Zachary Hesse is a writer, editor, and sailor finishing a degree in Philosophy at Juniata College. You can find more details and works of his at zacharyhesse.com.
The Cross-section of Science and Philosphy
Hundreds of years ago, what we would now know as “the sciences” were a particular branch of Philosophy known as “Natural Philosophy.” From a historical standpoint this makes sense: philosophy prompted the first turn away from theology or scholasticism towards hard logic, and the real world lent itself particularly well to rational inquiry. With that said, then, it should not be so odd to see a Philosophy major like myself in a physics class generally more suited form environmental science majors than those in the humanities.
Such a unique schedule is the result of Juniata’s FISHN and quantitative reasoning requirements. As a humanities student I’ve fulfilled my requirements for the natural sciences through a combination of statistical studies and high school courses. Yet the nitty-gritty math of it all requires something more focused: in this case, a course on modes of power generation, human interaction with the environment, and the physics thereof.
I can imagine a great many Philosophy majors would be unenthused, intimidated, or even scornful of these requirements. Too many people seem to fail to recognize the requirement to study outside their own particular field of expertise, or to challenge themselves with alternative ways of thinking. At Juniata, however, interdisciplinary studies are common—and mandatory. My studies in statistics and formal logics across a variety of fields have helped me to understand the physical and mathematical concepts we touch on in Environmental Physics.
An added benefit of cross-disciplinary studies is that it allows one to approach problems in alternative ways. Philosophers spend a great deal of time inside our own heads, considering problems at high levels of abstraction. Yet when one has a solar panel and a battery in front of oneself, it prompts a different and altogether more concrete way of considering issues. I am grateful to be at a college which recognizes the capacity for enrichment through studies in fields which are not one’s own, and whose curriculum supports those even if one has no direct experience. Now I just have to get a labcoat!