Monday, January 17, 2011

on the end of philosophy, mainly

As for the school of Gothic novelists, they didn't have anything to do with anything except their own gloomy and morbid imaginings: they were probably all opium fiends who got hopped up from daylight until moonlight and kept ravens and indulged in unhealthy thoughts. Life these days, I thought, was Real and filled with Purpose and Endeavour and Downtrodden Masses, and all that Gothic stuff was just made up.
Charmian Clift, 'On Gothic Tales'

Well, it seems that the people of Southern Sudan have voted overwhelmingly to secede from the north and to form their own nation. Obviously it's going to be a hard road to hoe, but hopefully the struggle will be relatively peaceful in the foreseeable future. This site has some useful maps giving an at-a-glance view of the ethnic, religious and language mix of the region. Australia has it so much easier in terms of governance.

Common sense atheism has a stimulating post, with comments, which touches on issues of scientism I've also been touching on in the last few posts. Of course, I'm not a philosopher, and I really don't understand the Bayesian rule [which in any case is a development of mathematics, and specifically probability, rather than philosophy], but I do know that this way of thinking of philosophy - that it's aim should be to kill itself with a thousand cuts, gradually cutting off its various issues and handing them over to science one by one - has been around for quite a while. I myself seem to remember reading something from Max Black around thirty years ago, something to the effect that problems kind of pass through the digestive system of philosophy to come out as science. But no, that probably wasn't it at all.

he says no to atheistic scientism - amen to that 

Anyway, I tend to side with the blogger, Luke Muelhauser, here. When have philosophers ever solved a philosophical problem? At best they've helped to make it more clear and distinct. And of course at worst they've done the opposite. Many issues once held in the sights of philosophers have passed over into the sciences, which have often made rapid progress towards solving them. They're no longer philosophical issues, but issues within a scientific framework - cosmology, neurophysiology, genetics and so forth. I expect that the best developments in the future, in ethics, in philosophy of mind, in philosophy of science, will come, as they have been coming, from practical developments in cognitive psychology, in AI research, in astrophysics, etc. And I agree also with Luke that those developments won't involve a dualistic approach. But what would I know?

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