Timeless Questions, Ancient Philosophers, Modern Strategies

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Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci Combines Science and Philosophy While Discussing the Meaning of Life


Most people consign the discovery of facts about our universe to science, and the navigation of values and meaning to the domain of religion. Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, has a better idea: Combine science and philosophy to explore the subjects that give our life meaning, such as love, friendship, morality and justice. This approach is the subject of his new book, Answers for Aristotle, How Science and Philosophy Can Lead us to a More Meaningful Life. In this podcast Pigliucci and I discuss his book, and how he views scientific research through the lens of philosophy to provide a strategy to live the best life possible.

Listen to the podcast at the link below.

Written By: Alan Litchfield
continue to source article at malcontentsgambit.com

33 COMMENTS

  1. A better idea would be to dispense with religion and philosophy all together.
    It is quite apparent that  theology and philosophy have had their day.
    They can tell us nothing about the nature of things.

    The only people who are vociferous about their utility, are academic followers of the disciplines; concerned about their livelihoods.  

     

     

      

  2. I disagree with the commenters who make disparaging comments about the field of Philosophy.  I feel that it has much to offer to those of us who have the benefit of higher education and also to those who sadly, have not had this advantage in life.  As a freshman in college I was forced to take Intro to Philosophy and passed it with the gift of a C-. I thought it was a horrific waste of my time.  Later in life, around the time that I started reading Richard’s books and Hitch’s and others along the same lines, I realized that although much in the field of Philosophy was beyond my intellectual ability, still, I thought that the subject of Ethics was something that everyone could probably understand at some level. 

    Like many others, I was brought up in the church for many years. For religious families, it is assumed that the religious education of their children is all that need be done to teach kids “family values”. Often there is a “spare the rod spoil the child” mentality in these families. We’ve had enough discussion here on other threads about the nasty cruelty of the “family values” of the Bible. I believe that I’m not the only person from a religious upbringing that was sent out into the wide world with a defective or nonexistent moral compass.  This is no way to send young adults out into society. The problem is that I never realized that there was any other system that I could utilize to make a proper analysis of right and wrong, good and bad, valuable and not valuable. 

    Over these past few years I have read books on Ethics by Grayling, Singer, Sandel and others.  I’m very happy to purchase these books and I do the best I can to understand the difficult issues that they all take on. I have changed my mind about some of these issues based on their extensive analyses and have refined my views on many other subjects thanks to them. 

  3. I have a challenge to those who take the view that philosophy is still worthwhile. I’ll fence-sit for the moment. 

    My challenge is this: give an example of a question philosophy has answered but which no other field can answer, and explain how you know that (a) philosophy’s answer is correct and (b) other fields cannot answer the question. Bear in mind that, for the argument you present in (a) to work, philosophers would have to have a consensus that it does (indeed, maybe they do). I suspect from past experience those who take up this challenge will offer ethical questions as an example. The trouble is the is-ought gap they cite in (b) applies to philosophy too, unless (a) demonstrates otherwise (which I’ve yet to see it do).

  4. If philosophy didn’t exist any longer today, logicians would be unaffected, just as chemists don’t need alchemists to help them. We don’t need to teach students an error-riddled, eternally unabridged history of debates between countless blatantly poor thinkers to learn how deductive logic works; it’s enough for them to sit through maths classes. Today logic is automatically built into maths and science, and they are logically closed under that which follows from what they already know, so no other fields, “philosophy” or otherwise, can be needed.

    I don’t think something *originating* among philosophers proves much. The reason atomic theory began with Democritus isn’t because it’s a fundamentally philosophical idea; it’s because “philosophy” has historically been a dumping ground for questions so poorly understood even their true field was unclear. Their true field isn’t philosophy; it’s something else. If the best philosophers can offer to defend their field’s utility is its past achievements, they’ll only remind me of Islamic apologists who focus on the period when Muslims did more empirical science than Christians did. So what?

    But perhaps philosophy is useful to help us frame questions if not to answer them. OK, then; give an example of a question philosophy helped us properly frame and which other fields can’t, and explain how you know that (a) the question has ended up properly framed and (b) other fields can’t manage it. The exact nature of the defence of philosophy has changed, but the format it must take to work hasn’t.

  5. Perhaps NOT-
    The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. 
    Bertrand Russell 

  6. Historically “science” was called “Natural philosophy”.

    Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural sciences such as physics.

    Forms of science historically developed out of philosophy or, more specifically, natural philosophy. At older universities, long-established Chairs of Natural Philosophy are nowadays occupied mainly by physics professors. Modern notions of science and scientists date only to the 19th century.
    The naturalist-theologian William Whewell was the one who coined the term “scientist”. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the origin of the word to 1834. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N

     

    Since the sciences have branched into separate specialisms (including neuroscience, psychology, anthropology etc) only the useless rump of theology, postmodernism, and obfuscated confused thinking remains under the old title.

  7.  The attack on philosophy presented here by some commenters certainly is not a new phenomenon, it is something the ancients already dwelt on. The demand for practical or theoretical utility is understandable, but I am uncertain as to whether the claim itself can be presented without resorting to ‘philosophizing.’

    The conundrum the eliminativist side has, in my point of view, yet to successfully address is as follows: in attempting to refute the utility of philosophy, on what grounds are you basing your argument? To a notion of relevancy to science, to human life in general or logic in particular?

    I riddle you this; what is your criterion in assessing the relevancy?

    The eliminativist seems to hold that in order to earn its existence philosophy should give us a unique answer to some question or frame a question so as to make it more accessible. I must ask, why these demands instead of anothers?
    Is there some kind of a natural basis on which a field becomes relevant, or could other kinds of demands be put forward?

    Moreover, do you propose a complete reduction of philosophy to natural sciences or merely ‘dropping the subject?’

  8. By thinking critically and philosophically, I was able to find my way out of non-traditional beliefs. Non-traditional beliefs tend to not be cookie-cutter views that you find in the larger religions. There are many views in my former belief system that I now recognize as being responses to challenges of apologetics and a combination of various religions- cherry picked and proud. I always accepted evolution and rejected the Bible at 18, the usual challenges directed at theists and deists sounded right to me and I agreed with them, but they never addressed my views specifically. So to those saying that philosophy has no place, think again; as people move away from traditional religions and accept evolution, a new approach will be needed.

  9. I am uncertain as to whether the claim itself can be presented without resorting to ‘philosophizing.’ 

    Define that gerund. In any case, we can’t save philosophy from its critics by labelling their arguments “philosophical” because, unless it can be shown philosophy doesn’t really have the implications they propose, its consistency is lost.

    in attempting to refute the utility of philosophy, on what grounds are you basing your argument? To a notion of relevancy to science, to human life in general or logic in particular? I riddle you this; what is your criterion in assessing the relevancy? The eliminativist seems to hold that in order to earn its existence philosophy should give us a unique answer to some question or frame a question so as to make it more accessible. I must ask, why these demands instead of anothers? Is there some kind of a natural basis on which a field becomes relevant, or could other kinds of demands be put forward? 

    So you start by wondering what the criterion is, but then admit you know what it is. Why should philosophy demonstrate stuff? Because every other field should. The only reason we call anything a crock is because it fails.

     do you propose a complete reduction of philosophy to natural sciences or merely ‘dropping the subject?’ 

