The philosophy of the Higgs

The philosophy of the Higgs

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Many of the great physicists of the 20th century have appreciated the importance of philosophy for science. Einstein, for example, wrote in a letter in 1944:

“I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest.”

At the same time, physics has always played a vital role in shaping ideas in modern philosophy. It appears, however, that we are now faced with the ruins of this beautiful marriage between physics and philosophy. Stephen Hawking has claimed recently that philosophy is “dead” because philosophers have not kept up with science, and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg argues:

“I know of no one who has participated actively in the advance of physics in the postwar period whose research has been significantly helped by the work of philosophers.”

Not to mention the recent public argument between cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and philosopher of science David Albert about nothing, i.e. the vacuum, however driven it may be by book sales figures. So is there a role for philosophy in modern physics? Should we physicists listen to philosophers?