Philosophy and Science

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Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 18th, 2016, 10:35 am 

I have been pondering this for a long while. I would love to hear some thoughts on it. What is the relationship between philosophy and science in these modern times? How do they connect? I can't put a finger on anything. Can someone help? Thank you.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby NoShips on December 18th, 2016, 10:41 am 

I suggest bigger fingers.

I mean, if you're a Quinean, we're all on the same page. And they don't really want us here. LOL.

How would you draw the distinction, Viv?
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Serpent on December 18th, 2016, 11:18 am 

vivian maxine » December 18th, 2016, 9:35 am wrote:I have been pondering this for a long while. I would love to hear some thoughts on it. What is the relationship between philosophy and science in these modern times? How do they connect? I can't put a finger on anything. Can someone help? Thank you.

Once, they were a single entity. Then Science split off, taking all the quantitative thinkers off in hot pursuit of ergs, germs, and quarks, thence to develop technology. The more introspective and fanciful of the bright boys became known as Philosophers and took on the long, slow, thankless task of perfecting mankind.

Where they diverged and should not have is in the field of ethics.
Lately, they have met - colluded and collided - in some unlikely arenas: cosmology, neuro-science, ethnology and memetics.
But the only business they really need to tackle as a team is the ethics of applied technology.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 18th, 2016, 11:41 am 

serpent wrote:Where they diverged and should not have is in the field of ethics.
Lately, they have met - colluded and collided - in some unlikely arenas: cosmology, neuro-science, ethnology and memetics.
But the only business they really need to tackle as a team is the ethics of applied technology.


All right. When they "collude/collide" {:-)}, I think you are referring to such as a new medical technique or the wisdom of sending men to Mars. (Just two ideas that pop into my head at the moment.) Right? Is, or as you say it should be, the connection generally based on the ethics of how a new discovery may be used?

Thank you, serpent. That does help.

NoShips, I am not even thinking "distinctions". Right now I only wonder how they relate. Maybe distincitons should enter into it but one thing at a time. OK?
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Serpent on December 18th, 2016, 12:00 pm 

vivian maxine » December 18th, 2016, 10:41 am wrote:
serpent wrote:Where they diverged and should not have is in the field of ethics.
Lately, they have met - colluded and collided - in some unlikely arenas: cosmology, neuro-science, ethnology and memetics.
But the only business they really need to tackle as a team is the ethics of applied technology.


All right. When they "collude/collide" {:-)}, I think you are referring to such as a new medical technique or the wisdom of sending men to Mars. (Just two ideas that pop into my head at the moment.) Right?

Yes, that sort of thing, and also the fact taht some scientists now fancy themselves philosophers, and some lay people - far too many, in fact, fancy themselves well enough versed in science to tackle its philosophical issues. They all write books and go on panel discussions and talk up a mud-storm.
Like the 19th century free-for-all, only bigger.

Is, or as you say it should be, the connection generally based on the ethics of how a new discovery may be used?

Certainly, there. I'd also like to see it better applied in the day-to-day conduct of energy production, weapons design, robot construction, resource extraction, etc.

I forgot to mention politics. Law-making and social organization could benefit substantially from philosophical clarity and scientific efficiency, working in tandem.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 18th, 2016, 12:49 pm 

All depending on how and by whom it is done. Yes? There is the question of "who is listening?" In other words, we share ideas and see what can be adopted. Does that make sense? Does to me.

Thanks much. I think you have answered my question and pinpointed the problems with the idea, also. Hard to do anything about the latter. Right?
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Scott Mayers on December 18th, 2016, 12:57 pm 

vivian maxine » December 18th, 2016, 9:35 am wrote:I have been pondering this for a long while. I would love to hear some thoughts on it. What is the relationship between philosophy and science in these modern times? How do they connect? I can't put a finger on anything. Can someone help? Thank you.


Science had separated more because of the relationship between the politics involved in the early part of the last century within the philosophy involved about 'certainty'. When it gets bogged down to the depths, trying to compete for attention of the positive aspects of science with respect to its advantages, people may tend to fear those ethical questions involved that hinder progress of technology that derives from it.

