More on Science and Philosophy

According to Nicholas Maxwell in Bring back science and philosophy as natural philosophy | Aeon Essays:

Far from being yet another specialised discipline, distinct from and alongside other specialised disciplines, as so much academic philosophy strives to be today, philosophy, properly pursued has, as a basic task, to counteract specialisation by keeping alive thinking about fundamental problems in a way that interacts, in both directions, with specialised research..

This is consistent with the designation of the degree required for teaching any discipline at the most senior levels as ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ in that discipline. But it raises the question of what is implied by a Ph.D. in philosophy. It’s sort of like being a master of mastery or an expert in expertise – which makes sense in a way except for the fact that in order to usefully study expertise perhaps one has to experience it in some non-self-referential context. But perhaps not. An ornithologist can study birds (and perhaps explain them to others and raise human appreciation of their value) without the experience of being one. So perhaps can a philosopher of science study the processes of scientists without actually being one. But just as the utility of the ornithologist to birds is not by way of helping them fly, so the utility of philosophers to scientists is not to help them in their work but rather to help improve their public relations. And even this is of course subject to the philosophers getting the message right – which raises the question of who decides what is the right story.

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