The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
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19-05-2015, 10:24 PM
The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
So, recently I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine- Conservative Christian Theist, very intelligent and well informed. He was making the argument to me that a worldview of strict naturalism/materialistic reductionism at its center is limiting as it restricts itself to a from of a verificationism- what we believe is limited to tangible, concrete evidence and scientific proof as well as reason, rationality and logic. He went on to say that this world view, often espoused by those in the New Atheist movement, has been often criticized by both theists and philosophers, both theist and atheist, for shutting out an entire dimension of human experience- that of philosophy.

There are some in the New Atheist movement, he claimed, who feel that philosophy is a waste of time and that science can answer the questions that were once strictly in the purview of religion and philosophy- bescially, science can answer all questions, including questions of meaning- the other point of view on the other extreme is that there are some questions that do not fall into the purview of science that science will never be able to answer- hence philosophy is therefore needed to help enrich and bring meaning to human experience.

Having recently deconverted, I do not share my friend's belief that I'm shutting myself out of an entire realm of human experience by dismissing supernaturalism and a supernatural deity- but he asked me, if scientific evidence, reason, logic etc are at the center of my world view, where does philosophy come into play, and what role does it have in my human experience and its relation to science and reason/logic? While I am not willing to devote my life to theories which may be possible but for which there is no evidence (a supernatural deity) like my friend has, I ask myself to what extent do philosophy and ideas and theories play into my worldview as a freethinker? I was not able to answer my friend, as I have not thought about this before, but, I would like to pose these questions to all atheists/secularists/freethinkers/naturalists here:

For yourselves, what is the relationship between Philosophy/Theories/Ideas and Science/Freethought/Reason/Logic etc? What role does it play in your worldview and how do you choose to interact with it? Is it a "waste of time" for you or not?

I would very much like to see all of your thoughts on this, as I am a recent de-convert and have no idea how to approach this question as a freethinker. Different perspectives would be nice on this to help educate me. Hoping we can have a great discussion here!

Mike
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19-05-2015, 10:50 PM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
I've never been a fan of these distinctions that are brought up. At the core of the fields, Science is still A branch of philosophy in their most functional used terms. Philosophy being the study of all knowledge through various fields of thought/study... and Science is the study of the natural world generally through the scientific methods use. It's an aspect of what Philosophy is.

Philosophy isn't merely questioning the metaphysical of what being is or some personal take on the world. Somehow that gets taken as the standard of what it is and then it gets pushed aside in that context as not functionally relevant.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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20-05-2015, 07:23 AM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
(19-05-2015 10:50 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  I've never been a fan of these distinctions that are brought up. At the core of the fields, Science is still A branch of philosophy in their most functional used terms. Philosophy being the study of all knowledge through various fields of thought/study... and Science is the study of the natural world generally through the scientific methods use. It's an aspect of what Philosophy is.

Philosophy isn't merely questioning the metaphysical of what being is or some personal take on the world. Somehow that gets taken as the standard of what it is and then it gets pushed aside in that context as not functionally relevant.

Yeah, science is natural philosophy. Which would make theology unnatural philosophy. Drinking Beverage

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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20-05-2015, 08:18 AM (This post was last modified: 21-05-2015 12:38 AM by Cosmic Discourse.)
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
For me, philosophy has many uses. It's a field I utilize to gain a better understanding of the position of others. It's also helped me to present my own personal worldview in discussion.

As others have stated, science can be viewed as a natural/physical philosophy. I often think of philosophy, in its traditional forms, as a social science. Whether studying cosmology, physics, or biology, I find that it still takes the philosophic portion of my understanding to help convey what I've learned/absorbed to others.
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20-05-2015, 10:15 AM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
(19-05-2015 10:24 PM)Nagoda Wrote:  For yourselves, what is the relationship between Philosophy/Theories/Ideas and Science/Freethought/Reason/Logic etc? What role does it play in your worldview and how do you choose to interact with it? Is it a "waste of time" for you or not?

