Science and Philosophy

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Zcorp
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:39 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:While you might not care what philosophy thinks, philosophy cares about the result of the science you conduct. It also cares about how you conduct science and the value of the science you are conducting vs the harm it might cause while you are conducting it.
If you're hinting that ethics, particularly, medical ethics or research ethics are a thing that philosophers get up to, then sure, I concur. I don't think that's really pertinent though to the action of conducting science. Yes, philosophers contributed to the decision of whether or not to drop the bomb. Yes, philosophers can weigh in on whether or not animal testing for medical research is acceptable.

That doesn't make animal testing for medical research something that philosophers are doing though.

I agree, although a philosopher might be doing that, but then it would be far more reasonable to call them a medical researcher.

Zcorp wrote:Maybe that's a better place to start. Do you agree that science lies within the realm of reason?
Yes, but as pointed out earlier, 'overlap' is not as good a description as 'predecessor'. I.e., Mokele's analogy.

Its not simply overlap. Science is a child/species/more concrete class to the idea of reason. The goal of science is largely to inform reason with new data to adjust how to make better judgement, beliefs or scientific theories.

Zcorp wrote:When you start using philosophy as a noun you are implying two things, intention and action. If your intention is to answer or study fundamental questions and take the action to do so you would be engaging in an act of philosophy. However, calling someone a 'philosopher' or attaching any action to a noun is something we generally reserve for when that action is a chronic behavior and intention of the individual.
I'm actually intrigued/concerned with philosophers calling themselves scientists when they do philosophy.

If a philosopher calls themselves a scientist while being bad at science that is certainly something to be concerned about. To bring back my analogy from earlier.

"I can be good at free throws but bad at basketball, I can also be good at basketball but bad at free throws."

I can be good at science but bad a philosophy, I can also be good at philosophy but bad a science.

If I am a philosopher - be it a good or bad one - and am bad at science and call myself a scientist I would be pretty dishonest.
If I was a basketball player and am bad at free throws and call myself a 'free thrower' I would be pretty dishonest.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:44 pm UTC

@Izawwlgood: for fairness, I am also highly skeptical of scientists who patrol the boundaries of their cozier position against the outsiders... My wife used to work in the Dutch equivalent of the NSF, she has plenty of anecdotes about such turf battles.

I guess I am a good Marxist :) history is best understood as a materialistic class struggle.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:51 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Here, to not be talking about this vaguely:

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert0130/

What do you hold that this man is doing? Physics? Philosophy? Philosophy of physics?

I 100% concur that he is a trained physicist. But my impression (which could be wrong!) is that what he is currently doing is not physics.

Here again we are encountering an issue with the semantics of the word science.

Science the word is used to mean one of three concepts. The method, the knowledge and a synonym for reason.

David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.

Technically he is doing all three of those things, philosophy, philosophy of physics and physics. However, two of those descriptors are potentially misleading. Saying he is a philosopher is too abstract and saying he is a physicist is too concrete to get an accurate understanding of what types of actions he performs, so it would be most reasonable to say he is a philosopher of physics. Saying 'philosopher of physics' is the most accurate way to convey the concept of "I am trying to answer the fundamental questions about the fabric of reality and by utilizing reason and my knowledge of physics I'm trying to form or improve a working theory of how reality behaves."
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:06 pm UTC

What do you hold that this man is doing? Physics? Philosophy? Philosophy of physics?

Then again, why is important to draw this line? To determine from which grant money he will be paid? To determine whether he should be listened to l or can be ignored? Whther you should be disappointed when your grad students want to work with him?

What is graphene research? Physics? Chemistry? Physical chemistry? Nano-engineering? Does it matter?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:57 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Here, to not be talking about this vaguely:

http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert0130/

What do you hold that this man is doing? Physics? Philosophy? Philosophy of physics?

I 100% concur that he is a trained physicist. But my impression (which could be wrong!) is that what he is currently doing is not physics.
I could hardly be less qualified to offer an opinion, but I do note that he calls it philosophy, rather than science.

I don't think the names of university departments are always a reasonable way to clarify human knowledge. This might be one of those cases where they are not.

ahammel wrote:Incidentally, you may be amused to learn that experimental philosophy is a thing.
Can you link to an example?
Not beyond Wikipedia, I'm only very vaguely familiar with the field. My impression is that philosophers sometimes need to make statements like "people's intuition about this problem is usually such and such", and some of them have figured out that it might be a good idea to test whether this statements are true.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_philosophy
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:59 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.
I agree with everything you have written in this post.

Zamfir wrote:
What do you hold that this man is doing? Physics? Philosophy? Philosophy of physics?

Then again, why is important to draw this line? To determine from which grant money he will be paid? To determine whether he should be listened to l or can be ignored? Whther you should be disappointed when your grad students want to work with him?

What is graphene research? Physics? Chemistry? Physical chemistry? Nano-engineering? Does it matter?
It doesn't *matter* in any other sense than I want to discuss it, and, I find it mildly irksome when someone from field A that I feel is unrelated to field B, claims that they are doing B when they are actually doing A.

