Monday, January 03, 2011

This just in: Philosophy is STILL not dead

The recent publication of Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design resulted in a few outbreaks of philosophy bashing on the part of the Scientoids. Hawking tries to make the case that, because of unverified--and indeed unfalsifiable--scientific theories, that philosophy "is dead," a position that is, in itself, a philosophical and not a scientific position.

And not a particularly sound philosophical position at that.

These are people who don't seem to realize that, in order to attack philosophy, you actually have to engage in it. They also are apparently unaware of Etienné Gilson's great maxim (HT: First Things magazine) that "philosophy always buries its undertakers."

These are the people who are so narrowly focused that they really think science is the only means to truth--another position that engages in the very thing it reviles, since the question of whether science is the only means to truth is not a scientific question, but, once again, a philosophical one.

If philosophy really is dead, it's going to take someone practicing it really well to prove it. And, of course, if they did that, they would disprove their own assertion in the very act of stating it.

The is why the most recent post at Talk Reason--normally a bastion of scientism--is so interesting. Here is John Wilkins of the "Evolving Thoughts" blog, pointing out the bad philosophy being perpetrated by a few bad philosophers posing as good scientists:
I know, I think, why some people seem to think that all that matters is science. I too think science is pretty ****ed important. But once you stop knowing about things, and start arguing about things you cannot know by science, you are doing philosophy, and so it is a little, dare I say, hypocritical, to argue, philosophically, that philosophy is ****. Not to mention self-contradictory.
Read the rest here.

97 comments:

Singring said...

'These are the people who are so narrowly focused that they really think science is the only means to truth'

This reminds me:

Martin, you still haven't given us any 'truth' philosophy has produced in its 4000 year + history. Could you maybe give one?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Yes: that science isn't the only means to truth.

Singring said...

'Yes: that science isn't the only means to truth.'

Some thoughts:

1.) What is your definition of 'truth' in this instance?

2.) What is this claim based on?

3.) What other means are there? (If you are saying that philosophy is the only other means to truth besides science your argument strikes me as rather circular).

4.) I'm glad we agree that science is a means to truth at least.

5.) I feel impelled to concede your point that philosophy is not dead. I am perfectly happy to chalk up the achievements of physics, chemistry, biology, geology etc. (500 years give or take) against the above achievement of philosophy (4000 years) as stated by you. Doing so should handily suffice to demonstrate that philosophy is not dead, but about as useful as a bag of sand in the desert.

Art said...

Martin, your evidence, grounded in controlled and repeatable studies that do not flow exclusively from the machinations of one's imagination, is ....?

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

That we are having this discussion.

Singring said...

Let me be more accurate and summarize and rephrase points 1-3 of above post:

By claiming that philosophy has demonstrated that science is not the only means to truth you are implying that philosophy has been able to uncover some truth that science has not been able to.

In other words, if X contains all truths accessible to science, then logically, your statement necessitates that there be Y that contains at least one member which is a truth not acccessible to science but rather only accessible to philosophy.

What would that member of Y be? you see, all your above statement does is claim that Y exists and that it is not empty.

That is not enough I'm afraid and it does not answer my question.

Singring said...

'That we are having this discussion.'

More faulty logic, Martin.

If the hypothesis is 'unicorns exist', just because two people have a discussion as to whether or not the hypothesis is true does not make it true by default. This should be painfully obvious.

Just because two people exist that disagree as to whether X is true or not does not automatically mean that X is true. It may simply mean that one person is wrong. Or ignorant. Or refuses to accept reality.

Take your pick.

E.R. Bourne said...

Singring, actually, the very meaning of the word "science" is disputable. If you asked Aristotle what he was doing when he was discussing metaphysics, he would say he was doing science.

The modern use of the word "science" is very limited in scope. It is an experimental, hypothetical, inductive, and largely mathematical enterprise which, by definition, is limited to the study of the natural world, i.e. the world of motion (change). Anything not subject to motion as such cannot be studied by this method. The existence and nature of God, the existence and nature of the rational soul, and other things fall outside the world of natural motion. The truth of these things, then, cannot be "proven" or even studied by any science in the modern sense.

But, perhaps more to the point, to ask what "use" philosophy has is to misunderstand the philosophical act. Philosophy, properly speaking, is "useless," meaning that it does not derive its dignity from any social function. Philosophy, being the most perfect science, is not a science that exists for the sake of some practical end. All of the other sciences are subservient to the ends they serve, so to say that philosophy is "useless" is to place it above any other possible science.

Singring said...

'The existence and nature of God, the existence and nature of the rational soul, and other things fall outside the world of natural motion. The truth of these things, then, cannot be "proven" or even studied by any science in the modern sense.'

I agree. But that does not automatically mean that philosophy CAN study these subjects.

As you rightly point out above, all these matters concern the 'supernatural' and so far I have no argument from Martin or Thomas to suggest that such a realm even exists. Thamas' attempts at showing that the universe is contingent have chocked every time (he has not even completed the argument) and the best martin has been able to come up with is that its 'self-evient', which of course is about as valid as me stating that it is 'self-evidently' not so.

Maybe you can do better? Because until you can show that the 'supernatural' is something that has a reality philosophy is nothing more than idle fantasy.

'so to say that philosophy is "useless" is to place it above any other possible science.'

Trust me - I would be more than happy to settle at 'philosophy is useless'.

E.R. Bourne said...

Singring, I am sure both Thomas and Martin possess a more than adequate knowledge of such things. It is a demonstration of your lack of understanding that you expect such matters to be discussed fairly on a weblog. Why don't you try reading actual philosophers instead of wasting your time demanding that Martin or Thomas demonstrate these things to you in less than 200 words.

You also seem to misunderstand my final point. That philosophy is useless is a testimony to its superiority as a science. Any knowledge used for the sake of some practical end is a type of servant. Philosophy is no servant. It is a free art, a liberal art.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

It is a measure of your lack of understanding of what philosophical discussion even consists of to mistake an unfinished dialectical discussion (which is what Thomas was trying to engage in before he got distracted by law school final exams and a holiday) with a failed argument.

If you cannot tell the difference between those two things, I have not much hope that you will understand the argument for the fact that the world is contingent (in other words, its cause or explanation is outside itself) on the basis of the fact that nothing of which it is made contains within itself the explanation of itself.

In other words, the evidence for the fact that the world is contingent is the fact that every thing that makes it up is something which might not have existed. If you contest this, then all you have to do is provide an example of even one thing in it that contains within itself its own explanation.

Just one.

Of course, you can't do it--and even if you could, you would still be faced with the fact that a world that was necessary (i.e., that did contain within itself its own cause) would consist of parts all of which contained within them their own cause.

But obviously, if you can't find even one thing in the world that is self-explained, then it's going to be hard to establish that all of them are.

Good luck.

Singring said...

'You also seem to misunderstand my final point. That philosophy is useless is a testimony to its superiority as a science...Philosophy is no servant. It is a free art, a liberal art.'

Philosophy is art. I agree! Its has nothing to do with reality (when it does its called science), it is fantastical musing.

