Bridging the Gaps

Conversations with
researchers, explorers and thought leaders
from around the world


Is Philosophy Dead? On the Bittersweet Relationship Between Science and Philosophy

Is philosophy dead? Well over the past few years a number of scientists and researchers have said that we don’t need philosophy, philosophy should not be taught, it is waste of time and some have suggested that philosophy is dead. This is obviously a question that should be discussed at Bridging the Gaps. Tim Maudlin, professor of philosophy at New York University, says that the scientists, particularly physicists, who suggest that philosophy is dead, simply don’t know what is done now-a-days in philosophy of physics.

An important point that Maudlin makes is that if there are philosophers who intend to write about physics and have no expertise in physics, perhaps this is not a good idea. In his view one of the main reasons that negative remarks are bing made about philosophy is that philosophers are writing about topics without having expertise in these areas. Maudlin says that if you want to know about the nature of matter, and nature of space and time, and if you want to understand large-scale structure of cosmos, you need input from science.

Maudlin says that tendency in the last forty years has been that philosophers become more and more competent in the particular sciences that they intend to comment on. He notes, “particularly in physics we get people whose training is in physic”. A number of researchers with undergraduate degrees in physics, and some even with doctorates in physics, feel that foundational issues in physics are not appreciated and supported in physics departments. They drift over into philosophy department so that they could easily pursue very foundational and conceptual questions.

Maudlin highlights that scientific theories are often not entirely clear in their standard presentations about what they are saying about the physical world. He acknowledges that it seems strange that a physicist might not quite understand what his / her theory says about the physical world, but the fact is that you can do a lot of physics by just doing mathematics, you learn to calculate, you learn to generate numbers and you use those numbers of make predictions. You can do all that but when asked very basic question about what the physical picture of the world is that is being presented by this theory, the physicist have nothing to say about it. These are sort of things that philosophers are most interested in.

An interesting point is that critical thinking is considered to be at the core of scientific method of investigation. Scientists and researchers have always emphasized the importance of critical thinking. Can it be said that critical thinking is an important element of philosophical thinking as well? And if this is correct then one can say that science and philosophy complement each other, and should strengthen our efforts to extend the boundary of knowledge and understanding. Maudlin shares his views on this.

After discussing the bittersweet relationship between philosophy and science, we touch upon a number of other topics that Tim Maudlin’s research focuses on, these are:

  • Nature of Time: is time real, or is it just an illusion? Is time directional?
  • Nature of Spacetime
  • Quantum Physics and Entangled Particles
  • Observer Effect and Wave Collapse Function
  • Structure of the Universe at the Plank Scale
  • The title of one of your books is the Metaphysic within Physics, is there metaphysics within physics?
  • Can philosophy assist and guide us to understand these difficult to understand concepts?

Maudlin has written about the structure of the universe and that why does it appear fine-tuned for life. His view is that the Big Bang state itself arose out of some previous conditions and it is possible that the whole universe is just a small part of everything there is, and that we live in a kind of bubble universe, a small region of something much larger. He says that it is possible that there are many other bubbles, which means, there are other universes, all very different from one another. In that it is possible that few of these universes got fine-tuned to support life. At this point we discuss an analogy that Maudlin has used in his publications that if we give millions of monkeys typewriters, there is high probability that some of these monkey will produce good poetry. Maudlin explains why he uses this metaphor in his publications.

I finish our discussion by asking Tim Maudlin what are major developments and breakthroughs that he envisages in the field of his research in next fifty to sixty years.

Resources

  • Maudlin T. (2011). “Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity”, Wiley-Blackwell, 3rd Edition.
  • Maudlin T. (2006). “Truth and Paradox”, OUP Oxford, New Ed edition.
  • Maudlin T. (2009). “The Metaphysics Within Physics”, OUP Oxford.
  • Maudlin T. (2012). “Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time”, Princeton University Press.
  • Maudlin T. (2014). “New Foundations of Physical Geometry: The theory and Linear Structures”, OUP Oxford.
By |January 3rd, 2015|Podcasts|

Upcoming Podcasts at Bridging the Gaps

Consciousness, Synthetic Consciousness and Singularity with Professor David Chalmers

David Chalmers is an Australian philosopher and a cognitive scientist specializing in the area of philosophy of mind. He is professor of philosophy and is Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. He is also professor of philosophy at New York University.

