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My question is: does naturalism lead to scientific anti-realism? From a

My question is: does naturalism lead to scientific anti-realism? From a naturalistic perspective, there does not seem to be any Archimedean point from which to get an objective view - there is no ultimate meaning maker who can offer a “God’s eye view” of reality. Therefore, if one assumes philosophical naturalism, one must also deny the ability of science to provide objective information about the world. To quote Hannah Arendt, from a naturalistic perspective, “man can only get lost in the immensity of the universe, for the only true Archimedean point would be the absolute void behind the universe.” I really don’t see any way around this. Science, if understood as the pursuit of objective knowledge, can only stand on the shoulders of theism.

I confess I don't see a skeptical problem here.

It's true that any perspective I could occupy, no matter how broad, will be my perspective when I occupy it. But that truth is just a tautology: it's implied by everything, including by theism as much as by naturalism. It makes no difference to either of those positions.

Importantly, it doesn't imply that I can't achieve objective knowledge. From my perspective, elephants are bigger than mice: I perceive them that way. The fact that I perceive things that way doesn't imply that elephants aren't objectively bigger than mice, i.e., bigger than mice regardless of anyone's perception of them. Nor does it imply that I can't know that they're objectively bigger. To the objection, "But how can you know that you know this about elephants and mice?" one can reply with one's favorite theory of knowledge, which will explain how one knows anything, including how one knows that one knows that elephants are bigger than mice.

In short, I don't see how the inescapability of perspective implies the impossibility of objective knowledge, i.e., knowledge of facts that are facts independently of one's perspective.

I confess I don't see a skeptical problem here. It's true that any perspective I could occupy, no matter how broad, will be my perspective when I occupy it. But that truth is just a tautology: it's implied by everything, including by theism as much as by naturalism. It makes no difference to either of those positions. Importantly, it doesn't imply that I can't achieve objective knowledge. From my perspective, elephants are bigger than mice: I perceive them that way. The fact that I perceive things that way doesn't imply that elephants aren't objectively bigger than mice, i.e., bigger than mice regardless of anyone's perception of them. Nor does it imply that I can't know that they're objectively bigger. To the objection, "But how can you know that you know this about elephants and mice?" one can reply with one's favorite theory of knowledge, which will explain how one knows anything, including how one knows that one knows that elephants are bigger than mice. In short, I don't see...

For years, scientists like Stephen Hawking have made claims, maintaining that

For years, scientists like Stephen Hawking have made claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity. But could Hawking's claim is be misguided? He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict. But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions. What Hawking appears to have done is to make a category mistake and to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not...

There's a lot going on in your question, and I doubt that my response will cover all of it. But I'll say, first, that it begs the question against Hawking to demand that he explain "the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world" if by "creativity" you mean something beyond the everyday creativity acknowledged by both sides of the debate (such as the creativity of human agents). Hawking doesn't accept the assumption that (for example) the laws of physics are the result of someone's creativity.

Second, Hawking would likely question your inference from the premise "All created things, such as the jet engine, require creators" to the conclusion "The laws of physics require a creator." The premise is true, but it doesn't imply the conclusion.

Third, it's not clear from your description of Hawking's view that he alleges a conflict between theism and the laws of physics. Rather, if I understand your description, Hawking claims that theism isn't necessary to explain what we observe. Now, if Hawking adds a premise to the effect that any hypothesis is false if it isn't necessary to explain what we observe, then he can generate a conflict. But such a premise is way too strong to be plausible.

Fourth, you appeal to the "sophistication" of the laws of physics as evidence of God's genius in creating them. But physicists prefer the simpler (and in that sense less sophisticated) of two hypotheses that predict the data equally well. You might reply that it's therefore the simplicity of the laws that suggests God's creative genius, but it can't be both the simplicity of the laws and their sophistication (non-simplicity) that does.

There's a lot going on in your question, and I doubt that my response will cover all of it. But I'll say, first, that it begs the question against Hawking to demand that he explain "the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world" if by "creativity" you mean something beyond the everyday creativity acknowledged by both sides of the debate (such as the creativity of human agents). Hawking doesn't accept the assumption that (for example) the laws of physics are the result of someone's creativity. Second, Hawking would likely question your inference from the premise "All created things, such as the jet engine, require creators" to the conclusion "The laws of physics require a creator." The premise is true, but it doesn't imply the conclusion. Third, it's not clear from your description of Hawking's view that he alleges a conflict between theism and the laws of physics. Rather, if I understand your description, Hawking claims that theism isn't necessary to explain what we observe. Now, if...

