<emeriste> They think it is meaningless or 'fluff'. The perception of quite prevalent.

<appletizer> philosophy is pre-science

<MathPoet> You mean it's not?:)

<emeriste> Often times these people have the impression that anything that is actually worth asking is answered by sciences and nothing that philosophy does is meaningful.

<emeriste> The charge is that, 'Philosophy never accomplishes anything'.

<MathPoet> philosophy gives us the opportunity to tell the truth about our lives.

<seanw> or try to.

  • seanw runs.

<MathPoet> hehe

<MathPoet> people who think that either haven't experienced philosophy or they have.

<MathPoet> people who think that philosophy is a waste of time...

<emeriste> comments like 'people either think that or they don't' probably lend themselves to the criticism.

<MathPoet> they don't have a sense of humor, I guess.

<emeriste> I basically agree that the people who are most vocal in their disdain for philosophy don't seem to have very much contact with real philosophy or the philosophical state-of-mind.

<MathPoet> besides, philosophy is good as long as people don't come to my door with tracts to hand out.

<emeriste> When people say philosophy they could several different things in mind.

<MathPoet> In fact, a lot of topics probably go unexplored because of "contempt prior to investigation."

<emeriste> They could be thinking of the philosophical method, the philosophical disposition, some particular manifesto, or questions like, 'if a tree falls in the woods..'

<MathPoet> and they would all be right, I think. Philosophy covers a lot of material, I think.

<emeriste> I think most people who have little contact with philosophy think of manifestos or cliches first.

<MathPoet> It's like God. Most people assume you're talking about the Christian God and not a personal one.

<emeriste> I don't notice a lot of contemporary philosophers writing tomes like Kant or Hegel anymore. Is that a false impression or, if it's true what explains it?

<MathPoet> I don't know. I'm not well-versed in philosophy. It might be because it's become too specialized or particular. Or there's just so many philosophers.

<MathPoet> sometimes standing on the shoulders of giants gets you into an altitude that causes nosebleeds.

<MathPoet> It's kind of like mathematics. Not many mathematicians seem inclined to criticize the foundations.

<emeriste> I dont think most working mathematicians think about the foundations at all.

<MathPoet> :)

<MathPoet> yeah. it's a little pathetic.

<MathPoet> I'm new to the study myself.

<emeriste> I wouldn't say it is pathetic. I think it is sort of irrelevant to what they are actually doing.

<emeriste> It might be sort of like saying that a person trying to build a better transistor should first master particle physics.

<MathPoet> I guess I agree. It's just that there are so many important issues....

<MathPoet> Do you think that philosophy can be the same way?

<MathPoet> one can muse without having read Nietche or Hegel?

<emeriste> Absolutely.

<emeriste> I would even say, I think that philosophy is more accessible in that sense than maybe any other subject.

<MathPoet> that's what I like about it.

<emeriste> To build a better transistor there are things you have to master. Just maybe not cosmology.

<emeriste> To talk about chemistry very seriously maybe a person needs 4 years of preparation before entering the conversation.

<emeriste> Philosophy might be the one area where any person can jump in at any level and be serious about it.

<MathPoet> I wish I could absorb all the writings of the philosophers. There's just so much! I can't. I must remain a lay person.

<MathPoet> I'm glad you feel that way. As philosophy goes, I feel woefully undereducated

<MathPoet> I'm pleased that the field is open to everyone, if only on this channel.

<emeriste> Well I think I can distinguish at least three different aspects of philosophy: (1) The philosophical personality. (2) The philosophical method. (3) The facts about what other philosophers have said.

<MathPoet> I'm curious abot the philosophical method. Does it involve axiomatization?

<emeriste> (1) Is embodied by Socrates. It is not easy to teach. I think maybe the best way to learn it is to know someone who has it and hang around with them for a while.

<emeriste> I think there are plenty of philosophy majors or even philosophy Phds who have mastered (2) or certainly (3) but never had the first contact with (1).

<emeriste> I can see axiomatizing statements as part of it. I have something slightly more broad than that in mind though.

<MathPoet> I learned most of what I know about important stuff from a particular teacher who offered statements to think about.

<MathPoet> but it wasn't based on abstraction.

<emeriste> Yeah, so not knowing you personally it sounds like maybe you have had a taste of (1). In my opinion (1) is the most important. :)

<MathPoet> the experience I had with him over a period of years transformed me completely. It probably saved my life.

<emeriste> Have you ever read "Apology" by Plato?

<MathPoet> I ask questions about philosophy because I'm so interested in the people I ask.

<MathPoet> no.

<MathPoet> I love hearing what other people hold precious to themselves, what's important to their lives.

<emeriste> I really recommend that you do. I think it is maybe the best starting point for all of philosophy.

<emeriste> It is written as a dialog showing Socrates when he was on trial.

<MathPoet> okay.

<MathPoet> Do you find a more tolerant temperment among philosophers than among the general population or less or the same?

<emeriste> I don't think there is a better model of what I'm calling the "philosophical personality" than Socrates. So the "Apology" is maybe the most important work of philosophy to read.

