Science and Philosophy
   

"This may take me to another point, which is should a scientist think about philosophy, or not? It’s sort of the fashion today to discard philosophy, to say now we have science, we don’t need philosophy. I find this attitude very naïve for two reasons. One is historical. Just look back. Heisenberg would have never done quantum mechanics without being full of philosophy. Einstein would have never done relativity without having read all the philosophers and have a head full of philosophy. Galileo would never have done what he had done without having a head full of Plato. Newton thought of himself as a philosopher, and started by discussing this with Descartes, and had strong philosophical ideas.
"But even Maxwell, Boltzmann, I mean, all the major steps of science in the past were done by people who were very aware of methodological, fundamental, even metaphysical questions being posed. When Heisenberg does quantum mechanics, he is in a completely philosophical mind. He says in classical mechanics there’s something philosophically wrong, there’s not enough emphasis on empiricism. It is exactly this philosophical reading of him that allows him to construct this fantastically new physical theory, scientific theory, which is quantum mechanics.  
"The divorce between this strict dialogue between philosophers and scientists is very recent, and somehow it’s after the war, in the second half of the 20th century. It has worked because in the first half of the 20thcentury, people were so smart. Einstein and Heisenberg and Dirac and company put together relativity and quantum theory and did all the conceptual work. The physics of the second half of the century has been, in a sense, a physics of application of the great ideas of the people of the ’30s, of the Einsteins and the Heisenbergs.
"When you want to apply thes ideas, when you do atomic physics, you need less conceptual thinking. But now we are back to the basics, in a sense. When we do quantum gravity it’s not just application. I think that the scientists who say I don’t care about philosophy, it’s not true they don’t care about philosophy, because they have a philosophy. They are using a philosophy of science. They are applying a methodology. They have a head full of ideas about what is the philosophy they’re using; just they’re not aware of them, and they take them for granted, as if this was obvious and clear. When it’s far from obvious and clear. They are just taking a position without knowing that there are many other possibilities around that might work much better, and might be more interesting for them.
"I think there is narrow-mindedness, if I might say so, in many of my colleague scientists that don’t want to learn what is being said in the philosophy of science. There is also a narrow-mindedness in a lot of probably areas of philosophy and the humanities in which they don’t want to learn about science, which is even more narrow-minded. Somehow cultures reach, enlarge. I’m throwing down an open door if I say it here, but restricting our vision of reality today on just the core content of science or the core content of humanities is just being blind to the complexity of reality that we can grasp from a number of points of view, which talk to one another enormously, and which I believe can teach one another enormously." 
                                                                        -Carlo Rovelli
[edge.org/conversation/a-philosophy-of-physics]

Science and Philosophy

 

"This may take me to another point, which is should a scientist think about philosophy, or not? It’s sort of the fashion today to discard philosophy, to say now we have science, we don’t need philosophy. I find this attitude very naïve for two reasons. One is historical. Just look back. Heisenberg would have never done quantum mechanics without being full of philosophy. Einstein would have never done relativity without having read all the philosophers and have a head full of philosophy. Galileo would never have done what he had done without having a head full of Plato. Newton thought of himself as a philosopher, and started by discussing this with Descartes, and had strong philosophical ideas.

"But even Maxwell, Boltzmann, I mean, all the major steps of science in the past were done by people who were very aware of methodological, fundamental, even metaphysical questions being posed. When Heisenberg does quantum mechanics, he is in a completely philosophical mind. He says in classical mechanics there’s something philosophically wrong, there’s not enough emphasis on empiricism. It is exactly this philosophical reading of him that allows him to construct this fantastically new physical theory, scientific theory, which is quantum mechanics.  

"The divorce between this strict dialogue between philosophers and scientists is very recent, and somehow it’s after the war, in the second half of the 20th century. It has worked because in the first half of the 20thcentury, people were so smart. Einstein and Heisenberg and Dirac and company put together relativity and quantum theory and did all the conceptual work. The physics of the second half of the century has been, in a sense, a physics of application of the great ideas of the people of the ’30s, of the Einsteins and the Heisenbergs.

