For instance, Stephen Hawking once claimed:

Philosophy is dead

Figures such as Einstein were quite interested in the Philosophy of science. In addition to this, a fair amount of Philosophers were on the side of Scientists in the face of postmodern reinterpretations, during the science wars. So far, this doesn't really suggest a vitriolic relationship between the two fields.

My gut (uneducated) feeling is that the bedlam in question is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Question: Is the "Science therefore Philosophy is obsolete" attitude, recent, or is there a historical backdrop which can account for said tension?

Source for Hawking's claim

  • "It seems that Hawking simply doesn't understand much about philosophy. Philosophy isn't a science. It is not comparable to science. Science CAN indeed ask, and perhaps even answer "how does the universe behave?", science CANNOT ask what is the MEANING of such an explanation: In what sense, for example, a mathematical model that describes reality (=physics) is reality itself, considering the fact that numerous such models might exist? In what sense a does a simple model is more "correct" than complex one, as "science" usually presupposes? Those are philosophical questions, many, if not all"
    – Clippy
    Mar 11, 2015 at 16:00
  • I agree that it is a category error, since I don't think that Philosophy has ever been in the business of furthering actual scientific discovery, we have science for that.
    – Five σ
    Mar 11, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    Hawking probably hasn't interacted with the right philosophers. Most physicists in the elder days were literate in an interested in philosophy (Newton read Descarte and Einstein read both Hume and Kant). In fact, Newton himself spent the first part of his Principia, specifically the general scholium, dealing with philosophical questions. Nowdays, few scientists, or educated people in general, read up on philosophy, an unfortunate trend.
    – user13847
    Mar 11, 2015 at 16:54
  • Also, criticisms of philosophy aren't limited to the realm of science. Religion has a love/hate relationship with philosophy, and some philosophies are themselves critical of philosophy (yes, I can see the problem :P). Berkeley and Wittgenstein come to mind, and they are both critical of philosophy's misuse of language to create illusory problems which philosophers then angst over.
    – R. Barzell
    Mar 11, 2015 at 17:34
  • 1
    Disliking Philosophy in the sciences or disregarding it is probably an acculturated phenomena now; hopefully this attitude will change. Mar 19, 2015 at 9:59

1 Answer 1


"Science therefore Philosophy is obsolete" attitude is relatively recent. Oddly enough it can be traced back to a philosophical movement (not a scientific one), called logical positivism from the 1920s. Logical Positivism starts from the view point that anything that can't be verified using formal logic and/or empirical evidence is meaningless, and arrives at the conclusion that philosophy's only purpose should be to clarify and analyze the ideas and statements of scientists. Issues like ethics, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, etc were all to be thrown out the window as meaningless and therefore useless.

  • 1
    " Logical Positivism starts from the view point that anything that can't be verified using formal logic and/or empirical evidence is meaningless" Can the above statement be verified through empirical or formal logical means?
    – Five σ
    Mar 11, 2015 at 18:22
  • LOL. Yes it can. Insofar as literary movements and philosophical schools of thought are really just collections of text which follow similar patterns, yes that statement can be empirically verified. Mar 11, 2015 at 18:44
  • it's not contradictory, p sure
    – user6917
    Mar 11, 2015 at 18:56
  • 1
    That sounds like a philosophy, itself. :P Mar 11, 2015 at 22:53
  • 1
    The statement "Everything that cannot be verified using formal logic or empirical evidence is meaningless" cannot be verified using formal logic or empirical evidence. Perhaps you might say that everything except for that root statement requires empirical evidence, but this then allows metastatements about the root statement that are not empirical but must also be true.
    – Dylan
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:18

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