Science and Philosophy

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Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:06 pm UTC

I'm posting here in SB to avoid this search from showing up in searches for non-forumites. If I'm forgetting how SB actually works, apologies, and please move this to Science or Philosophy.

I'm curious what people think about the intersection between science and philosophy. This is largely inspired from conversations with a friend, and also from arguments around the intertubes. I see a lot of philosophers claiming that 'all science is actually philosophy' or 'science relies on philosophy' or 'without philosophy, science couldn't do science' or the like. I fully grant that there are some fields that are particularly overlapping, such as linguistics, theory of mind and certain studies in neurology, but generally, I hold that most philosophers are not presently contributing to most science. This is, of course, not to say that philosophy is useless in general. But I hold that while philosophy codified, and is largely to thank for empiricism and the scientific method, that it does not have 'dibs' so to speak, on all things that use it thereafter.

Something I posit is a fundamental different between the way philosophy and science are 'done', is that science utilizes reproducibility and falsifiability in a way that philosophy does not. Obviously a sound philosophical argument is reproducible, and a poor philosophical argument is falsifiable, but not so via experimentation.

Particularly, what would you (forumites), say theoretical phycists are 'doing'? Philosophy? Science? Something in between? What about mathematicians? Biologists? And yes, I understand the terms are fuzzy here, so of course, feel free to define them.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:44 pm UTC

You can say that scientists, unlike philosophers, are expected to conduct experiments and falsify hypotheses and the like, but a sufficiently annoying philosopher would come back and say "yes, but philosophy is a super-set of science. Science is the kind of philosophy where you discover the truth values of statements about the natural world by conducting experiments. There are other kinds of philosophy where you discover the truth values of different kinds of statements—like metaphysical ones—by other methods—like deduction."

The answer to the question "is science really philosophy?" is, I imagine, going to depend on what you mean by those words. That's not a fight I'd be willing to pick with a professional philosopher :P
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:02 pm UTC

Disclaimer: I'm not a philosopher, but I play on on the internet.

Science uses a set of paradigms and method of thinking to try to figure out how the "Real world" actually works. However, like mathematics is ultimately based on defined terms which are based on undefined terms (you gotta start somewhere!), philosophy is (I suppose) how we decided that (for example) logical deduction is the way to go.

We use logical thinking to convince ourselves that logical thinking works. But that doesn't really work (though I think it beats the alternative!)

Philosophy would be concerned with deciding that logical thinking is a good way to approach things in the first place.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Brace » Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:36 pm UTC

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Cres » Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:24 pm UTC

I think there are a couple of interesting distinctions which can inform this question a bit:

One is between conceptual questions and empirical questions. You often see people (especially on the internet, and among those from a more maths/science background) complaining that philosophy is just talking about words, and that the answer to a philosophical question "just depends on how you define the terms". This is trivially true in one way, but completely misses the point. Namely, that the question is about those terms, and how they relate to the concept in question. The question of what makes an action right does depend on what you mean by 'right', but that's the point! We're talking about the concept of rightness. I think this is in part to do with the fact that, if you're used to the empirical sort of question, the idea of questions where trying to take an empirical approach is nonsense, a category error, is pretty alien.

The second distinction is between science and scientism. Scientism being roughly the position that the scientific method is not only the way to answer empirical questions (which is a perfectly sensible position), but is in fact the only way to answer all questions. Now, as soon as you understand that there are such things as conceptual questions, it's maybe obvious that this is a ridiculous position to hold. But it's a viewpoint held by a lot of people (albeit not by many who have had much contact with serious philosophy).
I think there is quite a common route into this scientistic mode of thinking, and that's via the atheism debate: our hypothetical internet scientist gets into a debate with some internet religious types over some empirical questions (is there evidence for evolution etc.) which the scientist rightly feels is the domain of science, and comes away with the strong impression that he needs to join the good fight to make sure science is applied as widely as possible in fighting superstitious beliefs.
But then, filled with New Atheist zeal, he takes it too far, and forgets about the distinction between empirical and conceptual questions: he gets into an argument with an internet philosopher about whether science can solve the core, thorny issues of morality, and suddenly he's not on the side of the logical angels anymore. He thinks he's advocating science, but he's really on the shaky ground of scientism and making the sort of category mistakes a first year philosophy undergrad would get eviscerated for.

