Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Philosophy - There is no point

  1. Nov 3, 2009 #1
    There would not be philosophy if it were not for philosophers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2009 #2
    Not so. When you get down to it. It is certain set of questions that motivate people to do what they do, and it is a beautiful thing when the motivation is pure. Philosophy is the purest of the purest study. It is love of argument, study, and you get to ask the most fundamental question. I think it would suck, and boring if you never ask the deepest question.
  4. Nov 3, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    well, that's your philosophy.
  5. Nov 3, 2009 #4
  6. Nov 3, 2009 #5

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I figure for as long as there have been people around, there have been things that people could conceive and reason about, but couldn't test or directly observe (or hadn't yet tested or observed), and there has been philosophy. I imagine this class of things will be around for a good long while, and so will the curious people.
  7. Nov 4, 2009 #6
    Empiricism, gaining knowledge through observation, on which modern science is based, is a philosophical stance on knowledge. You really can't avoid philosophy, even if that makes scientist types cringe.

    Philosophy, as a department in academia, involves the study of the 'history' of ideas. The 'history' part is why its included in the humanities. Philosophy is about all types of knowledge, it is the love of wisdom, as they say.
  8. Nov 4, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Philosophy is really only about a meta-level of modelling. Before you do real work, it is useful to scope out the terrain. So viewed that way, philosophy is a natural part of all knowledge building disciplines. Even engineers and architects wax philosophical.

    Science is modelling tied to particular observations. Philosophy is meta-modelling tied to meta-observations - or broad scale generalisations that seem to be true of the world.

    The cultural relationship between meta-modelling and modelling was healthy in ancient greece and again during the renaissance/enlightenment. But it has gone off since. Good philosophy is mainly to be found within science departments these days. (Of couse, some scientists are spectacular bad at it too).
  9. Nov 4, 2009 #8

    You really need to be more clear. "meta-level" is not clear.
  10. Nov 4, 2009 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To save you the great effort of looking it up, here is a snip from our good friend wiki.

    The OED cites uses of the meta- prefix as "beyond, about" (such as meta-economics and meta-philosophy) going back to 1917. However, these formations are directly parallel to the original "metaphysics" and "metaphysical", that is, as a prefix to general nouns (fields of study) or adjectives. Going by the OED citations, it began to be used with specific nouns in connection with mathematical logic sometime before 1929. (In 1920 David Hilbert proposed a research project in what was called "metamathematics.")

    A notable early citation is Quine's 1937 use of the word "metatheorem", where meta- clearly has the modern meaning of "an X about X". (Note that earlier uses of "meta-economics" and even "metaphysics" do not have this doubled conceptual structure, they are about or beyond X but they do not themselves constitute an X). Note also that this modern meaning allows for self-reference, since if something is about the category to which it belongs, it can be about itself; it is therefore no coincidence that we find Quine, a mathematician interested in self-reference, using it.

    Douglas Hofstadter, in his 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach (and in the sequel, Metamagical Themas), popularized this meaning of the term. This book, which deals extensively with self-reference and touches on Quine and his work, was influential in many computer-related subcultures, and is probably largely responsible for the popularity of the prefix, for its use as a solo term, and for the many recent coinages which use it. Hofstadter uses the meta as a stand-alone word, both as an adjective and as a directional preposition ("going meta", a term he coins for the old rhetorical trick of taking a debate or analysis to another level of abstraction, as in "This debate isn't going anywhere."). This book is also probably responsible for the direct association of "meta" with self-reference, as opposed to just abstraction. The sentence "This sentence contains thirty-six letters," and the sentence it is embedded in, are examples of sentences that reference themselves in this way.

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2009
  11. Nov 5, 2009 #10
    Who are you talking to? Obviously not me.

    I study all there is about metalanguage, and object language in the philosophy of language. I also know a bit of mathematical logic, and philosophy toknow all the paradoxs associated with self-referential statements, and their resolution. The prefix "meta" also means "the study of". So, to say " metaphilosophy" is the study of " the study of the nature of philosophy". When you write about "meta-level". I know instantly that it is not part of analytic philosophy, mathematics, or linquistic. It is probable a make up word from you.
  12. Nov 5, 2009 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Meta- is another example of how there is a deep schism in modern thought - the one that you and I stand on opposite sides of.