What is graphene research? It isn't astronomy. It isn't A&P. It isn't ichthyology. Sure, it might relate to, say, optics, which allows you do astronomize better. It might be a good material for transplantable artificial sockets, so allows a surgeon to better aid patients. It might behave strangely through biospheres, and thus be of interest to ecologists.

But graphene research itself? None of those things. Just like we can thank philosophy for a lot of things, or rather, a lot of things can be reduced to or related to philosophy, but I feel that doesn't make philosophy all those things.

I'm not calling that guys work stupid, or inferior. I'm just calling it 'not physics'.

ahammel wrote:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_philosophy
Heh, notice the fields it lists?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:06 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
ahammel wrote:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_philosophy
Heh, notice the fields it lists?

Well, presumably experimental philosophy of physics is just called "physics".
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:15 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.
I agree with everything you have written in this post.


I'm not calling that guys work stupid, or inferior. I'm just calling it 'not physics'.

I'm confused on how you agree with everything I've written in that post - which within it I called what he is doing physics, among other things - and then call it 'not physics?'

What he is doing is certainly physics and it is certainly philosophy, but neither term by itself is sufficient to create an understanding of what he does without further clarification. Calling what he does 'philosophy of physics' is more accurate and clear for people who know what that means, but he is still doing both physics and philosophy.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:28 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.


I would disagree that it is 'both physics and philosophy'. I would call it 'philosophy that is influenced by physics'.

But hey, I might be wrong. I'm hoping some physicists can chime in.

ahammel wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
ahammel wrote:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_philosophy
Heh, notice the fields it lists?

Well, presumably experimental philosophy of physics is just called "physics".
Heh, indeed.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:33 pm UTC

Some areas of philosophy are pretty disjoint from science, but I like to think of some others as "holding areas" for science. Philosophers were the ones doing mathematical logic before computers came along. Philosophers were the ones hypothesizing about the most fundamental bits of reality before particle physics was a thing. Philosophers were asking about consciousness and identity before psychology and neuroscience showed up. Philosophers were discussing the nature of knowledge and empiricism before any of them called themselves scientists.

Sure, it's annoying from a scientific perspective when philosophers treat scientifically settled questions as still open, but in many cases I suspect scientists wouldn't even know which questions to ask if it hadn't been for last generation's philosophers.

(And I'd say scientism is equally annoying from the philosophical perspective, where folks claim science is capable of answering or has already answered philosophical questions it's not actually equipped to address.)
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:35 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.


I would disagree that it is 'both physics and philosophy'. I would call it 'philosophy that is influenced by physics'.
Isn't that what he calls it?

I am a philosopher of physics
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:52 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.


I would disagree that it is 'both physics and philosophy'. I would call it 'philosophy that is influenced by physics'.

But hey, I might be wrong. I'm hoping some physicists can chime in.

Why do you need a physicists? Say we had one, what about that person having studied physics some how makes their logic and argument any more sound than a non-physicist? Why are you actively seeking an appeal to authority, especially one from someone who doesn't necessarily study logic or language? If you actually value an appeal to authority why are you not seeking it from a philosopher?

Do you agree with this definition from wikipedia?:
Physics (“knowledge of nature”) is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.

If so, how is someone that is studying the specific applications of the scientific method on nature -as implied above- and then through that study working to create a better understanding of how nature works, not a physicist? They are utilizing knowledge from that field of study and striving to directly add to that field to further that field. If that person is not a physicist do you mean to say that you believe that Einstein is not a physicist?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:26 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.


I would disagree that it is 'both physics and philosophy'. I would call it 'philosophy that is influenced by physics'.

But hey, I might be wrong. I'm hoping some physicists can chime in.

Why do you need a physicists? Say we had one, what about that person having studied physics some how makes their logic and argument any more sound than a non-physicist? Why are you actively seeking an appeal to authority, especially one from someone who doesn't necessarily study logic or language? If you actually value an appeal to authority why are you not seeking it from a philosopher?


Logic is logic, and is equally valid regardless of who uses it. Likewise, carpentry is carpentry, and the house is equally solid regardless of who built it.

But on a practical level, you'll expect the house built by a carpenter to be a great deal more reliable than one made by a non carpenter. Training with a skillset promotes competence with it. So yeah, I generally assume a physicist(which I am not) is more likely than average to understand physics. To hold otherwise is to abandon the very concept of education having value at all.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:34 pm UTC


It doesn't *matter* in any other sense than I want to discuss it, and, I find it mildly irksome when someone from field A that I feel is unrelated to field B, claims that they are doing B when they are actually doing A.

For a case like this David Wallace guy, I think it's a choice, not a fact whether his work is included in 'physics' or 'science', or considered as an external activity.

For example, there is such thkng as philosophy of history. Relefection on what it means to do practice history, if it has a purpose or value, etc. Far more than scientists, historians smbrace such questions as part of the discipline of history itself, something to be done by historians jn their role as historians. And nicely symmetric, philosophers tend consider the history of philosophic thought as an integral part of the discipline, something a philosopher can study without becoming a historian.

