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Author Topic:   On The Philosophy of, well, Philosophy
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3952 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 1 of 307 (430305)
10-24-2007 11:58 AM


I realized that my post on this thread concerning philosophy and religion was so far off topic that I should have suspended myself. Any discussion of the post on that thread would have derailed the thread even further than it already was. On the other hand, I think it is an interesting topic for discussion here, with direct relevance for this board. I have therefore reposted the post in question here as a spin-off.

The late lamented LindaLou posed the following (in message 101):

LindaLou writes:

But are you willing to throw out the whole of philosophy and religion, which examine the nature of life and existence, because they are not as "true" as a fossil or a rock?

To which (skipping over the first, sort-of tongue-in-cheek reply):

Quetzal writes:

Whenever "truth" (small "t") claims are made, the use of philosophy and/or religion should play no part in evaluating those claims. Only, and let me emphasize this, only, has the scientific method EVER in history provided valid understanding of the world/universe that we inhabit. I think this is perhaps one reason you have suffered here.

When I wish to determine whether it is safe to cross the road in the face of on-coming traffic, I do not ponder the existentialism of a car, or the metaphysical purpose of traffic. No, I observe the actual pattern before me, my brain makes a very complex lightning-fast calculation of velocity and distance (with practice, this is almost unconscious), and then orders my body to either proceed or wait. I don't pray to a deity, either. When I wish to determine whether a particular substance is safe to put in my body in order to protect (or cure) it from a particular threat/malady, I don't meditate on the paraconsistent logic of the mind-body duality or how the concept of holism applies, or whatever other metaphysical claptrap-du-jour may be currently the flavor. Rather, I seek out and read the literature - based purely on the scientific method - wherein those substances have been evaluated, their reactions tested, and their miscibility, or lack, with other substances determined. Then, and only then, do I make the informed decision to ingest or not. I don't pray for divine guidance.

The obvious counter-argument here is the claim that science cannot examine things such as purpose (i.e., the "Why are we here?", or "Why is there life?" questions), or determine the answer to value/morality questions (i.e., "Why be good to others?"), or for that matter evaluate emotion questions (i.e., "What is love?"). However, I call BS on this. In the first place, the idea that such questions have any relevance whatsoever is one that has been foisted on humankind by philosophers. The as-yet-unevidenced claim that these questions are "important" is made by the people whose work revolves around answering them. Suspicious, to say the least.

Secondly, all the questions and subsequent answers dreamed of by philosophers/religious are purely and wholly subjective. In other words, both the importance of the question and the nature of the conjured answer are culturally and socially dependent. Aristotle claimed to have identified universal "principles" - and then every other philosopher down through the ages has argued against them. One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from David Hume (another philosopher, buggerit):

quote:
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (full text)
So, despite the fact that the great philosophers down through the ages represent some of the most brilliant minds this planet has produced, I agree with crashfrog that it is something of a tragedy that these minds have concentrated on questions of at best limited relevance.

Most of the scientifically-minded people on this forum take a more Popperian (another philosopher, although a "philosopher of science" - set a thief to catch a thief, n'est-ce pas?) approach - albeit modified in the details (strict falsificationism doesn't appear to be completely valid, either). Popper's criteria, used by science in the main for long periods before he succinctly articulated what we were doing, includes falsification, testability, and replicability, among other things. We use this methodology (for lack of a better term) because it garners valid - albeit tentative - statements about the world (Life, the Universe, and Everything). Philosophy, on the other hand, can NEVER generate anything more than a subjective idea about the world - not a fact about the world. Since facts are the things that can get us run over when we are crossing a street, a philosophical approach to "knowing" is, as I previously stated, akin to navel gazing, and about as useful.

Clearly, I anticipate that a lot of people will take exception to my position. I think, however, that it might be an interesting discussion.

