Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Philosophy, Who Needs It?

In the comments section of my post pointing out Ed Babinski's self-refuting statement I had another anonymous comment, possibly from the same one who provided the link to Babinski, and so I'll respond to that here.

Babinski wrote: ""My plea is for science, the sole medium for the acquisition of knowledge."

I replied: The problem is when we apply this standard to this claim itself. Is it known by "science?" No, it's a philosophical claim.

Anonymous responded: "True. Perhaps he should've stated: "My plea is for science, the sole medium for the acquisition of reliable natural knowledge..." or something along those lines. You wouldn't disagree with that, would you?"


1. This still doesn't work. It's still a philosophical statement. Science can't tell us that "the sole" medium for knowledge is via scientific methods.

2. Notice that this doesn't help Babinski. If you want to move the goal posts for him, fine.

3. What is "reliable natural knowledge" anyway?

4. Some non-theistic philosophers have attempted to find a natural explanation for morality. Thus, your statement would deny what they're doing. Think of all the atheistic philosophers you're undermining here.

Anonymous: "Science is self-limiting, and doesn't attempt to prescribe moral norms or tell you which flavor of ice cream is best. In that sense, we all know that there are certain areas that science doesn't even weigh in on."


5. I guess my response here would be that, given that knowledge has a normative aspect to it, you've just discounted "science being the sole acquisition for natural knowledge."

6. This also doesn't help Babinski since he was clearly laying down prescriptions -- viz. "ditch philosophy."

Anonymous: "Let's look at it this way -- which will do more to establish the workings of the brain, and correlate those workings to human behavior?

a) folk psychology
b) neuroscience and psychiatry
c) theology and philosophy

I can do this same multiple choice question for a million other topics."


7. These are false options. I don't separate my theology/philosophy from my science.

8. The view assumes a monistic view of man, which, heretofore, has not been defended.

9. Since "human behavior" touches on morality then, as you said, science can't speak on it.

Anonymous: "Contrariwise:

Which will always have numerous theories of universals, people who argue incessantly about class nominalism versus trope realism, etc.?"

10. It's simply naive to think that "science" (whatever that is) does not have "numerous theories" and "people who argue incessantly" about myriad issues. This is easily refuted by studying a History of Science, or doing some reading in The Philosophy of Science.

11. Apropos 10, just read what this pro evolution site tells us,

"Finally, a point about disagreements within science. In reading through the links and papers listed here one will become aware of the fact that modern science includes a healthy dose of collegial disagreement. For instance, there remain a few scientists of significant reputation who disagree about the Theropod origin of birds. The argument is over the details, in this particular case, of the precise pathway of descent with modification from common ancestors. It is not an argument over the validity of evolution. It is often the case in science that new findings (fossils with feathers in this instance) require many years before a consensus among scientists is reached regarding the details."

Or, take a gander at the disagreements in cosmological models. For example, the homogeneous universe or the inhomogeneous universe models. Or what about the math applied to various theories -- flat, open, and closed geometry.

12. And, note the disagreements between young earth scientists (e.g., Byl, Wise, etc.,) and old earth ones. Or, maybe "young earth" scientists don't count as scientists.

13. Apropos, 12, if one can define who is in and out of the club, then one can manufacture all sorts of agreement.

Anonymous: "Why is philosophy self-limited in the sense that it is not subject to falsification in the same way that science is? There are certain scientific claims that we can regard as true."


14. This is, of course, a Popperian view of science. Philosophical.

15. Scientific propositions are rarely tested in isolation from other hypothesis and therefore it's not always easy to determine which proposition should be falsified.

16. Apropos 15, one's more basic commitment is usually not allowed to be falsified. It's said that "the arrow of modus ponens points both ways." For example, if I think that (a) Apollo is a god and (b) all gods are immortal, and then I am confronted with the empirical evidence that Apollo dies in battle, do I give up (a) or (b)? Either could be dropped. This sort of thing happens all the time with science.

17. Disciplines outside of science also employ falsification. Historians and grammarians allow their theories to be falsified. Indeed, the Bible claims that Jesus rose from the dead, and so in one sense this could be falsified (e.g., if the bones could be found, say).

18. Or, take Babinski's philosophical claim. I falsified it!

19. As far as regarding "scientific claims as true:"

i) I can regard theological and philosophical claims as true.

ii) This presupposes scientific realism which, heretofore, has not be defended or argued for.

Anonymous: "But how many scientific claims, vs philosophical claims, fall into the category of "it is possible to see it this way, or that way..."?"

20. I would think just as many.

21. How is "science" being defended as somehow more "honorific" than philosophy and theology merely due to the (alleged) fact that there's less disagreements? Furthermore, philosophical claims can stretch the limits of the material and immaterial. The physical universe, the spiritual universe, and the universe of the mind. So, it's not exactly a one-to-one correspondence your dialectic assumes.

