This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
Just in comment on the apparent mirror problem that Stephen Law mentions in his article, the answer is quite a simple one.There are two conditions impacting on why we see left and right reversed in the mirror but not top and bottom. Law describes only the first of the conditions, that of the physics of reflection and not the evolutionary changes that predisposes the brain to seeing right-side up. Indeed on our retina we would see top and bottom reversed as well as left and right reversed. From an evolutionary perspective the left/right reflection in a mirror is one element of the proximate nature of evolutionary development that human brains did not need to develop in righting mirror images in the horizontal axis for honing our skills in matters of survival. Indeed the reflective mirror imaging is so rare in the natural environment with probably the only time humans would have had to confront mirror imaging would be when they looked into a pond or a river. So developing a neural response for correcting the left/right conundrum was not a critical factor that improved the organism's survival prospects. Whereas correcting the reversed top/bottom image along the vertical axis projected onto our retina was a critical evolutionary development towards improving our chances of survival. So when we look into a mirror we do see a reversal of left and right just as the physics of reflection and optical reversal of image have projected it onto our retina. But because in ordinary everyday life organisms do not walk up-side-down ever, the optically reversed image projected onto our retina i thus corrected inside the brain along the neural network so we see everything the right way up.Pretty logical really. i am surprised Stephen Law would show his ignorance on this pretty fundamental matter.
The question about the mirror is a fun one. I settled this in my head some years ago as follows: What a mirror does is reverse "front-to-back" (towards-away-from-the-mirror). If you imagine chopping yourself into slices parallel to the mirror, and then reversing the order of them, "front-to-back" then you get your "mirror image."And if you stand on top of horizontal mirror, the image is upside down.
Linton,You seem to be saying that the image in a mirror "is" reversed top to bottom but that our brains correct for it. Surely you don't mean that?
Oh, is this conversation ever stupid! A flat mirror doesn't reverse an image at all. Each and every point of light is reflected back in the same pattern and order in which it strikes the surface, with no distortion whatsoever (assuming an optically perfect surface). Imagine holding up in front of your eyes a sheet of translucent paper with writing on it, the writing facing away from you. Were you to hold that paper up to the light, you'd see a "mirror image" of what's written there, but not a vertically reversed image. That's essentially what a flat mirror is doing, i.e., presenting the viewer with a vantage point of being on the opposite side of the paper. No mystery at all!You guys would know this if you were amateur astronomers. We deal with concave mirrors and convex lenses all the time, and are forever calculating what effect different combinations of such (in our telescopes and eyepieces) will have on the resultant image. Becomes second nature after a while.There is zero philosophical issue here, and zero brain issues.
Once again, I agree with Bob. What's going on here?
Oh, incidentally - score one for Dawkins.
I just checked, skep, and the moon hasn't fallen out of the sky. But then, sometimes even Ilion agrees with me (go figure)!
There is a point worth noting here. People look down on Dawkins for his lack of philosophical education. What we see in this case is a philosopher who is doing just that. And he is blissfully unaware of his own ignorance of optics. So while he lauds the superiority of his philosophy over Dawkins' science, he is just plain wrong.Thanks for pointing this out to us, Victor.
Bob'A flat mirror doesn't reverse an image at all."Right on. What the mirror does is as if as you say wrote on and piece of clear plastic or glass and hold it up to a mirror. What is reflected back from the mirror would be the right way. If you turn the plastic sheet around, and faced the writing to the mirror, it would be back be reversed just in the same way they would be reversed when you observed the words direct through the plastic sheet. And Steve, yes, it is a front-to-back projection and not a left/right arrangement at all. Steve, "You seem to be saying that the image in a mirror "is" reversed top to bottom but that our brains correct for it. Surely you don't mean that?"It certainly reads that way, doesn't it? But as you say it's not correct. It didn't read that well after I posted it and I tossed up whether I should pull it. But I let it stand. No I didn't mean that, but that's how it came out. It even sounds silly to me this morning on re-read.
