Why science needs philosophy: an op-ed in PNAS

September 11, 2020 • 1:00 pm

Although some scientists (I believe Lawrence Krauss is one) have said that philosophy is useless to scientists, I’m not one of these miscreants. Although I recognize that philosophy can’t find out truths about the real world as opposed to “truths” within logical systems, it can certainly be an aid to thinking about science. Two examples are Dan Dennett’s ideas about consciousness (I don’t think his lucubrations about free will, though, have been helpful to science as opposed to philosophy itself) and Phil Kitcher’s critique of sociobiology (now “evolutionary psychology”) in his book Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Nature. 

Further, philosophers have been instrumental in helping discredit Intelligent Design theory and creationism; I’m thinking in particular of Rob Pennock’s book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism and Kitcher’s anti-creationist book Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism.  Surely dispelling an “alternative” theory to evolution is a real contribution to science and to science education.

My Ph.D. advisor, Dick Lewontin, was a big fan of philosophy, and some of his scientific papers, like the one on the units of selection, sit at the border of science and philosophy. We often had philosophers spending sabbaticals in our lab (Eliott Sober, one of the authors of the paper below, was one of them), and their presence was stimulating.

Now several scientists and philosophers have teamed up to once again make the case for the value of philosophy in science in this paper in the new PNAS. Click on the screenshot to read the piece, or download the pdf here.

It’s a short piece—3.5 pages long—and gives several examples, new to me, about how philosophers have helped guide research, mainly by clarifying concepts. Not all of the “helpful” aids from from philosophy seem to have been all that helpful, though, including debates about the “modularity” of the brain, or emphasis on the importance of microbes in the biosphere, which seems to me to have come from science, not philosophy. This is what the piece says about brain modularity, for instance:

Philosophy had a part in the move from behaviorism to cognitivism and computationalism in the 1960s. Perhaps most visible has been the theory of the modularity of mind, proposed by philosopher Jerry Fodor (10). Its influence on theories of cognitive architecture can hardly be overstated. In a tribute after Fodor’s passing in 2017, leading cognitive psychologist James Russell spoke in the magazine of the British Psychological Society of “cognitive developmental psychology BF (before Fodor) and AF (after Fodor)” (https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/jerry-fodor-1935-2017).

Modularity refers to the idea that mental phenomena arise from the operation of multiple distinct processes, not from a single undifferentiated one. Inspired by evidence in experimental psychology, by Chomskian linguistics, and by new computational theories in philosophy of mind, Fodor theorized that human cognition is structured in a set of lower-level, domain-specific, informationally encapsulated specialized modules and a higher-level, domain-general central system for abductive reasoning with information only flowing upward vertically, not downward or horizontally (i.e., between modules). He also formulated stringent criteria for modularity. To this day, Fodor’s proposal sets the terms for much empirical research and theory in many areas of cognitive science and neuroscience (1112), including cognitive development, evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive anthropology. Although his theory has been revised and challenged, researchers continue to use, tweak, and debate his approach and basic conceptual toolkit.

Well, modularity could have been true in principle, and surely the idea of brain modularity has stimulated a lot of discussion. But in the end, it hasn’t led anywhere, largely because the actions of the brain don’t seem to be separated into distinct, quasi-independent moieties but seem to be diffuse—and plastic enough to be influenced by other parts of the brain. You can read about this diffuseness in Matthew Cobb’s new book, The Idea of the Brain. But even the precise definition of modules isn’t sufficiently specific that philosophers have been able to propose good experiments to test it.

In the end, the authors offer some suggestions for how to make science and philosophy more of BFFs, and they’re reasonable but nothing that doesn’t come to mind—or haven’t come to mind—to others. For what they’re worth, here they are (my emphasis):

  • i) Make more room for philosophy in scientific conferences. This is a very simple mechanism for researchers to assess the potential usefulness of philosophers’ insights for their own research. Reciprocally, more researchers could participate in philosophy conferences, expanding on the efforts of organizations such as the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology; the Philosophy of Science Association; and the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice.

  • ii) Host philosophers in scientific labs and departments. This is a powerful way (already explored by some of the authors and others) for philosophers to learn science and provide more appropriate and well-grounded analyses, and for researchers to benefit from philosophical inputs and acclimatize to philosophy more generally. This might be the most efficient way to help philosophy have a rapid and concrete impact on science.