    What’s the difference? (Both the options you present are vaguely described.) My rule is if you can’t show why you’re worth listening to you won’t be listened to, or have university departments. Now, maybe philosophy is worth listening to; but let’s check that.

  10. I must now ask you from whence comes this obligation of demonstrating; on what are you basing the claim that every field has to demonstrate something? You seem to hold an indefinite picture of what is means to be an academic discipline; this is what one is accustomed to, but what I do not understand is how you could go on and argue for it without making philosophical claims.
    What is the science of demonstration, anyway? How do we “progress from theory to reality”, as Peter Godwyn-Smith might ask?

    By ‘philosophizing’ I refer to making those claims – implicit yet not written out in your critique are notions of worth, value and whatnots. You seem to possess knowledge or aptitude for using those notions – this may be so as they fall into the field of… what?

    You may ask, rightfully so, what are philosophical claims – and I do not have a better answer to give that they would seem to be ‘claims that philosophy can inspect.’ To me, those claims seem abundant; from ‘what is real’ to ‘what does it mean’ to ‘so what?’.

    The difference I meant could be written out this way: philosophers wrestle with terms like reality, modality, truth, substance and so on. Do you think that these should be discussed in the sphere of the natural sciences, or should we simply stop pondering about them, they being e.g. ‘so intuitively familiar to us, thus warranting no further studies?’

    It is good and well to have your rules laid out for you – but answer me this, from where have you got those rules?

  11. Apathon

    on what are you basing the claim that every field has to demonstrate something?

    What is there for a field *to* do? Perhaps something besides demonstrations; but, as I pointed out when an alternative was suggested (namely helping us to pose the right questions), I can only accept a case for a field if its achieving that which the case for it says it achieves can be demonstrated. Perhaps philosophy can be demonstrated to demonstrate things; perhaps it cannot. What *can* it be demonstrated to do? But I think a case for the importance of demonstrating things can be made; if philosophy cannot do that, is it really a “field” at all,
    or simply an activity? Every other field is either successful in this metric or is critiqued for not being so successful. If you don’t want me judging philosophy that way, you’d bets not judge theology or cryptozoology or astrology that way.

    You seem to hold an indefinite picture of what is means to be an academic discipline; this is what one is accustomed to, but what I do not understand is how you could go on and argue for it without making philosophical claims.  What is the science of demonstration, anyway? How do we “progress from theory to reality”, as Peter Godwyn-Smith might ask?

    Firstly, I neither know nor care who he is; either make his arguments or make your own (or someone else’s), but make arguments. Secondly, you are again indecisive on whether you wish to pretend to not know what my position is or to concede you know what it is without understanding why I should take it. Indeed, my picture of what it means to be an academic discipline is quite definite; academic disciplines inform. I should not have to explain to you how empirical data is used to support those ideas whose predictions most closely fit it. I’m not
    being philosophical here; I’m simply asking for ideas to be backed up.

    implicit yet not written out in your critique are notions of worth, value and whatnots. You seem to possess knowledge or aptitude for using those notions – this may be so as they fall into the field of… what?

    Re-read the above phrase, “academic disciplines inform”. That’s a defining aspect of them, not a value judgement. If philosophers would rather have what they do placed in another category, let them say so, but it seems not.

    To me, [claims that philosophy can inspect] seem abundant; from ‘what is real’ to ‘what does it mean’ to ‘so what?’

    The question is whether there are questions only it can reliably answer after having inspected them.

    philosophers wrestle with terms like reality, modality, truth, substance and so on. Do you think that these should be discussed in the sphere of the natural sciences, or should we simply stop pondering about them, they being e.g. ‘so intuitively familiar to us, thus warranting no further studies?’

    I’d say they are no more obvious to philosophers than they are to scientists. Pretty much any philosophical comments on metaphysics which predate post-Newtonian physics have also been refuted by it. We can’t a priori think our way into knowing how the world is. And as for truth, it’s a redundant concept; to call something true is to say it, and to call something false is to disagree with it.

    Geoff21

    Jos, could you please clarify what you mean by ‘philosophy’?

    Who cares what *I* think it means? The last time I checked, it was an umbrella term for epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics. Those who say it’s worthy of study should certainly make clear their intended definition (or else be assumed to have that one in mind); those who say it isn’t are under a slightly lesser obligation, if they can honestly observe that no definition of philosophy is one which has yet been given a decent defence. “God” is in a similar position. As I said before, I’m a fence-sitter, asking awkward questions to which the responses have been exceptionlessly disappointing.

    Let’s expand on the EMAE definition. How do we know non-tautological truths? Through empirical methods. Which metaphysical claims, i.e. non-tautological claims which lack empirical support, are OK to believe? None (that follows from the last answer). That’s two ticked off; now for the last two. What can be known to be good or bad, or right or wrong? According to Hume, nothing by anyone; and, if he’s wrong, so is much of the philosophy on this issue. For any merit to philosophy to be found in these areas, not only must Hume turn out to be wrong; the mechanisms by which the knowledge which he says is impossible can in fact be obtained must be beyond the scope of other fields, in precisely the way no knowledge we can call “metaphysics” is possible. Maybe this is so, but let’s hear the case for that.

    Did you find the analysis in the above paragraph convincing? Perhaps not; but it ought to have spelled out for you what the term “philosophy” means to me. Let’s hear one of its defenders define it (either the same way or another).

  12.  Quite saddeningly, I seem to be unable to get my concern across.

    “What is there for a field *to* do? Perhaps something besides demonstrations; but, as I pointed out when an alternative was suggested (namely helping us to pose the right questions), I can only accept a case for a field if its achieving that which the case for it says it achieves can be demonstrated. Perhaps philosophy can be demonstrated to demonstrate things; perhaps it cannot. What *can* it be demonstrated to do? But I think a case for the importance of demonstrating things can be made; if philosophy cannot do that, is it really a “field” at all,
    or simply an activity? Every other field is either successful in this metric or is critiqued for not being so successful. If you don’t want me judging philosophy that way, you’d bets not judge theology or cryptozoology or astrology that way.”

    You call for some theoretical-practical obligations that a field must successfully carry out in order to qualify as a discipline in your academy.
    I ask you, on what grounds do you base those obligations; why do you demand those demands instead of something else? What is your criterion?

    Your speech is free – it becomes more valuable to me the more I understand its source.

    “Firstly, I neither know nor care who he is; either make his arguments or make your own (or someone else’s), but make arguments. Secondly, you are again indecisive on whether you wish to pretend to not know what my position is or to concede you know what it is without understanding why I should take it. Indeed, my picture of what it means to be an academic discipline is quite definite; academic disciplines inform. I should not have to explain to you how empirical data is used to support those ideas whose predictions most closely fit it. I’m not
    being philosophical here; I’m simply asking for ideas to be backed up.”

    I should certainly not make references unfamiliar to you, sorry. Do not mistake my ignorance as a feint, I honestly cannot see where you are getting your ideas from.

    As for the backing-up clause, that would in stricter terms be one of your tasks in clarifying your position. You might indeed be very unphilosophical where ever you might reside, but around here this kind of problematization is viewed as philosophy of science.

    You are simply asking for ideas to be backed up – but how can anything back up anything without a philosophical framework of definitions? How can you read the book of nature if you do not give names to phenomena – and answer the question ‘why those names, why not these?’

    “Re-read the above phrase, ‘academic disciplines inform’. That’s a defining aspect of them, not a value judgement. If philosophers would rather have what they do placed in another category, let them say so, but it seems not.”