Why do scientists seem to dislike philosophy so much? (For example Neil deGrasse

Why do scientists seem to dislike philosophy so much? (For example Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss). Even Dawkins seems to have joined the club (which is odd given he now seems to spend most of his time making what seem to me to be fairly clearly philosophical arguments). Is it simply that they are using different definitions of the word than philosophy professors? Are they generally attacking just bad philosophy and taking that unrepresentative sample? Do they mean philosophy as in "that thing taught in philosophy departments" or some more abstract notion about the relations of ideas? I really don't understand what their problem is with philosophy (and why they don't define their terms)...

I'm not sure why Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Dawkins, Coyne, Feynman, et al., express so much contempt for philosophy. But my best guess is that they're ignorant -- unaware -- of what philosophy is when it's done well, perhaps because they received little or no academic training in philosophy when they were undergraduate students. (By the time they reached graduate school in the sciences, it may have been too late for them to get that training even if they had been interested in getting it.)

I don't think they're using different definitions, at least not systematically. Krauss does claim that physics has redefined the words "something" and "nothing," but I think he's deeply mistaken (see Question 4759). In general, I find that when non-philosophers, including scientists, reason about philosophical issues, they do so sloppily: making elementary mistakes in inference, conflating concepts that ought to be kept distinct, and so on. That's unfortunate but not surprising, since reasoning well about philosophical issues takes training: why shouldn't it? My sense is that their rigorous training was focused very narrowly on particular topics in physics or biology, and outside that narrow range they're no better reasoners than the average person -- and perhaps worse, because the deference they've been accorded as scientists has made them overconfident (hence insufficiently careful) about topics outside their specialties. Nor do I think that they're attacking just bad philosophy, because I'm not convinced that they can distinguish bad philosophy from good.

You'll find these complaints raised elsewhere on this site, including at Question 4552 and Question 4636.

I'm not sure why Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Dawkins, Coyne, Feynman, et al. , express so much contempt for philosophy. But my best guess is that they're ignorant -- unaware -- of what philosophy is when it's done well, perhaps because they received little or no academic training in philosophy when they were undergraduate students. (By the time they reached graduate school in the sciences, it may have been too late for them to get that training even if they had been interested in getting it.) I don't think they're using different definitions, at least not systematically. Krauss does claim that physics has redefined the words "something" and "nothing," but I think he's deeply mistaken (see Question 4759 ). In general, I find that when non-philosophers, including scientists, reason about philosophical issues, they do so sloppily: making elementary mistakes in inference, conflating concepts that ought to be kept distinct, and so on. That's unfortunate but not surprising, since reasoning well about...

Does the acceptance of scientific naturalism commit one to the view that the

Does the acceptance of scientific naturalism commit one to the view that the universe is devoid of all meaning?

There are at least two ways to interpret your question:

(1) Does scientific naturalism imply that no meaning at all exists anywhere in the universe?

(2) Does scientific naturalism imply that the universe itself has no meaning?

I think the answer to (1) is pretty clearly no. By "scientific naturalism," I presume you mean the denial of supernaturalism, i.e., the denial that any nonphysical minds or causes exist. On that reading, scientific naturalism is compatible with the fact that you meant something by your question (your question isn't meaningless) and the fact that I mean something by this answer to it. Nor does scientific naturalism imply that nothing is ever non-linguistically meaningful: it allows that an experience (say, of great music) can be meaningful to someone. What holds for the concept of meaning holds, I'd say, for the concept of purpose as well.

I think the answer to (2) is pretty clearly yes. But what could it mean, anyway, to say that the universe itself has some meaning? The universe isn't literally a linguistic item that could be linguistically meaningful, nor is it literally an experience that could be meaningful to one of its inhabitants. What's probably meant, instead, is that the universe as a whole has some purpose. My sense is that people who want the universe as a whole to have some purpose think that a "cosmic purpose" would put an end to questions of the form "Why bother?" or "What's so great about that?" -- questions whose persistence troubles them. In this short magazine article, I argue that they're mistaken.

