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Tyson vs. Studebaker: Philosophy’s Necessity

Neil deGrasse Tyson made a statement regarding the dying necessity for philosophical arguments. He believes that if questions are not moving us forward then why ask them? Writer/philosopher, Benjamin Studebaker, rebuttals his statement by claiming that philosophy is an important topic. He claims discussion of topics helps society rather than stall it which in turn allows us to grow.

Regardless of Studebaker and Tyson’s opinions, it really comes down to what specific questions are being asked by philosophers? Tyson believes the wrong questions are being asked. For example, questions that are worthless to be concerned over, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “Why are softballs hard?” He has a problem with questions regarding the meaning of meaning. He believes the definition of words have no significance to the progression of life, rather discussion of ideas are the ones that matter.

Studebaker believes philosopher’s questions are based into two categories. The first is Description, which science is used in explaining things based on facts of the universe. An example is, “Why does the earth revolve around the sun? And how does that affect our ecosystem?” The second is Normative, which science cannot explain. It is the type of philosophical inquiry that focuses on the answer which is “good for society”. Examples consist of, “What is love? And why is it important to human existence?” He states that both of these types of questions are important to progressing through the world.

Personally, I am inclined to Studebaker’s opinion on the two different types of questions and their use. I believe using science to back up theories as well as the imagination for broad, meaningful topics has validity on Studebaker’s side. Yet, Tyson’s claim about questions that do not move society forward also carries some weight. It is similar to being in a classroom with the kid that always questions, “But why?” to any statement made. Both affirmations should not be discounted. Sometimes, philosophy doesn’t carry any value and wastes time, but other times asking “why” can change the world.

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