    Value judgements are definitions of a sort as you might agree – the question I pose here remains the same as before: from where stem your definitions if not as the result of philosophical activity?

    “The question is whether there are questions only it can reliably answer after having inspected them.”

    I might assume that this is the point where our disagreement reveals itself in a more proper light. Do you hold, then, that there are questions that are only reliably answered by e.g. physics?
    What might those questions be, and from where comes reliability – what does it even mean to be reliable? What makes reliability something you call for rather than e.g. models of multiple interpretation?
    Can there be inter-disciplinary science if the merits of those concerned are not clearly visible?

    “I’d say they are no more obvious to philosophers than they are to scientists. Pretty much any philosophical comments on metaphysics which predate post-Newtonian physics have also been refuted by it. We can’t a priori think our way into knowing how the world is. And as for truth, it’s a redundant concept; to call something true is to say it, and to call something false is to disagree with it.”

    A rather bold claim, but let it be. Let us grant you this barred a priori entry to the world – now could you please demonstrate the origin of the terms of the kind ‘causation,’ ‘dependence’ and merely ‘now, before, in the future?’

  13. “Quite saddeningly, I seem to be unable to get my concern across.”  Might this reflect the speciousness of this concern? The answer is yes if this concern involves such needs as the need to demonstrate the origin of terms.

    Philosophy today still does fulfill a purpose: serving as a curator to an age when fancy flights of thought were unburdened by the brutal and unrelenting demands of empiricism. Theoretical physicists have taken over that role. With the caveat that their ideas are living on borrowed time: The stuff they cook up better be reflected sooner rather than later in experimental evidence.

  14. Before I reply to the latest queries directed at me, I’ll contextualise what I’ve been saying so far. In recent years several have argued, or asked whether, philosophy is now useless. Those who don’t accept it is have replied that the reason it’s useful is because it alone can answer certain questions.

    Often no attempt is made to provide examples of these. Although one or two examples have been provided (basically, ethics), the follow-up – arguing how philosophy answers these – has never been done well. In fact, I’ve seen it done once (on this very web site). And what method did philosophy allegedly use to solve questions that were beyond any particle accelerator? “It’s obvious,” came the answer. My dear friends, we do not need a university department for the obvious. And no, I’m not going to tell you where I got that criterion from. We’re not going to play the foundational game all day long until the spade is turned. I shouldn’t have to explain to people on this site why you ought to be able to tell us something you can back up to have something to contribute to academia.

    Notice it is the defenders of philosophy who played the “answers otherwise unanswerable questions” card. My challenge merely asks them to show their own volunteered metric gives philosophy the thumbs up. That’s why I issue the challenge I do (quite aside from my already agreeing that ought to be how we assess a field). Although the present thread doesn’t show it, I am reacting to where they have chosen to take the discussion. What the present thread does show is something also seen in religious apologetics; the priority seems not to be to show you know what you assert, but to question whether you need to. There’s also a tendency to say, “well, by those standards, can any field succeed?” to which the answer is yes if the criteria are properly construed. All I ask is philosophers be able to justify their claims in the same sort of limited sense everyone else can (except for mathematicians, who can do even better).

    As for the backing-up clause, that would in stricter terms be one of your tasks in clarifying your position. You might indeed be very unphilosophical where ever you might reside, but around here this kind of problematization is viewed as philosophy of science.

    Problematization, huh? Well, the basic rules by which science operates need not be studied by philosophers as if they get to set them. But I wouldn’t expect that to occur to someone who doesn’t understand why philosophy ought to be answerable to any factual standard. I’m sick of being told modern criticisms of philosophy are themselves philosophical as if this invalidates them but not philosophy itself; I’ve already explained above why that doesn’t make any sense.

    how can anything back up anything without a philosophical framework of definitions? How can you read the book of nature if you do not give names to phenomena – and answer the question ‘why those names, why not these?’

    Firstly, if we really couldn’t back up anything, I wouldn’t say no-one has to bother; I’d say we don’t really know much. Secondly, there’s a word of difference between making sure we all know what each other’s words mean and knowing the right nouns to study science. Any scientist can tell you operationally how they do that. Empirically successful theories make predictions deducible as theorems; you make the definitions needed to get the proofs done.

    Value judgements are definitions of a sort as you might agree – the question I pose here remains the same as before: from where stem your definitions if not as the result of philosophical activity?

    Tell me what you think academia does if not inform. Why call something which doesn’t inform academia? My definitions aren’t value judgements; even if some definitions are, not all are.

    Do you hold, then, that there are questions that are only reliably answered by e.g. physics? What might those questions be, and from where comes reliability – what does it even mean to be reliable? What makes reliability something you call for rather than e.g. models of multiple interpretation?

    Don’t give me that “interpretation” nonsense. Present-day data falsify some models but not others. The most predictive unfalsified models are accepted because together they give us a pithy coherent explanation of an enormous amount of knowledge. We don’t interpret whether data fits our expectations or not; insofar as the implications of data are contested, it’s in regard to *which parts* of refuted theories are wrong. *Of course* there are questions which physics alone answers; it just doesn’t give final, certain explanations, but I didn’t ask that of philosophy either. What elementary particles exist, and what are their stats? How much does the perihelion of Mercury precess, and why? Need I go on?

    Can there be inter-disciplinary science if the merits of those concerned are not clearly visible?

    Every example of interdisciplinary science of which I’ve heard is between sciences that are each good on their own. If you’re envisaging, say, a physics-philosophy interaction, I’ve yet to see it wield any fruit. Let me know if you can give me a counterexample.

    Let us grant you this barred a priori entry to the world – now could you please demonstrate the origin of the terms of the kind ‘causation,’ ‘dependence’ and merely ‘now, before, in the future?’ 

    Do you mean let me use this entry that is actually barred, or agree it is barred? You want to know how physicists back up “A causes B” or “A is happening now” statements? Admittedly these ideas could be wrong, but they make testable predictions that are correct. If you can get philosophy to do the same, I will not ask that you solve its equivalent of the problem of induction.

  15. There are want ads for scientists. Philosophers serve you dinner. That’s because the work of a scientist can be used to better life; a philosopher’s work can not.

    The only job a philosopher can fill is as a teacher of the next wave of waiters. The course serves to help them justify why they took philosophy.

  16. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. You’ve demonstrated that you don’t understand the difference between the history of philosophy and philosophy itself. You’ve demonstrated that you don’t in the least understand what Hume’s position on knowledge was. You’ve refused numerous requests to clarify your position, and you’ve taken an incredibly hostile tone. And you expect us to take you seriously?

    You might want to ask yourself how you know what you think you know, and how you’ve decided what “knowing” even means. Without the philosophy of science, there is no science. That we probably shouldn’t pay people to sit around philosophizing doesn’t mean there is no use for philosophy. You can’t even ask your question without relying on epistemology, which philosophy encompasses, and I’d be very interested to know how you govern your behavior in society without something approximating ethics. Are the potential consequences, both legal and otherwise, the only reason you refrain from killing people or stealing?

    You need to start over, ask your question respectfully and non-confrontationally, and _get over yourself_.

  17. “Before I reply to the latest queries directed at me, I’ll contextualise what I’ve been saying so far. In recent years several have argued, or asked whether, philosophy is now useless. Those who don’t accept it is have replied that the reason it’s useful is because it alone can answer certain questions.”

