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Is Science born from Philosophy? And so, what about Quine's anti-foundationalism? Is it correct?

Interesting! Originally, what we might call "science" was done by those referred to as "philosophers." So, the preSocratics (like Thales) investigated the structure of nature / reality and, in doing so, he would have found it very odd if asked whether his "science" stemmed from philosophy --as there would not have been a possible separation. If we move toward the late 20th century and we come to Quine, he contended that science did not require a philosophical foundation. In fact, he rather wanted to subordinate philosophy to science (the natural or physical sciences in particular; in terms of psychology he was, like his friend B.F. Skinner, a radical behaviorist). Quine came to concede that philosophy of science might be prior to (conceptually antecedent to) the natural sciences, and this was (in my view) on the right track but needed to go further. I do not think you can have science without making all sorts of assumptions (that are properly considered philosophical) about the nature of the world,...

I don't know if this question falls as a scientific question but to my knowledge, this is more of a question on the nature and extent of science, so I think this is more philosophical than scientific. My question is: is it possible for scientists to create a well-functioning human brain, or is the nature of consciousness so intractable that creating a brain would be next to impossible?

If scientists were to create a well-functioning human brain, I suggest it probably would have to involve the brain being part of an anatomically well-functioning body, whether the body is human or humanoid or mechanical (in which case one would have a cyborg of some kind). Philosophers have entertained bizarre thought experiments in which human brains function in vats and are subject to systematic, misleading electro-chemical stimulation, but I suggest this would not be a case of a WELL-FUNCTIONING human brain. It would instead by in a profoundly dysfunctional situation. Are there good philosophical reasons for thinking that it is impossible for scientists to create something that is anatomically an exact replica of a human being such as you and me? Some might argue that "being human" essentially involves the reproductive and nurturing processes that we underwent (and so they would seek to rule out conceptually the idea that a human brain and body can be manufactured in a lab), but this would (in my...

It is often stated that science is not 'value-free'. However, there are certain established facts about the physical world, for example, that a water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, which irrespecitve of the values of observer or the social context in which this is observed, is just that, ie. an observable, indisptuable fact. How then can political or social environments alter or intrude upon such scientific facts whether they be about this planet, biology or whatever scientific enterprise one is studying. Surely, science in this regard is 'value-free'?

Great question; thank you for raising your point. I believe that the when the claim is made that science is not value-free various things may be involved. There might be at least four points to consider. First, there is the thesis that the very practice of philosophy itself involves values --minimally, given a realist view of truth (which I hold and I think you do too, e.g. water is H20 if true if and only if water is H20)-- a commitment to discovering the truth about various phenomena, being reliable or trust-worthy in recording observations and constructing hypotheses, theories, reporting anomalies given such and such a theory, and so on. Perhaps this is not radical news, for it seems that virtually any social interaction in which we trust each others' reports / testimony, all sorts of values and commitments are relevant. But what might be added are three other points. Second, the practice of science itself is guided in light of what scientists (or those who support the practice of science)...

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...

Woods cut from trees have certain physical properties that a reductionist might claim are expressions of atomic or sub-atomic phenomena (mostly empty space, though we experience wood as hard). Since the tree is alive can reductionism account for the role of organic life in organizing or directing (e.g., cell division) those physical properties? I think that a physicist cannot fully explain the macroscopic properties of wood (e.g., hard) by material reduction without recourse to life sciences that are beyond his/her realm of study. What I am proposing is that reductionism fails via category error when applied to life or consciousness.

I think you raise a great point. This is an area that is much debated, so my response should not be considered the official philosophical position. I think the direction of your thinking is sound. If we are to limit ourselves to the world as described and explained in an ideal physics, there is quite a lot of reality that seems to go missing. Actually, the very practice of physics seems to involve a great deal of phenomena (scientists making observations, constructing theories, exercising reason, and so on) that may not fit in very well with the picture of nature produced by physics (or a philosophy that gives primacy or exclusive authority to physics). Anyway, back to your point, I think you are right that to address living creatures and plants requires the life sciences (minimally). And we will need more to describe and explain events such as you and I writing and reading, and so on (psychological descriptions and explanations...). Of special interest to some, perhaps many philosophers is...

Do philosophers consider psychology to be a science? If not, do they think philosophy should inform personal life values or psychiatric treatment?

Interesting question! The field of psychology emerged in the 19th and early 20th century as a science; at least the early self-described psychologists first described themselves as developing a science of the mind, and later changed this to the science of behavior. In any case, I suggest that whether psychology is a science, it is difficult to avoid philosophy when addressing one's personal life or engaged in psychiatric treatment. Presumably, one's personal life will include some kind of philosophy of values or some ideas about what is good and healthy, bad and ill, what is kind or cruel, and so on. Some of the therapeutic communities I know in which persons seek recovery from mental illness involve a philosophy of health, responsibility, and care (see for example, Spring Lake Ranch in Vermont). They do not employ a philosophy course from Plato to Nato, but much of the dialogue is about wellbeing, the value of community, and living a philosophy of mutual respect.

