How compatible is a double major between philosophy and one of the natural sciences?

Entirely! Philosophical training is an excellent complement to scientific training. Indeed, I wish more scientists had received it (see this response ). The sciences abound with interesting questions for the philosopher. A philosophy/science double major can be logistically challenging because of all the lab hours required by many science programs. But if you can make it work, I highly recommend it.

Why do scientists seem to dislike philosophy so much? (For example Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss). Even Dawkins seems to have joined the club (which is odd given he now seems to spend most of his time making what seem to me to be fairly clearly philosophical arguments). Is it simply that they are using different definitions of the word than philosophy professors? Are they generally attacking just bad philosophy and taking that unrepresentative sample? Do they mean philosophy as in "that thing taught in philosophy departments" or some more abstract notion about the relations of ideas? I really don't understand what their problem is with philosophy (and why they don't define their terms)...

I'm not sure why Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Dawkins, Coyne, Feynman, et al. , express so much contempt for philosophy. But my best guess is that they're ignorant -- unaware -- of what philosophy is when it's done well, perhaps because they received little or no academic training in philosophy when they were undergraduate students. (By the time they reached graduate school in the sciences, it may have been too late for them to get that training even if they had been interested in getting it.) I don't think they're using different definitions, at least not systematically. Krauss does claim that physics has redefined the words "something" and "nothing," but I think he's deeply mistaken (see Question 4759 ). In general, I find that when non-philosophers, including scientists, reason about philosophical issues, they do so sloppily: making elementary mistakes in inference, conflating concepts that ought to be kept distinct, and so on. That's unfortunate but not surprising, since reasoning well about...

I need some constructive advice about my dissertation topic. I am literally just starting out my research. Though I won't be starting for another year or so, it's an extensive topic and I could use some advice to make sure the basic idea and outline is sound. Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck. I'd like to email about, but I'm not sure if that's allowed on this site?

Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck. I find it hard to believe that professors in your department who work in your area of research "don't want to be bothered" with questions about a research topic from someone within a year of starting his/her dissertation. If any of those professors are your advisors, it's their job to field such questions. If, after gently persisting, you can't get constructive advice about your dissertation topic from faculty in your own department, you should seriously consider transferring to a program where you can get such advice.

I'm particularly concerned with this question and response: http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/4636 I'm not necessarily interested in the theological ramifications, but in terms of Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene and Lawrence Krauss's cosmology in The Universe from Nothing, it feels like these are very real issues that have not been addressed by philosophers. Is there serious philosophy that has kept up to date on science? Or are these thinkers simply interested in claiming that Lawrence Krauss' "nothing" is different than the philosophical conception of nothing? Are there philosophers at all that deal with science post-Newton?

Speaking for my own response to Question 4636: I offered two quotations of Krauss from his online interview with Sam Harris (in which Harris gave Krauss ample space to clarify his positions) in order to show how advanced training in science doesn't guarantee even minimal competence in philosophy. All three clauses in the first quotation are stunningly false: First, modern science hasn't "changed completely our conception of the very words 'something' and 'nothing'"; arguably, science couldn't completely change our conception of those ordinary-language words. Krauss seems to think that science has somehow made the word 'something' synonymous with 'something material' and 'nothing' synonymous with 'nothing material', but if that were so then those two-word phrases would be pleonastic (i.e., redundant), which clearly they're not. The set {2} contains nothing material, but it contains something; it's not the empty set. Second, the statement "Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that the...

Is there any general concern among academic philosophers that Richard Dawkins' amateurish treatment of philosophy in 'The God Delusion' might be giving the false impression to the general public that complex debates in the philosophy of religion can be knocked down in a few pages of popular writing? Surely this is highly misleading, and obscures deep debates in academic philosophy.

Or even after a difficult day doing theoretical cosmology, to judge from what physicist Lawrence Krauss says about his new book, A Universe from Nothing , in an online interview with Sam Harris . Choice quotations: "Modern science...has changed completely our conception of the very words 'something' and 'nothing'. Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that the Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not, and 'something' and 'nothing' are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy." "[D]o we have any physical reason to believe that such nothing was ever the case? Absolutely, because we are talking about our universe, and that doesn’t preclude our universe arising from precisely nothing , embedded in a perhaps infinite space , or infinite collection of spaces, or spaces-to-be" (my italics). Those assertions are so confused it's hard to know where to begin. Even fellow physicists have lambasted Krauss for talking...