    It is good to know where you are coming from, and I truly appreciate this background information. However, as with science, there rarely can be found a unified position taken by “the field of philosophy” as a whole – what philosophy itself consists of is a philosophical question, a question concerning philosophy that is inspected using different kinds of philosophical venues, so to speak.

    “Often no attempt is made to provide examples of these. Although one or two examples have been provided (basically, ethics), the follow-up – arguing how philosophy answers these – has never been done well. In fact, I’ve seen it done once (on this very web site). And what method did philosophy allegedly use to solve questions that were beyond any particle accelerator? “It’s obvious,” came the answer. My dear friends, we do not need a university department for the obvious. And no, I’m not going to tell you where I got that criterion from. We’re not going to play the foundational game all day long until the spade is turned. I shouldn’t have to explain to people on this site why you ought to be able to tell us something you can back up to have something to contribute to academia.”

    It kind of defeats my purpose in even writing this when you openly admit that you are not going all the way and tell me the origin of your criterion: namely, this kind of a problem is dealt with in philosophy on a daily basis. Someone claims “I know A”, to which someone replies “Based on what do you know A?” In my intuition, in order to remain in the game the reply would have to be of the form “Because of B” or “Because A is immediately accessible to everyone.” You might share my concern that this immediate access is a card played by many a mystic in the history of man.

    If you make a judgement concerning anything whatsoever, you are either basing your decision on a criterion or you are being arbitrary – since you strike me as a person of pragmatism, a quite famous philosophical program at that, I should assume you wish to avoid random drawings of the line. Though you did dismiss the notion of truth as redundant if memory serves, the fabled functionality we all so cherish would be equally thus endangered at least in my point of view.

    I am mainly curious as to why you are not going to tell me this origin – if you see it as a pathway towards an infinite regress, on what basis do you grant yourself the luxury of not taking those infinite steps? And is this basis not philosophical? Scientific it does not seem to be.

    If the origin of the criterion cannot or won’t be presented, I did give you the option of claiming intuitive knowledge of it.

    You mentioned ‘obvious’. Speaking not with the mouth of many, I find the notion of ‘obvious’ quite dubious myself – you may find it obvious that cranking the dials on a particle accelerator will result in numbers somehow related to the world we live in, and I may find it obvious that without philosophy the question you are trying to solve, through physics or otherwise, could not have been posed in the first place. After all, you are projecting a relation between ‘numbers flashing on screen’ and ‘the nature of nature’ – something that nature or physical theory does not tell you how to do, namely, interpretation. How is a particle accelerator used to answer questions without a scientist to interpret the data it provides?  And how do you know that this instrument provides you with the data you are after – that is, without making philosophically interesting assumptions? You seem to take the methodology of science for granted, yet I do not see the justification for it – if something seems to work, does that testify on behalf of it being somewhat integral to science? And why value things working over things not working?
     
    There is also the quite amusing question of tabula rasa that might be of interest: if, say, only physics could give us reliable answers to the question “what happens when I release my hold of this ball”, would this lead us to think that in order to understand a repeatable pattern of the ball falling down we would have to possess some inherent knowledge of physics? Or did we not know what water was before its chemical formula was written out?

    “Notice it is the defenders of philosophy who played the ‘answers otherwise unanswerable questions’ card. My challenge merely asks them to show their own volunteered metric gives philosophy the thumbs up. That’s why I issue the challenge I do (quite aside from my already agreeing that ought to be how we assess a field). Although the present thread doesn’t show it, I am reacting to where they have chosen to take the discussion. What the present thread does show is something also seen in religious apologetics; the priority seems not to be to show you know what you assert, but to question whether you need to. There’s also a tendency to say, ‘well, by those standards, can any field succeed?’ to which the answer is yes if the criteria are properly construed. All I ask is philosophers be able to justify their claims in the same sort of limited sense everyone else can (except for mathematicians, who can do even better).”

    Noted, yet do note that there might be different kinds of defenders – I might even agree with you on some parts of your onslaught, but as it so happens, I would rather understand your position first.

    I have not had my share of apologetics in quite some time, but still the dichotomy you present feels a bit off. True, it seems to be a perfectly valid option that there could be fields that do not make assertations, but it seems implausible that any other field could make their assertations without philosophy. As the previously unfamiliar Godwyn-Smith wrote, how do we “progress from theory to reality?”

    “Problematization, huh? Well, the basic rules by which science operates need not be studied by philosophers as if they get to set them. But I wouldn’t expect that to occur to someone who doesn’t understand why philosophy ought to be answerable to any factual standard. I’m sick of being told modern criticisms of philosophy are themselves philosophical as if this invalidates them but not philosophy itself; I’ve already explained above why that doesn’t make any sense.”

    I am sorry if this is infuriating. The way I see it, these criticisms do tend to fall into two major subspecies, namely those that are philosophical (which I take to mean ‘incorporate elements of philosophical interest’) and those that rely more on naturalistic approaches.

    I agree with you that philosophers probably are not the most important element in devising the methods that science runs on – but surely they can be vocal in their critiques concerning them.The sociologists of science, investigating for example the “laboratory life” and the human process of seemingly clinical research, might claim that natural law as we know it is the result of certain creative-constructive processes, and claiming some kind of “objective observation of nature” is superfluous at best. What is your take on this?

    “Firstly, if we really couldn’t back up anything, I wouldn’t say no-one has to bother; I’d say we don’t really know much. Secondly, there’s a word of difference between making sure we all know what each other’s words mean and knowing the right nouns to study science. Any scientist can tell you operationally how they do that. Empirically successful theories make predictions deducible as theorems; you make the definitions needed to get the proofs done.”

    I do not possess the knowledge of the means that we could back something up with, and I share your sentiment in the poverty of knowledge.

    And, correct again, there is a great difference – but how is that gap bridged without philosophy? How can you avoid arbitrariness in your definitions without philosophical analysis – is not, after all, the theorem “either A or not A or both (A and not A)” quite successful in its predictions?

    “Tell me what you think academia does if not inform. Why call something which doesn’t inform academia? My definitions aren’t value judgements; even if some definitions are, not all are.”

    We agree, then, that value judgements are definitions of a sort – whether all judgements are of that kind is left open for discussion. Please answer the rest of my question: from where stem your definitions if not as the result of philosophical activity?

    My academia does not inform me of the truth, yet I should dearly wish that it be included in its sphere – and depending on my status, it could also be that it does not inform me of anything, me being absent or in a more vegetative state than usual. Informing does not strike me as a terrific criterion for deciding over the academia – human interest, be it epistemic or financial, does the job a bit better.

    “Don’t give me that “interpretation” nonsense. Present-day data falsify some models but not others. The most predictive unfalsified models are accepted because together they give us a pithy coherent explanation of an enormous amount of knowledge. We don’t interpret whether data fits our expectations or not; insofar as the implications of data are contested, it’s in regard to *which parts* of refuted theories are wrong. *Of course* there are questions which physics alone answers; it just doesn’t give final, certain explanations, but I didn’t ask that of philosophy either. What elementary particles exist, and what are their stats? How much does the perihelion of Mercury precess, and why? Need I go on?”

    If I speak nonsense at any point, I thank you for pointing that out – I, being distant from the true facts of the matter, am more prone to making mistakes.

