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Why Does Philosophy Matter?

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A great, simple way to see why philosophy is still important in an age of science.

22 Replies to “Why Does Philosophy Matter?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Well said. We cannot not do philosophy, and that becomes evident so soon as we begin to ask deep questions.

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    Absolutely KF. It’s the nemesis of so many materialists, although, it hardly rejoices the heart that they are wrong on the deepest levels, and are not able to grasp it, even when it’s explained.

    The heart’s operating at the deepest levels in terms of our seminal world-view, is the great intellectual leveller. Get our basic assumptions wrong and even the finest logic, as Keynes put it, leads to Bedlam, the madhouse.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel, look at that in action in this thread: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ic-threat/ KF

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    So there is a philosophical dimension to science? So what?

    If Einstein had been a Cartesian dualist or the leading lights in quantum physics were a secret society of Epicureans what difference would that have made to how well their respective theories describe and explain how the natural world works. And materialism, either v1.0 of v2.0, has been way more successful as an approach to science than any other.

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    Seversky, “And materialism, either v1.0 of v2.0, has been way more successful as an approach to science than any other.”
    In your philosophy “success in science” appears to be of utmost importance, nay it appears to me that you see science as the only phenomenon of any importance at all. If this is your philosophy, well, um, ok. It is not mine.

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    What absolute rubbish, Seversky. You have no scientists to compare with the great Christian and deist scientists. Even Bohr was certainly not a materialist, considering the Buddhist worldview to be closest to the ultimate reality.

    ‘So there is a philosophical dimension to science? So what?’

    So what?!?! So, it’s basic to science; it’s unavoidable.
    Popper’s definitional criteria partake of philosophy.
    As does the distinction between classical, mechanistic physics and quantum physics. Beyond that, it’s not a matter of slavishly looking for a philosophical school or guru – just reflecting philosophically, as did Planck, for instance, on the force holding particles in place around an atom.

    As a matter of fact, his identification of the deepest truths as paradoxes is a profoundly religious truth; while theology is simply the highest tier of philosophy.

    You people are so scared of the repugnance to reason and logic exhibited by paradoxes that you can seldom bear to use the word, ‘paradox’, instead burbling on about its being ‘counter-intuitive’. No wonder. You instinctively know that logic is all you have – and without a sound hypothesis that is worse than useless.

    Einstein’s criterion for selecting his hypotheses was aesthetic. Where does that figure on your dashboard? Where could it? (Where could intuition, for that matter?).

    —–

    Thanks for that link, KF. Too late tonicht, but looking forward reading it tomorrow.

  7. 7
    johnnyb says:

    Actually, Seversky, in both Biology and Physics, many of the major breakthroughs have happened by pulling ideas from theology.

  8. 8
    bFast says:

    This post has intrigued me. My question has been: What is philosophy, exactly?

    I have come up with what I believe is the answer, found in the title of a book by Francis Shaeffer, “How shall we then live.” (No, I haven’t read the book.)

    The key word in this statement is “then”. According to Shaeffer, the then is the response to his previous book: “The God who is there.” I think, however, that God or no god, if the first question encapsulates all of philosophy, then the “then” must mean all information we have (correct or flawed) about life, the universe and everything.

    So, given what we know, or think we know, how should we live? Of great importance in this model is the feedback loop — how shall we pursue further knowledge?

    It is here that I think science fails us dismally. Science, with its commitment to methodological naturalism, says “let us assume that there is no god”. Science blunders along, making some discoveries. It encounters God along the way, and repeats its mantra that there is no god. Then science declares to us that there is no god.

    However, if philosophy asks us “How shall we then live”, then the greatest single piece of knowledge is knowledge about whether there is a God or not. (Subsequent, of course, is, does God care about how we live.) Our most revered source of knowledge, science, misguides us in this most important pursuit.

    Recently Stephen Hawking declared that philosophy is dead (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec.....-dead.html). I don’t know what island he lives on. Even in his world, bound to a chair with a speech synthesiser, every day he must answer the question “How shall I live today?” Philosophy is not dead, philosophy is core.

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky

    So there is a philosophical dimension to science? So what?

    So everything. Your philosophical view makes science possible.

    If Einstein had been a Cartesian dualist or the leading lights in quantum physics were a secret society of Epicureans what difference would that have made to how well their respective theories describe and explain how the natural world works.

    If he had been an Albegensian gnostic, he would not have had a theory since exploration of the material universe was considered evil. If he was a nihilist, he’d have no rational reason to tell the truth about anything.

    And materialism, either v1.0 of v2.0, has been way more successful as an approach to science than any other.

    Materialism and science are contradictory notions.

  10. 10
    Box says:

    Seversky: And materialism, either v1.0 of v2.0, has been way more successful as an approach to science than any other.

    Silver: Materialism and science are contradictory notions.

    As per usual Silver Asiatic is absolutely right. Under materialism, rationality — and therefor science — is not possible.
    If non-rational blind particles in motion are in control of reason then rationality doesn’t exist.

  11. 11
    EvilSnack says:

    The choice is not between having a philosophy and not having one. The choice is between having a philosophy that is carefully considered and being sold a bill of goods.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    bFast @ 5

    In your philosophy “success in science” appears to be of utmost importance, nay it appears to me that you see science as the only phenomenon of any importance at all. If this is your philosophy, well, um, ok. It is not mine.

