• Pseudonym
    1.2k


    I'm not sure what point you are trying to make by that comparison. If Elle MacPherson said she didn't think people should read books they haven't written themself, that's no less an opinion than the Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. No knowledge of literature provides anyone with an answer to the question of what books people 'should' read.

    This is something which crops up a lot on philosophy, the constant switching between objectivity and subjectivity depending on convenience. Philosophy is about providing convincing arguments, it is entirely subjective, in the same way as English literature. If a philosophy professor wanted to offer their opinion as to what they thought the speed of light might be, they would, quite rightly, be told to shut up, but it is not the same the other way round. There is no 'right' way to think about morality, there are just more or less persuasive arguments. No one's comments can be said to be 'ignorant' because there is no body of knowledge to be aware of, only a body of opinion. If I wish to voice an opinion about the beauty of a sunset is it necessary for me to have first read what everyone else has said about sunsets?
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Would we be right in saying that you think that everything other than science is ‘entirely subjective’, but that science itself is ‘entirely objective’? Would that be a fair gloss?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    But when you first experience anything, where did that come from?Caldwell

    My senses, translated into thoughts by my brain.

    As a young child, what did you experience and how did you articulate it?Caldwell

    The world; and I didn’t articulate it because I hadn't learned how to talk.

    I'm not sure where you're going with this.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    Roughly speaking I think that's true by definition. Science is the investigation of that which is objective. I think the only grey area might be, as Quine has already pointed out, the classification of objectively measurable objects (and the classification of those classes, and so on). Thus mathematics is potentially objective, insofar as it is set theory based. But even to this point Quine was adamant that further excesses of mathematics were subjective, and issues like Russell's Paradox raised problems even for the objectivity of mathematics as we currently know it.

    Personally, and I think it is the information, not the objects which are objective, uniting both mathematics and quantum physics, but that's far from a falsifiable theory as yet.

    What can be said with some certainty, I think, is that no other field has a better claim to objectivity than science.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    You seem to have answered you own question; "what is scientism"? It's your own belief system.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    Well, the headline question maybe. The main bulk of the investigation though was why the term was used pejoratively. I don't yet have a clear understanding of that.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k


    I guess it's pejorative because a religious belief in science is no better than a religious belief in religion. And science, of course, can't lead you to that conclusion.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    That raises two questions ;

    Why do you think a belief that science can answer questions about, for example, morality is religious, but a belief that it cannot is not?

    Do you think, then, that the pejorative use of the term is something which should be admonished, or that it's OK to treat any religious belief within derision. Or maybe for some reason a religious belief in science is reprehensible but a religious belief in God is OK?
  • Nop
    25
    Why is it that when scientists make arguments against certain philosophical approaches they "pontificate", yet when people like Heidegger write what many consider to be meaningless nonsense, they are great thinkers?Pseudonym

    What do you mean by meaningless nonsense? Heidegger is a key figure in the history of philosophy, and is still one of the most influential philosophers today, as is exemplified by his relevance for contemporary cognitive science (cognitive science on skillful behavior, for example).

    When you say meaningless nonsense, it sounds like you subscribe to a Logical Positivist view of linguistics and meaning. If this does not characterize your view, Iam interested in what you mean by meaningless nonsense.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    I don't yet have a clear understanding of that.Pseudonym

    I appreciate your frankness.

    maybe for some reason a religious belief in science is reprehensible but a religious belief in God is OK?Pseudonym

    Where is there in science a commitment to the sacredness of every individual life, that is basic to Christianity, for example?

    Do you think there are scientific reasons why one ought to treat people equally, or care for the poor and sick?

    Personally, I don’t think science has any such principles or commitments. But nor do i think that this reflects poorly on science. It’s simply not the kind of thing that science is concerned with.

    Or is it? What do you say?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    I did say "many consider" rather than claiming a universal truth, but I'm certainly one of those many people, as is Bertrand Russell, for example, so it's not just an uninformed opinion.

    I can't speak for Russell, but by it I mean fairly straightforwardly that words do not come to actually 'mean' anything to me, in that they seem to have no propositional content.

    I do subscribe fairly closely to an analytical approach to language. Language is a tool we use to help groups with disparate beliefs communicate. It simply fails to work if it is too subjective. Where I differ from Positivists with regards to language is that I don't think it needs to be fixed to predicate logic, only that it needs to be objectively negotiated, not freely redefined without consideration.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    Where is there in science a commitment to the sacredness of every individual life,Wayfarer

    I don't think it's present in that form, but I don't think it's present in Christianity either, the crusades are pretty much proof of that. I think what science tells us is that we don't take the killing of another human lightly (which is about as far as Christianity could make any justifiable claim). With science though, it's not telling us we should, it's telling us that we do (together with defining the causes of those rare circumstances where people don't).