    Actually, I would rather have you go on. Physical phenomena do not possess any inherent qualities of the kind “verifies model A, falsifies model B” – those are the qualities we superimpose on them. The number of elementary particles might be x in a certain model, in another it might be x + 1 – normally, you might oppose this saying that the predictions the models make shall decide between their
    utility or, even, truthfullness. In the case of elementary particles, how can we test their predictions, and against what? Nature itself or previously accepted theorems? The first one seems a bit strange, the second one carries a notion of some kind connective links – links unaccessible without philosophical work. As a side note, how can you deal with e.g. any version of string theory – after all, there would seem to be little that could decide over its utility or truth?

    “Every example of interdisciplinary science of which I’ve heard is between sciences that are each good on their own. If you’re envisaging, say, a physics-philosophy interaction, I’ve yet to see it wield any fruit. Let me know if you can give me a counterexample.”

    I do not know what could satisfy your wish for fruitful interaction, but there certainly was a profound philosophical streak among physicists in the early 20th century,  David Bohm among others.
    This is not my strong suite at all, regrettably, and further information is left for you to discover.

    “Do you mean let me use this entry that is actually barred, or agree it is barred? You want to know how physicists back up “A causes B” or “A is happening now” statements? Admittedly these ideas could be wrong, but they make testable predictions that are correct. If you can get philosophy to do the same, I will not ask that you solve its equivalent of the problem of induction”.

    As a part of a thought experiment I meant “let us suppose that we have no a priori entry to the world.” I did not mean to make any ontological claims, apologies for my murkiness.

    If it does not trouble you too much, I would be interested to learn “how physicists back up ‘A causes B’ or ‘A is happening now’ statements.” Namely, their ideas do make predictions, and they could even be regarded as being correct – but the question I have yet to see getting an answer is “in virtue of what?” As elaborate as their frameworks may be, how can they verify their own causative capability – without philosophy?

    As for the problem of induction, I do not see why philosophy should seek to solve it – some philosophers might wish to explain it away in order to rely on inductive reasoning, others might wish to see the same conundrum devour also all deductive demonstrations. Philosophers, if they cannot answer problems, seem at least able to generate them.

  18.  

    Apathon

    – I’ll contextualise what I’ve been saying so far. In recent years
    several have argued, or asked whether, philosophy is now useless. Those
    who don’t accept it is have replied that the reason it’s useful is
    because it alone can answer certain questions.”

    It is good to know where you are coming from, and I truly appreciate
    this background information. However, as with science, there rarely can
    be found a unified position taken by “the field of philosophy” as a
    whole –

    The are whole lists of scientific laws, on which there is a unified scientific position.  That is the difference.

    what philosophy itself consists of is a philosophical question, a
    question concerning philosophy that is inspected using different kinds
    of philosophical venues, so to speak.

    In other words volumes of obscure verbosity! – pondering unknowns in circles, without addressing an investigative methodology.

    “Often no attempt is made to provide examples of these. 

    That is the failure of abstracted philosophy.  Its historical useful parts have been replaced with modern subjects which can provide examples, or at least proposals for seeking examples.

    If the origin of the criterion cannot or won’t be presented, I did give you the option of claiming intuitive knowledge of it.

    “Intuitive knowledge” is only useful in identifying areas for investigation.  It is whimsical speculation which may coincidentally have some substance but more frequently does not.

    The length and obscurity of your post illustrates why philosophy is unproductive in providing answers.

    The basic question is simple.  “What answers can philosophy offer about the working of the universe and the life in it, which cannot be answered more clearly and specifically by other subjects, – and which are not merely matters of personal opinion, or “deity endorsed” intuitive mystical claims dredged out of someone’s subconscious?

    “Every example of interdisciplinary science of which I’ve heard is
    between sciences that are each good on their own. If you’re envisaging,
    say, a physics-philosophy interaction, I’ve yet to see it wield any
    fruit. Let me know if you can give me a counterexample.”

    Interdisciplinary science have always embraced joined up thinking, going back to before the specialist areas developed;- as I explained here:-  http://richarddawkins.net/news… . 
    It was known as “Natural Philosophy” at  that time and the useful philosophical feactures are incorporated in its methods.
    You seem to be suggesting that there is some other “philosophy” which is not included in the scientific methods of understanding nature (including human nature). 
    There are no honest “answers” about the unknown -  intuitive or otherwise. There are only speculations which may or may not fail when tested.  The consideration of the issues of perception, observation, and interpretations of evidence, were done to death years ago, but some philosophers continue to recycle these.

    These aspects were always part of science.  What is useless is the rump end of: astrology, quackery, alchemy, theology, and mysticism, along with the verbose, shuffling obfuscations, fallacies, ramblings, and denials of objective empirical methodology, associated with these.
    Psychologists and neurologists are now analysing these thought processes.

  19.  “The are whole lists of scientific laws, on which there is a unified scientific position.  That is the difference.”

    I would be grateful should you provide me with an example. Present to me a law that no scientist has not, or will not, question.
    The refutation of laws previously regarded as fundamental aptly characterises the history of science.

    “In other words volumes of obscure verbosity! – pondering unknowns in circles, without addressing an investigative methodology.That is the failure of abstracted philosophy.  Its historical useful parts have been replaced with modern subjects which can provide examples, or at least proposals for seeking examples.”

    You would do well in defining this obscurity and presenting your criterion and its origin in evaluating it.
    Also of interest would be examples of these examples – what is the field of science I am now dabbling in when I ask you for your criterion? The science of science?
    How does science define itself without resorting to philosophy – a feat that strikes me as dubious?

    “‘Intuitive knowledge’ is only useful in identifying areas for investigation.  It is whimsical speculation which may coincidentally have some substance but more frequently does not.”

    And where does this knowledge rise from, I wonder? Is it scientific or, perhaps, philosophical? If the latter, could science do without definite areas of investigation?

    “The length and obscurity of your post illustrates why philosophy is unproductive in providing answers.”

    Maybe so. Where I may fail, others might certainly do better – the discussion revolving around naturalism and the utility of philosophy has been going on for ages. Was it not Wittgenstein who lamented “the deppression of philosophy” as it never seems to provide us with a final answer?

    “The basic question is simple.  ‘What answers can philosophy offer about the working of the universe and the life in it, which cannot be answered more clearly and specifically by other subjects, – and which are not merely matters of personal opinion, or “deity endorsed” intuitive mystical claims dredged out of someone’s subconscious?
    Interdisciplinary science have always embraced joined up thinking, going back to before the specialist areas developed;- as I explained here:-  http://richarddawkins.net/news… .
    It was known as “Natural Philosophy” at  that time and the useful philosophical feactures are incorporated in its methods.
    You seem to be suggesting that there is some other “philosophy” which is not included in the scientific methods of understanding nature (including human nature).
    There are no honest “answers” about the unknown -  intuitive or otherwise. There are only speculations which may or may not fail when tested.  The consideration of the issues of perception, observation, and interpretations of evidence, were done to death years ago, but some philosophers continue to recycle these.”

    That is the pragmatist’s basic question. You are presupposing that there is a simple notion of ‘utility’ that we all share – but that seems not to be the case. First of all, from where have you adopted this notion? What has lead you to prize it over the notion of something else? The answer may be, in my point of view, based on something intuitive, which you seem to reject, or on a chain of reasoning, the nature of which I deem philosophical. I may further question the justification of this chain, or demand knowledge pertaining to its origin – these problems, I think, are something that natural science can hardly resolve.

