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Posted by Harvey on June 25, 2002 18:54:54 UTC


We can pick this up at a later time. But, here's a quick reply to your issues:

***>>>"Metaphysics must come before physics so that you can understand and explain a process going on in nature." Not true. Metaphysics must come before physics if you need to believe there is an objective explanation already in place before you make sense of the world. Metaphysics is an emotional necessity; it is only required by some.***

Most of the advances in science were made in light of a metaphysical concept (e.g., equivalence principle, relativity principle, Occam's razor, absolute space, absolute time, Faraday's concept of fields, etc, etc.). It's doubtful that much science would be accomplished if not for metaphysical concepts laying the groundwork for future science.

***"If we could observe every element of a theory, then why even look upon an Occam's razor, just check the microscope or telescope to do our checking." Again, you're equating pure inference with extrapolation and interpolation. The only assumptions we should make are necessary ones. Aside from uniformitarianism, I can see no necessary assumptions in order for science to move forward.***

No, I'm talking about a conceptual perspective that we use to interpret our observations. Extrapolation and interpolation are used once we have a model and we either extrapolate based on known values given from a model or we interpolate with known values given from a model. The conceptual basis is in the process of model building itself. Each model offers a new conceptual framework slightly different from the preceding model, and this requires that we examine our previous conceptions and revise them (i.e., Neurath's ship). Of course, there are no a priori conceptions which we know are correct, so we must review each of our concepts and add/subtract new concepts in an effort to improve our understanding of nature.

***"If we took your reply to its proper implications, then we shouldn't explain anything - just act and react." These are my reply's "proper" implications?! Nonsense! If we all held one, collective mind, then science would be unnecessary. However, because living with one another necessitates cooperation, we all must all learn to communicate with one another, and we must establish ways to do so. Science, thus far, has quite arguably been our most successful way to do this.***

But, why is science able to best perform this function? The main reasons are due to its ability to provide reasonable explanations of phenomena that is outside of our experience (such that those explanations are coherent with our experiences) and by providing technological tools to aid in our survival and well-being. If you choose to justify science only on the latter, then you lose explanationism which is key to most people's satisfaction with science. Heck, even creationists are satisfied with the technology given by science, they just often argue (or imply) that science shouldn't step far beyond this function (e.g., by providing explanations of unobservable phenomena - esp. "the past").

***"Many of these processes are unobservable... We could ignore sense data completely... For example, the best explanation of the solar system was the heliocentric model..." Tsk tsk! So far your argument is based on a confusion of pure inference with extra/interpolation, metaphysics with physics-yet-to-be-discovered, and a faulty interpretation of my "proper implications! Maybe you should open a scarecrow business you're quite adept at assembling the straw man! (boo-hiss)***

I'm in the awkward position of wanting to end my time here at this forum while wanting to finish this discussion. Metaphysics can be potential physics-yet-to-be-discovered. The difference between a metaphysical concept and one that is merely a yet-to-be-introduced-hypothesis is that a metaphysical concept is a belief of a key unobservable (or hidden or underlying) process/object/event that is necessary to be included as part of the theory or model in question. For example, the estimated temperature of the sun is not necessarily a metaphysical concept even though fusion theory requires it to be very hot. However, understanding how fusion theory works includes a number of metaphysical concepts and is necessary to believe if we are to accept the theory as correct.

It is quite necessary to label these type of underlying processes that are hidden as metaphysical versus 'future science' since this is what the term metaphysical means. It doesn't mean the study of ghosts and the supernatural. Metaphysics, as philosophers of science have been saying for quite sometime, plays a key part in the development of science as well as part of the theoretical structure of models.

***"I think objective truth exists up to the point of the uncertainty principle allows..." Wait. Isn't there room for a better inference here? Applying Occam's Razor, either (a) a perfect world exists, but it is based upon imperfections, or (b) anthropic types will experience difficulty seeing around their innate, anthropic bias. Hello?***

I don't know what you mean by perfect or imperfect. However, I am not talking about the truth that humans know, I am talking about 'facts that exist' if they could be known. I cannot prove that objective truth exists, at least to a certain limit, but I think making 'facts' as subjective or relative human perceptions is false way of thinking. If a tree falls and no one hears it, then it still makes noise. It is an objective fact of the world - immune from human presence and perception.

***"...that we can construct models of the world that can be partially validated by corresponding our model predictions to our observations..." Our models don't per se mean anything aside from our interpretations of them!***

Whether they have meaning or not is beside the question. The premise that we can construct models that can be partially validated by predictions is a reasonable premise. In fact, it is one of the main premises on which science is based.

***And ironically, if you wish to speculate as to how our models do mean something aside from our considerations of them, guess what? Too late! You just invalidated the premise by considering a model independent of sentient consideration!***

I don't speculate on the meaning of our models. I only speculate on the truth of our models in so far as their predictions compare to our observations (i.e., within the applicability of the model).

***I bet you've heard/read from those most thoroughly schooled in scientific doctrine that the philosophy of metaphysics is unnecessary and self-serving.***

The philosophy of metaphysics is generally different than how metaphysics is treated in the philosophy of science. The philosophy of metaphysics often deals with issues which are quite abstract and not particularly interesting to many scientists (e.g., universals versus particulars, eternalists versus presentists, etc). The issues of metaphysics that philosophers of science deal with are quite at the center of science. If any scientist says otherwise, then it would be interesting to discuss their views. Maybe a majority of scientists accept certain metaphysical assumptions without even questioning them (e.g., scientific realism, mathematical realism, etc). Philosophers who have tried to construct science without much reference to metaphysics (e.g., positivists) were not successful and their position was finally given up in the 1950's and 1960's.

***Well, instead of simply dismissing metaphysics, I'm attempting to account for its appeal in terms of psychology -- specifically by calling our attention to the anthropomorphic bias.***

You are thinking within a conceptual framework that is itself based on certain metaphysical concepts.

***This, I think, is at least a more considerate deliberation of the issue; simply dismissing metaphysics without more consideration might seem to some philosophers to be indicative of the scientists' disrespect and/or arrogance. It isn't some great "work" of mine, it's just my position in this specific debate. Harv, I sincerelt feel you're still thinking at a level contingent upon having taken one of two forks in the road; the foundation I seek to examine is why the road is there to begin with.***

We are born 'in' the world with our conceptual schemes and not 'outside' of it without conceptual schemes. You have to board Neurath's ship whether you like it or not. If you want to develop a consistent view (i.e., consistent with our logical restrictions and scientific ones), then we are required to review our conceptual framework plank by plank. If we are not successful, then we are unable to provide coherent explanations of the world. This requires approaching our metaphysical concepts and getting dirty. There is no 'high road' that somehow avoids the metaphysical mess that you would like to stay clean from.

***It's very difficult to read through your posts without the continuous undertone of your position -- as if we're arguing which way to go after both having automatically taken the same fork! Arrgh! -LH "Knowledge? Bah! Just pick what works, and go with it!" ~ Socrates***

Socrates would perhaps be an instrumentalist (antirealist). However, an instrumentalist has trouble explaining the success and development of science. We have no idea what theory or model will be 'successful' until years later (for example, QM is just now being utilized in the way of technology). If we had to wait 50 years before we could determine if a model was 'successful', then science would wait a long, long time to develop (and we would need to 'test' the success of every theory which is probably not possible). On the other hand, if we go where science has been most successful, as that which produces very satisfactory explanations. Then, we can see progress in science which is exactly what we've seen. If a satisfactory explanation requires metaphysical concepts, then so what? It might displease some who dislike metaphysics, but as Socrates quote just said: "it works so go with it".

Take it easy, Harv

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