  • iii) Co-supervise PhD students. The co-supervision of PhD students by a researcher and a philosopher is an excellent opportunity to make possible the cross-feeding of the two fields. It facilitates the production of dissertations that are both experimentally rich and conceptually rigorous, and in the process, it trains the next generation of philosopher-scientists.

  • iv) Create curricula balanced in science and philosophy that foster a genuine dialogue between them. Some such curricula already exist in some countries, but expanding them should be a high priority. They can provide students in science with a perspective that better empowers them for the conceptual challenges of modern science and provide philosophers with a solid basis for the scientific knowledge that will maximize their impact on science. Science curricula might include a class in the history of science and in the philosophy of science. Philosophy curricula might include a science module.

  • vRead science and philosophy. Reading science is indispensable for the practice of philosophy of science, but reading philosophy can also constitute a great source of inspiration for researchers as illustrated by some of the examples above. For example, journal clubs where both science and philosophy contributions are discussed constitute an efficient way to integrate philosophy and science.

  • vi) Open new sections devoted to philosophical and conceptual issues in science journals. This strategy would be an appropriate and compelling way to suggest that the philosophical and conceptual work is continuous with the experimental work, in so far as it is inspired by it, and can inspire it in return. It would also make philosophical reflections about a particular scientific domain much more visible to the relevant scientific community than when they are published in philosophy journals, which are rarely read by scientists.

The first two are fine; as I said, Lewontin’s lab always had a philosopher about. Co-supervision of Ph.D. students would be practical only if one’s thesis had a big philosophical component. #4, a curriculum balanced in science and philosophy, sounds good but there is little time in graduate school for courses outside one’s area, so a roughly equal “balance” would be impractical. A single course in philosophy of science, however, would be useful for Ph.D. candidates, at least in evolutionary biology. Reading groups are great if they’re well supervised, and many science journals already adhere to #6, having some bits about philosophy.

In the end, philosophy is an extremely valuable adjunct to science, but useful largely for getting us to think hard and avoid blind alleys, not so much in providing answers or suggesting experiments. Giving answers to empirical questions is not, of course, the job of philosophy, which is why Francis Crick is supposed to have made this statement, which may be apocryphal:

“Listen to philosophers’ questions, but not to their answers.”

h/t: Bryan

56 thoughts on “Why science needs philosophy: an op-ed in PNAS

  1. Intriguing ideas. Sam Harris has pointed out that what we agree on as science used to be called “natural philosophy”… I think that’s true…

    Now excuse me while I get some marshmallows to roast over the Crick quote.

    Typo? “fan of science” should be “fan of philosophy”? …

  2. I didn’t read the paper but I agree with you on Fodor. Most of the effort by philosophers to figure out how the mind works has been a waste of time, IMHO. Many seem to discover the obvious and then describe it using philosophic language.

    Modularity is a good example. Philosophers like Fodor have built a huge superstructure around it but it’s ungrounded and too self-referential. It seems obvious to anybody outside philosophy that the brain is modular. How could it not be? It was only philosophers that ever thought it was monolithic anyway.

    Dennett, and philosophers of his ilk, are an exception. His stance seems to be to explain what neuroscience and computer scientists have to say to other philosophers and the general public. This seems like a more useful role for philosophy. They can help explain how the world works by identifying principles, generalizing on them, and filling in the explanatory gaps.

      1. I have read it. It’s an enjoyable and interesting book but it’s more history than brain science. I’m talking about understanding of the brain in, say, the last 50 years.

        1. Maybe you didn’t read it all? It isn’t just history. The middle section of the book, 130 pages or so, is titled “Present”, followed by a section headed “Future”.

          1. I read it all. I didn’t say it was ONLY history. Although I found the book enjoyable and would recommend it to others, I had some bones to pick with it. In particular, the evolution of metaphors of the brain’s working. These were not chosen because it was thought that the brain really worked like the metaphor, but also because the metaphor was well-understood by the general public at time. When the brain was compared with an electric circuit, it was because people were familiar with it, not that known electrical circuits represented good models of the brain. While the brain might be a little like an electrical circuit, scientists knew that it differed greatly. Many have said the Earth is like an orange but no one suggests that scientists could learn anything useful about the Earth by studying oranges. I think Cobb conveniently ignored or downplayed that aspect and the book suffered as a result. It’s still a good book though.

