of no fixed subtitle
July 14, 2004
I'm a fly, and I can't get out of this fly-bottle...
Is philosphy worthless? Maybe, but not more worthless than science.
Somewhat related to
this other one
19 years ago
Maybe, but not more worthless than science
Has philosophy ever cured a disease or invent a cheap and durable material? Didn't think so.
No, but it has thought
about doing so.
And in a strong anthopological principle universe, that's all it takes.
So Zemat's a logical positivist and shawnj's a pragmatist.
To condemn philosophy as worthless is itself a philosophical act!
For example, one of the leading themes of current philosophy is that the notion of objectivity is utterly illusory. This is not some post-modern pose: the subjectivity of scientific knowledge has been proved with mathematical rigour.
How beautifully trite. Physics brought up a bunch of philosophical questions quite a number of years ago. Philosophy has since played a role. A lot of scientists have read about the philosophy of science. See Popper for some thoughts on the nature of evidence (of course having cited Wittgenstein, the author of the article possibly appears to be focusing on an anti-Popperian philosophical view). Nice post, Zemat. Oh, and yes, the science we use to day has its foundations in philosophical views. Some questions can't be answered with evidence, and you define axioms based on thought alone. Thus, any medical advances or engineering advances found using research principles may be attributed indirectly to philosophy.
Philosophy and science are both exercises in logic. The difference between the two is that science works with testable hypotheses, whereas philosophy deals with the untestable. The most forward-thinking and abstract of scientific theories is indistinguishable from philosophy.
I don't think it's true that philosophers generally disbelieve in objective truth - this is Fodor on why he does philosophy:
"...All these ideas imply a kind of relativistic holism: because perception is saturated by cognition, observation by theory, values by culture, science by class, and metaphysics by language, rational criticism of scientific theories, ethical values metaphysical world-views, or whatever can take place only within the framework of assumptions that
while Mr Rumsfeld was widely ridiculed for distinguishing between "known knowns", "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns", scientists and policy makers would do well to follow his example.
Wasn't Rumsfeld widely ridiculed by newspapers? I would have thought scientists would have known exactly what he was talking about. Physicists certainly would do. Also,
showed us that everything is based on unprovable beliefs at some level, anyway.
Ouch! I think i pulled a gray cell.
dng- Godel's work showed that mathematician's will always have a job. The proof was not that everything is based on unprovable beliefs, rather that no set of axioms can encompass every possible true statement. This was then extended by Turing to include computer programs, with fascinating consequences such as
(impossible to tell how many pages a Postscript file will print??) And besides, what do we mean by philosophy anyway? (not trying to be facetious here). Different sciences are, well different (the expectations of physics are different from chemistry are different from geology etc etc) and that's at least as true for philosophy as well.
PigAlien- I'm intrigued. Which abstract theories do you have in mind?
Has philosophy ever cured a disease...
It cured the disease of the stable isolated thinking self. Humanity suffered through that one for hundreds of years.
or invent a cheap and durable material?
How would one know they had that disease, and could you be more specific?
I would never go so far as to say
is useless, but certain branches of philosophy are probably less than useful. Just in the same way I would never say
(or any other religion) is useless, but certain branches are. Like pure mathematicians and quantum physicists, philosophy produces nothing directly useful (that is, no material goods or services), but it always helps to have someone thinking. Without those wierd-shit thinker-uppers, there'd be no one to keep us on our metaphysical toes.
i just meant that to be a wildly hilarious joke. but i was referring to the idea of the cartesian self that western philosophy and much else was premised on. the idea of the self that just is, and exists without the other. i don't think i could be more specific without me being smarter.
Polychrome, I don't have any particular theory in mind. I just mean that in general, philosophy is about using logic to conjecture and since the most forward looking scientific theories are based on conjecture (and not provable) that they are basically the same thing. I am welcome to any helpful suggestions or examples. Philosophy in and of itself is a field as wide as scientific enquiry. For example, some philosophers dwell on the nature of mind and language (Wittgenstein), sexuality (Foucault) and power (Nietzsche). All of these are areas of scientific enquiry as well. Philosophers often lead scientific enquiry, at least indirectly, by asking the questions that scientifically minded folks want to answer through direct experimentation and observation.
monkeyfilter: weird-shit thinker-uppers
Ok, having reread my previous comment I feel the need to clarify that when I said "Nice post, Zemat" I was not intending it to sound sarcastic. I actually did enjoy reading the article. Such is the nature of subjectivity that I did not read that possible meaning into it. Do any of these discussions even reflect what any of us are thinking in another's mind? I hereby declare that none of us truly exist. /undergrad
For a long time, I thought I was interested in philosophy but I recently realized that rather than philosophy itself, it was more the history of ideas that I found interesting. Very often, philosophy seems just a funny way to waste time, devising self-consistent theories about the world, like science but without the burden of checking whether the facts fit in. The only rule here is self-consistency; apart from that, everything goes. That's a very entertaining game.
