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  1. #1
    captain steve williams Typh0n's Avatar
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    Default Which approach do you prefer: philosophy or science?

    I think that philosophy and science are two very different approaches to understanding. I also find that science people often dislike (or are at least fairly disinterested in) philosophy, and that philosophy people also are also more skeptical of science as an absolute. Science people tend to view science as more of an absolute, where philosophy people view science as a branch of philosophy.

    There's more to it than that. Science and philosophy are two different approaches to reasoning. When I was a kid, I was very much into science. In my late teens I became interested in philosophy, I went through a Nietzsche phase at 19-20, and read books about the history of philosophy, passages from the books of famous thinkers. I think philosophy really, really, made me question the foundations of science and the way science works. I don't reject science, and I do feel it is fine for humans to study the natural world around us, but I also felt like philosophy showed me such an approach is limited. It's not absolute. For example, Kant's ideas about how we can only know the phenomena around us, and not "the thing in itself" struck a chord - how do we know that what we experience through our senses is the whole picture? Insects see things in different colours than we do, dogs see only in black and white, how do we know then that we perceive the world correctly or in a complete fashion? Science is based on observations through the senses, after all. So if we aeren't sure our perception is perfect (it isn't) as humans, what makes us think our interpretation of the stuff we perceive through our senses is infalliable? That was my line of thinking at the time. As a kid, on the other hand, I was curious about the world around me, and just read about it in books. I learned facts. But what I later rejeceted was an understanding of the world based solely on a series of facts, the walking encycopedia isn't prone to critical thinking, lol.

    I also read tha Carl Sagan quote about how science is more a method of knowledge than a body of facts (or something like that), and while that may be, many science people seem to dislike philosophy nonetheless.

    Also, I know that guys like Isaac Newton, Aristotle, Descartes, etc were into both philosophy and science, but they lived at a time when science was so much less developped than today. It's not comparable.

    Thoughts? Which do you prefer philosophy or science and most importantly, why?

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typh0n View Post
    I think that philosophy and science are two very different approaches to understanding. I also find that science people often dislike (or are at least fairly disinterested in) philosophy, and that philosophy people also are also more skeptical of science as an absolute. Science people tend to view science as more of an absolute, where philosophy people view science as a branch of philosophy.

    There's more to it than that. Science and philosophy are two different approaches to reasoning. When I was a kid, I was very much into science. In my late teens I became interested in philosophy, I went through a Nietzsche phase at 19-20, and read books about the history of philosophy, passages from the books of famous thinkers. I think philosophy really, really, made me question the foundations of science and the way science works. I don't reject science, and I do feel it is fine for humans to study the natural world around us, but I also felt like philosophy showed me such an approach is limited. It's not absolute. For example, Kant's ideas about how we can only know the phenomena around us, and not "the thing in itself" struck a chord - how do we know that what we experience through our senses is the whole picture? Insects see things in different colours than we do, dogs see only in black and white, how do we know then that we perceive the world correctly or in a complete fashion? Science is based on observations through the senses, after all. So if we aeren't sure our perception is perfect (it isn't) as humans, what makes us think our interpretation of the stuff we perceive through our senses is infalliable? That was my line of thinking at the time. As a kid, on the other hand, I was curious about the world around me, and just read about it in books. I learned facts. But what I later rejeceted was an understanding of the world based solely on a series of facts, the walking encycopedia isn't prone to critical thinking, lol.

    I also read tha Carl Sagan quote about how science is more a method of knowledge than a body of facts (or something like that), and while that may be, many science people seem to dislike philosophy nonetheless.

    Also, I know that guys like Isaac Newton, Aristotle, Descartes, etc were into both philosophy and science, but they lived at a time when science was so much less developped than today. It's not comparable.

    Thoughts?
    I went through a similar process, starting out really into science, history, and to a lesser extent math as a younger child, then getting into philosophy as a teen. As a kid I experienced a lot of existential depression and questioned everything, this tendency becoming even more pronounced in my teen years, as I began questioning my perceptions and others' perceptions of supposed fact and reality, and I suppose to some extent that has influenced my adult worldview.

    I think philosophy and science are equally important for the health of civilization, and to answer your question, I think I tend to prefer philosophy slightly, while still appreciating the scientific method, even if I realize it can be flawed and is limited by our own sensory limitations. I think either can fill in the gaps for the other, so it's dangerous to ignore either completely.
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  3. #3
    Google "chemtrails" Bush Did 9/11's Avatar
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    I'm basically agnostic, and I take a pragmatic approach. Mostly scientific, but with hooks into the philosophical.

    My belief is essentially that really real reality can never be completely understood -- that we improve our understanding but can only ever approximate a complete understanding. There's some underlying layer, or overarching structure, that's going to be beyond our grasp. Our brains and senses will never have infinite capability. I believe that understanding is good, because understanding gives guidance -- and maybe even purpose.

    Here, have some epistemology. Natural philosophy, once upon a time, was basically the best method that we had to understand even the stuff we could observe -- let alone the stuff we couldn't. We've improved our understanding of the natural world, or at least looked at it from a viable perspective, via the development of the scientific method.

    Basically, I believe that the scientific approach is the best approach that we have, on the whole, and so we may as well roll with it.

    There's cause-and-effect. There are natural principles that seem to be true/universal enough for our purposes. There's stuff that we call evidence. We can derive a way to tackle life itself through all of that: evidence-based living.
    _

    This does not mean that social sciences or philosophy are bunk. It does not mean that things are only true if we can measure them. Far from it; it's flat-out stupid to disregard or deny the aspects of reality that we only have a tenuous grasp on. Because we'll probably improve our understanding overall if we embrace them.

