Thursday, May 3, 2012

Philosophy v Science

I was struck by Russell's claim that, unlike science, "utility does not belong to philosophy".
The reason science has progressed so quickly is that we generally see the benefits that accrue. The resources put into philosophy are minuscule in comparison to science.

What is interesting to me, as a taxpayer, is how the scientists at Cern managed to persuade governments to hand-over such huge amounts of funding to investigate further theoretical physics. I'm interested to know if the Higgs Boson exists, but personally I'm not willing to bankrupt myself to find the answer! How come this branch of physics, which may well produce no material benefits at all, is suddenly receiving so much government support?

I would also argue that the importance or prominence of philosophy has declined in recent decades in relation to other academic pursuits. This may in part be due to the general "dumbing down" of the media in general. When I look back at television in the 1950s - 1980s, the BBC used to frequently broadcast programmes which benefited from the input of some of the greatest minds. Nowadays, all we seem to get is wall-to-wall "entertainment" with a few science programmes which are so dumbed-down as to be unwatchable.

As an aside, I highly recommend Cosmos by Carl Sagan and Civilisation by Kenneth Clark, both available from Amazon.

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