Why I don’t think philosophy is worthwhile is that, it is basically arguing about a matter of opinion. Imagine two guys arguing about whether blondes or brunettes are better, it is fairly easy to understand that in the end it is just a matter of taste/opinion. It is unreasonable to think that one or the other will be able to “prove” that the others taste is wrong.
Now in philosophy we have whole systems of arguments, that in one way or another stand on the weak foundations of opinion. My favorite example is of course the “science debate”, that is the great question whether science really is the best way of knowing about the world, or even if it is the only way. Does one really expect that it is possible to “prove” or argue that one or the other position is right? Eventually it comes to a matter of basic opinions.
Obviously I am of the opinion that science is the best way to know about the world. But I am fully aware, that there is no way I could prove this without making some assumptions which I cannot prove. Why I think science is the best way of knowing the world is based on again my opinions about, what it means to know about the world – that is to be able to make consistent predictions. And the other assumptions/opinion is what it means to be best at something – in that case it means to be better than your competition for a long period in the past.
So based on those assumptions it becomes rather easy to argue that science is the best way of knowing about the world. Its core principle is making reliable predictions and it has been consistently better than anything else in making them for a couple centuries now. But this game seems to be fixed.
If someone were to disagree on the two assumptions, the argument falls easily. Let’s take for example my understanding what it means to be best, my “definition” is basically a generalization of the past, which in a philosophical sense is easily dismissed, since I have no way to argue that this generalization will hold in the future. So the only philosophically sound definition of best, would be best in the “cosmical” sense, so best overall no matter what, which of course is “unknowable”, since there might always be something better we don’t know.
Also the other, maybe not so easily dismissed, but still controversial is the “definition” of knowing about the world – what it means to “understand/know about” the world. For me it means making reliable predictions, but what if for someone else, it means, to “feel good inside”, or to “feel that the world makes sense”, etc… so a more “intuitive” definition. Again there is no intrinsic reason why my definition would be true. And any argument I would try to make, would either be circular in the sense of me referencing science showing us intuition can fool us. Or would need some new assumptions, and assumptions for those into the infinity.
And that I exactly why I think philosophy, or at least some types of philosophy are completely useless and a complete waste of time and brain. Why brain? Well I think most people doing philosophy are smart people and I am positive that if they were to use their mental capacity in solving real world problems within the framework of “science” or even preferably “natural science”, that would be far more useful. But then again, this depends on your definition of useful.
So does all this mean, I am somehow against philosophy or philosophers, absolutely not. If someone wants to do philosophy, it is not my right, to deny him that option. But what I do think, is that as a scientist, I can really stop thinking about whether science is the best, or all those “philosophy of science” questions, and just realize, that it’s just my taste/opinion that it is so. And to argue with someone with a different taste/opinion is a waste of time. Again I am not saying arguing about differing opinions is a waste of time, it most certainly is not, but arguing about opinions that you know you don’t really have any kind of evidence or argument to back it up, is frankly a waste of time. Going back to the blonde/brunette metaphor, is it really worthwhile for two guys to argue which one is better? Or could they be using that arguing capacity for discussing why this or that tax law is better, or why this or that protein should fold in some way or another. That again is an opinion of what it means to use your time productively and it may differ.
As a side note, I do not think all philosophical questions are worthless, some can be very useful, but as soon as your realize that a certain question involves making many assumptions and is rife with circular arguments, the reasonable way is to take the assumptions you agree with (follow your taste) and see to what position these assumptions take you.