Anyway, given the demographics of this forum (my guess is that there's a lot of top-notch science & maths types on here), would be very interested to hear anyone's thoughts on the scientism debate. My personal feeling is that, in the battle to be 'less wrong', scientism vs philosophy is shaping up to be just as important a battleground as religion vs science.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:39 am UTC

Science is a methodology, philosophy is a domain of human activity. There is, of course, overlap, because the scientific method is used in so very many domains of human life.

Of course, science tends to be rather more unified and definitive about it's advancement than philosophy, which usually comes down to irreducible axioms that people still disagree over. If your values are different, then your philosophies tend to be different, and it can be incredibly difficult to reconcile different philosophies, or meaningfully dispose of them. Science is far better here.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Aug 25, 2014 1:57 pm UTC

And what do people feel of the contribution of current philosophers to current science? In fields like theoretical physics? Linguistics? Theory of mind? I'm honestly not trying to start an argument, and am just interested in hearing people's thoughts on this.

Cres wrote: My personal feeling is that, in the battle to be 'less wrong', scientism vs philosophy is shaping up to be just as important a battleground as religion vs science.
Interesting, can you elaborate on why? Internet armchair warriors aside, I don't see a lot of scientists in the real world trying to publish in philosophical texts, but I do see a lot of philosophers publishing on QM, cosmology, etc., albeit in mostly Philosophy and/or History of Science journals.

@Alex: Yes, most of the debates I've noticed spiral into semantics. It can be quite frustrating.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Mokele » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:12 pm UTC

Like anything worth talking about, this can be analogized to reptiles. :wink:

"Reptiles" in the strictest sense of modern taxonomy, should be a broad set that includes modern birds. And, when looking into the past, or certain specific details, it's clear to see why that is, and how that came about. But, looking at modern taxa, birds are so wildly different from "traditional reptiles" in almost every way (ecology, life history, metabolism, senses, anatomy, physiology, etc.) that scientists who're working on living members of either tend to use the "traditional" divide because it's just plain more useful. This is especially true at or near the whole-animal level, where all those little differences add up to very big differences in how they work and live.

While philosophy technically includes science, and looking back you can see the connections, in the intervening time they have become so wildly different that considering them together is less informative than erecting vague, imperfect divide. After all, regardless of origins, there's now a world of difference between inquiries made using the method of "If we consider first principles..." versus those made using the method of "I wonder what happens if I poke it with a stick?". Even so-called "philosophers of science" usually don't quite get how truly *messy* science is, how far removed from pure, abstract principles and how close to "Well, hit it with a hammer and see what happens".

Philosophy claiming credit for modern scientific innovation is a bit like turtles claiming credit for learning to fly.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:16 pm UTC

"Philosophy" is from the roots 'philo', meaning 'love', and 'sophia', meaning 'wisdom'. Literally 'love of wisdom'. Until a few hundred years ago, all science was a subset of philosophy, known as "natural philosophy". That is, the study of the natural world. That's why people who study science attain the title of "Doctor of Philosophy".

Before you can begin any science, you first need a brief study of a particular branch of philosophy. Specifically, epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we "know" things. Prove that the chair exists. We have no definitive proof that the chair isn't a hologram/force projection by aliens or something, but we all know that the chair exists. Why? How do we know we aren't a brain in a vat? The axiom that ALL science accepts is that our senses are correct. Because without this basic assumption we simply couldn't do science. Sure, things muddle our senses, but some of the biggest breakthroughs are finding out WHY some of our senses are wrong, but we do that by creating or enhancing other senses. We expand our sight with microscopes and find out that we aren't made of one solid mass but billions of cells. We expand our hearing with tech to find patterns outside of our normal range. We use chemistry to determine what our noses and tongues can't.

