the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

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the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby hyksos on January 1st, 2021, 6:14 pm 

Evidence
In this article , 'Evidence' will be acting as a placeholder for measurement, observation, and data. The meanings of those words should be taken as they would be used in a formal publication in a science journal, or as they would be appear in a statistics textbook.

Modern Physics
Modern physics began in history with the breakout papers of Albert Einstein in 1905, sometimes called the Miracle Year papers. While Einstein himself was only concerned with some edge cases about electromagnetism, his approach to physics later formed the foundations of an entire theoretical edifice : today we call it the theory of Special Relativity. Some arguments can be made (which are only interesting to historians) that "modern physics" properly began with Max Planck. His reasoning regarding the EM spectrum and the transmission of energy in "corpuscles" presaged the kind of reasoning seen all over modern physics.

Image
Fig.1 Other theoretical edifices were developed through the 20th century. Those edifices constitute today the four pillars of modern physics.

In any case, the development of modern physics often proceeded by reasoning about the consequences of equations. The reasoning continued often in the complete absence of understanding what those equations were allegedly depicting. In the case of de Broglie wavelength, questions about what this "wave" was referring to are deferred and left continually un-addressed by the author. What is more relevant for this article is that the question as to what this "wave" is supposed to be, is deferred indefinitely -- even far beyond the time in which the theory makes measurable predictions.


Image
Fig.2 Louis de Broglie asserts that not just photons, but all particles in the universe have a wavelength. The wavelength scales with the particle's momentum. Nobody in the physics department could make heads-or-tails of the claim.

By the time you get to General Relativity, the developers were producing mathematics that they themselves could not read. When Einstein first derived his field equations, he had no idea what the final equation was supposed to be saying. Several other mathematicians trained in tensor mathematics had to look over them. The mathematicians noticed a term in the equations as a Riemann metric tensor. They recognized such terms because they were used in a strange branch of math depicting non-Euclidean geometries. ALbert Einstein is excused for not knowing this kind of mathematics. Hardly anyone did at that time. (This anecdotal story is the basis to Arthur Eddington's claim that, "Only six people in Europe understand General Relativity." )


The Leather Armchair
Amateur philosophers on the internet often suppose that something in philosophy provides to them a validation for denying particular facts of measured evidence. This is usually due to some sophomoric interpretation of Cartesian Solipsism.

Religious evangelicals point to the inerrancy of their scripture as basis for denying what is plainly measured by the instruments of science.

A wise man once noted that philosophy appears to be a method of seeking Truth about reality through reason alone. This person then concluded this is a flaw of philosophy. Philosophy, in its one-track approach, has a danger of leaving out the consideration of evidence. We could ask whether this is a minor blemish in philosophy as a discipline, or whether this detachment from evidence is a deeper, more serious flaw sitting at the very heart of philosophy itself.

We can begin to make rapid in-roads to answering this question by means of a gedankenexperiment.

Namely, we will consider what would have happened to the four pillars of Modern Physics, if evidence supporting them were never considered. Instead, imagine what would have happened in the 20th century when considering only the metaphysical validity of GR, SR, QFT, and QM. Say we planted ourselves firmly in our leather armchairs, and discussed among ourselves whether these theories are logical, well-vetted, and afford to our intuitions (as Emmanuel Kant would demand.) GR, SR, QFT and QM would only be considered valid theories, if they were logical, metaphysically well-vetted, intuitive, and derivable in-whole from our current understanding of nature.

The problem is immediately obvious. Modern physics is not only slightly flavored towards incredulity. The theories are utterly unbelievable. A philosopher could not only deny the theories on psychological grounds. He could verily stand at a podium with a powerpoint presentation systematically listing how metaphysically flawed the theories are. If the philosopher were to invoke some EPR paradoxes, he may even get away with the claim that quantum mechanics is illogical. On the basis of that organized presentation, the philosopher could reject all four of the pillars of modern physics, and the rejections would be perfectly justified.