"Is it Science", or other appropriate non-Coffee House thread, please.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Jaderis, posted 10-24-2007 7:38 PM Quetzal has responded
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 10-24-2007 10:18 PM Quetzal has responded
 Message 8 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-24-2007 11:30 PM Quetzal has responded
 Message 15 by subbie, posted 10-25-2007 3:52 PM Quetzal has responded
 Message 46 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-29-2007 12:43 PM Quetzal has not yet responded
 Message 69 by Ben!, posted 10-30-2007 10:24 PM Quetzal has not yet responded
 Message 298 by Archer Opteryx, posted 11-13-2007 10:59 PM Quetzal has not yet responded

AdminSchraf
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 307 (430344)
10-24-2007 6:34 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
Jaderis
Member (Idle past 1505 days)
Posts: 622
From: NY,NY
Joined: 06-16-2006


Message 3 of 307 (430355)
10-24-2007 7:38 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 11:58 AM


Philosophy is subjectively important
The obvious counter-argument here is the claim that science cannot examine things such as purpose (i.e., the "Why are we here?", or "Why is there life?" questions), or determine the answer to value/morality questions (i.e., "Why be good to others?"), or for that matter evaluate emotion questions (i.e., "What is love?"). However, I call BS on this. In the first place, the idea that such questions have any relevance whatsoever is one that has been foisted on humankind by philosophers. The as-yet-unevidenced claim that these questions are "important" is made by the people whose work revolves around answering them. Suspicious, to say the least.

I would definitely agree with you that these questions when asked about humanity (or even individual societies) as a whole have very little relevance. However, I do feel that these questions are very important when asked of oneself. You touched on the subjective nature of philosophy after this portion of your post, but I want to throw in my two cents.

Asking ourselves what purpose we have (or rather want to have or what we want to do with our lives since I don't believe that individual people have pre-set purposes), what we believe is good and why, what love means to ourselves and how to recognize it, etc helps us to navigate through life. The answers can often change depending on circumstance.

Tackling philosophical questions on an individual level (or even dismissing some of them as irrelevant) is an important part of making us who we are.

What I am more suspicious of is anyone claiming they have answers all wrapped up in a pretty little package for me. The questions themselves can be very important (or not at all, depending), but only I can come up with the answers. Which means that this post is completely irrelevant :)


"You are metaphysicians. You can prove anything by metaphysics; and having done so, every metaphysician can prove every other metaphysician wrong--to his own satisfaction. You are anarchists in the realm of thought. And you are mad cosmos-makers. Each of you dwells in a cosmos of his own making, created out of his own fancies and desires. You do not know the real world in which you live, and your thinking has no place in the real world except in so far as it is phenomena of mental aberration." -The Iron Heel by Jack London

"Hazards exist that are not marked" - some bar in Chelsea


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 11:58 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 9:41 PM Jaderis has responded

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3952 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 4 of 307 (430363)
10-24-2007 9:41 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Jaderis
10-24-2007 7:38 PM


Re: Philosophy is subjectively important
And I believe you have neatly articulated the key point I was trying to make. Those questions such as "What purpose/meaning does my life havbe?" are wholly subjective. Answers, when they can be found at all, are found internally.

What I am more suspicious of is anyone claiming they have answers all wrapped up in a pretty little package for me. The questions themselves can be very important (or not at all, depending), but only I can come up with the answers.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

PS: I love the signature line.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Jaderis, posted 10-24-2007 7:38 PM Jaderis has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Jaderis, posted 10-24-2007 9:50 PM Quetzal has not yet responded
 Message 7 by bluegenes, posted 10-24-2007 10:59 PM Quetzal has not yet responded

Jaderis
Member (Idle past 1505 days)
Posts: 622
From: NY,NY
Joined: 06-16-2006


Message 5 of 307 (430367)
10-24-2007 9:50 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 9:41 PM


Re: Philosophy is subjectively important
Thanks and thanks :)


"You are metaphysicians. You can prove anything by metaphysics; and having done so, every metaphysician can prove every other metaphysician wrong--to his own satisfaction. You are anarchists in the realm of thought. And you are mad cosmos-makers. Each of you dwells in a cosmos of his own making, created out of his own fancies and desires. You do not know the real world in which you live, and your thinking has no place in the real world except in so far as it is phenomena of mental aberration." -The Iron Heel by Jack London

