Monday, April 30, 2012

More bad philosophy

Another excellent post by the Maverick on a topic in which he excels, namely the hamfisted and sophomoric way in which scientists deal with philosophical questions.
One would think that a scientist, trained in exact modes of thought and research, would not fall into such a blatant confusion. Or if he is not confused 'in his own mind' why is he writing like a sloppy sophomore? Scientific American is not a technical journal, but it is certainly a cut or two above National Enquirer.
The problem is that philosophy, unlike 'science' is a subject which most people feel qualified to talk about. Unlike physics or maths or chemistry, it is not taught in school, so most people have no idea of the difficulty of acquiring expertise in it. Philosophy is also rather like drama, and unlike music, in that it is difficult for non experts to spot lack of expertise. Let me explain. Bad playing of a musical instrument is immedately obvious to anyone who has no training in music. All parents will remember those primary school concerts when the young ones play violins, trumpets, pianos and so on, where the pain of listening whose only just counterbalanced by the love we all bear towards our progeny. In contrast, bad acting is less obvious to those without training in the dramatic arts.

Supposedly this is why membership of the actor's union Equity is so difficult to obtain, whereas membership of the Musicians Union is not. Being a good actor is something that good actors have to judge, being a good musician is obvious to the world. No one can pretend to be a good musician, everyone can pretend to be an actor, and so rules must be drawn up. Now in an ideal world, there would be a philosopher's union, and no one would be allowed to write or even speak about it unless they were a member. But that is not so, and the best we have is Bill's occasional entertaining ranting - which is good enough, to be sure, and lightens the darkness of our days.

Labels: ,

3 Comments:

Blogger Anthony said...

>> The problem is that philosophy, unlike 'science' is a subject which most people feel qualified to talk about.

I'm not sure what you mean. People talk about science all the time, in the same way they talk about philosophy (basic, unsophisticated, and often completely incorrectly).

>> Philosophy is also rather like drama, and unlike music, in that it is difficult for non experts to spot lack of expertise.

Really the "philosophers" have brought this upon themselves, with their embrace of relativism.

4:19 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>People talk about science all the time, in the same way they talk about philosophy (basic, unsophisticated, and often completely incorrectly
<<

Well that is true. I just think philosophy is more vulnerable to this. It's a bitter issue with philosophers, I remember from my teaching days.

>>Really the "philosophers" have brought this upon themselves, with their embrace of relativism.
<<

This is another misconception. Most philosophers (at least in the dominant analytic tradition) do not embrace relativism.

The Maverick has something about 'sophomoric relativism' in one of his posts.

6:08 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Okay, maybe it's not relativism. But you certainly do seem to refuse to take a position an awful lot, instead resorting to "X believes..." and "Y believes..." You tend not to get that wishywashiness as much from scientists, other than in the most cutting edge of science, anyway.

4:52 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home