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What is the significance of philosophy for the development of sciences in the 21st century and in the context of the current technological revolution and dynamic technological progress and growing global problems?
Please, answer, comments.
I invite you to the discussion.
Best wishes
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6 October MMXXI
That's a really good question, and perhaps unanswerable.
I see Science in one corner and Philosophy in the other corner--opposite one and other.
Will they come out to fight each other, or to cooperate?
This quandary should be talked about more frequently.
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This is a deliberately loose thread of discussion where everybody is welcome to add authors, schools and approaches that are arguably contributing in meaningful ways to the renewal and avancement of contemporary social theory. Ideas and references wanted!
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L Kurt Engelhart I totally agree with you, theory must proceed from the top down, from the most abstract to the most particular. If the theoretical frames from various disciplines don't converge, perhaps it is because we have not yet been able to identify an integrative framework, with a higher level of abstractness depth. It therefore remains a task for the future, for innovative research in the area of social theory.
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The question I really wanted to "kick off" this thread:
Why would local (times/spaces) -- any number considered singly (or reflected on afterward and/or considered together in ways -- but still as they were, singly) -- ever to be thought to show what we ARE in terms of the Biology of Behavior?
One should not have such poorly contextualized thoughts but, as I will indicate, this is the nature of a lot of recognized and long-standing philosophy. Typical philosophy, not thoroughly guided by science.
I shall try to indicate how such normal experience could/should NOT be likely to reveal most-key behavioral development -- the core biological functioning of behavior.
[ FOR THIS ESSAY: Think in terms that philosophers most often think in, and a major and central kind of behavior psychologists think about: thinking itself; and, think of that specifically AS IT ADVANCES IN MAJOR WAYS, and thus specially in qualitative shifts leading to significant new ways to imagine and conceptualize. ]
The beginning question (at the top of the body of this essay) is basically to ask: can we conjure up the very nature of a major biological system, THAT BEING THE BIOLOGICAL SYSTEM OF OUR OVERT BEHAVIOR PATTERNS (as it unfolds with ontogeny)? Can we do this just by "force of will" or strong intent, finding exactly that which is key in experience (during ontogeny/development) as it emerges? I say, no. That would not be well-adaptive, for one thing; we don't want to rely on OUR precision, but rather our "body's" ability to HAVE precision: somehow "in" developing some CORE (key aspects) of behavior patterns which, specifically, are the core of new qualitative ways of thinking . Such important new aspects are likely possible because of some added precision (true discriminativeness and realized similarities) "reflected" in some memory capacities, as knowledge develops (or, more accurately, HAS developed). AND, THEN, as we, with our capacities are exposed to "more" , in key important situations/circumstances, those faculties 'see' more (we would say, in today's psychology terms: “more enters working memory”).
How have Western philosophers done on such matters? How have they addressed this?
Western philosophy: how could one criticize this? Here's a major general way: A major topic and abiding concern in that field is about thought, esp. thought about thought; but, this and other matters pondered, are characterized by precisely the LIMITED phenomenology of OUR thinking (and just what-all that does), AS DONE, IN EFFECT, "LOCALLY".
But what's the problem? What else do we have? Oh, the woe of those who do not know:
We have good knowledge of the nature of, AND limitations of, some central faculties (the Memories) -- good science data here; considering THAT, we have the ability to compare situations/responses looking for cross-situational/circumstances differences and cross-situational/circumstances similarities WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE AND PERSPECTIVE GUIDING US. This is NOW NOT the phenomenology of raw experience, though it is clearly related to such experience -- and MUST be related to such experiences -- but now to "track" or go "beyond" the phenomenology of local (times/spaces) experience. This gives us a way, and a legitimate way if we are fully empirically grounded (and know how to stay that way), to detect changes, NOT JUST those DUE TO regular ("local") experiences, but others related to, or due to, other behavior pattern changing, indicated by "clues" through/by/with our knowledge.
Why might this be important? Because: what we ARE, in/with our behavior patterns, may well be beyond any particular experiences AS WE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THEM -- beyond the regular (ordinary, usual, normal) PARTICULAR local experiences. Sound strange?; it's not. Ask yourself:
Is there any reason we should expect that we are so smart that we can actually see or detect the ultimate mechanisms of the biology of behavior? I think NOT. But, with our abstracting, reflective abilities and good knowledge of major faculties/capacities (and of changes in the content, and in the organization, that occur there), we can get an idea of what species-typical or species-specific qualitative changes might well occur over ontogeny AT KEY POINTS.
