## Philosophy of Science

• 323

“So the science we perform is influenced by the society in which it is done, for good and for bad.”

As is philosophy, social sciences, psychology, politics - in fact every human-created endeavour.
• 323
:smile:
• 323
and in a sense you could argue philosophy has always tried to be science. I’m sure you know of the many example of philosophers who tried to make their method more science based. Descartes, the logical positivists - others I can’t think of right now.
• 3.9k

Here I feel like I'm being a cheerleader for science but I’m not. I just feel the urge to point out some of the negativity - and bias - of some of the attitudes here.

Let’s talk about bias. There’s a different way to think about how we should understand such notions as social and cultural bias and their relationship to scientific truth than what you have mentioned so far. You begin with an assumption about what science does: it tries to represent how things are in a world at least partially independent of our concepts and traditions. You then draw up a dichotomy between those philosophers of science who believe it is possible to shake off our cultural biases and see things perfectly objectively , and those who ‘pessimistically’ believe that we can never cross the veil of appearances separating our assumptions
and theories from material things in themselves.

But there is an entirely different way of thinking about what science does , and what truth is, that rejects from the getgo that scientific truth is the attempt to mirror or represent a world out there via our schemes.
They don’t think of knowledge as representation or mirroring, but the building of systems of interaction with the world. We can build these systems in many different ways, and the world will respond very precisely, but differently. to each of these ways.

- I believe the social-construction tinged idea that theories create the reality is disproven by the thousands of theories that have been wrong - and science has admitted were wrong. You know the list - phlogiston, alchemy etc
When we abandon one science theory for another , it is not because the theory is found not to correspond with what is ‘out there’, but because we prefer a new way of organizing our interaction with our world, a way that allows us to do more things , albeit differently than before. New theories no more ‘falsify’ old ones than new artistic movements falsify older movements.

From this vantage cultural ‘bias’ is not a distortion of objectivity. There is not a more or less ‘correct’ way to build a scientific system, any more than thier is a more or less correct way to produce art. Some scientific systems we construct solve puzzles better than others, not by getting closer to representing what is ‘out there’, but by allowing us to interest with our world in ways that are more useful for our purposes. The world is a continually changing development , and for this reason there is no one way that things ‘really are’. Our theories contribute to accelerating this process of transformation by allowing us to interact with our world and with each other in ever more complex and intricate ways. The central role of science isn’t ‘getting it right’ in the sense of capturing the way thing really are, but finding new and better ways of interacting usefully with a
world that is constantly changing as a result of our innovative ways of dealing with it.
• 7.6k

Well, we could say this:

1. What we wished for: Philosophy
2. What we got: Science

Our genie isn't exactly the best there is out there.

Yet the definition of real is - as has been pointed out - up for debate.

You should talk to Joshs on language skepticism.
• 323
Not to be a Polyanna but this seems like a very limited and close-minded viewpoint. Do you not acknowledge the incredible stuff in neuroscience these days?
• 323
“You begin with an assumption about what science does: it tries to represent how things are in a world at least partially independent of our concepts and traditions.“

For such a linguistically minded person you certainly are misrepresenting what I - didn’t -say. Please show me where I said that. In fact I agreed that scientists KNOW the problems with the definition of the word “real.”

“ New theories no more ‘falsify’ old ones than new artistic movements falsify older movements.”

Again you misrepresent. I was referring to poppers theory of falsification. I agree that new theories don’t totally falsify old ones.

You seem to think we’re arguing when we’re actually agreeing on pretty much every point.
• 323
I feel like I’m in that Python sketch, “ I came here for an argument!!”:smile:
• 7.6k
@Joshs

Language skepticism, to my reckoning, is a devastating blow to philosophy and everything else that depends on language. If it is the case that a tool is defective, it'll quite naturally manifest in the work we do with it. Philsophers, writers, speakers, time to request a product recall!
• 323
ok.....it's not something I totally understand. Can you recommend a thinker...Frege? Wittgenstein?

How does it apply to science specifically? And did you decide not to reply to my question? Do you not think science is at least doing some interesting things in neuroscience these days?
• 7.6k
ok.....it's not something I totally understand. Can you recommend a thinker...Frege? Wittgenstein?

