A topic for philosophy

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User Info: BUM

BUM
3 weeks ago#1
Good Sunday PMSians.

A topic for dialogue... on wherever things may lead, philosophical.

I was interested in talking with Kodi on some things, although I'm not sure quite what. Whether Galileo and science, Darwin and evolution, philosophy in general...?

I'd like to first ask what you mean, Kodi, in a few things; because I don't think we're necessarily disagreeing about all points. But I'd like a clearer vision of where we do depart in order to see how to proceed on those grounds more reasonably.

"The idea behind science is that everyday experience may not give us correct answers, and when systemic observation, experimentation, and data analysis contradict what we thought we knew, then we must conclude that our beliefs were in fact wrong."
This is agreeable, so long as it's qualified, as I'm sure you'd agree as well. What I mean is, that so long as science remains in its proper boundaries, and is functioning according to its proper mode, it is very useful in getting at truth.

Violations would include bad forms of research, poor data analysis, and especially logical jump-making at the interpretive level. Or attempting to give answers to things not proper to the domain studied. Science deals with the quantifiable... it answers, at best, two of the four "causes" of a thing: the agent/efficient cause (what's its origin) and the material cause (what's it made of).

But it doesn't deal with formal causes (what is it?) or final causes (what's its end, in the sense of teleology). Now these things are dealt with by science, indeed, as science has been understood since the time of the ancients: starting with the most fundamental, natural science, then mathematics, then metaphysics.

The modern sciences are subordinate to natural science (or natural philosophy). They illuminate natural philosophy by their power to bring us quantifiable data about naturally existing things. But they can't actually defy natural philosophy. Their virtue is found when they fit into their proper role, not when they attempt to dethrone their father and fight amongst themselves for rulership. When in harmony, they are excellent.

What I mean by logical jump-making: metrical data requires interpretation. Then even if a person is not aware of it, they are using philosophy to make conclusions about how to interpret their data. Even if that assumption is merely that "something is" rather than is not. Evidently, the empirical sciences move downwards from certain first principles, but not upwards, to the explanatory causes of their own first principles (up unto, as we talked about earlier, truly indemonstrable first principles, which I'm still researching... it looks like we're getting into Aristotle's Posterior Analytics and he seems to be talking about this, but it's over my head yet. He doesn't, however, seem to despair of them being only probably. He says they are principles not of knowledge [episteme], but of understanding [nous], which he calls the highest form of cognition [nous, episteme, belief, and opinion]) Some of these logical jumps are very damaging, which we can talk about some other time, but they include the dumping of teleology from nature, and evolutionary reductionism, for concrete examples.

"But if you would describe the Galileo affair as "some bad on the Church's end", there is obviously some deeper disagreement here about science in general."

Now as for this, I am not sure exactly what you mean. What do you think happened, here? What do you understand the Galileo affair to be?
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User Info: BUM

BUM
3 weeks ago#2
Oh, but right, as for the argument about contraception. In this case, I don't think the metrical data is important. That data can help clarify the issue, no doubt-- it would contribute a lot to making the argument stronger and more tidy. But it's not the body of the argument.

It's as though we were to require metrical data to ascertain whether our parents loved us. It's not really necessary, and in fact, it can't illustrate that without interpretation anyway-- although I don't disagree that, in the case where a person is living an unhealthy lifestyle and doesn't have the ability to understand whether or not she is loved by her abusive husband, but simply holds the opinion that she is loved, wrongly, then presenting data about how much he abuses her and how that is unlike normal relationships which are healthy, would be quite a blessing to her circumstances. But this is more necessary for an unhealthy person because of her feeble ability to understand experience.

Disavowing taking any kind of stance without statistical data is not really a valid way of living life. Sometimes we are just able to see what's right and wrong, by understanding the nature of a thing. Understanding the nature of human beings, and thus relationships, precedes science, it does not follow after it. It's part of natural philosophy, and also part of ethics, neither of which falls under the domain of the methodological sciences. If we can grasp what it is to be human, and how a healthy relationship is supposed to look, then we can often see when something harmonizes with it or not. I think it is sufficient to look at the presentation and conclude reasonably that most of what was said is probable.

