[ExI] Philosophy and philosophers/was Re: Strong AI Hypothesis: logically flawed

Dan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Oct 3 05:54:49 UTC 2014

>> On Thursday, October 2, 2014 9:46 PM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 12:38 PM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
>> As soon as I say something you will say it is not philosophy.
>> Formal logic, decision theory, foundations of mathematics...
>> you will quickly say that wasn't philosophy
> No I think those disciplines can and have contributed to
> philosophy, but it wasn't done by philosophers. By philosophers
> I mean those who are ignorant of modern developments in science
> and mathematics because they think it unimportant in philosophy
> and engage in ancestor worship for the ancient Greeks, Leibniz
> and a few 19th century philosophers. Mortimer J. Adler would be
> a good example of this sort of person, a very famous philosopher
> who nevertheless discovered absolutely nothing new in philosophy.

Don't you feel you're cherry-picking here. Adler is hardly considered a great or even influential philosopher. He was a popularizer of certain traditions. This is like arguing that all scientists are mystical airheads and then parading out Fritjof Capra as an example. What about folks like John Searle, Saul Kripke, W. V. O. Quine, Bertrand Russell, and Frege? They've certainly done more and are more respected by professional philosophers than Adler.

And most professional discussions of philosophy I'm aware of today do indeed bring in modern developments in science and math. There's a whole branch of philosophy of science devoted to discussing quantum field theory (Michael Redhead), spacetime theory (Lawrence Sklar, John Earman), etc. (I can drop more names like Marc Lange. Maybe I'm missing something, but I've never seen Adler cited in any of these discussions. No incense have been lit either to the shades of long dead philosophers -- even when their ideas are considered...:)

As for ancestor worship, there's a difference between history of philosophy and philosophy per se. The latter might dig into previous thinkers, especially the so called giants (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, etc.) because they were influential and presented some fairly good arguments or ideas that later work has to grapple with. That doesn't mean ancestor worship.

In fact, a hobby horse of mine is attacks on Aristotle -- as if he's responsible for every wrong turn taken. Actually, during his lifetime and after, members of his circle were questioning his ideas. Theophrastus, his immediate successor and heir, was no stranger to calling Aristotle's views into question. The same is true of later Aristoteleans and most modern ones too. Yes, there are the worshiper types, but there are those types in every field, such as folks who quote Einstein or Carl Sagan as if they were near gods, never to be doubted.

Let me continue on this for a moment. Much of the popular view of philosophy tends to be that things ossified after Aristotle until Descartes came along. This overlooks not only all the work done between these two, but paints a dim view of no progress for about 1800 years, when, in truth, critical work was being done even before Aristotle's corpse was closed. (In fact, his Lyceum is thought to have been more like a research institute where thinkers on a vast array of topics reacted to each others' findings rather than a religious order where pupils sat at the foot of the master ready to receive Truth.) I don't to deny revolutionary changes, but much of the Renaissance and later Enlightenment, were building on earlier work and it was some proponents (of these later movements) who championed the view that they were clean breaks. (In a similar way, Newton was deeply influenced by both Aristoteleanism and the Cartesian system in his physics. Yes, he definitely overturned much here, but he also made sure not to mention who his real influences were, especially in the case of Descartes. And by "influences" I don't mean by being influenced one must follow the influencer, but that the influencer's thought acts as a springboard for further discoveries.)

> A few years ago I was kicked off a mailing list about
> Objectivism because I dared to suggest that in addition to
> the birth of Ayn Rand there might have been other things
> that happened in the last century, liked Quantum Mechanics
> and the work of Einstein and Godel and Turing, that might
> have some relevance to philosophy,

That tells us what though? That some Objectivists are closedminded. I was on a science list where I was kicked out for daring to think there might be ores worth mining on the Moon. I don't think that said anything about science or scientists per se, but just that the guy running that list didn't like anyone contradicting his views on the matter.

And, for the record, having been a long time observer and partipant in the Objectivist movement, it's definitely got more than it's fair share of closed minded individuals. There's also a segment of the movement that's actually interested in modern philosophy and modern science, but they're definitely and sadly in the minority. But what, again, does this tell us? That professional philosophers are to blame for this?

>> It is a bit like robotics and AI: as soon as it starts working,
>> it gets called automation.
> Some truth in that. In philosophy you try to find the
> correct questions to ask, after that it's passed over
> to science where they try to find the answers, but to > do either you can't ignore what's happened in the last
> few centuries.

Who are these professional philosophers who are ignoring "what's happened in the last few centuries"? Don't mention Adler again. Look at the philosophy journals or series like the Oxford's "New Waves" or Routledge's "New Problems in Philosophy." That would the place to start -- not considering some long dead popularizer who, by my reckoning, is about influential on current philosophy as some "boy's first book of rocketry" is on professional engineering. :) Let me reiterate: I think one can learn and do excellent work in philosophy without ever reading Adler.

I'd like to believe all the fields complement and help each other and your view of the role of philosophy to define questions -- broadly, it's not something professional philosophers have a lock on -- and interpret findings should both inform and be informed by the specialized fields, such as the various sciences, history, math, and other disciplines. But I think many professional philosophers today do work on this -- though some are devoted to internal questions that still draw in other fields.


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