15 Replies to “Gregory’s view of science and its philosophy”

  1. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    Gregory: My approach to ‘science’ is closer to sociology of science (or STS), but it necessarily involves philosophy of science and I’ve studied this field and worked in it with some world class scholars.

    That comes across as name-dropping, but without the names.

    I earlier indicated that I am unimpressed by philosophy of science. I am likewise unimpressed by sociology of science, and for roughly the same reason. However, this does perhaps explain why you see ideology everywhere.

    In the USA, this can be seen in the move from Michael Ruse (1981, PoS) to Steve Fuller (2005, SoS) as ‘experts’ in your creationism/IDism schoolboard court showcases.

    I’m not a fan of either Ruse or Fuller.

    Yes, scientific theories are social constructs. But they are not the kind of social constructs that sociologists take them to be.

    What is important, however, is that PoS, and let’s go broader, HPSS, is quite seriously under-developed as a field of knowledge in the USA.

    Philosophy of science is bs. And so is the sociologist version of PoS.

    This partly accounts for why people say things like petrushka does, as if philosophy ought to be ridiculed, marginalised, beaten down as a slave for ‘science’ (the hand that rocks the cradle in a scientistic era) and that its only validity could be found *if* it ‘contributes to scientific discovery.’

    Or maybe petrushka is simply being honest about what he sees.

    I don’t expect philosophy to be a slave to science. I believe it has a different role. My criticism of philosophy, is that it is too strongly tied to tradition and that there is too much group-think.

    Does it occur to anyone that PoS might be ‘useful’ and ‘helpful’ for non-scientists too?

    It could be, if it were not done so badly.

    This is partly why I harp on ‘ideology’ – I think that distinguishing ideology from science, philosophy and theology/worldview will eventually help YECs discard their ignorant, anti-science position, which makes the USA, along with Turkey, a laughing stock on the world stage*.

    That seems rather naive.

  2. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t know about POS being a slave to science. I don’t even know what that means. If POS contributes anything to the accumulation of reliable knowledge, I’d like to see an instance.

    I could see philosophers being among the first to see the implications of major new theories, but only if their reading of the theory conforms to the science itself. Quite a challeng in physics. I think physicsts are way ahead of everyone in understanding what existence is made of — in part because there is no way to express the mathematics with metaphors without losing important stuff.

  3. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    One cannot be a philosopher of physics without understanding the physics, a philosopher of biology without understanding biology, etc. Anyone who thinks that philosophers of science don’t understand the relevant science doesn’t understand what philosophy of science is.

    Note that I myself don’t work in philosophy of science and don’t consider myself a philosopher of science.

  4. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Biology has had a fairly stable paradigm for many decades, modified incrementally in details.

    Physics has competing paradigms at its core. Biology asks questions about history that can be answered with some confidence, despite claims to the contrary. Physics can ask what it means for something to be real. Unfortunately it appears the answers are mathematical. Perhaps philosophers can referee attempts to explain physics to laymen.

  5. damitall2
    Ignored
    says:

    Regrettably, every time I see the acronym “POS”, my vulgar brain interprets it as “Pile Of Sh-t”.

    Too much exposure to the less erudite parts of the internet, I guess.

    (Note to philosopher-contributors; this is not to say that your posts are not interesting and mildly thought-provoking)

  6. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    You spoiled a perfectly good humor thread.

  7. damitall2
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    You spoiled a perfectly good humor thread.

    Oh? Do you mean that the thread is being conducted in a good-humoured way? or that it is intended to be humorous?
    Either way, I really don’t see that my admittedly very trivial contribution was capable of spoiling it!

  8. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I mean that I thought most people recognized the double entente.

  9. damitall2
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    I mean that I thought most people recognized the double entente.

    Oh? Do you mean “double entente” or “double entendre”?

    Either way, I suspect that the minds of one or more of our fellow posters of more serious and portentous philosophical mien skittered away from alternative readings of “POS”

    I will say, at risk of being as wrong as he who declaimed to the effect that “everything it is possible to invent has now been invented”, that everything it is possible to philosophise about in any meaningful way has now been philosophised to death.

  10. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Autocorrect. Don’t go to its room for drinks.

  11. hotshoe
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    Autocorrect. Don’t go to its room for drinks.

    Gods, no, never.

    Oh dear, where’s the tag to indicate that’s meant for humorous agreement with you, and not meant as a an admonishment for your (possible) allusion to our PoS skeptic leader(s) predatory behavior.

    Fie.

  12. Steve Schaffner
    Ignored
    says:

    Gregory:
    Let’s be clear: Not all Americans are dumbasses, obviously. That is not what I said. What is important, however, is that PoS, and let’s go broader, HPSS, is quite seriously under-developed as a field of knowledge in the USA. Do you wish to disagree, Steve?

    I’m in no position to either agree or disagree. I’m not a philosopher, am not well-read in their literature and know nothing of how American philosophers of science are viewed in the rest of the world. It is true that I am somewhat skeptical about your claim, since in the little reading I’ve done in PoS Americans seem well-represented, but that’s not much evidence.

