• Ferenc Hörcher added an answer:
    Is Legal positivism of Hans Kelsen outdated by Dworkin?

    Legal positivism, by contrast to natural law, holds that there is no necessary connection between law and morality and that the force of law comes from some basic social facts. Legal positivists differ on what those facts are. (Soper, "Legal Positivism", Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy)

    In his book Law's Empire Dworkin attacked Hart and the positivists for their refusal to treat law as a moral issue. Dworkin argues that law is an 'interpretive' concept, that requires judges to find the best-fitting and most just solution to a legal dispute, given their constitutional traditions. (Ronald Dworkin, Law's Empire (1986) Harvard University Press)

    Ferenc Hörcher

    I do not think that it isan objectively decidable either-or question, but I myself side in this respect with Dowrkin. However, i would go further, and claim, that natural law still has a relevance, as human nature decides a priori certain things, that can be excluded from becoming law, and certain other things, that must be included in any normal working mechanisms of law.

  • Mark A Symmons added an answer:
    Can anyone help me with sources on the philosophy of perception?
    I am doing some writing in the area of philosophical understandings of perception. Specifically I am interested in how we perceive abstract art. I would be grateful if anyone has any references of the general area of the philosophy of perception or the application of this to art perception.
    Mark A Symmons

    Very much a focus on vision and visual processes. The original question did not specify vision. There's no reason why abstract art in particular cannot have haptic (touch) aspects in particular,  but also auditory elements etc. Would anyone care to reflect more on that? 

  • Jerry Rhee added an answer:
    What is the scientific method suitable for research in the area of legal philosophy?

    To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. (Rules for the study of natural philosophy", Newton transl 1999, pp. 794–6, after Book 3,The System of the World.)

    Jerry Rhee


    I find nothing in Marcelo’s definition of the scientific method that says it is a “quantitative reductionist empiricist behavioral definition of scientificity”.  In fact, the things you talk about can be given formal descriptions where good ones are expected to be adapted and sustained. 

    You also make a good point about how we shouldn’t ignore the different values we hold regarding interpretation of signs. 

    “In spite of the often confusing plurality of terms, it is reasonably clear that mediation, which is almost equivalent to Peirce's third category (see, in particular, CP 1.328 [c. 1894]; CP 2.88 [1902]; PPM 193 f. [1903]; NEM 4:308), is the most generic way of characterising semiosis.

    That is, whatever else semiotic representation, determination, and communication may turn out to be, they can plausibly be construed as modes or aspects of mediation. In semeiotic, mediation is intimately associated with the fundamental semiotic relationship, taken as a triadic whole; the mediating sign is something that brings two other semiotic subjects into a certain kind of irreducible relation. Or, expressed differently, the sign mediates between the object and the interpretant (EP 2:410 [1907])…

    …Peirce undeniably characterises his theory of signs as a scientific undertaking, but that does not mean that semeiotic would study nothing but science; Peirce himself tends to view practically everything that can in any sense be investigated in semiotic terms (see SS 85 f. [1908]).

    ~ Mats Bergman, “Reflections on the role of the communicative sign in semeiotic”. 

  • John David Sanders added an answer:
    Pros and Cons of ICT development. What are Social Bugs of Technology? What has changed or will change in individuals and society due to technology?
    I am trying to get a big picture of where we as individuals and as a society are going. Coming from the technological side, I am not interested in condemning technology as a total, but rather trying to identify “social bugs”, as I call them, to improve our everyday life.

    This question is trying to understand:

    1. What exactly has changed at individual (psychological) level and in our society (relationships, culture, etc.)?
    2. Why has it changed?
    3. What was it that changed it?
    4. How could that be avoided?

    I highly appreciate interdisciplinary answers, personal opinions and links to related research.
    John David Sanders

    1) Social dependency

    The rate of change that we now live with is fuelled by technologies such as computers. Coping with change creates stress and isolation. Although much larger populations can be made plausibly viable with these tools  a large underclass can be left out or made dependent.  This creates vulnerable sub-classes - this may be a design flaw. Software engineers will tell that design flaws are many times harder and more costly to fix than basic bugs. The consequences will tend to be new groupings. (Made easier by the very technology that created the problem!)

    2) Basis Loss

    The dependency on technology to solve everyday tasks can create a loss of connection with the process that would have been used in the past. It creates the illusion that this is how it is now done so I need not know anything more about it. Unfortunately knowing how things arise helps us check their validity and without it we move on with blind acceptance. Apply this to large populations with all that attendant inertia and the result is loss of ability to question and refine. The current social and scientific beliefs become difficult to escape from.

    3) Meme propagation  (see the selfish Gene  - Richard Dawkins)

    With the advent of powerful communications and computing, random and even bizarre beliefs now regularly haunt the more susceptible. This attacks social cohesion.  The internet is not a particularly good thing when this affect is taken into account. Again this is at the level of a design flaw.

    4) Peer Pressure   - herd mentality brings conformity but frequently it can still be detrimental.

    5) Isolation  - Just stand waiting for a train at any British station and watch the  phones come out and the  frantic dobbing at titchy screens. No one looks around - they are all in their own heads. It is probably no longer rare for two people to hold a via SMS/email when they are near enough to talk.