I'm having a difficult time determining if a certain math problem should be classified as using Formal or Informal Logic. Here it is: 1. ALL except 2 of my pets are dogs. 2. ALL except 2 of my pets are cats. 3. ALL except 2 of my pets are birds. Q: How many pets do I own? A: 2 or 3 So, while it's obvious why the answer could be 3, it's not obvious how it could be 2 as well. The reason why is because the phrase "All" could be zero, which would represent an empty set. And, of course, I could own pets other than the ones mentioned (fish / lizards). So, knowing that, we can substitute that example back into the original problem as follows: I own two, pets, which are both fish. All except 2 of my pets are dogs, which in this case, is equal to zero. So, the set of dogs can possibly be an empty set. So, anyways, I was wanting to know if the puzzle itself could be considered "formal", or is it informal because most people would mean "All" to at least equal one, and we add that assumption in there?

I interpret you as asking this: Why do we find it puzzling or counterintuitive that statements 1–3 are true in the case in which you own exactly two pets, neither of which is a dog, a cat, or a bird? Is it because we assume that "all" implies "at least one"? Those are empirical, psychological questions whose answers I don't know. But I do think it's worth distinguishing between what "all" logically implies and what "all" conversationally implies. (You might have a look at the SEP entry on implicature .) On the one hand, the statement "All intelligent extraterrestrials are extraterrestrials" had better be true, and its truth had better not depend on the existence of intelligent extraterrestrials. So I think there's good reason to deny that "all" logically implies "at least one." On the other hand, someone who owns no dogs and who says "All my dogs have their shots" has said something odd or misleading, even if true. So I think there's good reason to say that, at least sometimes, "all"...

Why is relative identity an unpopular theory? What I read generally asserts that it is not accepted by very many philosophers, but some of the examples don't seem defective at first blush, like two copies of Animal Farm being identical stories but distinct books. What don't philosophers seem to like about the theory of relative identity?

I'm not sure why other philosophers dislike the notion of relative identity. I find it unattractive because (1) it's a more complicated notion than absolute identity and (2) I don't see how the added complication solves any problems or illuminates any distinctions that we can't solve or illuminate without it. Take the example you gave: two printed copies of Animal Farm . I say that those items are absolutely distinct. I take it that relative-identity theorists say that the items are identical -- one and the same individual -- qua story but not qua printed book. But why not say, instead, that the two printed books are type-identical tokens -- absolutely distinct physical tokens of a single story-type -- just as multiple distinct tokens of the single word-type "tokens" occur on the screen you're now reading? The type/token distinction is already available and independently motivated. So I see no reason to invoke relative identity in order to understand the example you gave. At any rate, the...

Some people argue that a 15 year old should be required by their parents to have an abortion because they also can't get an ear piercing or attend an R rated movie without their parents permission. Is that a good argument?

I agree with Prof. Stairs: even if we fix the argument's conflation of permissions and requirements, the analogies to piercings and 'R'-rated movies aren't close enough to abortion. We need to consider procedures that are of roughly equal invasiveness and seriousness. So imagine that the 15-year-old daughter needs a tonsillectomy but doesn't want one (maybe she's terrified of even routine surgery, or she's joined a religion that forbids undergoing surgery). Do her parents have the right to force the tonsillectomy on her against her will? I expect that many will answer yes . Now instead imagine that she's pregnant, and her parents judge that an abortion is in her best interests, but she doesn't want one (maybe she thinks having a baby at age 15 is in her best interests, or she's joined a religion that forbids abortion). Do her parents have the right to force the abortion on her against her will? I expect that many who answered yes to the first question will answer no to this question,...

I know that there have been numerous contributions in philosophy discussing the divisibility of matter, e.g. Zeno's paradoxes. Are there contemporary debates regarding this topic still? Do you think it's plausible that matter can be divided infinitely? When we hear of experiments in modern physics where particles are collided and break into smaller pieces, does this constitute a division of matter? I understand I've asked a lot here. I hope the questions are related to each other enough that they can be addressed in a single response. Thank you!

Are there contemporary debates regarding this topic still? To judge from the SEP article on mereology, the infinite divisibility of matter is indeed a topic of contemporary debate. See especially section 3.4 here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mereology. Do you think it's plausible that matter can be divided infinitely? I'd distinguish between (1) the claim that every bit of matter is composed of smaller bits of matter and (2) the claim that, as a matter of physical law, those smaller bits of matter can always be pulled apart. (1) is a logically weaker claim than (2), so (1) can be plausible even if (2) isn't. I myself find (1) to be plausible. I take no stand on (2). When we hear of experiments in modern physics where particles are collided and break into smaller pieces, does this constitute a division of matter? Yes. Or at least I can't see why it wouldn't.

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