I have a friend who is an Atheist because he claims that the burden of proof (for the existence of God/other practices and belief's) is on religion and he has not been satisfied with any proof set forth. He says, "if you propose the existence of something, you must follow the scientific method in your defense of its existence. Otherwise, I have no reason to listen to you." Should one believe in God or practice religion only if it can be proven by the scientific method? What do you think of his reasoning? Is it rational to believe in a God/Religion without the SM? Thanks and I'm a huge fan of the site!

It would be interesting to draw your friend out a bit more on what he means by the scientific method. Is he including non-behaviorist psychology, in which it is permissible to describe and explain people's subjective experiences, employing introspection? Does he include history? Or is his domain only the natural sciences? Even addressing these questions will, I believe, bring to light that your friend is operating on something that goes beyond the "scientific method"; he is employing a philosophy of science. Science alone (physics....) will not tell you that it is the only reliable basis of knowledge, and if a physicist says this, then she is being more than a physicists; she is a philosopher of physics or science. In any case, questions about ethics, religion, and meaning go beyond science (I suggest) and in fact science as a practice must presuppose some ethics (minimally one must be trustworthy / not falsify data, etc) in order to be practiced at all. Questions about whether or not there is a...

Why does giving authority to a sense of aesthetics sometimes lead to finding the wrong answer to a scientific question?

Good question! First, it must be said that sometimes aesthetic considerations seem to be quite positive scientifically, at least according to books like The Elegant Univers by Brian Greene: "In physics, as in art, symmetry is a key part of aesthetics." In the International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Eligan has argued that "Aesthetic devices are integral to science." And there have been various claims about how Einstein, Pincare, Heisenberg, Weyl, have been led by aesthetic considerations. On that, check out Truth and Beauty by Chandrasekhar. When you look at what is meant by "aesthetics" in this literature it sometimes refers to symmetry, simplicity, harmony, order, consistency, economy, unity, elegance, beauty... I suppose one way to answer your question is that aesthetics can lead to bad science if the sense of the beauty of a theory is somehow misplaced or there is (what we might think of later as an ugly) ignoring of evidence for the sake of a simplicity that is inadequate to the task...

Is religion merely a primitive form of science?

Great question! It may seem quite odd to equate religion and science because the former involves so much more than science. In religious communities and traditions one finds a whole way of life, a set of values and rites that seem to go well beyond the kind of inquiry that make up the natural and social sciences. Still, historically and today, religions do offer descriptions, explanations, and predictions about the cosmos and our place in it. Theistic traditions, for example, understand the cosmos itself to be created and conserved in being by an awesome, omnipresent, good, purposive reality. In today's terminology, however, I think it would be misleading and perhaps wrong to think of such a claim as a scientific one, but it would not be unscientific because there is (obviously) no evidence for such a worldview. The cosmological argument, for example, has some very able defenders today (see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry for a good version) and that argument would seek to establish...

Science theorises by proposing ideal types and deducing ideal relationships between them. In nature there is no ideal sphere touching an ideal frictionless plane in an ideal single point. Instead of these ideals, nature gives us avalanches. Yet to study real avalanches the theory derived from the unreal ideal is required. Presumably, reality is too chaotic to theorise directly. Does all useful theory depend on ideal types? It does seem usual. Economics creates idealised relational theories from idealised constructs such as homo economicus, market clearing, perfect information and other things which do not and cannot exist in reality. Presumably, this idealisation approach is one reason for the relative success of economics compared with other social sciences. In the natural sciences measurement is also ideal. For example, a temperature noted as 23.59 degrees is not real: the reality will be plus or minus some small amount. The recorded value, like any exact number, is a mathematical...

Your question is excellent. Though I am afraid your proposal is not completely novel insofar as Plato initiated a philosophy of ideal forms in all areas of life (the good, the true, the beautiful, the just, and so on), though of course he was working long before we began carving up inquiry into the different natural and social sciences. At many points in the history of ideas, philosophers have worked with ideal or what has come to be called paradigm cases. So, in the theory of knowledge, a philosopher might describe an ideal or paradigm case of what it is to know some internal state (the feeling of pain) or see a remote object and then use that paradigm to assess different, more controversial knowledge-claims. So, one might entertain an ideal case of what it is to see a person, and then ask whether claims to see or perceive a sacred reality (God) in religious experience is similar or too remote to count as evidence. And in ethics we often use thought experiments to try to capture the different values...

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