But beyond epistemology, philosophy is otherwise unnecessary for science.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Mon Aug 25, 2014 4:22 pm UTC

Internet armchair warriors aside, I don't see a lot of scientists in the real world trying to publish in philosophical texts, but I do see a lot of philosophers publishing on QM, cosmology, etc., albeit in mostly Philosophy and/or History of Science journals.

There might be a question of definitions here, and a prestige issue as well. If a scientist spends most of their time and effort on philosophy or hsitory, even of their own field, they tend to stop being scientists in the eye of the world and of other scientists. Or at least, less of a real scientist and more something else. It can be a side project, but not an occupation.

Thomas Kuhn had some interesting things to say here. He remarked that it's not that obvious how a field gets counted as a science ( which comes with quite some prestige for the field). He claims that to be seen as a science, a field of study needs, among other things, a large amount of uncontested content. Established knowledge, methods, boundaries that can be taken for granted and can be built from.

By extension, a field cannot be both considered as a real science, and also spend serious attention to its own history or to philosophical questions. A physicist can honour nineteenth century work, or study up on it s a hobby. But it should be unusual for a them to study or reflect on it as their full main job as a physicist. It counts as a real science, partially because most past work is 'frozen'. People have agreed among each other which parts from earlier days are valuable and which are not. You're not expected to make a new contribution to physics by reconsidering nineteenth century work. If you could, it would be less of a science.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:03 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I see a lot of philosophers claiming that 'all science is actually philosophy'

This is true, but it is also still science.

Philosophy is to science as a rectangle is to a square.

'science relies on philosophy' or 'without philosophy, science couldn't do science' or the like.

Neither of these really are. Unless by the second one they mean 'without philosophers wanting to learn what is true the scientific method wouldn't of been developed.'

Tyndmyr wrote:Science is a methodology

Science is not just a methodology. Colloquially and often technically the word is used to mean one of three concepts: it refers to the method we have best established to determine truth, the knowledge gained from utilizing the method and to reason where one often uses this new knowledge to enchance their understanding of the cosmos.

Philosophy is a category of skills that contains reason (as mentioned often called science, scientific thinking, critical thinking etc), which contains the scientific method.
Basketball is a category of skills that contains shooting, which contains free throws.

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

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:11 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:
'science relies on philosophy' or 'without philosophy, science couldn't do science' or the like.

Neither of these really are. Unless by the second one they mean 'without philosophers wanting to learn what is true the scientific method wouldn't of been developed.'


Meh. Determining what would or would not have been developed in an alternate history is difficult. Certainly, there is an overlap, but many philosophers apparently did not contribute notably to science, and surely, many scientists are not overly concerned with philosophy. At least, not in any special way that would differentiate "philosopher" from "humans in general".

Plenty of people have taken a pragmatic approach to finding out if something works without being especially philosophical in nature.

Tyndmyr wrote:Science is a methodology

Science is not just a methodology. Colloquially and often technically the word is used to mean one of three concepts: it refers to the method we have best established to determine truth, the knowledge gained from utilizing the method and to reason where one often uses this new knowledge to enchance their understanding of the cosmos.

Philosophy is a category of skills that contains reason (as mentioned often called science, scientific thinking, critical thinking etc), which contains the scientific method.
Basketball is a category of skills that contains shooting, which contains free throws.

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


To a degree, yes...but jumping around between colloquial definitions and insisting on entire subsets technically seems...sketchy. None of these terms are that precise, especially when one is relying on colloquial use.

Neither is entirely a subset of the other. One can quite easily be doing something scientific that is not particularly motivated by or connected to anything particularly philosophical in nature. Likewise, one can make philosophical arguments without doing anything particularly scientific.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:12 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Zcorp wrote:
'science relies on philosophy' or 'without philosophy, science couldn't do science' or the like.

Neither of these really are. Unless by the second one they mean 'without philosophers wanting to learn what is true the scientific method wouldn't of been developed.'


Meh. Determining what would or would not have been developed in an alternate history is difficult. Certainly, there is an overlap, but many philosophers apparently did not contribute notably to science, and surely, many scientists are not overly concerned with philosophy. At least, not in any special way that would differentiate "philosopher" from "humans in general".

