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To: cornelis; Alamo-Girl; hosepipe; ahayes; omnivore; metmom; Quix; T'wit; editor-surveyor
But tell me, how could you be talking metaphysics when it concerned the the natural world?

Because there's more to "the natural world" than physics, cornelis. Plus even the physicists and biologists can't seem to avoid doing it. As a case in point, much of modern day science is firmly premised in the philosophical doctrine of materialism. I've recently mentioned other examples hereabouts.

I mean, human beings are a part of nature; they are thus "natural." They also seemingly happen to be more than the sum total of the cells and molecules and the astronomical number atoms and sub-atomic particles and atomic quantum states that compose their bodies. It's not even possible to make a "full description" of a living organism or a human being based on the methods of present-day physics: Who knows, for example, how to gather and collate information about a virtually astronomical number of quantum states, affected by quantum events continuously triggered from "outside" the organism, which would also need to be quantified, which would be necessary for a full description of a living organism in physical terms?

The biologists have basically taken the position that life must be taken as an irreducible, foundational "given," and then just go on from there, happy as clams. To ask 'what life is?' is a foolish question from the standpoint of methodological naturalism: You do not have to know the answer to this question to do first-rate science. Similarly physicists take the quantum of action as irreducible to anything that could be further detected by science. Life and the action principle are both taken axiomatically.

I am fascinated by, and honor, the findings of state-of-the-art theoretical developments in the sciences. But to the extent that there's "more to man (and the world and society) than mere matter," neither physics nor biology has the complete answer to the questions that matter most to most thinking human beings -- and they are likely unable to produce one, on sheer methodological grounds.

So I admit I do see philosophy as fully "complementary" with the natural sciences. You don't get to do both at the same time, and possibly no one person can effectively do both equally well anyway; but you do need them both to make a "full description of the system" that includes living beings and especially man. :^)

Thank you so much for Gilson's statement RE: Aristotle's attitude toward his own philosophizing -- "In the philosophy of Aristotle, physics was in charge of dealing with all 'natures,' that is, with those beings that have in themselves the principle of their own change and of their own operations." Obviously, this attitude is founded on the premise that "nature" (or "natures") is to be defined as what bears within itself the principles of its own change and operations. Living beings, however, are finite and contingent; so it appears they cannot wholly be responsible for their dispositions themselves; they do not completely reduce to the expectation of the physicial sciences that once you know the initial conditions, then the laws of physics do all the rest.

Rather than the term "metaphysics" (incorrectly credited to Aristotle), I'd really prefer to use the more generic term, "philosophy" instead. Metaphysics has become identified with particular schools and doctrines; philosophy (as practiced by Plato and Aristotle) gives us a chance to return to "realist" models of exploring and understanding reality.

It seems the fundamental prejudice of a certain contemporary scientific attitude that no causes of things can arise outside the familiar four-dimensional space that we normally experience. And yet curiously I note that no "universal" seemingly can arise there either -- at least if you believe in the law of cause-and-effect as the lawful result of the actions of real bodies in close proximity on each other. Universals do not appear to be the products of four-dimensional spacetime "nature", but somehow as "ulterior" to it; but that nature appears to depend on and be governed by them. The physical laws of science themselves are universals.

Thank you so much for writing cornelis. Truly I value your comments. Obviously, I am still struggling to put my ideas into cogent order here, and to find adequate language to express them clearly.... It's good to have a highly well-qualified interlocutor.

169 posted on 06/02/2007 3:40:54 PM PDT by betty boop ("Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." -- A. Einstein.)
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To: betty boop; cornelis; Alamo-Girl
[.. Obviously, I am still struggling to put my ideas into cogent order here, and to find adequate language to express them clearly...]

Is it possible there are "no words" to adequately "explain the whole system"?..
Meaning mere language is insufficient to describe the physical and metaphysical reality..
If so, we humans are/may be in a maze.. we cannot fully understand.. to describe..