You are welcome to create all the philosophical art you wish. Just don't tell me it produces any truth and don't tell me it impies that gays can't marry each other (something Martin has tried to do).

'Why don't you try reading actual philosophers instead of wasting your time demanding that Martin or Thomas demonstrate these things to you in less than 200 words.'

I am doing just that, trust me.

But no amount of reading anything will convince me that 'its self-evident' is a good argument for anything at all, let alone the origin of the universe. That much should be obvious.

Martin Cothran said...

Nope, Singring doesn't believe in anything self-evident--except what he claims to base his whole scientist system of thought on: induction and causation.

He still hasn't produced an reason to believe in induction that doesn't consist of a direct appeal to induction, nor has he offered a reason for belief in causation that doesn't consist of some sort of appeal to feelings which, in turn, he thinks we should consider self-evident.

Oh, but that's a philosophical argument. Let's see if Singring can engage us in this philosophical argument without engaging in philosophy, which he claims to be useless...

Singring said...

'an unfinished dialectical discussion (which is what Thomas was trying to engage in before he got distracted by law school final exams and a holiday) with a failed argument.'

Whenever he wants to finish the argument, Thomas is welcome to do so. Until then he has not been able to demonstrate that the universe is contingent. His argument fails because his premise has not been validated.

'on the basis of the fact that nothing of which it is made contains within itself the explanation of itself.'

On second thought, I think Thomas needn't bother because you have just shown how resoundingly inadequate your argument is (this is assuming that Thomas will argue the same way).

1.) Particles arise spontaneously without 'explanation' (in the sense that you are using the word).

2.) Even IF nothing in 'this world' would contain the explanation for itself - that does not mean that the world itself cannot contain the explanation of itself. This is called the fallacy of composition and I should expect an author of books on logic to be aware of this.

'If you contest this, then all you have to do is provide an example of even one thing in it that contains within itself its own explanation.'

Define 'explanation', please.

'Of course, you can't do it--and even if you could, you would still be faced with the fact that a world that was necessary (i.e., that did contain within itself its own cause) would consist of parts all of which contained within them their own cause.'

Fallacy of composition again, Martin. Can you honestly not see that?

Let's look at your position to see why this line of reasoning is absurd: You claim that the universe was caused by an uncaused cause (i.e. something that does contain its own explanation). Therefore, all parts of the universe contain their own explanation. Which means every part of the universe is uncaused.

Absurd.

'then it's going to be hard to establish that all of them are.'

Pending your definition of the word 'explanation' let me just point out that this is not what I have claimed at all. I am arguing to the condition of the universe, not its components. All of the components of the universe may well require an 'explanation' outside of themselves (pending that definition), but that does not mean that the universe does.

Using your very own line of reasoning an origin containing its own explanation cannot exist because no part of the universe contains its own explanation. That leaves you with an infinite regression. You are chasing your own tail, Martin.

Singring said...

'except what he claims to base his whole scientist system of thought on: induction and causation.'

I have never claimed this and you know it. All I have claimed is that induction seems to work when we use it as a basis for deducing truth and that's why we should trust it in most instances. I never claimed it is 'true' because it is 'self-evident' or any such nonsense. Sometimes induction can lead to very wrong conclusions.

I also believe causationa applies in most instances. But not all. QT has demonstrated this nicely.

I expect you to get this right the next time, Martin, seeing as I have corrected you twice already on my positions.

'He still hasn't produced an reason to believe in induction that doesn't consist of a direct appeal to induction'

That's why I don't claim it represents truth. I only claim it is useful.

You, on the other hand, make claims that truths are self-evident. Spot the difference.

'Oh, but that's a philosophical argument. '

Of course it isn't. Induction and causation can be tested empirically. Which makes my claims scientific and thus probabilistic, not philosophical and metaphysical as is the case with your 'self-evident' truths.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...

P.S:

When I use the word truth without apostrophes I use the word to say 'an accurate reflection of reality'.

And this should read as follows:

'That's why I don't claim it represents 'truth'. I only claim it is useful.'

We need to distinguish between our uses of the word truth here and I have done a poor job of it in the last post, but I do hope it is clear what I'm trying to say. The best induction and science can do is give as a more or less good indication of what reality is like.

Singring said...

This is in place of an earlier post in response to Martin I wrote but that somehow didn't get saved:

'In other words, the evidence for the fact that the world is contingent is the fact that every thing that makes it up is something which might not have existed. If you contest this, then all you have to do is provide an example of even one thing in it that contains within itself its own explanation.'

I must assume that your books on logic do not contain a chapter on the fallacy of composition, because, ironically, the above is a textbook example of one.

Never mind the fact that particles arise without 'explanation', which invalidates the premise from the outset.

But let's think this through...

If the universe cannot contain its own explanation because none of its parts does than whatever is the explanation of the universe cannot contain its onw explanation because none of its parts does...ad infinitum. Therefore, theres is no God.

Nice work, Martin!

E.R. Bourne said...

Where did you prove that the explanation of the universe has to have parts? Your unfamiliarity with basic philosophical claims is remarkable for someone so willing to opine.

You keep acting as if it is ridiculous that Martin says that there is a certain self evidence to the contingency of material things. The natural world is a world of change and therefore a world of merely possible things, things which not only can be otherwise but which actually become other things all the time. Death, decay, alteration, growth, local movement, chemical change, etc. How can something necessary undergo change at all?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

What is your definition of 'truth' in this instance?

What is.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

What is this claim [that science is not the only means to truth] based on?

The fact that there are truths which cannot be derived from scientific investigation. The previous statement is one of them.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

What other means are there? (If you are saying that philosophy is the only other means to truth besides science your argument strikes me as rather circular).

Philosophy. And your conditional statement in the parenthesis is irrelevant because I never said that, and I don't know why you even brought it up.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

I'm glad we agree that science is a means to truth at least.

Check.

Martin Cothran said...

I feel impelled to concede your point that philosophy is not dead. I am perfectly happy to chalk up the achievements of physics, chemistry, biology, geology etc. (500 years give or take) against the above achievement of philosophy (4000 years) as stated by you. Doing so should handily suffice to demonstrate that philosophy is not dead, but about as useful as a bag of sand in the desert.

Interesting--and ironic, since science would not exist if it hadn't have been for philosophy. And if you thing philosophy is so useless, then why are you engaging in philosophical conversation on this blog?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

By claiming that philosophy has demonstrated that science is not the only means to truth you are implying that philosophy has been able to uncover some truth that science has not been able to.

I addressed this above, but I'll add that it is not only philosophy which has demonstrated this, but every other discipline which asserts truths that are not derived through science, as well as scientists themselves who make asserts about science (such as that science is the only means to truth) that are not themselves scientific statements.

Martin Cothran said...

In other words, if X contains all truths accessible to science, then logically, your statement necessitates that there be Y that contains at least one member which is a truth not acccessible to science but rather only accessible to philosophy.

What would that member of Y be? you see, all your above statement does is claim that Y exists and that it is not empty.


