Monday, 27 March 2017

What philosophical questions does science answer?

Just reading the following recently published article:
Mind, Matter And Materialism

Near the beginning the author says:

"Questions that once lay firmly in philosophy's domain have now fully entered the realm of science".

This is something I hear from people frequently.   Unfortunately they never seem to specify what philosophical questions science has answered or shed light upon.  I'm not necessarily saying that science doesn't, it depends what they have in mind.

But at first blush it seems to me the domains of science and philosophy are distinct. First of all we need to understand that science doesn't provide explanations as such, but mere descriptions. Consider playing a computer game. You need to know how the computer game environment will react when your character performs certain actions. You could be really excellent at the game and have a comprehensive knowledge of exactly how the game environment changes with specific actions. However, that furnishes you with no understanding of how the game is possible and why the game has the rules it does, or even why the game exists at all. The player might know nothing about the underling computer architecture or software in other words.

How the game environment reacts seems to me to be analogically akin to what science is attempting with its description of our physical reality. How the game is possible, why the game exists, why the game has the rules it has,
seems to me to be analogically akin to asking how and why the world exists and why it has the attributes it does. Questions that belong exclusively to the domain of philosophy.

How can knowing how the game environment changes, or physical reality changes, with particular actions, help with any philosophical questions?

1 comment:

  1. Science has never answered a single philosophic question.

    For some reason, people take this as a critique of science. physicists who know better, understand that this is perhaps science’s greatest strength, that it remain strictly empirical, and stay within the realms of what it does well.

    I would go further and say that science has never replaced a single occult, religious or spiritual explanation of any phenomenon. Discovery of the physical correlates of lightning do not in any way replace the idea that lighting is the result of Thor’s actions. If you understand that “Thor” is not a “guy in the sky” but a non-physical force, most likely directly perceived by at least some human beings in past centuries, you’ll realize this is not necessarily a childish belief but a perfectly valid one, despite all that scientists believe with their materialist faith.

    As Krishna Prem once said, it is less accurate to say that Apollo is a myth about the sun, than to say that the sun is a myth about Apollo.