Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scientific philosophy: answers

Luis Manuel Ledo-Regal

What is scientific philosophy?

Scientific philosophy believes that philosophy is one more science and that it should apply the hypothetical-deductive method like any other science.

Its object of study is the reality as a whole: it is all that is relevant to build our vision of the world and our place in it, but it does not want to look at concrete details, which are the object of study of other sciences. For example, it wants to know that nature works with causes and consequences, but it do no want to study concrete natural causes and consequences.

But is not philosophy very different from other sciences?

The hypothetical-deductive method has the following four steps:

1) Problem observation.
2) Elaboration of a provisional hypothesis.
3) Deduction of the logical consequences of the hypothesis.
4) Verification of the consequences with new observations.

It is clear that these four steps are not easy for all sciences. For example, philosophy has difficulties with the steps of observation (1) and (4). This is why it is too speculative; but this speculative character is not a definition of philosophy, but a fault that we should correct.

In philosophy of mind, we have an example of how the information of the neurophysiology can help to confirm our hypotheses, and then, the speculation is obliged to move back.


Does scientific philosophy depends on the hypothetical - deductive method?

Clearly, no: even if the method of sciences was not the hypothetical-deductive one, this would not concern the fact that philosophy is a science: simply philosophy should use the method that was considered to be correct for other sciences. The scientific method is an empirical knowledge and, as such, it can be corrected.

Nevertheless, the hypothetical-deductive method is compatible with diverse conceptions of science. This method admits that observation is theory laden into steps (1) and (4); it accepts the subdetermination of theory by observation, and the step from (1) to (2) is not inductive; it admits also that elaboration of the hypothesis should be restricted to the limits of a paradigm; finally it does not have to decide what is the correct verification method in step (4).

And this does not means that we should accept or reject the epistemological holism of Quine.


What is not scientific philosophy?

Scientific philosophy is not philosophy of science. Scientific philosophy deals with the problem of science, but only as one more question like ethic, politic, epistemology, logic, etc. Scientific philosophy wants to apply the scientific method to all the problems and not only to the problem of science.

Scientific philosophy does not want to build a vision of the world from the information that other sciences give us. Scientific philosophy does not want to realise the synthesis of all the knowledge that other sciences give us. Its aim is to apply the scientific method to its area of study, like any other science, to build an insight of reality and of the place that the human being have in it.

Scientific philosophy is not a part of the philosophy or a type of philosophy: it tries to be the correct conception of the philosophy. For it, to say "scientific philosophy" and "philosophy" is the same. It only use "scientific" to distinguish scientific philosophy from other conceptions of the philosophy that are considered wrong.


What is the opposed insight to scientific philosophy?

Scientific philosophy is opposed to the unscientific insight of the philosophy typical of the so-called continental philosophy (hermeneutic, phenomenology, structuralism, etc.), though it appears also in the analytical philosophy. This unscientific vision of the philosophy does not consider that philosophy is a science that builds models of the reality to understand it, but rather that it is a critical work, a list of questions with no answer, an expression of our reactions when we look at the world, etc. But this belongs also to other sciences and cannot make us forgetting the aim to build knowledge that philosophy should share with other sciences.

Scientific philosophy knows that any scientific theory is never for ever. But it rejects the philosophical conception that is the base of the cultural relativism because this conception denies that no truth can exist. If this was so, the science, and the philosophy, could not try to approach any truth because they do not exist.


The origins of scientific philosophy.

The origins of the scientific insight of philosophy can be traced in diverse authors, nevertheless, its clearer and explicit origin appears in the logical positivism born around the Circle of Vienna. It considers as metaphysical illusions everything that is not empirical knowledge, the one of sciences, or analytical, the one of logic.

Another origin of the scientific philosophy can be seen in the analytical philosophy, somehow continuing the logical positivism though been critical with it: some philosophical problems are solved after an analysis of philosophical language and an elucidation of used concepts.

The recent experimental philosophy looks for the same aim that scientific philosophy when it rejects the utilization of the intuition to elucidate concepts and prefers asking people to know what they associate with a concept or how they understand a problem.


Is there any need to differ from the above-mentioned origins?

The aim of scientific philosophy is to build a model of the reality, following the hypothetical-deductive method, to understand it.

The logical positivism leads to an opposite side: it reserves the empirical knowledge for sciences and denies informative content to analytical truths, and then philosophy loses its aim and is reduced to be a control of science. When it attacks the metaphysical illusions, it is a positive action because it destroys philosophical myths and mistakes; but it does not finish the task because it does not raise a scientific conception of philosophy.

Analytical philosophy continues this line since its elucidation of concepts inside linguistic analysis makes a critical task, but it does not give a status of science to the philosophy.

Experimental philosophy succeeds when it looks for a scientific philosophy, but when it limits its method to experimentation, it is being too restrictive without any need.


The aims of scientific philosophy.

The aims of scientific philosophy can be exposed as the following three.

First, its basic aim is to defend the scientific insight of the philosophy and that it should use the hypothetical-deductive method as any other science.

A second aim is to theoretically develop the philosophy applying this hypothetical-deductive method to show that it can make some advances, not like what happens in the eternal repetition of approaches of unscientific philosophy, the speculative one.

Finally, as any other science, a scientific philosophy aim is to apply in the practice its theoretical developments to show that the scientific vision of the philosophy can not only build theories but also use them usefully in the world.


How can you know more about scientific philosophy?
How can you help to its diffusion?


If you want to know more about scientific philosophy or if you believe that it is correct and want to collaborate to its expansion, you can join the following scientific philosophy talk group:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scientific-philosophy/

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