            1. One of the main things I took from the book was that “brain modules”, too, is a flawed metaphor for how brains work. This contrasts starkly with your statement that ” It seems obvious to anybody outside philosophy that the brain is modular. How could it not be?”. Cobb is very much a scientist. Your assertion that modularity is obvious and clear to anyone who’s not a scientist is wrong. Current understating of how brains work simply doesn’t support that. Better to admit that we just don’t know very much about how brains are structured or how they work.

              1. What Cobb says about modularity is basically a warning against a naive interpretation of what modularity means. For example, we have modules devoted to vision but they get used in situations that don’t obviously involve vision. However, this doesn’t mean modularity is wrong, just that we don’t have much idea what the modules actually do and how they work together. I think he did a good job of explaining this.

              2. “Your assertion that modularity is obvious and clear to anyone who’s not a scientist is wrong.”

                Actually, I don’t believe I said this. I’m sure that non-scientists believe all kinds of things. I was mostly thinking in terms of what scientists believe. Cobb’s book covers both what scientists believe about the brain and also what the general public was told.

              3. You are correct that I made a bit of a brain fart there. You did not say “anyone who’s not a scientist”. You did say “anybody outside philosophy”. You implied that only philosophers would not recognize the obvious and necessary utility of modularity.

                I’ll leave off it now because we’ve beaten this issue long enough and we’re likely trying our host’s patience.

              4. I don’t view our back-and-forth here as any kind of argument, in case that’s what you were thinking.

                “You implied that only philosophers would not recognize the obvious and necessary utility of modularity.”

                That’s not quite the point I was trying to make. Both neuroscientists and philosophers felt the need to justify the common view (in recent times anyway) that the brain is modular. It’s pretty obvious that the eyes are mainly connected to a particular part of the brain, similarly for other senses, and that the location of brain damage often correlated with loss of specific functionality. Still, modularity must be investigated by experimentation. However, it makes sense for neuroscientists and experimental psychologists to do this but not philosophers. Philosophers have attempted to reason the modularity of the brain from human behavior and their own imagination. This is a fairly useless pursuit, IMHO, but one that has been pursued for decades. Dennett makes it work but he is much more science-based than most of the others.

    1. You can add me to the list of people for whom it is not obvious that the brain is modular.

      Your wider point, however, I think is a good one. Philosophy tells us nothing about the real world unless the philosopher is prepared to test their ideas against reality. When they do that, we call it science.

      That’s all that science i, as far as I am concerned: having ideas about the real world and then trying to find out if they are right or wrong. I don’t see why we need to make it any more complicated than that.

      1. Agreed – there’s a reason undergraduate science degrees require laboratory courses. Perhaps 100’s of years ago, some visionary philosophy departments required laboratory work for their degrees, and now we just call them science degrees.

        The thing I don’t understand is how graduate degree programs in certain sciences accept undergraduate degrees that had no laboratory work.

  3. I think the PNAS paper should or could have been called “Why philosophy needs science”.

    Great philosophy follows scientific principles. And great science is rife with interesting philosophical problems.

    I think prejudices against philosophy in science are waning. Philosophy can be recognized as a great bridge to foster creative ideas, to develop regulations on technologies, and even help produce laws that help humankind utilize science and make it better for all of us.

    In the end, philosophy has fewer constraints on what it can ask. Mostly it might get it wrong, but sometimes it really has a profound impact on how people think and how societies regulate science.

    1. Yes, I tend to see philosophy/theology as modern times lice on the body of science. (Never comfortable, sometimes spreading disease.)

      I didn’t know there was a prejudice against philosophy in science – but see my comment on Sagan, which I saw a few years ago – but I wish that there had been one when I was growing up. I had to come to my distaste the usual (empirical) way.

      1. And by “empirical” I mean actually reading some of their … well, “arge bargle” as comments in the thread has it.

  4. I agree that philosophy can be important to science and visa versa.

    I really enjoy philosophy, but spending too long in a discipline where assumptions and axioms are endlessly debated, it can feel like quicksand and I grab on to some science to feel like I’m on firmer ground again.

    Which is one way to say, the only minor “worry” I might have in mixing science and philosophy is that one reason science seems to work so well, where scientists across cultures and countries can come to agreement, is that at this point there are some assumed ground rules that everyone is playing by.