"Hazards exist that are not marked" - some bar in Chelsea


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 9:41 PM Quetzal has not yet responded

  
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 307 (430373)
10-24-2007 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 11:58 AM


The obvious counter-argument here is the claim that science cannot examine things such as purpose (i.e., the "Why are we here?", or "Why is there life?" questions), or determine the answer to value/morality questions (i.e., "Why be good to others?"), or for that matter evaluate emotion questions (i.e., "What is love?"). However, I call BS on this. In the first place, the idea that such questions have any relevance whatsoever is one that has been foisted on humankind by philosophers.

Morality has no relevance? :confused:


In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist... might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. - Charles Darwin On the Origin of Species
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

En el mundo hay multitud de idiomas, y cada uno tiene su propio significado. - I Corintios 14:10
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A devout people with its back to the wall can be pushed deeper and deeper into hardening religious nativism, in the end even preferring national suicide to religious compromise. - Colin Wells Sailing from Byzantium


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 11:58 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-24-2007 11:59 PM Jon has not yet responded
 Message 11 by Quetzal, posted 10-25-2007 9:00 AM Jon has responded

bluegenes
Member (Idle past 557 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 7 of 307 (430378)
10-24-2007 10:59 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 9:41 PM


Re: Philosophy is subjectively important
Quetzal referring to Jaderis's signature writes:

PS: I love the signature line.

As I was reading down your O.P., I started thinking "who's that EvC member who's got the Jack London quote about metaphysics as a signature", because what you were saying fitted it so well.

So it was funny to scroll down and see the first reply, and then your comment quoted above.

I'm afraid I can't offer any debate, because I don't disagree with either you or Jaderis, and I love the Jack London quote as well. Especially the last line:

quote:
You do not know the real world in which you live, and your thinking has no place in the real world except in so far as it is phenomena of mental aberration.

I think we see a lot of evidence of "phenomena of mental aberration" here on EvC, and I hope one of London's "mad cosmos makers" will turn up to argue against your points and make this an interesting thread. Good O.P.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 9:41 PM Quetzal has not yet responded

Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5622
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 8 of 307 (430386)
10-24-2007 11:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 11:58 AM


The Philosophy of the anti-philosopher: A lesson in futility
One of my favorite quotes on this subject is from David Hume

quote:
quote:If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

I was once told that if somebody has said something more succinctly than you, you should allow them the floor.

The testing for abstract reasoning. Commit your own test to the flames-- it is but sophistry and illusion.

More to the point, everything you wrote was neither scientific nor mathematic. It was philosophical. You have addressed the problem you wish to eradicate with the very weapon you use to denigrate it with! You no less use a philosopher to philosophize on the worthlessness of philosophy itself! Commit it then to the flames-- it is but sophistry and illusion.

Surely you can see the irony in that.

Edited by Nemesis Juggernaut, : Edit to refine


"Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things-- in short, if anything increases the power and the authority of the flesh over the spirit, that to you becomes sin, however good it may be in itself." -Suzanna Wesley
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 11:58 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by Quetzal, posted 10-25-2007 9:40 AM Hyroglyphx has responded

  
Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5622
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 9 of 307 (430392)
10-24-2007 11:59 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jon
10-24-2007 10:18 PM


Morality has no relevance?

Apparently in his mind. I couldn't help detecting the irony in this too. Its as if he is tacitly saying that making moral pronouncements is itself morally wrong.


"Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things-- in short, if anything increases the power and the authority of the flesh over the spirit, that to you becomes sin, however good it may be in itself." -Suzanna Wesley
This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 10-24-2007 10:18 PM Jon has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Jaderis, posted 10-25-2007 3:12 AM Hyroglyphx has responded

  
Jaderis
Member (Idle past 1505 days)
Posts: 622
From: NY,NY
Joined: 06-16-2006


Message 10 of 307 (430404)
10-25-2007 3:12 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Hyroglyphx
10-24-2007 11:59 PM


Jon writes:

Morality has no relevance?

nem writes:

Apparently in his mind. I couldn't help detecting the irony in this too. Its as if he is tacitly saying that making moral pronouncements is itself morally wrong.