Plenty of people have taken a pragmatic approach to finding out if something works without being especially philosophical in nature.

I'm confused about the relevancy of any of this.

Tyndmyr wrote:Neither is entirely a subset of the other. One can quite easily be doing something scientific that is not particularly motivated by or connected to anything particularly philosophical in nature. Likewise, one can make philosophical arguments without doing anything particularly scientific.

Science is entirely subset of philosophy. The intentions or motivations of the individual are not relevant to this discussion.

Just because I can do free throws outside of and with no intention of playing basketball does not mean the concept doesn't originate from and is not defined by that sport. Nor does it make any sense to deny that they are part of basketball even if the person doing them doesn't know where they came from or what they are used for within it.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:31 pm UTC

Philosophy is not a superset of all human activity. It is a study of certain general topics, albeit usually in a broad and possibly metaphysical way. If everything is philosophy, then philosophy, as a descriptor, is essentially meaningless.

Say, testing a given process to see if it works or not may not have the slightest implication for philosophy and it's pursuit of these grand questions. In fact, it often wont, because a lot of the things science is concerned with are actually pretty banal when you get down to it. Most of us are not attempting some grand unifying theory or what not. We're trying to figure out an algorithm for this or that, or testing something on a practical level. Figuring out the exact physical properties of a slightly different epoxy is...perhaps useful, and definitely scientific, but generally pretty irrelevant to anything you will be doing as a philospher, or would be teaching in a class on philosophy.

Therefore, it cannot be a superset. There is merely overlap, with neither domain entirely encompassing the other.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:40 pm UTC

Perhaps a word that fits better than 'superset' is 'predecessor'?

I find Mokele's analogy to be extraordinarily on point.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:57 pm UTC

Merely coming before something else does not mean the earlier thing encompasses the latter. The horse came before the automobile, yet the honda civic is not a horse. So yes...it's a bit like his flying turtles example.

Zcorp, however, appears to be arguing that science is a subset of philosophy. The idea that science is defined by philosophy is...not really true, unless you broaden the term of philosophy to include all determinations of definitions, which is far outside philosophy's normal scope.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:18 pm UTC

Yes, to be clear, I was disagreeing with Zcorp's assessment that science is a subset of philosophy, and agreeing with you Tyn.

Mokele's example was that while Birds can thank early Reptiles for their existence, Turtles cannot claim flight as their own accomplishment. I think that's a perfect analogy for the relationship between science and philosophy today.

I'm still curious how people feel about theoretical physicists. Hilariously, what most often gets brought up in the discussion seems to be 'Philosophers of Science' writing about physics in extremely low tier physics journals (Foundations of Physics) or philosophy journals. I don't really feel this is an example of philosophers contributing to physics.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:46 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Philosophy is not a superset of all human activity. It is a study of certain general topics, albeit usually in a broad and possibly metaphysical way. If everything is philosophy, then philosophy, as a descriptor, is essentially meaningless.

Everything is not philosophy, philosophy is a subset of all human activity, and science is a subset of philosophy.

This is the second post in a row you've offered nothing but straw-men.

...but generally pretty irrelevant to anything you will be doing as a philospher, or would be teaching in a class on philosophy.

No it wouldn't, every bit of science helps us answer questions such as "what and why is existence?" which is the heart of philosophy, science is a tool that assists in just that and everything you mentioned would be included in that goal.

Therefore, it cannot be a superset. There is merely overlap, with neither domain entirely encompassing the other.

Besides that you are wrong about the above quote, if you were right that philosophy for some reason doesn't care about things you can't teach in a philosophy class or whatever it is you imagine a philosopher does it would not follow that it is not a subset, that is entirely irrelevant.

Mokele's example was that while Birds can thank early Reptiles for their existence, Turtles cannot claim flight as their own accomplishment. I think that's a perfect analogy for the relationship between science and philosophy today.