    What happens if people start getting too interested in challenging those basic scientific assumptions/rules, and in a way that, unlike in science, it’s harder to find agreement. Will there be overturning of applecarts? This after all is essentially what you see when postmodernists get their hands in science, and even some of those critical race theorists and others who challenge the very democratic nature of scientific inquiry.

  5. I majored in both philosophy and chemistry as an undergrad. I was never frustrated about my science professors not being philosophical enough, but I was often frustrated with my philosophy professors not understanding the math or science they liked to quote.

    My own response to the six points is similar but not identical to Jerry’s:

    1 and 2: sound good.

    3: External, out-of-discipline peer review of one’s papers and research plans is generally a good idea. If nothing else, it helps you communicate your thoughts more clearly because you now have to explain it to a layperson. OTOH, running their papers by two disparate advisors means every Ph.D. student now has two masters to appease, which could be a recipe for disaster. What if your advisors fundamentally disagree on something? I put #3 in the “good idea in principle, making it into a useful and effective practice rather than a time-waster for both the student and the professors might take some more thinking” box.

    4 and 5: perfectly fine to do this at the undergrad level (i.e. put a philosophy of science requirement in a B.S. chem/bio/physics major, and put a bio/chem/phys 101 requirement in a philosophy of science major).

    6: for the less specialized journals (science, nature, etc.), this is fine. But I think the high quality specialist journals are already swamped with great research articles, and it’s likely unhelpful to their subscribers to venture too far from the “working papers,” notion.

  6. Fodor (philosopher/scientist) wrote a book called “What Darwin Got Wrong”, which I have not read. I think it probably equivocates around definitions. Has anyone read it and does it make sense?

      1. Thanks. Fodor’s argument seems completely blue sky nonsense. So why does he waste time on the issue? Here’s the money quote:

        “Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini just cannot stomach the idea that humans might just be organisms”

        1. I think this is a great example of where philosophers go wrong. The nature of philosophy is that its practitioners try to make sense of fields other than their own. Too many fail to learn enough about those other fields and are over-confident as philosophers tend to be.

    1. That book should be retitled “What Fodor Got Wrong.”

      It is a great example of what scientists don’t like about philosophy, or is it philosophers, we can’t be sure which. Endless argle-bargle based on a misconception of what natural selection is and how it works.

    2. Haven’t read the book, but there is a nice outline of the Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini argument, titled “An Outline of the Fodor & Piattelli-Palmarini Argument against Natural Selection”, by N. Hornstein 2010, Biolinguistics.

      Hornstein distills the argument down to 12 bullet points. The main issue seems to be that in order to sustain natural selection as a sufficient causal theory, one needs to discover laws of natural selection. F&PP deny that laws of selection exist due to the historical specificity of every evolutionary account, therefore “selection-for” is insufficient. Explanations of organismal form and function must therefore arise from a combination of non-selectional accounts (physical principles of ‘structuralism’) in addition to natural selection. When all is said and done, F&PP speculate that the structural principles will be the really impressive part of the theory, generating the most understanding of evolutionary history. That seems to be the main issue, as I read it.

      There’s a youtube discussion between Fodor and Sober, in which Sober says that Fodor’s argument fails because there are indeed laws of evolution, in the form of some results from modeling (i.e. 50:50 sex ratio).

      1. I have to admit, I find Fodor’s reasoning incomprehensible. It seems to equivocate on some principles philosophers treasure but I don’t think they are inline with what science has shown through data and reasoning. Natural selection may be a logical tautology or perhaps circular in any attempt to describe it. So it’s hard to analyze from a purely logical point of view. What does it mean to insist on “laws” of natural selection? I can’t even imagine that. Natural selection is a phenomenon that has be observe and documented in an exceedingly comprehensive way. To grouse around for a “philosophical” weakness is probably doomed to failure. But, I have to follow the experts and most of them find Fodor’s thinking odd.

        1. The logical aspect is a bit beyond my ken, but F&PP insist on laws of natural selection precisely because “selection-for” (the main process shaping biological form and function) is ‘intensional’. The only alternative is for selection to be due to a mental entity. In the absence of laws or natural mentation, one is forced to look elsewhere, even if no other source of explanation is currently on the horizon. I think the argument is valid, but the issue with whether evolutionary theorizing yields context-insensitive generalizations or laws. It certainly does, so that’s that end of that challenge to natural selection.

