I have heard of some thinkers having negative opinions on the use of philosophy. I want to understand this point of view. I would like to know the names of some thinkers, and especially scientists, who have held negative views of philosophy.

What I understand by philosophy is the act of reasoning/thinking on anything; yeah it looks that no one can oppose such an act of "philosophy". But, I would like to know what others opposed in philosophy, "in their concieved defiintion of philosophy".

I personally have no negative thoughts on philosophy. But, I do like to know others views, and from that I hope to review my own stance.

  • 4
    Read about logical positivists for a start - they were a group of philosophers who wanted to dismiss metaphysics and make philosophy more scientific. Note also that great thinkers - as the scientist Einstein for instance, and the mathematician and logician Kurt Godel held metaphysics to be a guide for their research.
    – user18079
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 21:24
  • 5
    Try Peter Unger- a philosopher who's apparently had enough of philosophy: 3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/06/…. He seems to have followed a similar path to that of Wittgenstein. Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 23:28
  • 1
    J. Krishnamurti, while not a scientist, was quite a popular figure. He was raised to be a theosophical leader but went on to make his own path. In one of his speeches he had very little good to say about the philosophies. I think his motives were driven by simplicity in accepting the unknown.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 3:31
  • Philosophy in the 21st century is no longer a technology but an artifact. Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 13:19
  • Traditions that reject symbolic reasoning, or the aspects of traditions that do, could be described as mystic rather than philosophical, & opposed to philosophy as a means to access the deepest truths. Discussed here: 'Philosophers or philosophical traditions that reject symbolic reasoning' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/82360/…
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:44

8 Answers 8


Different people have objected to philosophy at different times.

The Persian theologist Al Ghazali in the 11th~12th century wrote at treatise called "The incoherence of the philosophers". In it he showed that philosophers' attempts to prove God's existence with logic failed. Since he wasn't willing to give up religion, he attacked philosophy instead. His main objection was therefore religious.

In the early 20th century (as mentioned in the comments), the logical positivists objected to philosophy coming from the opposite direction. Their position was that the only meaningful statements that could be made were logical propositions and empirical facts about that world. Any statement that either couldn't be verified experimentally or did not correspond to a logical/mathematical statement was for them meaningless. From this they concluded that statements about ethics, morals, religion, arts, etc... were all meaningless. They didn't reject philosophy completely, but instead relegated it to being nothing more that a tool for the clarification and analysis of scientific statements. Their objection wasn't to philosophy as a whole, but to metaphysics, which up until then was considered a major sub-discipline of philosophy.

More recently several notable physicists, including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and Lawrence Krauss, have made statements as to philosophy being useless or obsolete. Their main statement is that natural sciences have matured to the point were all of the big questions (the origin of life, the creation of the universe, etc...) can be answered by science. Philosophy used to be helpful in guiding the natural sciences by giving direction and pointing to what questions we should be asking, but now the natural sciences no longer need it. They support their argument by pointing towards the fact that philosophy no longer influences physics the way it used to in the 17th and 18th centuries, and that most scientists can have successful careers without ever opening a single philosophy book or journal. Lawrence Krauss has a more detailed version of this position (which is really just a dumbed down version of the logical positivist stance called scientism), that science is the only source of objective truth and the scientific method is the only valid epistemic method.

Those who object to these viewpoints do so for the following reasons:

  • They do not agree that ethics, morality and aesthetics are meaningless. Questions of value and judgment can never be resolved by science, and the only other option is philosophy. See for example this talk by Hilary Putnam on the collapse of the fact/value dichotomy.
  • Philosophy of mind and the study of consciousness can still contribute greatly to science. See for example this debate on the topic involving Krauss, Daniel Dennett, and Massimo Pigliucci.
  • I think you've captured the essence of the problem on both sides here.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 1:28

The physicist Richard Feynman expresses a negative view about a kind of philosophers who enter into the discussion about the Theory of Relativity; see The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1, Chap. 16.1:


When this idea descended upon the world, it caused a great stir among philosophers, particularly the “cocktail-party philosophers,” who say, “Oh, it is very simple: Einstein’s theory says all is relative!” In fact, a surprisingly large number of philosophers, not only those found at cocktail parties (but rather than embarrass them, we shall just call them “cocktail-party philosophers”), will say, “That all is relative is a consequence of Einstein, and it has profound influences on our ideas.” In addition, they say “It has been demonstrated in physics that phenomena depend upon your frame of reference.” We hear that a great deal, but it is difficult to find out what it means. Probably the frames of reference that were originally referred to were the coordinate systems which we use in the analysis of the theory of relativity. So the fact that “things depend upon your frame of reference” is supposed to have had a profound effect on modern thought. One might well wonder why, because, after all, that things depend upon one’s point of view is so simple an idea that it certainly cannot have been necessary to go to all the trouble of the physical relativity theory in order to discover it. That what one sees depends upon his frame of reference is certainly known to anybody who walks around, because he sees an approaching pedestrian first from the front and then from the back; there is nothing deeper in most of the philosophy which is said to have come from the theory of relativity than the remark that “A person looks different from the front than from the back.” The old story about the elephant that several blind men describe in different ways is another example, perhaps, of the theory of relativity from the philosopher’s point of view. [...]

