What I wish I’d said about Stephen Hawking

I’ve been keenly aware of my lack of commentary on current events around here.  Honestly, I feel hopelessly tongue-tied by the stunning idiocy which resides at the heart of so much that is in the public eye these days.  With little surplus of time, I have been unable to raise the level of my response above ad hominem,  so I’ve taken the silent route.

Here I will at least try to compensate for my lack of prophetic power by featuring another writer’s recent post on the reductionist swagger of our contemporary physicists:

“Philosophy is dead”  – What, again? Apparently Stephen Hawking is unaware of the fact that this rhetorical strategy for winning philosophical arguments has been tried before, without notable success. It is not only a classic ploy for physicalists, who hold that reality consists entirely of whatever physicists can talk about in their professional capacity, and who hold that we know this to be true primarily because physicists tell us this, in their professional capacity. It was tried by the old Vienna Circle boys, who made the philosophical assertion that philosophical assertions are nonsense, and therefore ought not to be made, excepting, of course, this last one, which should. It has been tried by Hegel and Heidegger, who both claimed that because one could discern a kind of narrative arc in the history of philosophy thus far, that therefore the story must be over (confusing the lights coming up in a movie theater for enlightenment itself). In a different way it was tried by Russell, who suggested that philosophers continue to do philosophy, but to act like scientists in doing so, dividing the problems up and parceling them out to teams like chemists—in this case, there’s no pretense that philosophy as such is dead, …

read more at: among the Poseidonians

The author’s reference is to a recent review of Hawking’s book, The Grand Design,  in The Economist :

“The authors [Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow] rather fancy themselves as philosophers, though they would presumably balk at the description, since they confidently assert on their first page that “philosophy is dead.” It is, allegedly, now the exclusive right of scientists to answer the three fundamental why-questions with which the authors purport to deal in their book. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? And why this particular set of laws and not some other?”

I only discovered the blogger today, and haven’t asked his permission to put up his material here.  But the post is quite up to my taste in terms of depth of material – my only criticism is that it’s long, and so a little uneven in spots.  But overall I’m glad to find another writer saying things I’m feeling about the lack of decent public criticism of Hawking’s magesterial pose as metaphilosopher of popular cosmology.

I know that a daily rant (tastefully done) is an important fixture in blog protocol, and a good way to build a congenial readership.  I’m sure it ought to be tried in particular by a bloke who mostly presumes to write theology without a license (which certainly nobody is obliged to care about).   For now I am content to feature a blogger like the Poseidonian, who has more of what I lack – a cool head and a taste for the words I wish I could command in regard to Hawking, Park51, Koran burners, etc. etc.   Check him out.


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