For demonstration, I will tentatively list what some of these powerpoint presentation might have looked like :

On the rejection of Quantum Mechanics
  • Monsieur de Broglie has not described the nature nor the attributes of this "matter wave" he is continually referring to. Until more detail is provided on the wave's ontology, the theory is not metaphysically vetted. QM is therefore incomplete in the best case, and likely wrong in the worst case.
  • Dr. Max Born has not provided to us a mechanism by which wave function collapse occurs. Without a mechanism, the theory is non-physical and therefore false. Science concerns itself with physical things.
  • The Schroedinger equation suggests that massive particles could "tunnel" through barriers and appear at the opposite side on rare occasions. We know that all matter must progress through space continuously. Matter does not "jump" through space. QM is false.


On the rejection of Special Relativity
  • We know that all waves in this universe are propagating in a medium. Mr. Einstein has presented a theory of wave propagation with no medium. That's unphysical and therefore wrong.
  • Energy and solid matter are different phenomenon. One is not freely "convertible" to another. SR is wrong.
  • Mr. Einstein refers to an observer progressing through the passage of time at a different rate. But our current understanding shows that all objects progress according to a single universal clock. This theory contradicts our current understanding of time, and therefore must be wrong.

On the rejection of General Relativity
  • We cannot attribute particular states to space, as space is not an extended object. Nothingness has no predication, and space is nothingness. So we cannot predicate space with being curved or 'having curvature'. GR is wrong.
  • There is no a priori reason why distances in space will co-vary with intervals in time. Time intervals and space distances are separable as our current understanding shows. GR cannot be derived from our current theories in a logical way, and is false on that account.

On the rejection of QFT
  • This theory suggests that space is occupied by small fluctuations. But Empty space between objects is nothingness, a void. QFT is wrong.
  • No one has observed so-called "anti-particles". But QFT predicts their existence. QFT is therefore a wrong theory of nature.
  • QFT does not provide a mechanism for particle decay events. Without describing a mechanism, the theory lacks metaphysical vettedness, and should be ignored.
  • The Path Integral takes into account future states of trajectory. But the future does not exist yet. Therefore, the path integral could never be useful in predicting a particle's behavior in the present time.


Go, and test It
We can imagine a situation in which two philosophers debate , dispute, and discuss the logical, metaphysical, and epistemic plusses and minuses of modern physics, using several of the observations listed above. They perform their reasoning in a teacher's lounge, hermetically sealing themselves off from the considerations of measurement and evidence. After having conclusively agreed that modern physics is silly and obviously wrong, a third person enters the room. This newcomer asserts the claim that the universe does not accord with their intuitions, and in many cases acts contradictory to their metaphysics.

How do we go about demonstrating the newcomer's claim?

How do we -- as people, as a society, as a civilization -- go about verifying the third man's claim without measuring the world?

The third man could show how de Broglie's theory can eventually produce a prediction that hydrogen atoms only emit a certain narrow color of light. (what is known as the hydrogen fine spectra ). This particular color of light corresponds to an electron energy state where its de Broglie wave fits exactly around a hydrogen nucleus (This special wave configuration is discrete. It is the stationary state of the wave, also known as the "eigenstate" of the electron). He could extract the philosophers from their leather armchairs and take them across the hall to a lab. There he could show them hydrogen emitting that exact frequency of light, just as predicted. The philosophical puzzles about the "Wave" remain unresolved and unaddressed, while deeming the theory wrong is suddenly irrational.

QFT can be rejected for a laundry list of reasons, one of which is that it does not even depict anything like a physical narrative taking place in a 'world'. QFT is so alien to human intuition about the physical universe, that the very act of taking its equations seriously as a description of the universe leads to frightening conclusions. It is coy to describe QFT as being in discord with human intuition.

Nevertheless, QFT is the basis of the Standard Model of Particle Physics. THe standard model was so successful at predicting the forms that matter takes, that the nobel prizes could not be handed out quickly enough. The theory would predict a particle never seen , and years later a lab would produce that particle, often in the mass range predicted by the theory. QFT can barely be described as a 'science' (in the sense of bookkeeping) but the theory was so successful that it appears in history as a kind of naturalistic wizardry.

QFT can be used to create a prediction of the magnetic moment of the electron, starting from first principles, and working only on a chalkboard. The chalkboard number we might refer to as the theoretical prediction . The measurement of the electron's magnetic moment might be called the experimental value. The theoretical prediction matches the experimental value to 11 decimal places. That was the most accurate prediction by any science ever created by human civilization in all history.

Philosophers would never know this, since their discipline lacks experimental values.

