Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What are the janitors cleaning?

I too, found the metaphor of the philosopher being a janitor to science interesting and in some aspects correct. Science does many things for us, but it does not ask "why?". Instead that role is left to the philosopher. I did have some issues with the idea of naturalistic ontology which says that science "proides us with a truer, better account of the way things are". I recently took a philosophy of science course where we read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. From my understanding of Kuhn, Kuhn argues that science does not bring us any closer to Truth. Rather we shift our paradigms of understanding nature. For example imagine you and a friend are shown the same picture of a series of lines. You claim it is a dog while your friend claims it is a duck. Which one of you is right if either one of you are? This example shows that when we experience reality, we automatically filter what we sense through our own pre-concieved notions. another example that Kuhn uses was the history of optics and the corpuscular theory of light. What that example shows is that what we claim as truth has (and likely will continue to be) changed. The main issue is trying to understand the nature of science. Does science bring us ever closer to objective truth, or does science simply make our lives more comfortable?

I also think that Jacobi's "stark choice: either to embrace the rational atheism of Enlightenment, or to reject it through an irrational leap of faith" interesting. I wonder what others might think about this choice. Is this choice as clear cut as it appears? If not, why? What other alternatives could there be?

1 comment:

  1. What science are you reading? Science seems to be remarkably focused on why. Why do people die, why is fire hot, why do things fall at the same speed even when they have different weights, why is sleep necessary.

    I'm also not sure that this is Kuhn's point. I'm pretty sure that Kuhn would say that the medicine currently practiced is based on more true beliefs that that which was practiced 1000 years ago.