Y1="Science is not the only avenue to truth"

Y2="Science is the only avenue to truth."

They are both philosophical statements.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

'except what he claims to base his whole scientist system of thought on: induction and causation.'

I have never claimed this and you know it. All I have claimed is that induction seems to work when we use it as a basis for deducing truth and that's why we should trust it in most instances. I never claimed it is 'true' because it is 'self-evident' or any such nonsense. Sometimes induction can lead to very wrong conclusions.


I didn't say you claimed to base your views on beliefs that were self-evident; I said you did believe in things that were self-evident.

In fact, your problem is that you base your beliefs on self-evident first principles and then deny that you do.

Martin Cothran said...

Induction and causation can be tested empirically. Which makes my claims scientific and thus probabilistic, not philosophical and metaphysical as is the case with your 'self-evident' truths.

Oh, brother. Here we go again: trying to prove induction by appealing to induction--and then in the same thread accusing me of circular argumentation.

Keep ignoring Hume. And then do it some more. Do not read the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Just don't do it. Don't read his Treatise Either. Just cover your eyes, plug up your ears and keep repeating to yourself that you can prove that the process of collecting evidence to prove something can be proven by collecting evidence for it.

Sheez.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Never mind the fact that particles arise without 'explanation', which invalidates the premise from the outset.

Wait. I argue that there is nothing in the world that does not contain its own explanation and you think that's disproven by producing something that doesn't appear to have an explanation?

Oooookay.

Singring said...

'Where did you prove that the explanation of the universe has to have parts?'

So the explanaton of the universe has multiple parts? Is that what you are saying? Please confirm.

'The natural world is a world of change'

So what?! Just because internally the world undergoes change does not mean it is externally contingent! This is very basic stuff. The cosmos is a closed system. There can be plenty of change within it (or what we perceive as change) without that implying an external explanation of it.

Singring said...

Martin:

'What is.'

Thanks. This definition is different from mine. Mine (as I use the word here) would be more along the lines of 'what most probably is real'.

'The fact that there are truths which cannot be derived from scientific investigation. The previous statement is one of them.'

Still circular, Martin. You have to actually give an example of a truth philosophy has given access to that science cannot. Once agin, the above statement merely makes the claim that this is so.

'Y1="Science is not the only avenue to truth"

Y2="Science is the only avenue to truth."

They are both philosophical statements.'

You are dodging the question, Martin. X is all truths science can access and Y is all truths philosophy can access. For example, the laws of relativity and thermodynamics etc. would go inot X to show that it is not empty.

What goes into Y to show it is not empty? It has to be something other than your claim that science can't lead to all truth because that is just begging the question/circular reasoning.

'In fact, your problem is that you base your beliefs on self-evident first principles and then deny that you do.'

That depends on what you mean by 'first principles' and 'beliefs'. I work from the assumption that what we perceive with our senses is an indication of reality. I think that we all share that assumption so there is no piont in debating it. But that is not the same as claiming that the contingency of the universe is 'self-evident', now is it? That is additional claim YOU are making - not me.

Singring said...

'trying to prove induction by appealing to induction-'

Where did I say anything about 'proof'??? You are so dogmatic in your own view of the world you apparently can't even clearly enunciate th actual positions of others anymore without distorting them according to your own views!

Induction may be completely and utterly false. I don't doubt that. But since we can test the predictions based on induction against reality we can be pretty sure that it is a useful and accurate tool in making such predictions.

This would only be a circular or self-evident argument if I claimed induction were somehow a guide to 'truth' as you define it, but I don't. I use it as a guide to what I define as truth. See above.

By the way, we have already showed that each and every of your deductive arguments can be traced back to induction, Martin - so once again we are all in the same boat. Or maybe you would like to explain agin how you came o he realiyation that all men are mortal.

Singring said...

'Wait. I argue that there is nothing in the world that does not contain its own explanation and you think that's disproven by producing something that doesn't appear to have an explanation?'

Come on Martin. Comprehension skills.

Paricles appear without explanation. You claim that all things have an explanation (either an internal or exernal one). Therefore your claim is not accurate.

Nice dodge, though.

Art said...

Singring:

Martin, you still haven't given us any 'truth' philosophy has produced in its 4000 year + history. Could you maybe give one?

Martin:

Yes: that science isn't the only means to truth.

Moi:

Martin, your evidence, grounded in controlled and repeatable studies that do not flow exclusively from the machinations of one's imagination, is ....?

Martin:

That we are having this discussion.

So, anecdote borne of unsupported assertion amounts to evidence, for a truth that is still unrevealed.

There's a reason that the reality-based community holds philosophers in such low regard. You're Exhibit A in this thread, Martin.

Singring said...

Here's a really simple question for you, Martin:

I quote you from Art's post above:

'Martin:

That we are having this discussion.'

Since you have claimed that philosophy is a means to 'truth' (i.e. what is) and that this discussion is evidence in support of this claim we can therefore conclude that this discussion has produced a 'truth' as you define it, Martin.

Which 'truth' would that be?

E.R. Bourne said...

Singring, something is either contingent or not contingent. If it is not contingent it is either impossible or necessary. Physical things, things which change, cannot be necessary since what is necessary cannot change. Physical things are obviously not impossible either. Therefore, physical realty is possible or contingent. This is very basic stuff.

Also, particles cannot arise without any explanation or cause since nothing can do so. To say so is simply incoherent. If you say that something has no cause yet "arises" you are saying that something can begin to exist without being caused. This makes no sense. Again, this is very basic stuff.

And finally, Martin is correct that this conversation is evidence of the scientific nature of philosophy. You say that philosophy can show us nothing of value, yet how can you engage in science without philosophically justifying the enterprise? Parmenides would not be able to do science. Neither would Hume. How can you engage in science if you think the world of change is an illusion or if you think that we cannot actually know whether one thing causes another? How can a solipsist engage in science? How would you use science, the very enterprise whose legitimacy is being questioned, to disprove any of these theories?

One Brow said...

Singring,

Statement of belief can not be proved, of course, but can be a source of truth.

Science and other empircal invesitagion can lead to fuzzy truths, dancing around the edges of reality.

Formal systems, like mathematics of philosophy, lead to truths of how certain truths can arise, or not, from various starting points. The truths are in the implications, not the foundation. It is true that in a Euclidean space, every triangle has an angle sum of 180 degrees, or that in an Aritotelian universe, no object has a complete exlanation of itself within itself.

If you insist that mathematics can't produce any truths, I just may get cross with you.

Singring said...

'Physical things, things which change, cannot be necessary since what is necessary cannot change. Physical things are obviously not impossible either. Therefore, physical realty is possible or contingent. This is very basic stuff.'

When has the universe changed and how do you define that term 'change'? Based on physics, the contents of the universe are not changing (third law of thermodynamics, remember?). Moreover, just like Marin you are making an argument that is base on the fallacy of composition, even IF I were to concede that your premise is valid.

Three other thoughts:

1. Your assertion that necessary things cannot change is based on what line of reasoning or evidence?

2. The universe conains all of 'Physical reality' as far as we know, so making assertions about the goings on within it get you nowhere in explaining what is or has happened outside of it.

