Thursday, October 31, 2013

Parsons replies to me

KP: I am a tad busy right now, so I don't think I will have time for a long point/counterpoint. However, I would like to point out that the argument you are attributing to me is not the one I was trying to make. I am not questioning the legitimacy of all a priori reasoning. I was pointing out that philosophers have often made armchair pronouncements about what must or must not be, which scientists have blithely disregarded and proceeded to do what philosophers said could not be done. Leibniz, for instance, claimed to disprove the possibility of physical atoms. Scientists went right ahead with atomic theory--and a good thing too. Kant held that three dimensional space was an a priori intuition. Physicists have found it useful to disregard that "intuition." Spinoza "proved" that all that is must be. Quantum physics does not give a fig for such determinism. Auguste Comte said that the constitution of the stars would never be known. A year or two later the spectrograph was invented. Kant held that asserting either that the universe had a beginning or did not leads to insoluble intellectual antinomies. Big Bang theorists never cared. Descartes "proved" that the mind must be incorporeal res cogitans. Neuroscience piles success on top of success assuming that we think with our brains.

VR: But of course, the argument here isn't just an armchair speculation, it is a principed argument. In these cases, it has to be clarified that the scientific theory and the philosophical argument really contradicted one another. I know in the case of Kant, it is an open question as to whether the claims are really in conflict. This is the discussion of it in the Stanford Encyclopedia. 
It doesn't seem to me that Kant's position, just described, conflicts with scientific theory. 

5 comments:

Crude said...

This is a rotten list.

Leibniz, for instance, claimed to disprove the possibility of physical atoms. Scientists went right ahead with atomic theory--and a good thing too.

My understanding is that Leibniz argued against the idea of fundamental, indivisible atoms. Considering 'atomic theory' later gave way to the understanding that atoms were in fact divisible would be a strike in favor of Leibniz, not against. Are what we now regard as fundamental particles further splittable? Open question - but we know better than to assume it to be the case as we did with atoms.

Spinoza "proved" that all that is must be. Quantum physics does not give a fig for such determinism.

"Quantum physics" doesn't touch on the question Spinoza deals with, right or wrong. I think Parsons is confusing metaphysical and philosophical extrapolations of quantum physics with quantum physics itself.

Auguste Comte said that the constitution of the stars would never be known. A year or two later the spectrograph was invented.

Comte didn't determine that the constitution of stars wouldn't be known via some kind of a priori reasoning. He was making an assumption about technical limitations. It'd make more sense to say Comte was making a scientific argument.

Kant held that asserting either that the universe had a beginning or did not leads to insoluble intellectual antinomies. Big Bang theorists never cared.

Big Bang detractors, including many scientists, did.

Descartes "proved" that the mind must be incorporeal res cogitans. Neuroscience piles success on top of success assuming that we think with our brains.

It does no such thing, and this is weasel-worded. Nothing in neuroscience is incompatible with substance dualism, to say nothing of various other non-materialist views.

This is not a defense of science against 'philosophical claims'. This is a freaking muddle of claims, some of which were empirical/scientific claims.

Crude said...

I was pointing out that philosophers have often made armchair pronouncements about what must or must not be, which scientists have blithely disregarded and proceeded to do what philosophers said could not be done.

Scientists have often made pronouncements about what must be or must not be, and have turned out to be wrong again and again.

Martin said...

Dr Reppert, your link to the SEP is broken.

Dan Gillson said...

Well no, Dr Parsons, you weren't merely "pointing out that … scientists … proceeded to do what philosophers said could not be done," you were making that argument that "[t]he dismal track record of a priori claims against empirical ones provides some reason to doubt the cogency of arguments like those of Goetz and Taliafero," which is, as I said in a previous thread, just the genetic fallacy. Maybe you wrote the argument in haste, which is fine, it's a blog post, but if that's the case own up to it. Don't shift the argument elsewhere.

BeingItself said...

VR: you are in A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian.