Some fundamental philosophical questions are posed in the context of quantum physics. Does knowledge of the science aid consideration of these questions? Should the scientific background be explained by the questioner, and the philosophical significance made explicit?

  • 2
    Yes to all three questions, absolutely.
    – Jo Wehler
    Nov 14, 2023 at 7:23
  • 1
    Knowledge of X naturally aids consideration of philosophical (or, indeed, any) questions about X, it is even indispensable for the answers to be of interest. Is there a question beyond the trivial one?
    – Conifold
    Nov 14, 2023 at 11:54
  • Is your answer that philosophical questions that require knowledge of science answered better by scientifically experienced philosophers or that the scientific context of the question should be explained?
    – Meanach
    Nov 14, 2023 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


Sure- if you want to make sense of any kind of issue it is important to know something about it. However, if you are asking whether it makes sense to summarise the science in an area before posing a related philosophical question, then I would say maybe. If the point of the summary is simply to pinpoint the subject within the wider context, then yes that might be helpful. On the other hand, if you are suggesting that the purpose of the summary is to explain the scientific context to someone unfamiliar with it, then in many cases the summary will be entirely inadequate. You can't develop insights into something as complicated as quantum theory by reading a few paragraphs of preamble to a philosophy question.

Yes to the final part of your question- being explicit and clear about the exact point at issue is a huge help to people who are concerned about giving a concise and relevant answer.


It is not so much that "knowledge of the scientific context aids consideration of philosophical questions" but more to the point, the knowledge of the scientific context is necessary to make any related philosophical analysis pertinent and relevant.

In my personal experience, I have come across scholars who attempt to argue for finitism in mathematics. When I engaged them in discussion to probe the level of mathematical knowledge, it turned out that it is so minimal as to not to encompass basic college level stuff. The viewpoint of finitism is an attractive idea in principle, but it is only when one tries to apply it to the actual practice of modern mathematics that one perceives its fatal limitations.

  • I think that's more a limitation of your personal exposure, to be fair. Doron Zeilberger is a self-proclaimed ultrafinitist, and is incredibly outspoken about it (look up his opinions page for some of his commentary on that topic and many, many others), and he and Herbert Wilf revolutionized combinatorics with their work in generating functions. Alexander Yessenin-Volpin was also prominently an ultrafinitist, with Harvey Friedman having a fairly hilarious anecdote about pushing him on the topic, and he was a fairly significant topologist.
    – Idran
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:35
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    @JustinHilyard, there are parts of modern mathematics that lend themselves to a finitist treatment, but I think they are rather the exception rather than the rule. You may want to look into why Friedman (who is certainly not a finitist) was "pushing" Yessenin-Volpin, in the first place :-) You may find it of interest that Leibniz was a kind of finitist, in the sense that he rejected "infinite wholes" as a contradictory notion. We have published some articles about this; see u.math.biu.ac.il/~katzmik/leibniz.html Nov 15, 2023 at 12:18
  • Very fair, and apologies for my presumption. The main reason I spoke up is my own focus was in combinatorics and graph theory, and it's nearly impossible to go through a grad program in that subfield without running headlong into Zeilberger's infamous Opinions page, so I was well aware of him in particular, plus the Yessenin-Volpin anecdote. :P
    – Idran
    Nov 15, 2023 at 13:42

Yes but not always. Science provides the glimpse of the actual nature of macro and micro phenomena and helps philosophy in understanding what reality actually is.For example- On the scale of quantum mechanics it is evident that all matter is an excitation of some kind of wave like field. At least mass has an attribute called wavelength. Mass can be given by h/(wavelength)x(velocity). Interpretation says mass is not wave but mass is a characteristic of a wave and wave is a characteristic of mass. It’s mind boggling but true since it has been verified experimentally. There are dozens of interpretations of quantum mechanics. It questions the nature of reality.

However science does not understand consciousness, feelings , perceptions etc. How does consciousness arise from unconscious matter ? How do feelings arise from unconscious matter? What is God ? Why people believe in God ? Such questions can not even be asked in a physics site of stack exchange. In fact you are expected to shut up and calculate. No philosophical discussion, only calculations. Quantum mechanical mindset aids in understanding the nature of reality but has its limitations.

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