Singring said...

'you are saying that something can begin to exist without being caused. This makes no sense.'

As opposed to something containing its own explanation? See his is what gets me about deists and theists every time. They get all bent out of shape about he suggestion that the universe can exis without cause, but proposing a disembodied personal mind outside of time that 'contains its own explanation' is perfecly rational.

You can't have your cake an eat it too - eiher something can contain is own explanation (or be uncaused) or it can't. Pick one and get back to me.

'You say that philosophy can show us nothing of value, yet how can you engage in science without philosophically justifying the enterprise? '

I never said that. I said that philosopy to date has produced no 'truth'. It has produced some nice language and fantastical ruminations and encouraged some political an moral debate. But it has not produced 'truth' in the same way science has.

And by he way, I can justify science by showing is usefulness, thank you very much.

'How can a solipsist engage in science?'

Why should he not be able to?

'How would you use science, the very enterprise whose legitimacy is being questioned, to disprove any of these theories?'

Aside from he fact of his model of reality being self-contradictory, in the case of Parmenides science sinks him very simply. He theorized that thoughts are in contact with he things they refer to. his can be teste empirically and lo and behold - there is no evidence for it. He may still have been right and just like many positive claims (invisible unicorns etc.) we can't disprove it strictly speaking. But what science can and canot say about X has no bearing at all on whether philosophy can and cannot say about X. hat would be a false dichotomy.

So how exactly would philosophy disprove Parmenides' ideas?

E.R. Bourne said...

Singring, you cannot simply invoke the fallacy of composition because there is no argument based on composition. There is no separate "universe" in addition to all physical things. The universe simply is all physical things. No one is arguing that because a part is contingent the whole must be contingent, rather, the argument is that material reality as such is contingent. All of the same arguments would be applicable to the motion of a single atom.

Also, if something exists necessarily in itself than it simply cannot undergo any change. 2+2=4, for example, is necessary and inasmuch as it is it cannot be other than what it is.

Again, your basic philosophical ignorance is preventing you from seeing the argument. No one is saying that nothing can explain itself, the argument is that no physical thing can explain itself. The universe cannot exist without a cause because material reality is composite, and as composite it must be composed. Something cannot compose itself, though, since nothing can reduce itself from potency to act.

Philosophy has produced many truths. It can show us the nature of reality at the most general level, it can show us that God exists, it can show us the basic truths of morality, etc. That you might disagree with them is a separate issue.

Finally, I do not think you understand either solipsism or Parmenides. I would be happy to discuss some of these things, but no progress can be made with such a combative tone. Really, I think you would benefit from more reading and less typing. Web-logs are great for having discussions and expressing succinct thoughts, but to achieve a well-rounded understanding, something you need even if you are going to be critical of someone's idea, cannot be achieved on a weblog. It might not be as fun as relentlessly and sophistically countering everything written on this blog, but you would greatly benefit.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring:

Thanks. This definition is different from mine. Mine (as I use the word here) would be more along the lines of 'what most probably is real'.

So the term "truth" means "probable truth"? Doesn't the latter assume the former? What was that you were saying about circularity?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

You asked, "What is this claim [that science is not the only means to truth] based on?"

I answered, "The fact that there are truths which cannot be derived from scientific investigation. The previous statement is one of them."

You then responded, "Still circular, Martin. "

Huh? You didn't ask me for an argument. Only arguments can be "circular." Circularity is a failure of reason (One of the first lessons in my logic book). You asked me for an example of a truth, which must be expressed in a statement. I gave you a statement (which cannot possibly be "circular"). It can "beg the question," but in that case, you have to say what question I begged, which you didn't do.

You're basically saying that my statement is not a good argument, which is sort of like saying that an orange is bad apple.

This is why you really need to familiarize yourself with philosophy before you try to engage in it.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

X is all truths science can access and Y is all truths philosophy can access. For example, the laws of relativity and thermodynamics etc. would go inot X to show that it is not empty.

What goes into Y to show it is not empty?


I gave you one statement already, which you claimed was an argument, apparently under the erroneous impression that a statement can be an argument.

Here's another philosophical statement:

"Science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena."

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

I work from the assumption that what we perceive with our senses is an indication of reality. I think that we all share that assumption so there is no piont in debating it. But that is not the same as claiming that the contingency of the universe is 'self-evident', now is it? That is additional claim YOU are making - not me.

Then provide me with one thing in the universe that contains within itself the reason of its own existence. You can't do it. Stop the nonsense and answer the question.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Paricles [sic] appear without explanation. You claim that all things have an explanation (either an internal or exernal one). Therefore your claim is not accurate.

This claim is just false. My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE. How many times do I have to say this? Quit dissembling.

GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING IN THE WORLD THAT CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON FOR ITS OWN EXISTENCE.

That's all you've got to do to prove me wrong Singring. Put up or shut up.

Art said...

This claim is just false. My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE. How many times do I have to say this? Quit dissembling.

Martin, your evidence that "the reason of its own existence" is something more tangible than the idle and ethereal musing of an overactive imagination, or that the concept has even the remotest chance of revealing anything of any import about reality (and I don't mean the "reality" that you seem inclined to make up), is ...?

Remember, I am asking for evidence borne of controlled and repeatable experiment. That you can make any and all manner of unsupported assertion doesn't matter to me.

Martin Cothran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Cothran said...

Blogger Martin Cothran said...

Art,

So you're asking for scientific evidence for a non-scientific statement?

This is like saying, "Please provide me with mathematical evidence for your assertion that Caesar wanted to be King."

I'll just chalk this up as another example of a scientist who fails to understand the limits of his own discipline.

Art said...

So, Martin, then how are we to ever know if there is any "reason for existence"? For it's certainly not by philosophical or theological reasoning, nor by the force of brute logic. If there is anything that history has taught us, it is that there is no such thing that reasoning persons can agree to. A single school of thought or religion has never "swept the field" by the force of its arguments. Nor will one ever, because these arguments are the products of illogic, circular and self-serving reasoning, and plain old wishful thinking.

E.R. Bourne said...

Art, you keep putting 'reason for existence' in quotes as if it is some mysterious thing, yet it should not be mysterious to any person who can think scientifically. Something's reason for existence is its cause. Everything empirical, experimental, hypothetical, inductive science studies is a caused thing. What else is modern science if not the discovery of the causes of things?

What metaphysics or first philosophy tells us is that all things which are caused must ultimately depend upon something which is not caused in any way.

Think of it this way: is there anything studied by modern science whose definition is "it is?" In other words, is there anything studied where what it is is that it is? If not, which is certainly the case, none of these things can be the reason for their own existence or being. And until you arrive at something which, by nature, exists then you have not exhausted the causes of material things. Empirical science, though, can not tell us anything about what such a cause would be like or even whether it exists because his science must always limit itself to the sensible, changeable, material, and therefore caused world.

Art said...