    I suggest that science, the way I see it, could hardly get off the ground without philosophical analysis. Science can provide us with models, but in the models there are hardly any clauses that would direct the usage of those models. How can you, for example, identify a correspondence between ‘prediction’ and ‘result’ without holding philosophical opinions concerning the nature of correspondence, its utility or explanatory power? I agree with you that “there are no honest ‘answers’ about the unknown” – what I would wish to see is the criterion and its origin that somehow justifies the assumption that science in itself, without philosophical interpretation, should give us access to a body of knowledge.

    “These aspects were always part of science.  What is useless is the rump end of: astrology, quackery, alchemy, theology, and mysticism, along with the verbose, shuffling obfuscations, fallacies, ramblings, and denials of objective empirical methodology, associated with these. Psychologists and neurologists are now analysing these thought processes. “

    You are right, the list of ‘pseudoscientifics’ you mentioned have fallen out of use – based on what, then, do you think that the same will not befall “objective empirical methodology?”

  20. – The Signal
    You can’t even ask your question without relying on epistemology, which
    philosophy encompasses,

    I would have to regard as comical, a claim that philosophy can provide answers about the probability or certainty of knowledge, where scientific methodology cannot!

    Epistemology i/ɨˌpɪstɨˈmɒlədʒi/ (from Greek ἐπιστήμη (epistēmē), meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and λόγος (logos), meaning “study of”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.[1][2]
    It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and to what extent it is possible for a given subject or entity to be known.

    Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E

    and I’d be very interested to know how you govern your behavior in society without something approximating ethics.
    Are the potential consequences, both legal and otherwise, the only reason you refrain from killing people or stealing?

    There are many conflicting codes of ethics as diverse as the opinions of the factions holding them.
     
    This seems to be a claim that traditional philosophical debates have some practical answers to offer, which have not been overtaken by scientific studies in sociology, anthropology, psychology and neurology that evaluate ethical consequences in terms of predicted outcomes, rather than assumed dogmas.

    These sciences apply these to the framing of laws and personal conduct!  “Philosophers” simply do not have the predictive skills in these sciences to evaluate outcomes.

    The failure of the claim is in pretending that “philosophy” is some exclusive “castle in the air”, separated from basic empirical thinking in determining ethics.
    Numerous professional scientific bodies have codes of ethics, derived without consulting “specialist philosophers”!

  21.   Apathon-
    You are right, the list of ‘pseudoscientifics’ you mentioned have fallen out of use – based on what, then, do you think that the same will not befall “objective empirical methodology?”

    Objective scientific methodology is the best and most consistently reliable method of establishing what is true and what is real.  Science is open to new evidence, but disinclined to waste time on previously refuted claims. All other methods have consistently failed when tested.

    Apathon

    “The are whole lists of scientific laws, on which there is a unified scientific position.  That is the difference.”

    I would be grateful should you provide me with an example. Present to me a law that no scientist has not, or will not, question. The refutation of laws previously regarded as fundamental aptly characterises the history of science.

     

    All science is subject to revision in the light of new evidence, but that does not mean that it has no knowledge which can be applied with such a degree of certainty, that it can build bridges to carry large loads, land robot vehicles on Mars or bring about recovery of patients from medical conditions.

    10 Scientific Laws and Theories You Really Should Know
    http://science.howstuffworks.c

    There are core elements of science which are agreed on and widely effectively used in everyday life.
    Most are very unlikely to be refuted, but may have slight details up-dated at some point. (Newton’s law of gravity as experienced on Earth, is only about 99.99999% accurate in the light of Einstein’s modifications)

    Science asks questions AND provides thousands of answers. Philosophy – as your post shows – only casts doubts and asks questions without providing answers.  That is why it is useless in the modern world.
    Its useful questions are already being asked and answered in other subject areas.

    “‘Intuitive knowledge’ is only useful in identifying areas for investigation. It is whimsical speculation which may coincidentally have some substance but more frequently does not.”

    And where does this knowledge rise from, I wonder? Is it scientific or, perhaps, philosophical? If the latter, could science do without definite areas of investigation?

    Intuitive ideas are clearly of neurological origin and a subject of psychological study.

    I agree with you that “there are no honest ‘answers’ about the unknown” – what I would wish to see is the criterion and its origin that somehow justifies the assumption that science in itself, without philosophical
    interpretation, should give us access to a body of knowledge.

    The interpretation and testing of interpretations is part of the science.  The issue is if there are any dependable alternative methods which can produce consistent results.  Many have been claimed in the past, but so far the answer is none! 

    I may further question the justification of this chain, or demand knowledge pertaining to its origin – these problems, I think, are something that natural science can hardly resolve.

    The unknown is the unknown.  Questioning matters natural science cannot resolve at present, is already being done by the natural scientists themselves, as they push out the frontiers of knowledge. 
    Non-specialists, would be in a poor position to even frame relevant questions, let alone to provide credible alternative answers or any relevant answers at all.

    Anyone can ask an infinite regression of questions going back to basic criteria and assumptions, without providing any answers, but this is merely going over old ground and old arguments, – without adding anything to present knowledge.

  22. “Objective scientific methodology is the best and most consistently reliable method of establishing what is true and what is real.  Science is open to new evidence, but disinclined to waste time on previously refuted claims. All other methods have consistently failed when tested.”

    But tell me, how do these consistent results link themselves to the truth, and what is the scientific theory behind analysing the results – if not philosophy? Again, you take your pragmatist venue as a given; that is something I dare not do.

    “All science is subject to revision in the light of new evidence, but that does not mean that it has no knowledge which can be applied with such a degree of certainty, that it can build bridges to carry large loads, land robot vehicles on Mars or bring about recovery of patients from medical conditions.”

    It boils down to degrees, then? Where and with what criterion do you draw the line – and how do you go on about it without being arbitrary?

    “10 Scientific Laws and Theories You Really Should Know
    http://science.howstuffworks.c
    There are core elements of science which are agreed on and widely effectively used in everyday life.
    Most are very unlikely to be refuted, but may have slight details up-dated at some point. (Newton’s law of gravity as experienced on Earth, is only about 99.99999% accurate in the light of Einstein’s modifications)”

    So it would seem to be – but how exactly are they used? A theory may make claims concerning the nature of things as they appear, and we may observe results predicted by that theory – but what is the faculty
    that leads us to conclude “this supports that” or “there is truth in this?” I have asked for the science of demonstration, yet that has gone unanswered.

    Philosophy, too, features in my everyday life at the very least – but that being called to question hardly allows me to plead for its universality, does it?

    “Science asks questions AND provides thousands of answers. Philosophy – as your post shows – only casts doubts and asks questions without providing answers.  That is why it is useless in the modern world.
    Its useful questions are already being asked and answered in other subject areas.
    Intuitive ideas are clearly of neurological origin and a subject of psychological study.The interpretation and testing of interpretations is part of the science.  The issue is if there are any dependable alternative methods which can produce consistent results.  Many have been claimed in the past, but so far the answer is none! “

    You think open questions are useless? I must disagree: they, if anything, stir my curiosity. Then again, curiosity might be useless.

    You find doubt useless? Well, so did the clergymen of the past – I, for one, find doubt quite necessary. Necessary, too, I find to be the questioning of the methodology of science, taken by some for granted, even if the result may only be reaching a dead end.

