Philosophy is pointless, Stephen Hawking edition

Should Stephen Hawking be more interested in a philosophy of his chosen field, theoretical physics?

By way of explaining its relevance to science, philosopher Tim Maudlin argues in The Atlantic that philosophy can help science extend its reach into the domain of what.

For example, the probabilistic nature of the quantum world and its bizarre behavior should not be an end to the discussion about that inscrutable reality, he says, and, as he does in this Big Think video, goes on to suggest that perhaps philosophy is regaining its traditional role as the original science by contributing carefully framed questions to the current disciplines. Because as the agent for these questions, humans want and need to know at a deeper level.

In addition to offering a nice summary of why an apple falling on the head of Isaac Newton should have been so revolutionary in the history of physics, Maudlin's discussion in The Atlantic raises some "what" questions related to contemporary cosmology, as well as, for example, describing the kinds of mistakes often made when thinking about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Hint: it may not be intelligent.

As for the question about whether Hawking should be more interested philosophy and physics - he's recently said that philosophy was dead" -  "he's just not well informed" according to Maudlin. And in true philosophical fashion, Maudlin says the better question would be "how do philosophy and foundational physics come apart," not how they might fit togeher.

The Atlantic piece is entitled "What Happened before the Big Bang?", a question also broached by CalPoly theoretical physicist Sean Carroll in the 2010 IdeaFestival Conversation embedded here.