          1. But “selection-for” sounds like it is forward looking, and we know it is not. Makes no sense to me to try to imbue it with a totalizing explanation. The metaphor of the sieve is a good one in that it leads to a natural selection process. Note that there are plenty of sieves in nature that do not depend on human construction. The sorting of sediments in water for example. Admittedly it is not identical to biological natural selection, but the unguided, automatic process is what’s important to the comparison, and that seems to me to be what seems to matter. Whether this is a law or an almost law I couldn’t care less. Natural selection is a theory which is the best description of nature we’ve yet discovered. Without offering an alternative, what more could you want of science? Some sort of absolute LAW as in a God proclaiming His preferences? Sound to me like theocratic nonsense.

            1. As you allude, there is a case to be made that there is no such thing as selection-for, only selection-against and neutral evolution. I believe that was Alex Rosenberg’s response to all this.

  7. My university and PG studies in chemistry didn’t include any philosophy. Maybe they should have done!

    My main thought here is that both science and philosophy are, in their own and no doubt imperfect ways, aiming to find out truths. In a world where so many people, at all levels of society, are happy to create, proliferate and consume utter falsehoods and lies, the two disciplines need to work together to proclaim and demonstrate truths to the best of their ability.

    Dawkins once wore a T-shirt reading ‘Science: it works, b****es!’ Perhaps we need a new one: ‘Science and philosophy: partners for truth’. Or maybe something snappier…?

  8. I loved this example from the article:

    For example, the analysis of temporal irreversibility by Huw Price (21) and closed temporal curves by David Lewis (22) have helped dispel conceptual confusion in physics (23).

    But that very example shows all the more why philosophy needs science (as Kevin Henderson points out in another comment). And not just philosophers of science need science. It isn’t just philosophers of science who discuss time, but sadly, few philosophers with other specialties understand what modern physics says about time. They think they can get by with their intuitive understanding.

    And that just fails – big time. The philosophy of free will is a prime example. The idea that determinism implies “you couldn’t have done otherwise” only follows if you use an intuitive – wrong – understanding of time and causality. With the actual best science we have, the core piece of the free will “problem” dissolves into thin spacetime (which is thinner than air). You can find a five-part essay on my blog which is mine, by double-clicking on my username.

    1. “the core piece of the free will “problem” dissolves into thin spacetime”

      Brings to mind a book on spacetime I muddled through a few months ago. I didn’t realize that spacetime wasn’t originally Einstein’s idea, but the mathematician Minkowski’s. He showed Einstein how his equations of general relativity -which worked just fine without ST – became much simpler with it. But it introduced some odd ideas into the mix, such as a result which includes complex numbers in the solution, not just as a useful fiction (as they are in their application, say, in the Euler transform), but an actual statement about the nature of physical reality. What does it mean when a concept such as ST results in simpler mathematics, but no differences in the range of applicability of the theory or its experimental predictions? Is ST a fact about the universe, or just a clever mathematical fiction?

      That’s the sort of question the philosophers are more inclined to ask…

      1. Since space is average flat over sufficiently large volumes in current cosmology, we can safely separate out the Lorentzian metric as a factor and gravity curvature as an additional term in a Feynman path integral description of everything quantum physics [ https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/01/04/the-world-of-everyday-experience-in-one-equation/ ].

        The metric asserts that physical laws are the same for all observers, possibly modified by the gravitational curvature. But gravity too can be expressed as a quantum field theory in current cosmology [ http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Quantum_gravity_as_a_low_energy_effective_field_theory ]. So it seems to me that Minkowski was correct, geodesics of field lines is a convenient tool for gravity as a tensor field, same as field lines are a convenient tool for conventional vector fields like quantum electrodynamics, but they may have no intrinsic physical meaning. Even the Feynman paths for the fields as expressed in the path integral form constitute “an infinity of quantum-mechanically possible trajectories” as tools for calculating probability amplitudes.

        So perhaps cosmological space is Euclidean (flat) and spacetime Minkowski, and is spiced with a smidgen of gravity to account for local energetic physics (as per Einstein’s equations).

      2. I’m way late to the party. And only partly joking:

        Is it a philosophical truth or a scientific truth that ‘science needs mathematics’?
        But maybe not philosophy.

