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What is your position on science vs philosophy? posted 14 Aug 2004, 17:08 by Grantaire, Moderator

You're a philosophy professor, so obviously you have philosophic tendencies (duh), but do you also have interest in science? How do you make compromises between the two, and which would you say provides the "truths" in your life? Thanks. view post


posted 16 Aug 2004, 13:08 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Just for the record, I've officially hung my professorial spurs this summer. I am now a fulltime writer. *insert circus drum roll here* Holy moly, but this question is BIG, Grantaire! So let me give you the short answer. Since 'taking as true' reflects a type of commitment to a claim, I'll talk in terms of the latter instead of the former. Claims regarding this or that are made all the time; the question is always one of what our [i:2o42p663]commitment[/i:2o42p663] to those claims should be. Since we humans seem marvelously adept at duping ourselves, I've become something of a miser when it comes to committing myself, and I don't believe in unconditional commitment to anything. I also believe that our commitments should always reflect the reliability of the claim, and not our wants or hopes (as is most often the case, I think). It's all on a continuum. Science, given an understanding of its institutional and methodological weaknesses, certainly tops the list. My commitment to philosophical claims, I'm afraid, falls quite short this mark - thus my commitment to interpretative pluralism regarding philosophical subject matter. Philosophy provides [i:2o42p663]heuristic ways[/i:2o42p663] of understanding explananda that exceed the reach of science. Does this answer your question? view post


posted 16 Aug 2004, 15:08 by Grantaire, Moderator

Yes it does, quite well thank you. I didn't know that you had ceased being a professor though. At least we'll get TTT that much sooner :wink: What do you see as being the methodological weaknesses of science however? Science is the only institution that is truly self-correcting. If a hypothesis is found to not match the facts, it is thrown out- where is the weakness in that? Well, I suppose that it could be argued that science as an institution cannot explain the intrinsic value of anything (thus scientific nihilism), yet I do not see there as being a weakness in the actual methodology. Also, you say that philosophy tries to explain that which goes beyond science- but do you mean that in the sense that it explains things that we simply don't have a scientific explanation for, or things that are truly beyond the realms of science ever? I agree with you in the use of interpretative pluralism, but if you find philosophy to be less shall we say...definitive than science, what made you get into philosophy as opposed to science? Philosophy has an obvious place in your life, but what made it be that way as opposed to you being say, a scientist? I ask this because as I am a high school student, that branching off is coming- and I am heavily interested in both. An intriguing conundrum :wink: view post


posted 23 Aug 2004, 18:08 by Andrew, Peralogue

throwing in my two sense on science: Science may be to an extent self correcting, but one problem i see is that the correction may come 100, 200 years after - in the meantime, it's taken as Truth. Moreover science seems often to work backwards: you take theory and search for proof, instead of taking data and allowing theory to create itself. This is inherently flawed because the amount of data required to verify a theory is to a degree subjective, and the same data could equally point to many theories which have or have not been thought of, none of which may be correct. Take string theory - an idea created without the least bit of objective evidence, whose chief virtue is that it would simply things. The theory is created and scientists madly rush to find circumstantial evidence (all that's really possible) of its truth. How can they know when (if) they find some evidence, that some other theory or actual Truth, is actually explanatory of the observed phenomenon? you can't. But in the meantime, everyone else assumes because it is "scientific" that it is true. view post


posted 27 Aug 2004, 15:08 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I share your Quinean proclivities, Andrew. All theory, no matter what it's stripe, is bound to be underdetermined if your criterion is absolute truth, (which I don't think anyone takes seriously anymore). But when it comes to say, the 'production of reliable truth claims,' it remains the only game in town - it certainly makes philosophy look like an undependable blowhard! view post


posted 27 Aug 2004, 19:08 by Andrew, Peralogue

Alas my Quinean proclivities are somewhat tempered...by virtue of not knowing what the word means - in any event, the other thing that's a problem in my mind with science, is that it's taken to prove things that are fundamentally not provable through science - the existence of God for example. all science really seems to do is describe. That description might be true, false, or partly true, but it can only actually describe based on data it receives. If things were fundamentally different at the other "side" of the universe, there is absolutely no way science can tell us anything about that - it destines us to partial truths, relative truths at best. Of course science is better at convincing people of those truths, but 99% of the time it is a convincing that is beyond the listener. Which is probably why so many people trust science absolutely - People are always impressed by a handful of tautology mixed with a liberal dose of What the Hell does that Mean? Not to say that that is all that science is - what i'm gettin at is, it is belief without understanding. We have to accept as faith that the conclusion we hear is accurate. Half of 'cutting edge' science seems as much one-upmanship as anything else. We lay-people have no way to disregard the good from the bad. Scientists are the new priests muttering in incoherent tongues. The nut-balls standing on their roofs searching for UFO's are as convinced in the infallibility of science as the Professors. The thing is, scientific truth claims, as truth claims, fall short of what we're looking for. People want truth about the existence of God, the meaning of Life, the Meaning of Pain, the meaning of Freedom. 1+1 = 2 isn't ever going to stop a suicide. The statement :"pain is a chemical reaction in your brain" - is true and of absolutely no relevance (unless you're a pharmacist). i don't know what my point is anymore. A diversion is needed... Why do you say no one takes absolute truth seriously anymore? Isn't it absurd that there should be no absolute truth? or do you mean no one expects to be able to prove what the absolute truth is, or that no one expects to absolutely prove X to be true? view post


posted 29 Aug 2004, 16:08 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

That's precisely the problem. Science has nothing to say about value, except to imply there's no such thing - which is quite terrifying when you realize that it's the most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of the human race. I think you're right that many people overestimate science, but far, far more people underestimate it. When I take classroom polls, the ratio seems to be about 10 to 1. [quote:3o1z40wh]Why do you say no one takes absolute truth seriously anymore?[/quote:3o1z40wh] I meant in the philosophical community. Personally, I'm not even sure I can come to a coherent understanding what an 'absolute' [i:3o1z40wh]anything[/i:3o1z40wh] would look like, let alone an 'absolute truth.' I don't even know what 'truth' is (nor does anyone else), though I think I can more or less distinguish between claims that are more or less true. view post


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