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Posted by Harvey on September 20, 2002 14:46:11 UTC

Philosophy in my view is the silent hero of the world. Conceptual schemes prior to being popular, begin with some sort of philosophical inquiry. Therefore, humans could never have introduced science without philosophy - which is why, I think, science developed in mathematics/logic poor but philosophy-rich Europe, rather than among the Mayans, Chinese, Islamic, Byzantium, Roman cultures (etc) who were all more advanced in mathematics and logic than Europe in the 12th and 13th century (when natural philosophy became a course of study in European universities). These other cultures were, with the exception of Islam, were lacking in philosophy. Islam, as it turns out, only proffered a restricted kind of philosophical inquiry (possibly due to their mistrust with Greek philosophers), and therefore were unable to attain significant scientific knowledge. The Greeks probably were in the best position (other than the medieval Europeans) to obtain scientific progress, but they were hampered by the lack of natural philosophy. Ironically, it might have been the Christian twist to philosophy which encouraged natural philosophy since there were so many disputes between Aristotlean cosmology and Christian cosmology that natural philosophical disputes put more emphasis in it. In addition, Christians saw natural philosophy as connected with the need to explain why Christianity is inherent in creation, and this thrust theologians into natural philosophical questions. Oh well, I digress, but I am just so fascinated with early European history and why science developed there rather than the other cultures where it seems like it should have developed (e.g., ancient Greece). I think the Greeks would have eventually came upon science since they were gradually moving in that direction, but they didn't philosophize enough in the right areas it seems.

But, my point here is that philosophy is the bedrock of all human inquiry - even scientific inquiry. It happens all the time in scientific circles, it just isn't called natural philosophy any longer, therefore it seems as though philosophy isn't even part of the scientific method. I think this is simply a reflection of how far our scientific society has come from understanding how it came about. This has led to misunderstanding about what keeps science making the great strides as it does. I'm all for changing the name of 'science' back to natural philosophy, any takers? Just kidding. Science is all factual stuff, right? We wouldn't want anyone to think that there was philosophy in science, the fact stuff might be more open for question and scientists might lose that temple priest role that they have in modern society. Just kidding, again...

***What I'm trying to tell you here is that it is possible to apply the strict methodology of science to the abstract problems of philosophy, so that we can achieve something, but I don't get the feeling that you think that is either possible or worth doing. I will reply to your post, but I'd like to know how you stand on this issue.***

This here represents the very beast which I am referring. We use philosophy to solve scientific problems, and then we deny that philosophy is of much value. It is no coincidence that elder scientists often become well known for their philosophy. In fact, when I attend philosophy conferences, it is often to see a number of scientists. Science has interest in philosophy, and they use philosophy to change science. Younger scientists, it seems, have more distain for philosophy, but then they get older and might ease up on their criticism once they see the role that right philosophy plays in scientific theories. Even Steven Weinberg, who is probably the most well-known scientist who is critical of philosophers, spends a great deal of time writing about his philosophy. Oh well, it seems it isn't a matter of philosophy, it is a matter of who has earned the right to philosophize.

***Please don't take this as offensive, you know I respect your way of thinking even if I can't make much sense of it sometimes. It seems there's a huge gap between us, which is funny considering how close we are in the more important aspects of life. I guess that's what makes you interesting in the first place.***

Not at all. In fact, there is a major effort by Quineans to popular natural epistemology which is basically a use of empiricism to solve epistemological problems. It represents the views of a number of philosophers. There's many problems with it, but that seems to be the case in general.

Warm regards, Harv

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