Logic is a field of philosophy. Logic is indispensable to science. Therefore, philosophy is indispensable. Q.E.D.
"Logic is a field of philosophy. Logic is indispensable to science. Therefore, philosophy is indispensable. Q.E.D."Logic is a field of philosophy. Logic is indispensable to science. Therefore, philosophy is indispensable to what?.There are two streams of philosophy: scientifically-informed philosophy and scientifically-uninformed philosophy. Philosophy that is uninformed by science is rhetoric [and not in the more usual pejorative sense but in the 'art' of speaking sense]. Aristotle understood that. His dialectic is the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.In the absence of what one would normally and reasonably be construed as evidence, fact or proofs, philosophy as practiced, with ties to theology, is largely dialectic in nature with only the most tenuous or no substantive link to naturalism at all. Even the term 'natural theology' is to me solely a derivative of dialectic, with no grounding in observed facts about knowledge of gods, contrary to its definitional claim. How quick we forget that science along with philosophy were just subsets of theology. But science cleaved irrevocably from theology. "The rise of the new science progressively undermined not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promoted philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which included natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. D'Alembert, a leading figure of the French Enlightenment, characterizes his eighteenth century, in the midst of it, as “the century of philosophy par excellence”, because of the tremendous intellectual progress of the age, the advance of the sciences, and the enthusiasm for that progress, but also because of the characteristic expectation of the age that philosophy (in this broad sense) would dramatically improve human life." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.And yet, theology despairingly clings to philosophy, its sole remaining avenue through which it attempts at legitimating supernaturalism. Scientifically-uninformed philosophy is just ... well ...theology.
Bob,I think you and I are saying the same think differently. Still, I'm somewhat intrigued by your formulation that a mirror presents "the viewer with a vantage point of being on the opposite side of the paper. No mystery at all!"I'm not sure this helps me. Surely, without the help of mirrors or lenses, dealing with (solid, opaque) three dimensional objects, there is no such vantage point, at least not within 3D-space.Anyway, I agree with you that this isn't a real problem. As such it isn't something that needs solving. It needs dissolving. In this case, that dissolving is primarily an imaginative act and isn't something done by science.
There's so much wrong with what Papalinton just said that I'm not even sure where to start. Probably better not to even try.
Logic is a field of philosophy. Logic is indispensable to science. Therefore, philosophy is indispensable. Q.E.D.Further, the entire meta-question about philosophy's overall value to the pursuit of Truth is itself a philosophical question. Any attempt to answer it will involve a person getting his hands dirty on properly philosophical concepts like "justification," "evidence," and so on. There is no getting around philosophy, despite what massively incompetent hacks like Dawkins think. Natural science is silent on such issues. When it comes to philosophy, you either do it badly or you do it well. But you do do it.
"There is no getting around philosophy, despite what massively incompetent hacks like Dawkins think."Here's an experiment for you. Take three philosophers who know nothing about science and ask them to solve a problem in optics involving refraction and reflection. I bet you'll get three different results, all based on 'sound' logic. And those three will argue among themselves about which one is right.Now I have never said that philosophy is without value. But I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that philosophy is incapable of providing definitive answers on any topic. For every philosophical position, there is always an opposing one. And they are all based on logical analysis that follows from some set of assumptions. So who's right? And how could anyone say with certainty thet his position is the right one?One thing I can say is that without being fully informed by science, any philosophical line of thinking isn't worth beans.
