Re: Philosophy vs. Science/was Re: ExI = Truth First

ChuckKuecker (
Mon, 18 May 1998 18:43:45 -0500

At 07:09 AM 5/18/98 -0400, you wrote:
> Science would be
>utterly dependent on a philosophical truth.

For the common (non-scientist) person, this is "true". Truth is what they
believe, not necessarily what can be proven by rigorous methods of
experiment and repetition.

>(I think these adjectives are misleading. Truth is truth. The adjectives
>should merely describe methods of arriving at it, BUT we must be careful
>because some methods -- e.g., observation, induction, inference,
>scientific experiment -- work or work better than others -- e.g., reading
>tea leaves, using a Magic 8 ball. In this vein, it might be safe to say,
>there is no such thing as tea leaf truth or Magic 8 ball truth. Both of
>those methods do not arrive at or validate truth.)

We need the adjectives to distinguish the non-objective 'truth' from the
scientific. The definitions commonly accepted force this. There's religious
truth, scientific truth, etc. Those not trained in science will need the
adjectives to be able to shift gears..

>I know that history writing is often very biased and that objective
methods of
>historiography are not usually even sought (but see Fischer's _Historians'
>Fallacies_). Even so, eyewitnesses (biased as they are) often leave behind
>lots of evidence. Eyewitnesses can be very biased because they typically
>have more of a stake in how events are recorded and interpreted. Look at
>Thucydides' _The Peloponnesian War_. Far from sticking to an objective
>account, at every turn, he presents his view of why the events happen.

And eyewitnesses have been shown in psychological experiments to be dead
wrong in many cases. The historian's job is to make sense of all the
available inputs without putting too much of his own opinion into the mess..

>Losers do write a lot history. I know you wrote "... winners usuallyy[sic]
>write the >history books..." but even this qualification of that cliche
does not
>go far enough. We know, e.g., most Japanese history books have a very
>slanted account of WW2 -- despite the fact that Japan lost and was
>occupied. Another example: both Afghan Wars in the last century. While
>Afghan versions of this war exist, many British accounts also exist. A
lot of
>scholarship is based on the latter. We should not forget, the losers here --
>the British -- not only wrote most of the history, but were by no means a
>uniform camp. They disagree with each other over the import of the war.

The losers in this case were much more powerful in the Western world, so
their interpretation is going to be more easily accepted by other
Westerners. Just hemispheric chauvinism..

>Marxists have, in a sense, lost in history (for now and getting them to admit
>it might be very hard), yet their ideology still dominates historical

Why has socialism always been such a darling of academia? I never
understood the apparent need for otherwise learned people to denigrate the
society that empowered them to achieve their positions..

>My point here is that losers don't just write a small amount of history.
>write a large portion of it. The Marxist example is important because I bet
>Marxists put out more history books than historians of any other ideological

They had very powerful propaganda organs, all right..

>Also, losers change a lot. In 1811, Fance might have been considered the
>winner in Europe. 5 years later, that judgment would have been seen as a
>little off.:)
>Back to objective methods, I think it is still possible to retreive many
>and objective interpretations of such from them. That, e.g., we have an
>Egyptian tablet and an Hittite tablet telling us of their war (at Kadesh? My
>memory fails me at this hour), even though both accounts claim that their
>side won let's us know a war did happen. Combines with other evidence,
>we know neither side was able to wipe out the other -- else no treaty AND
>either side's culture would have taken over the other.

And so we can look into the ancient records and enjoy endless speculation
over what really happened. If we ever achieve time travel or some means of
actually seeing into the past, I bet we end up disappointed with how
mundane the glorious past really was..

Chuck Kuecker