Anonymous: "One prime example is your constant referral to a TAG. A TAG that isn't even developed, by your own admission in the other blog's comments section, when people like Kant can argue transcendentals one way, and you another, and Quine another, &c."

22. Well there's no single thing as "the" scientific method, as Larry Lauden says, "it may be a Will-o'-the-wisps."

23. Apropos 22, but there are scientific methods. Take the inductive method vs. an eclectic model of methodology. What about conventionalism vs. pragmatism?

Anonymous: "Orthogonally, scientific dissent does indeed exist, but not about the "frameworks" by which all data are accounted for. Eg, the germ theory of disease is not in dispute, although the question of particulars within viral infections may be. Similarly, evolutionary theory is not in scientific dispute, although the question of the specifics in phylogeny and evo-devo may be.

24. Notice that anonymous gets to define what is a scientific theory and what is not. Dembski is banned. Dawkins is let in. As I said above, the "unity" you have, then, is a manufactured unity. not hard to do.

25. You brought up theology. Well, "theists" all agree that there is "a god." So I guess there's not the disagreement you try to point out after all. Two can play your game.

26. Philosophers all agree on meta-level considerations. They just disagree over details.

27. There are non-Christian philosophers and scientists who don't think evolution has made her case.

28. I gave examples of disagreements about "frameworks" above.

Anonymous: "Why is it that in philosophy, you have the huge framework issues that are still undecided? Realism and anti-realism? Dualism and materialism? And on and on and on..."

29. Well, so what? This line of argumentation can't possibly prove what you want it to.

30. Some of these disputes bear on science. So, to the extent that they're unresolved, your "science" remains so also.

31. Reading through Kuhn will show one just how many "frameworks" (paradigms) have changed throughout the ages.

32. The simple fact that someone may argue materialism vs. dualism doesn't mean it's "unresolved." There will always be arguers. I think the case is settled. Imagine if we couldn't say an issue was resolved by the mere appearance of dissenters!

33. Apropos 32, since many Christian scientists (e.g., Wise) would disagree with you regarding, say, evolution, billions and billions, then I can ask you, "why are there so many unresolved/undecided issues in science?"

34. How does evolution even account for all these disagreements? I can account for the divergence in philosophy. Much philosophy is man's attempt to construct a worldview whereby he can avoid God. So, add sin and creativity together, you get all sorts of wild theories. But, why the almost universal bad reaction to evolution. Was it Dawkins or Gould who said, "It seems as if nature has made us evolve into beings who don't want to believe in evolution."

Anonymous: "I think it has to do with falsification criteria -- it is too difficult to rule out so many speculative possibilities in philosophy."

35. Covered above.

Anonymous: "And so most people turn their attention to a place where more certitude is possible, and less worry."

36. Really, since when did science give us "certainty?"

37. Also, is this an argumentum ad populum?

38. If you think it works, then you must agree with me, because "most" people turn to philosophy and theology to answer questions.


  1. You stole Leonard Peikoff's line! :P

  2. :::YAWN!!!:::

    Nothing like an armchair philosopher...so full of useful things to say.

  3. "Philosophy, Who Needs It?"

    Not me, or the rest of the normal world.

    However, people that want to believe in talking snakes, plants, and donkeys needs SOMETHING to try and make sense of their wacky beliefs.

    A tragic parade of delusion.

  4. "Not me, or the rest of the normal world.

    However, people that want to believe in talking snakes, plants, and donkeys needs SOMETHING to try and make sense of their wacky beliefs.

    A tragic parade of delusion."

    How would you even know such a thing if you didn't have some sort of metaphysics or epistemology in place?

    Doesn't it seem a bit self-refuting to make a philosophical statement while saying that you don't need philosophy?

  5. Philosophy is a psychological disorder that causes people to endlessly ponder the inane, the improvable, and the pointless rather than go out and get a job. It is classified under obsessive/compulsive disorders in the American Assoc. Catalog of Psychic Disassociative Disorders, DSM 5 (Volume IIIV pg. 1546, section 172, lines 45-21). Someone studying philosophy or proficient in philosophy is called a bumblehead.

    The purpose of studying philosophy is to disprove your religion, your scientific methodology, the laws of your entire civilization, your ethics, and the existence of that chair you're sitting on (although not convincingly enough as to make you feel you have to stand up). Bonus points are awarded for disproving that you disproved it.

    Philosophy has avoided adopting either a purpose or a method, and therefore it is immune to most criticism, since you can never point out that it failed to reach its goal or work as advertised. If you are foolish enough to try to criticize philosophy anyway, your statements will simply become absorbed into the morass as yet another branch of philosophy.