Philosophy is useless

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MarkM
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by MarkM »

Notvacka wrote:[quote="MarkM"
I doubt that a scientific explanation of what consciousness is or how it works would have any negative impact upon philosophy. Science is not equipped to answer philosophical questions. I suspect any such explanation would bring new philosophical questions instead, without even answering the old ones to philosophical satisfaction.[/quote]

Hello Notvacka

A central problem for epistemology for over four hundred years has been the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowledge. If science succeeds in explaining consciousness, and then is able to reproduce it artificially, in a computer for example, then human uniqueness is lessened. Human epistemology would become an inferior version of computer epistemology. Computer epistemology would be an exclusively scientific concern. Human epistemology would be reduced to psychology.

An explanation of consciousness will, most likely have a lot to say about free will. If the human decision making process can be discerned in an objective scheme, and even be quantified in an objective scheme, then what is there left for philosophy to debate ? If these matters can be described in a biological mechanism, then reductionism will attain a great vindication.

There is and always has been a forceful movement to reduce philosophical matters to more simplistic mechanistic views; logical positivism, behaviourism, scepticism. You may argue that they have been marginalized, but the reductionist view has a permanent seat at the table, and philosophy has been found to be uncertain of its standing in the face of reductionist persistence. A scientific explanation of consciousness would be a permanent prize and vindication of reductionism, that would forever put philosophy on the defensive on questions regarding subjectivity and individualism.

Cheers
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Notvacka
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by Notvacka »

MarkM wrote:A central problem for epistemology for over four hundred years has been the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowledge. If science succeeds in explaining consciousness, and then is able to reproduce it artificially, in a computer for example, then human uniqueness is lessened. Human epistemology would become an inferior version of computer epistemology. Computer epistemology would be an exclusively scientific concern. Human epistemology would be reduced to psychology.
Why do you say that? These topics have already been thoroughly explored in science fiction, and philosophy is way ahead of science in this. What is the difference between "computer epistemology" and "human epistemology" anyway? If we were able to artificially reproduce consciousness in a computer, we would also be able to feed that consciousness whatever fake sensory input data we like. In truth, the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowlede, is as unknowable to us as it would be to that artificial consciousness. I don't see how turning this science fiction into actual science would change anything as far as epistemology is concerned.
MarkM wrote:An explanation of consciousness will, most likely have a lot to say about free will. If the human decision making process can be discerned in an objective scheme, and even be quantified in an objective scheme, then what is there left for philosophy to debate ? If these matters can be described in a biological mechanism, then reductionism will attain a great vindication.
Reductionism can only provide reductionist answers. As for free will, those things have already been said by philosophers many times over, without the sicence.
MarkM wrote:There is and always has been a forceful movement to reduce philosophical matters to more simplistic mechanistic views; logical positivism, behaviourism, scepticism. You may argue that they have been marginalized, but the reductionist view has a permanent seat at the table, and philosophy has been found to be uncertain of its standing in the face of reductionist persistence. A scientific explanation of consciousness would be a permanent prize and vindication of reductionism, that would forever put philosophy on the defensive on questions regarding subjectivity and individualism.
Not at all. As far as philosophy is concerned, supposing that such a reductionist explanation could be had does the trick just as well as actually having such an explanation. That's why philosophy will always be ahead of science.
RickLewis
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by RickLewis »

MarkM wrote: A central problem for epistemology for over four hundred years has been the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowledge. If science succeeds in explaining consciousness, and then is able to reproduce it artificially, in a computer for example, then human uniqueness is lessened. Human epistemology would become an inferior version of computer epistemology. Computer epistemology would be an exclusively scientific concern. Human epistemology would be reduced to psychology.
Hi Mark. Just a point that has always particularly worried me, but if computer scientists did succeed in reproducing consciousness artificially in a computer, how would we know?

For instance, do you have such faith in the Turing Test that you think that any software able to pass it must therefore be assumed to be conscious?
bus2bondi
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by bus2bondi »

MarkM wrote:I suspect any such explanation would bring new philosophical questions instead, without even answering the old ones to philosophical satisfaction.
it's been said and speculated many times that philosophy is useless because it gets us nowhere like a circular spinning wheel in the mud and only brings new philosophical questions instead, but when we think about the past, are there still cultures from various regions of the world who for example would throw a pair of twins into the river and drown them because they think that's ok? it was philosophy that brought us to this point of the now where we don't do that anymore. it was that philosophical 'oddball' of whichever society that brought forth various changes such as the one mentioned above because of philosophical thought.

if you hypothetically were father to a pair of twins and your community didn't drown them because they were twins. who do you have to thank? i could be wrong, but it might be a philosopher.

and the new questions, well if in the past we can look back and see human progress in its various forms because of it, maybe the new questions will continue to do the same?