    6) A new fashion industry  - mobiles/computing  - a cynical move?

    7)  Games - relieve the pressure of real interaction by playing games to get the reward of apparent (safe ) interactions in a game. Again isolating.

    All bugs condemn a system to some extent. So the negative slant is predominant here. For example the last one; games could be seen as coping strategy that can be taught via a game but it rarely meets the total need and creates an illusion of a solution.

    So what is good? Systems and solutions that are far beyond our ability  to handle can be realised. Examples military sensors and defence systems ,  power controls systems, government management systems (tax and pensions) trading systems... do you notice these tend to be for the social "animal". Individuality traded out for sake of society. That is not actually bad but in a trade-off it should ultimately find an acceptable  balance - that is the point. 

  • Rahimi Ali added an answer:
    Does anyone know the origin of the term mereology?
    Stanisław Leśniewski originated the term mereology as the study of part - whole relationships. Does anyone know where this term was first used by him?
    Rahimi Ali


    this one sounds more viable and relevant ?

    Stanisław Leśniewski (1886–1939) was one of the principal founders and movers of the school of logic that flourished in Warsaw between the two world wars. He was the originator of an unorthodox system of the foundations of mathematics, based on three formal systems: Protothetic, a logic of propositions and their functions; Ontology: a logic of names, and functors of arbitrary order; and Mereology, a general theory of part and whole. His concern for utmost rigor in the formalization and execution of logic, coupled with a nominalistic rejection of abstract entities, led to a precise but highly unusual metalogic. His strictures on correctly distinguishing use from mention of expressions, his canons of correct definition, and his mereology, have all informed the logical mainstream, but the majority of his logical views and innovations have not been widely adopted. Despite this, his influence as a teacher and as a motor for logical innovation are widely acknowledged. He remains one of logic's most original figures.

    extracted from this :

  • Rahimi Ali added an answer:
    Ontology as a personal worldview?
    Does anyone know of writing and scholarship that has viewed ontology as a personal worldview?
    Rahimi Ali

    hi paul

    these are the publications:

  • Stefan Gruner added an answer:
    What are the impacts of Ibn Rushd?
    Google has celebrated Ibn Rushd several days ago. I would like to know your valuable insights about the significant contributions of Ibn Rushd in philosophy and literature?
    Stefan Gruner


    If you study the scholarly secondary literature about Master Eckhart (medieval German philosopher theologian and mystic), you will find many comments concerning the influences of Averroes onto Master Eckhart's thoughts.


  • Closed account added an answer:
    Does philosophy need a language that admits of no contradictions?
    Some philosophers/mathematicians (e.g., Tarski) laid some emphasis on construing a language that does not admit of contradictions, and were even ready to pay the price (if you want to call it thus) of excluding semantic terms and the like. I came to ask myself if it is actually a problem (rather than an advantage) of a language that it is able to express many things (including contradictions). What do you think?

    Quite so.

  • Closed account added an answer:
    What has been and what will be the impact of research on the prefrontal cortex on philosophy?
    Over the past two decades or more, much has been learned about the PFC, but many people do not seem to have incorporated this new knowledge into their philosophy of human life.

    Still, dear Mckinney, you blame everything on the neocortex... with your neocortex.


  • Rahimi Ali added an answer:
    Do current academics leave room for anymore "renaissance (wo)men"?
    Are there pressures within our educational systems that work against the development of academics and thinkers who delve broadly across disciplines in their research and writings? Does specialisation ensure that we all all reading and thinking narrowly within our disciplinary areas or does the open access of information across the internet mean that we are all becoming more interdisciplinary? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
    Rahimi Ali

    open access of information across the internet does not lead to interdisciplniarity , unfortunately the idea of  '' focus '' on certain special disciplines in our educational settings has created a host of misconceptions malpractices and myopic shallow mentalities , it has provided our academicians with the loophole of ignorance about other disciplines even fundumendal disciplines like psychology  and philosophy. Hence lack of knowledge about even relevant fields of study is , bitterly ironically, a sign of academic development and such ''scholars'' can promote their career with impunity and accolade .

  • Ivo Carneiro de Sousa added an answer:
    Can a suicide be justified as a criminal offence in present day and age?
    Suicide attempt is a criminal offence in India under Section 309 of the IPC (attempt to commit suicide). A political activist who has been on hunger strike from last many years was booked under this law recently.
    Ivo Carneiro de Sousa

    As is well known, Emile Durkheim's "Suicide" (1897) is a founding classic of social sciences as well as key book of sociology. According to Durkheim famous paradoxical conclusion - the anomy theory - people with more social bounds are more likely to commit suicide when suddenly they loose social connections. Durhheim also explains that psychological problems and disturbances are a consequence of anomy not a cause of suicide. Durkheim concludes that suicide is a social phenomenon. I wonder if Melissa statistic figures still match Durkeim's classic. Nonetheless, criminalization of suicide attempts probably is something aiming to comfort a kind of paternalist and patriarchal social power other than targeting its causes. Instead, India should criminalize the causes of the huge poverty and exploitation still paramount in the country.