That way, we can ask: what sort of changes in behavior patterns (think of: changes in thinking) are in accord with biological principles and consistent with the way biology is (or may be), AS IT COULD OPERATE, and those maybe contributing to aspects of behavior that WE, AS SENTIENT BEINGS, CANNOT DIRECTLY (wholely-as-it-is-relevant) "fully" experience, in our normal ways. YET I assert also, that the biology of behavior CAN be realized INDIRECTLY by making differentiations and comparisons across key circumstances (of thought -- when the topic is cognitive development, as it is here), SOMEHOW using what we do already know (from behavioral science, and often NOT from normal experience). If all is done in a correct way, we will generate the testable empirical hypotheses.
Though the whole phenomenon (that is, all aspects) of qualitative change may not all be something we experience explicitly (or, at least, as something that seems at all notable in thought), we could hypothesize mechanisms of the qualitative change in some of these very aspects of overt behavior . Again, these not fully obvious or obvious for what-they-are because some key aspects of the qualitative developments of thinking are not directly obvious that way (in regular experience): these are likely exactly some of (or some aspects of) those behavior patterns AT THE INCEPTION of the “new” which is central to and resulting in NEW developments and new cognitive abilities. THEN, the question should be: what aspects of behavior patterns could be involved which may well be sufficient but not disruptive?; are any of these not only overt, but detectable and in some way measurable, given our present technological prowess? I say yes, yes. Specifically here, I assert: "Perceptual shifts", BEING the innate guidance, as aspects of important learning-related experiences (but not typical learning), may be there and suffice. [ These "perceptual shifts" could well be the development of "time-space-capacity availability" (i.e. basically "GAPS" of-a-nature in visual-spacial memory due to development , i.e. with the integrations and consolidations THAT come with development and HAVE ALREADY OCCURRED). ]
This would result in "looking" at key aspects/parts and CONTEXTS in new ways (new real concrete 'parts' of situations or combinations of 'parts' of real concrete situations). BUT: "looking at" does not likely or necessarily REQUIRE that this immediately results in “seeing more", but just sets up an orientation, used again (and again) in similar circumstances to see "the more", when there is "the more" to see and we are not to much otherwise occupied to see it. [ Here, the "looking at" I am talking about, may seem to be of the scientist who is doing the studying. Though this may be, in some senses, similar, this paragraph is describing the developing Subject, at major points in ontogeny. ]
About one engaged in good developmental psychology science: While our new way of thinking about things now can be, in a sense, of an "non-local" nature, the relevant aspects of the environment (circumstances) are never as such, but rather that which is with us (the Subject) and before us (the Subject) in the concrete real world: either as important context OR that important context with newly important content.
[ Do not be surprised to see edits to this essay for a while.]
P.S. The above is what I am all about. If you want large papers and hundreds of pages of essay, related to this, see:
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Philosophy and science are the tow sides of a coin! To be a scientist one should have the ability to philosophize and to be a good philosopher one should rely on rational thought emanating from empirical evidence! So it would be better to say that 'science without philosophy' and 'philosophy without science' is useless! Similar to the Word of Jesus that 'salt without its saltiness' is worthless!
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I'm seeking a justification for the existence of academic philosophical work.
My question is about established 'insights': stable advances, which are largely exempted from any further controvery (about progress ...).
I'm thinking of insights significant not merely for academic philosophical debates themselves (because such justification of academic philosophical work would be circular), but of advances which are relevant or thrilling to those 'out there'.
POSSIBLE EXAMPLES: (a) The objective existence of moral facts was proven by ... in ...; (b) The nature/notion of 'justice' was properly displayed by ... in ...; (c) An explanation was given of how brains 'generate' mind by ... in ...
Just imagine someone claiming that academic philosophical work is actually quite futile, that during the past hundred years, for example, academic philosophical work delivered no discernible progress at all. Then, try to reject their doubts by giving three or four striking counter-examples.
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I'd say the following are established insights or stable advances emerging from academic philosophy within the past 100 years:
(1) Kripke's development of relational semantics, showing the way to formalize modal expressions, clarifying confusion over varieties of modality.
(2) Tarski's truth-theoretic semantics, and distinguishing meta and object languages in formal systems.
(3) Turing's groundbreaking work on computational complexity (often overlooked is that his "Can Machines Think?" from 1950 was published in the philosophy journal Mind)
(4) Insofar as you'd consider aspects of Chomsky's linguistic theory, such as innateness, as established, it's worth noting he defended his theory in several philosophical journals early in his career.