(and at the very least its very enjoyable)
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Notvacka
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by Notvacka »

bus2bondi wrote:
MarkM wrote:I suspect any such explanation would bring new philosophical questions instead, without even answering the old ones to philosophical satisfaction.
Actually, MarkM was qouting me there. Seems that he had some probolem with the quote function.

Furthermore, the statement is made in defense of philosophy. While science is mostly looking for answers, I think philosophy is mostly looking for better questions, though I believe scientists and philosophers alike are happy when new questions emerge. After all, without questions, neither would have anything to do. :)
Impenitent
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by Impenitent »

if (anthropomorphic fallacy) it is fallacious to posit human qualities on non human entities (i.e. animals, machines,) doesn't the question become one of faith?

we can perfect human intelligence artificially...

watch Icarus touch the sun...

-Imp
MarkM
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by MarkM »

Hello Notvacka

Thanks for the response.

You wrote "These topics have already been thoroughly explored in science fiction, and philosophy is way ahead of science in this."
- These topics have been explored for so long chiefly because there has been no real movement for a long time. The point I am trying to make is that science may decide philosophy's issues. It as if science is going to swoop in and take away some, only some, of philosophy's toys. Philosophy has explored these topics for a long time, but has not resolved them.
Philosophy can be explored in any arena, including science fiction. A brilliantly modern and productive solution can be expounded in many different ways, including through science fiction, and it will not be any less philosophical.

"In truth, the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowledge, is as unknowable to us as it would be to that artificial consciousness." - The point about science is that it makes the object of study reproducible. The important thing about a scientifically reproducible consciousness would be that it would be next to a complete explanation of consciousness. The degree or extent that such a notional scientifically reproducible consciousness might be infallible would be apparent to the scientist, and the philosopher would not be able to speculate about infalibility anymore. The philosopher would have consult the scientist and defer to what the objective scientific evidence showed. Philosophy would not be able to follow its own area of study, and have to concede authority to science. The situation is analogous with the fate of Phrenology.
In the 1800's, there was speculation that bumps on a person's gave insight to their personality. This speculation had a name that diesignatied a field of inquiry. It was called Phrenology. But Phrenology's questions were answered by objective examination. Phrenology was found to offer no value, and it disappeared. ( This is not a perfect analogy, but it may suffice. )
The limits and fallibility of the senses and knowledge in a scientifically produced consciousness might be quantifiable. This is tenuous speculation, but it is the logic of the situation. The scientists might attain the position of calling balls and strikes on philosophical matters owing to their new found expertise.

"Not at all. As far as philosophy is concerned, supposing that such a reductionist explanation could be had does the trick just as well as actually having such an explanation. That's why philosophy will always be ahead of science." - If a philosophical explanation is needed for consciousness, that is good for philosophy. If a reductive scientific explanation will suffice, then the scientific endorsement of that explanation will count for more than a philosophical endorsement. Even if philosophy proposes the reductive explanation before science does, science will still claim its achievement as a vindication of science, and philosophy will derided as useless as Forgedinhell suggests.


I am not saying I believe this will be the outcome, but I will modestly draw your attention to the incontestable fact that I am staying on topic.
Is there an emoticon for that sentiment ? I think not !

Thanks for reading.
MarkM
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by MarkM »

RickLewis wrote:
MarkM wrote: A central problem for epistemology for over four hundred years has been the fallibility of the senses, and in turn the fallibility of knowledge. If science succeeds in explaining consciousness, and then is able to reproduce it artificially, in a computer for example, then human uniqueness is lessened. Human epistemology would become an inferior version of computer epistemology. Computer epistemology would be an exclusively scientific concern. Human epistemology would be reduced to psychology.
Hi Mark. Just a point that has always particularly worried me, but if computer scientists did succeed in reproducing consciousness artificially in a computer, how would we know?

For instance, do you have such faith in the Turing Test that you think that any software able to pass it must therefore be assumed to be conscious?
Hello Rick Lewis

Thanks for the question. I have spent maybe six hours turning it over. There are tedious qualifications of the Turing test that can be suggested, even though I am chastened that I am putting myself in the position of doubting the great Alan Turing.