Where did you get that?

Jon took it out of context as well, but you just added a dimension to Quetzal's argument that isn't there at all.

What I think he meant (and what I tried to say) is that certain philosophical questions of morality and especially the answers cannot be applied to each and every person in each and every circumstance. What he meant is that your morality or that of any philosopher/theologian/one in particular does not necessarily apply to me. Questions such as "why should we ("I") do good to others" is answered by every person in his or her own way, even those who profess a specific religion or philosophical outlook. The questions can only be answered by ourselves.

Why do you think that there are so many different sects within all the major religions or so many different schools of philosophy? Because as soon as someone comes along with a different interpretation of the "big questions and answers" they pick up their toys and carve out their own part of the playground. They can then argue about it all day long, but get pretty much nowhere because the questions are simply unanswerable for the whole.


"You are metaphysicians. You can prove anything by metaphysics; and having done so, every metaphysician can prove every other metaphysician wrong--to his own satisfaction. You are anarchists in the realm of thought. And you are mad cosmos-makers. Each of you dwells in a cosmos of his own making, created out of his own fancies and desires. You do not know the real world in which you live, and your thinking has no place in the real world except in so far as it is phenomena of mental aberration." -The Iron Heel by Jack London

"Hazards exist that are not marked" - some bar in Chelsea


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-24-2007 11:59 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-25-2007 10:55 AM Jaderis has responded

  
Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3952 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 11 of 307 (430424)
10-25-2007 9:00 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jon
10-24-2007 10:18 PM


Morality has no relevance?

Unfortunately, I can't add much to Jaderis' reply to this question. So, like any good philosopher ( :D ) with nothing substantive to say, I'll simply embellish the point. (As an aside, I would prefer not to have this thread degenerate into yet another discussion of objective vs. subjective morality. I'd rather we focus on whether or not philosophy, religion or metaphysics have applicability to the real world in which we actually live, rather than the realm of pure abstraction - i.e., navel-gazing.)

There have been numerous threads on this board where those of a religious or philosophical bent have vainly attempted to show that there is a universal or objective morality. I say vainly, because the reality is that all morality is culturally and/or socially dependent. There is no demonstrable universal. The social contract between an individual and the rest of the society/culture in which they live defines the acceptable morality. The fact that the definition of what constitutes moral behavior has changed over time and between cultures is a strong indicator that no objective morality exists.

So, in answer to your question: yes, morality (generically speaking) is certainly relevant - how we individually and as a society determine acceptable behaviors. However, the metaphysical/philosophical/religious conception of objective morality isn't, because it does not exist in reality.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 10-24-2007 10:18 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by Jon, posted 10-25-2007 6:31 PM Quetzal has responded

Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3952 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 12 of 307 (430428)
10-25-2007 9:40 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Hyroglyphx
10-24-2007 11:30 PM


Re: The Philosophy of the anti-philosopher: A lesson in futility
Hi NJ,

More to the point, everything you wrote was neither scientific nor mathematic. It was philosophical. You have addressed the problem you wish to eradicate with the very weapon you use to denigrate it with! You no less use a philosopher to philosophize on the worthlessness of philosophy itself! Commit it then to the flames-- it is but sophistry and illusion.

Surely you can see the irony in that.