  • Rahimi Ali added an answer:
    Can anyone refer me to work about Ayn Rand and feminism?

    I am looking for scholarship exploring Rand's attitude towards feminism as expressed in her publications, novels and philosophy. I would also like to be referred to any feminist or anti-feminist work about Rand. 

    Rahimi Ali

    Dear Anita

    here are the publications:

  • Antonio Lucero added an answer:
    Does society require a majority of conformists?
    Some neuroscientists claim that about 15% of society are innovators - people who are not satisfied with the status quo. The other 85% need to be conformists in order that society maintains stability. What do you think? And in which group do you belong?
    Antonio Lucero

    Polymath people - People who have the creativity of the arts AND have the math and science "chops" are the ones we need.

    As happened during WWII and the Cold War: When a society feels (or is really) threatened by a technologically advanced adversary, then it will look for and support those who can innovate and make breakthroughs - regardless of their academic pedigree.

    It is a sad commentary to claim that we need war (or the threat of war) for our modern societies to support and promote the "nerds" to save our asses!

  • Gerardo Vicente Estrada added an answer:
    What is life/ What is right or wrong in life?
    Experiential learning with awareness is human lif'e.
    We need to live life with full awareness of what we are doing and what is the outcome of our actions/ karma.We can not escape work/ karma , so let us learn while doing.

    What is right or wrong in life?
    Let us understand our natural tendencies and once we are aware about that, we can control them and steer ourselves along the righteous path.Righteous path is one in which we look at the universe as one family- caring for others, sharing our knowledge and experience i.e. living in harmony with love for all beings .Let us serve the universe(God’s nature) with devotion as per our pure nature.
    Gerardo Vicente Estrada

    Aristoteles y Kant?

  • Rahimi Ali added an answer:
    Can someone suggest another scholar besides Hall, that defines hegemony as an ideological force that can produce "the othering"?

    In this I mean other profound scholars that have defined hegemony as having the ability to represent those being dominated in a particular regime of representation.

    Rahimi Ali

    Dear Pushpa,

    van dijk's  dichotomous categorization of '' positive self presentation and negative other presentation and concepts  self glorification , US vs THEM,  are relevant to your study

    moreover, my articles on Critical Discourse Analysis ,  Power specially ''    Euphemization and Derogation shared on  researchgate  can provide you with theoretical and aspects of the phenomenon of hegemony.

    good luck with your study


  • Carmen Wrede added an answer:
    What is the relationship between Plato's Cave and Gilbert's Barrier?

    Plato’s Cave: see Plato’s “The Republic” (514a to 520a) or just the Wikipedia entry

    Gilbert’s Barrier:

    “The human soul uses reason, sees many things, investigates many more; but, however well equipped, it gets light and the beginnings of knowledge from the outer senses, as from beyond a barrier -- …”

              (William Gilbert, De Magnete, 1600 AD)

    Are Plato and Gilbert essentially referring to the same subjective phenomenon and the same objective reality? If so, which is more fundamental, the subjective phenomenon or the objective reality? Is there major disagreement between the two, or are they merely offering somewhat different interpretations of the same subjective evidence? Or what?

    NB William Gilbert was an English physician, natural philosopher and early experimental scientist in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England. He particularly studied magnetism and wrote an influential book thereon from which comes this quotation.

    Carmen Wrede

    Sorry, I didn't put attention on the fact you linked your question with keywords like "history of the past" but was rather concentrated on what you asked. In that case I understand your trouble as well as Andrey's critics.

  • Manuel Morales added an answer:
    Universe's systematic description, epistemological dualism between Relativity/Quantum Mechanics and 'a priori' knowledge.

    How can Quantum Mechanics explain the connection between matter, antimatter and gravitation, while being respectful of the (phoronomic) rules of general relativity? How can the connection between 'continuum' and 'discrete' be explained according to the epistemological model of a 'classical' theory?

    Manuel Morales

    Although my invite for research contributions are initially focused towards grade school children, I invite my colleagues here at RG to feel free to participate as well (see link).

  • John David Sanders added an answer:
    What role has anticipation in consciousness?

    Philosophers says the brain is an anticipation machine. I miss this statement in the present discussions of consciousness on RG. Is there any interrelation of consciousness, Qualia and anticipation?

    John David Sanders

    Predictor-corrector filters used in tracking for example  (eg Kalman statistical filters) can be seen as "anticipating" a receivable response. If they anticipate wrongly then they must apply a further correction. In real-time/ control based systems the prediction mechanism is a form of anticipation. Thus the existence of anticipation implies convergence mechanisms  in thought. (AI planning systems are often seen in these terms - particularly with plan repair cycles). The key point is that AI  systems must always handle realtime control issues and then as they evolve they can build evermore elaborate models (anticipating) and then test reality to prove their model. Thus control evolves into thought and science. AI systems are anticipation engines or AI systems use convergence mechanisms with live input  - these two are somehow equivalent.

  • Laurence Edward Hooper added an answer:
    In Medieval philosophy, how did Bernhard of Chartres comment in his Glosses on Plato and Plato´s Republic?