Long story short, perhaps the most complete estimation of cognitive ability would be to observe a community of androids to see how they endure. I think the best test of cognition would be found in the dynamic interaction between individual artificially conscious entities. Could they persist as distinct individuals without resolving into slave-like components of one distributed program? Could they endure without a falling out and fragmenting into a scattered group of squabbling ego-maniacs?
I think it is necessary to place the software into a autonomous body, so that it can build a sense of its own identity in the world, and learn about the value of peer interaction and guidance. The knowledge of oneself, ones boundaries and the value of peers and environment is part of cognitive progress.
The idea that these challenges could be recreated in a isolated computer is fantasy, in my opinion.

Cheers, Mark
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Notvacka
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by Notvacka »

MarkM wrote:The point I am trying to make is that science may decide philosophy's issues.
There is some confusion (even among philosophers) that philosophy is some sort of science, but it's not. And the issues are not the same. Philosophers can help scientists ask the right questions while science provides the foundations for further philosophical speculation, but there is no competition. One way to put it, is that science produces answers and philosphy produces questions; the former makes us more certain, while the latter makes us less certain.
MarkM wrote:The point about science is that it makes the object of study reproducible. The important thing about a scientifically reproducible consciousness would be that it would be next to a complete explanation of consciousness.
At best, it would be a complete explanation of some type of consciousness. It would not exclude the possibility of other types.
MarkM wrote:The degree or extent that such a notional scientifically reproducible consciousness might be infallible would be apparent to the scientist, and the philosopher would not be able to speculate about infalibility anymore.
I'm not sure that I understand what you mean by "infallible" here. In any case, in order to judge how fallible the artificial consciousness is, the scientists need to be less fallible themselves. And since we have no way to determine our own fallibility, contrary to being apparent to the scientists, it would be impossible for them to tell. A computer is already less fallible than the human brain in many areas, without being conscious at all.
MarkM wrote:The philosopher would have consult the scientist and defer to what the objective scientific evidence showed. Philosophy would not be able to follow its own area of study, and have to concede authority to science. The situation is analogous with the fate of Phrenology.
Phrenology was supposed to be science. Outdated science is replaced by new science all the time. Philosophy runs on a different track.
MarkM wrote:If a philosophical explanation is needed for consciousness, that is good for philosophy. If a reductive scientific explanation will suffice, then the scientific endorsement of that explanation will count for more than a philosophical endorsement. Even if philosophy proposes the reductive explanation before science does, science will still claim its achievement as a vindication of science, and philosophy will derided as useless as Forgedinhell suggests.
Your use of the words "needed", "good for", "suffice", "count for" and "endorsement" suggests that you have not understood what philosophy is yet. Philosophy doesn't explain things, it questions things. And if scientists would indeed succeed in explaining consciousness as you propose, then they would need philosophers to question that explanation.

And as for the Turing test, I think it's useless in this context. It's unashamedly anthropocentric. A cat would have no chance of passing the Turing test, but surely a cat is conscious to some extent?
MarkM
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by MarkM »

Hello Notvacka

Thanks for the reply.

I have differences with what you write. They are not small. You do have a point regarding Phrenology, in that even though Phrenology probably never attained the status of good science, its dismissal is more analogous to the evolution of scientific advance rather than an instance of science supplanting philosophy.

Regarding what philosophy is; this is a very old and easily addressable issue. I think you are redefining it in a most restrictive and diminishing way. I believe that philosophy is the consideration of Everything. It is not confined to a type of intellectual activity such as questioning without answering. That is like admonishing a sixty year old polymath to speak when spoken to as if they were a child.

There has to be, as in it is almost analytically true, that the consideration of Everything would have a term for it. That term is Philosophy. If someone were to tell me that my philosophy is confined to just questioning, and is not concerned with hypothesis, examination, testing, dialectical reasoning ( Socrates ), and conclusions, I would seek considerable and meaningful justification from that person. Most nearly every academic pursuit is a branch of philosophy, or has some connection to Philosophy. Even Religion, which one might argue came before or precedes Philosophy has an inseparable Philosophical component.
Science is a sub-part of Philosophy. It came after Philosophy, and it was mid-wifed to prominence by individuals whose thought could not be separated from Philosophy. Most often their contribution to Science was an expression of a philosophical position. The line between Science and Philosophy closes science into a well understood arena in which study is pursued in a shared objective enterprise.
Science has been very successful. It has given us this internet by which we communicate. Science's achievements are objective and plain to see. Philosophy is the same pursuit as it was in the time of Ancient Greece, when Philosophy included Math and Astronomy. Philosophy has not been stripped of its ancient questions by the subsequent development of Math and Astronomy. Philosophy still includes the consideration of Everything.
If and when Science makes discoveries, it inevitably has consequences for philosophy, because Philosophy is the consideration of Everything.