    What are those useful questions you mention, then? Why do you not present theorems formulated by the scientific community that answer my concerns of the origin of the criterion?

    How does science interpret? After obtaining a result, do you resort to a theory of data analysis? From whence come the terms it in its turn makes use of?

    “The unknown is the unknown.  Questioning matters natural science cannot resolve at present, is already being done by the natural scientists themselves, as they push out the frontiers of knowledge.
    Non-specialists, would be in a poor position to even frame relevant questions, let alone to provide credible alternative answers or any relevant answers at all.”

    It is good and well that they attempt to be all they can be – but once again, you invoke the notions of knowledge, relevancy and credibility. Are those grounded in science, and if so, from where have they come from?

    “Anyone can ask an infinite regression of questions going back to basic criteria and assumptions, without providing any answers, but this is merely going over old ground and old arguments, – without adding anything to present knowledge.”

    That might be of concern if you worry about increasing the current amount of knowledge. But then again, one might ask what knowledge you may have if you cannot provide the criterion used in obtaining it.

     

  23. It’s a good idea not to take up too large a percentage of a thread one’s self. Since the argument between me and Apathon has somewhat become one between Apathon and Alan4discussion (to the point where there’s not necessarily any point in me providing secondary replies), and since The Signal accused me of hostility, confrontation and disrespect (and, if I correctly understand the imperative “get over yourself”, arrogance), the case for me writing less now is all the stronger. I’ll avoid my usual quote-reply point-by-point format in favour of making a few general points to address a largely repetitive discussion.
    1. I’ve said by what criterion I assess fields, and I’ve noted we all use the same criteria to judge other fields, and I’ve been asked to give the criterion behind the criterion. That could happen indefinitely. The point is not whether hyperbolic scepticism prohibits me from knowing we ought to be able to back up what we say; the point is that hyperbolic scepticism sets the bar on what we can back up very low, so that if I wanted us to back things up *and* assessed via hyperbolic scepticism whether our ability to do so had been demonstrated, I would come away quite empty-handed. But there is one way to circumvent these concerns, and that is to adopt a falsificationist approach to backing things up rather than a verificationist one. Can I prove infinitely many back-up steps? No. But I can show things seem to be working fine as they are. This means I can legitimately say that hyperbolic scepticism is unnecessary, science has performed well and philosophy ought to be judged by whether it has achieved what science has (which is good, though limited).
    2. It strikes me as odd that Apathon insists on me saying from where I got my criterion, only to add I’m allowed to shrug and say, “oh, it’s intuitive”. That’s an inventive way out of an infinite regress, to be sure; but it shouldn’t satisfy him/her. Yet this is basically the same way I’ve seen “philosophy has answers to this” claims defended; when I was asked how its answers were obtained, I was told they were… I forget whether the word was “obvious” or “intuitive”, but the same hole exists either way.
    3. Either the axioms in a theory can make falsifiable predictions, in which case it may be falsified or impress us by resisting falsification (or have passed too few tests to so impress), or they don’t, in which case more are required to achieve this. Every accusation of a need for “interpretation” refers to these “hidden assumptions”. However, there’s no need to cut the assumptions-list in half and claim the second half is necessary to interpret how well the full list’s predictions fit the data. This is another reason falsificationism is preferable to verificationism.
    4. Pretty much any successful field is claimed to need philosophy to get off the ground. Of course, science was once called natural philosophy. But words’ meanings change, and today “philosophy is useless” means nothing stronger than “philosophy other than natural philosophy is useless”. The example of science need not be exhaustive (the discussion on this thread alone has also included as examples logic and, of all things, how we define words); those epistemic realisations which fields use can properly considered parts of them, by being included in their axioms and/or rules of inference. So the modern debate is over whether the gradually reduced scope of “philosophy” can still tell us something else useful. All I want is an example of what that might be.
    5. I’m seeing a lot of suggestion that philosophy can at least highlight open questions worthy of consideration. But do we know such open questions cannot be found by the same fields which would eventually answer them? If not, philosophy itself would have to answer them for its asking them to be worthwhile. Another alternative criterion I’ve seen is that philosophy is worthwhile if it’s interesting and/or a money-maker. But if these interesting thoughts can’t be trusted to tell us truths, colour me unimpressed.

    Now let me deal with more specific issues.

    The Signal

    you don’t understand the difference between the history of philosophy and philosophy itself

    Unless philosophy makes progress, its past is its present and it is what it historically was. So while your complaint may be true, any specific example of how it is would answer my original challenge. Therefore, I’d be keen to see you do it.

    you don’t in the least understand what Hume’s position on knowledge was

    Literally my only reference to Hume was on his views about knowledge of ethics and aesthetics. The is/ought problem and its aesthetic analogue may or may not be as unanswerable, but you can’t pretend I misrepresented his view that they are.

    And you expect us to take you seriously?

    There’s a delicious irony here. I ask why I should take philosophy seriously, given its apparent failure to meet a particular criterion I have provided. (The failure is apparent precisely because, no matter how lengthy defences here of philosophy get, they never even try to give a counterexample to that allegation.) I am challenged on why I should be using that criterion. Now I am asked why I should be taken seriously, given my failure to meet criteria of non-hostility, non-confrontation, respect and being over myself. OK, then; how do you justify those criteria for assessing whether I may be in this discussion? Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, since I have made a case above for not going to deep down the epistemic rabbit hole in defending my criterion, bear in mind I was there discussing how to avoid an inability to know anything, whereas my latest question concerns which people to listen to. You may or may not be able to defend your criteria for not taking me seriously; but, if you could, you would be providing an answer to the ethical question of why you needn’t. It might even be an answer only philosophy can defend (though it’d take extra work to show that), so it would be in your own interest to try it.

    Apathon

    if, say, only physics could give us reliable answers to the question “what happens when I release my hold of this ball”, would this lead us to think that in order to understand a repeatable pattern of the ball falling down we would have to possess some inherent knowledge of physics? Or did we not know what water was before its chemical formula was written out?

    We knew there was something in front of us that did certain things, and we labelled it water, and its chemical formula gave us a deeper insight into its nature. We “knew” what we did in the sense of patterns we had spotted, or at least thought we had. Even if one doesn’t worry that was pareidolia, several objections have been offered to induction, although pattern-seeking need not be like that. It was only with physics that we knew why the ball did what it did, which is slightly deeper than using maths to know in advance what it would do. But our brains do automate estimation of balls’ movements based on the relevant maths, even though we don’t know of it consciously; evolution reverse engineered physics. But physics allowed us to go beyond our sometimes right, sometimes dead wrong intuition to understand why it was right when it was, when it isn’t right, why it’s then wrong and what then happens instead. There’s a good reason tabula rasa discussions don’t bring up quantum or relativistic scenarios. Our tabula is evolved in a decidedly non-rasa mana. That’s no longer a philosophical view; it’s an empirically well-demonstrated fact.

    [philosophers] can be vocal in their critiques concerning [science’s methods]. The sociologists of science, investigating for example the “laboratory life” and the human process of seemingly clinical research, might claim that natural law as we know it is the result of certain creative-constructive processes, and claiming some kind of “objective observation of nature” is superfluous at best. What is your take on this?

    My take is that whether that is so or not is a contingent matter assessable only a posteriori, hence scientifically rather than philosophically. Sociologists of science are not the same as philosophers of science.

