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I recently heard it claimed that objectivity in science requires direct

I recently heard it claimed that objectivity in science requires direct measurement of all variables of interest, because we can only validate an indirect measure, or estimate, of some variable by comparing it to direct measurement; without such calibration, a proxy measure is empirically meaningless. I think the latter claim is false (and hence, so is the first). Suppose that in some empirical situation we have reason to believe there is a natural quantity X, the value of which we cannot measured directly, but we have some proxy measure Y which we hypothesise is proportional to X. We also find that the value of Y correlate with directly measurable variables A, B and C, which are believed, on sound theoretical grounds (i.e., parsimoniously consistent with all relevant evidence), to be determined by X. I think this would justify taking Y to be a useful estimate of X, absent evidence to the contrary. I suspect that there are many examples of this kind of reasoning in many different areas of science. I...

Your specific argument in terms of X, Y, A, B, C doesn't quite work. I don't know what it means to say that "the value of Y correlates with directly measureable variables A, B, C"

I think that your overall point is fine. Our measurement of many scientific quantities e.g. Avogadro's number, Planck's constant is indirect, and calculated from direct measurements. That does not mean that these measurements are infallible--both direct and indirect measurements can be erroneous.

It is also worth worrying a bit about what is meant by a "direct" measurement: does it have to be something we can see unaided, or can it be something we can "see" or "detect" through an instrument? There may be no important distinction between direct and indirect measurement.

Your specific argument in terms of X, Y, A, B, C doesn't quite work. I don't know what it means to say that "the value of Y correlates with directly measureable variables A, B, C" I think that your overall point is fine. Our measurement of many scientific quantities e.g. Avogadro's number, Planck's constant is indirect, and calculated from direct measurements. That does not mean that these measurements are infallible--both direct and indirect measurements can be erroneous. It is also worth worrying a bit about what is meant by a "direct" measurement: does it have to be something we can see unaided, or can it be something we can "see" or "detect" through an instrument? There may be no important distinction between direct and indirect measurement.

Which branches of philosophy are more likely to be made redundant due to

Which branches of philosophy are more likely to be made redundant due to advances in science, and which ones are more likely to endure despite major advances in science? Joe W.

If we could answer your question, we would be able to predict the future direction of science. But science is full of surprises. Moreover, what gets called "science" (or math or logic) and what gets called "philosophy" is to some degree arbitrary. I don't think disciplinary boundaries are very important. What I do think is important is the questions themselves. So why not ask the questions and not worry about whether they are "science" or "philosophy"?

If we could answer your question, we would be able to predict the future direction of science. But science is full of surprises. Moreover, what gets called "science" (or math or logic) and what gets called "philosophy" is to some degree arbitrary. I don't think disciplinary boundaries are very important. What I do think is important is the questions themselves. So why not ask the questions and not worry about whether they are "science" or "philosophy"?

It is commonly believed that what falls under the domain of science is what is

It is commonly believed that what falls under the domain of science is what is "objective". I put "objective" in quotation marks for the following reasons: everything we perceive is not immune to our circumstances, for example, the school we went, the home we grew up in, our interests and beliefs, what book we read recently, who our friends are... (I could go on and on), secondly, we perceive everything through our mind, or consciousness, which is widely considered subjective. So here is my question: How can we consider something that we perceive to be objective, if we perceive it through something that is, if not completely, in many ways, subjective? (The quote from the Woody Allen movie "Love and Death" comes to mind: Subjectivity is objective. If it is, then how? Or is it objectivity that is subjective? Or neither?)

You are right that science is often described as an "objective" pursuit. But the word "objective" has multiple meanings. It could mean independent of the specific characteristics of particular individuals, or independent of the general characteristics of human minds more generally. It could mean "standardized"; it could mean "reasonable"; it could mean "true." The kind of paradoxes about objectivity that you are thinking about typically result (in my opinion) from unclarity or equivocation on the word "objective." Best to pick a specific meaning and stick with it, or (my preference) avoid the use of the term altogether. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison's 2007 book "Objectivity" describes the historical emergence of our ideas about objectivity.

You are right that science is often described as an "objective" pursuit. But the word "objective" has multiple meanings. It could mean independent of the specific characteristics of particular individuals, or independent of the general characteristics of human minds more generally. It could mean "standardized"; it could mean "reasonable"; it could mean "true." The kind of paradoxes about objectivity that you are thinking about typically result (in my opinion) from unclarity or equivocation on the word "objective." Best to pick a specific meaning and stick with it, or (my preference) avoid the use of the term altogether. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison's 2007 book "Objectivity" describes the historical emergence of our ideas about objectivity.

