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    philosophynow.org22 min
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    • ctwardy2 years ago

      [Second try. Edited post. ]

      "Eventually I concluded that language was bigger than the universe."

      A fun, pithy, sharp-edged take on the empiricist vs. Platonist debate, coming down firmly with the empiricists, but - surprisingly - by actually engaging with the philosophy. It leads with a compelling example where I think all readers would have to concede a point, if not yet the match.

      I doubt his claim that mathematicians are non-Platonists these days. Maybe? Physicist-mathematicians, particularly of the Feynman bent, probably mostly. And famously, Bohr tried to squash "metaphysical itches" that would derail physicists from actually doing quantum mechanics. But I suspect plenty are tempted to Platonism by "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics". This is, however, an empirical question, so the author and I can settle it. I'll bet a beer/tea/coffee.

      I expected the "don't like philosophy BUT DO IT ANYWAY" to get into why scientists deriding philosophy are often guilty of doing philosophy, and badly - echoes of "in the thrall of some defunct economist". But if he considers that at all, he sweeps it up with the Humean admission of practicality.

      But again, it's a gem -a well-informed, well-written, philosophical critique of philosophy.

      Or at least Platonism - but the rest is just footnotes, no?

    • [user]2 years ago

      This comment was deleted on 1/12/2020

    • Symmetria2 years ago

      I got through it, somehow, and I can't say I'm smarter than a professor, but as a platonist and physicist in training, I can't say I agree... I think modern science, especially physics, is very platonic, even if the platonism has to be a "mathematical platonism".

    • jbuchana2 years ago

      In parts, this is (deliberately) amusing. It gives one some perception about science and the different roles of philosophy.

      • SEnkey2 years ago

        I think the author clarifies my biggest objection at the end:

        "Not even Newton was a complete Newtonian, and it may be doubted if life generally offers the luxury of not having an opinion on anything that cannot be reduced to predicate calculus plus certified observation statements. While the Newtonian insistence on ensuring that any statement is testable by observation (or has logical consequences which are so testable) undoubtedly cuts out the crap, it also seems to cut out almost everything else as well."

        In other words, platonic philosophy is good in its sphere, but don't come into my domain to play without understanding the rules of my domain. I really enjoy philosophy and think it does a lot more to advance humanity than mathematics. I know this is my biased opinion but as an example mathematics won't convince genocides to stop (and may make them more deadly) while philosophy may convince us to take better care of our fellow humans. But I wouldn't attempt to use platonic philosophy to tell AI researchers that their pursuits were pointless. The guy doing that, to borrow a technical term, is just an a--hole.

    • jeff
      Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeReading streakScoutScribe
      2 years ago

      My takeaway from this is that Plato is the Freud of philosophy.