Sciences, especially 'hard' sciences tend to be far more restrictive, like you say: it's at the very least bad manners to work in the history or philosophy of science, and still call yourself a scientist. Even if you trained as one. I knew some trained physicists who ran a highly-regarded history of science group from within a science department. That's where they wanted to stay, but it was constant bureaucratic and intellectual battle. They might have lost by now. Not because the rest of the department wanted their work to stop, they just wanted it tk contjnue elsewhere, where it might not be mistaken for real science.

Perhaps that's a good thing. Like Kuhn's argument that a science becomes a science because it does not have to reflect so much on its old work and its aims and methods, because those are considered as settled issues. I would still consider that a value judgement, not a judgement of fact.

There's the notrious quip that philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds, a sentiment that quite some scientists seem to share. Then again, I bet that birds would be highly interested in ornithology, if they could do it.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:10 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Why do you need a physicists? Say we had one, what about that person having studied physics some how makes their logic and argument any more sound than a non-physicist? Why are you actively seeking an appeal to authority, especially one from someone who doesn't necessarily study logic or language? If you actually value an appeal to authority why are you not seeking it from a philosopher?
Because I'm not familiar with the kind of work David Wallace is doing, and I'm not familiar with the journal Foundations of Physics.

Zcorp wrote:Do you agree with this definition from wikipedia?:
Physics (“knowledge of nature”) is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.

If so, how is someone that is studying the specific applications of the scientific method on nature -as implied above- and then through that study working to create a better understanding of how nature works, not a physicist? They are utilizing knowledge from that field of study and striving to directly add to that field to further that field. If that person is not a physicist do you mean to say that you believe that Einstein is not a physicist?
I do agree with that definition, which is why I want a physicist to chime in about David Wallace's contributions to physics. The thing I'm trying to convey is that I'm not certain David Wallace is 'working to create a better understanding of how nature works' instead of 'examining the ways in which physicists do physics' or something.

Let me ask you something; if I write about the miraculous defiance of entropy that life gets up to as evidenced in molecular biology, cellular biology, organismal biology, and ecology, and how like culture that is, would you call that biology? Sociology? Philosophy? Philosophy of Biology? Would you consider such a review and opinion piece to be a contribution to biology?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:33 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I do agree with that definition, which is why I want a physicist to chime in about David Wallace's contributions to physics. The thing I'm trying to convey is that I'm not certain David Wallace is 'working to create a better understanding of how nature works' instead of 'examining the ways in which physicists do physics' or something.

Until we find one of his colleagues or someone who has read his work I guess we can only refer to this:
"My research interests are mostly in the philosophy of physics. I've been particularly active in trying to develop and defend the Everett interpretation of quantum theory (often called the "Many-Worlds Interpretation"); my book on the Everett interpretation, "The Emergent Multiverse", was published in June 2012. But I also have philosophical and conceptual interests in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, general relativity, symmetry and gauge theory, and basically pretty much all of contemporary philosophy of physics."

And his book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Emergent-Mu ... 0199546967

While that's not a lot of evidence it does suggest he is working to create a better understanding of how nature works.

So unless this is actually about David, lets assume for the argument his bio and book description are accurate. Do you agree the above description could accurately be called a physicist?

Let me ask you something; if I write about the miraculous defiance of entropy that life gets up to as evidenced in molecular biology, cellular biology, organismal biology, and ecology, and how like culture that is, would you call that biology? Sociology? Philosophy? Philosophy of Biology? Would you consider such a review and opinion piece to be a contribution to biology?

I don't really know what that means so I couldn't say. As far as biology goes I'm little better than a layman, I don't know how of enough about examples of defiance of entropy in molecular biology nor I have heard of an argument for how culture mirrors that behavior.

If I'm understanding the last question sufficiently and that piece had new logical arguments with supporting evidence and/or was presented in a way that is easier than previous work to learn from, then, yes it would be a contribution to and furthering biology.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:42 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Do you agree the above description could accurately be called a physicist?
Again, no, I would not, and that is why I want a physicist to chime in. And to again reference what you wrote that I agree with;
Zcorp wrote:David there is a physicist in the sense that he likely contains a lot of knowledge about physics. He is seemingly not currently a physicist in that sense that he is using the method to further our understanding of physics or even directly applying that knowledge to solve tangible problems.


This isn't about David Wallace, I just linked him as an example of someone in a Philosophy of Physics program.

Zcorp wrote:If I'm understanding the last question sufficiently and that piece had new logical arguments with supporting evidence and/or was presented in a way that is easier than previous work to learn from, then, yes it would be a contribution to biology.
I would disagree; there is always room for reviews that distill current research into a more manageable and concise read, and are indeed contributions to a field, and there is always room for informed opinion pieces on the directions or trends or whatnot in a given field, though I wouldn't call those to be really 'contributions to the field' as much as analyses of the field. My hypothetical however was neither. Here, maybe an example that you'd be more familiar with: Would you consider Richard Dawkins "The Selfish Gene" to be contributions to either Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biology, Sociobiology, or Theology? What about Pollans "Omnivores Dilemma" as a contribution to Botany, Evolutionary Botany, Sociology, Economics, or History?