In regards to deductivism and the work of Karl Popper, it's possible to deduce

In regards to deductivism and the work of Karl Popper, it's possible to deduce statements which are consistent with science's current understanding of something. These statements are hypotheses and some are testable, and hence scientific, and others are not testable, and hence they are unscientific. It seems to me in economics the profession is fond of deducing many statements from their models which are untestable. What is the purpose of this exercise? What can be the goal of deducing untestable statements other than to eventually arrive at something which is testable? Is there a word for these untestable statements besides "unscientific hypotheses?" Thank you.

Karl Popper thought that theories (hypotheses) could be tested by using them to deduce testable consequences. Many theories and hypotheses are quite abstract (physics and economics are good examples of abstract theories) and other assumptions are often needed in order to use them to deduce testable consequences. That's fine--the assumptions just need to be stated in advance and to be plausible. Popper would say that when e.g. economic theories are used to make predictions about the market, they are indeed testable, because the predictions can fail. Popper would have trouble with economists who make predictions which fail and who then don't take the failure seriously enough. Failed predictions point to the falsity of either the theory or the assumptions. Dogmatic scientists (those who want to defend their pet theories past the point of plausibility) always blame the assumptions, even when this is implausible. Popper urges scientists to consider blaming their own theories for failed predictions. If they are not willing to blame their own theories, then they are not really testing them.

Karl Popper thought that theories (hypotheses) could be tested by using them to deduce testable consequences. Many theories and hypotheses are quite abstract (physics and economics are good examples of abstract theories) and other assumptions are often needed in order to use them to deduce testable consequences. That's fine--the assumptions just need to be stated in advance and to be plausible. Popper would say that when e.g. economic theories are used to make predictions about the market, they are indeed testable, because the predictions can fail. Popper would have trouble with economists who make predictions which fail and who then don't take the failure seriously enough. Failed predictions point to the falsity of either the theory or the assumptions. Dogmatic scientists (those who want to defend their pet theories past the point of plausibility) always blame the assumptions, even when this is implausible. Popper urges scientists to consider blaming their own theories for failed predictions. If...

Karl Popper thought that theories (hypotheses) could be tested by using them to deduce testable consequences. Many theories and hypotheses are quite abstract (physics and economics are good examples of abstract theories) and other assumptions are often needed in order to use them to deduce testable consequences. That's fine--the assumptions just need to be stated in advance and to be plausible. Popper would say that when e.g. economic theories are used to make predictions about the market, they are indeed testable, because the predictions can fail. Popper would have trouble with economists who make predictions which fail and who then don't take the failure seriously enough. Failed predictions point to the falsity of either the theory or the assumptions. Dogmatic scientists (those who want to defend their pet theories past the point of plausibility) always blame the assumptions, even when this is implausible. Popper urges scientists to consider blaming their own theories for failed predictions. If...

I am relatively new to philosophy, as I am in an introductory philosophy class.

I am relatively new to philosophy, as I am in an introductory philosophy class. My question is what made Francis Bacon's scientific method scientific since he was a lawyer or more into politics being he was more a political person than a scientist? I guess what I am saying is why is Francis Bacon's scientific method considered more scientific than it was political? Thank you.

Francis Bacon advocated the use of inductive reasoning in science. Inductive reasoning is going from particular observations to general conclusions. It is an empiricist method, and contrasts with the more rationalist methods of the time, such as the work of Descartes. Is there is a political dimension to the logic of inductive reasoning (or to its specific implementations)? You'd have to make that case; prima facie, going from specific observations to general claims is a logical/methodological rather than a political method.

Francis Bacon advocated the use of inductive reasoning in science. Inductive reasoning is going from particular observations to general conclusions. It is an empiricist method, and contrasts with the more rationalist methods of the time, such as the work of Descartes. Is there is a political dimension to the logic of inductive reasoning (or to its specific implementations)? You'd have to make that case; prima facie, going from specific observations to general claims is a logical/methodological rather than a political method.