How intelligent would be the rat that made a nest in a Cul D'Sac instead of running the maze?....

170 posted on 06/02/2007 4:06:03 PM PDT by hosepipe (CAUTION: This propaganda is laced with hyperbole....)
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To: betty boop
Because there's more to "the natural world" than physics, cornelis.

True enough. But this doesn't even nibble at what I was fishing for on this identity of Being and Life as applied to the universe. But hey, I'm not the greatest at fishing and get skunked all the time.

178 posted on 06/02/2007 7:48:19 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: betty boop
"...philosophy (as practiced by Plato and Aristotle) gives us a chance to return to "realist" models of exploring and understanding reality..."

It doesn't work for me. When I read stuff from Plato or Aristotle, other than a few of the basic logical concepts, I don't think there's really much useful there. Part of it is the vagueness of ideas and concepts, part of it is the occasional nuggets of rank nonsense. Mainly it's too much in the "humanities" vein, which I find largely dehumanizing. Every time I see some politician or judge rationalizing some idiotic law or regulation or decision, with a nonsense of legalistic word-salad that could equally easily have come from the mouth of the average street schizophrenic, I think, that person probably studied philosophy before going to law school or some other word-centric outfit. An example, I recently (within past 6 months) heard Bill Bennett being interviewed on some other radio show, and he at one point mentioned "I was a double-major, literature and philosophy." I nearly burst out laughing. No wonder the guy's such an empty blow-hard. Two majors that are considered "cake" at most universities and are in any case nothing but a lot of reading and writing, which basic skills most of the college-bound have a good handle on by the end of third grade. After that it's just a lot of repetition and practice required, but rather little actual thinking, IMHO. And no contact with the real (physical) world is required, that's strictly optional.

I'm not saying there isn't anything there. I just think there's a lot less there, and what is there is of much less importance, compared to a lot of other things, than is generally admitted. If philosophy were actually so all-fired "fundamental" and important, philosophers would be at the leading edge of finding new knowledge, which they're not. For instance, whether it's the period from Russell through Godel when mathematics was set on new foundations, or all the work of the physics community in the first half of the 20th century which re-formed physics in terms of quantum mechanics, basically the physics and mathematics communities got precious little help from the philosophy community. (And I won't go along with a rebuttal that "well, those mathematicians and physicists were philosophers too, just of different stripes." When I use the word "philosopher," I mean the people who bring only the wordplay to the table. The ones who could actually help with the heavy lifting in the math and physics areas called themselves mathematicians and physicists, and the fact that they ended up having to pick up a lot of the philosophical slack around their areas in terms of attempting to "expain what it all meant" points only to the alienation from reality of the philosophers of the day, who were lucky if they could barely understand what was going on.)

What philosophers mostly do nowadays, IMHO, is quibble around the edges of what others do, spackling in the gaps of their own (philosophy's) old rationalizations about the world with freshly-minted word-salads of new rationalizations. It appears to me to be an empty enterprise, more about where we've been (or where we've escaped from, intellectually) than where we're going. If it's interesting to you or others, great. Just does little for me. For me, reality starts where we leave the words behind, and the weird stories and primitive beliefs that we construct with words, and deal with the physical world physically, in its own language, which is mathematical.
179 posted on 06/02/2007 8:46:17 PM PDT by omnivore
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To: betty boop

Thanks for the ping, Betty. It’s good to see a scientist with enough humility to know that we don’t knew everything and never will. It is a realization that clears the way for seeing beyond ideological molds and mantras.


182 posted on 06/03/2007 4:07:39 AM PDT by T'wit (Confidence in science rests on belief in God's order and will not long survive loss of this belief.)
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To: betty boop

Thanks for the ping, and for continually asking the unaskable, and attempting to answer the unanswerable.

(and for dragging the naturalists out of their comfort zone)


186 posted on 06/03/2007 11:06:41 AM PDT by editor-surveyor (Turning the general election into a second Democrat primary is not a winning strategy.)
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