Is philosophy worth bothering with?

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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#941  Postby archibald » Jan 18, 2017 12:14 am

VazScep wrote:
Here's a question. Could you foresee a situation in the future in which scientists might want to or have to fall back on activities more philosophical than currently? Some sort of catastrophe or grinding to a halt for the scientific method?
Economic collapse might do it. If your budget only covers an armchair, and no lab equipment, you might have to go back to metaphysics.


How about.........this started happening.....any time anything was measured in any way, the answer was different each time?
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#942  Postby Thommo » Jan 18, 2017 12:19 am

BWE wrote:It's totally fair but we straightened that out with the tautology bit, no?


Well, I would say that settles the issue of whether you would say that philosophy (or philosophers) are involved with pretty well every field of human endeavour. Being charitable maybe even that they contribute to every field of human endeavour.

Does that mean that the fields rely on such books, on such philosophy? That there could be no such field if no such books were being written? I would say the answer is clearly no. There is a large gap between the weak claim that such books are written and the strong claim that such books are the core of every discipline and that the discipline couldn't even exist without them.

For example, here's a quote from that paper I mentioned I found and read last night:-
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10. ... 8101100306
10. Respondent. Popper’s more the fashion now than he was twenty years ago. I would very much subscribe to this viewpoint... .
Interviewer. So you think Popper’s had a significant influence on the thinking of scientists.
Respondent. I don’t think he has at all. Which is a great pity really. I think the good scientists think that way anyway.

(note this is a single quote from a variety of different opinions, not a conclusion of the paper or anything, you can also find the opposite view expressed)

I think the whole point is that people (in this case working social scientists) disagree on the extent to which this philosophy has an influence, with some (actually quite a few) saying not only that it's not the core of the discipline but that it does not at all have a significant influence.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#943  Postby VazScep » Jan 18, 2017 6:10 am

archibald wrote:How about.........this started happening.....any time anything was measured in any way, the answer was different each time?
I was going to mention Three Body Problem. In that, scientists start killing themselves out of despair when they find that fundamental physics isn't actually spacetime invariant.
Here we go again. First, we discover recursion.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#944  Postby archibald » Jan 18, 2017 10:34 am

Spinozasgalt wrote: I also read religious philosophy, so....

As a woman I briefly met in a pub late on a Saturday night once said to me after I happened to mention I was married, 'I'm sure that doesn't make you a bad person'.
"It seems rather obvious that plants have free will. Don't know why that would be controversial."
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#945  Postby DavidMcC » Jan 18, 2017 12:49 pm

archibald wrote:
Spinozasgalt wrote: I also read religious philosophy, so....

As a woman I briefly met in a pub late on a Saturday night once said to me after I happened to mention I was married, 'I'm sure that doesn't make you a bad person'.

Ha, ha! I bet that caught you off guard! :smug:
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#946  Postby archibald » Jan 18, 2017 12:50 pm

DavidMcC wrote:
archibald wrote:
Spinozasgalt wrote: I also read religious philosophy, so....

As a woman I briefly met in a pub late on a Saturday night once said to me after I happened to mention I was married, 'I'm sure that doesn't make you a bad person'.

Ha, ha! I bet that caught you off guard! :smug:


Yes. I suddenly realised that at least one of us was doing the intentional stance.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#947  Postby VazScep » Jan 18, 2017 12:53 pm

Spinozasgalt wrote:Well, I bother with moral philosophy quite a bit and it throws me into a lot of other areas of philosophy. So, to the extent that I do bother with it and plan to bother with it further, yes, I do think it's worth bothering with. But then, I've got an obvious use for it that others might not have. I also read religious philosophy, so....
What sort of religious philosophy, may I ask? Any particular favourite?