There are at least two ways to interpret your question: (1) Does scientific naturalism imply that no meaning at all exists anywhere in the universe? (2) Does scientific naturalism imply that the universe itself has no meaning? I think the answer to (1) is pretty clearly no . By "scientific naturalism," I presume you mean the denial of supernaturalism , i.e., the denial that any nonphysical minds or causes exist. On that reading, scientific naturalism is compatible with the fact that you meant something by your question (your question isn't meaningless) and the fact that I mean something by this answer to it. Nor does scientific naturalism imply that nothing is ever non-linguistically meaningful: it allows that an experience (say, of great music) can be meaningful to someone. What holds for the concept of meaning holds, I'd say, for the concept of purpose as well. I think the answer to (2) is pretty clearly yes . But what could it mean, anyway, to say that the universe itself has...

It seems to me that today's rationality is completely irrational in a sense that

It seems to me that today's rationality is completely irrational in a sense that it attacks everything that is not rational. But who define what is rational? For example, many people like to back up their beliefs by scientific arguments or by pointing on the bad parts of religion. Yet in 19. century frenology was considered science. Today we call it pseudoscience. Is it lacking humility for most people or something else that they cannot accept that in 200 years people will laugh at our modern "science"? And, if we are so deeply influenced by beliefs of our times why wouldnt relativism allow for more open minded approach in a sense that it would allow people to believe anything they want (without the need for justification) instead of using relativism primarily for attacking "old" beliefs (example would be the view that christianity is obsolete)?

Your comment seems to be in tension with itself. You end it by suggesting that we adopt a version of relativism "that...would allow people to believe anything they want (without the need for justification)." Yet you begin your comment by apparently condemning, as "completely irrational," the beliefs of those who think pseudoscience or religion are irrational. I don't think you can have it both ways: relativism for their judgments, objectivism for your own. You ask, "Who defines what is rational?" I take it you have some definition in mind when you describe critics of pseudoscience and religion as "completely irrational."

Relativism has an undeserved reputation for being open-minded. Those who think that they can "believe anything they want (without the need for justification)" should feel no pressure to keep their minds open to any evidence or arguments against what they believe.

Your comment seems to be in tension with itself. You end it by suggesting that we adopt a version of relativism "that...would allow people to believe anything they want (without the need for justification)." Yet you begin your comment by apparently condemning, as "completely irrational," the beliefs of those who think pseudoscience or religion are irrational. I don't think you can have it both ways: relativism for their judgments, objectivism for your own. You ask, "Who defines what is rational?" I take it you have some definition in mind when you describe critics of pseudoscience and religion as "completely irrational." Relativism has an undeserved reputation for being open-minded. Those who think that they can "believe anything they want (without the need for justification)" should feel no pressure to keep their minds open to any evidence or arguments against what they believe.

Are empirical questions inherently non-philosophical? If answers to those

Are empirical questions inherently non-philosophical? If answers to those questions can be determined by polling or science, should philosophers never address them?

Your question touches on a current debate within philosophy. You can find more about the debate by searching under "experimental philosophy" and "x-phi" on the web. Regardless of which side one takes, however, it's always important to know which kind of question (empirical, conceptual, logical, normative, or a mixture of those) one is trying to answer: the answer to "Which kind of question is that?" is a philosophical matter.

In my experience, philosophers too often fail to recognize that the question they're asking has empirical aspects -- aspects that, as philosophers, they're not trained to investigate. If a question can be answered by polling or some other empirical method, then any philosopher who tries to answer it had better be properly trained in the relevant empirical method. Once the empirical results are in, the implications of those results are something that philosophers, as such, are well-equipped to work on.

Your question touches on a current debate within philosophy. You can find more about the debate by searching under "experimental philosophy" and "x-phi" on the web. Regardless of which side one takes, however, it's always important to know which kind of question (empirical, conceptual, logical, normative, or a mixture of those) one is trying to answer: the answer to "Which kind of question is that?" is a philosophical matter. In my experience, philosophers too often fail to recognize that the question they're asking has empirical aspects -- aspects that, as philosophers, they're not trained to investigate. If a question can be answered by polling or some other empirical method, then any philosopher who tries to answer it had better be properly trained in the relevant empirical method. Once the empirical results are in, the implications of those results are something that philosophers, as such, are well-equipped to work on.

