Is Coyne Accusing People of “Philosophism”?

So, Jerry Coyne is talking about articles taking Lawrence Krauss to task for dismissing philosophy, he rather humorously says this:

Here Rovelli includes both conceptual thinking and application of a methodology under the rubric of “philosophy.” Well, that wasn’t my definition, but since “philosophy” is an ill-defined concept, by all means let him call it what he wants. Yes, many scientists engage in conceptual thinking (that’s how the notion of inclusive fitness—indeed, of evolution itself—was born in evolutionary biology) and they also “apply a methodology.” But to claim that that is truly philosophy smacks a bit of turf defense. What I wonder, in the end, is whether progress in physics would have been retarded had there not been a formal field of the philosophy of science. I’m open to arguments either way, but for now I’m unaware of any advances in physics that wouldn’t exist in the absence of the philosophy of science as a discipline.

So, first, note that he’s basically griping about philosophers defining philosophy “broadly”, and so broadly that it includes things that he considers “science”. And yet, somehow he does not note how he, in turn, defines science broadly, to the extent that it likely includes philosophy. How, then, is he not engaging in the precise same “turf defense” that he claims the philosophers do? At least philosophy has, in fact, philosophical examinations independent of discussions with science and physics to claim that it, at least, is interested in conceptual analysis; all he has for his turf defense are his own personal philosophical — and not scientific — ruminations.

Second, there are also no advances in philosophy that wouldn’t exist in the absence of physics as a discipline. So what? Yes, yes, I know that this is in response to a comment that philosophy is really useful for science, but it’s still a bit of an odd comment.

Ultimately, it almost seems here like Coyne is accusing philosophers of philosophism, when he is the first to deny that the term “scientism” is a useful classification.


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