No that's not a perfect analogy at all. For all the the reasons i mentioned above, I can try to make them more clear if you don't understand them.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby rat4000 » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:52 pm UTC

Mokele is right with his birds & reptiles analogy, but I think that there is a further sense in which philosophy and the sciences are connected. I would say that science depends on philosophy in the same way that it depends on mathematics, at a very basic level. You have mathematical tools and philosophical tools, you have "1+1=2" and "this theory is better than that empirically equivalent theory" and you need both, but they are very definitely not the only things you need. There is philosophy in science, but science is not philosophy, any more than it is mathematics.

I can't imagine anyone publishing in a physics journal and being taken seriously unless they were actually doing physics as their day job. Some philosophers need a working knowledge of physics in their day job (metaphysicists, mostly), but they are IME fairly aware that they are not as good at physics as an actual physicist, and that they would make fools of themselves if they pretended they were. As far as linguistics goes (and other things, like sociology), at some point it just seems to melt together -- you are doing whatever it is you are doing, analysis of counterfactuals for instance, and whether you get called a philosopher or a linguist depends on whether the rest of your work is in ontology or in language acquisition.

Zcorp is wrong, FWIW: if science were a subset of philosophy, then philosophy would include everything science includes. Chemical equations are a counterexample.

But hey, fair warning: I am not a professional philosopher, let alone a philosopher of science. Take this post with a tablespoon of salt.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:55 pm UTC

In broad strokes:

Science answers "how".
Philosophy answers "why".

(Yes, it can be argued that religion should be in the second slot, but they are similar in the questions they answer. They differ in how they do it.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:37 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:Mokele is right...Zcorp is wrong


but hey, fair warning: I am not a professional philosopher, let alone a philosopher of science. Take this post with a tablespoon of salt.

I'm gunna make a definitive statement about something, give no argument as to why someone might be wrong or right, and then tell you everything I just said is probably wrong.

But hey, at least I have an opinion even if it is one I admit is misinformed and thoughtless right? MERICA!

ucim wrote:In broad strokes:

Science answers "how".
Philosophy answers "why".

(Yes, it can be argued that religion should be in the second slot, but they are similar in the questions they answer. They differ in how they do it.

Jose

Kinda of if you go broad and allow for some tilt in understanding, but we can work with this. To be as board and a little of tilt we could say this: We know that thousands of years ago sought Why and to a answer Why we started asking How and thus the path that led to what we now understand science. Why, became How to inform the Why to get a better understanding of what would be good to ask How to better again inform the Why. The How is a tool the Why created to better answer the Why.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:04 am UTC

rat4000 wrote: and whether you get called a philosopher or a linguist depends on whether the rest of your work is in ontology or in language acquisition.
Actually, I don't believe that individuals should be judged solely on the rest of their bodies of work. A philosopher who does good science should be attributed as having done good science. A scientist that did good philosophy should be attributed as having done good philosophy.

What I took issue with was more that philosophers will submit work to journals that are basically soft science (and someone please correct me if my assessment of Foundations of Physics is incorrect), and be hailed as scientists.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby rat4000 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:46 am UTC

I think I wasn't clear enough. Suppose someone whose main body of work is in linguistics writes a text on counterfactuals -- she'll be called a linguist who did some work on counterfactuals. If someone whose main body of work is in philosophy of language and ontology writes a text on counterfactuals, he'll be a philosopher who did some work on counterfactuals. There's no recognition going missing, it's just that counterfactuals as such can be seen as falling in linguistics or falling in philosophy. This is what I meant by saying that the fields melt together at some point. I don't think this happens with philosophy and physics, though of course feel free to correct me. (I know less about physics than about linguistics.) I started on the topic in general because your original post mentioned an overlap between linguistics and philosophy, and I figured I'd provide some details from what I've seen.

I didn't pick counterfactuals on a whim, by the way -- I actually read a text on them by a linguist (Angelika Kratzer, for the curious) in a philosophy seminar last semester, and there was definitely no lack of respect regarding it, from either the lecturer or the students. Certainly there was no one saying that it wasn't philosophical.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby johnny_7713 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:52 am UTC

rat4000 wrote:Mokele is right with his birds & reptiles analogy, but I think that there is a further sense in which philosophy and the sciences are connected. I would say that science depends on philosophy in the same way that it depends on mathematics, at a very basic level. You have mathematical tools and philosophical tools, you have "1+1=2" and "this theory is better than that empirically equivalent theory" and you need both, but they are very definitely not the only things you need. There is philosophy in science, but science is not philosophy, any more than it is mathematics.

