COLUMN: Philosophy is not dead, we use it every day


Ian Palacios, Columnist

Stephen Hawking famously asserted that “philosophy is dead,” in his book “The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life,” arguing that philosophy is no longer relevant.

Popular physicist Lawrence Krauss, displaying his ignorance of philosophy, claimed, “I don’t believe anything. Belief is not a word scientists use,” which can be seen in the video “William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss – Life, the Universe, and Nothing.”

Unfortunately, many people tend to have views similar to Hawking. Even more, many people like Krauss just don’t know what philosophers do or why they are important. This scientism-based view of the world led Krauss to genuinely believe the claim that he doesn’t hold any beliefs.

Luckily, Hawking and Krauss are wrong—very wrong, actually. Each of us use aspects of philosophy both in our studies and our day-to-day lives, whether or not we realize it.

We need philosophy to make valid inferences and analyze arguments. Suppose your friend believes that all humans have immaterial souls, yet she also believes that knowledge of the world can only come from science. Once you point out that souls are outside the study of science (since science studies the material world, and souls are immaterial), she needs to drop one of the beliefs: Do immaterial souls not exist? Or can we get knowledge from something other than science? These questions fall under the field of logic.

Next, we can talk about when we should believe certain claims since certainly, we can’t believe something for no reason. If I told you that I believe vaccines cause harmful side effects but gave no proof, no reasons, you’d say I’m doing something wrong. Similarly, whenever we do science, we need to understand what data sets justify a particular claim. We don’t want to accidentally come to a false conclusion given our hard-earned research. This field is called epistemology and is the theory of knowledge.

Now consider your views on abortion, gun laws, or taxation, since you likely have a firm belief on at least one of these. Both sides cannot be correct for a particular issue: it’s not possible for abortion to be right and wrong. So, who’s correct? Moral philosophy is the only discipline that will give you an answer.

You might appeal to the mother’s interest in bodily autonomy or the fetus’ right to life, but only one answer can be correct. Moral and political philosophy is especially important because many beliefs you hold close are moral and political beliefs. This study is called value theory (which also includes artistic beliefs too).

And there are many, many more questions to ask in philosophy. What is gender? Does God exist? Does the universe have a beginning? Ask a metaphysician. Is scientific knowledge objective? Do laws of nature exist? Does evidence ever support our theories (or do we only disprove them)? Ask a philosopher of science.

Read some philosophy! It’s more important than you think.


Ian Palacios is a junior English and philosophy major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or