(5) Knowledge is not simply justified, true, belief.
(6) Linguistics, Psychology, etc. are scientific fields with agreed on methods for answering relevant questions in that domain.
This last one is, I think, the most powerful. Once a lot of progress is made quickly in an area of philosophy, it's often the case that progress results in the quick development of a new science. We shouldn't forget provenance.
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What do you think about philosophy?
Do you think Philosophy is the sanctity of reason or a sort
of pure phenomenism, only methodologically helpful?
Do you think philosophy is the study of the logical deterministic concatenation at the basis of human action?
Does have philosophy a scientific significance, which implies that philosophy is a purely scientific approach?
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Philosophy is a focused attempt to clarify important issues, especially the discourse typically employed in conjunction with those issues. It is a discipline that seeks to identify and correct language that attends to discourse concerning such issues. It thus argues for or against certain positions, and supports rational argumentation with available facts or scientific findings. Its arguments are offered in consideration of the relevant history of philosophy and especially the history of the topics at stake. It is not, therefore, mere opinion.
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The contemporary philosophy of mind approaches questions about, for example, the nature of perception, cognition or consciousness by distinguishing between “the physical” and “the mental”. This distinction gives rise to the so called mind-body problem (or dualism) and the debate is then about, for example, whether mental states can be reduced to brain states or not, whether the mental is fundamental or not, how the functional organization of the brain can give rise to consciousness and many other questions.
Noam Chomsky argues that the mind-body problem is misconceived, because all positions today presuppose some understanding of “the physical”. Chomsky argues that we don't have an intuitive understanding of “the physical”. All that we have are ineligible theories, but these theories are based on intuitively unintelligible notions, such as “curved spacetime”, “entanglement”, “uncertainty” and so on.
If Chomsky is right, then the following argument holds:
  1. All forms of the mind-body problem presuppose some understanding of “the physical”.
  2. We have no understanding of “the physical”.
  3. Therefore, the mind-body problem cannot be formulated.
Note that this argument does not entail - for example - “idealism” iff idealism is the rejection of “the physical” (in some sense), rather it undermines the possibility to formulate the position in the first place (or any other of the familiar positions, such as reductive physicalism, non-reductive physicalism and so on).
The argument seems to hold for any definition of what the physical is that I have seen, because all attempts to define what “the physical” is, rely on some intuitive understanding of, say, “causality”, “reality”, “material” and so on, and therefore, suffer the same deficiency.
If Chomsky is right, then many discussions in the philosophy of mind, or on the foundations of neuroscience and related disciplines seem to be on rather shaky grounds, as long as they relay on some understanding of “the physical”. Given this, it would be desirable to see if Chomsky's argument can be refuted.
For an excellent exposition of the reasons for and the implications of his positions, see, for example, Science, Mind, and Limits of Understanding; (
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Dear Louis,
Thank you for your interesting comment. There is a lot going on in what you say and since I find some of it quite interesting, let me try to get this right. What you cite is a central step in an argument that tries to come to terms with one instance of - what I call - Chomskyien problems. They are around for decades, are basically ignored or if not (I’m sorry to say) often poorly understood. The point of the argument is that any attempt to coherently formulate the mind-body problem presupposes an understanding of `body’ and this is the problem: We have no conception of what the material is. Since this seems to tie into some of what you say, let me try to explain.
We do have an intuitive conception of causation, or how the physical world is supposed to behave. Basically, rigid three dimensional objects move through time and interact if and only if they are in contact with one another. This is essentially the so-called mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century (firmly believed in by Galileo, Leibniz, Descartes, Newton, to name a few). On this model for a scientific explanation, to give an explanation of a natural phenomenon just is to understand the world. Sadly, this nice picture was destroyed by Isaac Newton. To his great displeasur, Newton showed that this is simply not how nature works. It took scientists about two centuries to come to terms with this fact. Finally, with the advent of GR and QM, (as historians of science such as I. B. Cohen have pointed out), scientists simply abandoned intuitions and settled for explanatory theories.
Thus, as Chomsky argues, the natural sciences have lowered their standards for scientific explanations: They no longer search for an intelligible world, but rather for intelligible theories.
If this is correct, as it seems to me it is, then it might help to clarify a couple of points. Let’s start with the problem of `body’ (or ‘material’, ‘causal’, ‘physical’ and so on). In order to formulate the mind-body problem in any non-intutive way, one has to have some non-intuitive understanding of what the body is. If this cannot be done, the debate about the whole distinction becomes meaningless.
