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The Philosophy of Cosmology: a new field of study

  1. Jun 26, 2013 #1
    The Philosophy of Cosmology is a new field of study at Oxford and Cambridge in Europe, and Rutgers, Columbia, NYU, Yale and UC Santa Cruz in the United States.

    Apparently they got a million dollar grant from Templeton foundation to create this new field of study.

    I am asking if this topic can be discussed on this forum? The philosophy of cosmology is much larger context that contains the science of cosmology. I think the scientist mentality, that have little or no training in logic and epistemology, could be hostel to discussion in philosophical terms if they are thinking in a scientific context, instead of philosophic context.
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  3. Jun 26, 2013 #2


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    But it is not a new field of study :smile:
    It is traditional and well-established in the sense that it gets chapters in the published reference works like Handbooks of Philosophy of Physics (HoPoP, for short)
    Back in 2006 when the North Holland Handbook of Philos. of Phys. came out
    it of course had a lengthy chapter on Philosophy of Cosmology. I read it when it came out. It is by George F.R. Ellis, very good, pages 1183 to 1286 (over a hundred pages by one of the long-standing top authorities in Philosophy of Cosmology!)

    There is also an Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics, in which Chapter 17 is "Philosophy of Cosmology".http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-philosophy-of-physics-9780195392043
    I have not looked at it. It is by Chris Smeenk, in case you happen to know of him.

    I have only my personal opinion on the question of whether it would be too distracting to try to cover in PF Astro Cosmo (I'm not staff and I don't know who would decide policy like that.)
    My personal view is it would be a bad idea to broaden discussion to include PoC. We need to focus hard on understanding the new developments in mainstream observational cosmology. Much new information is coming in, because of orbital instruments and new types of telescopes, also because of computer simulations of early universe.
    Cosmology has become observation-based and quantitative in a big way, so it is undergoing rapid change and it can actually be work keeping up. Plus I don't think you can sensibly philosophize about it if you don't understand mainstream standard cosmology.
    To repeat, I stress this is just one person's viewpoint.

    BTW the Philosophy of Cosmo chapter (in the North Holland handbook) is available free online at the arxiv:
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  4. Jun 26, 2013 #3
    There used to be a (general) philosophy forum here, but it seems to have been a nightmare for the moderators. I'm not sure if restricting it to the philosophy of science, mathematics, or cosmology would improve the situation. Most online philosophy forums degrade from rigorous discussion very quickly. (I had to leave the Google+ one I was on recently. It was either "stuff you think you figured out when you were stoned" or "self help platitudes.")

    -Dave K
  5. Jun 26, 2013 #4


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    You are right to be apprehensive. My experience elsewhere (not at PF) is that opening Philosophy of Cosmology discussion attracts quasi-religious speculation and "multiverse" fanciers. What is the First Cause of existence, why is the universe favorable to conscious life, does the universe have a purpose, is ours one of an infinite collection of universes "predicted M-theory" :biggrin:
    It gets old pretty quick. Sorry you had that experience with the Google+ one.
  6. Jun 26, 2013 #5
    You're so right. The necessity of a creator, "a universe from nothing" (Thanks a lot Dr. Krauss), and untested theories which shall go nameless but which tend to uh..string people along until you want to blow your branes out...

    I have mostly good experiences on G+. The forums get bad when they get too big. I had to leave the math one too. But I have a nice math history group going that is delightful. I even have a "philosophy of math" subforum. With that restriction it doesn't tend to get out of hand.

    -Dave K
  7. Jun 26, 2013 #6


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    I think not so much a nightmare for the mods as a festering sore with pus oozing out every now and then, and the only way to treat it was to remove it. It might have been better with a rule to this effect: "No questions allowed, every post must state an opinion and request comments / counter opinions". This way, opinions might have evolved to become more sophisticated. But at the same time, the section might have gone unused or been full of crackpot theories, "I believe we should embrace performance-enhancing drugs, here's why", etc.
  8. Jun 26, 2013 #7


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    I just wanted to ask, are you expressing the view that philosophy started out as a form of proto-science, less efficient than science but when done correctly, just as valid? This itself is a claim needing justification and is an example of why a section like this would be so problematic. There is no real way of escaping the whole caboodle of philosophy proper.

    Ok, continue.
  9. Jun 26, 2013 #8
    I don't see where you get that. I think he's just saying that if you have a philosophy of x, then you should know something about x.

    Not that it stops people from pontificating about things they don't know anything about...
  10. Jun 27, 2013 #9


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    Doesn't the fact that the current programs were seeded by the Templeton foundation

    " million dollar grant from Templeton foundation"

    give a strong indication that religious "explanations" will be stressed over the scientific? This alone would seem to make it a poor choice for this forum?
  11. Jun 27, 2013 #10
    Oh snap! Good point

    i.e. a group of billionare right wing fundamentalists, in new age hippie drag.

    -Dave K
  12. Jun 27, 2013 #11

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    Nightmare is not strong enough of a term.

    Not as far as I can tell. Fortunately, philosophy is not my bailiwick as a moderator. Thank goodness.

    I'm closing this thread for now, pending moderation by those mentors who have agreed to moderate that form of self mutilation known as "philosophy".
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