You are reading Science still needs philosophy, Professor Mantovani explains why


Science still needs philosophy, Professor Mantovani explains why

March 26, 2019

There are many scientists today who are not interested in this subject or those who have even declared an intellectual war on philosophy. Among these there is also the physicist Stephen Hawking, who recently accused the philosophical science of not being able to give convincing answers to the human problems to which only the science can answer and give an actual contribution. Between these two disciplines, a consensual divorce seems to have been committed in the last few years. If not antagonistic, two worlds that are always far apart. Yet according to some of the most eminent exponents of scientific research, science and philosophy still have something to say today. We talked about it with Prof. Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of Humanitas and lecturer at Humanitas University, as well as author, together with the physicist Carlo Rovelli, of an article published in the prestigious journal Pnas that affirms the importance of a science that knows how to dialogue with philosophy.


A fruitful dialogue

According to an authoritative group of researchers, the science still needs the philosophical subject to establish the “human” basis for its methods but above all for the horizons of its research. One of those who still thinks so is the Italian immunologist Alberto Mantovani, author of an article written on the subject in collaboration with the physicist Carlo Rovelli. For Professor Mantovani it is not only a cultural value, but a “working method” that from the science of thought must reach the laboratories of researchers and thus make a concrete contribution to research. A part of the science wants to avoid the philosophy, thinking that it can do without it – said Mantovani -, with the result that it is impoverished. On the other hand, the best philosophy, the great European philosophy that laid the foundations of Western thought has always been nourished by science as knowledge about the world conjugated over time. Therefore, both disciplines should keep in mind and influence each other in a fruitful dialogue”.


Einstein’s words

“I would like to give two examples – continued the scientific director of Humanitas -: our organism has two major systems, one is the central nervous system and the other is the immune system. The philosophical reflections on this subject are helping us to put forward the general theory of how the immune system works. The theory of discontinuity, for example, explains well how our body, through the system, has the perception of a physical discontinuity of danger. Philosophers therefore need to enter the laboratories and become aware of how scientific research is done. Because, as Einstein says, the man of science who ignores the philosophy of thousands of trees without ever embracing the idea of a forest and “the independence determined by philosophical analysis is the distinction between a mere specialist and an authentic seeker of truth”.


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