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Weinberg's Against Philosophy

by 0xDEADBEEF
Tags: philosophy”, weinberg, “against
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Civilized
#37
Jul11-09, 03:31 PM
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Quote Quote by humanino View Post
That is not what I said

:yawn:

All I'm saying is that anyone who is building their own philosophy without consulting the established philosophical literature is as much of a crackpot as someone who thinks that they are building their own physics without studying the establihed physics literature.
JoeDawg
#38
Jul12-09, 10:31 PM
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Quote Quote by 0xDEADBEEF View Post
Didn't Weinberg say he tried that and that it didn't help.
Understanding the philosophy behind science is like understanding the physics behind baseball. You can pitch a winning game without having a PHD, but that doesn't mean a pitcher couldn't improve by learning a little physics. On the other hand, overthinking the pitch might even be bad for some pitchers... and the physics might simply be confusing.

Being good at one thing doesn't imply one will be good at something else. Some people excel at the theoretical, others are better at more applied subjects.
Fra
#39
Jul13-09, 05:22 AM
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Thanks for the link to Weinbergs paper! Interesting. I will read it properly later.

I just skimmed random parts and I think it says quite alot of about Weinberg himself and his way of reasoning :) I see revealing patterns of reasoning that think signs a strong realist view of science.

Anyone know what the date is of that text?

/Fredrik
Fra
#40
Jul14-09, 01:50 AM
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I read it yesterday and it was at any rate interesting to hear Weinbergs ideas.

The paper mixes some historical descriptions and selected reasoning of others, apparently to back up his on message.

I don't however really understand in what context this published, and what his motivation was. Perhaps there is a reason for it. It seems implicit in the paper that Weinberg feels the need to "defend science"?

Part of the point refer to "professional philosophers", and maybe he has a point there. I've always been philosophically and fundamentally inclined, however I never ever studied "philosophy" formally. I would not a priori count on say a philosophy professor to solve physics problems, but OTOH I don't know if anyone ever suggested that, no more than we ask pure mathematicians to solve physics problems. The best philosophical arguments I have seen, have been from scientists making philosophical arguments.

As I see it, physics as a science contains alot of mathematics simply because it's required by quantiative predictions, and science to me is about predicting the future given the past, for the benefit of self presrevation - it's not sterile bookkeeping. But in order to generate the hypothesis to be tested, elements of rational reasoning mixed with creativity is needed. This is different from deductive logic. The takes us right into the philosophy of science, and the problem of induction. Relevant here is that also probability theory so important today has it's root in the philosophy of opinon and belief. However, I think some extent of sterlization has taken place when we consider the pure mathematical point of view or axiomatic probability theory. This isn't physics.

This is partly exemplified by the problem of making sense of probability theory and statistics when it comes to stuff that really happen only once. Mathematically, in absurdum, there is no problem. But anyone that has made the most modest philosophical reflection of this in the context of observable elements probably smell something is at best awkard.

But the fact that pure philosophy and pure math is not physics, doesn't anywhere near mean that these aren't both important parts of physical sciences.

I get the feeling that Weinberg for some reason tries to separate objective scientific knowledge, from the scientific process, which is usually subject to essentially the problem om induction.

There is something in Weinbergs reasoning that smellls Popperian. I suspect Popper had a dream to describe the scientific process as an deduction, but he didn't succeed. The problem is that popper ignored one of the more important problems, which is how to deform the falsified hypothesis into a new candidate. Falsification or corroboration is the simple part. The other parts (the important part) was tactically not well analyzed by popper.

I sense that Weinberg has a somewhat smilarly sounding reasoning, which goes well with my impression that he belives in the reality of law and objectivity of science. The problem is that the objectivity of science is dangerously close to objectivity of information, and information is the fundament of quantum theory. But the observer, alsoing beeing a key in there, is undoubtedly not objective.

It's paradoxal, that most moderna physicists who have abandoned the mechanical style realism, in favour of the accepted quantum weirdness, still without knowing it, maintain a realism about the objective reality of physical law. Weinberg sounds like one of them?

/Fredrik
octelcogopod
#41
Jul14-09, 07:59 AM
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Can't we say that philosophy deals with things that can't be directly observed or calculated, while science does?
Philosophy could be said to be our grasp of reality until a scientifically valid explanation comes along and replaces it. Until we have science for everything philosophy is a valid method. In theory if we have science for everything, there is nothing more to debate. Everything will be clearly understood, explained and observed, and philosophy would be useless.

