Page:Lawhead columbia 0054D 12326.pdf/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

that philosophical training prepares its students to tackle? Why are those students uniquely prepared to tackle those questions? What is it about climate science specifically that calls out for philosophical work, and how does philosophy fit into the overall project of climate science? Why (in short) should you care what I have to say about this problem? These are by no means trivial questions, and the answers to them are far from obvious. Let's start slowly, by examining what is (for us) perhaps the most urgent question in the first of the three categories introduced in Chapter Zero[1]: the question of how philosophy relates to the scientific project, and how philosophers can contribute to the advancement of scientific understanding[2].

The substance of the intuition lurking behind Feynman's quip about ornithology is this: scientists can get along just fine (thank you very much) without philosophers to tell them how to do their jobs. To a point, this intuition is surely sound—the physicist at work in the laboratory is concerned with the day-to-day operation of his experimental apparatus, with experiment design, and (at least sometimes) with theoretical breakthroughs that are relevant to his work. Practicing scientists—with a few very visible exceptions like Alan Sokal—paid little heed to the brisk "science wars" of the 1980s and 1990s. On the other hand, though, the intuition behind Feynman’s position is also surely mistaken; as I noted in Section 1.0, many of those same practicing physicists often acknowledge (for example) that people working in philosophy departments have made real contributions to the project of understanding quantum mechanics. It seems reasonable to suppose that those (living) scientists ought to be allowed to countermand

  1. I suggested that questions we might ask about climate science could be roughly divided into three categories: foundational questions, methodological questions, and evaluative questions. This chapter and the following one will deal with foundational questions. See Section 0.1 for more detail.
  2. The sense in which this is the most urgent question for us should be clear: the chapters that follow this one will constitute what is intended to be a sustained philosophical contribution to the climate change debate. On what basis should this contribution be taken seriously? Why should anyone care what I have to say? If we can't get a clear answer to this question, then all of what follows will be of suspect value.