You're asking the right questions to the wrong person. Go to Joshs.

Do you not think science is at least doing something interesting things in neuroscience these days?

Indeed, neuroscience has made great strides, but it's a work in progress.
• 323
I am talking to Joshs, but we're talking about science and not philosophy of language....ahem. And he had some trouble with language - which could be partly my fault. But we are agreeing on phil of sci, check it out if you're interested (I sense you're not).

Neuroscience is a work in progress, yes - isn't everything? It's finding far more exciting things than modern phil is, IMO.

Hey I've got an idea...why don't the two disciplines work together instead of showing disdain for each other? In fact a lot of philosophers and scientists are collaborating, and stunningly, find it almost painless! Might be worth a shot.
• 7.6k
collaborating

I second that motion! In medicine they've come to the conclusion that a multidisciplinary approach is the best approach to treatment.
• 323
yup them doctors know a thang or two...they're BOOK-LEARNED!

Hey of course scientists can be equally dismissive of philosophy. Equally wrong. Bringing people together - that's what I do.

(That was ironic to the humour-challenged).
• 7.6k

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. — Benjamin Franklin
• 323
was NOT expecting a Benjamin Franklin quote...well now I know you're not a Brit.
• 7.6k
was NOT expecting a Benjamin Franklin quote...well now I know you're not a Brit.

I go one step further than Diogenes who claimed he was a cosmoplitan (citizen of the world), I'm a cosmopolitan (citizen of the universe). :smile:

What about language skepticism? Anything to report?
• 323
I asked for a reading? I did google "language skepticism" and there were no specific categories for it.
• 7.6k

My definition then. Language skepticism is the position that language is (too) flawed to perform the tasks we assign to it and that includes everything spoken, written, signed. It can be summed up as trying to measure the correct length of a rod (find truths) with a defective scale (with a faulty language). It's quite odd that nobody's tried to invent/create the perfect language, powerful enough to get the job done.
• 323
Is that along the lines of Wittgenstein writing (I believe) that philosophy's main role was to clear up language. Correct?

I do understand that and have read a lot of the Philosophical Investigations, but It's a pretty dour theory - pretty doom and gloom. Do you really find language that flawed? Are we not at least PARTLY communicating our ideas right now? Enough for a worthwhile dialogue?

And it has one of philosophy's favourite methods - criticizing and asking questions without proffering any positive suggestions for improving things. What would the perfect language look like? I don't think W. shares anything on that.
• 3.9k
. What would the perfect language look like? I don't think W. shares anything on that

Wittgenstein has nothing against language in general The perfect language is whatever language we are actually using at the moment. His beef is with ways we have been inclined to talk about how language works. This isnt the fault of language , but of our desire to reify it, to box it up and objectify it in that way we treat concepts such as grammar, meaning, sense and reference. Language is never faulty, but our use of it can be confused.
• 323
interesting. Thanks. I should do some further reading.
• 323
Agent Smith's definition of language skepticism makes it sound like it's a stronger beef with language.

"....language is (too) flawed to perform the tasks we assign to it and that includes everything spoken, written, signed." Though he's a landmark thinker, I think this is an overstatement. These days more than ever language is being misused, but I don't think in the sense he meant.

Language has flaws, science has flaws, philosophy has flaws...

"Can't we all just get along?" - Rodney King.
• 7.6k

Is my red the same as your red? We can never know, oui?

Of course, if my red is A and your red is B in a consistent way i.e. when we see red, I always see A and you always see B, we will agree on all issues of redness. However A $\neq$ B still.

The same applies to words. Take the word "god". It may mean X to me and Y to you. In the domain of ideas however, we have a way of checking whether we're talking about the same thing or not. Logic! X will be consistent with ideas that maybe inconsistent with Y. Not out of the woods though because these other ideas are also problematic in the exact same way X and Y are.

