So then Hawking’s attack on philosophy was misguided?
Science can’t tell us whether science explains everything.
Even the greatest scientists have seen that the intelligibility of the world is a mystery.
Actually, it is generally the greatest scientists who do get that. It’s the talk show poseurs who don’t.
The logical independence of physical reality from mind and understanding gives science its point. The problem, as philosophers over the centuries have pointed out, is that this can open wide the gate to skepticism. If we are embedded in a reality that can be beyond our reach, how can we hope to achieve any knowledge at all? Perhaps Kant was right, and what we think we know may simply reflect the categories of the human mind. We can perhaps only deal with things as they appear to us. How things are in themselves may forever be beyond our grasp. Alternatively, the reality that we seek to understand may not even be subject to rational understanding. It may be sufficiently chaotic and disordered to be unintelligible. If we are told that this is impossible because science works, we are back with a pragmatic justification rather than a metaphysical one. It may appear convincing, but it is no defense to the worry that we could live in an accidental bay of order on the periphery of a great ocean of disorder. More.
Could metaphysics come down to thinking what we are thinking?
5 Replies to “Science needs metaphysics?”
Actually, it is generally the greatest scientists who do get that. It’s the talk show poseurs who don’t.”
Hear hear. Those who actually call THEMSELVES “freethinkers” got what they paid for lol. Scientists who believe something like “Evolution is True” are lightweights compared to the Greats. Zero mass lightweight lol again.
News, actually the very methods of science scream out its limitations. Mathematics is not a scientific discipline but the logical (so, strictly rational) study of structure and quantity . . . and for eighty years has been post Godel. The empirical evidence based observe, experiment, describe/analyse and provisionally explain approach is inherently limited. What we are actually dealing with is the imposed ideology of evolutionary materialism influenced scientism dressed up in a lab coat, and which is not even coherent. Likewise, science depends on but cannot ground moral integrity; which is a matter for ontology, ethics and linked epistemology, grounded in logic. A proper approach to science would acknowledge its limitations from the outset, much as Newton did in Opticks, Query 31, when he pointed out that the logic of science cannot deliver deductive certainty and is inherently open-ended though in many cases we can be highly confident of empirical reliability. KF
Kairosfocus. Very well said. Newton’s insights have not been exhausted and present day scientists would do well to set aside prejudices and study Newton indepth. Newton had opportunity to claim a nontheistic approach, by experience and method, but he did not. It is disingenuous to insist on reducing Newton’s natural and moral philosophy to cultural and socio-political influences of his day, in view of his innovations and discoveries … he presaged quantum and particle physics, as Frank Wilczek even hints.
Excerpts from Query 31 of Opticks (London, 1704):
“All these things being consider’d, it seems probable to me, that God in the Beginning form’d Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable Particles, of such Sizes and Figures, and with such other Properties, and in such Proportion to Space, as most conduced to the End for which he form’d them; and that these primitive Particles being Solids, are incomparably harder than any porous Bodies compounded of them; even so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary Power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first Creation. …
“Now by the help of these Principles, all material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles above-mention’d, variously associated in the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages. …
“And since Space is divisible in infinitum, and Matter is not necessarily in all places, it may be also allow’d that God is able to create Particles of Matter of several Sizes and Figures, and in several Proportions to Space, and perhaps of different Densities and Forces, and thereby to vary the Laws of Nature, and make Worlds of several sort in several Parts of the Universe. At least, I see nothing of Contradiction in all this. …
“As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. …
“And if natural Philosophy in all its Parts, by pursuing this Method, shall at length be perfected, the Bounds of Moral Philosophy will be also enlarged. For so far as we can know by natural Philosophy what is the first Cause, what Power he has over us, and what Benefits we receive from him, so far our Duty towards him, as well as that towards one another, will appear to us by the Light of Nature. And no doubt, if the Worship of false Gods had not blinded the Heathen, their moral Philosophy would have gone farther than to the four Cardinal Virtues; and instead of teaching the Transmigration of Souls, and to worship the Sun and Moon, and dead Heroes, they would have taught us to worship our true Author and Benefactor, as their Ancestors did under the Government of Noah and his Sons before they corrupted themselves.”
Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Kairosfocus. As a side note, you might find the text of interest, “Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method”, by Niccolo Guicciardini, MIT Press, 2009, if you have not already reviewed.
RW, thanks. That is indeed an interesting view on Newton and his contrast between analysis and composition as methods. This week past I did a Com Coll overview of mechanics and found the passage in Query 31, slightly adapted, very useful. KF