    So at the same time, we should never lose sight of the "why." We should investigate that space, think about it, let it guide different approaches.

    I'm a fan of shifting perspective to whatever helps us out, while still anchoring ourselves to reality. From a very high level, maybe our thoughts and actions are deterministic. But at the same time maybe we should spend more time "zoomed in," at an actionable level where we have free will -- because we'd have a good chance to get stuck in existential crises otherwise, to never hold anyone accountable for their actions, and so on.

    But hell, there are even higher-level questions. Should we even bother to unstick ourselves? Is a better understanding worth it? What do we mean by "works"? Or "best"? Is morality absolute or relative? Well, there's also the philosophy of science, which is basically an investigation into why we do science in the first place and how we should go about it.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Typh0n View Post
    Thoughts? Which do you prefer philosophy or science and most importantly, why?
    Science is the matter. Philosophy is the approach. They are concomitant and equally interesting to me.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke
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  5. #5

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    I dont think its a dichotomy, to be honest science is a methodology for the most part, properly understood scientific reductivism taken to its extremes is void of any real meaning.
    It is a luxury to be understood - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities - Voltaire

    A kind thought is the hope of the world - Anon

  6. #6
    Senior Member Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    I don't think I should have to choose. The scientific method obviously cannot explain or justify itself, so at some level science always has to rest on philosophical grounds.

    These days, and around the stuff I engage in, I don't feel like I have to defend science a whole lot. It's become very popular with those who understand it and those who don't. I myself might be (I think incorrectly) perceived as some fan of "scientism" because I take a strictly physical interpretation of the universe, am and atheist, a utilitarian (which for some weird reason is thrown in with that stuff even though it's not intrinsically related), and am openly unimpressed with views to the contrary. So I guess it's more important that I defend philosophy here.

    The value of science is very pragmatic. It's a method that has worked better than anything else for the purpose of verifying what really exists. If someone can tell me a better idea, I'm all ears. But that doesn't actually remove philosophy of a purpose. After all, can I scientifically investigate my own claim above, that science has worked better? What exactly do I mean by that?

    Roughly, I think there are three elements of philosophy that science has not and will probably never subvert.

    First of all, logic is philosophy. People forget that. If you remember that logic is philosophy, it makes the anti-philosophical argument really tough.

    Secondly, there's ethics. Science can really help as at doing descriptive ethics. We can get better at recording what people generally think, we can even learn what's going on in the brain. It can help us do prescriptive ethics at a higher level, when we're analyzing cause and effect and how to bring about a desired result. But I do not think science can ever tell us what the desirable result fundamentally is. It's not an objective concept. It's subjective one. Mind you, a subjective concept that probably most humans vaguely share, but it's still subjective. When you try to delineate what is essentially good, you will find it is an infinitely regressive process. At some point you have to just stop and say it's good because it seems good in my brain. Scientifically, we might even find exactly where, when, and how the perception of goodness is produced in the brain, but we will never be able to scientifically deconstruct the experience of goodness.

    Lastly, there's epistemology. Science has taken over for this one more than it has the above two, but can't completely take it over. Epistemology can go meta in a way science can't, which includes our ability to interrogate the concept of science itself.

    And I suppose this comes around to why the two really just make such a weird comparison anyway. It's kind of apples to oranges. They do complimentary things that can and should be applied at the same time. And even if you never used philosophy to once determine a practical truth in your life, attempting to think philosophically is like working out your brain. I've come across some people that possessed what I'd call a-philosophical personalities, and I don't think highly of them. Some of them were even intelligent in certain senses, and involved in STEM fields, and yet somehow I still never got the sense that there were gears spinning in those peoples' heads.

    Spin those gears, do some philosophy.

    ----

    As an aside.

    Isn't it weird how this dichotomy keeps coming up but never has math in it? Math is not science, science is not math. Though math is rooted in deductive logic, I've never heard it referred to as a philosophy, either. So every time someone has asked a question like "is science the answer to everything?", I first think of math, rather than philosophy, in giving that question a negative.
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  7. #7
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    Bill Nye on philosophy: the science guy says he has changed his mind — Quartz

    ...Nye is now convinced philosophy and science overlap, with both fields in pursuit of the justified true belief. “It’s an intimate connection,” he said. “What used to be called a ‘natural philosopher’ is now called a scientist.”...
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  8. #8
    sifting Hard's Avatar
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    Science by a long shot. Philosophy usually annoys the crap out of me, and the vast majority of it isn't interesting to me either.
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  9. #9
    Queen hunter Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hard View Post
    Science by a long shot. Philosophy usually annoys the crap out of me, and the vast majority of it isn't interesting to me either.

    Something like this. Philosophy can be good to keep things in perspective but too much philosophy is likely to be counter productive and force you to run in circles if you don't take in a new data. (and science is the most likely to provide something that is trully new). Also I have doubts that people who never studied hard science at college trully understand what science actually is. (becuase what media and even highschool classes show is quite simplistic and distorted picture.) Until you start mixing chemicals, making new devices, doing field research and solving problems by yourself you don't trully understand what hard science really is.
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  10. #10
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    I have my philosophy for life. My work and the treatments I do are informed by scientific evidence as well as my personal philosophy (what my role is as a healthcare practitioner). I suppose that role is informed by science as well.
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