"One thing I can say is that without being fully informed by science, any philosophical line of thinking isn't worth beans."I would agree with you completely on that one, skep, as long as you add: Another thing I can say is that without being fully informed by philosophy, any purely "scientific" line of thinking is downright dangerous.To quote myself: Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion gets you Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag.
im-skeptical,That's a hilarious experiment. In fact, I'm going to find three scientists, give them all my job for a day, and ask them to solve a problem common to my line of work: get 12-20 servers to feed 500 people a five course meal in a timely and orderly fashion. I'm reasonably sure every one of them will have a plan to do it. I'm reasonably sure everyone of them will formulate his or her plan logically. But I am very sure that every one of them will fail miserably at the task. Expecting three people to solve a problem when they don't have the experience to solve it is a recipe for good comedy. I'd certainly pay to watch it.f
Dan,Even a dumb scientist would probably recognize that performing a difficult task is not the same as solving a logical problem. It requires skill and experience that even the most intelligent person among us may not posess. But everyone would agree as to whether the task was accomplished successfully when all is said and done. That's not the case with philosophy, where we observe that everyone seems to have an answer, but there is always disagreement about who is correct. The case in point is Stephen Law's essay, where he declares: "that for many of the most baffling and important questions and puzzles, the armchair methods of the philosopher, rather than the scientific method, is the right approach to adopt." And he goes on to belittle Richard Dawkins for suggesting that this "puzzle" of reflection might be in fact a matter of science. How dare a mere non-philosopher scientist suggest that science could answer a question such as this that is clearly in the realm of philosophical investigation? He should just go back to his scientific sandbox and leave the tough questions to the big boys.The hubris of Law seems to be typical of many philosophers. They have this air of superiority. And it seems to me that they get defensive when a qustion of science vs philosophy arises. So we have Samwell Barnes expressing the dominance of philosophy over science, echoing some of the same notions as Law (and notice how he steals justification and evidence from the realm of science and hands them over to philosophy):"Further, the entire meta-question about philosophy's overall value to the pursuit of Truth is itself a philosophical question. Any attempt to answer it will involve a person getting his hands dirty on properly philosophical concepts like "justification," "evidence," and so on. There is no getting around philosophy, despite what massively incompetent hacks like Dawkins think. Natural science is silent on such issues. When it comes to philosophy, you either do it badly or you do it well. But you do do it."Don't get me wrong - I still don't claim that philosophy is without value. But if you ask me, the best philosophers are scientists, or at least scientifically informed. The worst are scientifically ignorant, but still think they have the keys to knowledge and truth.
Here's an experiment for you. Take three philosophers who know nothing about science and ask them to solve a problem in optics involving refraction and reflection. I bet you'll get three different results, all based on 'sound' logic. And those three will argue among themselves about which one is right.Damn it, Dan beat me to the punch here. I mean, what exactly is this supposed to prove? That specialists in one field tend not to do real good work other fields that they are not trained in? We already knew that; after all, we have discussed a certain zoologist's butchering of history, philosophy and theology several times on this site.
Papalinton, you're going on and on about theology, when I never even brought it up. Science presupposes logic, and logic is a branch of philosophy. Therefore, science presupposes philosophy. That's all I claimed. Theistic implications are another matter entirely.
Philosophy is a method of ordered thinking, a process set down according to prescribed rules and conventions. in earlier times the Greek philosophers developed philosophy as a means of explaining the natural world around them and their relationship to it. Later it was appropriated and commandeered by Christian theology at which point it sauntered off seeking to establish a causal link between the supernatural and natural world. It was used to 'justify' the inexplicable, the ineffable, unknowable and the unseen nature of gods and godworld. One need only to read the Platonism of Augustine or the Aristotelianism of Aquinas to appreciate how Christianity itself was quite differently perceived. Today philosophy supervenes science. Today we speak of the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of education. etc etc. It continues to supervene the properly basic areas of investigation and discovery. In and of itself philosophy does not discover new knowledge or information. It manipulates existing information into lines of thought that are not truths in themselves but rather according to the parameters in which that knowledge and information is defined. That is why there are as many pro philosophers as there are con philosophers on any one subject. It seems to me that philosophy has come full circle from the days of the Greek atomists and physicos to today's scientifically-informed philosophers, grounding their supervening powers in the natural world. Of course philosophical outliers such as Feser and Plantiga and NT Wright continue the tradition of engaging in 'philosophy unplugged'.