Is it possible to make scientific observations through armchair philosophy while

Is it possible to make scientific observations through armchair philosophy while bypassing the scientific method? For example, a caveman with a powerful brain might have been able to hypothesize and describe in detail what radio is despite not a single radio message even being sent until tens of thousands of years later. Wasn't that caveman right anyway that radio does exist even though he had no way to prove it? Isn't much of metaphysics like this too?

It is possible to dream up hypotheses in an armchair. But our imagination is limited (especially if we spend too much time in an armchair!) and of course we can't gather evidence for or against a hypothesis without doing some observation or experimentation. We might even dream up a correct hypothesis--but its correctness would be a matter of luck, and we could not know whether or not it was correct. So, the Greek philosopher Democritus, for example, was correct in thinking that there were atoms, but he just got lucky (he had no idea of the size of atoms or the nature of atoms and did not make any telling observations). Those who do metaphysics often claim that they are doing something different from science, such as exploring reason, or analysis of concepts, such that an armchair is the best place to do it. Some philosophers (e.g. W.V. Quine) think that all knowledge needs to be empirically engaged, and they reject metaphysics that is uninformed by observation or experiment.

It is possible to dream up hypotheses in an armchair. But our imagination is limited (especially if we spend too much time in an armchair!) and of course we can't gather evidence for or against a hypothesis without doing some observation or experimentation. We might even dream up a correct hypothesis--but its correctness would be a matter of luck, and we could not know whether or not it was correct. So, the Greek philosopher Democritus, for example, was correct in thinking that there were atoms, but he just got lucky (he had no idea of the size of atoms or the nature of atoms and did not make any telling observations). Those who do metaphysics often claim that they are doing something different from science, such as exploring reason, or analysis of concepts, such that an armchair is the best place to do it. Some philosophers (e.g. W.V. Quine) think that all knowledge needs to be empirically engaged, and they reject metaphysics that is uninformed by observation or experiment.

Is the claim that all scientists believe in man made global warming and thus so

Is the claim that all scientists believe in man made global warming and thus so should you an illegitimate appeal to authority?

It is certainly an appeal to authority to argue that you should believe in anthropogenic global warming because all (or most) scientists do! Of course, the question is, why are scientists in (almost complete) agreement? It might be because the evidence is overwhelming, but it also could be for other reasons such as peer pressure, politics, intimidation etc. So the important issue is WHY the scientists agree and, to figure this out, you need to dig more deeply into the science and the politics. You might say (if you were generally trusting of scientists)--it is a legitimate appeal to authority, but authority is fallible.

It is certainly an appeal to authority to argue that you should believe in anthropogenic global warming because all (or most) scientists do! Of course, the question is, why are scientists in (almost complete) agreement? It might be because the evidence is overwhelming, but it also could be for other reasons such as peer pressure, politics, intimidation etc. So the important issue is WHY the scientists agree and, to figure this out, you need to dig more deeply into the science and the politics. You might say (if you were generally trusting of scientists)--it is a legitimate appeal to authority, but authority is fallible.

I have a question about what one might call "scientific astrology."

I have a question about what one might call "scientific astrology." "Astrology" as a predictive indicator, let's assume for discussion, has been discredited. "Astrology" as a coincident indicator, perhaps, let's not be too hasty. Imagine first an agrarian society barely above subsistence level. In the spring, everyone is out in the fields, including newborn infants in their equivalent of strollers or baby seats. In the winter, everyone is indoors all day. Recent psychological evidence seems to indicate that the development of people's personalities might be heavily influenced by their early childhood environment. So wouldn't the conjunction of these two observations provide a grounds upon which some form of astrology - not as causative, but as correlative - might actually have empirical evidence to support it?

You suggest that personality might be dependent on the time of year at which one is born, but for reasons other than the positions of the stars. That's a reasonable hypothesis with various possible mechanisms (you suggest the annual cycles of indoor and outdoor living plus some unstated human developmental mechanisms that are sensitive to external climate during specific intervals in infancy). No such mechanisms have been detected yet, but they shouldn't be ruled out a priori. But why call this theory "scientific astrology"? It has very little in common with astrology, which, at the very least, is about the influence of stars on human lives. They simply make some of the same predictions.

You suggest that personality might be dependent on the time of year at which one is born, but for reasons other than the positions of the stars. That's a reasonable hypothesis with various possible mechanisms (you suggest the annual cycles of indoor and outdoor living plus some unstated human developmental mechanisms that are sensitive to external climate during specific intervals in infancy). No such mechanisms have been detected yet, but they shouldn't be ruled out a priori. But why call this theory "scientific astrology"? It has very little in common with astrology, which, at the very least, is about the influence of stars on human lives. They simply make some of the same predictions.

