Scott Aaronson: Role of Philosophy in Science | AI Podcast Clips | Summary and Q&A

February 24, 2020
Lex Clips
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Scott Aaronson: Role of Philosophy in Science | AI Podcast Clips


Scientists should care about philosophy because it asks the biggest questions and helps reframe our understanding of technical disciplines.

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Key Insights

  • 😃 Philosophy addresses the biggest questions about the nature of reality, freewill, and consciousness.
  • 🧑‍🔬 Scientists focus on narrower, more answerable questions to make progress.
  • 🔨 Philosophical questions can be reframed and explored with the tools of science and mathematics.
  • 🌍 Science and philosophy can complement each other in understanding the world.
  • 👨‍🔬 Scientists are often busy with concrete research questions, but still have an appreciation for philosophy.
  • 👔 Alan Turing and Ludwig Wittgenstein had a fascinating interaction and debate about formal systems and their relevance.
  • ⁉️ The scientific study of consciousness and AI has implications for our understanding of freewill and philosophical questions.


I sometimes get criticism from a listener here and there that while having a conversation with a world-class mathematician physicist neurobiologist aerospace engineer or theoretical computer scientists like yourself I waste time by asking philosophical questions about freewill consciousness mortality love nature of truth super intelligence whether ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why should computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists care about philosophy?

Philosophy deals with the biggest questions and can provide a deeper understanding of technical disciplines. It helps reframe our understanding of important concepts and motivates intellectual curiosity.

Q: Do computer scientists avoid philosophical questions?

It's not clear if computer scientists avoid these questions more than other scientists. Many scientists are interested in philosophy but are also focused on specific research questions. They prioritize concrete, answerable questions over metaphysical ones.

Q: What is the difference between how scientists and philosophers approach philosophical questions?

Scientists might be less careful with their use of words and focus on relating philosophical questions to recent research. Philosophers, on the other hand, interrogate word choices and delve into the deeper meaning of concepts. Both approaches can contribute to understanding philosophical questions.

Q: How can mathematics and science contribute to philosophical questions?

Mathematics and science allow us to make progress on narrower, more technical questions. While they may not provide definitive answers to philosophical questions, they can reframe our understanding and expand our thinking.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Philosophy explores the biggest questions about freewill, consciousness, the nature of truth, and more.

  • Scientists focus on narrower, more technical questions in order to make progress and find answers.

  • Science and mathematics provide tools for understanding and potentially changing our understanding of philosophical questions.

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