The only problem with that game is when some philosophies can have consequences in the real world. As someone put it (who?), everyone can make a mistake but the problem with intelligent people is that they make intelligent mistakes, which are difficult to detect and thus can lead more people astray. So it's not completly harmless.
's question: I'm not sure philosophy has a purpose for the following reasons: 1) Any question about nature should be asked to science, that's what it is for and, again,scientific theories are based on experimental or observational work, not on metaphysical rambling, however beautiful and clever it can be. 2) Is there anything outside nature ? I don't think so. Therefore, philosophy doesn't seem to have much purpose to me.
except as a good brain teaser, but for that I prefer geometry.
Is there anything outside nature?
I think I would disagree PigAlien on *ahem* philosophical grounds; one of the important distinguishing characteristics of scientific theories is that they have, in principle, certain demonstrable consequences. If it doesn't then it isn't a scientific theory, per se, but more scientific speculation. I think that one of (if not _the_) most spectacular examples of this (meaning scientific theories being accepted because the consequences are so unambiguous) in recent times is that the existence of a cosmological constant is seemingly accepted as fact, and evidence which supports a non-constant fine structure constant is just one of those things, these days.
Monkeyfilter: In a strong anthopological principle universe, that's all it takes.
Did you hear anything? *opens door, looks around Hmmmm, I guess nobody's there. I could have sworn I heard a tree fall.
>> Is there anything outside nature? > jujubes?
Ah err... yes, well fair enough. You found yourself a purpose for philosophy then, well done.
Why do you Nazis always blame things on the jujubes?
Polychrome, what about the Higgs boson? That is a scientific theory that as yet has not been tested for because there is no way at the moment to test for it. Although we are currently in the process of building the equipment necessary, for the time being, it is merely conjecture. How is that different from philosophy then, in your opinion?
That's why I added "in principle", PigAlien. In principle, the current generation of colliders could have just reached the energy needed to create the Higgs, they tried to see it, and couldn't. A recent estimate of its mass, based on a statistical analysis of the available data, created a revised mass estimate for the Higgs which put it just out of reach of current machinery, but within the operating parameters of the upcoming LHC.
"one of the important distinguishing characteristics of scientific theories is that they have, in principle, certain demonstrable consequences."
Well, the Higgs boson theory doesn't have any demonstrable consequences as yet, so how is it different from philosophy? Just because many philosophical ideas don't currently have demonstrable consequences doesn't mean that in the future they won't. That's why I originally said that the most forward thinking scientific theories are no different than philosophal inquiries.
does this thread really exist?
Sure it is, on (off the top of my head) two counts. 1) one of the demonstrable consequence of the Higgs boson theory is the Higgs boson (or bosons, there are variants), a particle with particular mass and decay characteristics which can be looked for. 2) the Higgs isn't just out there by itself. The properties of the Higgs are fairly well constrained by the Standard Model, thus the Higgs can be regarded as a demonstrable consequence of the Standard Model, which has already passed many other tests.
is higgs boson any relation to boss hog?
Unless you can dish up evidence that the higgs boson exists, it is still in the realm of speculation. You can come up with all of the equations you'd like from the standard model, but you're still in the realm of philosophy, which is merely coherent, self-referential application of logic. Whether you're talking about the higgs boson or the effect that language has on the mind, unless you've demonstrated actual results, it's all just theory - science or philosophy.
Ah, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. My point of view is that the Higgs theory exists to explain certain observed phenomena: mass, inertia and so on. It has a verifiable prediction, the Higgs boson, and as such moves away from being just conjecture to being _provable_ conjecture. Which moves it beyond the realm of "just speculation". If you get right down to it, the electron is just a theory, but you still wouldn't catch me grabbing a 10 kV line anytime soon.
polychrome, until it is proven, it is not provable, by definition. history is replete with examples of paradigm change. that is how science works. we build up theory upon theory upon theory until we reach a point where everything crumbles down upon itself. no one knows where that point is. perhaps its the higgs boson? despite your protestations to the contrary, it is possible it may never be found. even if it is found, it may not be exactly as we expect it to be. I seem to recall the earth used to be flat and was the center of the universe and that space was made up of ether... how quickly we forget.