I can't imagine anyone publishing in a physics journal and being taken seriously unless they were actually doing physics as their day job. Some philosophers need a working knowledge of physics in their day job (metaphysicists, mostly), but they are IME fairly aware that they are not as good at physics as an actual physicist, and that they would make fools of themselves if they pretended they were. As far as linguistics goes (and other things, like sociology), at some point it just seems to melt together -- you are doing whatever it is you are doing, analysis of counterfactuals for instance, and whether you get called a philosopher or a linguist depends on whether the rest of your work is in ontology or in language acquisition.

Zcorp is wrong, FWIW: if science were a subset of philosophy, then philosophy would include everything science includes. Chemical equations are a counterexample.

But hey, fair warning: I am not a professional philosopher, let alone a philosopher of science. Take this post with a tablespoon of salt.


How are chemical equations a counterexample and why do you think philosophy doesn't contain them?

Philosophy is the search for knowledge. Science is the search for a specific kind of knowledge, viz. empirically testable statements about how the universe works. Thus science is a sub-set of philosophy. There is a reason it used to be called natural philosophy after all. Granted, science has become such an important subset of philosophy for our daily lives that colloquially philosophy often is used to mean 'those parts of philosophy that are not science', but at it's core science is a part of philosophy.

That philosophers in general do not contribute much to physics is no more surprising or meaningful than the fact that sociologists in general do not contribute much to physics. Of course if you accept that science is a subset of philosophy this is a false dichotomy, as all physicists are then by definition also philosophers. It's just that in daily life philosopher is usually used to mean: 'person engaged in an area of philosophy that is not science'.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:38 am UTC

That feels like a word game to me. There is hardly any context where 'philosophy' is used as a catchall term for all search for knowledge. You can use it that way, but that mightily confuses a statement like 'science is a subset of philosophy'.

It's like syaing that history is the study of past events, executed exleriments are past events, therefore a science founded in experiments is a subfield of history. It's not exactly a false statement, but it confuses far more than it clears up.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Azrael » Tue Aug 26, 2014 12:15 pm UTC

Zcrorp, you are actively damaging the level of discourse in this thread. Stop with snarky asides, irrelevant diatribes and personal comments.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 12:30 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:That feels like a word game to me. There is hardly any context where 'philosophy' is used as a catchall term for all search for knowledge. You can use it that way, but that mightily confuses a statement like 'science is a subset of philosophy'.

It's like syaing that history is the study of past events, executed exleriments are past events, therefore a science founded in experiments is a subfield of history. It's not exactly a false statement, but it confuses far more than it clears up.

Yeah, like I said, I think it often comes down to a semantics issue. For example, determinism and causality are philosophical matters, though have different applications in QM. A philosopher of physics discussing QM in non-physical terms is not doing physics, though there are clearly overlaps in language.

I'm curious if anyone in physics can chime in on what kind of journal Foundations of Physics is known as.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Aug 26, 2014 1:53 pm UTC

ucim wrote:In broad strokes:

Science answers "how".
Philosophy answers "why".

(Yes, it can be argued that religion should be in the second slot, but they are similar in the questions they answer. They differ in how they do it.

Jose



In Far Eastern cultures, the words for Philosophy and Religion are the same. What defines something as a religion gets kind of blurry; Confucianism has no mystical element (though many add rituals because you gotta have rituals). Buddhism is atheistic, though once again, people add rituals and lots of archaic stuff because you just do.