While many atheists have a high regard for science, most are not scientist, and while they may be more knowledgable on the subject than others, that knowledge rarely ever extends beyond a sort of hobbyist interest.

Our lives are not particularly occupied by questions of science, the questions of everyday life are more often than not relational, how to get along with ones family, or husband. How to deal with our resentments, and frustrations, how to love and be loved, how to deal with loss, and pain, and suffering, how to be good, or kind, or loyal. Or in other words they're often questions of living. On how to be, more so than how to acquire an infinite stream of useless knowledge. Or how to appease our idle curiosities. We all may like to follow sports, or even read about the next breaking scientific discovery, but we do so in our spare time.

If I want to know about the things that matter to you, that are important to you, then I would always start by asking about what you find meaningful and fulfilling. And I think these in some sense are "philosophical questions".
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20-05-2015, 04:32 PM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
(20-05-2015 10:15 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(19-05-2015 10:24 PM)Nagoda Wrote:  For yourselves, what is the relationship between Philosophy/Theories/Ideas and Science/Freethought/Reason/Logic etc? What role does it play in your worldview and how do you choose to interact with it? Is it a "waste of time" for you or not?

While many atheists have a high regard for science, most are not scientist, and while they may be more knowledgable on the subject than others, that knowledge rarely ever extends beyond a sort of hobbyist interest.

Our lives are not particularly occupied by questions of science, the questions of everyday life are more often than not relational, how to get along with ones family, or husband. How to deal with our resentments, and frustrations, how to love and be loved, how to deal with loss, and pain, and suffering, how to be good, or kind, or loyal. Or in other words they're often questions of living. On how to be, more so than how to acquire an infinite stream of useless knowledge. Or how to appease our idle curiosities. We all may like to follow sports, or even read about the next breaking scientific discovery, but we do so in our spare time.

If I want to know about the things that matter to you, that are important to you, then I would always start by asking about what you find meaningful and fulfilling. And I think these in some sense are "philosophical questions".

Our lives are, however, occupied with questions that require critical thinking and knowledge.
Making choices about food, health care, finances, politics, and other day to day concerns are best made based on rational, skeptical, critical analysis.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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22-05-2015, 02:14 PM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
I think Bertrand Russell said something to the effect that philosophy, by definition, deals wih questions that don't have answers, or at least we don't know the answers yet. Once we can answer a question, it stops being a philosophical question and becomes a scientific one.
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22-05-2015, 02:58 PM
RE: The relationship between Philosophy, Science and Freethought
(19-05-2015 10:24 PM)Nagoda Wrote:  He was making the argument to me that a worldview of strict naturalism/materialistic reductionism at its center is limiting as it restricts itself to a from of a verificationism
It's hard to understand what is meant by this phrase.
The scientific method is based on empirical observation/verification. This method is an approach to discovery based upon what can be objectively discovered and verified through empirical observation. It assumes causation and it assumes natural causes. It makes these assumptions because those are the things that are bound to objective observation.

The science realm also relies on skepticism and many scientists have made a name for themselves by proving the theories or discoveries of others to be wrong. In this way science is self correcting. Us non scientists can have a degree of confidence that each scientific claim has been skeptically and thoroughly challenged.

Regarding the realm of the un-verifiable? How can we gain knowledge given that any supposed knowledge in this realm is un-verifiable?


Philosopy is the application of logic against certain axioms (what ifs). There are a seemingly infinite "what ifs" that we can consider.
Science is a reliable and objective method used to reduce those "what ifs" in this way it can be seen as an ability to prune those infinite "what ifs" down to a smaller group. It makes sense to remove the "what if" scenarios that are inconsistent with reality.

But science certainly takes advantage of what-ifs, this is called theoretical science. e.g. String theory, M theory etc. There was a time where the Higgs bosson was theoretical, where black holes were theoretical, where general relativity was theoretical. But some of these have been substantiated by experimental science.

Without bothering to verify things I could only imagine what wacky things our science theorists would dream up.

Verification is important as it lets us distinguish fact from imagination.
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