Um, you'll have to explain that one in smaller words. Provable (to me) means capable of being proved. Not that it _has_ been, merely that it is. I didn't protest that the Higgs boson will be found (personally I hope it isn't, cos that would be fun to watch) I protested that the Higgs boson _could_ be found, hence the theory was provable. That the earth is flat is an example of a theory which made a provable prediction (you'll fall off the edge) which was then disproven (you don't). The ether theory, again, was a theory, tested, and disproven. I must be missing your point, because these are all examples of theories which made certain, able to be tested, predictions. Which they failed. So your point would be? Going back to where we started, you say "...the most forward looking scientific theories are based on conjecture (and not provable) that they are basically the same thing." unless you meant to say not prov
, which would shine a quite different light on the statement.
polychrome, you're working under the assumption that the current
method of proving the existence of the higgs boson actually
prove or disprove it's existence. In fact, it is perfectly possible that the currently hypothesized method for proving the existence of the higgs boson is wrong. The hypothesized method could be employed and no higgs boson could be found, but that doesn't mean that the higgs boson does not exist and there is not another method to prove it. just because we don't
the method to prove or disprove something does not make it inherently unprovable.
i.e. just because you don't know the method to prove or disprove Kant's or Descartes' ramblings doesn't make them inherently unprovable.
"just because we don't know the method to prove or disprove something does not make it inherently unprovable." Agreed. I was going to mention the EPR paradox. "polychrome, you're working under the assumption that the current hypothesized method of proving the existence of the higgs boson actually will prove or disprove it's existence." Certainly. The Higgs boson, if it exists, has certain anticipated characteristics. If it isn't found, then it doesn't have those characteristics which means that it's something else. Kind of like your space ether example earlier.
"i.e. just because you don't know the method to prove or disprove Kant's or Descartes' ramblings doesn't make them inherently unprovable."
I believe I can accept this, up to a point. Let's think about it a bit. OK: I think that EPR (for example), for a long time, was
in nature, because for a long time not only was it not provable, but it was widely believed to be incapable of proof, in principle. Then it evolved, and became provable (and eventually prov
) and moved from philosophy, and conjecture, to science. Thus it started out as not-science, indistinguishable from philosophy, and became science, distinguishable from philosophy (though, depending on your taste, still philosophical in nature.)
So, to get back to where we were, I think that a concept which is not provable is not science. It may be philosophy. AND, that a concept is capable of changing into something which IS provable, or at least something which makes certain predictions which are capable of verification and hence supporting the original idea. Until something better comes along.
I was just in the shower and the most obvious occured to me. Philosophy deals with ideas and science with numbers. In the sense that ideas come from human brains and are made of language, all of which is made up of countless chemical and electrical signals firing back and forth, most of which can be mathematically described, in that sense I believe science and philosophy are one in the same. Language and ideas are gross abstractions of infinitely minute mathematical calculations; emergent phenomena, if you will. Which brings us back to the ultimate philosophical-scientific argument: is there free will? Or, is everything pre-determined?
By the way PigAlien, are you the same guy over in the Beatles mefi thread?
just thought I'd mention that I once found a wallet with 300 UK pounds in it. Which I handed into the police. I was travelling at the time and anything else would have been bad karma.
Hmmm, so would you say that intelligence is ultimately algorithmically derived?
Philosophy is really not an optional extra. The whole of ethics, for example, is part of philosophy. Every time you make a judgement about something being right or wrong, or someone being responsible for something, or deserving credit for something, you rely on philosophical assumptions. If you didn't make various metaphysical assumptions about the reality and nature of the world, you couldn't live your life or embark on any kind of science. Isn't it important to have these fundamental assumptions sorted out? It may well be that the academic philosophers and theories we happen to have at the moment don't inspire you, but the subject itself really is unavoidable - you can choose not to examine your assumptions, but that won't mean you aren't making them. As I said above (jokingly) - you can't make judgements about whether something is worthwhile, or has a point (even philosophy itself) without making philosophical assumptions. Perhaps I can draw an analogy with politics. You could say politics was a waste of time (actual practical politics often is) - all this debate doesn't help, let's just leave the administrators to run the country. But that wouldn't bring an end to politics - just to examined, conscious politics. Sorry to rant, but it's a subject close to my heart.