    Bernhard of Chartres says in his Glosses on Plato, that such an ideal state cannot exist in this world. Is this now his own opinion, or does he refer to Republic IX 592ab? Because: As far as I know there was no copy of the Republic in his time, only Calcidius' Timaeus. So how could he refer to the Republic in such a detailed way?

    Laurence Edward Hooper

    The answer to your question is most probably that Bernard is referring to a passage in the Republic that he does not know directly but has seen quoted in one of the many authors listed in the previous answer. If I were trying to find the exact source, I would refer to the work of Stephen Gersh and Peter Dronke. Here are two starting points.

  • Ferenc Hörcher added an answer:
    Is Hume’s ‘progress of the sentiments’ to be understood as ontological or historical?

    In his Treatise, Hume refers to "a progress of the sentiments" (Book III, Sec. II). As I understand this, he takes it that we may develop a bona fide commitment to justice such that it can supplement or even contravene the private interests that originally gave rise to it (i.e., justice being a product of artifice). I take him to be making an ontological claim here rather than a historical one, particularly as he appears to regard our “suppos’d state of nature” as "mere philosophical fiction". Is there an alternate interpretation?

    Ferenc Hörcher

    Dear Mariane, I agree with your description of book one: indeed it starts our from epistemological questions, and arrives at ontological ones.


  • Oscar E. Quiros added an answer:
    According to Rancière, aesthetics would be an option for a sensitive platform for action (inter) disciplinary?
    Recently, different areas of scientific knowledge has subverted its boundaries acting to cope with the demands of contemporary society. What are the different interdisciplinary strategies used by different social actors, especially in the area of education?
    Oscar E. Quiros

    Your statement and questions appear to be fixed a-priori, thus it is difficult to comment on them because your premises are not facts.  As von Germeten indicated before, it would be better if you are more specific.  And hopefully do not base a question based on suppositions.  It could be an interesting topic of discussion if correctly approached.

  • Geng Ouyang added an answer:
    Researchers should be philosophers or have a matter of logic. What do you think?
    In our trip looking for the truth, does researching depend on philosophy or needs logic, and on the other hand, should all facts depends on logic?
    Geng Ouyang

    Very good idea, Ms. Jeanan Shafiq!

    Theoretical things are expressed by words; and the carriers of the theoretical things are expressed by actions------ words, choices, responsibilities..

  • Andrew Messing added an answer:
    Does the term "stochasteon" (στοχαστέον) that arises at Topics VIII 5 have some normative role in this passage?

    The term appears in the first sentence of Topics VIII 5: "are evident now which should be (στοχαστέον) the goals / objectives of the respondent." And then Aristotle introduces a disjunction: every proposition put by the questioner must be either generally accepted (and that "generally" seems to appeal to the justification / rationale of the respondent) or generally rejected. After that follow the consequences of accepting or rejecting a proposition, namely that if the respondent accepts or rejects, must also assume that there is a total acceptance or total rejection, ie, it must stand as a kind of "universal respondent". After Aristotle also discusses the relationship between acceptance, rejection and relevance of propositions. My question is about the beginning of discussion to establish some normative way of thinking about the goals of the respondent.

    Andrew Messing

    Either I desperately need to brush up on my Greek or I am getting something else confused here. The line Φανερὸν οὖν τίνων στοχαστέον τῷ ἀποκρινομένῳ, εἴτε ἁπλῶς ἔνδοξον εἴτε τινὶ τὸ κείμενόν ἐστιν begins part 6 (159b 36).

    More interestingly, we have in this line two important and scarcely analyzed aspects of Greek grammar in this one line. Pheneron, the lexeme beginning the line, is one of several words commonly used in Greek in impersonal constructions ("it appears...","it seems", etc.). Impersonal constructions have, alas, received too little attention in General, let alone in analyses of classical Greek. An exception (of sorts) is Bauer's Archaic Syntax in Indo-European: The Spread of Transitivity in Latin and French, which aims to demonstrate that PIE was a language of the active type. One piece of evidence proffered concern the relative ubiquity of impersonal constructions in IE language (Es gibt, c'est, il est, there is, etc.) compared to their absence, at least in any readily comparable way, in non-IE languages. In Classical Greek, impersonal constructions are tied into a sort of fledgling modal system and show tell-tale signs of grammaticalization. For example, some common impersonal verbs appear only as such or almost always do: δεῖ, χρή, and ἔξεστι.

    Both –τέος/  τέον are modal inflectional affixes which “experiment la modalité de l’obligatif, où l’exécution de l’action verbale est présentée comme obligatoire" (Duhoux's Le Verbe Grec Ancien). They two are part of a Greek modal system and in particular one that I have come to refer to as prepontic modality (indicating/denoting suitability, propriety, and frequently blending with modal domains concerning obligation or necessity).

    It should be understood, then, that στοχαστέον cannot be adequately treated as a lexeme, as it is far more schematized and appears as an impersonal construction within another impersonal construction, both creating epistemic distance (profiling he statement as true/fact independent of the author). I would argue that the line is better translated as something close to "it is clear how the answerer should reply", treating στοχαστέον as semantically bleached. Perhaps this is taking it too far, but the important point is that the double impersonal modal constructions must be interpreted via the modal domains they construe. The force of the opening clause is not simply what is evident or apparent but what is clearly required or obviously necessary.

