Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Discussion of articles that appear in the magazine.

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uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:46 pm

Impenitent wrote:
Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:48 pm
Philosophy Now wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 2:24 pm
Will Bouwman asks what really matters when studying matter.

https://philosophynow.org/issues/133/Ph ... _Millennia
nice article...

it is what one claims it is...

-Imp
Thank you. Yeah, one does one's best.

PTH
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by PTH » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:03 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:01 am
Age wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:25 pm
Philosophy Now wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 2:24 pm
Will Bouwman asks what really matters when studying matter.

https://philosophynow.org/issues/133/Ph ... _Millennia
So a question was asked, but was an actual answer ever found and given?
Yes! The answer is the same as this: Anything Goes.

I read the article. It really is the answer, by the famous philosopher, Cole Porter.
It always seems to come back to that, but it can be put in better ways. I've always thought a constructive way of putting it is that we accept an explanation if "it makes sense of a multitude of facts which are otherwise meaningless or extravagant".*

That does raise the question of what "extravagant" means, which probably has no answer beyond Wittgenstein's comment that “we belong to a community which is bound together by science and education”. So, indeed, there is no way of ultimately proving to a Young Earth Creationist that the world is quite old. All that can be attempted is persuasion.

*https://biologie-lernprogramme.de/daten ... hansky.pdf

uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:36 pm

PTH wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:03 pm
I've always thought a constructive way of putting it is that we accept an explanation if "it makes sense of a multitude of facts which are otherwise meaningless or extravagant".
That's a fair way of putting it. The best we can hope for is a coherent explanation and a mathematical model that works.
PTH wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:03 pm
That does raise the question of what "extravagant" means, which probably has no answer beyond Wittgenstein's comment that “we belong to a community which is bound together by science and education”. So, indeed, there is no way of ultimately proving to a Young Earth Creationist that the world is quite old. All that can be attempted is persuasion.
Yeah, but we shouldn't expect much in the way of results.

eno
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by eno » Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:53 pm

Thank you very much for an interesting article!
The problem of what is science and what is not, is important for a number of reasons. To me, science is a method, a way of thinking, and as such Popper clarifies things. So any idea, hypothesis or statement must be founded on some sort of logical thinking. If it is not possible in any way to test it and attempt to refute it then what is it? Determinism is such a thing, impossible to test and so it is classified by some as metaphysics. But metaphysical ideas might be important even though the reputation of metaphysics is not good, at the present. Paul Dirac's equation for the electron existed in uncertainty for a while, then anti-matter and spin was discovered experimentally, and everything was fine. That does not mean that the equation is a truth, it is just there in our minds and books waiting for something better, just like Newtons law of gravitation was.

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RCSaunders
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by RCSaunders » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:13 am

PTH wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:03 pm
RCSaunders wrote:
Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:01 am
Age wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:25 pm


So a question was asked, but was an actual answer ever found and given?
Yes! The answer is the same as this: Anything Goes.

I read the article. It really is the answer, by the famous philosopher, Cole Porter.
It always seems to come back to that, but it can be put in better ways. I've always thought a constructive way of putting it is that we accept an explanation if "it makes sense of a multitude of facts which are otherwise meaningless or extravagant".*
A bit tongue-in-cheek, I was only making the point the article was making about how science should be done, not how one evaluated what it achieved. I actually agree with the article, that there really cannot be a predetermined absolute method of scientific research for the simple reason that every phenomena is different and will require different methods of actually studying and understanding it, as well as the additional fact that for most things there is not just one way to accomplish it. (Have any idea how many proofs their are for the Pythagorean theorem?) I think it is a bit of hubris for philosophers to tell scientists how to do their job, especially since science has been so marvelously successful at what it does, and philosophy has just about completely failed at what it is suppose to do.

uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:59 am

RCSaunders wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:13 am
A bit tongue-in-cheek, I was only making the point the article was making about how science should be done, not how one evaluated what it achieved. I actually agree with the article, that there really cannot be a predetermined absolute method of scientific research for the simple reason that every phenomena is different and will require different methods of actually studying and understanding it, as well as the additional fact that for most things there is not just one way to accomplish it. (Have any idea how many proofs their are for the Pythagorean theorem?)
That is certainly true, but the point of the article was more that people always have, and always will do things their own way. Some of it will work and be great science, but a lot of it will be fail miserably.
RCSaunders wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:13 am
I think it is a bit of hubris for philosophers to tell scientists how to do their job, especially since science has been so marvelously successful at what it does, and philosophy has just about completely failed at what it is suppose to do.
Well in terms of science, the philosophy is to all intents and purposes what Kuhn called a paradigm - it's the conceptual model that makes thinking about stuff easier. It's things like Aristotle's geocentric universe, Maxwell's luminiferous aether, Einstein's warped spacetime, string theory and so on. It's the stuff that gets proven wrong, but it's not always a complete failure. I always reach for Richard Feynman, it sounds much better coming from a Nobel Laureate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM-zWTU7X-k

PTH
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by PTH » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:33 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:13 am
I think it is a bit of hubris for philosophers to tell scientists how to do their job, especially since science has been so marvelously successful at what it does, and philosophy has just about completely failed at what it is suppose to do.
Indeed, is it fair to say that philosophy usually teeters on the brink of not being able to say anything at all.