Art, you keep putting 'reason for existence' in quotes as if it is some mysterious thing, yet it should not be mysterious to any person who can think scientifically.

That's not what Martin is saying.

What metaphysics or first philosophy tells us is that all things which are caused must ultimately depend upon something which is not caused in any way.

I don't buy it. And you cannot provide a whit of evidence to support this claim. All you can bring to bear is what I have mentioned before - circular and self-serving argument.

(Here, the circle begins and ends with the term "caused".)

Think of it this way: is there anything studied by modern science whose definition is "it is?"

Um, just about everything in existence.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

So, Martin, then how are we to ever know if there is any "reason for existence"?

That's the whole point of the cosmological argument: if you don't accept that something exists outside of the world that has within itself the reason for its own existence (a "necessary being"), then nothing has any reason for existence, and therefore everything is absurd and without explanation.

That's why I have said that people like Nietzsche and Sartre are more intellectually consistent than atheists: because they at least understand that their atheism (which entails the rejection of a necessary being) leads to the conclusion that the world and everything in it is absurd. The New Atheists on the other hand, just go on as if it didn't matter.

Either there is a necessary being, in which case everything has an ultimate explanation, or there is not, in which case nothing can ultimately be explained.

Take your pick.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

That's not what Martin is saying.

Excuse me, but that is exactly what I am saying: Nothing in this world contains within itself the reason for its own existence and that fact is pretty obvious.

Art said...

Either there is a necessary being, in which case everything has an ultimate explanation, or there is not, in which case nothing can ultimately be explained.

Take your pick.


No reason to. An ultimate explanation that is for all practical purposes (indeed, almost by definition) unknowable is indistinguishable from "no explanation".

Art said...

Martin, is the statement "My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE." a scientific statement or not? You have stated or implied both in this thread.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

An ultimate explanation that is for all practical purposes (indeed, almost by definition) unknowable is indistinguishable from "no explanation".

Who says it's unknowable and why would it be unknowable by definition?

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

Martin, is the statement "My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE." a scientific statement or not? You have stated or implied both in this thread.

It is not a scientific statement. Where did I say it was? It is a philosophical statement.

Art said...

Do you agree with E.R. Bourne's assertion that "Art, you keep putting 'reason for existence' in quotes as if it is some mysterious thing, yet it should not be mysterious to any person who can think scientifically."

That sure as heck sounds to me like (s)he is claiming that "My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE."" (which is what I was alluding to all along) is a scientific statement.

E.R. Bourne said...

Scientific in the broad sense of being a valid mode of considering reality. As I said before, Aristotle would consider metaphysics as being a science.

Singring said...

'What goes into Y to show it is not empty?

I gave you one statement already, which you claimed was an argument, apparently under the erroneous impression that a statement can be an argument.'

No. You gave me a statement that claims hat a set Y exists, but you have given no 'truth' that might go into that set.

'Then provide me with one thing in the universe that contains within itself the reason of its own existence.'

I did you one better - I showed you particles that have NO explanation at all!

'I gave you a statement (which cannot possibly be "circular"). It can "beg the question,"'

You are of course right. Thanks for he correction. The argument was begging the question.

'GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING IN THE WORLD THAT CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON FOR ITS OWN EXISTENCE.'

I did. See above. Furthermore, I have pointed out that even if I concede that everything in the universe does not contain its own cause, claiming that this means he universe cannot conain its own cause commits the fallacy of composition.

'My claim is that NOTHING CONTAINS WITHIN ITSELF THE REASON OF ITS OWN EXISTENCE.'

In this case, we can end his argument right here, as you have just conceded it.

If the above is true, there is an infinite regress of things. No God.

I'm happy to settle for that.

Singring said...

'Everything empirical, experimental, hypothetical, inductive science studies is a caused thing. '

Bald assertion. This is exactly wha Art is talking about. We know of virtual particles ha are real, physical, yet appear without cause. Yet somehow you think you can make the claim above.

'What metaphysics or first philosophy tells us is that all things which are caused must ultimately depend upon something which is not caused in any way.'

It does not. There could be an infinite regression of caused things.

You are builing your 'philosophy' backwards to fit wih the preconceived conclusion that a God must exist.

'is there anything studied by modern science whose definition is "it is?"'

Virtual particles and some would say he universe or the cosmos.

Singring said...

'if you don't accept that something exists outside of the world that has within itself the reason for its own existence (a "necessary being"), then nothing has any reason for existence, and therefore everything is absurd and without explanation.'

Again the fallacy of composition rears its ugly head.

Just because I don't believe (i.e. don't see any evidence for) an 'ulimate cause' (though M - Theory poses here might be one) does not mean I can't believe that subsequent things have causes. Just because I don't believe the universe has no cause doesn' mean I can' believe the rock falling wasn't caused by the ram's foot.

I is only those who cry and whine for 'ultimate truth' like infants that desperately need that comforing thought to make sense of their lives.

I don't.

'Either there is a necessary being, in which case everything has an ultimate explanation, or there is not, in which case nothing can ultimately be explained.'

An there you have it. Martin apparenly knows the distinction but chooses to misrepresent it just to further his agenda.

After all, above you clearly state that all we are talking about are ultimate explanations, not proximate ones. So what is all this nonsense about us having to be nihilistic if we don't buy into your construct?

'and that fact is pretty obvious.'

LOL. Here we go again...

It's pretty obvious Art, isn't hat enough for you o base a model of the universe on?

Art said...

Moi:

Art,

An ultimate explanation that is for all practical purposes (indeed, almost by definition) unknowable is indistinguishable from "no explanation".


Martin:

Who says it's unknowable and why would it be unknowable by definition?

As I said - If there is anything that history has taught us, it is that there is no such thing that reasoning persons can agree to. A single school of thought or religion has never "swept the field" by the force of its arguments.

So, for all practical purposes, any presumed "ultimate explanation" would seem to be unknowable.

Adding to this thought - the very definition of an "ultimate explanation" is, as far as I can tell, some sort of infinite, all-knowing, all-being, all-encompassing entity. It's fairly simple to see that, no matter the depth of (mis)understanding that one claims to have for such an "ultimate explanation", the precise mathematical term for any such claimed understanding is zero (a finite quantity divided by infinity).

In other words, by definition, an "ultimate explanation" that refers to an infinite being is unknowable.

Thomas said...

"A single school of thought or religion has never 'swept the field' by the force of its arguments. So, for all practical purposes, any presumed 'ultimate explanation' would seem to be unknowable."

This is a worse intellectual pathology than misology. In misology, the would-be philosopher finds himself discouraged by thinking one argument after another appear to be sound, then be overturned by another argument, and the would-be philosopher lacks the intellectual fortitude to persevere, simply giving up. Misology is not a logical problem, and so can't be dealt with by an argument; it's a form of intellectual cowardice and sloth, and so must be dealt with as a moral problem.

But to say that first principles are unknowable because others don't widely agree is even worse. At least the person suffering from misology has the intellectual courage to begin asking these questions for himself, rather than relying on hearsay from others. He may give up at the half-way mark, but you're giving up before you even begin.

