How science and philosophy differ – and why they need each other

Illustration for article titled How science and philosophy differ – and why they need each other

Dorion Sagan, son of Carl Sagan and Lynn Margulis, weighs in on the dialectical relationship between science and philosophy.


The quote appears in the introduction to Sagan's recently published book, Cosmic Apprentice: Dispatches from the Edges of Science, wherein he examines the balance between science and philosophy, while lambasting the authoritarianism of the former and the obscurantism of the latter as "equally formidable obstacles to discovery."


More from Sagan on why science and philosophy need each other over at BrainPickings, where Maria Popova does a great job of comparing Sagan's convictions with those of Richard Feynman, Buckminster Fuller, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and his late father.

[Brain Pickings]

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John-Mark Henry

Well, I don't necessarily endorse Dorion Sagan's quote up top. It seems overly simplistic.

But the fact that people today actually have to be told that science and philosophy "need each other" just goes to show how historically and philosophically illiterate most modern people are.

They have forgotten that the pioneers of the Scientific Revolution were themselves philosophers (e.g. Francis Bacon); that scientists were originally known as natural philosophers; that science itself relies upon philosophical presuppositions in order to function at all — philosophical presuppositions like the existence of the external world, the orderly nature of that external world, the knowability of that external world, the existence of truth, the laws of logic, the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties, etc.

How many people today have even heard of E.A. Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science?

So many people — who can only be described as science worshipers — have spent decades demonizing philosophy, when, in fact, philosophy has become ever more indispensable in sorting through modern scientific questions:…

And as a result of this demonization of philosophy, it's no surprise that so many scientists who step out of their area of expertise and try to engage in philosophy and are so woefully bad at it:……