    The rest is fairly straightforward, as we have a list of rules concerning when a premise should be responded to as such. The first rule ("ἢ ἔνδοξον εἶναι ἢ ἄδοξον ἢ μηδέτερον") is not general acceptance vs. non-acceptance, but a tautology. Either the statement is accepted, or it isn't, or neither. Non tertium datur doesn't even hold here, as Aristotle is concerned with covering all possibilities. This is not true of the next condition which necessarily holds: relevancy. Either the premise is or isn't relevant and now there is no third way. And so on.

    But the opening line uses grammatical (or highly schematic/schematized and at least partially grammaticized) means to convey the necessary/obligatory and obvious state of affairs the answerer finds herself or himself in give any premise.

  • Marcel M. Lambrechts added an answer:
    Is 'optimal' science terminology required in science practice?

    In many research projects, phenomena are briefly observed, for instance to minimise impacts of human presence following observation or monitoring. For instance, phenology of nest construction in small box breeding passerines consist of several building stages, of which one is described as a 'pile of moss' expressed before the nest foundation is finished. The definition of this nest building stage is most often based on an individual impression without counting or measuring moss fibres. A 'pile of moss' therefore represents a human-invented class potentially reflecting numerous physical expressions of what observers name 'a pile of moss'. Does empirically measurable science terminology result from trade-offs between costs and benefits related to detail of measurement? Perhaps there is an 'optimal' science terminology that takes costs and benefits of measurement procedures into account. For instance, scientists might take the time to measure every detail of 'a pile of moss'. However, more detailed studies can substantially increase time or energy-expenditure devoted to measurement, and may have consequences for life-history stages following monitoring of a pile of moss (e.g. final nest structure, onset of egg laying, clutch size, ...).

    'Optimal' terminology taking costs and benefits of science measurement procedures into account would obviously express spatiotemporal variation. It also can explain why methods differ across publications dealing with the same scientific topic (e.g. avian nest building).

    Marcel M. Lambrechts

    Is science terminology exact/precise enough?

  • Mohammad Firoz Khan added an answer:
    The universe: Superstructural alienation?

    Also one might think this is a joke I have already seen such a discussion. Unfortunately linked to physical discussions which maybe did arise out of a misunderstanding of the word "superstructure".

    However even we don't know yet much about the superstructure of the universe and much of what we can direct our thoughts to and it might for sure be extremly hypothetical obviously some people already want to discuss this topic and for this it could be worthy to ask ourself:

    How could superstructures of the universe be linked to Marx idea of superstructures? How could it affect the base?

    Literature and movies already seem to be ready to think about "new superior relations of productions" and they mostly describe a dystopic world in which we ultimately are going to ruin ourselves by the inventions we make. Either by improperly handling or totaly willing by minority groups. Likewise in 1984 we look mostly unlikly to do something against this box of pandora we opened. But as we are talking about superstructures this is all brought to a total new level of questions. The big question: What choices do we have?

    In the end it seems to be a question of cognition vs. feelings. F.e. hubristic scientific work vs. bounds we have with family and friends. To whom is it in the future directed to what we do?

    Are our ethical standards sufficient to face up to whatever we are going to invent? Or should we maybe learn this time from history and be a little bit faster? What new standards are you expecting when it comes to sciences?

    Mohammad Firoz Khan

    From Scott’s observation “Interesting that you note that sci-fi describes a dystopia of "new superior relations of production." Sci -fi movies must currently employ "new superior relations of production" between live action and animation. If science fiction's vision is the base, then the movie production is a superstructure which curiously creates an economic base and superstructure, a movie industry and a Hollywood lifestyle.”
    And from Carmen’s quote, "The benefits of a collaborative relationship are clear. For filmmakers, science advisers add a sense of realism and legitimacy to their creative vision. But perhaps even more important, scientists provide a window into the clear array of real-life science stories that are happening around us every day - all of which have the capacity to provide the inspiration for fresh, unique, and compelling narratives.
    And for scientists, The Exchange offers an opportunity to expand the reach of their work, moving their research out of the lab and into the public eye, offering the promise to improve attitudes toward science and galvanizing interest in further discovery."
    I draw conclusion, that Si-fic not only create base and superstructure of “movie industry and a Hollywood Lifestyle” but also superstructure of “Science” in putting goals of it and determining its direction of progress as religion and establishments, ethics etc. guide capitalist economy.

