Re: Science and Philosophy

Joseph Sterlynne (
Tue, 7 Sep 1999 22:06:13 -0600

> Brian Manning Delaney <>
>> Joseph Sterlynne

>Thanks for your comments (below). A few quick replies (though I think this is
>not a topic that interests most Extropians, so letting it die is fine by me).

While it hasn't appeared that often in such a straightforward form I would be surprised if it were not of interest to many readers of the list. It is more or less philosophy of science, which certainly relates to many of the other topics discussed here.

>There are thus several assumptions/notions, etc. whose truth obviously
>cannot be verified by science itself (like empiricism).

See below.

>> This is readily apparent if one looks at the
>> philosophy of mind literature today.
>Yes indeed. The Churchlands, for example, are doing fascinating work. Myself,
>though, I wouldn't call it (much of it, at least) philosophy: more like
>neuroscience, a bit of cognitive science, etc.

Exactly. In fact I had them in mind.

>How does one translate into empirical terms the question of the validity of
>empiricism? (Important: "validity" is not the same as "utility," or so I would
>[separately] argue.)

Well, utility did come to mind. Perhaps it is only your parenthetical note which is contentious at this point?

>> For philosophy to judge the
>> foundations of logic it must use some formal
>> system. Which logic does it use?
>But what if philosophy (or some philosophers) is (are) trying, at bottom, to
>assess precisely this: the validity of formal systems? If so, then it would
>seem that your statement about the need for philosophy to use a formal system
>is not at all true, or, at a minimum, is something worth thinking about....

But as I said: if a philosopher is to decide upon the validity of formal systems there must be some way of formulating and expressing the argument. So there is some metalogic to be employed. But is this metalogic not a formal system? If a metalogic is not to be used or if it is not a formal system then what are the means of assessment? Two people arguing over the validity of their differing formal systems have to have some common reference point. It won't be useful if that is yet another abstract system; they can point to empirical evidence.

>I think I'll sign off on this topic. Thanks for your thoughts, though.

Thanks. So if you don't respond on this thread again I guess that I won't have the pleasure of assuming that I have ground you into philosophical dust with my merciless empirical heel. Oh, well.