Oh Plegmund, I absolutely agree with you. polychrome, yes, it is I! Not content to be merely among the restricted elite at Mefi, I had to join Mofi as well to spread the love! I did pay my $5 to join Mefi, I will confess. Well worth it in retrospect. In regards to the 20 pound note, I was happy to keep that! (a philosophical/ethical decision, certainly) 300GBP in a wallet I would certainly turn over. Good for you! Well, that's all beside the point. As for intelligence, unless there truly is a spirit world of some sort that operates on non-mathematic principles, then I think it has to be algorithmic at its deepest roots. Now, I have no way of knowing, nor of proving, whether such a spirit realm exists. What I do find compelling, however, are the many different ways in which we can see intelligence arise. For instance, bees in a beehive behave like a collective intelligence. I think cellular automata are completely and totally fascinating. We can mimic many natural phenomenon in a computer model with very basic algorithms.
There is no spoon!
so sorry I don't know what came over me
Why is it so popular to bash science? I think that it is immediately evident that science and technology are
worthless. The lives of billions of people have been imeasurably improved, and they can expect to enjoy their improved lives for fully TWICE as long. Obviously science has enabled some significant evils in its time, but I think if you do your utilitarian calculus you will find that science has introduced a lot more
into the world. It is frusterating to be attacked from the right for supporting material atheism and evolution, and then turn arround and be attacked by the left for being an "evil unfeeling technocrat".
can you offer any insight as to why you believe science is worthless. I find the question of what topics are Science vs. what topics are Philosophy to be very odd. Any proposition that is fair game for science is
also fair game for philosophy because,
science is a type of philosophy
. All sciences are subdiciplines of metaphysics. The original scientists certainly believed this. They even went so far as to call themselves natural philosophers. Science has simply agreed to limit itself to the study of things that can be observed and tested (read: Empericism). Are questions about what is right and wrong suddenly not part of philosophy because there is a subdicipline called ethics?
Zemat can you offer any insight as to why you believe science is worthless.
Hehehe. I never affirmed that. My point was that philosophy can be as valuable as science is. First. I agree with everything Plegmund said (except for accusing me of being a logical positivist, meh). In that light, I believe the point the article was trying to put foward is that both science and formal philosophy are tools that complement each other. Philosophy doesn't bring anything practical and useful to this world without science to back it up and science needs philosophy to guide it's steps. Obviously this statement is a simplification of the complex relationship that exist between science and philosophy. Also it doesn't mean one can't exist without the other (formaly). Although both derived themselves very much from the same source and were much blended together for the most part of human history. Another idea the article tries to put foward, and which Wittgenstein promoted the most, is that philosophy should be a mean, not an end on itself, for humanity. That's why he wrote the
as the final word on philosophy. He tried, like Bertrand Russell tried on mathematics with his
, to turn his area of study into a perfect reliable source for all other areas of human development. How is philosophy supposed to be useful for humanity? Well, as the article tries to put as an example. Philosophy could serve as the mean to reach consensus between experts or representatives of different ideologies and cultures. How is that? The advantage that philosophy, as a formal tool has is that it can see beyond basic ideological statements and beliefs and find common grounds between parties. Of course, philosophy is an area where it's own practitioners tend to disagree even on the most basic subjects. But the advantage experts in philosophy have is that they know their subjects deeply and the history behind these. So they develop some sort of instinct to find out the best way to argue and solve moral or ideological dilemmas where experts of other disciplines disagree or debate strongly, ignoring that most of their arguments can't sustain themselves or have deep logical flaws (ad hominem anyone?).
brainwave: It's popular to bash science because science is hard, and gets results. There's nothing to make you unpopular like being (a) clever, (b) right, and (c) useful. Especially if being right upsets people's sacred cows. Devotees of philosophical streams of thought who wish to deride science and promote structuralist trash are welcome to will themselves into having better vision, no asthma, or cancer. For myself, I'll take corrective optics, ventolin, and the best therapies that have survived empirical testing. I'm happy to bet on who'll be more likely to fall under a bus, suffocate, or otherwise meet a sticky end.
I must clarify. I'm not a science basher. In fact I love science (I tried to get my degree on Physics but failed horribly). Although I love bad science bashing. I'm more of a post-modernists/cargo-cultists/moralists/sentimentalists (non of them necessarily related) basher.
And I should use preview more often...
Sorry about calling you a logical positivist, Zemat - not the sort of thing I'd normally say about anyone
(except a logical positivist)
I realise now that it was quite uncalled for...
I rilly wish the
was online, and searchable. I have nothing further to say here.
Philosophy gives science a direction - philosophy proposes science disposes or proves - u cannot have one without the other anymore
Damn you fly, you have reminded me that the lovely PF is no longer here. *pouts*