Is philosophy dead?
I watched another episode of Stephen Hawking's Grand Design some days ago, entitled The Meaning of Life (in view of its content, maybe that should have a question mark behind it!). Again the (first part of the) web blurb is a reasonable summary:
Hawking tackles the ultimate question: Is there a meaning to our lives? Is there a purpose to our existence? This used to be the realm of religion or philosophy - not science. But Hawking believes philosophy is dead and that science holds the key. So what can the laws of physics tell us about who and what we humans really are? Do we have free will or are we just complex biological machines working to the laws of nature? …
Hawking says with conviction, 'Philosophy is dead.' His replacement for philosophy is physics. The entire universe is governed by the laws of physics, he says, including us. Our brains function according to these laws, and so there is no free will. That we freely make decisions is an illusion. Life has no meaning. We each construct reality for ourselves (and give it meaning).
I find this ironic. If philosophy is dead, then why spend an episode philosophising? He talks about how he made the decision to become a physicist and says that he is happy with that decision, but if life is meaningless (and the decision entirely an outcome of the processes of physics), what is there to be happy about?