Advanced Search

Is science held to a lesser standard of proof than religion for analytic

Is science held to a lesser standard of proof than religion for analytic philosophers?

Interesting question. To begin, matters of "proof" are rarely involved in analytical philosophy of religion. In fact, the days of when any philosopher claims to "prove" a thesis in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of science etc seem past. Philosophers for a while seem to settle on advancing good or cogent arguments (or plausible counter-arguments and counter-examples) rather than claiming to prove a point. Though there are some philosophers who do think they have proofs. Galen Strawson, for example, claims (wrongly, in my view) to have proven that no person is morally responsible for any of their acts.

Proofs to one side, it is interesting to wonder whether the evidential standards differ among analytic philosophers when they consider claims in science and claims in or about religion. Roger Trigg is an interesting philosopher who contend that science requires a philosophical foundation and that foundation invites or provides some evidence for theism. Richard Swinburne takes up and defends a similar position. In general, however, many philosophers today subscribe to the greater authority of the sciences (especially the natural or physical sciences) rather than the authority of religious teachings. For a balanced approach you might look at the two volume work Science and Religion in Dialogue edited by Melville Stewart (published by Wiley-Blackwell).

Do you think that philosophy is too wordy nowadays and what was the case

Do you think that philosophy is too wordy nowadays and what was the case throughout the history of philosophy? I greatly appreciate the length of the responses on this site but digesting even one paragraph can take minutes so you can imagine how frustrating it would be if every panelist decided that philosophy is also a literary exercise! A lot of times it seems philosophers especially in articles and academic books add a lot of unnecessary verbiage that total pages upon pages trying to make a stab at answering a question by leaving self-refuting riddles and asking more questions.

I suspect it will probably totally annoy you that I begin a response with a question or two: is it so bad when philosophy is practiced in a way that is a literary exercise? Some of the great philosophers from Plato to Iris Murdoch, Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir... present their philosophical reflections in the form of fictive narratives. Self-refuting riddles may be intentional and instructive: Plato's Republic and Thomas Moore's Utopia come to mind. And some of the great works of literature are forged on asking questions (look especially at Shakespeare's Hamlet; practically the whole play is in an interrogative mode, starting with the opening line), as one finds in the later work of Wittgenstein.

In any case, I complement you with your implying that the best of philosophy is not given over to "unnecessary verbiage." I agree with what I think is your impatience with what might be called jargon. Where we might disagree concerns examples. Two sources of philosophy where I have not found any unnecessary verbiage or bad examples of literary exercising (viz. using narrative skills that are not up to Murdoch's etc) or fruitless, unilluminating self-refuting riddles (viz. riddles that do not measure up to the Republic or Utopia) or the raising of uninteresting questions (unlike the provocative questions of Wittgenstein) are the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (all three editions). I think you should find both of these sources deeply satisfying. And insofar as both sites are representative of philosophy today (as I believe they are), they provide some evidence that philosophy today, in large part, is not "too wordy"....

Is there a book that looks at the Bible through the lens of philosophy? I know

Is there a book that looks at the Bible through the lens of philosophy? I know there are books like "Philosophy & Seinfeld", where a cultural artifact is subjected to philosophical analysis. Surely there must be something like that for the Bible?

The Bible has been subject to enormous philosophical attention. This is not only true for all the great medieval philosophers and the philosophers in late antiquity, but for many modern philosophers such as Pascal, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant --for Kant, the book of Job was of great significance-- Kierkegaard. Historically and today, some philosophers treat the Bible as a source for the philosophy of God or the philosophy of religion, exploring concepts such as divine revelation, the divine attributes, the relationship between God and the cosmos, and so on. The Bible has been used both for constructive philosophical work *see, for example, the collection Jesus and Philosophy edited by Paul Moser* as well as for advancing philosophical objections to theism in general or specific Biblical teachings. As a general source, check out the Routledge Companion to Theism. In the 20th century I think two of the most balanced philosophers who worked constructively on the Bible are A.E. Taylor and Austin Farrer. The elements of the Bible that are currently receiving the most amount of attention include Biblical narratives or teachings that bear on the belief in God as Triune, the incarnation, the atonement / redemption, miracles, divine revelation itself, the relationship of science and religion, and the morality of divine commands e.g. the binding of Isaac and the conquest narratives in the book of Joshua. Some philosophers interested in religious ethics will sometimes seek out Biblical teachings that bear on reproductive ethics --abortion, birth control, surrogacy-- sexual ethics, euthanasia, just war theory, the relationship of justice and mercy, capital punishment, the relationship between church and state, socialism vs. free market economy, health care, good samaritan ethics, work ethics, notions of vocation, concepts of integrity / hypocrisy, child abuse, the proper use of alcohol, and more.

i just started reading some philosophy writings and got so mach interested in

i just started reading some philosophy writings and got so mach interested in philosophy.But my assess to books is very much limited and i would appropriate its if anyone can help me with free e-book sites from where i can download some philosophy books. Thanks

You are in luck: the internet is densely populated with philosophical texts. Good places to start are:

www.earlymoderntexts.com
www.gutenberg.org (also, they have a small set of recommendations in their 'philosophy bookshelf' but it represents only the tip of an iceberg!)
https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/
and Google books has hundreds of pdf scans of old volumes.

Now, there are three problems with these sites: for the most part, they present texts without commentary or explanation; often they use old editions or translations (because they are out of copyright); and finally, for the same reason, they tend to emphasize philosophy from times past. Recent philosophy is more difficult to come by, but not impossible. Certainly useful introductions can be found at the Internet or Stanford Encyclopedias; also, university teachers often put their lecture notes up on the web.