I think the comparison between philosophy and science can be fun to think about, if that helps. I think their differences are interesting rather than damaging to one or the other. Philosophy seems to be one of its own favourite subjects, whereas science seems to be mostly settled with itself. Maybe you can gloss it in terms of progress? Science, being somewhat settled with itself, can't do much else other than progress. Whereas with philosophy always being unsettled with itself, any progress would seem chimerical. I don't know how well I like any of that, but it's another way of looking at it.
There's a particular difference between science and philosophy that's come to my attention, that I first noticed when discussing technical issues about Goedel's Incompleteness Theorems with philosophers who, for some bizarre reason, cite Goedel's original paper in their arguments. I have never read Goedel's original paper, and I don't know anyone who has. I assume his proof is pretty crap compared to the modern ones. What little I know of his paper is that the theorem he proved is substantially weaker than the one I studied. The conversation normally ended with me saying "I don't care what Goedel said."

Scientists and mathematicians have comparatively little respect for their ancestors. You don't read Newton to understand Newtonian mechanics. But you do read Kant to understand Kantian philosophy. I did once read Alonzo Church's original papers on lambda calculus, but it was in this patronising tone of "wow. Alonzo kinda understood lambda calculus."

Someone wrote a blog post on this a few weeks back that hit the front page of Hacker News: https://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/2017/ ... hilosophy/

I reach a different conclusion to the poster, and think that the philosophical obsession with personality is what makes it closer to literature than science. Scientific progress manifests partly in the fact that you don't need to care about who invented a theory to become competent at it. This was indirectly suggested in the first paper I read by Rorty "Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture", in which he claimed that analytic philosophers of his generation had been told that they didn't need bother studying anyone prior to 1900, and that analytic philosophy was aiming to be like the sciences and make progress. Rorty didn't think it was making any progress, and that aping science wasn't what people wanted anyway. Instead, he suggested we all become literary critics.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#948  Postby archibald » Jan 18, 2017 1:17 pm

VazScep wrote:....aping science wasn't what people wanted anyway. Instead, he suggested we all become literary critics.


It seems to me that people want all sorts of things. If they have a sharp pain in their tummy, they want to know that there is someone they can go to who is going to be able to do more than discuss with them what they feel is meant by 'pain' and 'sharp' and 'tummy'. It has been said that there are no philosophers in ambulances.

Then they also want other things, to do with love, fulfilment, happiness and other stuff.

I think Rorty suggests that there are two sorts of truth, one for each of the above. He calls them public and private (objective and subjective strike me as better terms).

I think this is the appeal of continental philosophy, which is arguably closer to religion, the humanities (politics) and literature than science, with the opposite being the case for analytic philosophy.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#949  Postby archibald » Jan 18, 2017 1:30 pm

There is a saying in the building industry, usually said by architects with lofty ideals about architecture, that quantity surveyors (building cost consultants) know the price of everything but not the value of anything.

Om.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#950  Postby ughaibu » Jan 18, 2017 1:33 pm

archibald wrote:There is a saying in the building industry. . .
Got problems? Sky hooks.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#951  Postby BWE » Jan 18, 2017 11:30 pm

VazScep wrote:
Spinozasgalt wrote:Well, I bother with moral philosophy quite a bit and it throws me into a lot of other areas of philosophy. So, to the extent that I do bother with it and plan to bother with it further, yes, I do think it's worth bothering with. But then, I've got an obvious use for it that others might not have. I also read religious philosophy, so....
What sort of religious philosophy, may I ask? Any particular favourite?

I think the comparison between philosophy and science can be fun to think about, if that helps. I think their differences are interesting rather than damaging to one or the other. Philosophy seems to be one of its own favourite subjects, whereas science seems to be mostly settled with itself. Maybe you can gloss it in terms of progress? Science, being somewhat settled with itself, can't do much else other than progress. Whereas with philosophy always being unsettled with itself, any progress would seem chimerical. I don't know how well I like any of that, but it's another way of looking at it.
There's a particular difference between science and philosophy that's come to my attention, that I first noticed when discussing technical issues about Goedel's Incompleteness Theorems with philosophers who, for some bizarre reason, cite Goedel's original paper in their arguments. I have never read Goedel's original paper, and I don't know anyone who has. I assume his proof is pretty crap compared to the modern ones. What little I know of his paper is that the theorem he proved is substantially weaker than the one I studied. The conversation normally ended with me saying "I don't care what Goedel said."

