Another Reason Science will Always Follow Philosophy and Must

Science will not only always follow philosophy but would be impossible without it. In fact, every serious endeavor or conversation that rises to any level of reflection and significance within a culture is impossible and only happens with and because of philosophy.

Data or evidence means nothing without reflection and articulation. Once we begin to connect, unpack, reflect, question, converse, make arguments, theorize, and articulate possible conclusions we are always/already giving philosophy its due. We are philosophers. Some are poor ones, some are great ones. Some have formal training and some do not. There are philosophies that have stood the test of time and there are others that have fallen by the wayside. At the end of the day, philosophy has ruled, rules now, and will always rule. Every specialization of knowledge, whether of the humanities or hard sciences, must bow before it, and of necessity.

A scientific theory, literature, work of art, or piece of music can strike us and speak to us at levels that resonate beyond words, where we recognize the inherent beauty and power of the thing before us. But only certain ways of seeing, interpreting, and a certain sensibility can tell us why (or give us reasons or lines of thought) as to why we are or should be moved. And the word for a way of seeing or interpreting is philosophy and it becomes the voice that attempts to unpack the inherent beauty and power of a thing so that we can try and understand it. Again, whether this happens on a popular level or more sophisticated educated level, it is philosophy and it will always have the final word, for better or for worse. In fact any “word” final or otherwise is impossible without it. To suggest otherwise is to either be naïve or just ignorant. One could not even argue against what I am asserting here without…resorting to or revealing…a philosophy!

My last post alluded to much of this and there is a good conversation going on here in the response section regarding the same ideas. Of interest is that while one interlocutor is denigrating philosophy he is also, at the same time, a great proponent of—a theory (philosophy, hello)—called the “correspondence theory of truth.” Given such, what are we to make of the exchanges in the link cited? Are they simply ironic because one person is making his case against philosophy by philosophizing (?!) or are they embarrassing because he seems to be completely unaware of it? Imagine Michael Scott of The Office complaining about a clueless boss.

Those who hold to the correspondence theory of truth are espousing a philosophy- an epistemology. End of story. There is another telling issue here as to this theory in relation to the conversation noted. One of the virtues of science, we are told, is consensus. Strangely enough some of the proponents of the correspondence theory of truth run the gamut from evangelical scholars like J.P. Moreland to Ayn Rand! So while there may be consensus if the assertion is, “The sun is hot,” there is far less consensus as to the views held by the philosophers of science or any other specialization of knowledge. Just look at physics for God’s sake! In fact, within science comprehensively, in the area of theory and philosophy, it is very similar to what we find in the variance of belief within Christian denominations or that between Catholics and Protestants.

Those who hold to the correspondence theory of truth forget Kuhn. There is a good essay here on how Kuhn changed everything and the conversation partners in the link cited may find some further aspects to their conversation to think about.

“Consider the popular take on SSR: Science consists of self-coherent bubbles that replace one another without necessarily progressing closer to the truth—a model of nonrationalism. This misunderstanding of Kuhn is understandable given his unwillingness to blurt out what so many of his readers wanted to hear: There are propositions that are true because they correspond to reality. “Does it really help to imagine that there is some one full, objective, true account of nature, and that the proper measure of scientific achievement is the extent to which it brings us closer to that ultimate goal?,” he wrote in SSR. Well, yes, it would, if we’re trying to show that our knowledge is progressively more in accord with that objective reality. But if that approach is closed to us—”We must learn to get along without anything at all like a correspondence theory of truth,” he wrote in 1986—we need another idea of what truth is and how we can ascertain if we’re progressing closer to it.”

“Kuhn rejected our old metaphysics—consciousness consists of an inner representation of an outer reality—as incoherent, impossible, and fundamentally inhuman. That’s why he begins SSR by invoking history not as a discipline that can be applied to science, but as a necessary part of scientific understanding. All understanding is historical, and no human project escapes the characteristics of history-based humanity: fallible, limited, impure of motive, social, and always situated in a culture, a language, and a time. Not even science with its method and its formulas. Our very words have meaning not because of a set of definitional rules, Kuhn thought, but because they are based on ostensive exemplars, paradigms. Our age, characterized by a Network that refuses to keep ideas, communication, and sociality apart, is making manifest the messy, inescapable humanness of all of our endeavors.”

Or, another way of summing up the latter part of the above paragraph is to say that all endeavor simply is narrative and that includes science, which again is why philosophy will always prevail—for good or for ill. In fact, to note an “inescapable humanness” is to reveal a philosophy! The science v. religion myth or the faith evident in philosophical naturalism/materialism/scientism are the stories—the narratives that modern western people tell themselves for various reasons. But let us be clear, they are narratives (whether true or false) and therefore, at the end of the day, philosophies.

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