    Also see the link which has reference t0 Einstein as well as some interesting opinion about dark matter:|NSNS|2015-2102-AUS-febemi6_apac|content&utm_medium=EMP&utm_source=NSNS&utm_campaign=FebEmi6_APAC&utm_content=content

  • Closed account added an answer:
    Metaphysical naturalism (continued) - science and philosophy
    Taken to the letter, scientific realism is naïvely, even quaintly, optimistic about the contribution scientific accounts can make to metaphysical speculation. Indeed, while science can have metaphysical implications, we must – as Sklar reminds us - be wary of “reading off a metaphysics” from the “overt appearance” of some given theory; likewise, confirmation holism requires that we take into account the metaphysical assumptions – and the pre-theoretical intuitions - which underlay the initial formulation of the theory. Above all, we should bear in mind that a scientifically-refined notion might bear no relation either to our intuitive notions, or to our philosophical refinements of those notions. In the Stanford entry on ‘causal determinism’, Carl Hoefer reminds us that “neither philosophers' nor laymen's conceptions of events have any correlate in any modern physical theory. The same goes for the notions of cause and sufficient cause” and, in a note, that “some philosophers are misled on this point by the fact that some now-defunct presentations of Special Relativity theory seem to be grounded on an ontology of events. But Special Relativity does not need to be so presented, nor were the “events” used anything like common sense events”.

    Hoefer’s remarks are justified, but nonetheless require comment and elucidation. In a scientifically-refined theory (here, the contemporary theory or family of theories that are themselves refinements of Einstein's theory), it is indeed the case that there are no direct correlates for our intuitive or traditional philosophical understanding of either 'events' or 'causation'. For example, in special relativity, and given the limitations imposed by the speed of light, a light-cone shows what points lie in the 'past' of a point p, what points lie in its 'future', and what points are in its 'absolute elsewhere' (that is, no light from them can reach p). As such, this is nothing more than an informal description of the geometry of spacetime (not allowing, of course, for gravitational effects); it corresponds rather to a mathematical model than to a 'physical description of spacetime'. Similar observations found what Katherine Hawley has called ‘radical pessimism’ concerning the validity of scientific findings in metaphysical enquiry: the (primarily mathematical) models with which the scientist works are at best generalisations or approximations of conditions obtaining in the physical universe, and as such, are incommensurable with the entities and relations postulated in metaphysics. Yet are we really dealing with notions that are entirely incompatible?

    Evidently, when working within a given theory, on its implications for associated theories, and in peer-to-peer discussions within his speciality, the scientist tends to use a mathematical formalisation of spacetime. Nonetheless, in informal or semi-formal descriptions of spacetime (such as those used in teaching, in certain reflections on the interpretation of theory, and in presentations of the specialist's field when addressing scientists in other disciplines), the refined view is frequently related to (a semi-refined version of) the intuitive notion from which it is - however distantly – derived. Thus, the notion of light-cone is frequently introduced by discussing the 'events' which can 'influence' or 'be influenced by' some 'point-event'*. Likewise, the series of pairwise B-series orderings between point-events (that is, the series of events as ordered by the relations 'lies in the past light-cone of' or 'lies in the future light-cone of') is said to determine the 'causal structure' of spacetime. The adoption of intuitively-recognisable entities and relations in what have been called 'lies-to-children' should not mislead us concerning the probable incommensurability of these intuitively-recognisable elements with the notions adopted in the refined theory. Nevertheless, the characteristic of a 'lie-to-children' is that it is 'wrong for the right reasons' – frequently, in that it takes a local, but well-known, case of some more general feature and proceeds 'as if' that case held generally. The 'weight/mass' example illustrates this well. 'Weight' is a local semi-constant under common conditions on Earth which is entirely eliminated from the Newtonian account; nevertheless, we continue to employ 'weight' as a measurable quantity in our everyday discussions of the mass of commonplace terrestrial things such as gold funerary masks, sacks of potatoes, or American film actresses.

    Proto-scientific theories are often generalisations from entirely local features of some given set of phenomena; these local features are in many cases causally related to the regularities more properly described by one, or several, more refined theories (and in some cases by theories from widely differing disciplines). While it is certainly the case that the regularities underlying the distribution of mass and energy in spacetime bear little resemblance to the 'causes' and 'effects', or the 'objects' and 'events', of either our commonsense or our philosophically refined notions, the naturalistic view would nonetheless suggest that such everyday phenomena depend upon, or are determined by, the more fundamental regularities. While we cannot simply cite a given scientific theory in defence of some pre-established metaphysical position, is it perhaps possible that examination of the informal or semi-formal notions employed in the interpretation and exposition of the theory might nonetheless answer certain requirements of philosophical investigation into such areas as events or causation?


    In a recent paper (Casati, R. & Varzi, A. (2008) “Event Concepts” in T. F. Shipley & J. Zacks (eds.), “Understanding Events: How Humans See, Represent, and Act on Events”, New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming) Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi attempt to account for the "plurality of concepts" subtending the general category of 'event' as it is understood in our pre-theoretical intuitions; as it is understood in scientific revisions of our pre-theoretical intuitions; and as it is understood in the various philosophical discussions of mind, action, causation, change, time, and the like. Casati & Varzi refer the specific problem to the more general question of how our intuitive notions are taken up, refined – and, in some cases, superseded by - philosophical and scientific enquiry. Science, they suggest, departs from the phenomena postulated by our commonsense notions and examines them “with respect to exogenous empirical considerations”; it has no particular interest in saving or accommodating our pre-theoretical intuitions. Philosophy also departs from our phenomenal experience of the world; however, philosophical refinement of our intuitive or commonsense notions is dictated by “endogenous a priori considerations”, such as certain internal inconsistencies in some commonsense notion. Unlike scientists, philosophers are generally sensitive to the charge that their refinements run counter to our pre-theoretical intuitions about some phenomenon, and will scrupulously weigh the advantages of any given refinement against its cost in terms of subverting some commonly-held intuition. Many philosophers (and as many - if not more - scientists) would say that this divergence does indeed represent a fundamental difference in orientation between the two disciplines, and that the possibilities of dialogue are minimal. In philosophy, this is the view represented by – for example – Peter Hacker (Hacker, P. (1982), "Events and Objects in Space and Time”, Mind, 91), for whom "whatever utility such language [that of contemporary physics] might have for specialized purposes, it cannot incorporate our concepts of event or material object, for they are firmly embedded in our conceptual scheme, and intimately bound up with our ordinary notions of space and time" (cf. Hoefer's remarks above).

