Earlier this year MC Hammer (yes, the MC Hammer) for claiming that science and philosophy were fundamentally opposed. Instead, he reminded us, science and philosophy can . And now a forthcoming in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science provides further evidence in favor of MC Hammer’s claims.
The researchers identified a substantial body of work by philosophers of science that used “philosophical tools to address scientific problems and provide scientifically useful proposals.” They call such work philosophy in science. So what kind of tools do philosophers use that can be applied to science? The study authors don’t offer an exhaustive list, but point to activities such as making distinctions and proposing definitions, critiquing scientific methods, and combining multiple scientific fields as examples of typical philosophical tools. And while scientists use these methods too, they don’t tend to do so as often or as rigorously as philosophers.
As an example, one philosophy in science paper referenced by the researchers is by philosophers , published in Foundations of Physics in 1983. They prove that certain natural assumptions about the world are not compatible with quantum mechanics and, as Heywood and Redhead explicitly note, “” of their demonstration involves distinguishing between two different forms of an important concept in quantum mechanics that were often confused. So Heywood and Redhead address a scientific problem (are certain natural assumptions compatible with quantum mechanics?), use philosophical tools (making distinctions and proposing definitions) and provide a scientifically useful proposal (a proof).
The researchers suggest that, far from being fundamentally opposed disciplines, science and philosophy belong on a . And when scientists and philosophers work together to combine their tools, they can make both scientific and philosophical advances. In the words of MC Hammer “”