Back Off Science

The philosopher

Posted in philosophy by backoffscience on November 29, 2009

wittgenstein-by-levine.jpgPhilosophy is more rubbish than science by a mile.

The first problem is how they fill their time – writing peer-reviewed papers, spending time researching and going to conferences, teaching undergraduates. What use is it for most people? Greatest philosophical breakthrough of the last 20 years anyone?

The extreme positions have already been plotted. There are no discoveries in philosophy.

While their modus operandi mimics science, they are so scared of the rigor, certainty and force of scientific argument, that they keep themselves hidden, quiet little mice of academia, making sure not to rock the boat and draw attention. Tending to a career.

Worst of all, they come up with words like ontology and epistemology (will write next), they debate the hard problem of something everyone does all the time. They use words which ring-fences unfathomable complexity; minute detail. (Such that surely only a professional philosopher could comprehend, of course.)

Well guess what? Philosophy is a science as much as documentary making or being a novelist.

There is the same difference between academic philosophers and philosophers as between english literature professors and novelists (of course they do sometimes overlap).

The subject matter is philosophy. Books and essays and arguments about abstract, conceptual matters.

Except there are no bastard philosophers to be seen. Plenty of novelists, but no philosophers. They used to exist. But now they don’t. They got swallowed up by the scientific attitude (and the old philosophers didn’t help by being utterly impenetrable).

Here is the definition. Philosophy is creative abstract thought. It is that easy.

Is there a need for philosophy? Doesn’t academic theory of philosophy that university professors do look pretty similar?

The old philosophers failed not in intent or genius but in accessibility. The biggest criticism of the best of them was arrogance and elitism. They created no vehicle for their ideas to get outside of a select few (perhaps they were squashed by religion).

My idea of philosophy is obviously a romantic ideal. Don’t you think its worth aiming for?

Faith, religious and non-religious, cannot defend itself from science (or rather in more confusing and accurate terms, all of a certainty’s defences against science are founded on connected certainties). Philosophy should be the buffer between science and life. Philosophy should be telling science to back off.

4 Responses

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  1. Alan Slipp said, on November 29, 2009 at 3:49 am

    “Philosophy should be telling science to back off.”

    This is what I still don’t get. Back off *from what*?

  2. backoffscience said, on November 29, 2009 at 11:42 am

    From life. From deciding what the meaning and value and purpose and reason for living is. From deciding what reality is. My entire problem is with the idea that life is really just x. X is neurons firing or atoms or whatever. Our conscious, shared lives are real, and their reality can only be described, not explained. Much of what counts as real is created by us, and rests on no firmer foundation than certainty – “this is what we do”. Language does not comply to the laws of physics.

    Science cannot comprehend this mechanism, so it tramples it. Tells us what is “really” going on. So the only mechanism for creating value and feeling and purpose and meaning in life is undermined, and as a result people are increasingly miserable and life increasingly meaningless.

  3. Alan Slipp said, on November 30, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Science and reductionism do not necessarily go hand in hand. It’s just a process, a method for increasing our understanding of how the world works. We decide what has meaning. Just because I understand that a rainbow is water molecules in the air refracting light doesn’t make it any less beautiful. I don’t love my wife any less because I understand something of neurochemistry. There are a great number of people, scientists and non-scientists alike, who find that understanding more about the world around them makes that world more meaningful, not less.

    It seems to me that your problem is less with science and scientists, as it is with people who use scientific findings to make statements about meaning in a particular way.

  4. backoffscience said, on December 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Exactly. My problem has never been with science and scientists. It is when the scientific attitude is taken towards everything. When everything that cannot be explained, for perfectly ordinary reasons, is discarded as “subjective” or “illusionary”. As you say, science and reductionism do not necessarily go hand in hand, but if they don’t, that means we have to get our heads around the non-reducable bit.

    “Just because I understand that a rainbow is water molecules in the air refracting light doesn’t make it any less beautiful.” Exactly, scientific facts obviously add to our knowledge. But if you went on to say beauty is less real than the rainbow in some way, you’d be doing exactly what I’m talking about. The beauty of rainbows is just as much a part of our lives as their phyics.

    Rainbows and love are quite simple, because we’re not really tempted to mess with them. It is when we come to things like mental health our inability to accept the irreducible becomes a problem. A depression caused by events in a persons life somehow becomes a question of bad brain chemistry.

    My problem is far more abstract than particular cases of making statements, it the attitude that undermines the importance of the only mechanism we have of making our lives meaningful.


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