Stephen Hawking claimed that "philosophy is dead". I personally know someone who would disagree, my old philosophy professor at Rutgers, Tim Maudlin. As an undergrad at Rutgers, I took two classes under Maudlin, Metalogic and Metaphysics (I didn't do well in either of them). He is almost certainly the smartest person I have ever met. His classes were difficult, especially the Metalogic class, which was well beyond me. I should have dropped the class when I had the chance (which was before having gotten back any work, so I had no idea how badly I was really going to do in the class, or perhaps more relevantly, how hard he was going to grade). At one point in one of his lessons, he asked if there were any questions, and I responded that I was sure I did if I could come up with a coherent way of asking any of them. He said, "well, let me know!"
He was also a Monty Python fan, much to my pleasure. About to give us our first test, I moaned and asked, in my best Python imitation, "How long is it?" He responded appropriately: "That's a rather personal question!"
In any case, here he is in a lovely article where he almost single-handedly takes on the prevailing opinion that philosophy no longer has any place in the world of physics. And a second article with Krauss courtesy of AnneT. Enjoy!
I can't believe nobody responded to this! This will probably never even not noticed. Oh well.
The "before the Big Bang" part is problematic, and nobody has an answer to what this even means. Before the Big Bang is meaningless if time began at the Big Bang. Causality has no meaning, and the Arrow of Time doesn't exist before this event. However, there may have been another universe that collapsed and then re-expanded at the Big Bang. This would be impossible to ascertain if all information pertaining to this earlier universe is destroyed at the singularity.
However, theists routinely use transcendental arguments to show that a god must have created the universe, or such an event could not have happened. I do not accept this, as we have absolutely no knowledge of what happened "prior to", or even AT the event itself, so any such assertion is an argument from ignorance.
Hah, glad somebody finally picked up on this one! I agree with you - even if there was a universe which existed before the big bang, or an infinite number of prior universes, with an infinite number to follow, or perhaps some definite number of universes before or after ours, we could never know about it as all information about them would be lost at that moment of their destruction.
I had a daydream that life, through the use of biological engineering and even cyborg technology, managed to, some day in the far-distant future, exist in space, perhaps as traveling planets, or in spaceships, or simply as massive biological organisms with an exterior made to withstand the rigors of space. They consumed energy and created waste products, just as organisms do now, evolving to consume planets and stars and any available piece of matter or energy they came across. Eventually, all the useful matter/energy in the universe was turned into biomass, and so the universe itself became a single living organism, which then eventually dies and implodes upon itself, creating a massive singularity which then explodes again, releasing all the energy of the universe all over again from the beginning. I was probably high when I dreamt this one up. :-)
But its as about coherent as any other biblical explanation. Funny about that
Ditto. Thanks for your articulate response, Ian.
He sounds like he would be a challenging but perhaps fun teacher.
Philosophy is getting a bad rap possibly because it does not produce anything concrete. A lot (all?) of the soft sciences are like that. That doesn't mean they are useless.
Here is another interview on this topic, this time with Krauss:
Wow, thanks for the cool link Anne! I'm gonna copy it into the OP!
As a philosopher, I fall squarely within the camp of David Albert and Tim Maudlin. Whether Krauss just misses the point or not I am not sure (I haven't finished the article yet), but this quote from Albert gives the position of the philosopher succinctly:
"The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields... they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story."
Nearing the end of this article! (I keep having to come back to it). Here is what Krauss eventually says, after saying frankly a lot of stupid shit:
"I don't ever claim to resolve that infinite regress of why-why-why-why-why; as far as I'm concerned it's turtles all the way down. The multiverse could explain it by being eternal, in the same way that God explains it by being eternal, but there's a huge difference: the multiverse is well motivated and God is just an invention of lazy minds."
So he makes it quite clear that he doesn't even try to answer the ultimate question, "why is there something rather than nothing?", or even how, as he prefers to frame the question. And this is why we need philosophy - not to answer every question, but to make sure, at the very least, that we do not falsely believe that we have answered the last question, and to point out that there are still more questions to be asked. This has not gotten nearly to the point where the philosopher is merely asking "why?" for lack of something better to do; rather, there are still very important questions to ask, and it must be pointed out that this is true before people get overconfident that they have actually hit anything that even remotely resembles bedrock.
Oh cool thanks. I will have to read these articles. That Monty Python story is really funny.
the time/space "before" the big bang is not a point. the energy fluctuations that transpired the conversion of energy to time/space do not share the same physics. time before the big bang is a misleading idea. We only know of time/space in our expression of the energy fluctuation that created the big bang.
An interesting reply, Write4U! The philosophical problem remains, however. Where does potential come from? Why is there potential and not no potential?