All we can do is try to construct explanatory theories for various aspects of nature. This seems relevant to what you say about `reduction’. It seems to me that for your argument to hold, you have to presuppose that the mind-body problem can be formulated. Despite this, as far as I understand you, the emerging picture here is not so different from what I think you are saying. It’s basically Chomsky’s view on ‘reduction’. (I quote from memory, so don’t hold me to it) “The working scientist can do no better then to construct various doctrines about aspects of nature and try to unify them.” (my emphasis)
On this view, questions about ‘reduction’ or ‘reality’ kinda fall out of the picture. What remains is the question: What is the right explanatory theory?
I hope this comes close to what you have in mind.
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Dear Scientists,
I had recently come across the new science (to me) known as collapsology. Promoted by a group of scientists and people who beleive on the soon coming of the end of the world- just as beleived by the religious believers- which they call the fall down of industrialization. They are already forming networks and strategies to cope and be prepared for the event. Are they confirming what the religious have been preaching long ago?
Please, your views on this is highly solicited, can you share.
Thank you!
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I did not say that there will be no end, however, the end will retroact as a motive for the present. The future, in order to be able to call itself a future, must be able to feed back into the motor for the present; therefore, in a completely theoretical way, what does not have a future cannot even be foreseen.
What will not be predictable is not predictable. Nothing physical we mean chemical or biological, pure principle of causality and knowledge. Only what is possible in the future is foreseeable. Confirm what the religious preached long ago? Evidently continuing to preach the end has not done so badly to the "development" of humanity. "Development" let us not be "progress". Fighting or dancing against the end of the world is the greatest and most wonderful refrain of humanity. Difo Voukang Harouna Thanks for the reply.
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I say a big "Yes" (big time, big time). And there is VERY LITTLE TO NOTHING to counter MOST of this phenomenon at all [(but, then again, you do have me)]. (For example (with some humor): Perhaps we "kan't" live without Kant because that sort of outlook is all we are given (several other philosophers' names could substitute in this statement, but then we loose the pun).)
The institutions are truly institutions in some of the very worst ways/senses. Always, and it really seems like this will be the way it is FOREVER ; e.g. look at Psychology and the history (and philosophy) OF Psychology -- a loser as any sort of science; we have not even clearly seen behavior patterns as biological functioning, which, of course they must be and ARE (<-- doing this is probably one of the very first steps in Psychology becoming anything like a real science (which I BELIEVE IT COULD !); and note: I HAVE done this for my perspective/approach -- I see the/a way for Psychology as a natural science).
Now, if the problem is so clear (at least as I see it): ask yourselves: why is there no concern for a solution?
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I think the original question was asked because the person asking it already had what they believed to be an answer. the skills developed through tertiary study are to strengthen critical thinking and expose us to as many ideas as possible and obviously they can't all be correct. (I'm a philosophy student so the approach to truth is different than in the sciences but there is still a truth which the questions asked relate to.)
It Kant be denied that there are foundational texts and concepts but there is nobody saying that Kant, or any of the dead whites, was correct. If you can find out why they aren't then that should be what motivates you. Education is a conversation, training is dogma.
Psychology is a soft science but studying neurochemistry or neurobiology is not psychology's sphere. Although it is possible to identify the brain function, it is not possible to identify the mind function (yet). The chemistry of the brain might be unbalanced and there are ways to treat that but what causes the unbalance? What biological function produces the idea of self? That is closer to what psychology is looking at. The scientific methods used in psychology don't necessarily mean it is aspiring to be a science that it can't be, just like Spinoza or Heidegger used scientific/geometric structures in their work as a way to express their notions to a scientifically literate community.
Finally, I don't know of any discipline that isn't concerned with finding answers to the questions that emerge from that discipline. And to say that one discipline can answer better than others is not to privilege any approach but to acknowledge that each discipline has different tools and methodologies. I wouldn't get a plumber to fix something electrical.
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Agamben and Marx: Sovereignty, Governmentality, Economy
Arne de Boever, in
Law and Critique
November 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 259-270
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The Invention of Africa, and the Idea of Africa are books by Mudimbe, an African scholar that is becoming popular.  On learning that his work takes the postmodern perspective of Michel Foucault, a great French scholar, I have felt the need to ask if a work inform by such perspective can provide the much needed insights to resolve Africa's crisis conditions in the realm of political, social and economic development.
