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06/19/2019 Interview > Faculty


Incorporating Philosophy into Science and Life

Professor Yi Sang-wook (Department of Philosophy) puts effort into decoding prejudices of science geniuses


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Professor Yi Sang-wook (Department of Philosophy) gave a lecture on "The Unknown Story of Geniuses" on the Distinguishing Class (차이나는 클라스) show on JTBC which premiered on June 5th. Yi explained the prejudices in science and of scientifically important figures, and accentuated the importance of learning the philosophy of science in order to prevent such blind faith.
Professor Yi Sang-wook (Department of Philosophy) is explaining the key ideas in his lecture on the JTBC show Distinguishing Class (차이나는 클라스).

Distinguishing Class suggested that the lecture be based on Yi’s book Science Calls This Imagination, published earlier this year. As his final statements on the show, Yi encouraged students to study the philosophy of science. He added during the interview that it is important to make wise decisions based on media literacy, which is the ability to decode the various forms of media autonomously, especially in our modern society which is overflowing with information. He argued that the ability to understand, criticize, and oversee society, as a participating citizen, is crucial in the 21st century. He added that the mandatory elective course at Hanyang University named “Philosophical Understanding of Science Technology” was created for this purpose, to foster civic literacy.
Piles of books were stacked in the office, clearly showing Yi's passion for them.

Yi has experiences of giving lectures to students from science high schools, and he pointed out that many students view only the renowned scientists as making important discoveries, based on the elitism that they had grown accustomed to. He argued, “Science is fundamentally a social activity.” Not even a genius scientist can influence a large chunk of science, but many small contributions from unknown scientists lead up to the discovery of an innovative scientist that lead human civilization.
Yi says he loves the family-like atmosphere of the Department of Philosophy, especially the rolling papers his students prepare for him every year.

Yi originally majored in and had a master’s degree in Physics. His doctoral degree of Philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science was a slight change of direction, although he himself does not think so. He stated that until the 19th to early 20th century, physics handled science philosophy, as Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's books introduced contents such as how physics sees the world. Physics research processes were very labor-oriented and repetitive, whereas he found himself well-suited to philosophy, since he liked to explore the fundamental questions of life.

Yi stated his wishes to write more books in the near future. He has also been acting as a member of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) since last year, and he has been engaging in creating the declaration of ethics in regard to artificial intelligence. He has come to realize the necessity of international cooperation in changing the world, and the efforts required to actually have an impact on global society, through working at the United Nations.

Kim Hyun-soo
Photos by Kim Joo-eun
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