March 22, 2005

New heroes and allies

I think that any philosophy done in abstentia of science is bull shit--you might as well be picking your ass.

That is not to say that philosophy is the hand maiden of the sciences as was suggested by AJ Ayer. Rather philosophy and science are continuous. Though it seems that you can get a lot further in science ignoring philosophy than I think you can in philosophy ignoring science, I don't think that scientists should ignore philosophy. There is an important role for philosophy to try to understand the results of science, to figure out how to fit those results into our way of thinking and the way we live our lives, and to watch out for the fallacious conclusions that scientists sometimes draw from their work. In essence, one of the jobs of philosophy is to pursue the questions that arise from science which scientists seems so ill-equipped to answer--what does it all mean? But the notion that we can really figure out stuff about the world--even the world inside--sitting in our arm chairs is just preposterous. If there was ever any great use for arm chair commandos, it has long been exhausted. But all that means is that we have to regularly get off our fat arses and leave the philosopher's study, read up on the empirical discoveries of the sciences, and then we can return to our arm chairs to reflect upon that which has been discovered. There should be a continuous dialogue between the sciences and philosophy and the two should interact in a formative way. Science should help direct philosophy and philosophy should in turn help direct science.

I was very pleased to attend the lecture by Michael Silberstien at the BU Phil of Science colloquium called "Resisting Neo-Scholasticism with Explanatory and Ontological Pluralism in Mind." He said basically the same thing that I have claimed above (except perhaps his target was limited to "main stream philosophy of mind"). While I am concerned that somewhere in the talk he might have advocated ontological pluralism, I was very impressed with his overall philosophic opinions as well as his approach to doing philosophy--at least as exhibited in this talk. He described himself as a "crazy holist" a label which I like to claim for myself. I pretty much agreed with everything he said (that I understood). It is very cool to encounter a kindred spirit. I would like to share his talk with any interested parties and so have upload an audio recording of it to my website. I don't know about the legality of making and distributing such recordings so do me a favor and don't tell anyone. But if you want to hear a good lecture on Mind, Science and Reductionism, give it a listen.

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