    Do you think there are scientific reasons why one ought to treat people equally, or care for the poor and sick?Wayfarer

    No, I think there is scientific evidence that we do (in most cases), and there are scientific methods for analysing our efforts to do so to see which work best. The issue of whether we 'ought' is only relevant presuming free-will, and I do not.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    To put it another way, saying that there needs to be a movement demanding we do not kill for no reason is like having a movement advising that we eat when hungry. Yes, there are some people who do not eat when hungry, there are people with eating disorders who will not eat even though they are hungry, but we do not need a movement to advocate eating just because of a minority whose faculties are not working properly for whatever reason.
  • Nop
    25
    So you equate the meaning of words to propositional content. This is a position that has been considered highly problematic since Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, and in contemporary academic philosophy is widely considered to be untenable, both by analytic and continental approaches to philosophy.

    This might be a clue to why people use Scientism as a negative term. If somebody claims that some utterance is meaningless because it has no ''propositional content'', it shows the lack of insight somebody has in the philosophical tradition and its recent developments. When Richard Dawkins (who I take to be a Scientism-ist) claims that consciousness works by processcing information similarly as computers do, and concludes from that that computers might one day become conscious, the problem is this: it shows that Dawkins thinks from the unquestioned premise of Empiricism, and having no insight on Phenomenology, Dawkins cannot conceive how philosophically problematic his own position is.

    If Dawkins were to engage with Phenomenology and reject its insights, sticking to his form of Empiricism, that is fine. But Scientism seems to include a lack of engagment with anything that lies outside the unquestioned premise of Empiricism, and in this sense it seems a bit dogmatic to me. Similarly, when Heidegger is dismissed as having no ''propositional content'', there is no engagement with philosophy that questions premises from which somebody is thinking (Heidegger falls outside my way of thinking, thus it is meaningless nonsense; although it is exactly my way of thinking that Heidegger is putting to the question).
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    I hope I don't offend you in this, it's not my intention, but I personally would get more out of the discussion if you could refrain from appealing to authority but rather lay out why you think the counter-arguments are persuasive. Just saying a point is "widely considered to be untenable" or "not taken seriously" doesn't really interest me. I'd be interested to hear why you personally find the ideas untenable or facetious though.

    That said, I don't think my criticism of Heidegger relies on equating meaning with propositional content. I expect propositional content from a text claiming to impart some useful theory. Maybe you read Heidegger as poetry, in which case I've no complaints, but it's rarely taken that way, it's presumed that Heidegger is imparting some insight, so I expect to read a proposition there and I find none, hence the words have no meaning relative to their intent.

    it shows that Dawkins thinks from the unquestioned premise of Empiricism, and having no insight on PhenomenologyNop

    I think this shows some of the presumptions in accusations of Scientism. Why would you presume that Dawkins thinks from the "unquestioned" premise of empiricism? We don't talk of Berkeley as writing from the 'unquestioned' premise of Idealism, we just accept that he's an idealist. We don't dismiss Quine as all his philosophy comes from the 'unquestioned' premise of Physicalism. So why is Dawkins' empiricism such a problem?

    By concluding that he has no insight into phenomenology, you're sounding like your saying "if he doesn't agree with me, he must have not understood it properly". Maybe he's decided that phenomenology is an unnecessary part of his model of the world?

    You still seem to be presuming that the language of philosophy is necessary for modelling reality and its just not. It's one way of doing things, there are others.
  • Nop
    25


    if you could refrain from appealing to authority

    This seems like a silly thing to say, when you make claims to authority yourself: "but I'm certainly one of those many people, as is Bertrand Russell, for example, so it's not just an uninformed opinion", and: "yet when people like Heidegger write what many consider to be meaningless nonsense".

    That said, I don't think my criticism of Heidegger relies on equating meaning with propositional content. I expect propositional content from a text claiming to impart some useful theory. Maybe you read Heidegger as poetry, in which case I've no complaints, but it's rarely taken that way, it's presumed that Heidegger is imparting some insight, so I expect to read a proposition there and I find none, hence the words have no meaning relative to their intent.

    This is precisely what I am trying to illustrate. You assume that meaningfull statements have propositional content, and that without propositional content there is no meaningfull statement. This assumption cannot be taken as self-evident since Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, and thus you should at least engage with the arguments Wittengestein presents against this view. In fact, when you are not aware of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, you will not (and should not, in my opnion) be taken seriously on the topic of meaning, at least in Western acadamic philosophy.