I think the practical reality of the social implications are harder to address if there is no CLEAR demarcation between the practical aspects of science and philosophy. Theory in science is STILL philosophy. Anything novel comes from the philosophical aspects. But the 'work' of science needed to be distinguished as "science" distinct from the 'free thinking' philosophical aspects to make it stringent and universal. So I think the actual classification is only about a political matter, not a reality. It does get problematic though because now it is hard for the thinkers to freely get accepted formally without being required to 'labor' through the clerical skills prior to being heard.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 18th, 2016, 1:30 pm 

Thank you, Scott. I'll have to think about that.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby doogles on December 18th, 2016, 5:38 pm 

Viv

The first time I walked through the doors of the Physics building for undergrad lectures in 1949, I was puzzled by the name above the door. It was 'Natural Philosophy'.

As Serpent said, they were once the same.

It seems strange to me now that I didn't ask anyone about it. I made my own assumption that an earlier group of scholars have decided to use experiments to see if they could reproduce natural occurrences eg lightning.

I just googled Natural Philosophy in Wikipedia on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_philosophy .

I was on track, but of course the Wikipedia researchers have discussed it much better than I could.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Forest_Dump on December 18th, 2016, 7:00 pm 

My own view is that philosophy literally means the love of knowledge but in reality what is held in common is the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge in a systematic, rigorous and critical manner although there are multimple such manners.

Science is the pursuit of certain, sometimes very specific, kinds of knowledge in a much more specified manner and is therefore a subset of philosophy.

Some (I would say extreme) purists might confine this to the pursuit of nomothetic knowledge (i.e., the discovery of laws of nature, etc.) through highly specific means (i.e., the use of "the scientific method") and often specilists such as these don't count other kinds of knowledge as being as reliable or even worthy of pursuit.

Other scientists question whether those formally defined "laws" exist and how much confidence we can place in things we cannot see and even some of the thngs we can see, etc. These kinds of questions, of course, often come from different branches of philosophy and, bottom line, often specialists in one branch of philosophy are variably well informed or in agreement with other branches of philosophy.

In short, a metaphor I find useful is that in many branches of philosophy, and often in particular within "science", like in many religions, there are often some (many?) who believe that their own branch (sect?) there is but one true type of knowledge (faith?) and but one true methodology (ritual?) to get there and all others are false or just trivial, etc.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Serpent on December 18th, 2016, 7:29 pm 

doogles » December 18th, 2016, 4:38 pm wrote:The first time I walked through the doors of the Physics building for undergrad lectures in 1949, I was puzzled by the name above the door. It was 'Natural Philosophy'.

As Serpent said, they were once the same.

Do they still have that designation on the building? Do they feel the same way, I wonder.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby doogles on December 19th, 2016, 2:31 am 

Unfortunately Serpent, I just spent my first year of University at Melbourne, because Sydney was the only place they had a School of Veterinary Science. We did Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology.

Out of curiosity, I googled and found this site - http://physics.unimelb.edu.au/about/History .

"The first lectures in physics at the University of Melbourne were taught in the 1860s originally within the Faculty of Medicine: it was then known as 'natural philosophy'. (I'm not sure if the term 'natural philosophy' used here applies to physics or medicine)
1860S - The first lectures in physics, taught originally within the Faculty of Medicine.
1882 - Department of Natural Philosophy established under Prof HM Andrew.
1889 - Natural Philosophy building completed at a cost of 5,943 pounds. Sir Thomas Lyle, Head of Department (1889-1914)
1903 - The Department becomes affiliated with the Faculty of Science
1915 - Professor Thomas Laby, Head of Department (1915-1944)
1945 - Becomes the School of Physics

It became a department in its own right in 1882 under Prof HM Andrew with the Natural Philosophy building completed soon after, in 1889, at a cost of 5,943 pounds. By 1903, the department had become affiliated with Faculty of Science and the name changed to the School of Physics in 1945, upon recommendation by the British Institute of Physics.

Dalton's atomic theory, Faraday's demonstration of electromagnetism and the multiplicity of advances in science and medicine were changing the intellectual and physical environment of society in the late 19th century. There was a strong focus on experiment and the development of equipment that could express observation quantitatively. Sir Thomas Lyle (Head: 1889-1914), set about lobbying government for funding of new facilities for the Department of Natural Philosophy, then located in what is currently known as 'Old Physics'. He made notable contributions to electrical theory and instrumentation and is most likely to have been the first man in Australia to take an X-ray photograph, having made his own X-ray tube."