    That, at least, is my initial reaction. But what you say next leaves me confused again:

    Very few natural-physical scientists have taken courses in HPSS, just like very few humanities scholars have done so. This partly accounts for why people say things like petrushka does, as if philosophy ought to be ridiculed, marginalised, beaten down as a slave for ‘science’ (the hand that rocks the cradle in a scientistic era) and that its only validity could be found *if* it ‘contributes to scientific discovery.’ Such a view demonstrates the grave problem facing a highly developed scientific and technological society such as the USA that has lost touch with wisdom, drowning in information.

    You present this as if it were evidence for the impoverishment of American philosophy of science as a field of knowledge, but the two seem unrelated to me. Here you’re talking not about whether philosophy of science is done well in the United States, but whether it is understood or highly esteemed by non-philosophers. Quite a different question. More specifically, I suppose, you think your own views on science and scientists are not held widely enough in the United States, since clearly not all philosophy of science meets your standards of acceptable views. That makes the question a little hard for me to answer, since I don’t know what exactly you think should be more widely understood and appreciated here.

    Some better understanding about science (rather than of its conclusions) would undoubtedly be good in many respects. I think it would be great if certain physicists would be more circumspect in making what amount to amateur philosophical pronouncements. (I doubt more exposure to philosophy would help much, however: physicists are notorious for viewing even other kinds of scientist with some disdain, and wittering philosophers would merit much less respect — but hey, at least they’re not sociologists.)

    I suppose the problem you suggest, that scientists are viewed as unimpeachable, god-like sources of wisdom, could also be addressed by more awareness of the history and sociology of science, except that the problem seems mostly nonexistent in the U.S., except perhaps among scientists themselves. The much larger problem here is groundless suspicion of any theoretical or abstract knowledge, and indeed of any kind of expertise. Anything that further fuels that suspicion strikes me as likely to do more harm than good.

    My own experiences have left me pretty jaundiced about the wisdom of academics paying much attention to philosophizing about their subject matter. I was in a PhD program in English literature at Yale in the early 80s, when deconstruction was still king there (if perhaps graying a bit around the temples by that time). I watched grad students, smart, passionate people who came in with a love for literature and for its study, turn into theory-junkies spouting impenetrable clouds of bullshit. It made me kind of leery of the whole thing.

    For myself, I don’t disdain philosophy of science, unlike some here. It mostly just doesn’t interest me. I’ve tried to be interested — I read Kuhn, Lakatos, a little Putnam, a little Polanyi, various others I don’t recall — but it left me cold. Sociology of science I started reading after a chance dinner with Trevor Pinch. I read some for a few years, and came away with the impression that is was mostly a perfectly reasonable kind of study that was usually done badly. I mostly read accounts of particle physics, since that was the field I was working in at the time, and the accounts were often simply wrong, wrong about the motivations of the scientists involved. (And no, I don’t mean that they were seeing beyond the scientists’ perceived motivations; the authors were plainly unaware of motivations that would have been clear to a physicist.) Not a large sample, to be sure, but nothing to make me see any value in pursuing it further. The history of science interests me, since I like both science and the larger history of ideas, and I read some from time to time.

    Does it occur to anyone that PoS might be ‘useful’ and ‘helpful’ for non-scientists too?

    Sure — roughly as often as it occurs to me that trapeze artists might useful and helpful outside a circus. Seriously. Other than when reading somebody like Lawrence Krauss, it never occurs to me, “Hey, we could really use a philosopher of science here.” I see plenty of problems with the relationship between science and the larger public, but very few of them involve issues that philosophers like to talk about.

    ETA: One other thing . . . I’ve collaborated with hundreds of scientists from all over the world, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a a greater degree of philosophical sophistication in those from outside the U.S. There are notable cultural differences (e.g. Italian physicists argue more loudly and have a lot more fun in general), but no obvious differences in their approach to science.

  13. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    The first thing needed is a philosopher who isn’t besotted with academic prose. Someone who can relate his concerns to the lives of non-academics.

    Science is blessed with people like Gamow, Gould, Sagan — writers who could light a fire. Aside from Russell, I can’t name a philosopher who has appealed to the unwashed masses. Someone who inspired teenagers to become philosophers.

  14. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka: Science is blessed with people like Gamow, Gould, Sagan — writers who could light a fire. Aside from Russell, I can’t name a philosopher who has appealed to the unwashed masses. Someone who inspired teenagers to become philosophers.

    Those people certainly exist, but they aren’t as widely-read as they could be. I was introduced to philosophy when I started reading Walter Kauffmann in high school. Other philosophers who I think are highly accessible would include Albert Camus, Jose Ortega y Gassett, William James, and (believe it or not) Plato — if one uses a good, recent translation. And there’s no shortage of really good movies and music that explore complicated philosophical questions. The philosophical equivalent of Gould and Sagan is definitely out there — it’s just not acknowledged.

  15. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Philosophy would appear to be the love of wisdom.

    Abandon the desire for love and wisdom and no wonder philosophy is in decline.

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