A quote that is often attributed to Richard Feynman is

Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

Is there any evidence to suggest that Richard Feynman actually said this?

Examples are here and here.


1 Answer 1


The oldest two sources of the quote says it is anonymous, A Re- examination of the Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (1991), :

the anonymous remark that "philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds."

and Process Thought: Its Value and Meaning to Me (1990)

It is the exceptional scientist who is interested in the philosophy of science. As one of them said, "The philosophy of science is as useful to a scientist as ornithology is to birds."

It is borrowing from a quote of Barnett Newman :

aesthetics is to artists what ornithology is to birds

as quoted in the 1974 article Aesthetics - Gone with Gregor

  • 1
    So that is a "NO"?
    – matt_black
    Mar 21, 2017 at 9:52
  • 2
    @matt_black it's not a guaranteed "no". The original question was asking for the oldest reference for the quote, but SIMEL edited out that part of OP's question.
    – DavePhD
    Mar 21, 2017 at 12:56
  • 1
    @DavePHD, I feel that asking for the oldest available reference is a valid request.
    – Morgoth
    Mar 22, 2017 at 9:39
  • John Barrow also mentions this quote (again without attribution) on p. 10 of his 1988 book The World Within the World, the 1990 edition can be borrowed from archive.org
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 28 at 21:54

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