Doug"Papalinton, you're going on and on about theology, when I never even brought it up. Science presupposes logic, and logic is a branch of philosophy. Therefore, science presupposes philosophy. That's all I claimed. Theistic implications are another matter entirely."In an acontextual setting your account is half-right. But one could just as easily presuppose that since you are commenting on a philosophical site dedicated to the promulgation of Christian thinking and christian truths [particularly C S Lewis], it would be fair to presuppose that theology figures highly in informing your comment. I make no concession about atheism being anything other than a close informing principle. Why do you and other christians repeatedly abjure from conceding religion plays a fundamental role in your philosophical musings?
It doesn't matter that I'm posting on a Christian blog. You're posting here too. Does that mean we should interpret your comments in the context of Christianity? Hardly. My point about science presupposing philosophy would be true if I were a Taoist, a Muslim, a Zoroastrian, or even an atheist.
im-skeptical,>Here's an experiment for you.I think this is the fundamental problem with this whole rejection of philosophy thing. They think of philosophy as competing with science, as trying to do the same thing that science does. But it isn't. >But I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that philosophy is incapable of providing definitive answers on any topic.It just deals with a more abstract topic, and so is much more difficult to get definitive answers on things. Think of ethics. There is no agreement on whether ethical questions are objective or subjectve, and if objective, whether deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics is the correct answer. Why? Because the topic is much more abstract. You can't reach out and measure moral values with a scale, thus proving something definitely one way or another. It's just the nature of the topic.
Martin,It just deals with a more abstract topic, and so is much more difficult to get definitive answers on things. Think of ethics. You can even do it within science itself.
Martin,"I think this is the fundamental problem with this whole rejection of philosophy thing. They think of philosophy as competing with science, as trying to do the same thing that science does."The problem that I see is not a rejection of philosophy by scientists so much as a rejection of science by philosophers. I don't think there should be any division between them. They should work together to seek truth and knowledge. A philosopher should no more feel superior to scientists than a chemist feels superior to a mathematician. (I'm not aware of any such feelings.)
Doug"It doesn't matter that I'm posting on a Christian blog. You're posting here too. Does that mean we should interpret your comments in the context of Christianity? "Yes, but rather through the context of a-christianity. I have no beef with philosophy per se. And I have no beef with the links between philosophy and science. It is a mistake to imagine science as beholden to philosophy to explain scientific research and discoveries. And because logic is at the centre of science activity does not translate to science being a subset of philosophy. Philosophy is a second order intellectual activity. This can be best illustrated in how philosophy can be used to 'justify' supernaturalism while concurrently demonstrating supernaturalism as a figment. The use of logic as a process cannot in and of itself identify truth or otherwise of a proposition. Indeed a false initial premise can proceed, engaging all the constraints and conditions of logic and still arrive at a false conclusion that is logical. The false outcome complies with logic but remains false. "A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism. Since the premise (proposition, or assumption) is not correct, the conclusion drawn may be in error. However, the logical validity of an argument is a function of its internal consistency, not the truth value of its premises" WikiHere are some pearler arguments. All follow the rules of logic. All are tendentious:"God is defined as the most perfect being. A perfect being must have every trait or property that it's better to have than not to have. It is better to exist than not to exist. Therefore, God exists.Hillary Clinton must be a communist spy. She supports socialized health care, and everyone who supports socialized health care is a communist spy.It has rained more than 15 inches per year in Amherst every year for the past 30 years. So you can safely bet it will rain more than 15 inches in Amherst this year. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has an article on symbiosis. It stands to reason that the Encyclopedia Americana has an article on symbiosis as well, since the two reference works tend to cover the same topics.Jason isn't an NRA member. Almost 90% of NRA members are republicans, and Jason isn't a republican."
