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Re: [ontolog-forum] electric sheep

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ingvar Johansson <ingvar.johansson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 06 Nov 2007 10:14:18 +0100
Message-id: <4730306A.4070700@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Wacek Kusnierczyk schrieb:
> John F. Sowa wrote:
>> In any case, the primary role of philosophy is not to
>> accumulate facts and theories, as in science, but to develop
>> methods of conceptual analysis.  For that purpose, it's hard
>> to find more instructive examples than the writings of Plato
>> and Aristotle.
> well, if aristotle's grounds to make the general claim that women have 
> fewer teeth than men was an observation of *one* man (and at least one 
> woman, i guess), then it is not the best example of how to do science.  
> perhaps it is a good example of how philosophers do their work (i hope not).
> vQ
>       (01)

There are four main views on how to regard the relationship between 
philosophy and the sciences. I think that careful reflection on the 
history of philosophy and of science shows that one should opt for the 
fourth alternative below.    (02)

(1) In the history of philosophy, some philosophers have placed 
philosophy *above* science, claiming not only that all philosophical 
problems can be solved independently of the sciences, but also that 
empirical science has to stay within a framework discovered by 
philosophy alone. This is true of Kant and of pure rationalists such as 
Descartes and Hegel.    (03)

(2) Other philosophers, especially logical positivists, have placed 
philosophy *below* science, claiming that, in relation to the sciences, 
philosophy can only contribute by sharpening the conceptual tools that 
scientists are using when they try to capture the structure of the world.    (04)

(3) In both the cases above, philosophy is looked upon as being of some 
relevance for the sciences, but there are also philosophers who claim 
that philosophy is of *no relevance* whatsoever for the sciences. For 
instance, the self-proclaimed epistemological anarchist Paul Feyerabend 
would be happy to agree to what the famous physicist Richard Feynman is 
reported to have said: ‘Philosophy of science is about as useful to 
scientists as ornithology is to birds’.    (05)

(4) All the three views above make philosophy sovereign over its own 
domain, and all of them except the Descartes-Kant-Hegel view (1) makes 
science sovereign over its domain, too. My view is different. I think 
that science and philosophy are somewhat *overlapping* disciplines that 
can benefit from interaction. When science and philosophy is not in 
reflective equilibrium one of them, if not both, has to be changed, but 
there is no meta-rule that tells us what ought to be changed.    (06)

Best wishes,
Ingvar    (07)

PS(a). I am doubly surprised over John's statement above. First, both 
Plato and Aristotle were primarily metaphysicians, even though this of 
course forced them to do conceptual analysis, too. Second, I wouldn't 
call this view of John's a Peircean view.    (08)

PS(b). Wacek's condemnation of Aristotle is simply silly. Aristotle is 
generally regarded as the founding father of taxonomy. He had been the 
teacher of Alexander the Great, and when Alexander went out to conquer 
Asia and Africa, unknown flowers were sent back to Aristotle. Aristotle 
was a very empirical-minded philosopher; some mistakes notwithstanding.    (09)

Ingvar Johansson
IFOMIS, Saarland University
     home site: http://ifomis.org/
     personal home site:
     http://hem.passagen.se/ijohansson/index.html      (010)

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