Let me take this back to the topic of the possibility of Science taking a philosophical questions. Many people speculate that Science will build Androids, and solve the issue of Consciousness. Their speculation is serious. Within this group are serious professionals and many interested laymen.
This group bears a strong resemblance to the group that speculates about time-travel. There is probably a lot of crossover in both groups. But consider this; there is no, absolutely no evidence that meaningful time travel is possible, yet often responsible professional will publically speculate and tease about how tome-travel might be possible. I heard Neil deGrase Tyson doing so on the radio the other day. This speculation is taken seriously.
Likewise the possibility that Science will explain Consciousness is also taken seriously. Now the prospect of Science explaining Consciousness is not as readily dis-creditable as the possibility of Time-travel. The Scientific efforts to explain Consciousness are fully sincere. and importantly will achieve Scientific value whether Consciousness is explained or not; the work is serious and will bear fruit.
What this adds up to is this. A serious and specific goal is being pursued, and if it is achieved, it will have significant consequences for Philosophy. Whether this goal will be achieved or not is a different question. Many serious people see it as possible, and that makes the consequences of that possibility a serious matter for consideration. Within that possibility, I see a problem for Philosophy.
If you examine the profound reach of the issue of Consciousness, you may see the problem for Philosophy. In my opinion, if you think that there is a real prospect that Science can explain and even re-produce Consciousness, then you might ask questions about what will happen to Mankind in the aftermath. What will happen to the question of Human Agency when our Free Will is reduced to Scientific formaula? What will happen to legal culpability if our actions are reducible to some form of biological software ? What will be the object of human aspiration and searching, if Science by its achievement puts human experience into a metaphorical Petri-dish ?
If you believe that Science will explain consciousness, then do you consider the above outcome ?

What I believe is that Science will not explain Consciousness. There is little reason to believe that Science will explain Consciousness. One reason is that there is still no agreed upon understanding what Consciousness is, let alone a definition of Consciousness. It is hard to persuade that you can recreate something when you don't know what it is you are trying to recreate.
Now if I shouted from the rooftops that Science will not explain Consciousness, some people would be contrary. They would point to impressive gains of Science, and correctly point to previously impossible phenomenons that were explained by Science. They would say that I am not in a position to preclude Scientific achievement, and absent a philosophical explanation for Consciousness, they would be one hundred percent correct. But I am inviting the same contrarians to consider that if they think Science explaining Consciousness is a real possibility, then consider the impact on Philosophy. A philosophical dilemma will be the outcome if Science succeeds. I don't see how a candid Philosopher can ignore it.
Perhaps a consideration of the jeopardy created for Philosophy might in turn reflect light back on the dimensions of the problem of explaining Consciousness, and the case for Philosophy's uselessness might be challenged.

This is a ridiculously long post, but I am glad I wrote it.
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Notvacka
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by Notvacka »

Hello, MarkM!
MarkM wrote:I believe that philosophy is the consideration of Everything.
Aptly put. And I agree. I find it interesting that you write Everything with a capital "E". It makes me curious about the difference between "Everything" and simply "everything". :)
MarkM wrote:It is not confined to a type of intellectual activity such as questioning without answering. That is like admonishing a sixty year old polymath to speak when spoken to as if they were a child.
Yes. My emphasis on questioning without answering was to highligt one important difference between science and philosophy. Philosophy knows no such boundaries and scientists of course engage in philosophy too.
MarkM wrote:Most nearly every academic pursuit is a branch of philosophy, or has some connection to Philosophy. Even Religion, which one might argue came before or precedes Philosophy has an inseparable Philosophical component.
Sure. I'm more comfortable with science being a "branch" of philosophy, than with philosophy somehow being a science, since science is restricted to the measurable, wile philosophy, as you say, considers everything.
MarkM wrote:Science has been very successful. It has given us this internet by which we communicate. Science's achievements are objective and plain to see. Philosophy is the same pursuit as it was in the time of Ancient Greece, when Philosophy included Math and Astronomy. Philosophy has not been stripped of its ancient questions by the subsequent development of Math and Astronomy. Philosophy still includes the consideration of Everything. If and when Science makes discoveries, it inevitably has consequences for philosophy, because Philosophy is the consideration of Everything.
And I agree with all of this also. :)
MarkM wrote:If you examine the profound reach of the issue of Consciousness, you may see the problem for Philosophy. In my opinion, if you think that there is a real prospect that Science can explain and even re-produce Consciousness, then you might ask questions about what will happen to Mankind in the aftermath. What will happen to the question of Human Agency when our Free Will is reduced to Scientific formaula? What will happen to legal culpability if our actions are reducible to some form of biological software? What will be the object of human aspiration and searching, if Science by its achievement puts human experience into a metaphorical Petri-dish? If you believe that Science will explain consciousness, then do you consider the above outcome ?
I believe that if science can explain consciousness, it will have unforseeable and far reaching practical consequenses. Scientific disoveries often have. You might view the atom bomb and nuclear power as practical (though not direct) consequenses of Einstein's theory of relativity. And such developments of course raise new philosophical (particularly ethical) questions. However, I don't believe that a scientific explanation of consciousness would impact philosophy the way you suggest.

