I haven't left philosophy because everyone in it is stupid, as this article seems to suggest. I left philosophy because after all my reading, note-taking, class-discussioning, and debate tournamenting, I never felt like I'd made any progress, and that mattered to me personally. At the end of the day, the questions that were hard to answer were still unsolved, and the gray ethical areas were still gray. This is why I don't do philosophy, and I why I found the science bug. Not because philosophy lacks rigor or reasonable investigators.
In philosophy, real answers are difficult to find and prove, but in math and science, even though every answer brings 10 new questions, you can look back and say: I proved that theorem, I empirically verified the acceleration of the earth.
To quote my favorite xkcd T-shirt "Science, it works, bitches!". Most scientists I know that disregard philosophy do so because science gives them a feeling of getting somewhere, while philosophy, even at its most rigorous, just seems to leave them more confused than when they started. It's more of a personal preference for that kind of investigation than any rejection of the intelligence of a large group of people.
Another area where there have arguably been successes (even through failure), is in the attempts to formalise natural languages into logic (Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein). This is the tradition that informed Chomsky, whose theories of grammar inform modern compiler design.
There are philosophers alive that I believe have advanced the frontier of knowledge, but as with some areas of pure mathematics it's hard to say practically what that means. I have in mind Kripke.
That's math, though, not philosophy.
The difference: Math is a symbol game that occasionally produces useful tools for other fields, whereas philosophy is a discussion of human problems.
so there was a point when foundational issues in maths and logic were philosophy. the importance of frege, and then later peano, russel, etc, is that they were the ones that found a way to attack that set of problems, letting us isolate a chunk of knowledge as logic, set theory, etc.
a similar process is probably happening now with consciousness - we're starting to develop the tools to answer questions that are currently "philosophical".
> Math is a symbol game
So is logic.
> philosophy is a discussion of human problems.
No. It's not.
I get your point, but for all intents and purposes that's one of the things that makes philosophy great, i.e. the fact that Heraclitus's sayings are as actual today as they were 2,500 years ago. You'll also have to agree that deciding once and for all (or "proving" by scientific means) what makes as taking "moral" decisions, or if "morals" even exist at all, or what makes us not kill each other once we've stopped believing in gods etc., is better left "unresolved", because this "philosophical quest" is what makes us humans.
I also think philosophy can help science in areas that do affect us but are probably untestable. I remember reading some work in primitivism that speculates that the introduction of the clock, and its conception of time, to humanity fundamentally changed the nature of consciousness. People literally thought differently before the clock became common. If this is true, it has ramifications for how we understand the past and things that people did in it that affect us today. So maybe philosophy helps us with questions of history in a way that science (at least currently, at least in my conception) cannot.
I'm increasingly under the impression that philosophy is "about" whatever the individual philosopher or reader or writer wants it to be about, and that a lot of philosophers really like arguing about what philosophy is about. Granted, this comes mostly from sporadic reading in the field and from listening to Philosophy Bites, but the combination has still made me increasingly skeptical of explanations about what philosophy is about.
The things you dislike about philosophy are exactly the things that make it so useful, and the things you like about science are the reasons why most (if not all) of it is ultimately illusory.
How is science illusory?
Modern science as it exists today is basically a quasi-religious system that is more or less the next version of alchemy in terms of its intellectual heritage. It's clear to me that in a couple hundred years we'll probably look back on the science of today the same way that most people today look at alchemy. Already research investigating the truth of the spiritual underpinnings of science is one of the hottest areas of research, and you can't go more than a couple weeks without seeing some new finding or treatise. It's only going to be so long before all of these disparate parts get organized into a cohesive whole that's convincing enough to undermine the current establishment.
No. This is simply wrong on a factual level. Science doesn't have dogma. It isn't religion. See? Your ideas fail because you don't have the facts you need to form good ideas.
> It's clear to me that in a couple hundred years we'll probably look back on the science of today the same way that most people today look at alchemy.
To the extent we do, it will be because of advances in science. Science replaces its own ideas (that is, in fact, the exact opposite of dogma) using evidence and sound mathematical logic, which is why that happens. Trying to use science to prove the weakness of science is a wonderful indication that you haven't the faintest clue what you're talking about.
That's simply false. If you don't believe that science has dogma, open up the first chapter of nearly every biology textbook. Most of them start out by discussing the dogma of science, which is roughly as follows:
- We live in a materialist universe.
- There exists nothing magical or supernatural.
- All phenomena are in principle understandable by humans.
- The scientific method is how we can understand the universe.
There are many other assumptions behind science as well, but these are the ones that most textbooks usually enumerate explicitly. Being assumptions, none of them are provable. And in fact there is good reason to believe that many (or all) of them are wrong, which would essentially make all of scientific knowledge wrong as well. And while specific scientific results are at least in theory subject to being replaced, these general principles are considered sacred and unchallengable.
Science is a religion just like any other. And if you actually look at the principles I listed, they actually look a lot like the four noble truths of buddhism. Different content, but still religious just the same.
They aren't dogma. They can be refuted with sufficient evidence. The failure of the religious to provide such evidence means they haven't yet been refuted. (It also says nasty things about the religious, but propriety forbids me from being more specific.)
> there is good reason to believe that many (or all) of them are wrong
What reasons? Be precise enough and you get a Nobel Prize and eternal adulation.
> they actually look a lot like the four noble truths of buddhism
Only to someone who totally misunderstands both science and Buddhism.
Except for that they can't, because everyone who believes in science just says that the reason they believe that science will be able to explain everything is that it has explained everything so far. This is just begging the question, and it's clear that no matter how much evidence there is that there are some things that science can't explain these will just be written off by those who have 'faith' in science. You can go over to r/science or r/atheism and find literally thousands of examples of this.
>What reasons? Be precise enough and you get a Nobel Prize and eternal adulation.
The obvious one would be that there is absolutely nothing to suggest that consciousness is material in nature. But again, the true believers refute this by listing all the other things that we didn't understand until science came up with some explanation, and saying that therefor science will most likely also be able to explain consciousness one day.
You don't have any examples of this in this post, though.
> there is absolutely nothing to suggest that consciousness is material in nature
Wrong. The existence of psychoactive drugs and the effectiveness of fMRI scans disproves this statement.
EDITED TO ADD: What evidence would make you change your mind about this statement in particular?
For example, how is it that the electrical signals in our brains produce "us" while electrical signals in other things don't produce conscious things? How are they different? What would it take to make a circuit "conscious"?
I can't give you good definitions for consciousness or experience and I can't even say that the question(s) make(s) sense. I'm just trying to give you give you a picture of what some people think.
If you really think about it, the situation in science, that the questions that were hard to answer were still unsolved, is very similar to the situation in philosophy. Ask anyone what an electric field really is. No one knows.
Any field that is actually advancing builds on itself. That doesn't make future progress easy in an absolute sense; it merely makes it possible.