It seems from this particular short history that some sciences evolved from philosophy, and in line with other evolved things, each new branch began to manifest it's own characteristics.

I couldn't find any references to whether the old building still exists or not. The name 'Natural Philosophy" was either chiselled in stone or embossed as concrete letters. My recall is vague on that aspect, but it wasn't a painted sign.

My subjective impression is that the evolving Sciences had more of practical value to offer society and therefore attracted more funding than pure philosophical pursuits. Hence their better survival and proliferation in evolving world cultures.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby wolfhnd on December 19th, 2016, 3:28 am 

Philosophy should be grounded in some sort of evidence and not just internally consistency. Science is more likely to help philosophy than the other way around. You have to know what is true before you can discuss it's implications.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby BadgerJelly on December 19th, 2016, 3:52 am 

wolfhnd » December 19th, 2016, 3:28 pm wrote:Philosophy should be grounded in some sort of evidence and not just internally consistency. Science is more likely to help philosophy than the other way around. You have to know what is true before you can discuss it's implications.


"Grounded" in what kind of "evidence"?

Elsewhere I think we established that science does not tell us what is "true". That is not to say there are not scientific truths, but to say that scientific truths are not universally taken as anything other than an internaly consistant truth.

Experience of The World through our own personal viewa is the point we all begin from. I am not saying we are disconnected, but rather that our commonalities that allow experience of others and allow communication shape our appreciation of our personal experience. Science is an attempt to bring our collective personal views together through communication in order to understand our personal place "entwined" with others.

So from here we find that rationally we are led to see The World, as our World of commonality containing others that we communicate with, as a "true" World, as known at a distance from our subjective experience and seen in the clothing of what we call "objective".

I would be more inclined to say that neither philosophy nor science can be grounded in the other. They are both brought forth from our subjective experience into a community and an empathic ability to associate ourselves as been, being and going to be. This is where I enter a phase of confusion because the "meaning" is framed in language and I end up jostling bakc and forth in various contradictions.

What may help in this discussion is to look at psychologism? Honestly I have been avoiding this subject for some time because I've yet to really get a good enough hold of what this means in relation to the develops of both science and philosophy parallel to each other.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby wolfhnd on December 19th, 2016, 5:27 am 

Let's use a real world example to explore evidence.

Feminist claim that gender is a social construct. This ignores the fact that behavioral differences can be found in almost every other dimorphic species. Evolutionary psychologists have also observed consistent differences across multiple cultures between the sexes. Anyone wanting to develop a feminist philosophy should start with at least some knowledge of cultural independent predispositions. The fact that feminists embraced the idea that homosexuality had a genetic component points to a lack of internal consistency in addition to a generally anti science blank slate world view.

How much of the difference in gender identity is genetic and how much is cultural is a valid question. The claim that it is 100 percent culture is an extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence.

Psychology and sociology are soft sciences for which the standard for evidence is lower than other fields. They are simply one step removed from every day experience. I don't believe however that a modern philosopher should try to formulate a philosophy without a clear understanding of current research in psychology, sociology, neurology, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, anthropology, ethology, and game theory. If that takes the fun out philosophy maybe you should tackle something else.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby BadgerJelly on December 19th, 2016, 5:34 am 

Ouch! You are a moody beast aren't you. XD
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 19th, 2016, 9:09 am 

Forest, you have told me more than I thought I'd ever know. Now, as a whole, do they (the professionals) work together on these ideas? Is there a cooperative exchange of ideas? Oh, we always have our noisy dissenters who sometimes just want to be heard - and sometimes really have good ideas but express them poorly - but I'm trying to see how the two branches relate to each other with their ideas and opinions. Is there a spirit of working together, considering each others' thoughts/opinions.

I'm not sure that makes sense but maybe you'll understand where I'm coming from. By the way, your last paragraph is an eye-opener. I may get hung up there for the rest of the day. Thanks again.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Serpent on December 19th, 2016, 11:39 am 

doogles -- Sir Thomas Lyle (Head: 1889-1914), set about lobbying government for funding of new facilities for the Department of Natural Philosophy, then located in what is currently known as 'Old Physics'. He made notable contributions to electrical theory and instrumentation and is most likely to have been the first man in Australia to take an X-ray photograph, having made his own X-ray tube."