    I think science is very important and we would all be a lot worse of without it but I don’t think it’s the only “phenomeon of any importance at all”

  13. 13
    Seversky says:

    Axel @ 6

    You have no scientists to compare with the great Christian and deist scientists.

    Nonsense. There have been great scientists who were neither Christian or deist and, as you point out, Bohr was one of them.

    I’m not denying that scientists bring to the table their personal beliefs, be they religious or philosophical. That’s inevitable and, if they are able to draw inspiration or insight from them, not a bad thing.

    What I’m saying, however, is that Bohr’s Buddhist sympathies made no difference to the nature of the quantum world that he and others exposed. Sub-atomic particles are not thought to behave differently depending on whether the observer is Christian or Muslim.

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    johnnyb @ 7

    Actually, Seversky, in both Biology and Physics, many of the major breakthroughs have happened by pulling ideas from theology.

    I’m sure scientists have drawn inspiration from theology and I see nothing wrong in that. But that’s a far cry from the implication that religious or philosophical beliefs somehow dictate the nature of the reality science is investigating.

  15. 15
    Seversky says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 9

    So everything. Your philosophical view makes science possible.

    That’s right and, as you point out, there are religious views that would make science impossible. There are religious views here that would like to make impossible any science that contradicts those beliefs. Is that what you would like?

    Materialism and science are contradictory notions.

    The computer you typed that on is evidence to the contrary.

  16. 16
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky

    You asked “So what?” about philosophy. I explained it for you. You replied:

    That’s right

    Ok, you’re welcome.

    There are religious views here that would like to make impossible any science that contradicts those beliefs. Is that what you would like?

    I would like people to understand their philosophical views and the consequences of them first. Then I would like them to understand their religious views. Science comes well after that work has been done.

    Materialism and science are contradictory notions.

    Seversky: The computer you typed that on is evidence to the contrary.

    As above, it would be great if we both shared the same understanding of your philosophical view of materialism, as well as what science is, and additionally what “evidence” that supports materialism is as well.

    Because right now, we’re not understanding each other – or at least, I’m not understanding what you’re saying and I’m pretty sure you’re not understanding what I’m saying.

    The computer I am working on was built through intelligent design, for a purpose through a rational process and it offers purposeful outputs.

    Then we have materialism …

  17. 17
    johnnyb says:

    Seversky –

    “But that’s a far cry from the implication that religious or philosophical beliefs somehow dictate the nature of the reality science is investigating.”

    There is *no one* who thinks that beliefs dictate the nature of reality. Rather, the beliefs are a reflection of reality, and therefore help us know where to look to find truth. Reflecting on God *is* reflecting on reality, and doing so brings long-term gains in knowledge. Science simply takes what theologians and philosophers have discovered through spiritual reflection, and made it quantitative. Certainly a needed and beneficial move, but I just think it is funny that when this happens scientists think that they are somehow making theology less important. It would be like saying that engineering makes science unimportant.

  18. 18

    The actual role of philosophers has been to accomodate whatever nonsensical request you might have.

    I want to have everything be material, but I still want to have morality and all that too.

    Well sure we can accomodate that!

  19. 19

    @seversky

    The computer I type on is evidence that computer designers could do well with a course on appreciaton of the user. The computer is evidence that materialism sucks so much in dealing with subjective issues.

  20. 20
    Seversky says:

    johnnyb @ 17

    There is *no one* who thinks that beliefs dictate the nature of reality.

    Have you read what BA77 has written about the observer effect in quantum physics recently?

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 16

    The computer I am working on was built through intelligent design, for a purpose through a rational process and it offers purposeful outputs.

    Yes, it was designed, by the only intelligent designers we know of – ourselves.

    It was also designed on the basis of a good, solid, materialistic account of physical reality: the nature and relationship of electricity, magnetism and light, the properties of silicon, metals and plastics and the way electrons and photons can be shunted round circuits. When you want to share your thoughts with others on the Internet, you don’t use telepathy or a Vulcan mind-meld or a Jedi mind-trick, you use a computer. Because it works.

  22. 22
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Seversky

    Yes, it was designed, by the only intelligent designers we know of – ourselves.

    We see a complex processing system. It was built by intelligence. We observe other complex processing systems – a logical inference is that they also were built by intelligence.
    Side note, we have empirical evidence of other kinds of intelligence – not just human. Therefore, since there is a scale of intelligence from lower (insect) to higher (mammal) to higher (human) – it’s a logical inference that there is an intelligence higher than human, which explains the origin of natural systems and human intelligence itself.

    When you want to share your thoughts with others on the Internet, you don’t use telepathy or a Vulcan mind-meld or a Jedi mind-trick, you use a computer. Because it works.

    When I want to share my thoughts, I first create thoughts. This is an immaterial process. Thoughts are created that didn’t exist before. Thus the Intelligent Design proess. The computer does nothing in the process of my generating my own thoughts – in fact, the computer cannot even fully express my thoughts, so materialism hurts in that case.
    Telepathy would be far better.

    Thought transfer through intuition does actually work.
    If you’re married, your wife might agree with me.

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