Posted: Jan 18, 2017 11:30 pm
by BWE
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.