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Does science answer "what is it" questions ?

  1. Aug 3, 2014 #1
    Does science answer "what is it" questions ? Answers that would be something other than the phenomenology associated with it . It being ...whatever...electric charge, time, space, consciousness, gravity etc . Or maybe is it physics that doesnt answer "what is it" kind of questions ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2014 #2
    It depends. There's a way of asking what a thing is such that no answer will suffice.

    "What is a horse? I mean, does anyone really know what a horse is? Has anyone really fathomed the essence of horse-ness?"

    Substitute any term for horse, and you can see that this is the type of questioner who will not be satisfied by any answer, ever.
  4. Aug 3, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Sorry, can't resist:

    (in Polish: Koń, jaki jest, każdy widzi, IMHO better translated as "Horse, how it looks like, everyone sees for himself").

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowe_Ateny
  5. Aug 3, 2014 #4
    Is that straight from the horses mouth? Or the other end?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.
  6. Aug 3, 2014 #5


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    Samuel Johnson's English Dictionary isn't much more enlightening:
  7. Aug 3, 2014 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

  8. Aug 3, 2014 #7
    Stop horsing around, y'all.
  9. Aug 3, 2014 #8


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    Staff Emeritus
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    OP, I'm not sure I understand your question.

    In general, science aims to answer "how" questions, and one step to do this is using precise definitions. So "what is it" is usually answered using a definition.
  10. Aug 3, 2014 #9
    Oh, get off yer high horse!
  11. Aug 4, 2014 #10
    A horse is a horse, of course of course..
  12. Aug 4, 2014 #11
  13. Aug 4, 2014 #12
  14. Aug 7, 2014 #13


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    You can 'why' any subject in science until it hits a brick wall. That brick wall is the frontier of scientific knowledge. Science never 'gives up' on these questions, it just doesn't have any good answers - yet.
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