Also I do not, of course, mean by the article provided in the other topic, to create a deductive and conclusive demonstration. It is meant to provoke thought about whether our current predisposition as a society towards contraceptives is a good one to have, if we want to have a healthy and happy life, at the personal, interpersonal, and societal level.
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User Info: Kodiologist

Kodiologist
3 weeks ago#3
Good to see somebody's picking up the slack writing walls of text now that Will isn't very active. :)

I agree that there are some questions science can't answer, and that philosophy is prior to science rather than vice versa. The clearest example of questions that science can't answer are purely mathematical questions, such as "What is two plus two?". Science is about empirical reality, which mathematics is independent of.

"Natural philosophy" is to my knowledge an old term for "natural science", which means sciences like geology, physics, and chemistry. So in modern teminology, it's a part of science, not philosophy.

What do you think happened, here? What do you understand the Galileo affair to be?

I'm not familiar with the details, but I understand that it involved—correct me if I'm wrong—the Vatican using coercion to influence scientific communication. The WIkipedia article says "Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas", citing a book Galileo by John L. Heilbron. No matter how nasty Galileo was personally, or how nice the Vatican was to him, or even how bad his version of heliocentrism was as a scientific theory, I think it unconscionable to ban books or to force somebody not to discuss an idea.

Disavowing taking any kind of stance without statistical data is not really a valid way of living life.

I'm not saying you can't have an opinion about something if there's no scientific research about it. I'm saying that provided that there is scientific research about it (and the methods are good, and you know what the research says, etc.), you should base your opinion on the research.

Sometimes we are just able to see what's right and wrong, by understanding the nature of a thing.

So what would your response be if you thought you understood the nature of a thing (e.g., that condoms won't really help with the HIV pandemic) and then research contradicts you (e.g., by finding that providing condoms save lives by reducing the transmission of HIV)?

Understanding the nature of human beings, and thus relationships, precedes science, it does not follow after it.

I disagree. It seems that most questions about "the nature of human beings" are empirical questions, and thus scientific questions. That's what the social sciences, like psychology, are all about.

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Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?

User Info: BUM

BUM
3 weeks ago#4
Good to see somebody's picking up the slack writing walls of text now that Will isn't very active. :)


I'm glad I got a good laugh to start this off. I am cognizant of this fact, and regret it, but it seems inevitable to me.

"Natural philosophy" is to my knowledge an old term for "natural science", which means sciences like geology, physics, and chemistry. So in modern teminology, it's a part of science, not philosophy.


Ah, well, the history of it all is, I think, complicated. My understanding is that the ancients and, following them, the medievals, rarely if ever distinguished the empirical sciences from science in its broader sense, namely, knowledge. Knowledge, or scientia, or episteme, is understood to be that which is demonstrable. It's distinguished from understanding, intellectio, or nous, which is above it and indemonstrable, and from levels of cognition inferior to knowledge, like belief and opinion.

In this sense, the principle of identity is not knowledge, it is understanding. And anything demonstrable is science, e.g. that Socrates is a man, all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal. It relies on, and here's where things are tricky and I'm still wrangling to get at, the presence of a universal, necessary truth in the mind, viz., the understanding that men are mortal.

Natural philosophy is more than looking at what's quantitatively true about physical things, but what they are, what their natures are.

I'll get back to say more, later. I'll have to check out the charge about the banned books. I reckon it to be true, but I don't know if it's true in an unqualified sense. Either way it's not good, but it might not be as bad as it seemed.

The question about HIV is interesting. If I had such an opinion which was disproved by good science, I'd no longer keep it. But such a thing is testable. It's a different question entirely to talk about whether contraceptions lead to human happiness.

For Aristotle, happiness is not pleasure, nor honors nor virtue. It is the perfection of a thing's nature. Man is a rational animal. Happiness lies in the perfection of his rational part (not without the fulfillment of the animal, of course, or he'd die or be decrepit). We need to find out what, then, is the proper mode of existence for a man, in all of his ways, including his relations with others.

When he fails to achieve what reason dictates, he will be unhappy. If contraception is opposed to right reason applied to relations between men and women, then they will be unhappy. Aristotle is not unaware that most people equate happiness with pleasure. He argues against that, and argues against the subjective character of happiness. It is objective, because it pertains to whether a thing fulfills its nature or not, holding that things have real natures. Good and bad are not subjective assignments, but objective, because a thing either does or does not act well according to its nature.