    Such objections would be justifiable were we to follow a strong scientifically realist programme, and attempt to subsume or to reduce philosophically-refined notions to scientifically-refined notions (as in the naïve hypothesis that mental phenomena can be subsumed or reduced to brain activity). Yet such simplistic positivism is a relic of another age. We have seen that, while a naturalist approach in philosophy can be seen as prolonging and developing on the scientific project, we are not justified in simply grafting the theoretical notions of physical science onto our metaphysics. If we follow Casati & Varzi's characterisations, the role of metaphysics should be to clarify our intuitive notions about the world and our place in it, and to investigate any inconsistencies we might find either within some intuitive notion, or between associated notions. It follows that any such project would also require that we compare our intuitive notions with our knowledge of the world, and it is perhaps here that we can find an area of fruitful exchange between scientific and philosophical modes of investigation. In an unpublished critique of contemporary philosophy of time, Craig Callender suggests an explanatory or mediating role for such investigation: philosophy should seek "to refine our description of what needs to be explained, carefully examine science and the way it treats time, compare the two, and then try to account for any explanatory gap that arises". Callender's suggestion – which, interestingly enough, he draws from a consideration of recent work in the philosophy of mind - strikes me as eminently reasonable. While the scientific refinement of a certain notion might evacuate all semblance of, or correlation with, the pre-theoretical or naïve intuitions with which the notion is associated in our everyday lives, there remains a philosophical requirement to explain any residual lacunae between, on the one hand, our best candidate for knowledge about a certain phenomenon and, on the other hand, our experience of that phenomenon.

    *Indeed, in their 2002 article "Ephemeral point-events: is there a last remnant of physical objectivity?" (Dialogos, 37), Pauri and Vallisneri remark on "…an unfortunate ambiguity in the usage of the term space-time points in the literature: sometimes it refers to an element of the mathematical structure that is the first layer of the space-time model, sometimes to the points interpreted as physical events".

    If I may, you are right, the question is not grammatically present in Davis Hirst's exposition but his dissertation is interesting, involving and challenging philosophy towards new (or 'refined) physics'. The powerness and adequacy of philosophical concepts is challenged and the veritable question "how to describe" is not avoided, challenging not only philosophical concepts but also metaphors and any kind of description ! Challenging language and capacity of man to describe as a whole.

    This challenge, whatever the way of considering it, looks much like an aporia, so we have to come down to simple questions. For instance, when one says "philosophy should seek "to refine our description of what needs to be explained, carefully examine science and the way it treats time, compare the two, and then try to account for any explanatory gap that arises", we can try to answer, or to begin to answer.  consideratink key description and concept of "superposition d'état" (superposition of two states of thing in a thing) which is used in quantics or in Aspect's experiment. This key concept contests a key principle : Aristoteles non-contradiction principle (Metaphysics Gamma III 1005 b) which says that it is impossible that, at the time T,  for an element A got by a view V,  the same attribute (a i) of the A (a1, a2, ... ai... an) element would both belong and not belong to A.

    The concept of "superposition of state" which is used by physicians, if it supposes that a same particle has got, at the same time, on the same view, a state a i that belongs to A _and_ a state b i that belongs to A too (and not to B, as it should be) do not serve clarity of scientific experiments. We surely could have better (re-fined) descriptions of what occurs without neither necessarily darkening the point with physical concepts coming through largely refined equations ungettable but by physicians. (Will be said without any pretention)

    B. P. J. Desroches

  • Closed account added an answer:
    What do you think about the possibility of an exact fantasy?
    Imagination can be a powerful instrument of knowledge, like rational thinking. I think that an ontology based on exact imagination could be possible.

    As for metamorphosis of plants, there are those which are - and therefore they are in the system of necessity - and there are those which could be...

    Your remark about spiritualization leads to Chauviers's "expériences en pensée", (which are different from Wittgenstein one's, but may be related to them).

    He writes (my poor translation) :

    "Sometime we make an experiment with thought by activating a decisional simulator and by locating ourselves mentally in this simulator; sometimes we make an experiment with thought by activating a simulator an explorator of exotic instances and by observing with mind what gets out of this. "To place oneself into" and "to observe mentally what gets out of it" represent the two elementary operations of imagination which fund any experiment of thoughts"

    Very powerful book to think organic synthesis, I assure you. But of course this is not at all a romantic or novalisian way.