I thought the name sounded familiar!

It seems from this particular short history that some sciences evolved from philosophy, and in line with other evolved things, each new branch began to manifest it's own characteristics.

Indeed, they must. Plato and Aristotle just made poetic shit up and everybody said, ooh, ahh. That won't do, when you need to look inside a tuberculous chest or fly across an ocean. And since those names still carry weight even today, it's important to keep the jurisdictions clearly demarcated. From a strictly practical pov, too, the sheer quantity of information makes it necessary to subdivide into accessible, recognizable categories.
And yet, when we decide what to do about TB, we need a philosophical basis to begin and then to enlist the co-operative effort of three or four hard sciences and a couple of soft ones. Natural Philosophy comes together again in many human endeavours.

I couldn't find any references to whether the old building still exists or not. The name 'Natural Philosophy" was either chiselled in stone or embossed as concrete letters. My recall is vague on that aspect, but it wasn't a painted sign.

In 1860 (and for that princely sum) it would have been carved in a granite or marble.
I would dearly love to visit that building. Hollowed stone staircases, arched windows, chipped plaster cornices.... Imagine the layers and layers of smells in the wainscotting!
My subjective impression is that the evolving Sciences had more of practical value to offer society and therefore attracted more funding than pure philosophical pursuits. Hence their better survival and proliferation in evolving world cultures.

There was always more money in in weapons development than speculation about the origin of life. Ask Galileo! We think of him in relation to the solar-system (to which he made no contribution) rather than the telescope (to which he contributed substantially) and hydrostatics, and we forget that he did very well out of projectile theory for the military.
The practical always takes precedence in human affairs. The speculative has always been marginal.
The reason those early names in philosophy stick out is precisely because there were so few of them... and because they scribbled, scribbled, scribbled.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Braininvat on December 19th, 2016, 12:46 pm 

Thomas Dolby would have really have some poetic meter problems writing "She Blinded Me With Science," if he'd had to say she blinded him with natural philosophy.

My take on this, which I've probably said before, is that philosophy provides the meta-level for considering how science is done. Much of it could be called meta-science and that would capture the flavor of what's going on.

To borrow from Wolfhound's remarks on what makes a valid question, I'd say that science provides procedures for answering the question, while philosophy seeks to determine if the question is indeed valid and coherent and epistemologically pursuable. Philosophy and its handy meta perspective is why we sense that the answers we get in chemistry are more reliable than the answers we get in sociology and political science.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby vivian maxine on December 19th, 2016, 5:28 pm 

I like your reply, Biv, but it does sound to me (in part) as if you are saying philosophers decide whether what scientists want to do should be done. I seem to remember a religious group that believed in that philosophy.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby wolfhnd on December 19th, 2016, 6:24 pm 

Braininvat » Mon Dec 19, 2016 4:46 pm wrote:Thomas Dolby would have really have some poetic meter problems writing "She Blinded Me With Science," if he'd had to say she blinded him with natural philosophy.

My take on this, which I've probably said before, is that philosophy provides the meta-level for considering how science is done. Much of it could be called meta-science and that would capture the flavor of what's going on.

To borrow from Wolfhound's remarks on what makes a valid question, I'd say that science provides procedures for answering the question, while philosophy seeks to determine if the question is indeed valid and coherent and epistemologically pursuable. Philosophy and its handy meta perspective is why we sense that the answers we get in chemistry are more reliable than the answers we get in sociology and political science.


Nicely written.

It's a bit more generous to philosophy than I'm willing to concede but when I see Sam Harris's horrible take on freewill and Dennett's reply I can accept that a purely "scientific" perspective can be dangerous.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Forest_Dump on December 19th, 2016, 6:32 pm 

vivian maxine wrote:I like your reply, Biv, but it does sound to me (in part) as if you are saying philosophers decide whether what scientists want to do should be done.


Well somebody needs to but I don't think it is really philosophers sensu stricto who do make those decisions. They merely ponder why these decisions are made and those decisions are generally made by politicians (well, not so much any more), corporations or members of the public who donate funds for some kinds of research but not others. So, for example, research in human evolution gets a lot more funding than research in baboon evolution (even though baboon fossils are actually a lot more common in many places but it is often tough to justify picking them up even if it is a spectacular find). And dinosaurs get more research funding than trilobites, etc. Why this is so might be best explained as simply a result of the philosophical likes, etc., of people. But getting back to an earlier question

vivian maxine wrote:Now, as a whole, do they (the professionals) work together on these ideas? Is there a cooperative exchange of ideas?