Here, then, it matters little whether men and women are pleased for a time, or whatever-- their opinions are meaningless. What's meaningful is what's objectively true: we have a nature, it is rational animal, and are we perfecting it by living according to reason or not? The sciences have little to contribute here. Even if all should say "we are happy with contraception", if that is unreasonable, then we must not conclude that they are actually happy, but that they are all unhappy and unreasonable.

For Aristotle, happiness is contemplation (the consideration of ultimate principles). We can see how St. Thomas transcends the natural perfection of man with his supernatural perfection.
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User Info: Kodiologist

Kodiologist
3 weeks ago#5
Your description of how the ancients and how medieval European scholars thought about science and philosophy agrees with my own perception. I think the modern concepts are more useful, though. More specifically, I think philosophy provides fundamental ideas like what is good (ethics), what kinds of things exist (ontology), and how to form beliefs (epistemology), and science can use these ideas to provide concrete answers to concrete empirical questions (e.g., given that we agree that we should try to cure disease, which of several proposed treatments should we use for a given person with a given disease?).

I agree that, given my limited understanding of Aristotle's idea of happiness, how happy somebody is or would be isn't an empirical question that we can answer with scientific research. There is such a thing as the science of happiness, but it concerns different notions of happiness. I guess where I would challenge you is that a government should base policy, or parents should base their advice to their children, on Aristotle's notion of happiness. If telling people to use condoms can prevent some very bad stuff, like the transmission of disease and unwanted pregnancies, it seems that we should indeed tell people to use them, even if it doesn't make them happy in some abstract sense. I don't mean to defend some notion that condoms are inherently good in some transcendental way, just that they're a tool to promote health, like seatbelts and water fluoridation. Surely it would be strange to voice opposition to seatbelts because they reduced people's happiness in an Aristotelian sense.

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Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?
(edited 3 weeks ago)

User Info: Kodiologist

Kodiologist
3 weeks ago#6
Your description of how the ancients and how medieval European scholars thought about science and philosophy agrees with my own perception. I think the modern concepts are more useful, though.

Besides, earlier peoples couldn't have entertained this distinction because science per se is only a few centuries old. Coincidentally, Galileo is often named as one of its inventors (in Wikipedia's words, "Galileo is a central figure in the transition from natural philosophy to modern science and in the transformation of the scientific Renaissance into a scientific revolution", which is a remarkable convergence of the topics of this conversation).

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Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?

User Info: HeyDude

HeyDude
3 weeks ago#7
I wanted to pop in and say to Mark, I DID read the entire transcript of that lady's speech on contraception, and that's all I had time to do! I didn't have time to write up my thoughts after it and still haven't :(

Being careful with my words has made them very tardy!

User Info: Kodiologist

Kodiologist
3 weeks ago#8
Oh no!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPTivyYb4Ys

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Have you ever stopped to think and forgotten to start again?

User Info: BUM

BUM
3 weeks ago#9
Hey, Alex, good to know. Take your time with words... words spoken too quickly are often regretted (though the opposite can be true).

It's an interesting idea, as far as how should a state react to contraceptives. Now I would imagine that a state should not outright make them illegal, seeing as this might be one of those things that the state just doesn't try to control. Only so many people can live well-- will choose to live well-- the rest won't, and you can't make them.

On the other hand, I don't think the state out to promote something that's directly contrary to the peoples' happiness, inasmuch as the state's primary objective seems to be the welfare of the people.

I'll try to get back to the root of the matter, because there are a lot of interesting sidepaths cropping up (evolution, what are the empiriological sciences for, Galileo, the role of the state, etc...) although I might try to read up on the banned book side of the Galileo affair.
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User Info: BUM

BUM
3 weeks ago#10
Just as an aside, if you Kodi, or anyone else, are ever interested in pursuing the philosophical angle of the side of Aristotle/St Thomas, especially with a mind to the empiriological sciences, then I recommend:
1. Anthony Rizzi, The Science Beyond Science (this is one of our books in the curriculum)
2. Just about anything by Fr. Stanley Jaki. He writes very short books, usually around 30-40 pages. Like Rizzi, he is a scientist and also a philosopher (also a priest).

There's also Fr. William Wallace's "The Modeling of Nature" which is even perhaps more up your alley, because the subject turns especially to the human mind. He is much easier for me to read than Rizzi, one, because Rizzi is first and foremost a scientist and this makes him somewhat obscure, but two, because Wallace is very methodical and clear. He was, I believe, the chief editor of the New Catholic Encyclopedia.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
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