Of course this brings up a lot of other questions, but I'm keeping it simple for now.
JoeDawg
#42
Jul14-09, 08:15 AM
P: 1,330
Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Can't we say that philosophy deals with things that can't be directly observed or calculated, while science does?
No, because that would be completely misrepresenting the situation.

Philosophy is about knowledge.
Philosophy is what we use when we define what science is and what it does.

I can observe the planets and calculate my horoscope. But that doesn't make it science.
I can't directly observe or calculate evolution. But we do have quite a lot of indirect evidence for it.

Philosophy is not 'everything else' when it comes to science. Science is a part of philosophy.
octelcogopod
#43
Jul14-09, 09:14 AM
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Okay, so philosophy is about knowledge, and science is a way to aquire knowledge.
Therefore science is part of philosophy.

That's fine but I feel it lacks some detail.
There is still a vast difference between philosophy and science.
Science is about observation and empirical evidence, so if something new were to come along to stir this, we would have to change our philosophy on science to find the truth.
Science is a universal thing, to me it is based on the most fundamental thing we have - observation and that there exists an empirical world.

Once you break out of the observation part you can still acquire knowledge, but it is not science, it will then become philosophy.
My earlier post posited that maybe one day we will have an empirical, measured and observered form of every phenomena and event in the universe, in which case there would be no philosophy left.

Right now, science is pretty limited, there are many things it cannot explain, that only philosophy can describe, but this does not mean that science as a method is not flawless.
Maybe in thousands of years someone will discover some ultimate way to perceive everything, and by then all questions have been answered and there is just facts left.

Is that too far fetched or>?
mal4mac
#44
Jul14-09, 09:32 AM
P: 1,171
Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Okay, so philosophy is about knowledge, and science is a way to aquire knowledge.
One branch of philosophy is - epistemology. But what about morality, aesthetics,...?

Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Therefore science is part of philosophy.
How does that follow? Measuring the beaks of penguins is part of biological science but no way is it part of philosophy (*justifying* such measurements may be!)

Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Science is a universal thing, to me it is based on the most fundamental thing we have - observation and that there exists an empirical world.
There are other things that one might claim to be fundamental - happiness, pleasure, justice, consciousness...

How do you know that there is a world, or that it is empirical?

Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Once you break out of the observation part you can still acquire knowledge, but it is not science, it will then become philosophy.
Is 'that music sounds good' a scientific or philosophical observation? Surely neither? It's a statement of musical taste, that is, a musical/personal observation.

Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
My earlier post posited that maybe one day we will have an empirical, measured and observered form of every phenomena and event in the universe, in which case there would be no philosophy left.
That's a philosophical position, and one very difficult to justify!
octelcogopod
#45
Jul14-09, 09:46 AM
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1. What about them? When I say knowledge I don't just mean epistemology.
2. I meant science could be seen as a philosophical branch, or at least that's how I understood Jay.
3. Even with the subjective, we still must base science on the premise that there is an external empirical world. Science is all about exploring that world.
4. It's philosophical I guess.
5. Yeah it may be, but if we could ever close the gap between subjective and objective, it may not be.
Fra
#46
Jul14-09, 10:54 AM
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Now the discussion diverged to ponder of "what is science", "what is philosophy" both of leads to traditional philosophical discussions.

Clearly mankind thrives on accurate knowledge in the sense of having an advantage over the competitive environment. Ultimately we need to be able to predict, act, and respond - at some level - to our environment in order to survive.

The level of sophisitication todo this varies from animals with complex brains, to simple cellular or molecular level information and responses.

The question for knowledge has been evolving throughout human history, at some point we start to realise that sometimes information we based our actions on turn out to be wrong. So one started to question the validity of information, and the quest for a rational method to acquire knowledge originated. Here is also a thread of reasoning, coming from an ancient notion of "probable opinon" meaning simply the opinon of someone educated and respected. This was found unsatisfactory so it evolved into precursors of probabilty theory where questions of "how to count and rate evidence" emerged.

The basic problem of science, is how to defend, that the knowledge we have is correct. Ie. is there a method that leads to true universal knowledge? And how do you know when it's true?

I guess one of the more common abstractions of what the scientific method is, is Poppers idea of hypothesis testing, resulting in corroboration or sometimes falsification.