Yes, sometimes, definitely. In my profession (archaeology) there was a definite spike in interest in philosophy beginning in the 1960s when there was a sharp rise in interest in making archaeology more "scientific". As it turned out, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the kind of philosophy of science model chosen was positivism drawn mostly from physics and chemistry and with a lot of emphasis placed on being nomothetic (generating laws of human behaviour, etc.) and the hypothetico-deductive approach (rigid following of the scientific method and the exclusive use of deductive reasoning, etc.). Over the years since this was found to be a mistake for many reasons: there do not appear to be any laws of human behaviour beyond what one person called Mickey Mouse laws; deductions are rare to non-existant (I argue non-existant) and we actually rely more on inductive reasoning, etc., so we needed to pay more attention to that (i.e., what we call inferences and analogies).

I think one bottom line is that there really isn't any single model of what science is or should be but rather different models for different disciplines. Disciplines such as physics and chemistry that developed explosively in the 19th century (and had a huge impact on economics and even politics such as witnessed in Germany arounf the turn of the 19th to 20th century), for example, had a lot of huge impact on the philosophy of science that developed then. A lot of the influence of this kind of model was due to the fact that simplification made things easier for industrial applications particularly in chemistry.

While a lot of simplification, particularly through the use of math, has certainly been of benefit economically, we have also found out that this over simplification has had many, many disadvantages when applied to real world problems. Hypothetico-deductive models from literally the drawing boards of physicists and chemists usually work fairly good when dealing with the actions of atoms or molecules but out in the wider world, particularly when "life" is involved, don't do well at all. Thats why you never see that old stereotype of some old guys having any kind of eureka moments around a chalk board covered with mathematical formulas when the discipline is biology or one of the human social sciences. Its almost like people have minds of their own and don't like to do what should be predictable. But then, often neither do GMO plants (pesky things keep cross-pollinating with non-GMO crops and even weeds, etc.) or even bacteria and viruses.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Forest_Dump on December 19th, 2016, 6:42 pm 

wolfhnd wrote:It's a bit more generous to philosophy than I'm willing to concede but when I see Sam Harris's horrible take on freewill and Dennett's reply I can accept that a purely "scientific" perspective can be dangerous.


I don't thin purely scientific perspectives are necessarily dangerous. The problem is I don't think very many (or any?) people are purely scientific. A drug like thalidomide is perfectly good (I have heard even still absolutely great) for preventing nausea and could still be of great value for chemotherapy patients. Whoda thunk what would have happened if perscribed for morning sickness? Germany was at the top of the world in science with their revolution(s) in chemistry at the end of the 19th century. Who figured some of those developments would be used they way they were in Poland in the 1940s. And that from the same people who figured out the link between smoking and cancer and basically made the big break throughs in nuclear physics. In fact, many of the big advances in chemistry, physics, the biology of viruses, etc., could be a big boon to solving our energy needs, curing diseases, growing more food, etc. So why are people so concerned if places like Iran, Iraq or North Korea delve into these areas?
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby wolfhnd on December 19th, 2016, 10:31 pm 

Forest_Dump » Mon Dec 19, 2016 10:42 pm wrote:
wolfhnd wrote:It's a bit more generous to philosophy than I'm willing to concede but when I see Sam Harris's horrible take on freewill and Dennett's reply I can accept that a purely "scientific" perspective can be dangerous.


I don't thin purely scientific perspectives are necessarily dangerous. The problem is I don't think very many (or any?) people are purely scientific. A drug like thalidomide is perfectly good (I have heard even still absolutely great) for preventing nausea and could still be of great value for chemotherapy patients. Whoda thunk what would have happened if perscribed for morning sickness? Germany was at the top of the world in science with their revolution(s) in chemistry at the end of the 19th century. Who figured some of those developments would be used they way they were in Poland in the 1940s. And that from the same people who figured out the link between smoking and cancer and basically made the big break throughs in nuclear physics. In fact, many of the big advances in chemistry, physics, the biology of viruses, etc., could be a big boon to solving our energy needs, curing diseases, growing more food, etc. So why are people so concerned if places like Iran, Iraq or North Korea delve into these areas?