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I don't know about the referenced books because I have not read them but my book "Human Rights, What Are They Really?" would be a good reference. If all Africans knew and understood the theory of fundamental rights that is presented in the book they would have rules that would apply to human interaction in all situations. These would have a similar regulating effect as the rules of the road have had in regulating human interaction when behind the wheel of a vehicle on the public road. The theory of rights also enables evaluation of government behaviour on an objective basis and can provide an authoritative reference for opposition to government and prosecution of offensive government leaders. If people are not aware that they have fundamental rights as human beings they will allow themselves to be bullied and persecuted.
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Naturalistic fallacy is an expression found for the first time in Principia Ethica, a work published in 1903 by the English philosopher George Edward Moore. According to it, the concept of good which is at the basis of moral discourse is a simple concept and can not be further defined.
When you claim to identify it with some natural property, such as useful or pleasant, it falls into the naturalistic fallacy, which includes both the naturalistic ethical theories and the ethical metaphysical theories. The choice of a solution can not entirely exclude the other ones.
It is possible to escape this contradiction by adopting the intuitionistic solution by Moore for which the good is sensed as the yellow color: in this way, you will know what it is and there are no alternative solutions. Moore soon realized that his solution, by virtue of intuitionism, could lead to subjectivist drifts: he pleaded this risk by focusing on the fact that the good is absolute, it expresses an intrinsic and universal value.
In this way, any possible subjectivism is reset at the start. However, a new problem showed up: given that the good is universal, absolute and independent, which is its nature? Certainly, it cannot have an empirical nature, because if it did it would fall into the naturalistic fallacy; but neither can it be metaphysical, because otherwise you would re-awaken the metaphysical fallacy. The solution is then advanced  by Moore in recognizing that ‘good’ has an ontological status equal to that of Platonic ideas and numbers, which are absolute and objective without being either empirical or metaphysical: in this sense, the ‘good’ is just as number four.
In later writings, Moore would soften his position, by arguing that the good depends on the intrinsic nature of things; in this way, he will approach Aristotelianism from Platonism... ".
In the explanation of the onset of the 'naturalistic fallacy', one moves from 'having to be' which is the term used by Kant to indicate what is required by the moral law, regardless of any condition of fact and the entire order of nature. The moral law is an expression of reason in its practical use, that is, determining the will. The duty to provide what the law says to man, be reasonable but finite, exposed then to the empirical influences of  subjective motives and subjective inclinations, is expressed in the imperative form.
Therefore, the ‘need to be' indicates "the relationship between the objective laws of the will in general and the subjective imperfection of the will."
Then, since the moral imperative is not subject to any end, nor is placed by the faculty of desire, it addresses people in categorical terms, that is unconditioned, and then it is intended: "because you have to."
It is by virtue of this duty that the possibility of action properly human is deducted: not the physical possibility to act, which belongs - as Kant says – to the order of causes and effects, but it is the moral possibility to fullfil the moral law or not, that qualifies man as a moral entity. Between the world of being - that is, of what is the way it is, according to the laws of nature - and the world of 'having to be'- that is of what is required by the moral law - an absolute hiatus opens up, the same as Hume had pointed out, denouncing the naturalistic fallacy which is to take prescriptive propositions, that is related to having to be, from descriptive propositions, related to what it is .
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The precondition of learning what is good and what is not has caused a lot of problems within human reasoning. When we are born, there is no knowledge of "good" and "evil." Such concepts are learned and can apply to both truthful knowledge and untruthful knowledge. That is to say, anybody can be convinced that something harmful to them is good, at least until they experience the consequences.
Morality is an absolute when it is properly understood, and it has nothing to do with good and evil. Good and evil are judgments of the intellect, but morality is a condition of the body.
Morality is those actions and behaviors that lead to the good health and well-being of individuals and communities. Morality is also applicable to any species of life, and to any group of species.
Morality is the condition required so that life may flourish. Morality is the source of health and happiness, which is required for the living to continue to want to live and to be able to live. Without the condition of morality, life becomes unhealthy, unhappy, and eventually ceases. 
Humans are presently in an incredibly immature state of understanding and consider morality to be judgment. The mere passing of a law to say what is good and bad, acceptable and non-acceptable, is widely considered to be the establishment of morality. However, morality has no dependency on human laws and it has nothing to do with human judgment. Morality is simply those actions and behaviors that lead to the good health and well-being of individuals and communities. Morality exists exactly as the condition for life.