They seem distant worlds, Science and Philosophy, can not communicate and meet: many scientists today are not interested in philosophy or even have declared it “war”.
Among these, the physicist Stephen Hawking, who recently accused the “science of thought” of not being able to give convincing answers to the human problems to which now only Science with a capital “S” can respond and make a real contribution.
A consensual divorce, the one between the two disciplines: two worlds always distant, if not antagonistic. Yet according to some of the most eminent exponents of the scientific research, Science and Philosophy has still 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, science still needs the philosophical discourse in order to lay the “human” foundations for its methods and, above all, for the horizons of its research. One of those who still thinks so is the Italian immunologist Alberto Mantovani, scientific director of the Humanitas Institute and author of an article written on the subject in collaboration with the physicist Carlo Rovelli.
For Professor Mantovani this is not only a cultural value, but also a “working method” that from the science of thought must reach the laboratories of researchers and therefore make a concrete contribution to research.
“A part of science wanted to keep away from philosophy, thinking that it could 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. Both disciplines should therefore keep in mind and influence each other in a fruitful dialogue”.
“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”.