The Conventional Critique of Physics

· atheism, Philosophy, Reason, Science, Theism, Theology
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As I said in my last post, I believe there is a great need for a conversation about the relation of science and philosophy. To begin that conversation, I propose to begin writing under three headings: the first will be the relation and respective roles of science and philosophy in our coming to know the world around us; the second will be concerned with the nature of scientific principles; and the third will be about the role of cosmology in our knowledge of the world and ourselves. As regards the first, there is good reason at the outset to remember that “science” includes not only physics, but biology; indeed biology may be presumed to be about what is more proximate to the summit of the physical world, and therefore most important … but that is already getting ahead of ourselves. Physics has a distinctive importance all the same, because it is, in a way, about something more universal than biology. It is physics, in any case, which has often been the made the first object of a critique by natural philosophers, the effect of which has been what I described in my last post: namely to try to hold science in abeyance. It is this critique itself which I wish to begin by critically examining. The conventional philosophical critique of science from the perspective of natural philosophy has frequently, if not always, maintained the following claims: 1. Science is a separate discipline from philosophy. 2. Whereas natural philosophy deals with matters of common experience, and is therefore certain, science looks at more particular matters investigated by experiment; therefore it lacks certitude. Evidently, our attention should therefore not be diverted too much by science, except as a sort of garnish and decoration to confirm the knowledge that the natural world is indeed beautiful and orderly, which knowledge belongs more to the philosopher. 3. Science proposes theories, which are subject to constant revision, and cannot be known to be true with certitude, because they are verified by inductive and experimental methods. For this reason as well, they are never known with certitude. This kind of knowledge is more like the knowledge we find in Ptolemy, which restricts itself to making a representation of what is real, rather than describing the real in itself. 3. The restricted view of science, as compared with philosophy, is alleged to be shown also by the fact that science confines itself to the quantitative in its investigations. It therefore never reaches what is most important, namely substance. In my next post, I will begin examining each of these several claims. I will argue that there is something of the truth in all or most of them, but that they are substantially false nevertheless, because they are based on a superficial view of what science is.

5 Comments

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  1. Panchi

    šŸ™‚ Everything – every discipline we study – be it science or literature – it finally boils down to Philosophy… Why else will we use the term PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) for everything!?

    PS: The next few posts related to this topic, I will be following for sure šŸ™‚

    • sdcojai

      Yes, Panchi, I agree! I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts about what I’m going to write. –Cheers, SC

      • Panchi

        I am waiting šŸ™‚ for what you are going to write.. eagerly!!

  2. Peter

    I am intrigued by this topic and look forward to your series.

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