As you know I have a very broad definition of science. Any discipline that uses empirical data can fall under the heading of science. I even think that disciplines like sociology, and anthropology should be moved out of the humanities. Science however has always been a inductive process. The production of general "truths" from disparate evidence. The idea that science is deductive, specific "truths" from evidence, is alien to me.

I have never been able to figure out what you think that science has done to retard the growth of you discipline. While science may take a dim view of correlation as opposed to causation correlation is just the first step. In fields that deal with complex chaotic systems correlation is going to be the best we can do until some genius comes along and shows us how to build models that are self generating and computers are even more advance than they currently are.

What I have against philosophers is that they alone seem fine with ignoring empirical data. If they are philosophers of math and logic perhaps that is ok but science is not abstract. I would go further and say that people are not abstract in any meaningful sense. People are biological agents and even if those agents produce something "unnatural" such as artificial intelligence it will still be a manifestation of physical properties.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby BadgerJelly on December 19th, 2016, 10:42 pm 

Wolf -

Surely science without mathemtics and logic is no science at all? You seem to be saying science is a human activity, about pure subjectivity, yet science only cares to move past the merely subjective view (appearance) and into the abstract. There is a condraction here, or rather a very subtle and hidden puzzle.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Athena on December 19th, 2016, 10:55 pm 

Serpent » December 18th, 2016, 9:18 am wrote:
vivian maxine » December 18th, 2016, 9:35 am wrote:I have been pondering this for a long while. I would love to hear some thoughts on it. What is the relationship between philosophy and science in these modern times? How do they connect? I can't put a finger on anything. Can someone help? Thank you.

Once, they were a single entity. Then Science split off, taking all the quantitative thinkers off in hot pursuit of ergs, germs, and quarks, thence to develop technology. The more introspective and fanciful of the bright boys became known as Philosophers and took on the long, slow, thankless task of perfecting mankind.

Where they diverged and should not have is in the field of ethics.
Lately, they have met - colluded and collided - in some unlikely arenas: cosmology, neuro-science, ethnology and memetics.
But the only business they really need to tackle as a team is the ethics of applied technology.


I think we should debate human values and organization for meeting human needs. I think we are in trouble because of excessive focusing on technology and not enough focus on the human experience.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Athena on December 19th, 2016, 10:59 pm 

Forest_Dump » December 19th, 2016, 4:42 pm wrote:
wolfhnd wrote:It's a bit more generous to philosophy than I'm willing to concede but when I see Sam Harris's horrible take on freewill and Dennett's reply I can accept that a purely "scientific" perspective can be dangerous.


I don't thin purely scientific perspectives are necessarily dangerous. The problem is I don't think very many (or any?) people are purely scientific. A drug like thalidomide is perfectly good (I have heard even still absolutely great) for preventing nausea and could still be of great value for chemotherapy patients. Whoda thunk what would have happened if perscribed for morning sickness? Germany was at the top of the world in science with their revolution(s) in chemistry at the end of the 19th century. Who figured some of those developments would be used they way they were in Poland in the 1940s. And that from the same people who figured out the link between smoking and cancer and basically made the big break throughs in nuclear physics. In fact, many of the big advances in chemistry, physics, the biology of viruses, etc., could be a big boon to solving our energy needs, curing diseases, growing more food, etc. So why are people so concerned if places like Iran, Iraq or North Korea delve into these areas?


Culture is very important to the direction science takes and how it is applied. I think we underestimate the importance of culture and are not giving it enough thought.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Athena on December 19th, 2016, 11:17 pm 

wolfhnd said: What I have against philosophers is that they alone seem fine with ignoring empirical data. If they are philosophers of math and logic perhaps that is ok but science is not abstract.


By the time a question gets through the empirical social research process, the answer resembles reality as well as a plastic wrapped steak resembles the animal it came from. Over reliance on this information is giving us some very poor public policy decisions. It is like the fiasco of this year's polling surveys.