The original post seems right. Whatever we call it, everyon should agree that there is a place for sustained critical, rational thinking about things. Philosophy proper does have the tendncy to be destrucgive and critical, not constructive or generate positive stable results. But that is just a tendency, and there are constructive aspects, even if still somewhat contentious... E.g., look at Thomas Berry (theology), Rawls on justice, Russell's Principia, Putnam's Twin Earth.
im-skeptical,I see the opposite. Every time I read academic philosophy, the author always seems to be hyper aware of what is going on in science. But when I read science, like Hawking, he seems to be clueless as to what is going on in philosophy, saying silly things like "philosophy has not kept up with physics", which is just absurd if you are familiar with the literature. The only way he can say that is by simply not reading.That's the only way for him to maintain that false belief.
"Every time I read academic philosophy, the author always seems to be hyper aware of what is going on in science."What I see is that SOME philosophers are aware of scientific advances, and MANY philosophers THINK they are, and pat themselves on the back for being so much smarter than everyone else. But this article isn't about recent advances in science. It's about ignorance. Law, like many other philosophers, piles on Dawkins for his philosophical ignorance. But he himself is ignorant of some pretty basic principles of science.As for Hawking, there may be some philosophers who have kept up with recent advances in physics, but in general I suspect he's quite correct. And who would know better than he?
>And who would know better than he?People who, I don't know, DO philosophy of science. Hawking is a physicist, not a philosopher, and here is a philosopher of physics who says: "Hawking is a brilliant man, but he's not an expert in what's going on in philosophy, evidently. Over the past thirty years the philosophy of physics has become seamlessly integrated with the foundations of physics work done by actual physicists, so the situation is actually the exact opposite of what he describes. I think he just doesn't know what he's talking about. I mean there's no reason why he should. Why should he spend a lot of time reading the philosophy of physics? I'm sure it's very difficult for him to do. But I think he's just... uninformed." In fact, though, it's even worse than that. For Hawking's book The Grand Design is a defense of model-dependent realism, the view that we can never know reality itself; we can only know our models and how well they match up with reality. Now, that may well be true (or not). But the point is is that it is a prime example of...guess what? Epistemology. So per Hawking:1. Philosophy is dead2. Here is my philosophy "model-dependent realism"3. But since philosophy is dead, my model-dependent realism is dead4. But it isn't dead because I defend it in my book5. So model-dependent realism is simultaneously A) dead, and B) not deadIt's amazing that such cognitive dissonance is possible in someone so brilliant, but there it is. I think he just used up all his skill points on "physics" when he was creating his RPG character, and now there isn't any left for anything else.
Martin,I haven't read the book by Hawking, but I suspect your interpretation of it is not precisely what he intended. This is what reviewer John Wojcik says: "What he actually argues for is removal of the barriers that have stood so long between the fields of science and philosophy. His admiration of modern physics has to do with its ability to answer not just "how" questions but also "why" questions."http://www.peoplesworld.org/philosophy-is-dead-asserts-stephen-hawking-in-new-book/So then you twist his logic so badly that it doesn't represent anything he says or thinks. Typical. The cognitive dissonance is all yours (or at least it should be.) Come on, we're talking about someone who has a brilliant mind. Even if he isn't a philosopher, you should give him a little credit.
I notice you say nothing about the philosopher of cosmology who notes that Hawking actually describes the exact opposite of reality: that "the philosophy of physics has become seamlessly integrated with the foundations of physics work done by actual physicists.">"What he actually argues for is removal of the barriers that have stood so long between the fields of science and philosophy. His admiration of modern physics has to do with its ability to answer not just "how" questions but also "why" questions."Which are all philosophical considerations. Which is dead. So dissolving the barriers is not open to him because philosophy is dead.In fact, his model-dependent realism is a sort of Kantian idealism, where they split the world into phenomenal and noumenal realms. All philosophy, of course. From Philosophy Now:"Here Hawking’s argument shows all the signs of a rudderless drifting between various positions adopted by different philosophers from Kant to the present.... So if Hawking is right to charge some philosophers with a culpable ignorance of science then there is room for a polite but firm tu quoque, whether phrased in terms of pots calling kettles black or boots on other feet. For it is equally the case that hostility or indifference toward philosophy can sometimes lead scientists, especially those with a strong speculative bent, not only to reinvent the wheel but to produce wheels that don’t track straight and consequently tend to upset the vehicle."