When solving a philosophical question, do you have a preconceived notion of the

When solving a philosophical question, do you have a preconceived notion of the answer and work backwards to justify or do you start from scratch with absolutely no psychological bias? Is the former method intellectually dishonest and how prevalent is it amongst the profession?

I can't imagine that anyone sets out to solve a philosophical problem with "absolutely no psychological bias" concerning what the correct solution will look like. The degree to which I think I've already surmised "the answer" to a problem before getting down to the hard work of solving it depends on the particular problem. But I doubt I ever embark on finding a solution with no preconceived notion at all about the right answer.

I don't think this method counts as intellectually dishonest in general, and especially not in philosophy, where the success of one's solution depends entirely on the quality of one's argumentation, which is open for all to judge. Unlike empirical scientists, philosophical problem-solvers can't fake data. If a philosopher's proposed solution to a problem isn't clearly supported by the argumentation that he/she provides, anyone who reads the proposal is in a position to see that. This bracingly high intellectual standard is one of the main virtues of philosophy when it's done properly.

I don't know how prevalent this method is among professional philosophers, but for the reason just given it wouldn't bother me to learn that the method is applied universally.

Is it sensible for someone to carry out the study of philosophy at the

Is it sensible for someone to carry out the study of philosophy at the undergraduate level or above with the aim of self-psychological therapy(in place of, or with orthodox psychotherapy)? Can it help us organize our minds to be in order? Can it reduce neuroses and anxieties, and make us happier?

It did in my case. I grew up in the context of two older half-brothers who made me feel worthless. (My mother and father had one son each in a previous marriage and when they got together and had two children, we were resented by their sons.) When I discovered the practice of philosophy, it was like discovering an escape from resentment, disrespect, and bullying. Ideally, when philosophy is true to its name of being the love of wisdom, it can be a practice in which one finds a site to engage in questioning and exploring (with others who treat each other with respect) values, matters of meaning and purpose, that can be therapeutic. I also found philosophy as a practice to be therapeutic when I recovered from a short period of abusing psychotropic drugs (LSD, etc). I basically found life with philosophy (without drugs) as a practice healthier, happier, less neurotic, than a life of blurry, self-abuse (and probably self-pity).

OK, so that is more of a testimony than an expected, scholarly or less personal response, so (to earn my keep, though I suppose the only earning panelists earn is the privilege of being read as there is no money involved) I should also add that the study of philosophy can lead to a very different outcome than it had in my case. Embracing Schopenhauer's worldview can lead to a regret that one has been born and some philosophers like Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, can be read as seeking to instill anxiety (as well as offering insights on how to address anxiety and dread and renounce certain forms of consolation). In fact, our sort of patron saint, Socrates, seemed to specialize in making his fellow Athenians nervous by exposing their ignorance (about justice, holiness, courage, friendship, and so on). Moreover, those of us who are professional philosophers are far from perfect; we are not immunized against depression, unhappiness, neuroses and anxiety.

Still, my hope is that you might find in the practice philosophy what I did and find the reason why I am still very excited about the practice of philosophy and find it liberating and a source of joy.

How is critical thinking different to thinking philosophically?

How is critical thinking different to thinking philosophically?

Interesting question, especially insofar as some philosophy departments offer as their rationale in higher education the claim that philosophy is especially well suited as a discipline in promoting critical thinking, a skill that philosophy professors claim (with good reason, in my view) is an asset throughout the curriculum and in "the real world." Also, some philosophers in the so-called Enlightenment (such as Kant) single out "criticism" as one of the central projects of philosophy. Even so, one may well engage in critical thinking in ways that seem far from philosophical thinking (e.g. engaging in critical thinking about about whether J.P. Morgan is guilty of embezzlement or about whether there has been or is life on Mars) and philosophical thinking sometimes treats critical reflection as secondary to imagination and speculation. Still, it seems that critical thinking plus philosophy offers a more comprehensive methodology, e.g. thoughts about JPM might well be assisted in light of a philosophy of corporations, property, concepts of theft and responsibility, and thoughts about life on Mars will at some point require a philosophy of what counts as life --perhaps there is or could be plant or animal or some other life form radically different from what we find on earth). Moreover, while some philosophy may give center stage to imagination and speculation, without critical thinking or criticism, including self-criticism, the results may be more like fantasy than serious philosophy.

It's often said that we cannot predict which scientific discoveries will turn

It's often said that we cannot predict which scientific discoveries will turn out to have practical value, and so we should encourage scientific curiosity and investigation even in cases where the subject matter seems frivolous or esoteric. To take one famous example, G.H. Hardy thought that number theory was perfectly useless, but it is now indispensable to cryptography. Could the same be said of philosophy? Are there philosophical theories that have had unforeseen benefits? Or is it safe to conclude that at least some philosophical pursuits really are just "useless"?

As useless as art, literature, music, or just about anything you do as an end in itself rather than a means toward some other end in itself. Most important science wasn't done for the purpose of achieving "practical" results, but to satisfy some inner compulsion, of the kind that Plato describes very well in his cave story.

That said, just about all scientific disciplines have emerged, one way or another, from philosophy (though philosophy itself, if you consider Plato as an important milestone, seems to have been inspired by mathematics), so it's certainly been of very considerable practical use in that sense.

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.

When reading a philosophy book, what is your method for understanding and

When reading a philosophy book, what is your method for understanding and remembering the content? Tips for when one is presented with a massive philosophy book with many subtle points (e.g. Plantinga's "Warranted Christian Belief")?

Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like.

I hope some of this might be helpful.

Pages