    Just so that I express myself clearly: what I see you doing is making a problematic assumption with respects to meaning, then you use that assumption as a criterion with respects to meaning, and you thus conclude that Heidegger is meaningfull nonsense. So in fact, you just assume the conclusion, since you assume the criterion.

    So why is Dawkins' empiricism such a problem?

    Because Berkeley rejects Materialism, and Quine rejects Immaterialism, both on the grounds that they engaged with the positions they reject. Dawkins doesn't.

    Maybe he's decided that phenomenology is an unnecessary part of his model of the world?

    That fine and a respectable view. But this is not Dawkins, since Dawkins doesn't engage with phenomenology: he thinks from the premise of Empiricism, and accepts and rejects things based on this assumed premise.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    With science though, it's not telling us we should, it's telling us that we do (together with defining the causes of those rare circumstances where people don't).Pseudonym

    Well, I think the question has been answered. ‘Scientism’ is not a philosophy, but an attitude. It is a pejorative term, but it’s an attitude that deserves it.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    This seems like a silly thing to say, when you make claims to authority yourself:Nop

    The difference is that I've associated authority with a position I've attempted to explain. You just said that the point was untenable purely on the basis that modern philosophy says so,with no attempt to argue the case. The reason why this frustrated me is because I don't agree that modern philosophy finds the position untenable, but I'm unable to form an argument to that effect because you've not told me how you've reached that conclusion. I'm not saying don't ever mention which philosophers have shared your views that would be ridiculous, I'm saying don't just say it must be wrong because 'philosophy' says so.

    As to the whole issue with engagement, you seem to have missed the point of what I'm saying, so I'll try again. Phenomenology is not necessarily a thing. Husserl thought it was a thing, so did many other thinkers, but many thinkers didn't. We're not obliged to engage with every concept that anyone has ever thought of in order to present our own world-view. I honestly haven't the faintest idea what you think phenomenology has got to do with what Dawkins has said (because you haven't told me, as above), but presuming you present an argument demonstrating how phenomenology is an alternative to Dawkins' ideas, it doesn't follow that he must engage with it in order to be taken seriously. I'm certain his ideas on religion conflict with Christianity, as they do with Greek mythology, shamanism, the specific animism of every tribe in the world. Does he have to carefully explain how each one is wrong before making any statement about religion?

    I don't recall reading any papers where Satre engaged with the latest neuroscience before expounding his own version of existential phenomenology.
  • andrewk
    1.5k
    That fine and a respectable view. But this is not Dawkins, since Dawkins doesn't engage with phenomenology: he thinks from the premise of Empiricism, and accepts and rejects things based on this assumed premise.Nop
    I'd like us to be a little cautious with the use of the term Empiricism here. 'Isms' are always a worry, aren't they?

    I think that the worldview that seems to be ascribed to Dawkins here, that only Empirically testable things are worth discussing, is quite different from the philosophical tradition that has traditionally been called Empiricism, and which is usually contrasted with the tradition called Rationalism. That worldview ascribed to Dawkins is what is generally referred to as Scientism. I haven't read enough Dawkins to have a feel for whether he subscribes to Scientism, rather than just hostility to organised religion. But there are posters on here that seem to have read plenty of Dawkins and feel that to be the case. My emblematic examples of Scientism are Krauss, Hawking and Harris.

    But in any case Scientism has not much overlap with the philosophical tradition of Empiricism. After all, two of the most notable exponents of Empiricism were Berkeley and Locke. One of them became a bishop and the other thought that atheists should be the only religious minority that should not be allowed freedom of belief. Further, the ideas of one of the most notable Empiricists - Hume - are these days seen as quite compatible with various forms of non-dogmatic mysticism, particularly Buddhism and Vedanta Hinduism.
  • Janus
    5.7k
    The history of philosophy is so blindly aimless that to suggest there is some canon of work leading incrementally up to the positions held nowadays in some subject is stretching the point. — Pseudonym

    Yes, and so is the history of art, literature and most worthwhile human endeavours.
    andrewk

    The histories of neither philosophy, art nor literature are anything like "blindly aimless".
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    Really? So what would you say their aim was?
  • Janus
    5.7k


    Each discipline has deployed many diverse aims; aims which have developed dialectically through the course of history.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k


    So taking philosophy for example, what would be some of those aims?
  • Janus
    5.7k