<emeriste> I think that depends on if their emphasis is on (1), (2), or (3).

<emeriste> A lot of contemporary philosophers are maybe a bit competitive with each other. Some people seem to have their ego at stake more than an interest in the truth. That is contrary to (1).

<MathPoet> Do you believe that if you have (1) then the rest can follow?

<emeriste> I think there is a lot of diversity in temperment amongst philosophers.

<emeriste> If you have (1), (2) can come more easily. (3) does not follow except by actually reading of course. But with (1), I think, you stand a much better chance of actually understanding (3).

<MathPoet> ah.

<MathPoet> I'll see if I can hunt up a copy of "Apology" if I can. I so prefer to own the books I read.

<emeriste> You can probably find it at any book store. It is not very long. It should probably be less than 5 dollars.

<MathPoet> are there any other works you would recommend as a foundation (before entering a particular school of thought).

<MathPoet> ???

<emeriste> Anything by Plato is probably good but in my opinion, "Apology" and "The Republic" have to be read.

<MathPoet> Is there a pre-Greek philosophy? I mean, where did it start or even come from?

<MathPoet> or is that where philosophy separated from religion?

<emeriste> There is pre-socratic philosphy.

<MathPoet> who? like Zeno? or pre-Greek?

<emeriste> But it's fragmented and, yes, I would say maybe not as distinct from religion in some cases.

<emeriste> I'm not very familiar with any pre-greek philosophy.

<emeriste> There are pre-socratic philosophers like heraclitus of ephesus, parmendies, democritus, pythagorous and so on.

<emeriste> They seem to be remembered for one 'key idea' more than a system of thought or a way of thinking.

<MathPoet> My main interest is paradoxes, btw.

<emeriste> But that is probably partly because not so much of what they wrote is available.

<MathPoet> I like trying to take them apart and seeing what makes them tick.

<emeriste> Well then you might have a knack for (2).

<emeriste> (2) is characterized by the search for such puzzles. I think.

<MathPoet> I love them. I love finding contradictions that make sense.

<emeriste> Yeah. (2) is the philosophical method. As I see it, the philosophical method works like this:

<emeriste> (a) You assert something that seems to be true. (something you believe). (b) You begin to deduce consequences from that assertion (this is where abstraction can be useful).

<emeriste> (c) You test each consequence against other things that seem to be true (our intuitions).

<emeriste> If after this process you never find a contradiction between what you originally asserted and everything else we think is true, then you may have a strong belief. But that's not the most exciting outcome.

<emeriste> The exciting part is when you deduce a consequence that contradicts something else we think is true.

<emeriste> Now you have a puzzle.

<MathPoet> This is my only interest in foundations of mathematics - finding the contradictions.

<emeriste> You have to either give up what you asserted, or give up something else you thought was true.

<MathPoet> One thing I feel strongly about is that for some differences one must throw out the Law of the Excluded Middle

<MathPoet> For spiritual matters.

<emeriste> In either case you have to give up something you thought was true and that can be exhilerating for some people and frustrating for others.

<MathPoet> You have to be careful what you begin with and what "truths" you assume.

<emeriste> Then you might want to read about the constructivist school of mathematical philosophy. They reject the law of the excluded middle.

<emeriste> It makes doing math much more baroque though.

<MathPoet> yes. it's been suggested. There's so much to read!!!

<MathPoet> So little time.

<emeriste> We aren't going to get more time so the best thing to do is probably to start with anything.

<MathPoet> Oh, the process is already underway.

<MathPoet> But I'm planning on finding the Plato work.

<emeriste> I hope you will. It must be something that every one who is interested in philosophy at all has to read.

<MathPoet> Thanks for all your help. Do you mind if I copy this conversation to the paradox wiki?

<emeriste> It should probably be read multiple times. :)

<MathPoet> Do you mind?

<emeriste> What is it?

<MathPoet> Above, I said thanks for your help and asked if you minded if I copied this conversation

<MathPoet> onto the paradox website (wiki)

<emeriste> Okay sure why not.

<emeriste> I retain all rights to my thoughts to be used in any future manner that I can imagine at future dates. :)

<MathPoet> Thanks. It's not exactly paradox stuff, but I give myself latitude in what I include in the site.

<emeriste> I see.

<emeriste> Do you know the paradox about induction and black ravens?

<MathPoet> As I remember it, the problem was that no-black things were non-ravens.

<MathPoet> *non-black

<MathPoet> But the argument stood also from the other way round.

<MathPoet> Knowing that a raven is black gives no insight into the color of an apple.

<emeriste> Yeah that's it.

<MathPoet> I eat that stuff up! It's great.

<emeriste> Another thing that anyone really has to read is "Meditations on First Philosophy" by Descartes.

<emeriste> He is considered the beginning of modern philosophy.

<MathPoet> Okay. I have to go have some breakfast and stuff. thanks for the great talk!

<emeriste> I guess if a person could only read 4 works of philosophy I would insist that they read, "Apology" by Plato, "The Republic" by Plato, "Meditations on First Philosophy" by Rene Descartes, and "Nichomachean Ethics" by Aristotle.