I base this opinion on my college education in the public policy and administration program at the University of Oregon.
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby Forest_Dump on December 19th, 2016, 11:34 pm 

wolfhnd wrote:As you know I have a very broad definition of science. Any discipline that uses empirical data can fall under the heading of science. I even think that disciplines like sociology, and anthropology should be moved out of the humanities. Science however has always been a inductive process.


To begin with, on science and induction vs. deduction, you might want to take a look at Hempel's work and various readings in "Logical Positivism" (that is actually the title of a book of readings I have somewhere that came out in the 1960s (?). I agree of course but in the archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s, when huge efforts were made to make archaeology more scientific, many papers in top line journals were criticised for being too inductive.

For myself, I definitely use a lot more math, especially stats, in quantification, exploratory data analysis, etc., than you might suspect. I am actually also very big on rigourous sampling technigues, gathering data on environment, geology, etc., etc., but it is all only a step along the way. For example, I am pretty big on what is known as cognitive archaeology which is getting at past patterns of thought but I know it is extremely dangerous (as noted by a philosopher of science who paid attention to archaeology named James Bell) and can lead to the temptation to indulge in "empathetic projections" or believing you can discover specific past thoughts (what another archaeologist called a bungee jump into fantasy land). So, IMHO, too rigid adherence to a scientific approach often leads to some pretty boring stuff (e.g., I can't tell you how many presentations I have had to sit through by people trying to study prehistoric stone tool production by dropping ball bearings on glass or musing on the best description and measure of "sharpness" to compare, for example, flint, glass, obsidian and copper - so much time I won't be getting back - and never really told me anything about stone tools or the past). On the other hand, I think there is value in starting down that slippery slope of relativism into phenomenology, etc., to start to get into the patterns of thought that might have been in the minds of prehistoric peoples without getting into the hyper-relativism and ultimately nihilism (sadly very popular today in the post modernism of the Colonialism critique, etc.) or the romantic schmaltz of a Jean Auel novel. It is a slippery slope with the tricky part being finding your footing in between.

So, I do agree with some of your definition but have some issues. The use of empirical data is not enough - it also depends on what kinds of questions you ask, how you choose empirical data and link it to your questions (i.e., find the causal connection in logic). So I try to draw a distinction between between, for example, science and other crafts such as engineering or technology that use science but are not science in and of themselves.

One example I sometimes still use is the link between smoking and cancer. Originally, the link was noted statistically by the Germans back in the 1930s. Would just discovering this correlation count as science? Is that any more scientific than noting that the rise in GNP in North American is positively correlated with the widening of the Atlantic by continental drift? Throughout the remainder of the 20th century, the correlations simply piled up with countless studies demonstrating a correlation between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. Was that really science? Or would the science have been trying to find out exactly what it is in tobacco that causes cancer (which, actually was a question that Bio answered for me several years ago on another thread - although I simply took and take his word on faith). As you might guess, despite all the empirical data generated by dudes with Ph.D.'s and white coats in fancy labs, I am not sure how much of that piling up of correlations was really science although I would certainly say it was politically and economically expedient and drumming up funds through all those emotional appeals by those multi-billion dollar Cancer Society donations did allow some science on the side, ultimately leading to the real scientific discovery of the causal connection and hopefully, therefore, maybe even finally getting to know whatcancer really is and thus how to cure it. (Yes, I am sure Bio and probably some others will jump on some of this.)
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Re: Philosophy and Science

Postby wolfhnd on December 20th, 2016, 12:32 am 

Forest_Dump » Tue Dec 20, 2016 3:34 am wrote:
wolfhnd wrote:As you know I have a very broad definition of science. Any discipline that uses empirical data can fall under the heading of science. I even think that disciplines like sociology, and anthropology should be moved out of the humanities. Science however has always been a inductive process.


To begin with, on science and induction vs. deduction, you might want to take a look at Hempel's work and various readings in "Logical Positivism" (that is actually the title of a book of readings I have somewhere that came out in the 1960s (?). I agree of course but in the archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s, when huge efforts were made to make archaeology more scientific, many papers in top line journals were criticised for being too inductive.