He noted that it's not possible to produce certain knowledge by induction (or abduction). Ie. its' not deductive. Instead he tried to invert it, and instead suggest that falsification is deductive. And that the scientific process is described as a selection among hypothesis, by deductive falsification, and corroboration of the non-falsified theories.

However Poppers abstraction leaves still alot to desire. He completely ignores the origin of hypothesis. Popper dismissed it into human pshychology and was content.

The basic idea that science, is knowledge produce by a scientific method, with is some rational method for acquiring knowledge, by means of feedback from the environment (experiment, hypothesis testing etc) is I think something noone disagrees upon.

But wether there is value in further refining this method is what I think weinberg talked about. It seems to me he feels the current mainstream poppian abstraction is perfect and that the scientific method itself, needs no update. I don't quite agree there, and I don't agree that it has no bearing on fundamental physics. In particular does the view of science as in the nature of physical law, reflects back on the way we tend to come up with hypothesis, and theories, which might impact the effiency of scientific development.

/Fredrik
apeiron
#47
Jul14-09, 04:53 PM
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To see how philosophy and science are connected in the business of knowing the world, it is perhaps more instructive to see them as two ends of a spectrum. So the general dichotomy in operation here is that between generals (or universals) and specifics (or measurements). In more psychological terms, the difference between our ideas and our impressions.

So drawing back towards the most general ideas is philosophising, zeroing in on concrete details is "science" - the making of precise observation.

The two activities are obviously both necessary and feed each other.

We derive general ideas by what we learn from many accurate observations. And we can frame more accurate observation when we are guided by "truer" general ideas.

Science as a method was just a more rigorous approach to tieing the modelling to the observations - the philosophising to the measuring.

The kind of philosophy we rejected was the one that pretended that pure reason could solve all problems - no need for observation of the world. But even this was an idea more preached than practiced as all philosophers derived much from their experiences of the world - their impressions.

So philosophy = generalisation of our ideas. Science = making specific measurements. Then move the debate on to how the two aspects of knowing can be effectively put into action in modern academia.
JoeDawg
#48
Jul15-09, 12:08 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
So philosophy = generalisation of our ideas. Science = making specific measurements. Then move the debate on to how the two aspects of knowing can be effectively put into action in modern academia.
While I don't disagree with the idea that philosophy and science operate along a spectrum, I think you're oversimplifiying here, and in a problematic way. One of the big problems in the philosophy of science is called the 'demarcation' problem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

If philosophy is about generalizations and science is about specific measurments, then categorizing species in biology, categorizing stars in astronomy, quite a lot of archeology, paleontology, and geology; are philosophy.

Add to that, measuring the positions of stars, in order to create a horoscope, is science.

I don't think most scientists would agree with that.
apeiron
#49
Jul15-09, 03:01 AM
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Quote Quote by JoeDawg View Post
One of the big problems in the philosophy of science is called the 'demarcation' problem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

If philosophy is about generalizations and science is about specific measurments, then categorizing species in biology, categorizing stars in astronomy, quite a lot of archeology, paleontology, and geology; are philosophy.

Add to that, measuring the positions of stars, in order to create a horoscope, is science.

I don't think most scientists would agree with that.
Demarcation problem is really about finding reasons to put science on a pedestal which is quite the wrong kind of defence I believe.

The better approach (and here I adhere most closely to Rosen's Modelling Relations epistemology) is to see modelling as a democratic exercise. Sit back, let the models compete, and the most effective (for their purposes) will emerge from the fray.

So astrology to the point that it models the world in some accurate sense is doing the job we would want of any "science". And yes, it is a modelling approach that attempts to extract general principles and then relies on measurements to drive the "equations". It relies on local inputs such as your birth date.

Where astrology falls down in the modelling relations view is that while the models make predictions, there is a lack of feedback about the observed outcome. As a field, it is not systematic in closing the measurement loop so that the model - the generalisation - is subject to learning.

So when I say science is measurement, I mean precisely the kind of predict and test loop that we expect of science.

Of course, this is not just how good modelling works, it is how brains work. Our minds anticipate the next moment's sensory input and then responds to the errors in prediction, paying attention to what was not expected, what was surprising, and then updating a running model of the world. When everything is being smoothly predicted, they call it the flow experience.

The point I was making is that - as modelling relations, a modern approach to epistemology, says - the business of modelling is naturally dichotomous. It divides strongly into formalised ideas and informal measurements. Generals and particulars. And then having divided, the two different aspects are better able to interact. The more clearly we can say this is our model that makes the guesses (the anticipations) the more clearly we can say well here is a prediction that didn't work out and so perhaps the model needs more work.

