Defending philosophy: A critique of arguments originating in the scientistic attitude
LE3 .A278 2016
Bachelor of Arts
Recently, attacks launched against philosophy have become increasingly prevalent from some prominent scientists. I allege that these attacks are symptoms of a growing attitude known as “scientism”– an exaggerated belief in the power of science. As I diagnose it, scientism is constituted by four main “doctrines,” each of which are suspect. First, I provide some detail on what scientism entails. I then introduce some defences of scientism, arguing that they ultimately fail to generate a compelling defence of the position. I divide attacks on philosophy and other non-scientific areas of inquiry into two general types: (i) challenges that derive directly from these scientistic “doctrines” and (ii) challenges that, although motivated by scientistic attitudes, arise from misunderstandings regarding the nature of philosophy. I examine the four doctrines in detail, exposing each as unjustified. I conclude that arguments that rely upon them are likewise defective. Having exposed these doctrines as defective, I consider related claims that challenge the value of philosophy. I argue that these claims arise out of misunderstandings of philosophy, and what its practices and aims are, compared with those of science. I show how these misunderstandings in turn lead to both mistakenly founded challenges, and to category mistakes regarding the nature of philosophy. Having defended philosophy from the scientistic attacks levelled against it, I present a positive argument for the role of philosophy in science, examining the philosophical underpinnings of scientific pursuits. I conclude that philosophy is not rendered obsolete by the advance of science, as some of these scientists have alleged. Far from being obsolete, philosophy plays a crucial and essential role in the operation of science.
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