Not Dead Yet? Philosophy?

The Guardian has (a seemingly straight-faced) think piece by Raymond Tallis about why science really, really needs philosophy these days.

“…there could not be a worse time for philosophers to surrender the baton of metaphysical inquiry to physicists. Fundamental physics is in a metaphysical mess and needs help. The attempt to reconcile its two big theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, has stalled for nearly 40 years. Endeavours to unite them, such as string theory, are mathematically ingenious but incomprehensible even to many who work with them.”

From my (admittedly long ago) philosophy studies, it seems that physics’ “metaphysical mess” is always with us, and that the results, if that’s the right word, that philosophy offers are illuminating complications, not solutions. Still it’s a nice wish that physics and philosophy make shared humanistic concerns more visible. Tallis’ argument in part seems to be that contemporary physics is soullessly technical, not a charge that philosophy escapes. To wit, here’s an abstract from the current issue of Philosophical Review,

A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to what is known. This essay demonstrates that a dynamic theory about might and must offers elegant explanations of a range of puzzling observations about epistemic modals.

Those philosophical greats, Monty Python, in “Not Dead Yet” (the Spamalot version). Perhaps they are really singing about philosophy.

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