This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← The Consolation of Philosophy

epeeist's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by epeeist

While I have as much affection for the post-modernists as Alan Sokal there is still plenty of mileage in good philosophy.

Quine has raised neuroscience as an explanans for a number of philosophical problems, I would agree with him but I don't think we have a full science of mind as yet. Philosophy of mind is still a useful discipline and if you read someone like V.S. Ramachandran it is something that he takes into account in his work.

There is also a good deal at the foundation of physics too. Are electrons and quarks real? Certainly we have no direct observational evidence for their existence, only indirect evidence. The indirect evidence is that from instruments which are built using theories which themselves implicitly assume the existence of such particles.

There is a famous discussion between Boyle and Hobbes about the air pump, in their day a notoriously unreliable instrument which could only give results when it was "working properly". But as Hobbes pointed out, what does one mean when one claims it is working properly? Surely one is making a circular argument. This of course continue in the work of Duhem and W.V. Orman Quine, namely that all theories are under-determined and that it is impossible to test a theory in isolation since all theories are dependent on auxiliary hypotheses.

One can go further, fields are postulated to avoid "action at a distance" and to preserve the spatio-temporal locality that causality seemingly requires. But one can also question whether fields are real and whether causality is a universal.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:35:39 UTC | #938165