Philosophical Statement

This is an article expressing my most basic views on philosophy and its role. It will be an ever evolving document, being updated as I find the time and inspiration and as my views change over time.

I’m a relative amateur in the field of philosophy, having studied it for a few years on and off (inbetween my studies in computer science) without getting too deep into any of its sub-fields. I have delved fairly deeply into logic and have otherwise focused somewhat on the philosophies of science and mind, and a little bit on philosophy of language (mostly in connection with logic through logical grammar).

With that out of the way, I can get a bit more into my view of philosophy and its connection to other fields of study. Much has been said about the relation between philosophy and science, Quine views them as being on a continuum and I sympathize with this, seeing the difference as being about the difference between impartially describing objective facts and building theories to explain them, and analyzing concepts, working out definitions, and reasoning about logical consequences of these definitions. Some would say that a characteristic of philosophy is its normative nature, but I am unconvinced that this is true. While some sub-fields of philosophy such as ethics are normative and (I would argue probably inescapably) subjective, I don’t see how normativity plays any major role in philosophy of language or logic, where questions seem to be about how the abstract constructions of language and logic connect with the real world, hardly a question of normativity but probably a question not possible to answer by empirical means. And perhaps this is the nature of philosophy: that it attempts to answer questions left untouched by empirical investigation, that it tries to answer how certain states of affair, which have been shown to exist by science, can be. Example: science shows that the external world is in a certain way, that it consist of entities of certain types, philosophy asks how it is that our experiences are connected to the external world, how it is possible that we can use our language to refer to things in the world. This is a loosely formulated hypothesis on the nature of philosophy which needs to be further developed.

Whatever the nature of philosophy is, whatever standpoint I will eventually take on the matter, I have an idea of how this question as well as all other questions of philosophy needs to be adressed. In the words of John Searle: An important starting point for any sane philosophy is realism, meaning that an external world exists where our conceptual constructs somehow are representations of things which have an objective existence in this external world, and a correspondence theory of truth, meaning that statements are true or false in virtue of being or not being in correspondence with matters of fact in the external world. These starting points seem unavoidable, but an argument for them will have to wait and will be dealt with in another article. Another important standpoint which is necessary for a sane investigation into reality is the scientific method augmented with philosophical discussion about the concepts arising from science (or perhaps it should rather be described as philosophical investigation informed by empirical findings from science). The scientific method is the way we have to test our hypotheses about the external world to make sure that there really is a correspondence between our statements and the world, and so, is the basis for our knowledge. Any theory of epistemology must hence be based on some understanding of the scientific method.

Finally, logic is an important part of philosophy (and science), being the way to clarify statements through translation into formal statements in some system of logic expressing propositions, and also the way to investigate arguments and draw conclusions. The scientific method is most commonly seen as being fundamentally a hypotethico-deductive method in which hypotheses are formulated in order to draw conclusions from them by deductive means so that we can use empirical means to test if the conclusions correspons to reality. In philosophy, the empirical plays a less central role but logic is still there to clarify our concepts and figure out the consequences of these. The result may not be, as in science, that the consequences are tested against reality through empirical means, but maybe are rather evaluated in the basis of whether the conclusions are desirable or not. Perhaps our intuitions about desirable consequences are central to this process, but perhaps this is not the case as some have argued against the central role of intuitions in philosophy.


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