[ExI] Philosophy and philosophers

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Thu Oct 9 18:08:00 UTC 2014

On Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM, Dan <danust2012 at gmail.com> wrote:

>> I am a duelist, I think that a noun (like the brain) is not  the same as
>> the way a noun behaves (like the mind).
> > If you're not joking here, what exactly do you mean?

Which word didn't you understand?

> My point in bringing him up [Searle] was to show a philosopher who has
> influenced thinking in cognitive science and AI.

Yes Searle was influential in the AI field and Lysenko was influential in
the genetics field, but neither in a good way.

> If you're a fan of logic, and you're praising Quine, why aren't you
> praising Aristotle as well?

If Aristotle had stuck with logic and biology I might be praising him,
unfortunately he fancied himself a physicist and in that field he proved
himself to be an imbecile.

> So, what's your point? Here we have a philosophy [Frege] who made major
> contributions to formal logic.

Frege’s  contributions to formal logic were his ONLY contributions to
philosophy; if you remove Ferge's work in mathematics and logic he becomes
just another boring rabid anti-Semite of no interest whatsoever.

> another philosophy, when the term had a much wider meaning, was Leibniz

I maintain that nobody has made a important contribution to philosophy who
had not first demonstrated a deep understanding of at least one branch of
science or mathematics, and Leibniz was a master mathematician who
discovered binary arithmetic and co-discovered Calculus. Leibniz also
discovered something that at the time was considered pure philosophy but
later proved useful in the study of exchange forces in Quantum Mechanics,
“The Identity Of Indiscernibles”. As I said I love philosophy but not

>  I don't know enough of his [Darwin's] biography, but it seems to me he
> was exposed to philosophy, which would've been unavoidable anyhow, given
> the folks he palled around with and the discussions they had.

Darwin's University days were not distinguished. He first went to Edinburgh
University in Scotland to learn to be a doctor like his father and
grandfather, in his autobiography he says "*The instruction at Edinburgh
was altogether by Lectures and those were intolerably dull, with the
exception of those on chemistry*". After witnessing the amputation of a
little girl's arm without anesthesia he vowed never to enter a operating
theater again and transferred to Cambridge to become a clergyman because he
couldn't think of anything else to do with his life. He says of his
Cambridge years "*my time was sadly wasted there and worse than wasted*".
However he did admit to enjoying the lectures on botany and on his own he
read books by Humboldt and Herschel that "*stirred up in me a burning zeal
to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural

Nowhere in Darwin's autobiography is there any mention of the great
philosophers or their effect on him, his real education came from his 6
years on the HMS Beagle.

 >> Scientists (and mathematicians) are the only ones who do come up
>>  With great new philosophic ideas,
> > Such as?

SUCH AS?! Pick any great scientist or mathematician, any at all.

> Who are these philosophers of science (or of mind or of psychology) that
> you know or have read who are way behind -- like by decades or more

How about Popper? In chapter 37 of his 1976 (1976!!) book "Unended Quest:
An Intellectual Autobiography" Popper says:

 *"Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical
research program*".

Those are Popper's own words not mine, and this is not something to make
Popper fans or fans of philosophers of science in general proud.

Finally, two years later in 1978 at the age of 76 and 119 years after the
publication of "The Origin Of Species", perhaps the greatest scientific
book ever written, Popper belatedly said:

 “*I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the
theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a

Popper came to the conclusion that this Darwin whippersnapper might be on
to something after all in his 1978 (1978!!) lecture "Natural Selection and
the Emergence of Mind".

Better late than never I guess, but for most of his life Popper did not
approve of Evolution and his opposition did a lot of harm, to this day
Bible thumpers use Popper quotations in their legal briefs to try to get
creationism taught in the classroom.

The greatest philosophical discoveries of the 20th century were Relativity,
Quantum Mechanics, the Big Bang, the structure of DNA  and Godel's
Incompleteness Theorem, philosophers did not discover any of them. In fact
Ludwig Wittgenstein, often called the greatest philosopher of the 20th
century probably didn't even read Godel's 1931 paper until 1937, and when
he did comment on it in a article published after his death, he said
Godel's paper was just a bunch of tricks of a logical conjurer. He seemed
to think that prose could disprove a mathematical proof; even many of
Wittgenstein's fans are embarrassed by his last article.

And by the way, the greatest philosophical discoveries of the 19th century
were Electromagnetism, the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Darwin's Theory
of Evolution, and philosophers didn’t discover any of them either.

 >  I think falsification, though definitely implicitly practiced before
> him became much more explicitly accepted after he championed the idea. I
> don't recall any scientist championing it before Popper, but I do know
> working scientists now who cite him.

Oh for heaven's sake! Do you imagine that before Popper's 1934 book no
great scientist knew that some theories are so bad they're not even wrong?
I would be very surprised if any of Poppers ideas advanced one scientists
work by 5 minutes. Popper was certainly not the first to know that
falsification was important, in fact Popper never actually used the
procedure he just talked about it. Like most philosophers he came up with
no original ideas, he just reported on what other people were doing and how
they did it. Popper was a reporter only his beat was not politicians or pop
stars but scientists.  The amount of respect he is given in certain
quarters and the amount of study they think he deserves strikes me as
utterly ridiculous.

 > to be the philosophy critic, you have to know the philosophy -- just
> like the movie critic who hasn't seen the movie isn't worth much for their
> criticism of it

One does not need to eat the entire egg to know it is bad.

  John K Clark
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