        (Inspired by your mention of Minkowski)

        The fundamental fact that space (and time also) is not absolute, made somewhat clearer by Minkowski, was certainly a fact that Einstein earlier had realized he was proposing in the Special Theory of Relativity.

    2. Oh, I misunderstood, I thought it was about the physics of spacetime. But since I happened on a review of a book from physicist-philosopher Rovelli, let me just note that loop quantum gravity isn’t physics. It has no harmonic oscillators, so no ability to describe dynamics.

      But that’s my note on that genre, you don’t have to heed it.

      1. Dunno much about loop quantum gravity – only what I read from Rovelli. The Rovelli review is the most recent post on my blog, but the five-part essay is older, and separate.

  9. Although some scientists have said that philosophy is useful to scientists, I’m not one of these miscreants. I think the publication record speaks for itself.

    Surely dispelling an “alternative” theory to evolution is a real contribution to science and to science education.

    But this is no longer about science written broadly, not the empiricism of plumbing, but the question how to arrange the room to suit guests.

    In the end, the authors offer some suggestions for how to make science and philosophy more of BFFs, and they’re reasonable but nothing that doesn’t come to mind—or haven’t come to mind—to others.

    Of course suggestions from a group that includes philosophers involve more philosophy.

    But science and superstition has never played well, they have never been “best friends forever”. Sagan’s Cosmos has a part on how the mystics of Platon’s sect destroyed the burgeoning Greek empiricism based – like later Europe’s – on mercantilism. I don’t know what he based that on, but I have never seen someone contradict it.

  10. My 2 cents: scientists and philosophers bring different toolkits to the study of the world. Philosophers’ tools are the study of the scientific ideas themselves and the language we express them in, of the meanings we attribute to words and the logical consistency of those meanings. The ideas won’t work if there’s a logical contradiction or non sequitur nested in the theory.

    1. But surely an empirical science of science can do that better than philosophers trying for a “Philosophism Of Everything”.

      And I believe that effort has started, see e.g. the testing of how robust psychology results are.

  11. I like philosophy. It makes me think more deeply about what I am concerned about.

    However if philosophers propose that they can help scientists think more clearly about science then I suggest that philosophy hasn’t yet taken clear thinking on board itself as more than two millennia of recorded philosophy has not converged towards a consensus of philosophical thought.

    To oversimplify, much philosophy is armchair theorising and introspection. Introspection is not a reliable method. Just look how the debates about consciousness have fared over the years.

    Cue philosophers arguing that if I say introspection is not reliable how can I know that? Which is another diversion down language game route… when there is a substantial body of scientific work demonstrating the extent of bias in human cognition.

  12. Maybe, where the study of philosophy is most useful is for those entering the study of science?

    In the late 1960s my first degree in Physics used “The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. I, II & III” – great for the science, but there was no mention of how to argue & reason.

    Something like this would have been useful:

    Reason & Argument by Prof Stephen Law, UK philosopher.

    He also has some arguments about an evil god that are a contrast to the usual benevolent one.

    1. For some reason that linky picked up a trailing double quote!


    2. I wonder whether the math courses you had were somewhat too much on the ‘cookbook’ side? Besides the actual arguing and reasoning by Feynman himself, some courses in math, with proper definitions, theorems and proofs, are likely better than anything in any philosophy course for getting into the habit of rigorous arguing and reasoning. That doesn’t include formal philosophical logic courses, maybe even those in mathematical logic of which I am a big fan for other reasons. Courses like ‘calculus done right’ (there’s actually a book with that title), and also many law courses, seem the best way in any field to learn to habitually avoid the overly rhetorical, and to use mainly logical, argumentation.

  13. Philosophy has the big disadvantage that its claims can only be epistemically justified by doing science.

    Science has the big disadvantage that its most reliable knowledge is counter-intuitive, elitist and leads to cognitive dissonance.

    I believe good philosophy defends reliable science against its many enemies without resorting to unscientific paternalistic claims.

  14. Philosophical scepticism, whether as absolute as Descartes’ or as empirically viable as Hume’s, provides the best intellectual protection against scientism. It teaches humility and opens up the inquisitive mind to the beautifully mysterious by reminding us that every consistent law we derive or discover is fundamentally provisional.

Leave a Reply