S. Weinberg Against Philosophy - History, Philosophy...

With. Weinberg vs. Philosophy

Among outstanding physicists there are both friends and opponents of philosophy.

The versatility of science

"Nowadays, a physicist is forced to deal with philosophical problems to a much greater extent," stressed A. Einstein, "which physicists of previous generations had to do. To this physicists are forced by the difficulties of their own science ".

A principally different position is held by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, who is the seventh chapter of his book "Dreams about the final theory" called Against Philosophy & quot ;. His arguments deserve attention. They put forward a man who tried to join philosophy, but was disappointed in its relevance. He is extremely sincere in his judgments. Weinberg's main statements are numbered below.

Weinberg's arguments

1. "The views of philosophers sometimes benefited physicists, but mostly in a negative sense, protecting them from the prejudices of other philosophers".

2. "It's unlikely that we would have been able to see the path to truth from the heights of philosophy."

3. Of course, every physicist has a working philosophy. For most of us - it's a rough, straightforward realism, i.e. conviction in the objective reality of the concepts used in our scientific theories. However, this conviction is achieved in the process of scientific research, and not as a result of studying philosophical works

4. The bulk of philosophy "has nothing to do with science".

5. The philosophy of science "in its best examples seems to me a pleasant commentary on the history of scientific discoveries."

6. "I do not know any a scientist who made a significant contribution to the development of physics in the post-war period, whose work would be greatly helped by the works of philosophers. ... I mentioned that Wigner called "the incomprehensible efficiency of the" mathematics. Here I want to point to another equally surprising phenomenon - the "inconceivable inefficiency of philosophy."

7. "Even if in the past philosophical doctrines had some useful effect on scientists, the influence of these doctrines dragged on for too long, eventually bringing with them more problems, the longer these doctrines remained in use."

8. Despite the value of positivism for Einstein and Heisenberg, he still brought as bad as good. "

9. Not so long ago, science was attacked by unfriendly commentators, united under the banner of relativism. Relativist philosophers deny the striving of science to discover objective truth. "

First of all, it should be noted that the author does not consider Weinberg an enemy of philosophy. He said something that the author has repeatedly heard from the lips of other physicists. Weinberg's arguments are a good occasion for discussing the essence of physics as a science and its correlationship of philosophy.

In the author's opinion, Weinberg's argument in a number of paragraphs is superficial. First, he does not clearly distinguish between philosophy, the philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics, and completely ignores the metascientific level of physics. Secondly, Weinberg contrasts philosophers and physicists, as a result, physicists are no longer responsible for the philosophy of physics, or more precisely, for metascientific physics. But in the latter need, in the first place, it is physics, and not someone else. Weinberg is unaware that the modern philosophy of science culminates in metascience.

Concerning argument 1 . Weinberg forgets to point out that the views of philosophers defended physicists from their own views.

Concerning argument 2. Philosophy only sets some guidelines, no more than that.

Concerning argument 3. Why be satisfied with gross, rectilinear realism?

Concerning argument 4. This is false in relation to the philosophy of physics.

Concerning argument 5. Weinberg involuntarily belittles the importance of the philosophy of science. It is a pity that he did not take the trouble to write a vast work on the philosophy of science. In this case, he would have to learn far from the simple tortures of the philosophers of science.

Concerning the argument 6. Any scientific discovery will take place not least due to metascientific research. Weinberg for some reason holds back this circumstance. He explains in detail that the discovery of asymptotic freedom contradicts the thesis of positivists about the direct observability of all physical phenomena that are recognized as real. But, firstly, Weinberg forgets to point out that positivism was criticized by the philosophers of science, in particular Popper, and not by physicists. Secondly, he did not notice that the refusal of physicists to positivism should be classified as their own philosophical insight.

Concerning argument 7. Of course, one should not absolutize any of the philosophical systems. Weinberg does not take into account that not all philosophers are dogmatists.

Concerning argument 8. Accents on positivism, forgetting to characterize its alternatives.

Concerning argument 9. In philosophers-relativists, i.e. poststructuralists, there are also positive features.

Thus, the criticism of Weinberg, whose relevance is not denied by the author, is nevertheless superficial. He does not take into account that physics is inseparable from the progress of knowledge in the composition of the following series of theories:

philosophy → philosophy of science → philosophy of physics → → metascientific physics.

In the end, he does not even try to outline the metascientific perspective of physics. Weinberg does not notice that, in discussing the dream of the final theory, he himself is forced to take a meta-scientific position. On his misfortune Weinberg limited his own research characteristics of some versions of philosophy and philosophy of science. We should also pay the greatest attention to the philosophy of physics and metascientific physics.

The incident of Weinberg is suggestive. An outstanding physicist, a scientist with a broad erudition, studies with interest the philosophy, but is disappointed in it. Why? Because he devoted his many years of effort to basic physics, not to metascientific physics.


1. S. Weinberg quite rightly criticizes the philosophy that fences off science, including physics.

2. He does not take into account the relevance of metascientific physics, which is characterized by philosophical roots.

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