Scientists and mathematicians have comparatively little respect for their ancestors. You don't read Newton to understand Newtonian mechanics. But you do read Kant to understand Kantian philosophy. I did once read Alonzo Church's original papers on lambda calculus, but it was in this patronising tone of "wow. Alonzo kinda understood lambda calculus."

Someone wrote a blog post on this a few weeks back that hit the front page of Hacker News: https://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/2017/ ... hilosophy/

I reach a different conclusion to the poster, and think that the philosophical obsession with personality is what makes it closer to literature than science. Scientific progress manifests partly in the fact that you don't need to care about who invented a theory to become competent at it. This was indirectly suggested in the first paper I read by Rorty "Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture", in which he claimed that analytic philosophers of his generation had been told that they didn't need bother studying anyone prior to 1900, and that analytic philosophy was aiming to be like the sciences and make progress. Rorty didn't think it was making any progress, and that aping science wasn't what people wanted anyway. Instead, he suggested we all become literary critics.


I definitely think it is more akin to literature than scientific experiment. That isn't really saying anything though except pushing the question back to the role of narrative in shaping society.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#952  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 19, 2017 8:13 am

BWE wrote:I definitely think it is more akin to literature than scientific experiment. That isn't really saying anything though except pushing the question back to the role of narrative in shaping society.


You don't even have to attribute that tiny and abstruse significance to it; you do it because you want to. Not everyone is interested in the role of narrative in shaping society. Philosophers, historians maybe, but it depends. Those with political leanings, perhaps. If you really want to participate in politics, buy yourself a politician.

You'll need an anthropologist to discuss with you the way narrative shapes society in your culture. More narrative, there, but it's getting a bit recursive, innit? With or without a nameable philosophy, people talk politics, and somebody like you is willing to name it for them. Taxonomy, naming conventions. If you're happy with that, so am I.

It's true that there is a lot of obsessing about political matters in some threads, here, and around the world, but that's an appeal to popularity, again. Perhaps philosophy could help explain that without descending into trivialities and tautologies and appeals to the popularity of simple ideas obfuscated. You have a long road ahead of you if you want to say anything specific about the role of narrative in shaping society. Any two can play! The individual's coming to grips with significance is just religion. And literature? You like what you like. Are you not entertained?

VazScep wrote:If your budget only covers an armchair...


You won't be buying any politicians this week. :evilgrin:
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#953  Postby Spinozasgalt » Jan 19, 2017 8:49 am

VazScep wrote:
Spinozasgalt wrote:Well, I bother with moral philosophy quite a bit and it throws me into a lot of other areas of philosophy. So, to the extent that I do bother with it and plan to bother with it further, yes, I do think it's worth bothering with. But then, I've got an obvious use for it that others might not have. I also read religious philosophy, so....
What sort of religious philosophy, may I ask? Any particular favourite?

I did the standard group of analytics; Adams, Plantinga, Alston, Quinn, Finnis, and a lot of others to a lesser degree. Mostly, I was introduced to these guys in ethics and then followed up on their other views later. Mark C. Murphy is a Thomist I don't mind; he's very much within the conventions of analytic philosophy (which can helpful or annoying or both), but when quite a few philosophers were praising and deploying Adams's view of obligation, Murphy jumped in to say, "Hold up, I don't think you guys have thought this through." He probably didn't actually make that comment, but that's how it looked and it was kinda fun. I've done a few traditional Thomists as well, including one that was trying to get concurrentism about divine causation off the ground again, but I can't for the life of me remember who he is. Oh and Helen De Cruz has a nice non-realist theism, I recall. I quite liked Hartshorne and his process theology, too.

Outside of the analytics, I've done some stuff on Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre, though I preferred the former. Simone Weil pops up a lot and I quite like her. Others like Derrida and Irigaray (actually, a lot of that bunch) say interesting things about religion, but I don't know if you'd call that religious philosophy.

