[Nature] How philosophy is making me a better scientist

I liked how this genetics student describes the benefit of having studied philosophy.


we rarely teach and discuss how everyday choices of everyday scientists can have serious ethical impacts: choices of colours on published figures; genotyping only populations of European descent; researching vulnerable groups without offering protection or help; or even the questions that we choose to pursue. Studying philosophy taught me to take both grand and smaller choices seriously.

If it can help us to think critically about science and our goals, and to recognize that scientific progress is rooted in creative philosophical enquiry, and if it can prompt us to ask important questions, then I think we could all benefit from reading more philosophy.


Pleasant to see the benefits acknowledged for once.

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Welcome to the forum @gherste :wave:

Yes, I had a fairly narrow technical mindset from undergraduate to post-doc, but since starting to work independently I’ve been reading more philosophy and found it’s generally useful to broaden my perspective.

This also reminds me of an interview with an engineering+philosophy graduate I saw in the Australian news last year (in Australia there is a very strong emphasis on undergraduate degrees leading to jobs):

These [philosophy] skills have made me a far better engineer than I would have been without them, and I expect the same is true for most others with an arts degree, no matter which field they enter.

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I certainly agree with you. But as a philosopher, when I say such things the reaction tends to be, “Pffft! Why do you even exist?”

The emphasis on vocational training (degrees lead to jobs) that you mention re: Australia is really overwhelming in the US as well. There is an ongoing debate here as to whether it is a good idea, or a catastrophic error, to defend the humanities in general on the basis that such education makes for a better employee.