One Brow said...

E.R. Bourne said...
The universe simply is all physical things.

In addition to all physical things, the spacetime continuum (a subset of the universe) contains behaviors on how these physical things interact with each other based on apparently uniform principles. Can you say these uniform principles are contingent?

One Brow said...

E.R. Bourne said...
What metaphysics or first philosophy tells us is that all things which are caused must ultimately depend upon something which is not caused in any way.

Almost. What it tells us is if you accept a certain set of premises, and a certain method of deducing new true statements from prior ones, then everything depends on something not caused in any way.

However, the list of things you must accept gets a little unreasonable, to me.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

Not only are you asserting that the rational strength of a position is entirely dependent on the popularity of a belief (the ad populam fallacy), but you jump from the empirical fact that a belief may, in fact, be unknown to the assertion that it is unknowable. By what logical process do you get from such a contingent assertion ("we don't know x") to the necessary one ("we can't know x")?

Martin Cothran said...

OneBrow:

What it tells us is if you accept a certain set of premises, and a certain method of deducing new true statements from prior ones, then everything depends on something not caused in any way.

That doesn't seem to have anything to do with what Bourne is saying. In fact, as it is stated, I'm not sure what is says.

Maybe you could clarify.

One Brow said...

Martin Cothran said...
That doesn't seem to have anything to do with what Bourne is saying.

E. R. bourne is making a claim that something is demonstrated by metaphysics. I'm just pointing out that the metaphysics argument itself is resting on a variety of assumption, some of them not at all intuitive and, to be, non-creespondant.

Thomas said...

Onebrow,

"What it [first philosophy] tells us is if you accept a certain set of premises, and a certain method of deducing new true statements from prior ones, then everything depends on something not caused in any way."

Aristotle's Metaphysics relies primarily on the dialectical or aporetic method rather than the deductive or demonstrative method. Aristotle is clear about this from the outset of the treatise, there's nothing in the text (or secondary literature, so far as I am aware) that suggests otherwise. Further, virtually all metaphysics prior to the modern period (started primarily by Locke and Descartes) used a form of dialectic rather than deduction. I'm not sure why you think differently.

Art said...

This is a worse intellectual pathology than misology. In misology, the would-be philosopher finds himself discouraged by thinking one argument after another appear to be sound, then be overturned by another argument, and the would-be philosopher lacks the intellectual fortitude to persevere, simply giving up.

That's not what I am doing. I am holding up the historical record as evidence. We have two choices here - "ultimate explanation" and "none", and the evidence, in the form of the historical record, comes down pretty clearly on the side of "none".

In case anyone is wondering, when I say "for all practical purposes", I am referring to the obvious tentative nature of the conclusion I draw from the historical record. But the fact remains - given a choice between "ultimate explanation" and "none", it is the latter that is supported by what we do know.

Misology is not a logical problem, and so can't be dealt with by an argument; it's a form of intellectual cowardice and sloth, and so must be dealt with as a moral problem.

The real intellectual cowardice being shown here is the complete abandonment of any evidential approach to a subject.

This speaks volumes - the philosophers here know that their unsupported assertions have zero evidential basis, and in fact are contradicted by what we do know. That's why their arsenal is entirely circular reasoning, question-begging, self-serving assertion, and other curious illogical constructs.

But to say that first principles are unknowable because others don't widely agree is even worse.

Um, Thomas, when you stop thinking about what I am writing here, you are guilty of exactly the offense you accuse me of.

Art said...

Art,

Not only are you asserting that the rational strength of a position is entirely dependent on the popularity of a belief (the ad populam fallacy),


That's not what I have done.

(Heck, if you are so desperate to find a fallacy here, I would suggest ad gladius, or something along those lines.)

but you jump from the empirical fact that a belief may, in fact, be unknown to the assertion that it is unknowable.

As I said to Thomas, this "jump" is no more than following the evidence (history) where it leads.

And my leap was supported by more than this practical approach. I note that the philosophers here have avoided my second thought completely.

By what logical process do you get from such a contingent assertion ("we don't know x") to the necessary one ("we can't know x")?

I've explained myself. And I am rather enjoying the various and sundry ways that my points are being twisted or ignored.

Thomas said...

Art,

There are two problems with your case, even if it is tentative. (1) The first is that it's pretty clear that you haven't familiarized yourself with the history of philosophy, given the fact that on many philosophic points there is wide agreement. Even where there are fundamental differences, they're often reconcilable in some fashion through dialectic. (2) A simple survey of the various positions philosophers have held over the years doesn't say anything at all about whether those positions are true or false; it just means someone held them. Because you aren't advancing your own analysis of the philosophers who have supposedly failed in their projects, instead citing others, you are avoiding thinking for yourself about philosophical problems.

So I guess the only thing I can say is that you really ought to do your thinking for yourself. Strangely, many scientists have a tendency to avoid this... but then the ones that don't tend to be somewhat philosophically competent (Bohr, Einstein, etc.).

Martin Cothran said...

Let's apply Art's reasoning to his own discipline (science): If there is anything history has taught us, it is that all scientific theories are proven inadequate by later science. Therefore all present scientific theories are inadequate.

Martin Cothran said...

Let's look at where we are on this thread and then I am moving on to other things:

We have people (at least one of whom is a certifiable, real, actual scientist) all of whom only seem to possess a scientific hammer and to whom therefore everything looks like a nail. You make a philosophical argument and they ask you for scientific evidence. I assume they don't go to the hardware store for groceries or go to get their tires rotated at the florist, but they seem to think it's a pretty cool idea to try to resolve philosophical issues by employing scientific procedures.

You wonder how they would react if someone got on their scientific blog and demanded that the host solve scientific issues by employing philosophical procedures.

Not only do they try to resolve philosophical issues by applying science, but they somehow consider it a reasonable procedure to judge philosophical positions on historical criteria. A philosophical position can be judged, for example, by how many philosophers believed it over history.

It would interesting to see what would happen if I tried to argue that a scientific position was untenable because there were people over the course history who disagreed with it.

And then, of course, when we get to the philosophical question, we have someone like Art who seems to think that statements of completely different modalities (e.g. that something that is unknown is therefore unknowable) are logically convertible.

Then, of course, we have Singring, who, when asked to produce just one example of a thing that has within it self the reason for its own existence, keeps pointing to things which appear not to have any explanation at all, apparently under the impression that something that contains its own causation is the same thing as something that has no cause at all--and who, to make his situation worse, just keeps displaying his ignorance of quantum theory.

He talks about particles going "in and out of existence" as if particles were material objects. But, of course, he is only committing the same error he committed in an earlier thread on this blog in which he discovered over the course of the discussion that quantum particles are not physical objects but mathematical constructs. And how could we forget that discussion, since it was the discussion in which he set forth his belief that quantum physics says that squirrel's can pop in and out of existence.

All of this just goes to prove of course the narrowness of people who can only see the world circumscribed through their narrow scientific blinkers--and don't even do a very good job of that.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...