I suppose it's a bit of a semantics issue. I would hold the word 'contribution' to mean 'brings new information or discoveries to the field'. It is muddied by the fact that someone who synthesizes new discoveries into new concepts or ideas or theories is perhaps contributing, which would/could make Wallace, Dawkins and Pollan contributors.

Which is, again, why I would like a physicist to chime in on the sort of work Wallace is conducting. I personally would hold that Dawkins and Pollan did not contribute to those respective fields with those popular books, but could very well be wrong about that.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:44 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:and some [philosophers] have figured out that it might be a good idea to test whether this statements are true
... and science begins anew.

zcorp wrote:Do you agree with this definition from wikipedia?:
Physics (“knowledge of nature”) is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion...
It's incomplete. To be "physics", the study has to be accomplished using the scientific method (as opposed to reading tea leaves and gaining enlightenment).

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Aug 27, 2014 3:36 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:Do you agree the above description could accurately be called a physicist?
Again, no, I would not

You would not because if we take the bioat face value you don't believe that is furthering the field of physics or you do but he he still isn't a physicist because he isn't on the ground directly applying the method to get new data?

and that is why I want a physicist to chime in.

And this still makes no sense to me. Why does being a physicist matter at all in this instance?

I'm a few things, one of those is a applied behavior and cognitive scientist, a psychologist. Even if we needed a scientist to to assess if someone else is a scientist, which we don't, why would it be any different between fields of science? I certainly consider people who formulate theory psychologists, but you do not believe that people who formulate biological theories to be biologists?

I personally would hold that Dawkins and Pollan did not contribute to those respective fields with those popular books, but could very well be wrong about that.

I would disagree there, but that's not really the point. Do you believe Einstein was a physicist?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:00 am UTC

We're entering the realm of simply repeating ourselves.

Zcorp wrote:You would not because if we take the bioat face value you don't believe that is furthering the field of physics or you do but he he still isn't a physicist because he isn't on the ground directly applying the method to get new data?
Yes, again, if you look at the quote of yours I've linked repeatedly, I feel that someone with physics training doing philosophy or philosophy of physics work cannot call said philosophy work 'physics'. I would call a theoretical physicist a physicist, but I would not call them a philosopher.

This is related to my request that a physicist chime in on this matter, because I may be mistaken in calling Dr. Wallace's work 'not physics'. I am really, truly, no rudeness implied, not sure how else to convey this point to you and why it is relevant.

Zcorp wrote:Do you believe Einstein was a physicist?
Yes, but I also believe he was a philosopher, and I consider his philosophical writing to be 'not physics'. Einstein wrote a lot about God, Politics, Jews and Society, Music, etc. I wouldn't call Einstein a physicist because he wrote about those things, but, then, that is rather besides the point as well. Since you've pushed the issue, can you perhaps explain why you find it relevant, hopefully for other reasons than 'Einstein is a well known physicist who was also a prolific and popular writer on other matters'?

But, again, I am not a physicist, and don't know if such a position is valid. What I can say, which is wholly irrelevant to this discussion, is two physicist friends of mine have largely informed my current position, but for obvious reasons I cannot submit that as evidence.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:28 pm UTC

As dar as I can tell, the guy does not call himself a physicist. If anything, he is very careful to avoid such a statement. He says he was trained in physics, that he works with physics students, that he works in philosophy of physics, that he is interested in physics, etc. But every explicit, current claim is about philosophy, not physics

There is a header 'other physics papers' , which only includes work up to 2001.The 'other' implies that some of the later papers might also be physics papers. Some later papers are explicitly labeled philosophy, others are labeled 'Everett interpretation', leaving it to the reader to decide whether that makes it physics or not.

I suppose that's no accident. He knows he's in a sensitive position, that the boundary is guarded, that he will annoy people if he claims the status of a real scientist. You've picked a very nice edge-case example :)

As Zcorp notes, that's not the same in every field. In some fields, relections on the field are considered as an integral part of the field, and someone like Wallace would be a member of the discipline as a matter of course. At the same, it obviously does not work that way in physics, where he is at most a very peripheral 'phycisist' by the common concept of the discipline, and probably not even that. But that tells us more about the particular sociology of physics, than that it tells us about the relevance of his work to the general field of physics.

I don't know the journal 'Foundations of physics', but I can place some of its editors. In fact, my wife may very well have shared a class with the managing editor (the guy without reputation who does the grunt work). Some of the reputable board members are undisputable phycisists, though with interests in philosophy of the field.

I'd say that publishing there does not qualify someone as a physicist, but it it does mean that some of the more hardcore physicists are interested in that kind of work.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:38 pm UTC

Oh, I apologize if that was unclear; I don't think David Wallace is doing anything particularly unscrupulous or misrepresenting himself. I merely used him as an example of someone who works 'on the border', so to speak, so we'd have someone concrete to discuss.