While the above are anecdotes, the concluding message here is that modern physics has been wildly successful at predicting the behavior of matter and energy. Modern physics may even be said to be wildly successful at predicting the entire cosmos (a topic for a different article). But the attributes and ontological commitments that fit with these theories, in their plain theoretical form, are unpalatable to human philosophy. In the absence of evidence, philosophers could easily dispatch with these theories, justifiably claiming them as absurd.

This should raise serious questions regarding the utility about the sub-disciplines in philosophy called (1) metaphysics and (2) ontology . By the end of the 20th century, the idea that the world will conform itself to human intuition was no longer valid. Kant's epistemic rule-of-thumb that ideas are true in the degree they are in harmony with intuition was ultimately destroyed. Worse , in many cases, the ontology within the output of Kant, Heidegger, and Sartre extrapolate from the idea that the universe is a Laplacian machine, as was assumed in the Enlightenment. There is a danger that in talking about "Being" the reference is made to a type of intuitive ontology based around traditional substances. No one can worry about any mystery of Being, if the quandary itself is premised on notions of matter that are not factual in the actual universe we inhabit. Particles will tunnel through barriers by "teleporting" through them. The kinetic energy in a high-energy particle collision will convert into the mass of the constituent decay particles. One should not propose an important puzzle requiring philosophical inquiry, unless and until one first has all the evidence regarding it.

How will philosophers come to be aware of this evidence?
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby BadgerJelly on January 2nd, 2021, 7:17 am 

Scientism isn’t the be all and end all of everything. The premise you set out frames empirical evidence as all that matters. It’s just replacing one simplistically reduced form of an ideology with that of another.

Either view - in it’s extreme - is beside the point of what the position (as an exploratory function) has to actually offer for those who are open to using doubt to their advantage.

Note: Nicely written though and hopefully will lead to some interesting discussion.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby BadgerJelly on January 2nd, 2021, 9:49 am 

Here’s something to relate to this subject:

“3. Examples of Psychologistic Reasoning
Although the exact definition of ‘psychologism’ was itself part and parcel of the Psychologismus-Streit, most German-speaking philosophers, from the 1880s onwards, agreed that the following arguments deserved the label ‘psychologistic’ (I shall write PA for ‘psychologistic argument’):

(PA 1)
1. Psychology is defined as the science which studies all (kinds of) laws of thought.
2. Logic is a field of inquiry which studies a subset of all laws of thought.
Ergo, logic is a part of psychology.
(PA 2)
1. Normative-prescriptive disciplines — disciplines that tell us what we ought to do — must be based upon descriptive-explanatory sciences.
2. Logic is a normative-prescriptive discipline concerning human thinking.
3. There is only one science which qualifies as constituting the descriptive-explanatory foundation for logic: empirical psychology.
Ergo, logic must be based upon psychology.
(PA 3)
1. Logic is the theory of judgments, concepts, and inferences.
2. Judgments, concepts, and inferences are human mental entities.
3. All human mental entities fall within the domain of psychology.
Ergo, logic is a part of psychology.
(PA 4)
1. The touchstone of logical truth is the feeling of self-evidence.
2. The feeling of self-evidence is a human mental experience.
Ergo, logic is about a human mental experience — and thus a part of psychology.
(PA 5)
1. We cannot conceive of alternative logics.
2. The limits of conceivability are mental limits.
Ergo, logic is relative to the thinking of the human species; and this thinking is studied by psychology.”

Source: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/psyc ... #ExaPsyRea
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby BadgerJelly on January 2nd, 2021, 9:55 am 

Hykos -

How will philosophers come to be aware of this evidence?


First you’d have to find such a ‘philosopher’. The outline you’ve given is kind of a stiff stereotype that used to exist hundreds of years ago. Just like science has changed throughout the ages so have philosophical ideas.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Forest_Dump on January 2nd, 2021, 1:34 pm 

To me the interesting questions related to how and why many like to continue themselves to such restricted "rabbit holes". As a former very academic and theoretically oriented archaeologist I am very familiar with this kind of tribalism and have, and at times still do, engage in these kinds of world building. So, bottom line perhaps, whether extreme left or retrumplican, theoretical physicist or evangelical christian, there are certainly commonalities in defining dogmas that include restrictive definitions as to what counts as evidence and/or proof relating to specified questions which are generally presumed or actively asserted to be the only kinds of questions that merit attention. Truth be told, a lot of this appears to come right out of Kuhn's classic book in being unabashedly paradigmatic.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby hyksos on January 2nd, 2021, 3:17 pm 

Out of all the material I presented in my lead article -- the one narrow thing that was jumped on immediately was the claim that philosophy validates one's attempts at denying a single measured fact.

