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Philosophy And Science

  1. Sep 23, 2007 #1
    Humans create models for everything they know about in the universe, and then we create a 'theater' in our head which is animated, and we process what did what and who interacted with who / what right?
    It's in essence a very simple model of the entire universe, inside everyones heads, and its always filled with new things and new connections between things.

    There are really almost an infinite amount of things in this theater of the mind, in every person, that has no explanation, but still humans feels like they understand them.
    Science could be said to aid in creating this theater, in that scientists will do experiments, see results, and then remember them because they are valid at the time.
    If I walk on the ground for long periods of time, ever since I could walk, I add into my theater that I will most likely be able to walk without flying into the sky involuntarily tomorrow, and the day after.
    Then science comes in and explains why later.

    But what I'm wondering is, where is the line between subjective learning, and science?
    It may seem stupid to ask but bear with me.
    If I hold an apple in my hand and I try to squash it, but fail because the apple is too dense and hard, isn't that a type of science?
    I observe, and I learn. It may not be the scientific /method/, but it is still observation, repetition and probability assesment.

    Now with philosophy, many of the problems people ask that can't be proven or disproven by science yet, are still concepts that arise from inside the theater of the mind of the person.
    There is something there, but how do we separate between what is in the mind and what is in the world?
    Well people say science, and I agree.
    An example to help ease this would be consciousness, plain and simple.
    Take color, color is in fact an after effect of conscious visual perception.
    It is light waves at a certain frequency within the spectrum that ends up being perceived by the observer as a color.
    As far as I know you can't really see a color without being conscious. You can detect obviously the frequency of the light wave, but you can't actually experience the color, right?

    So this is immediately a problem between philosophy and science because that color is not really in the theater of science, but rather in the theater of the subjective.
    Like many things in philosophy you now have something which is completely subjective, the essence of the color red; but there isn't a physics book that can explain what red looks like, at least not yet.

    Maybe this isn't philosophy even, I'm a complete newbie to it, but this is my idea and I hope someone will have some answers for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2007 #2
    I would say that your question belongs in the "philosophy of mind" as well as under the science of "neural correlate of consciousness". Francis Crick, co-discover of the structure of DNA, wrote a book called "The Astonishing Hypothesis" that you might be interested in that talks about this. For your specific question that I quoted above, I think you might be looking for the word "qualia". Qualia, in case you didn't already know, refers to the conscious perceptions that cannot be described in terms of their physical properties, example - perceiving the "blueness" of a blue object in our mind. I don't feel like I have an answer for you, other than just to read up on the scientific works of Francis Crick, and the philosophical works of that of Daniel Dennett, and David Chalmers. They try to tackle the same question that you're asking.
  4. Sep 23, 2007 #3
    maybe it's 'totaly' not science, but one of the first things I may suggest is not make apple sauce that way (it's too messy)


    octelcogopod--I think you have a good start on 'theory'
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  5. Sep 23, 2007 #4
    Actually science doesn't really explain that. In philosophy its called the "problem of induction". (ref. David Hume) What science can't explain is why the future resembles the past. Why walking one day, means you won't fly away the next. Gravity describes the way in which we didn't fly away, but it doesn't demand that such a thing continue tomorrow. Gravity is basically a description of past events that we then apply to future events, somewhat optimistically. Consistency in this matter may prevail... or not. Predicting the future is still not a science.

    Science is about repetition. What is repeatable. If 'others' can do it, then we give it a sort of nominal objectivity, even though we are experiencing experiments subjectively. This is a discussion of epistemology, or what can be known and how. Rene Descartes is a good place to start for this.

    Its all in your consciousness, every experience you have. What is 'out there' in the world isn't really knowable (Although the philosophical term for studying 'what exists' is ontology). Your internal world may be a result, caused by, an external physical world, but what is in your mind is really the limits of your world.

    You are touching here on what is called phenomenology, the study of 'qualia', or objects of perception. Do they have a distinct existence? The color red seems real enough, but what is it really? One can say its a wavelength of light, but there is more to it than that, since redness happens in our minds.

    I'd say you're hitting on most of the big philosophical problems.
  6. Sep 24, 2007 #5
    it boils down to how do we know anything for certain. we arent born knowing anything. everything is just a belief. somehow we learn to convert those beliefs/probabilities into certainty. probably through some sort of error correction.
  7. Sep 25, 2007 #6
    Hey guys.

    What I meant with the first quote in your post was that science explains to a certain degree how I am able to walk.
    Like, gravity pulls me down, my body consists of hard bones to keep my legs straight, muscles animate me, my heart gives oxygen to my muscles, and whatever have you science has explained so far.
    I guess the point was that, as granpa pointed out somewhat, first we are children who grow up not knowing anything/a whole lot, and then the 'theater' is filled later with actual science that proves scientifically why and how it is happening.

    The reason I brought that up in my original post, is because the fine line between what we observe, and what we are, is not that big.
    Hypothetically a human mind could get a complete model of the universe in its head, where every little detail is logically explained, all you really need is a big enough neuralnet with all the right connections.

    But then again this brings in the problem how the universe is actually connected, what the most fundamental event is, if there is any, and like you said why there is so much consistency.

    But, my point, which I didn't state explicitly enough in the OP, is that the line between philosophy and science may not be that great.
    People seem to sometimes think that philosophy is about many of the things which science already hasn't explained.
    I mean cause why do philosophy about the heart, it's already been explained right?

    But if you think about that for a second, what are all these math, physics and biology classes without a conscious mind to analyze and understand them?
    What science basically is, to me, is a way to objectively confirm the model of the mind, the model of the universe.
    Philosophy then becomes about finding new ways to connect objects in the model, and then find out if these are true or not, or if there is any truth in the hypothesis.
    An example would be like, we know the universe is very big, and we have spatial awareness, so the next natural step is to wonder about infinity.

    I guess finally my last point is about the color thing.
    In reality, all of the humans mental model of the universe doesn't actually exist.
    I mean it exists to that person, but you can't really see the model on any physical tests.
    This includes anything from vision, hearing, thinking, feeling pain/touch, and the list goes on.

    And i wish I had an answer to all that but when I try to combine the mental and the physical it all just becomes a mess in my mind, and I wonder if science will ever explain it, or if a great mind one day will find the truth.
  8. Sep 25, 2007 #7
    Existentialism has a great phrase for this: being thrown into the world.
    The question arises whether any 'neuralnet' can possibly understand its own complexity.
    I would agree to the extent that I don't see them as separate at all. Philosophy is historically about inquiry into the nature of the world. What we call 'philosophy' today is mostly limited to 'what can be reasoned'. Science is really only an extension of philosophy though, its an empirical form of inquiry into the nature of the world. Scientists often forget this and assume empirical data is the only useful type, but many times reasoned predictions are merely corroborated by empirical investigation.

    I would say science is somewhat less than that, its an attempt to nail down consistency in our experience. Objectivity still eludes us. Although as a goal for science its something to shoot for.

    Science is a useful tool, but we are emotional creatures, our instincts and abilities were programmed over millennium by natural selection. In some ways we are very self-contradictory, simply because being that way was an advantage.... our ability to adapt depends on it.
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