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New book shows how questions from philosophy drive science

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Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein seems to be the latest rotten tomato flung at scientism (see here and here for other not-so-fresh salads offered). From Clancy Martin in The Atlantic:

The question that Goldstein’s book sets out to consider is what we mean by progress, and also what we mean by meaning. Her goal is to do more than prove how relevant philosophy still is. She aims to reveal how many of our most pressing questions simply aren’t better answered elsewhere. Much of what we take for progress delivers answers that miss the point, distort issues, ignore complications, and may be generated by badly formulated questions in the first place. Goldstein also wants to show us that figuring out how to live a meaningful life is something very different from understanding the meaning of special relativity or evolution. We are deluged with information; we know how to track down facts in seconds; the scientific method produces new discoveries every day. But what does all that mean for us? As the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard observed:

Whatever the one generation may learn from the other, that which is genuinely human no generation learns from the foregoing … Thus, no generation has learned from another to love, no generation begins at any other point than at the beginning, no generation has a shorter task assigned to it than had the previous generation.

Another way to put it might be that every generation could use a Plato to tackle those genuinely human lessons. That is the creative, verging on wacky, premise that has inspired Goldstein’s approach to demonstrating why philosophy won’t (and had better not) go away. She transports Plato into the 21st century and, adopting his own preferred literary form, puts him into fictional dialogue with a variety of contemporary characters.

Also,

Goldstein, like Plato, is at her strongest when showing us that some questions just won’t go away. But she’s not about to deny philosophy plenty of credit for coming up with its share of answers, too—and for setting scientists on their way in searching for theirs. The list of philosophical leaps is impressive: most notable, perhaps, is the 17th-century idea of individual rights. Goldstein reminds us that virtually every scientific area of inquiry began with a question or an insight from a philosopher. Democritus proposed the atom; Ionian philosophers invented what we now think of as the scientific method; Aristotle founded biology. In mathematics and physics, she observes, the metaphysical problems considered by Plato are still being debated.

And from the Wall Street Journal review:

Of course, Plato wins every argument hands down, though his interlocutors generally fail to see that. For instance, in a well-aimed chapter on the pretensions of contemporary neuroscience, Plato volunteers as a subject in a brain-imaging experiment. The smug and overbearing Dr. Shoket treats Plato and philosophy with jocular contempt, all the while demonstrating his utter ignorance of that whereof he speaks. Plato has no trouble refuting his naïve reductionism, according to which there are no persons, intentions, beliefs or other psychological states but only synapses firing mechanically in the void. The neuroscientist is confusing the physical mechanisms that make mental phenomena possible with mental phenomena themselves. I recommend this chapter to all those zealots who think they are on the verge of replacing traditional philosophy with brain science.

The people to whom philosophy is irrelevant are, on examination, beneath it.

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2 Replies to “New book shows how questions from philosophy drive science

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    Plato has no trouble refuting his naïve reductionism, according to which there are no persons, intentions, beliefs or other psychological states but only synapses firing mechanically in the void. The neuroscientist is confusing the physical mechanisms that make mental phenomena possible with mental phenomena themselves.

    And that is the nuts and bolts of it for the atheistic materialist. In a worldview that dissolves persons into non-persons, just who is left in that worldview to tell that God is a personal being? They don’t even believe that they themselves are really persons!

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Kirsten Powers’ Reluctant Journey from Atheism to Christian – 2013
    Excerpt: Then something very unusual happened to Powers on a trip to Taiwan in 2006.
    “I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, ‘Here I am.’,,,
    Powers doesn’t recall what Kathy Keller taught on that day, but when she left the Bible study she knew everything had changed. “I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, ‘It’s true. It’s completely true.’ The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.”,,,
    “Everywhere I turned, there He was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy.
    http://crossmap.christianpost......stian-6355

    God Can Be Personally Known and Experienced – Dr. Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWL5QhBQB30

    Verse and Music:

    John 8:47
    The one who belongs to God listens to the words of God. The reason you don’t listen is because you don’t belong to God.”

    Revelation 3:20
    Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

    Wake Me O Lord! – Inspirational Poem – video
    http://vimeo.com/38692431

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    podcast – William Dembski – The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....6_36-07_00

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