There are more, especially outside of the analytic group, but I can't remember them all. :lol:

VazScep wrote:
I think the comparison between philosophy and science can be fun to think about, if that helps. I think their differences are interesting rather than damaging to one or the other. Philosophy seems to be one of its own favourite subjects, whereas science seems to be mostly settled with itself. Maybe you can gloss it in terms of progress? Science, being somewhat settled with itself, can't do much else other than progress. Whereas with philosophy always being unsettled with itself, any progress would seem chimerical. I don't know how well I like any of that, but it's another way of looking at it.
There's a particular difference between science and philosophy that's come to my attention, that I first noticed when discussing technical issues about Goedel's Incompleteness Theorems with philosophers who, for some bizarre reason, cite Goedel's original paper in their arguments. I have never read Goedel's original paper, and I don't know anyone who has. I assume his proof is pretty crap compared to the modern ones. What little I know of his paper is that the theorem he proved is substantially weaker than the one I studied. The conversation normally ended with me saying "I don't care what Goedel said."

Scientists and mathematicians have comparatively little respect for their ancestors. You don't read Newton to understand Newtonian mechanics. But you do read Kant to understand Kantian philosophy. I did once read Alonzo Church's original papers on lambda calculus, but it was in this patronising tone of "wow. Alonzo kinda understood lambda calculus."

Someone wrote a blog post on this a few weeks back that hit the front page of Hacker News: https://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/2017/ ... hilosophy/

I reach a different conclusion to the poster, and think that the philosophical obsession with personality is what makes it closer to literature than science. Scientific progress manifests partly in the fact that you don't need to care about who invented a theory to become competent at it. This was indirectly suggested in the first paper I read by Rorty "Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture", in which he claimed that analytic philosophers of his generation had been told that they didn't need bother studying anyone prior to 1900, and that analytic philosophy was aiming to be like the sciences and make progress. Rorty didn't think it was making any progress, and that aping science wasn't what people wanted anyway. Instead, he suggested we all become literary critics.

I have some sympathy for the philosophy as literature angle. I think Rorty and some others are quite eloquent about it. But there's a tendency from some of these guys that I want to avoid, which is to highlight a similarity (and, to be fair, they often work hard on picturing and clarifying it) and then pass or patch over the differences and forcibly assimilate philosophy to literature.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#954  Postby Macdoc » Jan 19, 2017 9:04 am

I have some sympathy for the philosophy as literature angle


I do as well tho I must admit I'd never thought of it in those terms before. It provides a framework to explore various human experiences from a variety of viewpoints.
( I'm going to tackle Lawrence Durrells Alexandria Quartet which does explore the same event from four viewpoints).

So philosophy can let one assume different "masks" if you like in considering issues. Fowles certainly played with "worldviews" as being deceptive in the Magus.

I guess were I to don a mask of choice ..Dionysian comes to mind as most fun. :D

Considering it a bit more ...are not Camus and Sartre best explored in their literary works....perhaps Koestler too.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#955  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 19, 2017 9:06 am

Spinozasgalt wrote:But there's a tendency from some of these guys that I want to avoid, which is to highlight a similarity (and, to be fair, they often work hard on picturing and clarifying it) and then pass or patch over the differences and forcibly assimilate philosophy to literature.


Do you think that tendency is described by the fact that writers of literature (as distinct from literary critics) quote whom they will, and leave the reader to make the citations? Literary critics do quote explicitly, and that's one similarity they have with philosophers. I'm suggesting the rest of the difference is only in quantity, and not in quality.

Macdoc wrote:So philosophy can let one assume different "masks" if you like in considering issues.


That's a trope from a particular interpretation or reading style. It's not required. It does get back to what the blog poster linked by VazScep was talking about, where one is in it for the 'experience'. Some Whorfian might say that it's inevitable, though. The concept of 'Whorfians' makes me think of aliens among us. You can take 'alien' and run with it as far as your Derrida will carry you.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#956  Postby Macdoc » Jan 19, 2017 9:12 am

Whether required or not it's a method of exploring various aspects of a philosophical set ..and that is what happens in literature...the author leads you within a viewpoint that most often expresses the authors philosophical bent and so attracts you to the concepts by way of events you can relate to.

Sometimes a Great Notion was hailed for breaking that pattern and forcing the reader to decide on what to make of events.