For myself, I definitely use a lot more math, especially stats, in quantification, exploratory data analysis, etc., than you might suspect. I am actually also very big on rigourous sampling technigues, gathering data on environment, geology, etc., etc., but it is all only a step along the way. For example, I am pretty big on what is known as cognitive archaeology which is getting at past patterns of thought but I know it is extremely dangerous (as noted by a philosopher of science who paid attention to archaeology named James Bell) and can lead to the temptation to indulge in "empathetic projections" or believing you can discover specific past thoughts (what another archaeologist called a bungee jump into fantasy land). So, IMHO, too rigid adherence to a scientific approach often leads to some pretty boring stuff (e.g., I can't tell you how many presentations I have had to sit through by people trying to study prehistoric stone tool production by dropping ball bearings on glass or musing on the best description and measure of "sharpness" to compare, for example, flint, glass, obsidian and copper - so much time I won't be getting back - and never really told me anything about stone tools or the past). On the other hand, I think there is value in starting down that slippery slope of relativism into phenomenology, etc., to start to get into the patterns of thought that might have been in the minds of prehistoric peoples without getting into the hyper-relativism and ultimately nihilism (sadly very popular today in the post modernism of the Colonialism critique, etc.) or the romantic schmaltz of a Jean Auel novel. It is a slippery slope with the tricky part being finding your footing in between.

So, I do agree with some of your definition but have some issues. The use of empirical data is not enough - it also depends on what kinds of questions you ask, how you choose empirical data and link it to your questions (i.e., find the causal connection in logic). So I try to draw a distinction between between, for example, science and other crafts such as engineering or technology that use science but are not science in and of themselves.

One example I sometimes still use is the link between smoking and cancer. Originally, the link was noted statistically by the Germans back in the 1930s. Would just discovering this correlation count as science? Is that any more scientific than noting that the rise in GNP in North American is positively correlated with the widening of the Atlantic by continental drift? Throughout the remainder of the 20th century, the correlations simply piled up with countless studies demonstrating a correlation between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. Was that really science? Or would the science have been trying to find out exactly what it is in tobacco that causes cancer (which, actually was a question that Bio answered for me several years ago on another thread - although I simply took and take his word on faith). As you might guess, despite all the empirical data generated by dudes with Ph.D.'s and white coats in fancy labs, I am not sure how much of that piling up of correlations was really science although I would certainly say it was politically and economically expedient and drumming up funds through all those emotional appeals by those multi-billion dollar Cancer Society donations did allow some science on the side, ultimately leading to the real scientific discovery of the causal connection and hopefully, therefore, maybe even finally getting to know whatcancer really is and thus how to cure it. (Yes, I am sure Bio and probably some others will jump on some of this.)


Excellent reply! I'm not as well read as you so I may be stumbling around over ground that has been well traversed but I hold to one simple conclusion and that is that the physical world and the mental world are inseperable. When you talk of "empathetic projections" I think instinctual knowledge that is transmitted genetically to most every human. Empathy is a natural ability we all share and like all emotions may be modified by the environment or if you like refined but that does not mean it is non physical or useless.

The best example I can offer is language which could not exist without instinct (emotion). It's development is influenced by the environment but the mechanisms that we are born with make it's acquisition possible. All learning begins with emotion and it should be in the tool kit of every researcher. What is important to remember is that emotions are a physical thing. They respond to physical stimulus and while they can be overruled by higher cognitive functions they cannot be eliminated. The assumption that emotions are illogical is illogical. Because they reside in a distributed brain emotions are inaccessible to direct inquiry making their logic hidden. It is simply arrogance that makes intellectuals claim to have transcended their emotions. Millions of years of evolution I would argue is considerably more sophisticated than any philosophy. My view therefor is that emotions are logical responses to empirical information and fall under my definition of science. Bad philosophy is what you get when you believe that the mind transcends objective reality. Science is messy and inexact but so is the real world just as emotions are approximations of the correct response to stimulus so science is an approximate model of experienced reality.

The debate about correlation and causation can be illustrated by comparing Newtonian Physics with modern physics. Newton came up with a model that correlated well with observations. Modern physics has done a little bit better at finding the causation but it still depends on correlations with unavoidably limited empirical data. Just as the brains evolution was driven by cultural evolution science is built up on simple observations that produce a multiplier effect in a feed back loop where information creates the instruments to make the observations ever more accurate or looked at another way by extending the senses. Just as bad sensory information can retard emotional development so is science retarded by a lack of instrumentation to make observations.

I have rambled enough thanks for your patience.
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