Let's take a look at your examle here:
MarkM wrote:What will happen to the question of Human Agency when our Free Will is reduced to Scientific formaula? What will happen to legal culpability if our actions are reducible to some form of biological software?
Philosophically, free will can already be reduced to something not at all free. And nobody can explain what it's supposed to be free from, anyway. Let me quote myself, since I've written extensively about free will all over this forum in the past:
Notvacka wrote:As a concept, free will is intrinsically linked to the concept of identity.

Free will and identity are core concepts of the human experience. Both may be mere illusions, bi-products of physical processes, but we all experience them, which makes them important to us.

Who am I? My identity is defined by circumstances and by my actions. Circumstances determine me, but I determine my actions. Objectively, you could exclude me from the equation and conclude that circumstances determine my actions. But that would be to deny my subjective existence as a human being.

Free will does not exist in a strictly objective sense. Neither do I. (I'm not talking about my body, which could probably be objectively verified to some degree. )

Without free will, we don't exist. And in some perversely objective way, we don't. But that's not how we experience it.

Free will and identity is what we experience between circumstances and actions.

On a purely subjective level, free will is experienced as having alternatives to choose from. On the same subjective level, identity is experienced as being the one doing the choosing.

My point being that the subjective experience is perhaps more important than any objective reality. We don't live in reality anyway, but rather in a collectively constructed and shared illusion.
To answer your question: Nothing will happen to free will or legal culpability, because our experience of consciousness from within will essentially remain the same, regardless of scientific explanation. It's already perfectly possible to philosophically conclude that there is some phyhsical process behind consciousness. Determining exactly how it works makes little to no difference in this context.
chaz wyman
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by chaz wyman »

MarkM wrote:Hello - I would like to add another looming threat to philosophy's reputation. Many scientists are anticipating that the problem of consciousness may be successfully tackled in the near future. It is possible that science could explain consciousness soon.

This might be a problem for philosophy because consciousness cradles many of philosophy's more prominent topics; epistemology, logic, Hume's view of rationalism, and scepticism among others. If science explains consciousness, it will annex a significant slice of philosophy's franchise, and philosophy would be exposed to ridicule.

The areas of metaphysics, ontology and morality would not be affected of course.
The trouble with most scientists is that they tend to be philosophically naive - one thinks of teleological explanations of material causes including medicine, astronomy and evolutionary studies.
The rot goes deep. With the false assumption that science is doing more than simply describe the universe (which is does very well in deed), it pretends that such descriptions are providing explanations.
Science is in the business of making pretty pictures of brain scans at the moment, and it can show how different modules of the cerebrum act in differing circumstances, and how different areas of the brain communicate with each other by identifyingf areas that deal with visual, audible, textual, and cognitive sensations.
Well that still leaves the big questions wide open.
The only real question is whether the big questions are questions at all.
Last edited by chaz wyman on Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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SpheresOfBalance
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by SpheresOfBalance »

The only thing that's useless, is that which destroys that of creation, as creation would seem to be the theme of the universe at the atomic level and beyond.
chaz wyman
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by chaz wyman »

SpheresOfBalance wrote:The only thing that's useless, is that which destroys that of creation, as creation would seem to be the theme of the universe at the atomic level and beyond.
But death and destruction are necessary for re-growth and re-newal.
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Re: Philosophy is useless

Post by SpheresOfBalance »

chaz wyman wrote:
SpheresOfBalance wrote:The only thing that's useless, is that which destroys that of creation, as creation would seem to be the theme of the universe at the atomic level and beyond.
But death and destruction are necessary for re-growth and re-newal.
You're correct, I should have specified that I was referring to destruction (though the term "destruction" could be argued here), outside of natures laws, those other than natures purpose, those of man come to mind. And before you say that he is in fact a part of nature, I see that often his destruction does not benefit nature, but is rather only due to those things that he 'thinks' he needs (wants), despite those things that he actually does.
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