Stephen Hawking caused a stir last year when he declared, in his book The Grand Design, that philosophy was ‘dead’. The cause? In Hawking’s view, it was the failure of philosophers to keep up with the latest scientific developments, especially those in theoretical physics. Philosophers remain obsessed with problems in metaphysics and epistemology that preoccupied the ancient Greeks; scientists, meanwhile, get on with making new discoveries and the difficult business of explaining the origins of the universe.
One of the problems with this diagnosis, as several philosophers pointed out at the time, is that it wasn’t at all clear what Hawking thought he was dismissing. If he had in his sights some version of ‘anti-realist’ philosophy of science, which, in its most extreme variants, appears