Indeed. In fact, I alluded to the irony of using a philosopher to argue against philosophy in the OP. Admittedly, the allusion was a bit subtle unless you are familiar with Terry Pratchett's character Foul Ole Ron. This unique individual - one of my favorite Discworld characters - constantly and concisely comments (nice alliteration, no?) on the absurdity of life by using the made-up word "buggerit". I think it captures quite well the irony of the idea of a philosophically anti-philosopher. :D

I enjoyed the Zacharias link you provided (well, up until the last 10 seconds or so when he makes the bald assertion that the miracles, prophecies, etc in the Bible are empirically based). It totally tickled my sense of the absurd to hear a religious philosopher commenting on a philosopher's anti-commentary on philosophy :D . However, both you and Zacharias seem to have missed Hume's point: philosophy as a way of knowing is at best impractical and at worst vacuous since it has limited or no point of conjunction with the "real world". "Consign it to the flames", says Hume, because if we wish to understand the world in which we live, it (philosophy, metaphysics, religion, etc) can provide no concrete answers - or even, I contend, valid questions.

I'm not clear why you think that my use of a quote from a philosopher is inappropriate when I'm commenting on philosophy. Hume was, after all, contending that philosophy is a dead-end game. His statement contrasts empiricism with metaphysics, and he clearly advocates the former as a way of knowledge. I would argue that the intent of the quote is a challenge to those who feel that abstract philosophy, etc, has relevance. "Show me", he seems to be saying, "where your philosophical or religious maunderings can tell us something 'true' about the world." He isn't using philosophy writ large in his statement. He is challenging those who DO so use it to demonstrate that their claims to knowledge have a basis in fact.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-24-2007 11:30 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 19 by Hyroglyphx, posted 10-25-2007 7:20 PM Quetzal has responded

Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5622
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 13 of 307 (430439)
10-25-2007 10:55 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Jaderis
10-25-2007 3:12 AM


the philosophy of science
quote:
Apparently in his mind. I couldn't help detecting the irony in this too. Its as if he is tacitly saying that making moral pronouncements is itself morally wrong.

Where did you get that?

He stated to LindaLou (why is she inactive, btw?) that science is the "ONLY" thing that has ever produced any reason and meaning. He then goes on to say that since morals are viewed as subject and arbitrary that are meaningless. In other words, they are sophistry. Is then my (or Jon's) assumption all that silly?

What I think he meant (and what I tried to say) is that certain philosophical questions of morality and especially the answers cannot be applied to each and every person in each and every circumstance. What he meant is that your morality or that of any philosopher/theologian/one in particular does not necessarily apply to me. Questions such as "why should we ("I") do good to others" is answered by every person in his or her own way, even those who profess a specific religion or philosophical outlook. The questions can only be answered by ourselves.

That's the oft-repeated cry I hear, but it sort of glibly overlooks some basic fundamental principles that everyone is subjected to. That morality has been assigned to you via the law. You, Quetzal, me, Jon, and everyone at EvC is subject to the law of the land which has derived from a moral framework. Is that really sophistry? Is that really of no great importance? When a man is standing over you with a gun in hand, will you be considering the lack of empricism? Will you be thinking about equations or biological theories?

Why do you think that there are so many different sects within all the major religions or so many different schools of philosophy? because the questions are simply unanswerable for the whole.

Is the lack of consensus, all of which pervades science as well, the determining factor of importance? The lack of consensus seems like a side step to avoid the obvious pitfalls of a world devoid of philosophical notions.

More to the point concerning this: Scientific theories have at their base, some philosophical assumptions attached to them. In order to formulate some theoretical basis for this and that, one must first have in mind some kind of philosophical assumption that goads on the investigation for an concrete answer.


"Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things-- in short, if anything increases the power and the authority of the flesh over the spirit, that to you becomes sin, however good it may be in itself." -Suzanna Wesley
This message is a reply to:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8839
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 14 of 307 (430440)
10-25-2007 11:09 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Hyroglyphx
10-25-2007 10:55 AM


Consensus
Is the lack of consensus, all of which pervades science as well, the determining factor of importance?

The lack of consensus evident in other areas does not pervade science!

In areas near the edge of understanding a consensus will not have been developed. Behind this leading edge the consensus grows as the evidence is gathered and alternatives shown to be wrong. The lack of consensus is only at the edges, not pervasive. And, unlike other areas of inquiry, there are mechanisms for creating consensus.