'apparently under the impression that something that contains its own causation is the same thing as something that has no cause at all--and who, to make his situation worse, just keeps displaying his ignorance of quantum theory.'

I am not under the above impression it all. But the fact is that particles that have no apparent cause are even more corrosive to your argument than things that contain their own cause, because it breaks the entire rule of causation that your argument hinges on.

You can plug your ears and go 'lalalala' all day, it won't change this simple fact. This is precisely why many scientists think so little of philosophers these days: they would rather keep using premises developed 2500 years ago when we didn't even know atoms existed rather than take into account recent scioentific evidence. It's on full display here.

As to my 'ignorance' of QT, let me embarass you some more.

Here is what YOU just said:

'quantum particles are not physical objects but mathematical constructs.'

Here is what Paul Davies says, the physicist you so proudly cited earlier as one who supposedly supports your claims:

'The rule of law is replaced by a sort of anarchy or chaos, and things happen spontaneously-for no particular reason. Particles of matter may simply pop into existence without warning, and then equally abruptly disappear again. Or a particle in one place may suddenly materialize in another place, or reverse its direction of motion. Again, these are real effects occurring on an atomic scale, and they can be demonstrated experimentally.'

'Even if we don't have a precise idea of exactly what took place at the beginning, we can at least see that the origin of the universe from nothing need not be unlawful or unnatural or unscientific. In short, it need not have been a supernatural event.'

To be read at:

http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines/e11/86/big-bang.html

So you see Martin - you're entitled to your own position, but not your own facts.

One Brow said...

Thomas said...

Aristotle's Metaphysics relies primarily on the dialectical or aporetic method rather than the deductive or demonstrative method.

The use of differing formal methods doesn't remove the need for formal methods to rely on initial premises and a calculus that can not be proven within that formal system. This is true even when the calculus is based on reconciling apparent contradicitons or on the asking of open-ended questions (which seems to be what you mean by "dialectical" and "aporetic", respectively). Aristotle was a great philosopher, but even he couldn't change the basic weakness that all humans have in the ways we can know things.

Thomas said...

Onebrow,

I am not sure where you are getting your picture of Aristotle's dialectical or aporetical method, but it certainly does not need to rely on its initial premises (the whole point is to call into question the initial premises, and dialectic generally starts with problems as much as it does with propositions) nor is it in any meaningful sense a formal system. Further, dialectic does not overlook the fact that our means of knowledge are limited; as Hegel liked to point out, it's precisely those limitations that make dialectic necessary.

Further, classical metaphysics never purports to advance a formal system that mirrors reality; classical metaphysics is, on its own terms, the direct contemplation of reality in such a way that the intellect participates directly in that reality. You seem to be importing a much more recent conception of the subject-object distinction into a philosophical tradition it does not belong in.

Thomas said...

Singring,

It's interesting that in the Davies article you cite, he says that physicists came to a solution of the problem of the relation between time and the big bang... close to two millenia after St. Augustine, a philosopher and theologian, had already discovered the solution. So it appears by your own sources that not only does philosophy find important truths about the world, but scientists are only recently realizing things that some philosophers have held for centuries or millennia. This shouldn't be news to a biologist though; it was Darwin who said that Aristotle made his contemporary biologists look like mere schoolboys.

One Brow said...

Thomas,

When I use teh term "formal system", I am not limiting myself to systems that use deductive reasoning. The propositional and predicate calculi are not the only types of calculi available.

For example, chess is a formal system, with the pieces as initial objects and the rules governing their movements, then end of the game, etc., as the axioms.

I don't think Aristotle's approaches were circular, and I'm not claiming he started off assuming the answers to his questions.

You seem to be importing a much more recent conception of the subject-object distinction into a philosophical tradition it does not belong in.

Euclid taught geometry with 5 axioms, we teach the same geometry using about 20. Is it that we are importing the Ruler postulate into a geometry where it traditionally did not belong, or pointing out that the geometry always relied on it implicitly?

Singring said...

'It's interesting that in the Davies article you cite, he says that physicists came to a solution of the problem of the relation between time and the big bang... close to two millenia after St. Augustine, a philosopher and theologian, had already discovered the solution.'

Oh really?

Coiuld you direct me to the work in which St- Augustine makes any claims about the origin of the universe and time that have been borne out by modern cosmology?

'So it appears by your own sources that not only does philosophy find important truths about the world, but scientists are only recently realizing things that some philosophers have held for centuries or millennia.'

There is a saying:

Even a blind chicken sometimes finds a corn.

It is not in the least surprising that some philosophers guessed correctly while making up stuff (see the atomists for example). But what about the thousands upon thousands of philosophers who guessed wrong?

Guesswork is no method and certainly no avenue to truth. And precisely because philosophy has
no method at all of testing its truth claims, it took one and a half milennia more of philosophers making all kinds of claims about the universe (most holding that it was eternal) before science came along to set things straight. Its hardly as if any one philosopher ever made a claim and everyone just fell in line (just as Art points out above). There was violent disagreement precisely BECAUSE philosophy has no way of veryfing whatever one of its proponents claims. For crying out loud, you and Martin are still accepting philosophies that are more than two millenia old while a great number of other philosophers think they have been completely debunked! Why is it that after mkore than 2,000 years there is still such disagreement within the field if it is so good at nailing the 'truth'? Shouldn't things have been settled by now, as they are in almost all scientific fields when it comes to major theories?

Finally, let me just say that a the ludiocrous comparison of St. Augustines ramblings to modern Big Bang cosmology is very much reflective of the standards this blog exemplifies.

Thomas said...

OneBrow,

If by formal system you mean something unlike deduction or demonstration, then I'm not sure what you mean. If it's something like a chess game where there are abstract rules that govern the motion of particular things, than this too is quite unlike Aristotle's philosophy, though it bears some resemblance to Enlightenment philosophy. Hegel summed up Aristotle's approach well when he declared philosophy to be war on abstraction.

Perhaps I am not understanding what you mean by a formal system, but I can't see any similarity between Aristotle's method in the Physics or the Metaphysics and a formal system.

Thomas said...

Singring,

Are you questioning the factual accuracy of the article you just cited for its factual accuracy?

Singring said...

'Are you questioning the factual accuracy of the article you just cited for its factual accuracy?'

A few things:

1.) I quoted Davies precisely because Martin cited him as a source he trusts. Personally, he is the last I would quote.

You want other atronomers who also think material things appear spontaneously without cause? How about Lawrence Krauss:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

Or look up the 'Casimir effect'. The spontaneous of real, physical, measurable particles is utterly uncontroversial in physics, but Martin just steadfastly refuses to accept this because he just doesn't want to believe it. I even showed him images of discrete atoms and yet he still maintains they are nothing but 'mathematical constructs'. It would be funny if it weren't so sad, seeing as he's a teacher and all.

2.) I quoted Davies for his statements on particles, not on his musings on St. Augustine.

3.) Let's look at what Augustine said according to Davies:

'The world, he claimed, was made "not in time, but simultaneously with time."'

