Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: ‘Science is our best answer, but it takes a philosophical argument to prove that’
"Scientists and philosophers have long been at one another’s throats over life’s big questions. Now a novelist with a foot in each camp wants to get Plato involved." according to The Guardian.
For some time now the discipline of philosophy has been under something of an assault from the world of science. Four years ago Stephen Hawking announced that philosophy was “dead”. He was referring specifically to the philosophy of science, which he said was still bogged down in epistemological questions from which science had moved on.
But philosophy in general has increasingly been viewed as irrelevant by many scientists. It’s a perspective that may be best summed up by the cosmologist Lawrence M Krauss, who has said: “science progresses and philosophy doesn’t”.
What’s more, science has begun to progress into areas previously occupied by philosophy and the humanities at large. These incursions have not gone unchallenged.
Last year the debate flared up in a much-publicised intellectual spat between the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker and the cultural critic Leon Wieseltier, who accused Pinker and his fellow scientists of practising “scientism”, a term he defined as “the translation of nonscientific discourse into scientific discourse”.
“It is not for science to say whether science belongs in morality and politics and art,” wrote Wieseltier. To which Pinker replied: “It’s not for Leon Wieseltier to say where science belongs.”
Now into the fray, mounting a spirited defence of philosophy, steps the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. And the philosopher she has selected to show the subject’s enduring relevance today is someone from the fifth century BC. In her new book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, Goldstein draws on her talents both as an analytical thinker and a fiction writer to bring the founding father of philosophy into the 21st century.
Goldstein is the author of six novels, as well as studies of the mathematician Kurt Gödel and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Her fiction often features philosophical or scientific elements — for example 2000’s Properties of Light was a ghost story that took in quantum physics. She studied with the great philosopher of the mind Thomas Nagel at Princeton in the 1970s, where she gained her PhD. In 1996 she was awarded a “genius grant” from the MacArthur fellows programme.
Rebecca Goldstein (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Source: The Guardian