    The overarching aim has always been to understand the human situation. This leads to the long history of metaphysics, to the developments of epistemology, ethics, moral philosophy and aesthetics. and in the modern era phenomenology. Each individual philosopher has his or her own aims, which are obviously influenced by the canon, by his or her understanding of philosophy's historical development, as well as by contemporaries, and by other disciplines such as science and religion. All this is so obvious: Have you read much philosophy?
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    Yeah, sorry, but the understanding of philosophy so far demonstrated by pseudo is so poverty stricken that it's hard to take much of what is said here seriously at all - not to speak of science itself. The parsing of the world into 'subjective' and 'objective' - as if these 17th century categories exhausted the field of understanding - is so philosophically amateurish that this thread alone ought to supply evidence against 'scientism', by the mere course of its existence. Perhaps the word is so hard to define because those who champion it do so in so half-baked a manner.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    Why do you think a belief that science can answer questions about, for example, morality is religious, but a belief that it cannot is not?Pseudonym

    The belief that it cannot is similar to soft atheism, for instance. There's no apparent evidence that science can answer any moral questions, for instance (as @Wayfarer elaborated), so there's no reason to presume anything about such a contention (of course, the issue is that those with a scientistic mindset do so presume. Yourself I might count in their number. Thus scientism).

    Do you think, then, that the pejorative use of the term is something which should be admonished, or that it's OK to treat any religious belief within derision. Or maybe for some reason a religious belief in science is reprehensible but a religious belief in God is OK?Pseudonym

    It's not so clear cut. Religion gave birth to science, broadly. That's the first simple realization that should lead to a cautionary perspective about science as an arbiter of truth (and indeed, when we even use that phrase, "science as an arbiter of truth", we're already dealing in scientistic terms).

    As to the pejorative use of the term, I think scientism is too soft. I'd rather say the Scientific Religion.
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    The overarching aim has always been to understand the human situation.Janus

    So what does 'understand' mean in this context? How does one judge when one has 'understood' the human condition?

    In what way has, for example, Camus, understood the human condition significantly more than Aristotle. If philosophy has been heading in the direction of better understanding the human condition for 2000 years it should be a fairly straightforward task for you to demonstrate the way in which the progress has been made.

    Science is heading in the direction of making new models of reality which make better predictions about it. The model of a round earth made better predictions about navigation than the model of a flat one, simple. So what might be an equivalent example demonstrating the 'direction' of philosophy?
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    the understanding of philosophy so far demonstrated by pseudo is so poverty stricken that it's hard to take much of what is said here seriously at all - not to speak of science itself.StreetlightX

    Classic. "X doesn't agree with me, therefore he must have failed to understand my ideas".

    If you have an actual argument then make it. This is a forum, not a private members club; unless I've mistaken the intention here entirely, it is not do demonstrate, by exegesis, the breadth of one's library in order to gain approval.

    The point someone like Hawking is making is that the whole of philosophy is unnecessary in answering the questions humanity has of its existence. You can't answer that charge by saying that one should demonstrate a better understanding of philosophy, that would be begging the question. The answer to the question of whether philosophy has anything meaningful to say cannot be contained within the Canon of philosophy without first assuming that philosophical investigation can produce a meaningful answer to the question.

    So if all you came here to do is whine about how 'misunderstood' philosophy is, then I think you've made your point. If you actually wish to put the effort into making a persuasive argument that it has a meaningful contribution to make that scientists do not, then I'd be interested to hear it.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    The argument is simply that most of what you have written is meaningless - that is to say, not even wrong. You speak of 'questions of existence' as though you - or anyone - have any idea what such a phrase implies. Yet these apparent 'questions' are nowhere formulated by you, despite being taken for granted as meaningful despite their total semantic emptiness. Amatuerish shadowboxing, nothing more.

    And actually yes, to dismiss an idea or set of ideas requires understanding, at least minimally, the content of those ideas, on pain of unthinking dogmatism. That isn't 'begging the question', that's basic argumentative practice, understood by schoolchildren around the world. To think that you can't even correctly impute a first-year fallacy, let alone think you might have anything to say of interest about philosophy...
  • Pseudonym
    1.2k
    There's no apparent evidence that science can answer any moral questionsNoble Dust

    There's no apparent evidence that there's a God, does that justify a pejorative use of the term religious, the derision of any arguments to that effect and the exclusion of anyone who thinks there is from philosophical discussion?

    What's more, why are you talking in the language of 'evidence' all of a sudden? If your acceptance of a theory is on the basis of whether there is sufficient evidence then you've already joined the club, welcome.

    Religion gave birth to science, broadly.Noble Dust

    That's a bold claim, do you have any evidence for that, or are we switching back to discussing what we 'reckon'? I'm finding it hard to keep track of the constant changes in requirement. When religion and phenomenology are discussed we seem only to require 'intuition' and a sage-like nodding of the head to approve it. When others not 'in the club' make claims we seem to revert to needing evidence.

    Perhaps in future you could preface your propositions with some kind of label to that effect, then I know whether I can provide counter arguments from intuition, or if I need to provide empirical evidence.
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