    Meta originally meant "after" or "beyond". It was a natural hierarchical notion. You need to step back in some sense to see the place where you were standing. In philosophy, this was generalising, abstracting, universalising.

    And essentially this is a change in scale. A move upwards from the local to some perspective more global. The details or particulars are shed so that the generals or principles are more sharply seen.

    So meta- was about stepping back to the wider view, back towards generality.

    But there is a strong mood of atomism within western thought. Scale was one of the key things to get jettisoned from all modelling. And we can see this happening here for example with the attempts to make meta- also self-referential. The general suddenly is taken to be also an example of a particular itself. It is no longer something different (in scale) but also now reduced to something itself of the same scale.

    What was a clear dichotomy (particular~general, local~global, event~context) is instead now treated as a monad. The general is collapsed to the status of "just another" particular. It is the same thinking that justifies treating worlds as objects that can be ensembled. Formed into disconnected collections.

    So yes, instantly you should know that I am using meta- in a sense now antithetical to the branches of philosophy you study. And one truer to its original philosopical sense.

    If these are matters you want to discuss, here are some snips from your preferred souce to consider first.....


    In Metaphysics A.1....These causes and principles are clearly the subject matter of what he calls ‘first philosophy’. But this does not mean the branch of philosophy that should be studied first. Rather, it concerns issues that are in some sense the most fundamental or at the highest level of generality. Aristotle distinguished between things that are “better known to us” and things that are “better known in themselves,”[1] and maintained that we should begin our study of a given topic with things better known to us and arrive ultimately at an understanding of things better known in themselves. The principles studied by ‘first philosophy’ may seem very general and abstract, but they are, according to Aristotle, better known in themselves, however remote they may seem from the world of ordinary experience. Still, since they are to be studied only by one who has already studied nature (which is the subject matter of the Physics), they are quite appropriately described as coming “after the Physics.”....

    ...in Book B, Aristotle delineates his subject matter in a different way, by listing the problems or perplexities (aporiai) he hopes to deal with. Characteristic of these perplexities, he says, is that they tie our thinking up in knots. They include the following, among others: Are sensible substances the only ones that exist, or are there others besides them? Is it kinds or individuals that are the elements and principles of things? And if it is kinds, which ones: the most generic or the most specific? Is there a cause apart from matter? Is there anything apart from material compounds? Are the principles limited, either in number or in kind? Are the principles of perishable things themselves perishable? Are the principles universal or particular, and do they exist potentially or actually? Are mathematical objects (numbers, lines, figures, points) substances? If they are, are they separate from or do they always belong to sensible things? And (“the hardest and most perplexing of all,” Aristotle says) are unity and being the substance of things, or are they attributes of some other subject?

    ...To understand the problems and project of Aristotle's Metaphysics, it is best to begin with one of his earlier works, the Categories...

    ....The language of this contrast (‘in’ a subject vs. ‘said of’ a subject) is peculiar to the Categories, but the idea seems to recur in other works as the distinction between accidental vs. essential predication. Similarly, in works other than the Categories, Aristotle uses the label ‘universals’ (ta katholou) for the things that are “said of many;” things that are not universal he calls ‘particulars’ (ta kath’ hekasta). Although he does not use these labels in the Categories, it is not misleading to say that the doctrine of the Categories is that each category contains a hierarchy of universals and particulars, with each universal being ‘said of’ the lower-level universals and particulars that fall beneath it. Each category thus has the structure of an upside-down tree.[2] At the top (or trunk) of the tree are the most generic items in that category[3] (e.g., in the case of the category of substance, the genus plant and the genus animal); branching below them are universals at the next highest level, and branching below these are found lower levels of universals, and so on, down to the lowest level universals (e.g., such infimae species as man and horse); at the lowest level — the leaves of the tree — are found the individual substances, e.g., this man, that horse, etc....
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Philosophy - There is no point
  1. A Bit of Philosophy (Replies: 1)

  2. Philosophy Discussion (Replies: 1)

  3. What is philosophy? (Replies: 4)