Imagine a world with only 2 words W1 and W2 and two people P1 and P2. When P1 sees W1, he thinks meaning M1 and when P2 sees W1 he thinks meaning M2. How do they determine whether they're talking about the same thing? They'll need to check for consistency/inconsistency vis-à-vis W2, its meaning to be precise. Unfortunately, when P1 sees W2, he thinks meaning M3 and when P2 sees W2 he thinks meaning M4. It's quite obvious as to what they have to do - check for consistency/inconsistency in re the meaning of W1, but that's exactly what they don't know. W1's meaning can't be understood without W2's meaning and W2's meaning can't be understood without W1's meaning i.e. neither's meaning can be understood. Chicken-and-egg situation.
• 323
Unfortunately I have a rebuttal. I know I'm an amateur, but hear me out. Please rip me to shreds if (when?) you disagree.

Could someone think grey, while another thinks yellow, without either noticing a difference. I'm not sure that's possible. If person A saw the yellow sun as grey, then all the light from the sun would be grey. If everything on earth was a dark grey, then would person A find the colour grey bright and cheery, and yellow dull? Would that person then say "too much grey hurts my eyes.

How would yellow person react to this?

The point is people WOULD notice differences in how they react to grey - one would be sheilding his eyes, the other not. Surely the difference would be noted.

That's a start
• 323
How about if one person thinks W means "punch" while another thinks it means "apple." It would change the result of the second person asking for the first person to "give me an apple.".

Can you fill in your formulas with real words in a way that wouldn't impact behaviour?
• 7.6k
Please reread my post. The "difference" you said we'll notice is, to my reckoning, covered by inconsistency/consistency, something I said would be one if not the only way to find out whether or not two people in conversation are talking past each other or not.
• 323
Ok I did and yes I understand. But I apply my same test - if there was such constantly divergent word meanings as this implies, it seems like discourse would be total chaos. If you're meaning of God is a deity, and mine is a dishtowel....that's a conversation killer. Isn;t it?
• 7.6k
Ok I did and yes I understand. But I apply my same test - if there was such constantly divergent word meanings of words as this implies, it seems like discourse would be total chaos. If you're meaning of God is a deity, and mine is a dishtowel....that's a conversation killer. Isn;t it?

My argument speaks for itself, no? The agreement we sometimes encounter has to be a fluke e.g. when we accidentally see the same meaning in words. As far as I can see, there doesn't exist a failsafe method to ensure we all have the same meaning in mind when we discourse. The one that immediately jumped out at me - inconsistency checks (as you can see I've refined my position) - is no good. If there's a way out of this bottle, it is a Cartesian one i.e. we must find at least one word whose meaning is identical for everyone and then build up from thereon
• 323
I'm truly baffled by this reasoning, even though it's accepted in philosophical circles. I'm going to bed and would love to take this further - I acknowledge I could be completely wrong. Wittgenstein was no slouch.

Let me leave you with three questions to indicate the things I can't wrap my head around.

1) Is it possible for me to believe a round ball to be square, and you the opposite? Would I then say things like "don't be silly, that ball won't roll, it's ROUND!" Now multiply that confusion by thousands, possibly millions of times this would happen everyday all around the world. Finding a few words we use differently is mundane. So W. must have meant about a massive flaw in communication, suffered worldwide, and do you see evidence of that?

2) Is it possible to have a theory that is airtight, and SHOULD be true using reasoning, but simply isn't the way things really are? It's absolutely true that at this time we can't see into other's minds, and thus can't prove with absolute certainty that they see colours as we do. So I would never say I KNOW they see blue as I do. But I nonetheless can infer from things like if a person said to me "kittens are generally 10 feet long and attack giraffes out on the plains" she might be referring to a very different thing from me. In the real world it falls apart it seems to me

3) And isn't that the trouble, with many theories. The minute folks leave the university, they behaving very differently. They don't say "I better explain to Ann that we're going to the lake, because her word for lake my be different from mine"

I know I'll be accused of being low brow, and I've written proper formal essays on these issues. But I knew if I argued with the big W., my mark would plummet, so I didn't. But the more I think of a world with people all defining words differently, and ensuing chaos, the more I think it's at least a valid argument.

Causation and Hume is another perfect example. He was right, logically we never SEE causation, and even if something happened a million times, it might not have the 100,000,001th time. That's brilliant. But does anyone live that way, when the inductive probabilities are that hi? Even Hume didn't. Because induction actually works pretty well, as it turns out.

Cheers
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal