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Monday, August 03, 2009


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Those are good points, but I think that an anti-philosophy individual could respond in two corresponding ways.

First, while philosophy may have been a precursor to the sciences (and it may still be now), those philosophical pre-scientific speculations contributed nothing of value to the actual scientific knowledge that developed later. Worse, philosophy may even have impeded scientific progress by encouraging researchers to cling to outdated paradigms on philosophical grounds. (This is the approach the scientist Steven Weinberg outlines in a chapter titled "Against Philosophy" in his book, Dreams of a Final Theory). Thus, philosophy has no business claiming the successes of science as its own, even broadly construed, since philosophy does not actually provide any rigorous or useful foundation for further scientific work. Rather, philosophers' speculations are pointless and unverifiable until a real science comes along, at which point the old philosophical argument-based inquires are simply ignored and shuffled away.

Second, of the narrowly construed conception, an anti-philosopher might ask, What good are we doing clarifying these esoteric problems anyway? You suggest we will be able to "debunk epistemic pretense". Sounds good, but does that ever happen in practice? It does not appear to me that philosophical criticisms of epistemic overreach (for example, of particularly extravagant religious claims) have more real power than non-philosophical criticisms. (Note that there is probably a sense in which any meaningful criticism is 'philosophical', but here I mean philosophical specifically as related to the academic discipline and formal training therein).

You are not getting my point. The point is not that the speculations of the Ionian nature philosophers or later Greek thinkers of the classical period had the value of solid scientific results, but that in ancient Greece there arose a way of thinking that attempted a rational explanation of nature, a way of thinking that broke radically with mythical ways of thinking. That new way of thinking was philosophy in the broad sense that encompasses all rational inquiry.

Your second question doesn't merit a response.

Sorry to be so abrupt, but comments weren't supposed to be turned on on this post in any case. I no longer accept comments except in rare cases.

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