At the same time, it is hard not to want to discuss how the ground floor of human knowledge isn't as solid as sometimes presented.

uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:27 pm

PTH wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:33 pm
Indeed, is it fair to say that philosophy usually teeters on the brink of not being able to say anything at all.
Well, you could make a case that the job of philosophy is not to provide the premises, but to test the coherence of the narrative woven from them; that it can't tell you if you are right, only whether you are bonkers.
PTH wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:33 pm
At the same time, it is hard not to want to discuss how the ground floor of human knowledge isn't as solid as sometimes presented.
Indeed, and that is precisely what philosophers like Hume, Kuhn and Feyerabend did.

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RCSaunders
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by RCSaunders » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:16 am

uwot wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:27 pm
PTH wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:33 pm
At the same time, it is hard not to want to discuss how the ground floor of human knowledge isn't as solid as sometimes presented.
Indeed, and that is precisely what philosophers like Hume, Kuhn and Feyerabend did.
Fortunately, they failed to destroy science, because real scientist never heard of them or simply ignored them for the crackpots they were. Unfortunately they were successful at destroying philosophy, particularly Hume and Kant.

uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:36 am

RCSaunders wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:16 am
Fortunately, they failed to destroy science, because real scientist never heard of them or simply ignored them for the crackpots they were.
Well, as I said in the article, all sorts of people are scientists. Some, David Deutsch and Lee Smolin spring to mind, think philosophy should be taken more seriously. Ultimately, philosophical models make no difference to the calculations but, as the Feynman clip shows, even scientists who are at best ambivalent or even hostile towards philosophy use philosophical models.
RCSaunders wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:16 am
Unfortunately they were successful at destroying philosophy, particularly Hume and Kant.
If that's your belief, so be it, but I think you'd have a hard time demonstrating it.

Skepdick
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by Skepdick » Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am

uwot wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:36 am
even scientists who are at best ambivalent or even hostile towards philosophy use philosophical models.
Perhaps they WERE philosophical models? Like physics WAS natural philosophy?
Philosophy has a long history of being a victim of its own success - perhaps modeling matured into a popular science too and philosophers got left behind?
Perhaps what you refer to as "philosophical models" became "computational models"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_science
Computational science is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary field that uses advanced computing capabilities to understand and solve complex problems..at its core it involves the development of models ... Computational science is now commonly considered a third mode of science, complementing and adding to experimentation/observation and theory
While I am selling it... Kuhn coined the paradigm. Computer science coined the multi-paradigm.

PTH
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by PTH » Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:52 am

uwot wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:36 am
RCSaunders wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:16 am
Unfortunately they were successful at destroying philosophy, particularly Hume and Kant.
If that's your belief, so be it, but I think you'd have a hard time demonstrating it.
Is it fair to say the issue is whether philosophy gives us something that can actually guide action? If it just tells us we're clueless, and that can't be improved on, it's a problem.

I haven't read any Kant, just a little about him. To be fair to Hume, in parts he seems to set out a strong sceptical position to highlight how useless it is. IIRC, in Dialogues on Natural Religion there's a point where the extreme sceptic is asked if he's any preference between leaving the room through the door, or leaping from the window, as he should surely seen no reason to favour one over the other.

And its fair enough, I think, to be clear on the pointlessness of entertaining useless doubts. But harder, probably, to identify what is a useful approach.

Skepdick
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by Skepdick » Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:03 am

PTH wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:52 am
Is it fair to say the issue is whether philosophy gives us something that can actually guide action?
If you want to guide action - first you must choose a destination.

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want. --Mark Twain.

uwot
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by uwot » Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:38 am

Skepdick wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am
Perhaps they WERE philosophical models? Like physics WAS natural philosophy?
In the article I point out that Descartes interest in gravity was a philosophical model. Newton tried for a quarter of a century, but couldn't work one out. He wasn't really bothered, because it made no difference to the accuracy and usefulness of his inverse square law. Hypotheses non fingo is pretty much the mission statement of instrumentalists ever since.
Skepdick wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am
Philosophy has a long history of being a victim of its own success - perhaps modeling matured into a popular science too and philosophers got left behind?
I wouldn't say that 'scientist' and 'philosopher' are mutually exclusive. The idea that philosophy once encompassed all of human intellectual endeavour and has gradually been calving new disciplines simply isn't true, Apollonius of Perga, Archimedes, Aristarchus just for a few 'A's, were scientists and mathematicians over two thousand years ago.
Skepdick wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am
Perhaps what you refer to as "philosophical models" became "computational models"?
Not really. 'Spacetime' is a philosophical model. The field equations are the mathematical, or computational model. The advantage of the philosophical model is that you can examine the implications in ways that may not be obvious, or even implicit, in the mathematical model.
Skepdick wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am
While I am selling it... Kuhn coined the paradigm.
Well he gave it a new context.
Skepdick wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:06 am
Computer science coined the multi-paradigm.
As Feynman says in the clip: "every theoretical physicist that's any good, knows six or seven theoretical representations for exactly the same physics.'

Skepdick
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Re: Philosophy of Science: The First 2½ Millennia

Post by Skepdick » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:21 pm

uwot wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:38 am
Not really. 'Spacetime' is a philosophical model.
I don't think so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacetime
In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum
uwot wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:38 am
The field equations are the mathematical, or computational model.
There's a conceptual divergence here. Space-time are seen as resources required for physically DOING computation.
You need space (memory) and time (CPU operations - physical work) in order to compute the field equations.

And you can trade space-time against each other: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space%E2% ... e_tradeoff
uwot wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:38 am
As Feynman says in the clip: "every theoretical physicist that's any good, knows six or seven theoretical representations for exactly the same physics.'
Yeah. Multiple algorithms to solve a particular problem ;)

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