On the Bittersweet Relationship Between Science and Philosophy with Professor Tim Maudlin

Tim Maudlin is professor of philosophy at New York University and has been a visiting professor at Harvard University. His research focuses on the foundations of physics, metaphysics and logic. He has published several papers and articles, books and book chapters on these and related topics.The books that he has published on these topics are: “Truth and Paradox: Solving the Riddles”, “The Metaphysics within Physics”, “Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity” and “Philosophy of Physics: space and time”.

Conscious and Unconscious Forms of Memory and Memory Distortions with Professor Daniel Schacter

Daniel Schacter is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. His research explores the relation between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how we use memory to imagine possible future events, and the effects of aging on memory. He has published over 300 articles on these and related topics and has published several books and book chapters. His two books that are relevant to this discussion are “Searching for Memory” and “The Seven Sins of Memory”.

By |January 1st, 2015|Podcasts|

Growth Mindset: A Must Have Tool for Success

Babies learn. Babies learn to walk, they learn to talk, they are very keen to know about everything that happens around them, and most importantly they don’t worry about making mistakes. However after few years of schooling, a large number of young learners turn away from learning. What changes their behavior towards learning? One of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford university, says this change occurs when learners adopt a fixed mindset.

According to professor Dweck, “in a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong”. While with regard to growth mindset, professor Dweck notes, “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities”.
In this podcast Professor Dweck discusses her research on the concepts of mindset, motivation and success. In this podcast we touch upon the following points:

  • Fixed vs. growth mindset: definitions, concepts, and underlying theories
  • Why learners turn away from learning: their beliefs about their minds and its plasticity are the key factors.
  • Students with growth mindsets perform better than those students who have fixed mindset: professor Dweck discusses research studies and experiments that lead to these findings.
  • Scientists have used brain science and EEG to study what happens in our brains and how does the functioning of a fixed mindset brain differ from the functioning of a growth mindset brain; professor Dweck discusses brain science behind these two mindsets.
  • How do we develop these mindsets? Are we born with particular mindsets, is this genetic or does this depend on our upbringing and our environment? This is a typical nature vs. nurture question.
  • Professor Dweck notes that the way we interact with our children, for instance the way we praise and reward them, the manner of these interactions can lead to the development of a particular mindset; so what are the ways of interaction that support the development of a growth mindset.
  • Based on this research, a support programme – Brainology – has been developed that helps students develop a growth mindset. “Brainology programme achieves this by teaching students how the brain functions, learns, and remembers, and how it changes in a physical way when we exercise it” says Carol Dweck. It is reported on the Brainology programme website that “Brainology was designed to benefit all children, and it has been used successfully in classrooms and at home, typically by 5th through 9th graders. However, younger and older students have also used the program to great advantage… The aim is to raise students’ achievements by helping them develop a growth mindset”. Professor Dweck describes the motivation, goals and objectives, curriculum of Brainology, and the impact of implementing Brainology programme.
  • There are different ways to examine research on mindsets: from students’ perspective, from teachers’ perspective and from parents’ perspective. There is a need to improve awareness among students, teachers and parents about this research and its findings.
  • After discussing the concepts of growth and fixed mindsets from an early education perspective, Dweck discusses that how do these concepts relate to grown-ups.
  • When a grown-up lands on a dream job, lets say he or she becomes a CEO, is it possible that after achieving such a major goal, the person may adopt a fixed mindset?
  • Myth of being perfect and avoiding self-improvement: does this represent a fixed mindset?
    Encouraging and adopting growth mindset at workplaces: how to encourage and support individuals at workplaces to adopt growth mindset.
  • Research suggests that individuals should be encouraged to adopt growth mindset, and groups and organizations should be encouraged to adopt growth mindset, I ask professor Dweck can we extrapolate this idea and can we aim for a society with growth mindset. She shares her views on this.
  • How does the concept of growth mindset relate to the concepts of ‘learning to learn’ and ‘lifelong learning’?
  • Future research directions, expected developments and breakthroughs

Resources:

  • The Brainology Programme (Mindset Works)
  • Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2002). Beliefs that make smart people dumb. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Why smart people do stupid things. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
  • Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33-52.
By |January 1st, 2015|Podcasts|