I’ve just come across an interesting article in Edge where theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli talks about what science is to him and what he learnt about philosophy of science in investigating the life of Anaximander whom he called the first scientist. I really encourage you to go read the whole thing on the website. But while you’re here, here are some sneak-peeks:
“What are then the aspects of doing science that I think are under-evaluated, and should come up-front? First, science is about constructing visions of the world, about rearranging our conceptual structure, about creating new concepts which were not there before, and even more, about changing, challenging the a-priori that we have. So it’s nothing to do about the assembly of data and the way of organizing the assembly of data. It has everything to do about the way we think, and about our mental vision of the world. Science is a process in which we keep exploring ways of thinking, and changing our image of the world, our vision of the world, to find new ones that work a little bit better.”
This is not exactly about science, not directly. But once upon a time, scientists are “natural philosophers”. Even back in the early twentieth century in the time of birth of quantum mechanics, scientist are still pretty much philosophers. Einstein didn’t challenge Bohr with long-winded calculation or complicated experiment, they challenged each other with the gedanken or thought experiments. Einstein’s famous EPR paper which splits the terrain of physical philosophy is a philosophical paper as much as it is a physics paper. It is only within the latter half of the twentieth century that philosophy and science are split and therein, I think, starts the isolation of science. Science can’t be fully appreciated without the understanding of the philosophy behind it and only when taken that into account will its true value to humanity be found.