Now, in accordance with what I wrote earlier, here are two questions for you:

a) Do you disagree that this is one philosophical idea (I call it a guess) among many (i.e. there were hundreds of philosophers before and after who thought very differently)?

b) If philosophy is a tool leading to truth, how come it took another 1,500 years and the efforts of scientists, not philosophers to conclude that this statement was in fact true, while many if not most philosophers in the mean time thought very differently about time and the world?

Singring said...

Let me put this another way, Thomas:

The very fact that ST. Augustine happened upon an idea that we consider to be true today, yet that this idea did not gain widespread acceptance until the arrival of science modern astronomy in the early 20th century, some 1,500 years later makes my point wonderfully:

Philosophy was completely insufficient as a tool to test this idea St. Augustine had and to see whther it was, in fact, true. He had the idea, other philosophers had other ideas and everyone was merrily arguing back and forth throughout the dark ages, the renaissance, the industrial revolution with no-one being able to show that they were right one way or the other until scientists tested the idea and showed that it was most likely true.

If that is not a ringing endorsement of my opinion in the matter, I don't know what is.

Look at how quicly scientific ideas are accepted by the majority within the filed: It rarely takes more than 50 years for an idea that has been tested via science to gain the standard of being accepted as true.
In philosophy, people are still heatedly debating whether or not Aristotle was completely right or totally wrong. Precisely because there is no way of testing it against reality!

One Brow said...

Perhaps I am not understanding what you mean by a formal system, but I can't see any similarity between Aristotle's method in the Physics or the Metaphysics and a formal system.

I am using it in a looser sense, certainly. A formal system is any system where you start off by assuming certain ideas, observations, etc. (oftentimes, assuming they reflact reality), and also assuming that a certain way of dicussing these ideas will lead to truth. If you start off saying nothing is true and there is good good way to process truths, you can do very little philosiphizing.

Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas said...

Onebrow,

I'm still not sure you are accurately representing Aristotle's system. To the extent dialectical propositions are accepted, it is merely to test their veracity; they're accepted for the sake of argument. And since the primary beginning point in the Metaphysics and the Physics are not propositions but problems, you can hardly say they are accepted as true.

If that's a formal system, you're defining the term in such a way that it's neither particularly formal nor particularly systematic.

Thomas said...

Singring,

"The very fact that ST. Augustine happened upon an idea that we consider to be true today, yet that this idea did not gain widespread acceptance until the arrival of science modern astronomy in the early 20th century, some 1,500 years later makes my point wonderfully ...."

The very fact that you do not realize that Christian theologians and philosophers mostly rejected the idea that creation was eternal, and dealt with the classical argument for an eternal universe by saying that time came into being simultaneously with the universe, rather than existing before it, shows that you -- once again -- have no idea what you are talking about.

Singring said...

'The very fact that you do not realize that Christian theologians and philosophers mostly rejected the idea that creation was eternal.'

So now we're talking about Christian philosophers all of a sudden?

Greek philosophy, Eastern philosophy suddenly go out the window? So when previously Aristotle's views have been trumpeted as invalidating modern physics and cosmology all of a sudden the story changes to him being fundamentally wrong about the universe?

Again, par for the course when it comes to this blog, I'd say.

Its fascinating how the story changes again and again as the story progresses. The constant shifting of goalposts.

Maybe you should make up your mind as to what story you're trying to sell here.

Art said...

The very fact that you do not realize that Christian theologians and philosophers mostly rejected the idea that creation was eternal, and dealt with the classical argument for an eternal universe by saying that time came into being simultaneously with the universe, rather than existing before it, shows that you -- once again -- have no idea what you are talking about.

And how old did Christian theologians and philosophers think the universe is?

One Brow said...

Thomas said...
If that's a formal system, you're defining the term in such a way that it's neither particularly formal nor particularly systematic.

I suppose it could be somewhat of a misnomer. But it certainly sounds like Aristotle used a dialectical process because he thought it could help to uncover truths, and accepting premises as true simply to see where they lead is an example of the type of thruth I said earlier that you get from formal systems. I acknowledge that what Aristotle used looked nothing like standard syllogisms.

I am open to a better term for "process of establishing knowledge by accepting certain ideas, possibly only for the sake of the argument, and using some means to of evaluating consequences from those positions" besides "formal system". Did you have a recommendation?

Lee said...

If I can sneak into this discussion very briefly, I have a question I think could be answered by Martin, Thomas, or Bourne.

How do we know there are necessary things? How do we know everything is not contingent?

One Brow said...

Lee,

You didn't ask me, but I'll answer to the best of my knowledge. This is often thought to result from the Unmoved Mover argument, or similar arguments.

Thomas said...

Lee,

"Necessary" and "contingent" are used somewhat differently by different philosophers, but I think the following definition would be consistent with all the different schools:

X is contingent if it does not depend for its existence or the character thereof upon the possibility or actuality of something else.

So we can go through the things in the universe one by one, applying this definition to see whether the particular thing necessary or contingent. Any physical thing, subject to the laws of physics and temporality cannot qualify by definition; and simply adding up the totality of physical things does not avoid the problem.

The problem with that definition is that it is quite thin in philosophical substance. It avoids concepts like causality and does not require a very robust philosophy of actuality and potency. The classical Greek and Christian philosophers would define it another way: a thing is contingent if it is composed of potentiality and actuality (i.e., if it has some unrealized potential) and necessary if it is purely actual (i.e., has no unrealized potential). Or again: a thing is necessary if it exists and, by definition, has nothing else that it could be (a different color, a different size, etc.); while a thing is contingent if it is not actual.

Thomas said...

Singring,

Let me see if I have this straight. The article you cited in support of your position, written by a well-regarded physicist who also apparently happens to be somewhat familiar with philosophy, mentions that Augustine solved the problem of whether time would have preceded the beginning of the universe.

You call St. Augustine's argument gibberish without having read his argument, saying that he simply got it right because he was one of many philosophers taking what you seem to imagine were random guesses, rather than rational arguments (though, again, you haven't actually read these). I point out that the most dominant philosophical tradition in the history of the West (Christian philosophy and theology) held this position. Now we're clearly beyond a bunch of philosophers guessing, we've discovered that the most historically influential philosophic tradition in the West. Then, strangely, you offer as an example Eastern philosophy, which is known for its different theories on cosmogenesis.

Through the course of this discussion and others, you continually declare philosophy useless without even attempting to understand its arguments. It reminds me of some of Hegel's comments to those who view philosophy as a bunch of people disagreeing:

"This picture of numerous contradictory philosophies is the most superficial idea possible of the history of philosophy ....

"For those who want to give the appearance of being interested in philosophy usually cite this diversity as their excuse for utterly neglecting it, despite their ostensible good will .... The old excuse for not studying philosophy and argumentation which clings to diversity only, and out of disgust for or fear of the particular in which a universal is actual, will not grasp or recognize this universal, I have elsewhere compared with a pedantic invalid whose doctor advised him to eat fruit; cherries, plums, grapes, were served to him, but with his pedantic intellect he refused them on the ground that none of these were fruit, but only cherries or plums, or grapes."