science and philosophy

Will Durant had this to say about the relationship between science and philosophy:

[b]Without science philosophy is impotent; for how can wisdom grow except on knowledge fairly won, with honest observation and research, and recorded and charted by impartial minds? Without science philosophy becomes
decadent and dishonest, isolated from the flow of human growth and falling more and more into the dreary futility of scholasticism. But without philosophy, science is not merely helpless, it is destructive and devastating. Science is descriptive: it looks out with the eye or telescope, with microscope or spectroscope, and tells us what it sees; its function is to observe carefully the fact at hand, and to describe it objectively and accurately regardless of the result to man. Here is nitroglycerine or chlorine gas; it is the business of science to analyze them calmly, to tell us just what these compounds or elements are, and what they can do. If they can kill whole cities…if they can lay waste and bring to nothing an entire civilizatiom, with all its treasured loveliness and wisdom----science will tell us how it can be done scientifically, expeditiously, and with the least expense to the taxpayers, should they survive. But whether civilizations ought to be destroyed—what science tells us that? Whether life is sweetest when engrossed in acquisitiom and possessed with possessions, or when it is absorbed in creation and construction…whether we should try to forego all supernatural sanctions in our moral life; whether we should view matter from the standpoint of mind, or mind from the standpoint of matter—what science shall answer us here? How shall these ultimate choices of our lives be clarified except by the light of our whole experience, by that wisdom to which knowledge is mere raw material, and in whose total vision all the wealth of all the sciences finds place and order and a guiding significance?

Science is the analytical description of parts, philosophy is the synthetic interpretation of the whole, or the interpretatiom of a part in terms of its place and value for the whole. Science is a committee of ways and means,
philosophy is a committee on resolution and programs; facts and instrumentalities have worth and meaning only in relation to desire. That the desires themselves should be consistent, that they should become ordered parts
of a harmonious personality, an integrated life,----that too is the task of philosophy, and one of its highest goals.[/b]

Comments?

Me, I certainly concur that philosophy and science each has an important role to play in ordering our lives. Where I express qulams however is the part that revolves around the pursuit of a “harmonious”, “integrated” whole.

That is beyond the reach of both philosophy and science. In fact, it can become a very dangerous illusion.

Science to my way of thinking is an adjunct developed to help people understand their environment around them. Granted it uses controlled constraints of trial and error temepered through observation, but it is yet another tool working with known findings to cull out inadmissable data.

Philosophy sets the ground work for moral and ethical standards which tries to mitigate the discoveries in scientific endeavors. While mostly subjective, there are objective benchmarks people can agree with. In time as certain things in science are unveiled and clarified, philosophical boundaries give way to new understandings. All this in part due to the reasoning behind the philosophical cogitation in the conflunce between the two.

Hi All,

The first philosophy book I ever read was Will Durant’s “The Pleasures of Philosophy”. I wanted to know more, probably due to my own nature rather than his book, but it gave me some things to think about.

In the passages quoted I think that some of Durant writings are misleading.

Science is the aesthetic ascetic.

Well OK only partially. But it is much different than most people think.

Scientific agents of change do not “look[s] out with the eye or telescope, with microscope or spectroscope, and tells us what it sees”. They are crazy people who “know” what the world “should” look like and simply make it so. i.e. write their descriptions.

When the initial experimental results failed to confirm, Feynman simply waited until later experimental results agreed with him because he “knew” he was right. Dirac dismissed critics of his novel predictions because he knew his “beautifull” equations must be right. The Copernican sytem was falsified at least twice and still many people believed in it.

Other than confirming results, or from Popper’s perspecive falsifying them, the scientific method has nothing to do with science.

Durant’s comments on what I consider to be the appropriate constraints on technology are important, but I think weak.

He wrote, “Whether life is sweetest when engrossed in acquisition and possessed with possessions, or when it is absorbed in creation and construction…whether we should try to forego all supernatural sanctions in our moral life; whether we should view matter from the standpoint of mind, or mind from the standpoint of matter—what science shall answer us here?” But what does philosophy tell us?

Anyway, just some random thoughts.

Ed

Don’t forget that Logic is philosophy (not Science). Logic is the foundation tool of Science along with observation. Without the philosophy of Logic, Science becomes purely imagination, dreaming, and mysticism (much like what is taught in schools today as “theoretical physics” = pure playful superstition).