Science’s Humanities Gap

tags: philosophy, Science, history



Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author, most recently, of “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960,” and writes regularly for The Stone. He was recently interviewed in 3am magazine.

...The disparity between philosophers’ knowledge of science and scientists’ knowledge of philosophy is even greater in the areas of philosophy of physics and philosophy of biology. In the early 20th century, most of the major philosophers of science (Morris Schlick, Hans Reichenbach and Rudolf Carnap, for example) had done advanced work in physics. Current philosophers of physics continue to have a high professional level of training in physics, with many even publishing in physics journals. Philosophers of biology like David Hull have been similarly well versed in that discipline.

Historians of science are also immersed in the areas of science they study. Graduate programs in the discipline typically expect strong undergraduate majors or even a master’s degree in a particular science, and often require further advanced scientific work. Thomas Kuhn, the most influential historian of science ever, had a doctorate in physics from Harvard. By contrast, few current scientists do serious work in the histories of their discipline.

Social scientists have also been far more open than natural scientists to history and other humanistic disciplines, and there are many examples of fruitful interdisciplinary interactions in the area of social science history. Geography, in particular, has emerged as a thoroughly interdisciplinary study, combining natural science with both social scientific and humanistic studies....




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