Thursday, May 30, 2013

[PHI 3000] Turf Wars: Physics vs. Metaphysics

Raymond Tallis argues that "Philosophy isn't dead yet." He thinks that "science is in a mess and needs help [from philosophers]." For example, Tallis says that "The attempt to reconcile [fundamental physics'] two big theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, has stalled for nearly 40 years."

Even if Tallis is right about that, are there good reasons to think that philosophers can succeed where scientists have failed?

Tallis also claims that
The attempt to fit consciousness into the material world, usually by identifying it with activity in the brain, has failed dismally, if only because there is no way of accounting for the fact that certain nerve impulses are supposed to be conscious (of themselves or of the world) while the overwhelming majority (physically essentially the same) are not.
But why think that "physics [needs to] accommodate conscious beings"? Don't we have other scientific disciplines that are supposed to handle the question of consciousness, such as cognitive science, neuroscience, and the like? Why pick on physics? Isn't Tallis complaining that physics cannot do the job it is not supposed to do?

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