Scientific theories have at their base, some philosophical assumptions attached to them. In order to formulate some theoretical basis for this and that, one must first have in mind some kind of philosophical assumption that goads on the investigation for an concrete answer.

Would you care to list these assumptions? Which ones of them are not subject to continued testing?

Edited by NosyNed, : moved a comma


This message is a reply to:
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subbie
Member (Idle past 40 days)
Posts: 3508
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 15 of 307 (430466)
10-25-2007 3:52 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Quetzal
10-24-2007 11:58 AM


A few thoughts, in no particular order
In the first place, the idea that such questions have any relevance whatsoever is one that has been foisted on humankind by philosophers. The as-yet-unevidenced claim that these questions are "important" is made by the people whose work revolves around answering them. Suspicious, to say the least.

I'd say the importance of these questions in general is evidenced by the number of people who consider them at length and the importance they place on the answers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to suggest that the fact that other people think about these things means they are important to you. You profess a belief that these matters are not worth the efforts that have been and are being expended on them. (I'm willing to take your statement as true for purposes of the present discussion, although I suspect a vigorous cross-examination might expose a few kinks in the armor of your claim.) But you seem to be dismissing the importance of these things for all people. The way you describe things, it makes it sound as if you believe that philosophers are the only ones considering these questions while non-philosopher types are sitting on the sidelines, cheering on one side or the other. However, I believe that most people spend at least some time contemplating these questions in one fashion or another. Perhaps many of them do so in the context of religious worship. Quite often, people make vital, life altering decisions based on the answers they come up with in these deliberations. Thus, I dispute your claim that the importance of these questions is "unevidenced." The evidence of their importance is found in the fact that people think they are important enough to consider them.

Secondly, all the questions and subsequent answers dreamed of by philosophers/religious are purely and wholly subjective. In other words, both the importance of the question and the nature of the conjured answer are culturally and socially dependent.

I think you are saying two different things here. Let me try and sort it out.

First, the very fact that people can be persuaded of the rightness of another's position on say a matter of morality shows me that these matters are not "purely and wholly subjective." Compare, for example, matters of taste. I like spinach. I'll assume for the time being that you don't. No amount of persuasion can convince you that spinach tastes good. I might be able to fool you into thinking you are eating something else. I might be able to convince you to eat it despite the fact that you don't like it. I might be able to disguise the taste of it so that you'll eat something that it's in. But, if you have eaten spinach and not liked it, I cannot describe the wondrous things it does for my palate and convince you to like it. Matters of taste are purely subjective.

Contrast this with "questions and subsequent answers dreamed of by philosophers/religious." While I wholeheartedly agree that these things are influenced by culture and society, you go too far in declaring that they are dependent on culture and society. Were you correct, everyone in a particular culture and society would agree on these matters. Further, it would be impossible to convince anyone that the pronouncements of their culture and society were incorrect. Both of these things are patently false, therefore it must be false that "questions and subsequent answers dreamed of by philosophers/religious" are culture dependent.

Given that the most that we can say is that these questions are culturally and societally influenced, the obvious responsive question is, "So what?" That different cultures and societies have come to different conclusions does not prevent the questions from being important. Nor does it prevent the questions from being discussed, opinions exchanged, and positions modified on the basis of the exchanges.

You seek to condemn philosophy for its inability to do something that it doesn't intend to do (except for certain situations that I will address in another post). Philosophy (mostly) isn't concerned with empirical truth. But to criticize it on that basis makes as much sense as criticizing science for not answering value questions. The ToE doesn't tell us that it's wrong or right to eat our young. It simply says that in certain cases, that behavior will occur in nature. Science didn't tell Truman to drop atomic bombs on Japan, it only said that if he wanted to, he could. Instead, it takes philosophy to answer these questions, and many others of great important to a great many people.


Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for a temporary security will lose both, and deserve neither. -- Benjamin Franklin

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Quetzal, posted 10-24-2007 11:58 AM Quetzal has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Quetzal, posted 10-25-2007 5:41 PM subbie has responded

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