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Philosophy & Her Children - physics, astronomy, psychology, etc...

Von: Immortalista (extropy1@hotmail.com) [Profil]
Datum: 06.06.2010 04:38
Message-ID: <e70d8980-5b20-49d3-a088-c1450d2f0fab@k25g2000prh.googlegroups.com>
Newsgroup: alt.religion alt.atheismsci.physics alt.philosophy.debate alt.philosophy
The history of philosophy reads like a long family saga. In the
beginning there were the great patriarch and matriarch, the searches
for knowledge and wisdom, who bore a large number of children.
Mathematics, physics, ethics psychology, logic, political thought,
metaphysics (the search for knowledge of the ultimate nature of
reality), and epistemology (the study of knowledge itself)-all
belonged to the same family. Philosophers were not just philosophers,
but mathematicians and physicists and psychologists as well. Indeed,
in the the beginning of the family's history, no distinction was made
between philosophy and these other disciplines...

...In the beginning, then, all systematic search for knowledge was
philosophy. This fact is still reflected in the modern university,
where the highest degree granted in all of the sciences and humanities
is the Ph.D.-the doctor of philosophy.

But the children gradually began to leave home. First to leave were
physics and astronomy, as they began to develop experimental
techniques of their own. This exodus, led by Galileo (1564-1642),
Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), created the
first of many great family crises, all centering on the same question:
What is left for philosophy to do? Rene Descartes (1596-1650), after
whom we call a graph's x and y axes "Cartesian coordinates," was the
first great philosopher to grapple seriously with the question, and
because of this, he is now considered the father of modern philosophy.

Descartes took philosophy's major task to be the establishment of a
secure foundation for scientific knowledge. What can be known for
certain, he asked himself, and how can we build up our knowledge of
the world from these certain foundations? These questions led him to
examine the human mind and its relation to the human body. Since then,
psychology, philosophy of science, and epistemology have been central
to the" philosophical enterprise. How is knowledge possible? What
features of the human mind enable it to have knowledge? How can and do
we come to have scientific knowledge, ethical knowledge, everyday
practical knowledge?

Although such questions came to be central, many of the other
questions that had perplexed the family since ancient Greece have
continued to puzzle succeeding generations. How should we live our
lives? How should we treat others? What is the best form of society?
Moreover, many philosophers continued to speculate about a deeper
reality than the one the physicist explored. Is reality at bottom
physical, nonphysical, or both? Is the universe united by factors
other than physical laws-by divine providence, perhaps, or a universal
moral order? Does life on earth have any meaning?

Eventually, psychology left home. As late as the end of the nineteenth
century, the same man-William James (1842-1910)-could be known as both
the president of the American Psychology Association and the most
eminent philosopher in America. Still, when James built the nation's
first experimental psychology laboratory, he helped pave the way for
psychology's maturity, and another child was soon gone.

This produced another great crisis, which was dealt with in two
different ways. In the English-speaking world, under the influence of
Bertrand Russell (1872-1969) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951),
philosophy turned to the study of logic and language, spawning the
movement known as analytic philosophy. Analytic philosophers were
somewhat embarrassed by the history of philosophy. It seemed to them
that as soon as reliable methods for answering certain types of
questions were devised, the questions were no longer deemed
philosophical. Philosophy, it seemed to them, was becoming the last
bastion of unanswerable questions.

To make philosophy as scientifically respectable as such long-gone
offspring as mathematics and physics, they declared that the job of
philosophy was to analyze language and thereby show that many
traditional philosophical questions and theories were based on a
confusion about the workings of language. After completing this task,
philosophy would continue as a clarifying enterprise, which
philosophers, because of their training in logic, were singularly
qualified to carry out.

On the European continent, under the influence of Edmund Husserl
(1859-1938) and Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), phenomenology and
exstentialism became dominant. Although there are important
differences between the two movements, both emphasized the examination
of human reality from the inside. The phenomenologist attempted to
understand the workings of human consciousness. The existentialist
concentrated on describing and analyzing what if is like to be a human
being, not from the objective viewpoint of the psychologist, but from
the personal viewpoint of the human being.

Although these three movements-analytic philosophy, phenomenology and
existentialism-still exert some influence, they appear to have run
their respective courses. The reasons for the decline of analytic
philosophy are particularly instructive. For one thing, many
philosophers began to feel that the analytic program was excessively
limiting. They wanted to do more than merely dismiss confusions and
analyze language. For another, linguistics as a separate science had
begun to reach a high degree of sophistication, developing various
techniques for understanding human language. Thus, another child left
home leading to a familiar family crisis. What was left for philosophy
to do?...

Persons And Their World: An Introduction to Philosophy - Jeffrey Olen
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0075543117/

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