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English Class > Philosophy > to ask a why question

  1. Nov 8, 2013 #1
    I am giving a presentation on the principle of induction. I'll be showing how acoustic energy (sound) is converted into an electrical signal (via mic) & thus converted back into acoustic energy (via loudspeaker). Now I need to address the following,

    How & Why?

    How doesn't bother me. I can satisfy that using laws (Lenz, Faraday). It's the why that gets me. I can explain to the audience that the only reason a voltage is induced is so it can create a magnetic field to "oppose" the change in flux. So to answer your question Timothy, it's because nature is trying to balance itself out. I guess my logic is flawed. Here are the responses I have received,

    The laws of nature in this universe are set by the so-called constants of nature. There are twenty some of these constants; among which are Planck's Constant, the universal gravity constant, the speed of light, pi, and so on.

    &

    This is not a physics questions. This is a philosophy question, and to a certain extent, a religious question. Physics asks questions about what the rules are. Philosophy asks why. You have indeed set yourself a difficult task. You are effectively looking for an explanation to the Unified Field Theory. A voltage is not created with the purpose of generating a magnetic field. A magnetic field is a natural consequence of a voltage. The different is not merely semantic. It is a matter of the causal direction. Whether or not "nature is trying to balance itself" is also a philosophical question and is incompatible with a non-volitional nature. Nature isn't trying to balance itself. Nature is inherently balanced.


    Sure I can't explain why the constants are set the way they are, but why would it be so wrong of me to state that nature tends to progress towards stability
     
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  3. Nov 8, 2013 #2

    phinds

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    This forum does science, not philosophy. "Why" questions are not something we deal with since ultimately they have no answer.
     
  4. Nov 8, 2013 #3

    Nugatory

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    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that "Because nature is trying to balance itself" is a valid answer. What's to stop me from asking "Why does nature want to balance itself"?

    The chain of "why?" questions will continue forever, or until you become annoyed and answer either "Because that's just the way it is", or if you're trying to sound a bit more professorial :smile: "That's a postulate". Those aren't answers, they're reasons not to give an answer.

    Sometimes scientific study can provide an illusion of an answer to a "why?" question. For example, you ask me why the planets travel around the sun in near-circular orbits; I answer that it is because of Newton's law of gravity ##F=\frac{Gm_1m_2}{r^2}## and throw a few pages of differential equations at you to show how this equation leads to near-circular orbits; you nod your head and say "Yes, that makes sense. Now I see why the orbits are circular".
    However.... Newton wrote his law to match the observed behavior of the planets, so any explanation of planetary behavior based on that law is just another way of saying "because that's the way the universe is". You haven't learned anything new about why it's that way, you've just gotten better at explaining how it behaves.

    If I understand your assignment properly, your best bet will be to take one of those "How" explanations based on the various laws, and use it for the "why" part, just as I could use Newton's laws in the example above.
     
  5. Nov 8, 2013 #4
  6. Nov 9, 2013 #5

    phinds

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    Yeah, all of Feynman's videos are great and that one is a perfect exposition of why "why" questions just don't work in science.
     
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