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Do you see Philosophy as necessary to science?

  1. Mar 7, 2003 #1


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    And if you do, why? Why is it not necessary?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2003 #2
    "I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy." --Max Born, Autobiography

    of course it is necessary, how else will you explain without experimentation.
  4. Mar 7, 2003 #3


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    what some do not realize is that the initial flame of science starts with speculation (aka philosophy)...
  5. Mar 7, 2003 #4

    btw city of roses, you are in portland, or?
  6. Mar 7, 2003 #5

    Tom Mattson

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    Kerrie, it's like you're reading my mind or somethin'. I just found lecture notes on this, and I am eager to go through them with the rest of PF. I am a newbie to philosophy, so I confess I have no answer to the question you posed in the title of the thread, but I am looking forward to finding out.
  7. Mar 7, 2003 #6
    Philosophy is, in itself, the method of asking, wondering, and knowing. Science is the inquiring of knowledge that seeks to answer the questions asked by philosophy.

    Historically, many scientists (such as Newton, Liebniz, Descartes, etc.) were philosophers well so I can see where science ties in with philosophy.
  8. Mar 8, 2003 #7


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    i believe philosophy is quite necessary to science...philosophy is the point of speculation, of asking why, science is the vehicle that moves the question of why to how...

    yes mactech, i am in NE portland, i see that you also have an email from portland state, which is a great college...
  9. Mar 8, 2003 #8
    ah i c.. :) cool.
  10. Mar 8, 2003 #9


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    At some point, Einstein said that physicists tend to be bad philosophers (I think he did so in a lecture later printed as "physics and reality"), but that at some points during the historical development of physics, there is no way out, since experimental results can only be described by a theory that clearly contradicts philosophical positions (think about Copernicus and religion, or QM and reality).

    IMO, both disciplines need a lot from each other. Both are incomplete if done without attention to the other side.
  11. Mar 8, 2003 #10


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    i completely agree with you ahrkron
  12. Mar 9, 2003 #11


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    Thanks Kerrie :smile:

    Something else about their relationship: sometimes, while doing science, philosophical positions held by scientists may steer the kind of hypothesis explored. This can be useful sometimes, but it is also dangerous.

    A clear example would be the precopernican astronomy, in which people developed extremely complicated arrangements of moving spheres because they assumed that every movement in the sky had to be based on such perfect solid. Even Copernicus' system was based on spheres!

    When Kepler discovered that ellipses do the work much better, he was strongly disapointed; he even called the something like "ugly ovals".
  13. Mar 9, 2003 #12


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    Philosophy is certainly tied into science. The scientific viewpoint is based on an objective reality (metaphysics)...that the universe does in fact exist and that it follows certain patterns that are understandable. The path to knowledge (epistemology) is set through direct and verifiable testing.

    Things like "the universe exists" and "the universe follows certain understandable patterns" are somewhat unproveable axioms...a philosophical foundation.

    If you believe that there is no universe outside of your own subjective mind (i.e., everything is a projection of your own thought and even your own body is not "real"), then you aren't going to get far in science.
  14. Mar 9, 2003 #13
    I remember the Logic portion in my 10th grade Geometry class tying into the nature of mathematical proofs and such.

    And Logic in itself is a philosophical study
  15. Mar 17, 2003 #14
    Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom, while science is the pursuit of knowledge. Towards the scientific pursuit of knowledge philosophers devise a variety of metaphysics from which an assortment of appropriate logistical, mathematical, observational, experimental, and/or other rudamentary approaches to discovery can be construed. In addition, the philosophies of science are often influenced by the resulting discoveries of other philosophies and schools of thought, and the results of the various sciences and use these to update their metaphysics and approaches.

    So, yes, science needs philosophy to at least provide an assortment of metaphysics. Hopefully they also manage to gleen a little wisdom in the process as well.
  16. Mar 17, 2003 #15
    Yes, I definitely think that Philosophy is necessary.

    You know, sometimes the fact that Science evolved from Philosophy makes people think that Science is somehow "better" than Philosophy. But this is not true because (as has already been mentioned) there would be no experimentation without the original observation/guesswork.

    In an old post (on the former PFs) I posted that Philosophy is basically the first two steps of the scientific method. I still believe that this is true.
  17. Mar 17, 2003 #16
    science stops, where light can no more bring any message, right..?
    so science stops at our 'world-line' (light-horizon) defined by the speed of information by em-waves.

    the whole, real, right-now world out there in space or in submicroscopic dimensions is thus not subject to exact science, is it?

    [added:] ..i mean, what science gets as information from outer space is the more historic information the deeper we look. What happens out there right now is not actually topic to exact science, is it?

    [added:] ..that is, far off galaxies out there (and nearer objects as much) should be 'there' right now, long before their light reaches earthern science.
    so the mere existence of everything out there should not depend on information about it being sent .
    ('t should be the same with all other limits of light-information, e.g. blackholes event-horizon, maybe uncertainty-boundaries of lights capacity of submitting information..)
    so everything that takes place beyond scientific observation still is part of the 'whole world'..

    [3/3/03 ..plain: ] philosophy only, not science is concerned with the whole world:
    light* is to slow to tell us what is going on in major part of the universe RIGHT NOW.
    (in numbers for e.g. the sun: 8½ mins to slow)
    light* is to 'big' to tell us what is going on in subatomic dimensions.
    we're living in a light-'bubble'.

    *light or em-waves
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 20, 2003
  18. Mar 17, 2003 #17
    I don't understand your post, roeighty. Could you rephrase, so that I can understand what it is that you mean, please?
  19. Mar 17, 2003 #18

    Philosophy has served as a vehicle to transfer some of the technilogical discoveries of certain very ancient civilizations to the present day. If one has read the Tao of Physics by Alan Watts one would see what I mean.

    Throughout the philosophies of India and China there are references to many of the "newly" discovered properties we see today in higher physics. These philosophies are well over 8000 years old and reflect an even earlier understanding of certain laws of physics. This sort of preservation of scientific data is also seen in religions around the world. Much the same way religion preserves a history of events albeit somewhat scewed in favor of one or more families or cults.

    I can't dig up any examples right now... but I believe this to be true.

    It is also important to note that moral philosophy applies to science to keep it in check. If there was no moral philosophy associated with science then all the population of the earth would be used as experimental subjects and the results would be disasterous to humankind.

    Mind you... isn't that what we are witnessing today?
  20. Mar 17, 2003 #19
    I believe philosophy is vital in science. But I suppose it depends on what you mean. If you mean a doctrine then no, that can only narrow ones vision. If you mean an exploration for meaning or understanding then I don't see how you can explore science without it. I've read that pure mathematicians believe that there doesn't have to be any meaning or understanding in what they do. The search for patterns or phenomena is without any real purpose. They don'e care if it applies to real systems or not. If that is true, then for them philosophy doesn't mean much. As far as the physical sciences go though, there wouldn't seem to be any point in pursuing any of it without some sort of philosophical starting point. Not past practical application anyway.

  21. Mar 18, 2003 #20
    Science is born as daughter of Philosophy . During more than 20 centuries science belonged to Philosophy.

    The full title of Newton's "Principia" was "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" . The title of its English translation ( Motte, 1729) was "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"

    It is no wonder this question arises now. Ancient philosophers said "The truth is but one" . Modern scientists say implicitely "The truth is many ". Logic is totally absent in modern science.

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