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Orlando Hawkins


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Is it time for philosophy to do away with metaphysics?

I love philosophy but one of the main issues that I hear about it is that its impractical and serves no suitable purpose to the world. Although I believe this claim to be somewhat false I understand the point that is being made from those who criticize it.

Philosophy is capable of being pragmatic but the reason why it appears as though its not is because it deals too much with the abstract and concerns itself with metaphysics. If you want a real brain teaser metaphysical talk is the way to go but metaphysics really serves no purpose to the world. For a family who constantly have to work to feed their children and provide an education, contemplating the nature of reality or postulating weather or not consciousness exists outside the brain is probably not going to help the situation. One of my professors say that if we sit in meditation, we’ll understand the true harmonious nature and interconnectedness of the universe. We will understand how to act in each moment (similar to what Taoist believe). He may be right but we often forget that its a privilege to be able to do so. Nor are these concerns on everyone’s mind.

The philosophy department at my school is great but it is too indulged in metaphysics. From an epistomological standpoint this is problematic because most of the claims that are made is either in conflict with the way the natural world really is (scientific discoveries) and they are essentially not able to be proved which means we should not waste our time with such claims. When it comes to epistemology, I think this is where philosophy could utilize the methodology of science.

I"m a philosopher at heart but it concerns me that philosophy would lose it value if it cannot indulge in more empiricism and naturalism when making claims about the way the world is.

are we so concerned with value to the point that we'll negate truth? is science capable of establishing values?


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    May 19 2013: In my opinion, science cannot establish values. That's where one needs philosophy or religion.

    I think, philosophy drives science and research, not the other way around. E.g. Apple and Google have different philosophies. Apple values style and user experience while Google makes emphasis on "cloud computing" - Google wants all data to flow through their servers. These philosophies give different directions to research and development.

    I think, it's ignorant to consider useless something that (I think) I don't use. E.g., some people believe that money spent on space exploration is better spent elsewhere while using GPS, navigation systems, cell phones, and satellite TV. None of these things would be possible without seemingly impractical "rocket science" or theory of general relativity.

    I strongly disagree with Harris. He contradicts empiricism, in particular, David Hume who said "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." Sean Carroll debated Harris on this talk in many places defending Hume's position.

    Here is Carroll's take on this disrespect to philosophy among some scientists (Lawrence Krauss, in particular): http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2012/04/28/a-universe-from-nothing .

    Those who consider philosophy impractical forget that pragmatism is a philosophical position.
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      May 21 2013: Hi Arkady,

      From my point of view, I don't think philosophy and science are so different and as your rightly pointed out, science derives from philosophy, not the other way around. Most, scientific findings have some philosophical implications and it is in this way that I believe that science can establish values that would become philosophical.

      Thanks for the link to the article. I read it this morning and it is good to see a scientist not denigrate philosophy. I don't agree with Lawrence Krauss idea of philosophy and I did not personally appreciate his introduction in the new book with his attacks on philosophy but I understood why he said what he said and I really think his issue had to do with metaphysics.

      As with Harris, I think he gives philosophy much credit. All of his debates and lectures tackle philosophical issues he just back up his claim with hard science. I don't see how you could not get any more empirical. Being a neuroscientist he would have known that there is not a separate facility for reason and he would know that reason would have its bases in emotion but this still should not stop one from being reasonable.

      I think for Harris philosophy is important but I do agree with Carroll that philosophy is more important than science is giving it credit for. Once again I think this is an issue with philosophy and not necessarily one of science (unless you have scientist like Krauss).
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        May 21 2013: I agree with what you say. Science contributes to our understanding of the world and ourselves, and this understanding drives further research and social progress. It's philosophy right there - yin-yang type of relationship seen in many other questions - security vs. freedom, free will vs. determinism, emotion vs. reason, etc. I completely agree with Carroll when he says: " they are interesting questions to “raise,” but my own view is that the best answer is to promptly un-ask them. (Note that by now we’ve reached a purely philosophical issue, not a scientific one.)"

        The Carroll's article has a link to the interview with Krauss where the quotation "moronic philosophers" comes from which is relevant to this discussion http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2012/04/has-physics-made-philosophy-and-religion-obsolete/256203/ I think, Krauss is being deliberately provocative. It's his way to promote himself and his book and make people think along the way. That's fine.

        In my personal opinion, it's best when everyone "plows his own field" - scientists should not pretend to answer philosophical, religious, or moral questions; theologians should not mess with science or politics, etc. Most philosophers I know seem to know their place very well :-).
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        May 21 2013: My interest with TED also started with Harris's talk. Controversies and self-refuting ideas fascinate me. TED is full of them. Bible is full of them too. This is why I'm fascinated with religion as well. It makes me think despite the popular opinion that religion instills blind faith and obedience. I think, derogatory attitudes towards philosophy and religion come not from understanding, but from the lack of it.
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          May 23 2013: I read all this thread and I agree with what said here both by you and Orlando Hawkins. The very important & true point you wrote is worth to be stressed:

          "In my personal opinion, it's best when everyone "plows his own field" - scientists should should not pretend to answer philosophical, religious, or moral questions; theologians should not mess with science or politics, etc."

          About your last comment. Religions are considered to instill blind faith and obedience because the religions' institutionalized forms and their institutionalized followers had indeed imposed those blind faiths and obedience and they are still doing it. The originally pure and noble principles of the religions were trampled brutally by power and greed maniacs who established and maintained the institutionalized religions. So no wonder many people have bad attitude towards religions.

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