But anyway, philosophy pretends to answer the Why. Philosophers certainly can use logic and reason to derive 'valid' conclusions from basic assumptions, but they never question why we should assume those assumptions. They choose whatever they want, and often based on what what they want the results to be. That's bad science. Thus, my Moral Skepticism.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:But anyway, philosophy pretends to answer the Why. Philosophers certainly can use logic and reason to derive 'valid' conclusions from basic assumptions, but they never question why we should assume those assumptions. They choose whatever they want, and often based on what what they want the results to be. That's bad science.
The "pretends" part is just because you (and I) don't accept their methodology as a good way to approach Truth. And I thought philosophy was in a large part about how to choose the assumptions they use. There is an inescapable loop in all thinking ("How do I know that the thinking I'm doing to figure out how to think is the right thinking?") to which the only sensible answer is "it makes sense".

(or perhaps, "Shut up and calculate")
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby johnny_7713 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 2:27 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:That feels like a word game to me. There is hardly any context where 'philosophy' is used as a catchall term for all search for knowledge. You can use it that way, but that mightily confuses a statement like 'science is a subset of philosophy'.

It's like syaing that history is the study of past events, executed exleriments are past events, therefore a science founded in experiments is a subfield of history. It's not exactly a false statement, but it confuses far more than it clears up.


I agree that a lot of this is going to boil down to definition questions. Historically though I'd say that philosophy developed several subfields, e.g. epistemology, ethics, etc. One of these fields focused specifically on developing knowledge about the natural world and was hence known as 'natural philosophy'. Eventually the field of natural philosophy came to be known as science. Whether that can still be considered a sub-field of philosophy or whether it should be considered as something that has split off into it's own realm entirely is a matter of semantics.

One can argue that philosophy is the search for truth or knowledge and thus science being merely the search for a specific kind of knowledge is a certain kind of philosophy, which is an argument I would favour. However you can also argue that the term philosophy should only apply to certain types/methods of searches for knowledge (or searches for certain types of knowledge) and that science is not one of those types / methods. In the end it's only an interesting question (to me) in so far as you are trying to highlight either certain similarities or certain differences between science and (fields of) philosophy. A similar thing happens when you ask whether Star Wars is fantasy or science fiction, or whether The Stanley Parable is a game.

I'd say the intersection between science and philosophy (if we step away from science being a subset of philosophy) was already highlighted by CorruptUser: Epistemology. Science needs certain tools to decide whether statements are right. Philosophy examines the tools science uses and tells us whether they give us reliable knowledge or not.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:18 pm UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:Philosophy examines the tools science uses and tells us whether they give us reliable knowledge or not.
I think that's attributing a little too much to philosophy. While I don't believe you were implying as much, I don't care what philosophy thinks about how useful a Western Blot is for ascertaining post translational modifications to my protein of interest.

Of course, if you want to step further back and say that philosophy is assessing empiricism as a tool of science, then, sure, but at that point the definition is sufficiently vague and fuzzy as to be useless. Is a toddler a philosopher when they determine that stoves are hot and hot things hurt and therefor touching stoves is bad?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:29 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Is a toddler a philosopher when they determine that stoves are hot and hot things hurt and therefor touching stoves is bad?
No, she's a scientist. She's a philosopher when she asks herself if this is really the right way to go about it.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:32 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Is a toddler a philosopher when they determine that stoves are hot and hot things hurt and therefor touching stoves is bad?
No, she's a scientist. She's a philosopher when she asks herself if this is really the right way to go about it.

Jose

Again that's kind of fuzzy. Am I a philosopher when I ask if GFP tagging a protein or antibody staining said protein is the best way to determine it's localization?
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:36 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
johnny_7713 wrote:Philosophy examines the tools science uses and tells us whether they give us reliable knowledge or not.
I think that's attributing a little too much to philosophy. While I don't believe you were implying as much, I don't care what philosophy thinks about how useful a Western Blot is for ascertaining post translational modifications to my protein of interest.

Maybe you don't, but you're still using the hypothetical-deductive method, which is something they study in the philosophy department, rather than the biology department.

That doesn't necessarily mean that philosophers get "credit" for inventing the scientific method, but then I'm not sure I know what getting "credit" for it means.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:46 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Again that's kind of fuzzy. Am I a philosopher when I ask if GFP tagging a protein or antibody staining said protein is the best way to determine it's localization?
No, you're still a scientist, because the methods you (presumably) are using to figure out whether you're going about it the right way are not under discussion. You're still using logic and the scientific method - one which is based on empirical results.

