Friday, February 18, 2011

(Some/Most) Scientists Make Bad Philosophers

Facing the ex nihilo arguments of a physicist

I'll be the first to admit--I am also a bad philosopher.  The fact is, I'm just not that interested because much philosophy flies in the face of experience and therefore is immediately invalidated in the real world.  I have no interest in any argument that does not address what is here, now, and real. be that state of mind, nature of the soul, or what makes for beauty.

Additionally, I was not trained in this way of reasoning, and for most scientists, it is a set of reasonings that lack anything on which to reason.  It is often, to me, like an endless series of Euclid's postulates, all of which I need to accept before I can accept the conclusion.

For example, Aquinas baldly states that reason is a positive good.  I must accept that to go farther with Aquinas.  But what if I don't.  What if I say that reason itself is neutral--that it is the purpose to which reason is but that makes the faculty itself good or bad?  There's probably some philosophical rule that says I can't do that.  But people outside of philosophy have to wonder at all of the "givens" that must be incorporated before one can get to the end of an argument.

The reality for me has been that I have invalidated so many of the givens or questioned them so deeply that the full arguments really have no meaning for me.  (In many cases--in others, I'm too ignorant to even recognize the underlying assumptions).

So there you have it--I'm too ignorant to be a philosopher--and while I admire them deeply, I'm also too ignorant to properly appreciate much of what they do.  It's a kind of tone-deafeness of the intellectual world.

And I should leaven this with an excerpt from the post itself:

C. D. Broad took the view that “the nonsense written by philosophers on scientific matters is exceeded only by the nonsense written by scientists on philosophy.”  And that was in the days of scientists like Eddington, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, who actually knew something about philosophy. 

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