Zamfir wrote:As Zcorp notes, that's not the same in every field. In some fields, relections on the field are considered as an integral part of the field, and someone like Wallace would be a member of the discipline as a matter of course.
I've listed a few, but I'm curious to hear of others. Can you give some further examples?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 27, 2014 6:48 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
What do you hold that this man is doing? Physics? Philosophy? Philosophy of physics?

Then again, why is important to draw this line? To determine from which grant money he will be paid? To determine whether he should be listened to l or can be ignored? Whther you should be disappointed when your grad students want to work with him?

What is graphene research? Physics? Chemistry? Physical chemistry? Nano-engineering? Does it matter?


*shrug* Someone could do both, too. Pretty much any field has SOME overlap with other fields, and people often have multiple interests. It's not at all odd for people to find connections between various related things and work on stuff that doesn't neatly fit into only one box. I'm in agreement here. We do not need to seek out only a single label for the man.

Zcorp wrote:
and that is why I want a physicist to chime in.

And this still makes no sense to me. Why does being a physicist matter at all in this instance?

I'm a few things, one of those is a applied behavior and cognitive scientist, a psychologist. Even if we needed a scientist to to assess if someone else is a scientist, which we don't, why would it be any different between fields of science? I certainly consider people who formulate theory psychologists, but you do not believe that people who formulate biological theories to be biologists?


People who are not physicists can certainly discuss it. But on topics pertaining to a given field, talking to someone who is very familiar with the field can often be illuminating. In physics, I am not such a person, and thus, am less able to describe the usual labels used in the field than a specialist might be. It's not wierd to seek out someone who knows the field, and I'm uncertain why you're objecting to such a thing. Nobody is trying to discount your opinion solely because of the labels you do or don't have, merely looking for additional data.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:58 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:*shrug* Someone could do both, too. Pretty much any field has SOME overlap with other fields, and people often have multiple interests. It's not at all odd for people to find connections between various related things and work on stuff that doesn't neatly fit into only one box. I'm in agreement here. We do not need to seek out only a single label for the man.
I think there's an issue though when you start connection different FIELDS. Again, semantics so it's kind of fuzzy and arbitrary, but a biophysicist is still doing both biology and physics in a way that contributes to the understanding of both, or at the very least, doing physics/biology in a biological/physical system that contributes to the understanding of both. A philosopher of physics is, as far as I can tell, not contributing to physics, as they are, loosely, 'doing philosophy' on physics.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby leady » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:38 pm UTC

As an ex-physicist, I can tell you that good lumps of physics at the fringe are based on axioms as much as (or instead of) empiricism. Similarly there are areas of study in Physics, that are worthy of the title that may have zero real world corelation

The standard model of particle physics isn't really a scientific theory but a collection of scientific axioms + consequential hypothesies (mostly observed and otherwise).

similarly some of the raw theoretical solutions to the above are completely sound theoretical physics, but may be not just a little wrong but a completely invented view of reality- but its still physics.

My favourite is the concept of using a 4d universe in general relativity to show that you can have curvature in 3d space regardless of a 4th dimension (the last thing that made me think - "thats pretty cool" :) ). Whether the universe has 4 spacial dimension is not empirical physics, but exploring the concept proves its irrelevence.

Ultimately of course empircism is king, but..

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:32 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote: A philosopher of physics is, as far as I can tell, not contributing to physics, as they are, loosely, 'doing philosophy' on physics.

Still, take our example philosopher above. He publishes in journals that are partially run by physicists, he teaches classes to physics students, supported by the physcis department. There are serious, undisputed physicists interested in his work for professional reasons, which might be the best measure of "contributing" to a field.

That doesn't make him a practicing scientist, but lack of contribution is not the deciding factor there. A line has been drawn that those kinds of contributions are philosophy and not science. That's perhaps a useful line, but it's only a useful demarcation of fields, it's not a barrier to potentially useful exchange across it.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:38 pm UTC

I'm mostly in agreement, but;
Zamfir wrote:He publishes in journals that are partially run by physicists
He publishes in philosophy journals run by physicists and philosophers of science, not physics journals. (Again, unless Foundations of Physics is a respected Physics journal)
Zamfir wrote: he teaches classes to physics students
An important thing for the continuation of a field, but not by any stretch something that makes you a member of the field. I could teach an introductory botany class but it would not make me a botanist.
Zamfir wrote:supported by the physcis department.
He's supported by the philosophy of science/physics department, not the physics department.
Zamfir wrote:There are serioeus, non-disputed physicists interested in his work for professional reasons, which might be the best measure of "contributing" to a field.
That's the part I'm uncertain of. Can you elaborate?

Zamfir wrote:That doesn't make him a practicing scientist, but lack of contribution is not the deciding factor there.
I would actually disagree with this part. If I decide to leave science and become a consultant, even if I'm using tools from my old skillset, I am no longer a scientist.

I think lack of current contribution is actually the deciding factor.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:53 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I would actually disagree with this part. If I decide to leave science and become a consultant, even if I'm using tools from my old skillset, I am no longer a scientist.

I think lack of current contribution is actually the deciding factor.

This again is where we are encountering the issue of semantics relating to the word science.