When you stray far enough back so that you are asking whether logic and experiment is even a good way to figure out protein structure, or that maybe angelic inspiration, or merely looking for analogies in tree shapes, or getting in tune with vibrational levels will get you closer to the truth, then you are doing philosophy.

(It's not sufficient to think about analogies in tree shapes, but it is sufficient to wonder whether or not doing so is sufficient).

The thing about philosophy is that it seems to ignore empirical results for its conclusions.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zcorp » Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:53 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
johnny_7713 wrote:Philosophy examines the tools science uses and tells us whether they give us reliable knowledge or not.
I think that's attributing a little too much to philosophy. While I don't believe you were implying as much, I don't care what philosophy thinks about how useful a Western Blot is for ascertaining post translational modifications to my protein of interest.

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.

Of course, if you want to step further back and say that philosophy is assessing empiricism as a tool of science, then, sure, but at that point the definition is sufficiently vague and fuzzy as to be useless. Is a toddler a philosopher when they determine that stoves are hot and hot things hurt and therefor touching stoves is bad?

"Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language."

If after the toddler hurts himself on the stove it asks questions about reality that strive to understand what pain, heat are and what bad means then he is engaging in a philosophical exercise.

Philosophy is certainly a very abstract level of classification of ideas and behaviors, but that does not make it useless. In trying to answer the fundamental questions philosophers created logic, and then reason and then science to collect information in hopes of one day answering those fundamentals.

Maybe that's a better place to start. Do you agree that science lies within the realm of reason?

Edit:
Again that's kind of fuzzy. Am I a philosopher when I ask if GFP tagging a protein or antibody staining said protein is the best way to determine it's localization?

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.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:14 pm UTC



I agree that a lot of this is going to boil down to definition questions. Historically though I'd say that philosophy developed several subfields, e.g. epistemology, ethics, etc. One of these fields focused specifically on developing knowledge about the natural world and was hence known as 'natural philosophy'. Eventually the field of natural philosophy came to be known as science. Whether that can still be considered a sub-field of philosophy or whether it should be considered as something that has split off into it's own realm entirely is a matter of semantics.


It might be useful to examine that historical split more closely. I'd say that in the 18th and 19th century, 'natural philosophy' has taken on a meaning close to our 'science', or even 'physics'. It might have philosophy in the name, but mosf people practice natural philosophy as a seperate activity from topics that we would name philosophy.

On the other side, Descartes writes in a unified manner about topics that we categorize as scientific and on topics we would categorize as philosophy he early does not see that divide as strongly we do. I'd say that's the late stage of a unified field, perhaps the end stage.

In the centuries before, it's more rule than exception to find such combinations. In particular, there is an neo-Aristotelian tradition that mixes subjects that we see as science, philosophy, even philology and theology. I think it's fair to call see this tradition as a cldistic ancestor of bith modern science and modern philosophy. It's far less obvious that this tradition should belong to modern philosophy, making philosophy a trunk from which science branched off. It works just as well the other way round: science is the trunk, and modern philosophy branched off. If anything, ever since the split science has been the larger branch. The safe approach is to consider them both as branches, and the ancestral discipline as a different discipline that is no longer practiced.

And to be blunt: I think philosophers can be somewhat over-eager to claim a position as honorary scientists, or even as the rulers on scientific method. Itcs not a complete coincident that there is also more grant money for scientists than for humanities.

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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:21 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:And to be blunt: I think philosophers can be somewhat over-eager to claim a position as honorary scientists, or even as the rulers on scientific method. Itcs not a complete coincident that there is also more grant money for scientists than for humanities.
This.

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.

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.

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.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby ahammel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:26 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I'm actually intrigued/concerned with philosophers calling themselves scientists when they do philosophy.
Do any?

Incidentally, you may be amused to learn that experimental philosophy is a thing.
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Re: Science and Philosophy

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:35 pm UTC

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.

ahammel wrote:Incidentally, you may be amused to learn that experimental philosophy is a thing.
Can you link to an example?
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