Would it be fair to say that philosophy is a manipulation of words, and that

Would it be fair to say that philosophy is a manipulation of words, and that scientists deal with the relationship between language and extra-language observations? Thus "truth" would primarily be a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist. In the non-language (empirical) world truth would be infrequent because be empirical observations can rarely be one hundred percent verified.

To be candid, your question seems to embody some confusions. I'll try to address them in this reply.

1. I think it's fair to regard philosophy as the analysis (if you like, the logical manipulation) of concepts, although that view of philosophy is rejected by some philosophers. In any case, concepts can be expressed in any number of languages, so I wouldn't regard philosophy as the manipulation of words as such.

2. Scientists, as far as I can tell, don't in general examine the relationship between language and extralinguistic observations. Instead they try to explain or predict patterns of observations in as unified and elegant a way as they can manage.

3. I don't see how it follows ("Thus") from your first sentence that "truth [is] primarily a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist." First, what does "consistency between words" mean? Are "red" and "colorless" mutually inconsistent words because red and colorless are mutually inconsistent concepts? Second, more than consistency between concepts is required for truth: gold and mountain are mutually consistent concepts, but that doesn't make it true that a gold mountain exists.

4. Your last sentence seems to assume that the existence of true statements requires verification by empirical observations (whether 100% verification or not). That assumption seems to be a version of verificationism (discussed here), and it seems wrong. We ordinarily think of verifying an empirical statement as ascertaining or confirming its truth, not as making the statement true in the first place. (If quantum mechanics says otherwise, it departs from our ordinary way of thinking.) Most philosophers would deny that truth must be verified in order to exist, let alone that it must be verified with certainty in order to exist.

To be candid, your question seems to embody some confusions. I'll try to address them in this reply. 1. I think it's fair to regard philosophy as the analysis (if you like, the logical manipulation) of concepts , although that view of philosophy is rejected by some philosophers. In any case, concepts can be expressed in any number of languages, so I wouldn't regard philosophy as the manipulation of words as such. 2. Scientists, as far as I can tell, don't in general examine the relationship between language and extralinguistic observations. Instead they try to explain or predict patterns of observations in as unified and elegant a way as they can manage. 3. I don't see how it follows ("Thus") from your first sentence that "truth [is] primarily a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist." First, what does "consistency between words" mean? Are "red" and "colorless" mutually inconsistent words because red and colorless are...

I'm attending a lecture on the philosophy of science, and our professor told us

I'm attending a lecture on the philosophy of science, and our professor told us yesterday that "we constantly rely on inductive reasoning all the time in our lives, such as when we assume that the floor won't suddenly collapse beneath our feet if we walk forwards." This struck me as odd. Is it accurate to say we "assume" such a thing? It seems to me that we don't even think about these things at all, much less try to justify any such assumptions - saying we're relying on some kind of argumentation seems like a stretch, but perhaps it isn't. Is everything we do, then, the result of certain processes of reasoning? Or are there things we just do without any reasoning to support them?

Hm, I wonder if you were in MY early modern class (where I use this example with Hume ....!) In any case I might only add to Stephen's reply that one small test that we are making an implicit assumption P is to imagine, for a moment, that we didn't believe the proposition P in question -- if we tell ourselves (if we assume) "the floor WILL give out if I walk forwards" then we pretty clearly wouldn't walk forwards, which suggests that the fact that we ordinarily DO walk forwards was relying on the assumption that the floor would NOT give out .... (And of course once we admit to ourselves our implicit assumptions, we might then examine the origin/source of the assumptions, such as some implicit process of inductive reasoning ....)

ap

You wrote, "Is it accurate to say that we 'assume' such a thing?" I don't think it's part of the concept of an assumption that all assumptions are explicit or top-of-mind when we make them. Some assumptions are merely implicit, unstated, tacit. That's why the phrase "implicit assumption" isn't a contradiction in terms. So the inductive assumptions that we make could be mostly or entirely implicit, and it may be only when such an assumption proves wrong -- for instance, when the floorboard gives out -- that we realize we were making the assumption in the first place. I think your professor is right that we do rely on inductive assumptions all the time, almost always implicitly. Philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) famously argued that we rely on inductive reasoning all the time even though we have no good reason to trust it. See also this link: http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/4574 .