There is nothing in the Maudlin interview [from Martin at May 13, 2013 7:50 AM] that suggests Hawking has got it wrong. No discoveries in cosmology or physics or astronomy etc to my knowledge has come from philosophy. Philosophy is an appended second-order discipline that 'interprets' scientific discoveries, at which time the bun-fight starts between the various interpretations. Maudlin is pretty much protecting his patch of academia which is what one would be expected to do but it doesn't take away Hawking's frustration at philosophers imagining they are at the forefront of science.So I wouldn't take too much from the bit of professional resentment that goes on. Where philosophy has soiled its own nest is its persistence in some quarters to continue to peddle the existence of a supernatural netherworld replete with a cornucopia of putative live entities capable of physical intervention in the natural world on the odd occasion when one takes a fancy to do so.
In the second article from Martin from 'Philosophy Now', is Chris Norris, the writer of the article a philosopher defending philosophy or a scientist defending philosophy?He [Norris] does reach a reasonable conclusion that in that philosophy needs to get its act together and weed out the half-baked philosophy that pervades the discipline.
>Maudlin is pretty much protectingYou never say anything even remotely related to the point in question.The point is that Hawking is incorrect that philosophy has not kept up with science, as explained by Maudlin.>No discoveries in cosmology or physics or astronomy etc to my knowledge has come from philosophy.Yes, that's right, because that is the domain of science, not philosophy. Hey! What recent cosmological discoveries has Art and Literature Criticism come up with recently?!>Where philosophy has soiled its own nest is its persistence in some quarters to continue to peddle the existence of a supernaturalIn other words, there is no supernatural world...why? Because physics has either shown that there is not, or because it has been interpreted that way. Either way, a philosophical conclusion. No one has ever been able to give a satisfactory definition of natural and supernatural anyway so honestly I have no idea what you've even said here.I love watching you naive (not logical!) positivists burn the branches you are sitting on, completely unaware you are doing so, and completely unaware you are peddling a philosophy which was refuted 60 years ago, LOL! This guy words it better than I ever could: "One reason you don't hear about positivism often in skeptic circles is that skeptics have no time for philosophy; many skeptics hate and fear it. It's the skeptic Kryptonite. As a fundamental, rigorous, intellectually respectable but defiantly non-scientific discipline, philosophy makes a lot of skeptics feel threatened. "Skeptics are like a naval fortress, with weapons fixed to sea; while they regard themselves invulnerable against fleets of art grads, paranormalists, and true believers, they know that philosophers can strike them freely in their defenceless rear. Little wonder that philosophers bring out their inferiority complex."I think that's right. That's why so many "skeptics" lash out when philosophy is discussed. They were comfortable in their positivism, thinking they had the world all figured out! LOL!
Martin, you bring in a writer.to support your claim. Why is that? What is his background that stands as the benchmark against which all skepticism is assessed? Simply because you agree with his sentiments does not constitute an earth-shattering revelation of any merit it worth. In reading through his blog the man seems to be a contrarian for all the wrong reasons, And voices them accordingly.Sheesh
After hanging around FTB and idolizing PZ Myers, it's no wonder he has such a confused and jaded view of skepticism. He's not skeptical enough to question the views of his idol or to make a real attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff.
After hanging around FTB and idolizing PZ Myers, it's no wonder he has such a confused and jaded view of skepticism. He's not skeptical enough to question the views of his idol or to make a real attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff.:D
Just in case you were wondering, Crude, Dawkins has never been my idol. I just get disgusted by the visceral hatred I find here, and the total unwillingness to see anything of value in what he says.
>He's not skeptical enough to question the views of his idol LOL!
Just in case you were wondering, Crude, Dawkins has never been my idol.:D :D :D
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