You suggest that personality might be dependent on the time of year at which one is born, but for reasons other than the positions of the stars. That's a reasonable hypothesis with various possible mechanisms (you suggest the annual cycles of indoor and outdoor living plus some unstated human developmental mechanisms that are sensitive to external climate during specific intervals in infancy). No such mechanisms have been detected yet, but they shouldn't be ruled out a priori. But why call this theory "scientific astrology"? It has very little in common with astrology, which, at the very least, is about the influence of stars on human lives. They simply make some of the same predictions.

Sigmund Freud told of a Jewish women who dreamt that a stranger handed her a

Sigmund Freud told of a Jewish women who dreamt that a stranger handed her a comb. The women desired to marry a Christian man which triggered an emotional argument with her mother on the night prior to her dream. When Freud asked her what memories she associated with the word comb the woman told him that once her mother had once told her not to use a separate comb because she would "mix the breed." Freud then revealed that the meaning of the dream was an expression of her own latent wish to "mix the breed." Examples such as this seem like very persuasive evidence of Freud's theory that dreams are a form of wish fulfilment but many scientists and philosophers of science say that Freud's theories can't be scientifically falsified or that he lacks scientific evidence. But what constitutes scientific evidence? Surely Freud is a scientist because he grounds his theories in specific empirical clinical examples that he expresses clearly in a way that even the most uneducated person can understand them? The...

I don't myself think the term 'scientific' is a scientific term, nor have philosophers, such as Grunbaum or anyone else given it a very interesting or useful interpretation. Freud had a lot of ideas. So do contemporary psychoanalysts 100 years on. Psychoanalysis is no monolith. We can ask of any of the many many claims that psychoanalysts have made (under the heading of psychoanalysis, forgetting about what they say about other things): are they well backed by evidence and argument? Do they prove clinically useful and successful. Asking those questions is useful and interesting. Asking whether psychoanalysis is scientific is not.

You are right that some philosophers have dismissed Freud's ideas on the grounds that they are "not scientific." I agree with you that this judgment is too harsh. Freudian interpretations are theories for which there can be evidence for or against. In practice, however, traditional Freudian analysts have been rather quick to accept and reject theories based on little evidence and much "intuitive plausibility." They have not considered that other interpretations of behavior and dreams may be equally likely. The philosopher of science Adolf Grunbaum thinks that the science of psychoanalysis is so sloppy that it should be thought of as "unscientific" or "pseudoscientic." But not all philosophers of science or psychologists reject psychoanalysis. Some think that Freud's specific account (in terms of id, ego, superego) is not as well confirmed as some other accounts (e.g. object relations theory).

Why are scientists so keen on unification in their theories? Do we have reason

Why are scientists so keen on unification in their theories? Do we have reason to think that unified theories are likely to be correct? Or are they just desirable for other reasons--convenience, aesthetics, etc.?

SOME scientists are keen on unification--and some are not. Philosophers of science have generally focussed on unification, typically viewing unified theories as more deeply explanatory (e.g. Hempel, Kitcher) or just as simpler or more elegant (e.g. Van Fraassen, Quine), and many scientists--particularly physicists--have expressed similar views. More recently philosophers of science, especially those working in areas of philosophy of biology, psychology and the social sciences have argued that our best theories are, and should be, disunified (John Dupre's "The Disunity of Science" was one of the early works on disunity; a more recent work on disunity in biology is Sandra Mitchell's "Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism". Scientists themselves sometimes say that they are eclectic in methodology and/or theory, indicating that they work in a pluralistic and disunified framework.

SOME scientists are keen on unification--and some are not. Philosophers of science have generally focussed on unification, typically viewing unified theories as more deeply explanatory (e.g. Hempel, Kitcher) or just as simpler or more elegant (e.g. Van Fraassen, Quine), and many scientists--particularly physicists--have expressed similar views. More recently philosophers of science, especially those working in areas of philosophy of biology, psychology and the social sciences have argued that our best theories are, and should be, disunified (John Dupre's "The Disunity of Science" was one of the early works on disunity; a more recent work on disunity in biology is Sandra Mitchell's "Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism". Scientists themselves sometimes say that they are eclectic in methodology and/or theory, indicating that they work in a pluralistic and disunified framework.

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