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The Line between Philosophy and Science

  1. Mar 27, 2009 #1


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    when was it drawn? Obviously scientists utilize philosophy and philosophers utilize science. But at one time, we didn't separate the two at all. How did it happen? Was it a gradual change or did it happen over a short period of time? Was there any particular influences?
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  3. Mar 27, 2009 #2
    I always think the key distinction between philosophy and science is that science tests and demonstrates ideas.
  4. Mar 27, 2009 #3


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    I agree for the most part but that's largely the experimental side of physics. Theoretical physics requires (required?) more philosophy and creativity. You do have to prove things mathematically, but we've already shown in science that you can prove things more than one way mathematically, and have them be false for extreme cases of your mathematical "arguments". (QM vs. Classical is the most obvious case).

    This adds a level of subjectivity to how you approach quantifying your predictions.
  5. Mar 27, 2009 #4
    It's not science if there is no experiment and data. It's that simple.

    I think a lot of philosophy is simply bad science. We can sit here and aruge all day long about this and that, human nature, and all sorts of other topics. *Or*, we could gather data on many of these questions and produce actual answers.

    I view philosophy as the first step necessary to science. That's not to say its irrelevant, but it needs to know it's place.
  6. Mar 27, 2009 #5


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    If that's your definition of science, then science is pretty impotent on its own. Good thing it had philosophical thinkers like Einstein or Descartes to inject something into science.
  7. Mar 27, 2009 #6


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    Ok, after you added this, I see we agree.

    BTW, to everyone:

    If you read the OP, I'm looking into where and when and how the divide occurred, but I still appreciate the initial definitions.
  8. Mar 27, 2009 #7
    No, einstein made predictions with his theory that were verified with experiment. This notion of 'philosophical thinkers like Einstein or Descartes' is bogus.

    To clearify this statement:

    Before science, philosophy gave us the framework of logic so that science could emerge. Once science had a strong footing, philosophy was dead on those topics. It can be used for other things, but there is no overlap between it and science, unless it concerns using principles of science on other areas of philosophy. But philosophy that tries to make claims about science is nonsense.
  9. Mar 27, 2009 #8


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    I think the internet and people that think any nonsense that pops into their mind is worthy of philosophical debate has given philosophy a reputation of being the equivalent of brain diarrhea.
  10. Mar 27, 2009 #9


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    I disagree.

    Mostly because many of his thought experiments were not experimentally verified until long after he died. He went forward without verification in many cases. If someone would have criticized him at the right moment, we could have easily lost an insightful view of the universe.

    The point though, is that when they initially came up with the ideas TO verify and test, they were being philosophical... then they went and tested them. If they wouldn't have been philosophical in the first place, they would have only had what they already had verified to rely on.

    We also use philosophy to make interpretations of the observations. We can't control every single variable in every experiment; If we want to discover that there's a hidden variable that explain our observations, we have to get creative about our explanations.

    THEN, we cut the fat with experiments and verification.

    Isn't this a brainstorming practice that EVERYONE learned through high school in the 80's and 90's? You don't criticize during stage 1, because it thwarts the creative process. You have to be patient and criticize after all the ideas have been sufficiently developed.
  11. Mar 27, 2009 #10
    What do you mean you disagree? He made a calculation about (I believe it was light bending) as something passed the sun (correct me if Im wrong on the exact example here). This isnt up for debate. It's a fact. The scientific community didn't just accept what he said as the gospel. As for the last sentence, I don't see the point of debating hypothetical things that could have happened. It's pointless and serves no function.

    I don't know what you mean by the word 'philosophical' here, you'll have to expand.

    We do? I don't crack open philosophy books to make interpreations of my experimental observations - ever. Your last statement is flat out wrong. Open up a book on regression analysis.

    Again, no.

    Again, a meaningless empty statement. Ok, so what?
  12. Mar 27, 2009 #11


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    Holding the analogy, do you think a butplugg is a good idea?

    I mean... do you think the consequences of allowing digestion are worse than the consequences of not allowing digestion?
  13. Mar 27, 2009 #12


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    Why would you have to crack open a philosophy book to be philosophical? You're emporing your philosophy all over my post right now. And it's a pretty narrow-minded philosophy. Have fun with it.
  14. Mar 27, 2009 #13
    I clearly just showed you what the line between science and philosophy is. If you don't like it, tough. Let's see you get your 'philosophy' published in a science journal.

    Again, science uses experiment and data. If it doesnt use experiments and data, its not science. Is that so hard to grasp? This is why and how the two branch off.
  15. Mar 27, 2009 #14
    I think that the marriage between philosophy and science is the most graceful relationship there is. Science is still in diapers when it comes to the WHY questions, so we definitely need some philosophy as a brain exercise. Scientists who think philosophy is bogus are usually unable to see the scope of their own ignorance. And even if one day we managed to explain how the universe works..., so what? How would that help us explain how something much much smaller than an atom grew to the present size of the universe and keeps expanding into itself?

    Of course there is good and bad philosophy, as there is good and bad science. But science without philosophy is blind, boring and unappealing IMO.
  16. Mar 27, 2009 #15
    Actually the ignorance is the philosophers thinking they can do science with their mental masturbation. :wink:

    I have bad news for you, scientists dont use philosophy.

    You're right. We should just philosomofize about it all day long till the cows come home. That will actually solve the mystery. <\sarcasm>
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  17. Mar 27, 2009 #16


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    Depends on where a person's brain is, I have heard of many people that have their heads up their butts. :wink:

    If you are asking if contemplating meaningless drivel is a waste of time, then yes. Some things are not digestable, but it doesn't stop people from swallowing them.

