Ralph D, particle physics, and BS

Rahul Mahajan rahul at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
Wed Jun 21 00:54:53 MDT 1995

Thanks for the clarification, Justin. I agree that physicists almost always
sound naive when they discuss general philosphical matters. Penrose, for
example, is just airing his feelings, without having thought through any
issues. One problem is that the scientist who were interested in such
issues (back in the 1920's, 30's, etc.) were very bourgeois and were unable
to see or address issues of class when talking about politics.

I guess I didn't clearly delineate my views on philosophical competence.
Clearly, in order to do creative, as opposed to merely critical work, one
needs more than clear thinking -- an extensive knowledge of and feeling for
the ideas expressed in the field over the years, etc. I think, however, in
99 out of 100 cases, to effectively criticize another person's
philosophical work requires no tools special to philosophy.

I've noticed that philosophy students at least tend to be conservative
politically (in addition to not necessarily sophisticated). Even activists
are often naive about politics, especially that outside their direct
sphere. Also, people who, say, deal with and get money from the World Bank
to fund thir development projects often have a hard time seeing the big
picture about the Bank's role in the world economy. Americans in communist
parties can sometimes be tremendously naive about the American working

I have to say, you make Feyerabend sound interesting. I slam social
scientism whenever I get a chance, too -- one of the worst things about it
is that it discredits natural science, since people are often
undiscriminating about the distinction.


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