38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that wittgensteins is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
The following will disclose a view on what it is the job of philosophy to do. Instantly, a problem intercedes. â€œWhat gall!â€ you cry. â€œHow outrÃ©! â€' to assert the unity of philosophy! There are an irreducible plurality of philosophical fields, all with different methods and subject-matter. Ethics, epistemology, ontology, aesthetics, logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of science â€' all are ask valid questions. To try to mediate between them - to somehow weigh their claims in opposition to one another - would not be just foolish, but fatal to the richness of philosophy!â€ Yet it is precisely this which I propose to do. My starting point is that of the Wein Kreis, a group of philosophers (Carnap, Neurath, Waismann, Mach and more) who set up a school of thought usually called Logical Postivism. Philosophically they were really radical empiricists, and they disparaged anything that could not be verified by sensory experience as â€˜metaphysics'. What my starting point shares with theirs is that I want to draw the limit to what can logically be said: whatever lies on the other side is just nonsense.
What I cannot countenance about their scheme is their insistence that â€œthe meaning of a proposition lies in its method of verificationâ€. To verify something is to show a correspondence between a proposition and a state of affairs. The problem with this is that it smuggles in a highly metaphysical conception of the mind and its relation to reality. The mind is seen as little more than what Coleridge would call a â€œlazy observerâ€: taming the manifold influx of sensory data, associating, categorising, erecting conceptual mainframes, hauling up a veritable bee-hive of facts. In short, it posits a radical dualism between the external reality and the internal mind â€' and this cannot be justified. It is written into empiricism, but no argument in its favour is ever given. It is an assumption.
What I want to do is find a method which purges thought of all assumptions. Of course, Descartes famously tried and failed, simply because, like the Logical Positivists, he tried to base philosophy on a method â€' and thus assumes the proprietary of this method.
How to assume nothing? For surely we have to assume that assuming nothing is a more adroit approach to take? I must, then, assign assuming nothing the status of an empirical fact â€' I must say that given all philosophical enquiries, it has transpired that assuming nothing is more conducive to getting to the bottom of the matter. Of course, we are not permitted to generalise inductively from this â€' logically, it is still possible that it will emerge that it is better to assume some things.
It may be asked where this leaves science. And it is instructive to take this up here, because I can now make clear my view of philosophy in its relation to other fields. It is not something which stands side by side with science. It is something who's methods differ in degree and not kind. It will be asked: â€œScience clearly proceeds by making assumptions, conjectures that are taken after a sober appraisal of the facts. So making assumptions is not only acceptable, but necessary.â€ This view springs, I think, from what I shall a holistic conception of science â€' the view that its propositions form an internally coherent composite whole: that, in accepting one view, we must accept them all. Now this is clearly not true. The same equations in which Einstein revolutionised physics contained the apocryphal lambda. Science assumes things for the sake of argument; it draws up hypothetical models and then, when it has finished, dissolves them. It has no eternal frames of reference. It assumes nothing for all time.
Science, then, shares this role with philosophy: it only makes a conjecture when it can be weighed against another â€' against its antithesis. If no antithesis is forthcoming, no choice can be made, and we must abandon this line of enquiry. The reason why most philosophical theories fail is that they smuggle in highly abstract propositions for which antitheses cannot be conceived. So the fundamental question of philosophy is: â€œwhy, given the evidence, think x and not y?â€
More to come.