I'm searching for the origin of the stereotype (regardless of validity) that physicists hate philosophy? This opinion seems to be more mainstream in the public domain. I do concede they are some(/many) physicists who do.

Historically I know the word scientist has not been around for too long. I'm guessing somewhere between then and now something happened?

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    $\begingroup$ "Hate" is an exaggeration: most of them call themselves "PhD"=Philosophy Doctor:-) $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Nov 25 '19 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko but it is becoming a more mainstream perception. I borrowed the word from: npr.org/sections/13.7/2012/05/01/151752815/… $\endgroup$ – More Anonymous Nov 25 '19 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ It has been my experience that an unfounded lack of respect for philosophy is nearly universal and certainly not restricted to physicists. My answer (and others) to the question Who first said "Shut up and calculate" may provide some historical context for the pragmatic attitudes of recent generations of physicists. On the other hand, I believe you'll find that many physicists at the top of their field are very interested in philosophy. $\endgroup$ – Nick Nov 25 '19 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Nick I do agree Carlo Rovelli is a good example :) $\endgroup$ – More Anonymous Nov 26 '19 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ I agree it's lack of respect, and well-earned by 50% of philosophers who go way out in wackoland. It's one thing to examine the properties of truth, and another to think Alan Sokal's submission to Social Text made sense. -- as Tavares pointed out $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Dec 2 '19 at 14:06

The tipping point most probably was the so called Science Wars,


particularly the Sokal affair


Alan Sokal submitted for publication an article title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", proposing that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct.

In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal's intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether "a leading North American journal of cultural studies—whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross—[would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions"

The origin of these Science Wars can be traced back to the publication of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962,

and the subsequent interpretation by some philosophers that Kuhn's ideas meant that scientific theories were, either wholly or in part, social constructs,

Note: the "hate" is/was against postmodernist philosophy, particularly Post-structuralism (Derrida and such luminaries!).


  • $\begingroup$ Have we all forgotten C. P. Snow's extremely well-known and influential (even now [1]) The Two Cultures? [1] In 2008, The Times Literary Supplement included The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution in its list of the 100 books that most influenced Western public discourse since the Second World War. $\endgroup$ – Dave L Renfro Nov 26 '19 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a bit surprised by the acceptance of this answer, which focuses on a narrow and, in my opinion, rather minor aspect of a much larger story. The Feynman clip is from 1979, well before the Sokal affair, and, I think, indicative of a broad trend in post WW2 attitudes of physicists towards philosophy, of which I see Hawking's remarks as a continuation. (The Krauss-Albert exchange, on the other hand, seems more concerned with the old science vs. religion debate than with science vs. philosophy.) Moreover the Sokal-Bricmont critique is directed, not so much at philosophy, as at trends in... $\endgroup$ – Will Orrick Dec 4 '19 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ ...literary, social, and cultural criticism which, while they had considerable influence in the larger world, left little impression-either positive or negative-on the bulk of the scientific community. (Philosophy and literary/cultural criticism do, of course, have some overlap, but it shouldn't be overstated.). The other aspect of the Science Wars was the indignant reaction of the scientific community to the writings of Kuhn and Feyerabend on the history and practice of science, and on its relative worth as a way of knowing. But this seems more a disagreement with a few well-informed... $\endgroup$ – Will Orrick Dec 4 '19 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ ...critics than a rejection of philosophy as a discipline. When it comes to philosophy as a tool for understanding reality, one should contrast the dismissive attitudes of Feynman and Hawking with how things were just a century ago. Einstein, educated in the 1890s, and the founders of quantum mechanics, working in the 1920s, were steeped in the tradition of philosophical inquiry, which informed their science in profound ways. What accounts for the change? If I had a good idea I would leave my own answer. Nick’s answer that he links to in a comment provides a plausible explanation. $\endgroup$ – Will Orrick Dec 4 '19 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @WillOrrick, certainly a correlation is that the focal point of science moved to America around WW2, and a lot of academia (especially the soft sciences) were considered left-wing and sympathetic to communism. I think the basic connection is that encouraging philosophical enquiry tends to produce an environment in which economic systems and social relations are also examined (and if they are weak, criticised). American science has therefore tried to emphasise mastery of the technical and routine aspects of science rather than development or evaluation of the fundamental concepts involved. $\endgroup$ – Steve Dec 5 '19 at 13:27

Gillings, R. J., The so-called Euler-Diderot incident, Am. Math. Mon. 61, 77-80 (1954). ZBL0055.00203:


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