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Problems (Wrong Turns 2)

  1. Feb 7, 2005 #1
    "Problems" (Wrong Turns 2)

    There is a bizarre phenomenon, that one observes when they try to understand philosophy (in its current form) from "outside" of it. The question would inevitably come up, in the inquiring mind: Why do philosophers like problems?

    I have discussed some bad turns that philosophy has made throughout its history ("Wrong Turns"), but what interests me even more than those mistakes is that philosophers refuse to turn around and make a different turn.

    I don't think that this has much to do with being too arrogant to ever admit you've made a mistake (though, I guess, that's a possibility). I think it's more to do with a strange brand of acquiescence. Philosophers look at these "problems" (which are, essentially, dead-ends along a path that proceeded from a "wrong turn") as though they need to be solved. We're stuck with them, so we might as well do something about them. The concept that they took a wrong turn almost never comes up.

    In any other discipline, a dead-end is treated as the best indication that you were on the wrong path, and that one of the "turns" you made was a wrong one. In philosophy, such dead-ends as (for example) the "hard problem of consciousness" are embraced!

    Now, I may seem like the nagging wife that won't stop telling her husband to ask for directions, but that doesn't change the fact that our historical bad turns aren't going to be made any better by looking for ways around (or, worse yet, through) the dead-ends.

    I think we need to turn around and try again. We need to remove jargon that has no meaning outside of this particular path, since this path is clearly the wrong one. When we speak of "qualia", "a perception" (rather than the process of perceiving), "mind-body relations", etc, we are (to my mind) simply refusing to go back to the Descartes intersection, and see if incorrigibility really need find its basis within our thinking processes. Or, better yet, maybe we should go all the way back to our first turn, the Platonic one. Should we be seeking bases for perfect incorrigibility and absolute truth at all?
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  3. Feb 8, 2005 #2
    I have long thought that we would have been better off taking more of a Platonic view of the world rather than that of Aristotle. The way we went lead to the scientific method which has proved to be an invaluable tool; but, we have excluded every other line of thought and reasoning. Once again it is the reductionist view rather than a world view. We dissect a frog to learn how a frog works; but, we lose the frog and never learn what a frog is and how it relates to its environment.
    Its human nature to go with what works. I guess it is also human nature to be single minded and never look beyond the path that we are on. One has only to read a few of the threads here to see how single minded some people are about science and the scientific method. Yes it works; but, that does not mean that nothing else would or could work.
    It took us 2000 years to finally abandon Aristotelean dogma and begin to actually look at what was really going on. It took Galileo to do it and look what the church did to him. He had to look outside the box or beyond the path at the peril of his life. Yet he too was a reductionist. It was and is a method or line of reasoning and testing that works but it is not the only method or line of reasoning that works.
    Where the dead ends and paradoxes come up is trying to justify a different line of thought and reasoning to make it fit within the scientific, physicalist world view. It can't be done.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2005
  4. Feb 8, 2005 #3
    Interesting points. So, are you in favor of more holistic approaches to the study of the Universe, or do you simply dislike its being neglected?
  5. Feb 8, 2005 #4
    The philosphers who think these actually are wrong turns don't continue to investigate them and the ones who investigate them don't think they were wrong turns in the first place.

    Basically, you are complaining that not everyone agrees with your assesment of what is or is not a wrong turn.
  6. Feb 8, 2005 #5


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    It's kind of silly to characterize science as doing one and not the other. Not all biology is reductive. People on these forums have a tendency to think that all science is physics and it isn't.
  7. Feb 8, 2005 #6
    I don't see how we could study the Universe any other way. While a particle physicist must use reductionism in his studies an environmentalist would learn very little using a reductionist method rather than a holistic method. Again its a matter of using the right tool for the job at hand.
    I agree that there are times when we have no choice but to use reduction methods; but, even then it is best not to loose sight of the big picture. Nothing in this universe exists in complete isolation not being effected by something else or effecting something else itself. A things relationship with it surroundings and place in the universe is just as important as the things intrinsic properties.
    If we want to learn what reality is we must study all of reality not just one aspect of it or tiny bit of it. What good is it to know everything about one particular electron if we can't or don't apply it to all electrons and determine what role electrons play in the universe? How could we ever learn that role without looking at the whole Universe holistically?
  8. Feb 8, 2005 #7
    I couldn't agree more. Please read my previous post in response to Mentat's question. There are those, however, who do think that everything can be reduced to physics. Biology is one of the sciences that need more than some others to look holistically at the things that they are studying. Yet Biology dissects its share of frogs too. We have argued before in other threads and I have to ask myself what kind of biologist would reduce life to physics and chemistry and still be able to study life in all of its varieties and diversity on this earth. This is precisely what I mean about losing the frog, the big picture. Its called tunnel vision or in this case miro-vision.
  9. Feb 9, 2005 #8
    That would be a fair assessment, had it not been for Wittgenstein, Sellars, Quine, and (in 1979) Rorty. Not to mention Dennett (especially Consciousness Explained). The Plato-Kant historical account of philosophy's "turns" (be they "wrong" or otherwise) is not mine, but Heideggers (IIRC). That they may be wrong is also not just my assumption or opinion (as the aforementioned philosophers (among others) have made rigorous cases toward the same end).
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