Method, Knowledge and Reason.

When someone uses the world science they generally mean one of or all three of those things.

Our example scientist is a scientist in the sense that he previous was focused on method, we can presume he has the knowledge and is actively working on applying reason to that knowledge.

So he did one of those three things in the past and currently represents other two of the meanings of science. If you want to restrict definition of a 'scientist' to only those who are currently utilizing the method in their day to day work, you can, but I don't believe that is a reasonable restriction to the word at all for reasons I've previously mentioned.

Further, I'm curious what you would call me. I apply psychology in the areas of game design and education. I often replicate studies, but sometimes not with the precision they were originally conducted or for the goal of gaining knowledge to the field but for experience to the individuals involved, I use the knowledge I've gained of human behavior to improve game play and teaching methods or goals. I do not conduct research to gain new facts, but I read those new facts and think about how they are more widely applicable to our understanding of how people behave. I consider myself an applied scientist. Is calling an applied scientist a scientist wrong or is it simply a word that does not give sufficient accuracy to what I do, or really what anyone does?

Is using the word scientist in the descriptor 'applied scientist' something you find to be wrong?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:01 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Method, Knowledge and Reason.
Yes, empiricism. Which is rather my contention with Philosophy of Science being science, as I have now repeatedly explained, it is not doing science, as it is not doing anything empirically.

Zcorp wrote:Our example scientist is a scientist in the sense that he previous was focused on method, we can presume he has the knowledge and is actively working on applying reason to that knowledge.
Our example Philosopher of Science was a scientist in the sense that he previously was focused on experimentation or observation. He has knowledge of how to be a scientist. He is currently not a scientist because his work is not focused on experimentation or observation.

Zcorp wrote:Further, I'm curious what you would call me. I apply psychology in the areas of game design and education. I often replicate studies, but sometimes not with the precious they were originally conducted, I use the knowledge I've gained of human behavior to improve game play and teaching methods or goals. I do not conduct research to gain new facts, but I read those new facts and think about how they are more widely applicable to our understanding of how people behave. I consider myself an applied scientist. Is calling an applied scientist a scientist inaccurate or is it simply a word that does not give sufficient accuracy to what I do, or really what anyone does?
I would call you a game designer or an educator. Or both. Perhaps an educator that uses game design to facilitate teaching. I would not call you a psychologist, unless of course, you designed games whose purpose was to collect data and test hypotheses (EDIT: Or, of course, if you also saw/treated patients). Of course, if in the course of your teaching, you wanted to determine the most effective lesson plan/order/etc for enhancing student performance, and did so by experimentally dividing your students into a few groups and giving each a different game, and comparing their performance, I would call you an educator that used game design in a scientific experiment. For that bit, I would say you were a practicing scientist.

When I write stories, I consider myself a writer, but if someone asked me what I did, I wouldn't say "I'm a scientist, also, I'm a fiction writer". Similarly, in college, I did marine research, but I now work on neurodegeneration; same thing, if someone asked me what I work on, I wouldn't say "Neurodegeneration, also, marine biology".
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:19 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Zcorp wrote:Method, Knowledge and Reason.
Yes, empiricism. Which is rather my contention with Philosophy of Science being science, as I have now repeatedly explained, it is not doing science, as it is not doing anything empirically.

This is you again seemingly disagreeing with the idea that the word science has come to mean three different ideas. Not just the one you want it to, I'm not sure how to continue this discussion without just repeating this to you.

The word science is used to convey more than one idea, so unless you can give reason to why 'scientist' only applies to one of those ideas or you can provide another valid argument for why it only means 'one whose current day to day includes utilizing scientific method' you are not going to convince anyone.

I believe that scientist is a word that is sufficiently broad to cover many professions and actions. I also think it is a terrible word to use to describe someones profession and action. It would seem so does the rest of the world and it is why we have added descriptors to the word and more specific words to assist with conveying what we mean.

We have applied scientists, research scientists, scientific experts, etc and we even generally clarify further by saying the field of science such as: applied psychologist, research biologist, physics expert.

I would call you a game designer or an educator. Or both. Perhaps an educator that uses game design to facilitate teaching.

I'm a game designer, I'm sometimes and educator and then only to adults who are currently teachers so that word is quite misleading to describe what I do, and I'm certainly not an educator that uses game design to facilitate teaching. But really I'm an applied psychologist that uses an understanding of human behavior - and the variances within it - to design games and improve teaching methods, goals and school structure.

I would not call you a psychologist, unless of course, you designed games whose purpose was to collect data and test hypotheses. Of course, if in the course of your teaching, you wanted to determine the most effective lesson plan/order/etc for enhancing student performance, and did so by experimentally dividing your students into a few groups and giving each a different game, and comparing their performance, I would call you an educator that used game design in a scientific experiment. For that bit, I would say you were a practicing scientist.

I've done the first thing, and the second thing is the goal of what I want to do (well minus the game part) but apparently no body else does, which makes it difficult for me to do.