Literary critics tho are just about the antithesis of literature and in particular poetry ...akin to assigning frequencies to a rainbow.
I guess in that philosophy can parse a thinking structure precisely but then lose relevance or even romance to bring it into the human realm where literature succeeds very well in embedding a thought structure in the familiar and making it relevant.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#957  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 19, 2017 9:18 am

Macdoc wrote:Whether required or not it's a method of exploring various aspects of a philosophical set ..and that is what happens in literature...the author leads you within a viewpoint.

Sometimes a Great Notion was hailed for breaking that pattern and forcing the reader to decide on what to make of events,


It's understood that we say that sort of thing. What I'm trying to illuminate is that the preference for that kind of exploration is not to be assumed valuable a priori. It's treasured by a community, sure. It has to be learned, and here I'm thinking about "two cultures". It's not impossible for someone to rise to the very highest levels of discourse in both, but it is so exceedingly rare that we might figure that only a genius will do it. Specialization is making it nearly impossible to be noted for it. Feynman had a way with words, but he was completely uninterested in the niceties of pattern-breaking in the reading of literature. Usually there isn't enough room in a single lifetime to get that good at two different ways of thinking. For most people, training in one area ruins (or at least defers indefinitely) developing the potential in the other.

I think this is what protects the academic domains in the humanities from becoming completely superfluous. It's a human talent and can be developed to very high levels, but literary criticism doesn't usually manage that, but the literature itself does. Marveling at the achievements of scientists, poets and novelists, well that's what makes fans, and reading scientific commentary as literature.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#958  Postby Macdoc » Jan 19, 2017 9:25 am

I agree neither one or the other has any intrinsic step up on another but science, philosophy and literary criticism depend on a degree of rigor that is not required in literature.
Yet it is literature with it's emotive and imaginative power that can illustrate the experience of a particular approach to a wider audience. In it's most powerful form ....it powers propaganda to sway. And are not many of the divisive elements in politics philosophical differences.

And write now I have a scientifically based need to sleep. :coffee:
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#959  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 19, 2017 9:29 am

Macdoc wrote:I agree neither one or the other has any intrinsic step up on another but science, philosophy and literary criticism depend on a degree of rigor that is not required in literature.
Yet it is literature with it's emotive and imaginative power that can illustrate the experience of a particular approach to a wider audience. In it's most powerful form ....it powers propaganda to sway.


I'm willing to argue a semantic distinction between rigor and convention. We can have convention utterly without rigor (except for rigidity), and if you will assert that philosophy and lit crit depend on rigor, I want to know what you denote by that.

The main tool I have for arguments of this kind is a sensitivity to the similarity, for example, in 'rigor' and 'rigidity'. It's worthwhile to think about how they shade each other. You simply can't make statements like you did without inviting questions of this kind. In your statement 'rigor' is the only remotely controversial word or concept. I'll just leave 'intrinsic' alone. It's filler. Literature may not have any rigid conventions, but can we say that writers have no access to 'rigor' in emulating each other? Even if it's not codified, it can still move people. Scientists codify so that they stop making the same mistakes twice, and literary people don't care if somebody makes a mistake, which may involve rigidity, and that's probably what you mean by your comment.

As for all the swaying, I recognize that interest in politics that most people have. Divisiveness is personally repellent to a lot of folks, but some people get past that and see people just wanting different things. The moral dimension is philosophical, but so what? If you want morality, go with God, otherwise, it's just about muscle, and the bad guys always get that, don't they? That suggests to me that since 'asshole' is the dominant type of human (from the point of view of the minority), you're going to have to wait for a speciation event. Minorities live in hopes of some kind of speciation event.

Maybe there's this hope, at a website called "RationalSkepticism" that a speciation event is in progress. Empirical data help, but keep in mind that speciation events generally take place in isolated populations. Air travel rules this out.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#960  Postby archibald » Jan 19, 2017 10:43 am

Cito di Pense wrote:..... keep in mind that speciation events generally take place in isolated populations. Air travel rules this out.


Air travel is just an internal means of getting around the habitat of an isolated population. :)

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