Archive for ‘turning philosophy upside down’

August 28, 2013

The trouble with philosophy

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been clear that I look at things differently from the way many philosophers do.  In this post I’ll try to say something about that difference.

In my experience, if you say something critical of philosophy, then philosophers will come out of the woodwork to defend their discipline.  I want to be clear that I am not attacking philosophy.  Rather, I am explaining what I find unsatisfying about it.

I often see some sort of criticism of philosophy coming from scientists.  I do not claim to speak for all scientists, but perhaps what I find unsatisfying will at least hint at what some other critics don’t like.

The trouble with philosophy

is that philosophers do it so badly.  I don’t know of a good definition of “philosophy”, and I suppose that if we take “philosophy” to mean “that which philosophers do,” then it is pretty much impossible for them to do it badly.  However, I take philosophy to be dealing with a range of topics that are related to thought, reasoning, being human.  And it is in that sense that I find philosophy unsatisfying.  It seems too much driven by tradition, and it seems to avoid what I see as important.

read more »

March 11, 2013

Turning epistemology upside down

by Neil Rickert

Epistemology is a core area within philosophy.  It is concerned with questions of knowledge, information, description and truth.  And it is part of what I would like to see turned upside down.  That is to say, the way that I see questions of knowledge, information, description and truth is very different from what we find in the traditional literature.

Epistemology from a design stance

As mentioned in my earlier “upside down” post, I see traditional philosophy as based on a design stance, while I would prefer a more evolutionary stance.  So let’s start by looking at how the design stance seems to work.

read more »

March 6, 2013

Turning philosophy upside down

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, but it is a hard one to address.  As luck would have it, there’s a recent post at the New York Times site by Paul Horwich, which might help (h/t Sean Wilson):

As part of that post, Horwich gives the following as an account of what philosophy is about:

Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on — and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

That seems about right, in the sense that it fits much of what is published by academic philosophers.

read more »