For some reason, philosophy and science have become disjointed activities in the sociology of human knowing. I am explaining why a division would emerge, but then also why the two have to work together.

We have similar divides at lower levels of course. In particle physics, there are the theory groups and the experimental groups. Once you get a big gang like at Cern, it seems natural to divide. But academic philosophy and science have floated right apart.

So forget the current disfunctional academic scene. I am saying look at how minds know worlds, look at some sophisticated epistemology like modelling relations. Then you can understand both the value of a divide, and also the way the divided are meant to interact.

And probably I am not making myself clear on what is meant by generals and particulars. In biology for example, darwinian selection would be a general, the categorisation of species would be closer to a particularisation activity. Evolution gives us the general idea that all species would be related like branches of a common tree. Then we would predict and measure to place all observable species on such a tree.

Or just using a straight cognitive example, you will have a general idea of what is a cat. It may include lions, Sylvester or Garfield, etc. Then you will also have specific cat impressions. You will have things come into your field of view and make some kind of concrete local act of interpretation. A prediction that may be confounded if the cat starts barking.
JoeDawg
#50
Jul15-09, 05:35 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
Demarcation problem is really about finding reasons to put science on a pedestal which is quite the wrong kind of defence I believe.
I agree, but it is quite a common thing to do.
The better approach (and here I adhere most closely to Rosen's Modelling Relations epistemology) is to see modelling as a democratic exercise. Sit back, let the models compete, and the most effective (for their purposes) will emerge from the fray.
I don't think this is always the case. The emergence of the 'most effective' seems very haphazard, and historically, unusual. The last 300 years has been very 'unusual'. I do like your use of 'democratic', although many defenders of science would cringe at such a description. It's objective, don't you know, not something you vote on. I, however, think democratic and scientific ideas are integrally linked, for good and bad.
As a field, it is not systematic in closing the measurement loop so that the model - the generalisation - is subject to learning.
Predicting the weather could be said to suffer from the same problematic complexity, however. I think we give it more cache because it fits better into our modern mechanistic view of the universe, I'm not sure thats anything more than prejudice though.
Of course, this is not just how good modelling works, it is how brains work. Our minds anticipate the next moment's sensory input and then responds to the errors in prediction, paying attention to what was not expected, what was surprising, and then updating a running model of the world. When everything is being smoothly predicted, they call it the flow experience.
I think we do this sometimes, but I think we are also very prone to erroneous feedback loops, our minds are suckers for superstition, instinct, habit, tradition; patterning errors.
Our ignorance, and overspecialization, can also hamper the process you describe.
For some reason, philosophy and science have become disjointed activities in the sociology of human knowing. I am explaining why a division would emerge, but then also why the two have to work together.
Reductionism - not seeing the forest for all the trees.
So forget the current disfunctional academic scene.
Many people who specialize, anyone with a serious career, can get caught up in their own version of reality, and literally can't understand the language of others. Our brains can only handle so many models, and usually not at the same time. The paradigm shift idea.
mal4mac
#51
Jul15-09, 09:06 AM
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Quote Quote by octelcogopod View Post
Even with the subjective, we still must base science on the premise that there is an external empirical world. Science is all about exploring that world.
You could hold the premise that there *seems to be* an external world, and base science on exploring what *seems to be* an external world. Is physics just a subset of consciousness?
octelcogopod
#52
Jul18-09, 11:21 AM
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mal4mac, as you might have expected, I have no idea.
That and the other points you raised in your earlier reply to me are mostly all related to the problem of consciousness and how we can really understand it.
I have no idea how to unite the seemingly objective and subjective.
I don't know if I'm even asking the right questions.

But I can say that we must at least base our life on the premise that this seemingly external world is also fundamental.
While feelings and subjective thoughts should also be fundamental in that they are subjectively true, the same thing could be said about reality.
Whether or not physics is a subset of consciousness is somewhat irrelevant UNTIL we can find some way to prove it..

But what I meant in my original post, was that the scientific method is a strict and commonly agreed upon method for conducting research, while philosophy should always be there to answer the more existential aspects of reality and life.
I should maybe read the paper in the OP, but from the comment the poster made - yes philosophy is useless for conducting the scientific method, but no - it's not useless for understanding WHY we are conducting the scientific method, and the choices we make to apply it.


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