There is another school of philosophers who feel very uncomfortable about the theory of relativity, which asserts that we cannot determine our absolute velocity without looking at something outside, and who would say, “It is obvious that one cannot measure his velocity without looking outside. It is self-evident that it is meaningless to talk about the velocity of a thing without looking outside; the physicists are rather stupid for having thought otherwise, but it has just dawned on them that this is the case. If only we philosophers had realized what the problems were that the physicists had, we could have decided immediately by brainwork that it is impossible to tell how fast one is moving without looking outside, and we could have made an enormous contribution to physics.” These philosophers are always with us, struggling in the periphery to try to tell us something, but they never really understand the subtleties and depths of the problem.

  • 3
    Feynman's lectures are full of philosopher-bashing, but I don't think it meant he disregarded philosophy - in fact his lectures are packed full with philosophical insights — that said, here is another funny joke about philosophers from the 8th lecture: "We cannot define anything precisely! If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers, who sit opposite each other, one saying to the other, “You don’t know what you are talking about!” The second one says, “What do you mean by know? What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you?,” and so on."
    – nir
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 9:02
  • …which actually reminds me of Wittgenstein who argued that we use concepts with blurred boundaries and says "When I give the description “The ground was quite covered with plants”, do you want to say that I don’t know what I’m talking about until I can give a definition of a plant?" (PI §70)
    – nir
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 9:12
  • and here is a beautiful philosophical insight from the first chapter, which I think bears on metaphysics, in which he notes that physical laws are approximate and the consequence of that - "most interesting, philosophically we are completely wrong with the approximate law. Our entire picture of the world has to be altered even though the mass changes only by a little bit. This is a very peculiar thing about the philosophy, or the ideas, behind the laws. Even a very small effect sometimes requires profound changes in our ideas."
    – nir
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 9:15
  • …and here is another beautiful one from the 17th chapter on the consequence of relativity of simultaneity: "Alpha Centauri “now” is an idea or concept of our mind; it is not something that is really definable physically at the moment" — compare that with the enormous amount of philosophical debate over the Andromeda paradox — he just cut through the Gordian knot philosophers tied themselves in.
    – nir
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 9:24
  • …there are plenty of such gems in the lectures, and the bottom line is that I don't think he was opposed to philosophy at all! he just loved telling jokes and making fun, and philosophers are often asking for it.
    – nir
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 9:26

This is probably not the place to look for "anti-philosophical" arguments.I would only add that Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger are undoubtedly the philosophers most reviled by "scientific" or "analytical" philosophers, beginning with Moore and Russell.

The objection is most precisely and concisely expressed by Ayer. These "metaphysical" thinkers talk about things that have no real physical meaning or correspondence to experience, but only appear to have meaning in the context of sentences and paragraphs. Because you can say "grammatically correct" things about "unicorns" or "consciousness" these appear to be "real" things.

From this genesis came a long line of anti-philosophical philosophers and "natural philosophers" also known as "scientists." But as Hegel himself said "you can't avoid metaphysics." The certainties of science quickly fall prey to skepticism. The smallest particle enters an infinite regress into smaller particles. Soon enough, physicist are struggling to define the "physical" and find themselves one again sucked into metaphysics.


There are real and serious problems with a lot of what commonly passes for philosophy among academics. I think philosophy is very important, but a lot of academic philosophy is not only unimportant but an impediment to solving real problems.

Some philosophers started out with problems that arose from some scientific or political or moral problem. And some of those philosophers made some progress. Other philosophers then come along and comment on that philosopher without understanding the problems he was trying to solve. This sort of activity is almost always entirely useless. See "Conjectures and Refutations" by Karl Popper, Chapter 2 "The nature of philosophical problems and their roots in science" for an explanation of this point.

Philosophers often reject criticism of their research agenda. Observe the deafening silence about Popper's criticism of the idea that justification is necessary and desirable, see Chapter I of "Realism and the Aim of Science" by Popper and "On the sources of knowledge and of ignorance" in "Conjectures and Refutations" by Popper.

A lot of philosophy consists of analysing the meanings of words and that sort of thing. This was criticised by Popper in some of the material above, but also by Ernest Gellner in "Words and Things". Gellner wrote "Words and Things" in 1959, but its criticisms are still applicable to a lot of academic philosophy.

Ayn Rand also criticised a lot of academic philosophy, see "Philosophy: who needs it".


Philosophy is what scientists do when they don't know how to construct a testable hypothesis -- they manipulate ideas and symbols according to reasonable rules and hope something testable falls out that would exclude a few more wrong answers.

Note that this means pure math is a philosophical exercise; it's a consistent system of symbol manipulations that just happens to be a good model for many/most real-world problems and that we trust to produce correct results -- and that we extend periodically, in the hope of being able to model more problems.

  • 1
    Note that the short form of this is "Philosophy is what scientists do when they din't know what they're doing." But that sounds more dismissive than it's intended to be.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 2:00
  • 2
    The final result of pure math, the proof, is a philosophical exercise that convinces the community that what we've done is correct. If there were a machine that could perfectly verify correctness in all cases that everyone trusted, we would use the machine instead and not trouble ourselves with proofs. Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 4:31
  • All languages are descriptive; of our experience of material reality or a remix of parts of it. Science is rigor. Logic is a subset of science that describes relationships that always replicate. Math is a subset of logic that deals exclusively with relationships of quantity. Quantity is recursive boundary conditions. Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 13:28
  • I would say it is metamath, like Godel's, which is philosophy. And in science, it is the reworking of first principles and definitions, & rethinking how to do science. Not just unverified theorising, like superstring theory say. It's about why superstring theory might be good or unworkable, rather than the mechanics of making a consistent theory once the basis is settled.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:35

I would like to know the names of some thinkers, and especially scientists, who have held negative views of philosophy.

there's an interview with chemist peter atkins in which he expresses mixed feelings about philosophy, rather negative ones about philosophy of science/epistemology:

As a scientist, how do you think philosophy can help society? Do you think it does have a place?

Moral philosophy is useful; political philosophy is useful. They help solve those conundrums relating to deportment of individuals in societies. In terms of science, I think it has nothing to contribute. I think science goes out and looks at what the world is like. Philosophers sit around, either reflecting on what the world should be like or telling scientists that they can’t believe their own observations!

one can suppose he had theory-ladenness in mind on the last bit

  • 1
    well philosophers don't think that, so he should probably have a chat with his philosophy department, assuking descartes doesn't work there
    – andrós
    Commented Apr 14 at 3:16
  • 1
    @user66697 or bishop berkley :p
    – ac15
    Commented Apr 14 at 3:20
  • uhh ok if you say so
    – andrós
    Commented Apr 14 at 3:20
  • 1
    “Look, Gail." Roark got up, reached out, tore a thick branch off a tree, held it in both hands, one fist closed at each end; then, his wrists and knuckles tensed against the resistance, he bent the branch slowly into an arc. "Now I can make what I want of it: a bow, a spear, a cane, a railing. That's the meaning of life."
    – andrós
    Commented Apr 14 at 4:13

Part of the issue has to do with the lack of clarity about what "philosophy" itself pertains to as opposed to science. Quote a dozen scientists or non-scientific anti-philosophers, each will likely come with a slightly different definition of what they're criticizing.

Some "philosophers" don't help much here because they themselves operate with contradictory or misleading definitions of what it is that connects authors as diverse as Plato, Kant and analytic philosophers.

And then you have books like "Fashionable Nonsense" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fashionable_Nonsense) which is full of the authors ridiculing traditions they could never in a thousand years claim to know much about other than opening books at random and making fun of particular statements for it's contradistinction from scientific or scientistic writing.

My suggestion would be to start with the clear definition of philosophy and how it is in fact quite distinct (as a practice) from science and conjecturing or elitist prose narrativization. Then ask a scientist to comment on that specifically. I imagine you'd get far different responses from them on their opinion of the practice.

  • There are three distinctive styles of philosophy; a) Truth (epistemology, metaphysics), b) Academic (history, people, jargon), c) Practical (aesthetics, ethics, politics) Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 13:31
  • @KaiserBasileus My point has less to do with "styles" and more with the necessity of having a clear definition that hold across all possible uses/styles. Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 18:10
  • Don't be swayed by these claims; I think it would be worth your while to read Bricment and Sokal's book. Commented Apr 14 at 3:19

Philosophy has been in fact all too successful and has branched out into the many fields of the sciences. This hasn't left philosophy with much to do except try to tackle the really difficult questions like, what is consciousness. Thus from the point of view of the sciences, without the benefit of history, which is often the case, looks like philosophy is not useful.

The exact opposite is the case.

Susskind, a physicist, doesn't like Aristotle even though he began the physics revolution. Feynman famously mocked philosophers. But his own son was one!

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