Stephen Hawking, in his recent book entitled The Grand Design, states that

Stephen Hawking, in his recent book entitled The Grand Design, states that philosophy is dead. Without going into the reasons behind his thinking, I'd like to know the response of current philosophers to Hawking's statement. He has laid down a gauntlet of sorts, a challenge to philosophers to make their work relevant to the recent advances and discoveries made by cosmologists, astrophysicists, and others on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and investigation. Are present-day philosophers up to Hawking's challenge?

Scientists who write obituaries for philosophy forget that science depends on philosophical assumptions. When some lab results or observations of the visible universe confirm or disconfirm a prediction in physics, Hawking and colleagues draw conclusions about the whole universe. But does any set of observations justify conclusions about unobserved cases? Is "elegance" an objective feature of a theory, and does it make a theory having it more likely to be true? And so on. Philosophers grapple with these questions; scientists just presume answers to them. Unless we ignore such questions, philosophizing is inescapable.

Scientists who write obituaries for philosophy forget that science depends on philosophical assumptions. When some lab results or observations of the visible universe confirm or disconfirm a prediction in physics, Hawking and colleagues draw conclusions about the whole universe. But does any set of observations justify conclusions about unobserved cases? Is "elegance" an objective feature of a theory, and does it make a theory having it more likely to be true? And so on. Philosophers grapple with these questions; scientists just presume answers to them. Unless we ignore such questions, philosophizing is inescapable.

Is modern philosophy too abstract? I mean when it asks questions about being

Is modern philosophy too abstract? I mean when it asks questions about being does it ask questions that about any kind of being when perhaps it could be asking question about the particular kind of being that we live in? I guess you could say the answer is no because philosophers deal with questions about science and science is about the world we live in. But is the kind of being of science the only "concrete" form of being that philosophers can ask about? I personally think that their is more to being than either physics or hyper-abstractions that only look at being in terms of temporarily, causality and quantity, etc. Is a disagreement about what we think is "being" perhaps one of the central splits between analytic and "continental" philosophy?

I tend to use the noun 'being' as a count noun: You and I are both beings; maybe the number seven is also a being (although of a different kind from you or me). I'll therefore use the words 'existence' or 'reality' for what you seem to refer to by 'being' in your question. When it asks questions about existence or reality, modern-day philosophy -- including analytic philosophy -- ranges as broadly as you like. Philosophy doesn't confine itself to the world described by natural science. Often philosophy asks about the existence or reality of non-natural beings such as abstract objects (maybe numbers, properties, propositions) or concrete, non-natural beings (maybe immaterial minds or souls, maybe God). It's true that analytic philosophers tend to respect natural science, but they shouldn't (and largely don't) think that all legitimate questions are questions for natural science. Furthermore, contemporary philosophy -- perhaps especially analytic philosophy -- asks about ways that reality could have been but isn't: for example, in analyzing counterfactual conditionals, identity, cause and effect, the concept of knowledge, the concept of merit or desert, and countless other things too. I think contemporary analytic philosophy is much less narrowly scientistic (i.e., uncritically science-worshiping) than you may have been led to believe. For just two of many examples of analytic philosophy venturing beyond the realm of natural science, see these entries in the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (an online resource I keep recommending!):

SEP, "Abstract Objects"
SEP, "Transworld Identity"

I tend to use the noun 'being' as a count noun: You and I are both beings; maybe the number seven is also a being (although of a different kind from you or me). I'll therefore use the words 'existence' or 'reality' for what you seem to refer to by 'being' in your question. When it asks questions about existence or reality, modern-day philosophy -- including analytic philosophy -- ranges as broadly as you like. Philosophy doesn't confine itself to the world described by natural science. Often philosophy asks about the existence or reality of non-natural beings such as abstract objects (maybe numbers, properties, propositions) or concrete, non-natural beings (maybe immaterial minds or souls, maybe God). It's true that analytic philosophers tend to respect natural science, but they shouldn't (and largely don't) think that all legitimate questions are questions for natural science. Furthermore, contemporary philosophy -- perhaps especially analytic philosophy -- asks about ways that reality could...