"When you want to apply thes ideas, when you do atomic physics, you need less conceptual thinking. But now we are back to the basics, in a sense. When we do quantum gravity it’s not just application. I think that the scientists who say I don’t care about philosophy, it’s not true they don’t care about philosophy, because they have a philosophy. They are using a philosophy of science. They are applying a methodology. They have a head full of ideas about what is the philosophy they’re using; just they’re not aware of them, and they take them for granted, as if this was obvious and clear. When it’s far from obvious and clear. They are just taking a position without knowing that there are many other possibilities around that might work much better, and might be more interesting for them.

"I think there is narrow-mindedness, if I might say so, in many of my colleague scientists that don’t want to learn what is being said in the philosophy of science. There is also a narrow-mindedness in a lot of probably areas of philosophy and the humanities in which they don’t want to learn about science, which is even more narrow-minded. Somehow cultures reach, enlarge. I’m throwing down an open door if I say it here, but restricting our vision of reality today on just the core content of science or the core content of humanities is just being blind to the complexity of reality that we can grasp from a number of points of view, which talk to one another enormously, and which I believe can teach one another enormously." 

                                                                        -Carlo Rovelli

[edge.org/conversation/a-philosophy-of-physics]

Leibniz’s Digital Universe (design for a medallion presented by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to Rudolph August, Duke of Brunswick, 2 January 1697)

The German rationalist philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), is one of the great renaissance men of Western thought. He has made significant contributions in several fields spanning the intellectual landscape, including mathematics, physics, logic, ethics, and theology. Unlike many of his contemporaries of the modern period, Leibniz does not have a canonical work that stands as his single, comprehensive piece of philosophy. Instead, in order to understand Leibniz’s entire philosophical system, one must piece it together from his various essays, books, and correspondences. As a result, there are several ways to explicate Leibniz’s philosophy.
Together with several apparently self-evident principles (such as the principle of sufficient reason, the law of contradiction, and the identity of indiscernibles), Leibniz uses his predicate-in-subject theory of truth to develop a remarkable philosophical system that provides an intricate and thorough account of reality. Ultimately, Leibniz’s universe contains only God and non-composite, immaterial, soul-like entities called “monads.” Strictly speaking, space, time, causation, material objects, among other things, are all illusions (at least as normally conceived). However, these illusions are well-founded on and explained by the true nature of the universe at its fundamental level. For example, Leibniz argues that things seem to cause one another because God ordained a pre-established harmony among everything in the universe. Furthermore, as consequences of his metaphysics, Leibniz proposes solutions to several deep philosophical problems, such as the problem of free will, the problem of evil, and the nature of space and time. One thus finds Leibniz developing intriguing arguments for several philosophical positions–including theism, compatibilism, and idealism.
[www.iep.utm.edu/leib-met]

Leibniz’s Digital Universe (design for a medallion presented by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to Rudolph August, Duke of Brunswick, 2 January 1697)

The German rationalist philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), is one of the great renaissance men of Western thought. He has made significant contributions in several fields spanning the intellectual landscape, including mathematics, physics, logic, ethics, and theology. Unlike many of his contemporaries of the modern period, Leibniz does not have a canonical work that stands as his single, comprehensive piece of philosophy. Instead, in order to understand Leibniz’s entire philosophical system, one must piece it together from his various essays, books, and correspondences. As a result, there are several ways to explicate Leibniz’s philosophy.

Together with several apparently self-evident principles (such as the principle of sufficient reason, the law of contradiction, and the identity of indiscernibles), Leibniz uses his predicate-in-subject theory of truth to develop a remarkable philosophical system that provides an intricate and thorough account of reality. Ultimately, Leibniz’s universe contains only God and non-composite, immaterial, soul-like entities called “monads.” Strictly speaking, space, time, causation, material objects, among other things, are all illusions (at least as normally conceived). However, these illusions are well-founded on and explained by the true nature of the universe at its fundamental level. For example, Leibniz argues that things seem to cause one another because God ordained a pre-established harmony among everything in the universe. Furthermore, as consequences of his metaphysics, Leibniz proposes solutions to several deep philosophical problems, such as the problem of free will, the problem of evil, and the nature of space and time. One thus finds Leibniz developing intriguing arguments for several philosophical positions–including theism, compatibilism, and idealism.

[www.iep.utm.edu/leib-met]