Also I don't ask you questions on your thought process for my benefit, I ask them for yours and the sake of the discussion. When you choose to ignore those questions or my comments as you have repeatedly done it decreases my interest in helping you think through this problem.

I'll ask again:
"Is calling an applied scientist a scientist wrong or is it simply a word that does not give sufficient accuracy to what I do, or really what anyone does?"

Also this one, that I edited in while you were responding:
"Is using the word scientist in the descriptor 'applied scientist' something you find to be wrong? If not, why not?"

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:37 pm UTC

Lack of contribution can exclude someone from a field. But in reverse, contribution does not automatically include someone. For the obvious example, mathematicians contribute to physics without becoming physicists by that process.
Izawwlgood wrote:That's the part I'm uncertain of. Can you elaborate?

What does it mean to contribute to an intellectual field? Something along the lines that you generate ideas that people in that field find both new and valuable, that they are willing to learn, think over, that they might build from.

This is the statement of Foundations of Physics
Spoiler:
Our views of the physical world are changing rapidly. Humanity's continuing search for coherent structures in physics, biology, and cosmology has frequently led to surprises as well as confusion. Discovering new phenomena is one thing, putting them into context with other pieces of knowledge, and inferring their fundamental consequences is quite something else. There are controversies, differences of opinion, and sometimes even religious feelings which come into play. These should be discussed openly. Philosophical issues that are of a general, nontechnical nature should be handled in the opinion pages of the news media, but when the discussed arguments become too technical for that, when peer review is needed to select the really valuable pieces of insight, only a distinguished scientific journal is the appropriate form.

Foundations of Physics is an international journal devoted to the conceptual bases and fundamental theories of modern physics and cosmology, emphasizing the logical, methodological, and philosophical premises of modern physical theories and procedures.
We welcome papers on the interpretation of quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, special and general relativity as well as cosmology. Also, we think it is time for the experts on quantum gravity, quantum information, string theory, M-theory, and brane cosmology to ponder the foundations of these approaches.

New insights are gained only by intense interactions with professionals all over the globe, and by solidly familiarizing oneself with their findings. Fortunately there are many authors with a deep understanding of the topics they are discussing who are willing to take the opportunity to present their ideas in our journal, and their clever inventiveness continues to surprise us.
Acceptance of a paper may not necessarily mean that all referees agree with everything, but rather that the issues put forward by the author were considered to be of sufficient interest to our readership, and the exposition was clear enough that our readers, whom we assume to be competent enough, can judge for themselves.

These people surely intend that the journal contributes to the field of physics, in that sense that I gave above. They want physicists (and others) to read it, think about it, and draw conclusions from it. In the same vein, physics students go to Wallace's classes (and senior physicists give them credits for that) presumably because it is considered as potential help to become a better physicist. As exposure to ideas that can be valuable for physicists.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:56 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Further, I'm curious what you would call me. I apply psychology in the areas of game design and education. I often replicate studies, but sometimes not with the precision they were originally conducted or for the goal of gaining knowledge to the field but for experience to the individuals involved, I use the knowledge I've gained of human behavior to improve game play and teaching methods or goals. I do not conduct research to gain new facts, but I read those new facts and think about how they are more widely applicable to our understanding of how people behave. I consider myself an applied scientist. Is calling an applied scientist a scientist wrong or is it simply a word that does not give sufficient accuracy to what I do, or really what anyone does?


Game designer seems rather more informative than "scientist". The "I do not conduct research to gain new facts" seems to focus the activity on the non-scientific aspects. You are no doubt using the results of science to assist you in your field. Conversely, someone playing in game theory solely to attempt to uncover new truths about humanity or what not would likely be described as a scientist, despite a somewhat similar overlap in interests.

Merely reading the discoveries of others and pondering them does not make someone a scientist, though it's certainly a good thing to do. I enjoy good cooking, but I am not a chef.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby nicklikesfire » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:04 pm UTC

Sorry for this aside, but, what exactly does a philosopher do?

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:10 pm UTC

nicklikesfire wrote:Sorry for this aside, but, what exactly does a philosopher do?


Teaches philosophy, writes books, or pursues options outside of his field, mostly.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:25 pm UTC

nicklikesfire wrote:Sorry for this aside, but, what exactly does a philosopher do?

Tries to answer questions about the nature of existence.
Such as:
What is the point of life?
How do we live?
What is life?
How should we live?
What exists outside of earth?
What is the relationship between non-earth things and earth?
What does that relationship mean to us?
What is the relationship between non-earth things and each other?

Most of those have been somewhat answered by historic philosophers.
Now with the arguments they provided toward answers and new data from the scientific method, they strive further understanding of those questions and those like them. To formulate theories from the data of the method to gain a better understanding of nature's systems to further answer the questions above and those like the them.

What philosophers do has not changed ever, we are just slowly getting closer to answering questions about the nature if existence.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:36 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:
nicklikesfire wrote:Sorry for this aside, but, what exactly does a philosopher do?

Tries to answer questions about the nature of existence.
Such as:
1 What is the point of life?
2 How do we live?
3 What is life?
4 How should we live?
5 What exists outside of earth?
6 What is the relationship between non-earth things and earth?
7 What does that relationship mean to us?
8 What is the relationship between non-earth things and each other?