The crux of the article --- philosophers must eventually get out of their leather armchairs and measure something --- that central catalyzing plotline was seemingly ignored by the respondents.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Forest_Dump on January 2nd, 2021, 5:24 pm 

You might be missing the points that it is indeed tough to measure happiness, the actions of a soul, the meaning of morality or ethics etc while not everyone cares if you can measure an atom or quark. I would bet that more people want to be multimillionaires or want platitudes about their eternal life after death prospects than want a better grasp of string theory etc. Beyond making better weapons, cell phone communications or movie plots, the details of theoretical physics, archaeology or evolutionary theory appeals to very very few people. To me the potentially more interesting questions relate to why this topic appeals to you and why you might believe everyone else should share your perspective and values. I have nothing against you and your interests (and at times wish I could have learned and understood physics etc better) but I do see commonalities between the way you state your paradigmatic perspectives and values and those of other views that you might even very much disagree with. I even recognize that in myself some times. So, to me, at times it seems you are arguing for empirical certainty etc in topics that to many others are either highly trivial or every bit as mystical as the most arcane alchemy.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Forest_Dump on January 2nd, 2021, 6:00 pm 

Allow me to put it another way. I would bet you have as much interest in human evolution as I have in theoretical physics and the topic of the philosophy of science certainly comes up as much. I had the tremendous opportunity decades ago to take and plot measurements of many australopithecine and early Homo teeth (indisputably empirical data) and try to address a then red-hot debate on whether the patterns seen reflected sexual dimorphism or different species. Some of the bottom line results relate to whether even the most indisputably sound data, measurements and statistical analysis really tell you much (I honestly can't tell you where that analysis led me although I tend to be a taxonomic lumper today), where and how such arcane and trivial studies led to a development of a bigger picture and how to relate a lot of that to a larger audience. I still get a lot of enjoyment of taking measurements of thousands of seemingly insignificant artifacts, finding some statistically significant pattern and then trying to interpret it in some way that has meaning to anyone aside from me. Every few years I hear from some grad student who found some insight in one of the papers I published but I constantly wonder why. The real question is how do we communicate beyond the choir.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Forest_Dump on January 2nd, 2021, 6:11 pm 

Or, how about, there is much much more in heaven and earth than are encompassed by your philosophy.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby BadgerJelly on January 2nd, 2021, 9:58 pm 

hyksos » January 3rd, 2021, 3:17 am wrote:Out of all the material I presented in my lead article -- the one narrow thing that was jumped on immediately was the claim that philosophy validates one's attempts at denying a single measured fact.

The crux of the article --- philosophers must eventually get out of their leather armchairs and measure something --- that central catalyzing plotline was seemingly ignored by the respondents.


What about theoretical physicists? They don’t rely on going out into the world and testing their ideas directly. The same can most certainly be said for mathematicians ... they don’t ‘measure’ anything just in logic we’re not dealing with ‘facts’.

Maybe there is a lot more confusion surrounding the differences between ‘truths’ and ‘facts’ than we recognise - for those that have little to no interest in such things at least?
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Scott Mayers on January 4th, 2021, 5:42 am 

BadgerJelly » January 2nd, 2021, 8:58 pm wrote:
hyksos » January 3rd, 2021, 3:17 am wrote:Out of all the material I presented in my lead article -- the one narrow thing that was jumped on immediately was the claim that philosophy validates one's attempts at denying a single measured fact.

The crux of the article --- philosophers must eventually get out of their leather armchairs and measure something --- that central catalyzing plotline was seemingly ignored by the respondents.


What about theoretical physicists? They don’t rely on going out into the world and testing their ideas directly. The same can most certainly be said for mathematicians ... they don’t ‘measure’ anything just in logic we’re not dealing with ‘facts’.

Maybe there is a lot more confusion surrounding the differences between ‘truths’ and ‘facts’ than we recognise - for those that have little to no interest in such things at least?

