific study. Religion can inform ethical rules and decisions, but it cannot drive legitimate topics of scientific study.

Posted on Aug 29, 2013 7:59:58 PM PDT
Gregory Lee says:
Philosophy is dead in this sense: formerly we let philosophers tell us what makes sense and scientists tell us what is true. But then we had the problem of what to do when it appears that the truth makes no sense? Used to be, we would have sent the scientist back to his experiments to revise his formulas, but now we know better. The truth doesn't have to make sense, and when it doesn't, our philosophers just have to find a new sense to comport with the newly discovered truth. Science rules.
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Discussion in:  The Grand Design forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  8
Initial post:  Sep 5, 2010
Latest post:  Aug 29, 2013

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The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (Hardcover - September 7, 2010)
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