    We agree, then, that value judgements are definitions of a sort

    I didn’t agree to that. I didn’t even agree definitions are sometimes value judgements, let alone that value judgements are always definitions.

    whether all judgements are of that kind is left open for discussion

    A question of clarification: what besides value judgements do you consider “judgements”?

    how can you deal with e.g. any version of string theory – after all, there would seem to be little that could decide over its utility or truth?

    Putting aside for the moment the question of whether we can feasibly test string theory in the foreseeable future$, I agree that if we can’t it’s not science for now. Indeed, I have been open about my criticism of string theory on these grounds. [$ Some string theorists have tried to devise experiments that could test string theory in easier ways than the obvious “spot strings by smashing together protons at the Planck scale with a particle accelerator bigger than Earth”. A fair appraisal of how likely that is to work out, even if it can be done with present knowledge, isn’t worth including in this lengthy thread.]

    there certainly was a profound philosophical streak among physicists in the early 20th century

    That’s not the same as philosophy helping us answer questions physics couldn’t have answered alone. Take Bohm’s area, for example – “interpretations” (not in the sense we’ve used it on this thread) of quantum mechanics. These have led people to feel they don’t “get” the most empirically successful ideas in science’s history, but they haven’t added to what we do agree we know.

    I do not see why philosophy should seek to solve [the problem of induction] – some philosophers might wish to explain it away in order to rely on inductive reasoning, others might wish to see the same conundrum devour also all deductive demonstrations. Philosophers, if they cannot answer problems, seem at
    least able to generate them.

    It doesn’t strike me you understand the problem of induction very well, but there’s no point starting a huge tangent on that.

    It boils down to degrees, then? Where and with what criterion do you draw the line – and how do you go on about it without being arbitrary?

    This was directed to Alan4discussion, but I’ll answer it anyway. A tough criterion is, “by doing our best”, i.e. by only being happy with that which does this to the greatest extent of all our fields. A softer criterion is, “by doing better than nothing”. If philosophy could provide us with a *little* bit of reliable insight, at least one answer to my original challenge would have been provided (as long as we could show other fields couldn’t be used for it instead, of course).

  24. @rdfrs-19f6e247d40658e92d297d5fe8dd6965:disqus 

    But tell me, how do these consistent results link themselves to the
    truth, and what is the scientific theory behind analysing the results –
    if not philosophy?

    They are evident in the working of the technological material world for all to observe. The question remains as to what, if anything, philosophy can offer which scientific thinking and reasoning cannot?  Still no examples!

    Again, you take your pragmatist venue as a given;
    that is something I dare not do.

    We can ponder criteria and basic axioms and definitions until the cows come home – and very entertaining it can be, but we come back to the question – “What does it add to the sum of human knowledge which cannot be provided by other subjects whose specialists better understand the technical details being considered?”

    So it would seem to be – but how exactly are they used? A theory may
    make claims concerning the nature of things as they appear, and we may
    observe results predicted by that theory – but what is the faculty that
    leads us to conclude “this supports that” or “there is truth in this?”

    The demonstrable scientific experiments, methodology, and reasoning, are published and debated by people with experience and specific areas of expertise in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  They are widely employed in technologies where they can be seen to work.

    I have asked for the science of demonstration, yet that has gone unanswered.

    There are numerous published examples of, and daily demonstrations of, the practical functioning of scientific applications.  Where are your examples of philosophy offering comparable or better answers?

    You think open questions are useless? I must disagree: they, if anything, stir my curiosity. Then again, curiosity might be useless.

    No!  The issue is: “In what open questions can philosophy ask and answer questions, which the sciences can’t”
    I don’t doubt that they can provide your curiosity with personal amusement, but the issue is about providing answers which to some extent match reality as evidence based testable knowledge.

    It is good and well that they attempt to be all they can be – but once again, you invoke the notions of knowledge, relevancy and credibility. Are those grounded in science, and if so, from where have they come from?

    Human knowledge and language have come from the evolution of human thinking, while scientific knowledge has come from generations of scientists carrying out methodical scientific investigations and testing of results to confirm what works, and what does not, in the material universe (and more particularly our local patch of it). As Jos has pointed out, falsification eliminates wrong perceptions and wrong answers, leaving only the best matches available.

    Again we come back to: ” What answers has philosophy provided which match the physical world better than those of science?” 

    There are thousands of examples where science can accurately predict outcomes, which are observable and are  used by millions of people every day.

    Once again there are no examples in your post of knowledge which can be matched and applied to physical reality!  Do you have any such examples?

    ( And yes I do know that philosophers can ask endless questions about perceptions and definitions of reality, – but I am asking for useful answers, not questions. -  That is “useful” – the opposite of “useless”.)

  25. I think we’re all quite talking past each other here. I’m going to attempt a little bit of a reboot on my part.

    Quite simply, science does not exist without philosophy. Not “wouldn’t have existed”, but “does not exist”. The framework of understanding by which we conduct science is, in fact, philosophy. The basis of argument itself is philosophical. The problem seems to be that many different aspects of philosophy are being conflated, fast and loose, and assumptions are being made. The aspects I see being tossed around are:

    Philosophy as the study of what dead old people argued about a long time ago. This is going to be a large part of any Philosophy 101 class, and it can be boring at times.

    Philosophy as the profession, namely, the institution of paying people to sit around and think about reality all day. This really isn’t done much (if at all) anymore.

    Philosophy as the structure behind all modern rational thought. Epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and ethics, primarily.

    The first can get pretty boring, but I would argue that it’s important in a historical sense. I’d hazard a guess that we can agree on the importance of teaching history. While it may offer little of practical value, it teaches us how perspectives have changed over time, and can help prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over again.

    The second is, as I’ve said, not really done anymore, as far as I can tell. So there’s not really any point in arguing about it, in my opinion. I wouldn’t make it a priority, in any case.

    The third is the crux of the matter, and it seems to be fairly misunderstood. The reason we even hold the position that experiments can generate useful knowledge is due to this aspect of philosophy.

    Jos:

    The third aspect of philosophy allows us to, in fact, assess your criterion for the relevancy of science, your criterion of the criterion, and so on, to a definite starting point based on first principles. Your axioms, those starting positions which for whatever reason (being self-evident perhaps) you have based all your further notions in turn from, lie at the core of the debate.

    When Apathon said that he gave you the option to claim intuitive knowledge of your criterion, he was not claiming that intuitive knowledge was useful or legitimate, but that it was one option you were free to exercise, which we would then be able to discuss. Your assessment of the legitimacy of your position is what he was trying to get at.

    In short, why do you believe that you are right?

    Philosophy is the language in which claims of this kind are spoken. It gives us a framework to understand where other people are coming from, and to determine where disagreement truly lies. With this framework, which is necessary because people will never all agree, despite how “obvious” some things might be to some people (the literal truth of the bible is “obvious” to quite a few), we can evaluate claims rationally and with a consistent vocabulary with agreed-upon definitions.

    This is why philosophy remains useful. While philosophizing per se (one imagines standing around in a toga stroking a beard for hours on end) might be of limited use (and might not, as there are modern philosophers, some with very interesting insights), the language of reasoned discourse is extremely important.

    If you’re just saying that nobody should be paid to be a professional beard-stroker, I don’t think many people would disagree too strongly with that. But that shouldn’t be conflated with philosophy itself, which is a very diverse field of study.

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