    An inquisitive nature and a desire to understand and figure things out are fundamental, IMO, to being a good scientist, so if those are the qualities you equate with philosophy, then we would agree.

    If you mean the pointless discussions you often see on internet forums, then we disagree.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  18. Mar 27, 2009 #17

    That's a joke, right? You don't mean to say that these scientists weren't actually scientists:

    Roger Penrose

    David Deutsch

    Werner Heisenberg

    Anton Zeilinger

    Amit Goswami

    Isaac Newton

    Niels Bohr

    Albert Einstein

    Bertrand Russell

    Nick Herbert

    Henri Poincaré

    Patrick Suppes

    Bas van Fraassen

    Nancy Cartwright

    Larry Laudan

    Adolf Grünbaum

    Wesley C. Salmon

    Ronald Giere

    Peter Lipton

    Ian Hacking

    Richard Boyd

    Daniel Dennett

    David Stove

    Wolfgang Stegmüller

    Philip Kitcher

    Taketani Mitsuo

    Hans Reichenbach

    Georges Canguilhem

    Alexandre Koyré

    Sir Karl Popper

    Rudolph Carnap

    Michael Polanyi

    Otto Neurath

    Carl Gustav Hempel

    and many many more. Or were they really just mentally masturbating?
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  19. Mar 27, 2009 #18
    I don't see your point. I don't care about a long list of names with no context.
  20. Mar 27, 2009 #19

    "The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, and implications of science. The field is defined by an interest in one of a set of "traditional" problems or an interest in central or foundational concerns in science. In addition to these central problems for science as a whole, many philosophers of science consider these problems as they apply to particular sciences (e.g. philosophy of biology or philosophy of physics). Some philosophers of science also use contemporary results in science to draw philosophical morals. Although most practitioners are philosophers, several prominent scientists have contributed to the field and still do."

  21. Mar 27, 2009 #20
    From your own quote above:

    Notice how they use results from science. In other words, they ant contributing to science itself. They just take the results and interpret it any way they want to.

    That's fine and dandy, but it doesnt solve anything in terms of our understanding of how the world/universe/whatever works. It's only an interpretation.

    So if someone wants to make a thread about how the atom is this and the universe is that - its all bogus speculation.
  22. Mar 27, 2009 #21

    When the other option is - "we don't know", i'd very eagerly choose to see the thoughts of the greatest minds of our time on the meaning of scientific findings and the meaning of reality. If you are contend with the shut up and calculate approach, so be it. But some of us believe there are deeper truths to be discovered and we take pleasure into delving into these questions.

    How can someone not be interested in What is consciousness, what is real?, what is reality? what is existence?, what is emergent properties? What is the meaning of it all if there is any? Can you handle any of those questions outside philosophy?
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  23. Mar 27, 2009 #22
    Okayyyyyyy. But you havn't produced any answers. True enough its nice to hear "what the greatest minds have to say" on a topic. That doesn't mean jack squat about it being valid. Einstein was quite WRONG on many things. Do you want to blindly take what he says as the gospel? This is why philosophy isnt science, and theoretical physics without experiment IS NOT SCIENCE.

    I like hearing about this from guys like Steve Pinker - an actual scientist. While its true that this area of science is still in the earler stages, there is great promise to solving these questions. These are the same questions philosophy likes to drone on and on about and provide no tangible products.

    Don't get me wrong, I think philosophy is great. But I think the context of it has to be proper. Sure, we can talk philosophy about many unanswered questions. But at the end of the day we have to realize its all crap were saying - but I think its good that people would think about these things. I wish more people would rather than watch Amurikan Idol.
  24. Mar 27, 2009 #23
    I 've seen both philosophers and scientists look down on each other. The scientific position is eveident, the philosophical is that if hard determinism is true and every event is pre-determined and our most basic assumption of the existence of free will is wrong - then all our scientific theories and discoveries are pure crap.

    However, my position is that the meeting point between philosophy and science can shed light where none of these disciplines can separately. If there is an answer to the question - "Why is there a universe at all?", it will be Philosophy + science that will one day find the answer(or philosophy of science for short).
  25. Mar 27, 2009 #24
    This will be somewhat offtopic, but how do you make sense(without the use of philosophy) of the fact that everything we experience is a construct? The Moon is a construct, the Sun is a construct, air is a construct, water is a construct, time is a construct, the whole classical universe is a construct. Even all the freaking laws of physics that we are discovering, are a construct of our consciousness, a narrow and distorted viewpoint on what's truly out there that corresponds to what we are experiencing through our misleading interface - the human senses.

    But what is truly out there? Can science alone answer that?
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  26. Mar 27, 2009 #25
    Clearly, our scientific theories and discoveries are not "pure crap", because they work. If I give you new information about 'free will' that doesnt change the fact that the science we have works, and will continue to work.

    I also have no idea why you are convoluting free will with all the scientific theories. This is apples and oranges. You're really stretching it here.

    I would argue, how: what light is philosophy sheading on science? Your proposition that it will be a combination of science and philosphy is pure speculation. This is my point. This is all talk. It doesnt get us any damn closer to the actual solution by talking about it.

    What's worse, because you can't base your 'philosophy' on any evidence or experiment, its no better than mine, or his, or that guy over there, or Einstein. All of it is one big heaping steaming pile of doo-doo. I don't care if your name is Plato, if you're not bringing answers to the table, your not really doing anything constructive.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
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