Numbers added by me.

1) Philosophers ask this question but have no basis for an answer. Science DOES have an answer; there isn't one. At least not an inherent one. That is, if there is any point at all, it's because we created one. So, whatever we want that point to be.

2) Wrong question. 'How do we achieve the society we want' is the better question. First we have to decide on what that 'best' society truly is.

3) The line is blurry, but the implied question is 'at what point does life become valuable'. The general answer is if they are sapient. But define sapient...

4) See 2

5). No philosopher has any basis for the answer

6). Despite the relationship with 5, this IS a good philosophical topic. But it's best rolled up with the implied topic in 3.

7). See 6

8). See 6

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:51 pm UTC

You're being pretty dismissive of the entire field of ethics with your "answers" to 2 and 3, and therefore (by your own assertion) 4, 6, 7, and 8 as well.

Science by itself can't get you normative statements or value judgments. If you're asking questions about what we should do or what things/lives/people are "worthwhile", then on some level you're doing philosophy.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:23 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:2, how do we live?) Wrong question. 'How do we achieve the society we want' is the better question. First we have to decide on what that 'best' society truly is.

Wrong question for what?
"How do we achieve the society we want" is not a question I asked here as an example of what philosophers do. It is certainly something we should be interested in, I just didn't list it. My list is not a complete list of what a philosopher does.

By stating "How do we live?" I mean to ask how do we stay alive, or what enables us to do so. This being a fundamental question that basically led to all of medicine.

5 What exists outside of earth). No philosopher has any basis for the answer

They don't?
Why not?
Philosophers looked up and wondered what things are, they found planets and named them, they found stars and grouped them.

Of course they have basis for answering these question, not only do they have them they created them. Ultimately creating science to have a better basis for answering their questions.

But regardless of the clarity of my questions or their completeness to my list, what are you trying to say with your response?

gmalivuk wrote:Science by itself can't get you normative statements or value judgments. If you're asking questions about what we should do or what things/lives/people are "worthwhile", then on some level you're doing philosophy.

I don't really disagree with this, but do believe it needs some clarification.
Utilizing the method by itself can not make judgement but the facts it finds can and do inform Reason to better judgement. Reason is also one, and IMO the ideal way, to set goals for our treatment of each other and the rest of existence. Then through the collection of data we can make better judgement toward how well we are achieving those goals compared to practical alternatives or what we imagine could be real option.

If by science you mean 'the Scientific Method' and specifically exclude 'scientific thinking' or ideas that are similar, I agree.
Last edited by Zcorp on Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:13 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:28 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If you're asking questions about what we should do or what things/lives/people are "worthwhile", then on some level you're doing philosophy.
Which is why science (well, good science) isn't trying to answer questions like 'Is gmalivuk a good person?'

Zamfir wrote:This is the statement of Foundations of Physics...
The mission statement of most things is a pretty useless thing to look at, generally speaking, but I feel the journals impact factor (1.05 something), it's inclusion of the pursuit of philosophy, and a publication record full of Philosophers of Science indicates it isn't a very scientific journal.

Zcorp wrote:I believe that scientist is a word that is sufficiently broad to cover many professions and actions.
And this disagreement, again, is why we keep repeating our positions.

Zcorp wrote:Philosophers looked up and wondered what things are, they found planets and named them, they found stars and grouped them.
And when they started that they became astronomers. Or rather, they were doing astronomy when they did that. Just like when astronomers today study, say, gravitational lensing from black holes, they aren't doing philosophy.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:38 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:If you're asking questions about what we should do or what things/lives/people are "worthwhile", then on some level you're doing philosophy.
Which is why science (well, good science) isn't trying to answer questions like 'Is gmalivuk a good person?'

Good utilization of the method certainly does that.
It just does not tell what what a good person is. If that was already decided or we have a specific definition on what makes a 'good person' and were wondering of gmalivuk represented that definition we would use the Method. Doing so would be good a use of it and a valuable toward our goal.

Zcorp wrote:I believe that scientist is a word that is sufficiently broad to cover many professions and actions.
And this disagreement, again, is why we keep repeating our positions.


Yes, and I've many times spelled out for you the logic behind mine. Science means three things! Why are you choosing to ignore the other 2? Make an argument for why we should or for why you hold the belief that those other two things are not science.

I've given you a logically consistent argument on why your definition is not broad enough, you have only expressed your opinion that 'those things aren't science.' Despite that history and current culture disagree with you.


Zcorp wrote:Philosophers looked up and wondered what things are, they found planets and named them, they found stars and grouped them.
And when they started that they became astronomers. Or rather, they were doing astronomy when they did that. Just like when astronomers today study, say, gravitational lensing from black holes, they aren't doing philosophy.

No, they never stopped doing philosophy. Everything else they did was toward their goal in the field of philosophy. While they became Astronomers, they did not stop being philosophers. They did not stop working toward answering the fundamental questions, in fact the very reason they 'became Astronomers' was to answer those questions.


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