  • Ian Eagleson added an answer:
    Are things and events such as color vision and intentionality part of what Kant calls the noumena?
    There are two pillars of consciousness, that of intentionality, which includes thoughts, ideas, desires, motives and goals. The other side of consciousness is that of phenomena, which includes sensations, perceptions and feelings. These are troublesome for philosophy of mind philosophers because things such as color vision, the redness of red is not physical but is mental; the experience of a red rose is different from the physics of it all, this is related to the "Mary Problem" and what Goethe was pointing out, which is that Newtonian vision theory gives us everything about the theory of light but what we actually see and also perceive as beauty. Another example would be pain. One can pinch another and watch the physics and the biology of it all, but never will that observer 'feel' that other person's pain. The C Fibers can be watched and the damaged tissue, and the signals to the brain but one can't feel the pain of another. Also, ideas and other intentionalities aren't like tables and chairs that you can poke, prod and measure. They seem mental. like perceptions of color and feelings. Furthermore, reasons seem different than physical causes in that if you take a brain, blow it up to the size of a building and walk in what one would see is fat, protein and water, which translates into mostly dendrites, axons and synapses. No where do we "see" and idea. I don't want to debate my metaphysics or my epistemology though please.

    However, what I want to know is if these two categories, that of intentionality and phenomena, as described above, fit into what Kant would call the noumenal realm.

    Thank you ever so much for any help you may give.
    Ian Eagleson

    A noumenon, should such a thing be available to us, would be an intellectual object. (A256/B311)  But the very idea of such a thing breaches the conditions of sensibility (the possibility of spatiotemporal presentation). Yet the concept of a noumenon is not contradictory. We may deploy it; but we can cognize no object when we do. (Kant might say the concept has mere analytic significance.)  (He refers to it as a "boundary concept," indicating the limits of the understanding for cognition.)

    Ultimately, it (the concept) is a structural feature of maintaining the distinction between experience and the experienced.  But the idea of a noumenon can have no cognitive significance.

    It is not obvious to me that Kant could not accommodate a thoroughgoing dynamical account at the "empirical level," should physics lead us to this view. The core anti-Leibniz position comes from his position regarding space. Space, he argues, is neither relational (Leibniz) nor real (Newton) but transcendentally ideal. Any experiencer must have and contribute, he argues, its form of receptivity. This is the argument of the Transcendental Aesthetic. Space is our form of receiving "outer" presentations. 

  • Shian-Loong Bernard Lew added an answer:
    How exact is 'exact' in science practice?
    Many research disciplines like Ecology, Ethology or Psychology are considered soft sciences scientifically not truly 'exact' because of perceived complexity of phenomena investigated. But how exact is science in general from an empirical or scientific or philosophical point of view? That empirical observation always differs from theoretical prediction can be illustrated with simple examples. For instance, how many figures after the comma are required to match theoretical prediction concerning dimensions of simple geometric figures? Who decides on the precision of measures required? In other words, how exact is "exact"? Moreover, simple geometric equations describe triangles but how well do the theoretical predictions provided by the ancient Greeks match practice? If children or adults are asked to measure the same triangle drawn on paper, and they apply mathematical equations describing surfaces or perimeters of that triangle, there is definitely an observer effect. Deviations from the human-created theory might be caused by different factors. Measurement precision might change with the thickness of the lines constituting the triangle. Thicker lines might increase imprecision in measurement. The environment at the time of measurement influences perception therefore also determining how triangles are measured. More ambient noise might lower mental focus perhaps having impact on how triangles are measured in a class room. Evidently, precision in measurement will depend on material used.
    Thus, empirical measurement of the same triangle provides different results amongst observers even after controlling for support and environment.

    If the true nature of nature is indeed variation, human-invented 'perfect' triangles as defined in Mathematics can never be identified with empirical research practice. Why should human-invented theory be right and human practice be wrong? Who decides that human-invented theory not taking natural principles of variation into account is right? If one takes the reality of natural diversity into account, measurements, not the theory, are true. Alternatively, both practice and human invented theory might be considered true accepting all human products and activities result from natural processes.
    Shian-Loong Bernard Lew

    To get a grasp on the inexactness of the sciences, it is already a norm to think of "doing science" as conjecture-making and the whole process of defense against falsification  (I am thinking along the lines of Karl Popper). In physics, the continual quest for a unifying framework and the tasks of integrating quantum mechanics with relativity has turned up many quagmires- such as the statistical nature at the quantum level and the related Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In mathematics, Godel's theorem dealt a blow to the axiomatic program. The quest for universality is tempered by the Duhem-Quine thesis, while the formalism of axiomatics has opened up seeming endless possibilities. So on both the empirical and axiomatic fronts, there are indications of the "controvertibility of truth". Thus the role of scientists becomes one of specifying the "range of tolerance" for truth in their field, as opposed to establishing doctrines written in stone. Some may go as far as arguing that the accepted "range of tolerance" is a function of the dominant paradigm (i.e. Kuhnian paradigm shifts).

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