I always thought of theoretical physics more about philosophy that uses scientific data, discoveries, and theories as premises to argue from. It should not require one to BE the 'labour' of science to be a 'philosopher' who uses that labour to propose ideas. If you look back through scientific heroes initial stages of their theories, they began most of them long before they even could experiment. The conjectures come first for most theoreticians. Then science proper (the practice) is then the collected data used to confirm or deny one's proposed ideas.

Expecting everyone to require learning all that one is expected to in order to be officially qualified today puts them into the possible issue I just mentioned to the author of this thread extended to this one of the Sunk Cost fallacy, a tendency to conserve their extended investment in something as 'sound' regardless of recognizing that a simpler proposed action after the fact could potentially make their investment trivial. Instead, one justifies their investment as authoritatively the best way for others to follow and imposes upon others to require the same minimal investment regardless of the need.

Science theory should be open to armchair philosophy if only to encourage people to get intimately involved. The philosophy has to come first AND last. Today's demands on education places emphasis on a larger degree of authoritarianism that expects its students to learn obediance up front prior to being permitted to actually questioning things. It leads to an eventual church of its own eventual fall from grace.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby hyksos on January 4th, 2021, 12:05 pm 

What about theoretical physicists? They don’t rely on going out into the world and testing their ideas directly. The same can most certainly be said for mathematicians ... they don’t ‘measure’ anything just in logic we’re not dealing with ‘facts’.

This was covered in the lead article already.

Louis de Broglie's assertions about a wavelength had no a priori justification. It certainly had no mechanical justification. Its metaphysical commitments were missing. Its mathematical justification was patchy at best. If we remain hermetically sealed within the bounds of philosophy, everyone would have rejected de Broglie wavelength, for all the reasons so far listed.

History went a different way. The theory makes predictions that are testable. When tested the predictions matched observation .. wildly so.

We are not drawn to the theories of modern physics because we have a geeky fascination of math.
We are not drawn to the theories of modern physics because we are all naive realists.
We are not drawn to the theories of modern physics because we are blindly wedded to some narrow materialist ontology.
We are not drawn to the theories of modern physics because we have some bizarre reductionist fetishism.

Rather the case is we are forced to confront these theories , against our best wishes, because the predictions continual, repeated, and non-stop correctly describe of the behavior of matter.

I am not here to "sell" modern physics to you because I like it. I am only a neutral messenger telling you that it works at predicting phenomena.

We should not be sitting in a circle with rose-tinted glasses talking about how science does not work. We should admit that science does work. We should be good philosophers, and ask: "Why does it work?"

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Scott Mayers on January 4th, 2021, 8:02 pm 

I look at science as the means to INDUCE patterns about specific parts of reality to determine what the LOGIC (the mechanism) might be. Then this helps to GUESS what this mechanism might be and is then tested from that assumption to see if it fits. That 'confirms' the possibility of that logic and as long as it functons for practical purposes, it is used until either some counter proposal has less conflicting structure or is more 'completely' able to solve more.

The prior philosophy reasonably presumed that reality works by some 'mechanism', ...some LOGIC. If nature itself operates without some 'god' behind the wheel, there has to BE some logical apriori means for it to operate based on nothing at all. As such, the intention of the philosoper to argue 'armchair' style is appropriate. Science is the 'top-down' approach used to go from what we can observe; Logic is the ACTUAL mechanisms of reality bottom-up. Armchair philosophy was only improved from science but doesn't require having to be the actual ones' doing it.

I'm not sure what your issue is other than that you may deem the top-down approach as all there is to determining what is true or not? That would be an error that I don't believe you mean.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby hyksos on January 7th, 2021, 1:58 pm 

Scott Mayers » January 5th, 2021, 4:02 am wrote: I'm not sure what your issue is


The issue is clear. The flaw at the heart of philosophy is that the discipline does not consider evidence gleaned from observing the world.
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Re: the flaw at the heart of Philosophy

Postby Forest_Dump on January 7th, 2021, 3:03 pm 

One of the problems is that a lot of the advances in modern physics cannot be observed in the world and do not necessarily have any real consequences. Basically to independently test of verify this stuff you need billions of dollars worth of equipment and a lot of faith in the druids interpreting the lights and beeps.
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