Random Thoughts on Science
Regarding the debate between realism and anti realism: Is there is confusion between ontological realism and semantic realism?
Why is it that scientists don’t seem to have a problem with these distinctions? Hacking made a dichotomy between entities and theories, and explained that scientists most always believe in the existence of the entities they are testing, but hold out with regards to their theory.
The confusion seems to stem from a problem in language.
One cannot hold that anti-realism position that non-observable phenomenon do not exist. If this were the case, one should know nothing outside of direct perception and the faculties of cognition would be overlooked as a mechanism for invoking inferences.
Relational knowledge versus substantive knowledge. (Relational knowledge claims include claims regarding relations between observable or non-observable entities, i.e. formal logic and mathematical truths. Substantive knowledge claims include claims about observable entities, i.e. material objects.) This distinction is important, in my mind, for distinguishing science from non-science. Relational claims are supported through other relational claims and are held as non-contextually based truths. Substantive claims require a context for evaluation about their existence.
Can we say that the laws of thought do not exist? This is the wrong question. The laws of thought constitute relational knowledge between real or non-real entities.
How is our ability to perceive limiting?
Limits in perception should not be an excuse for limits in knowledge. The idea of approximate truth and falsifiability should be closely allied.
The debate within the philosophy of science seems to revolve around language, but it’s implications are much more than language. Language cannot be transcended. Mathematics and logic can be said to be the purest language as descriptions of truth, but these are semantically independent. That is, despite given predicates and primitive parameters, the semantic predication cannot be determined by the inference system itself. Once these have been semantically defined, once the markers or variables are defined, the truth value can be inferred.
Drawing from Russell’s theory of language, there are two basic kinds of knowledge acquisition, namely acquaintance and description. Knowledge by acquaintance includes logically proper names which are referential of indexically demonstrative. Knowledge by description includes attributes that make description claims of thing in the world that can be true or false, but are not referential. That is, they are merely conceptual constructions. Within these descriptions reside indefinite descriptions, which make existence claims using indefinite articles, and definite descriptions, which make existence and uniqueness claims using definite articles.
What about non-existence objects? These are merely descriptions with no acquaintance. They may lead one to denote a particular in the world, but they do not ensure it. Descriptions without indexicals without acquaintance may offer a adequate roadmap to their truth.
Strawson would say that referring is not asserting, but rather mentioning, something quite different from identifying.
Donnellan divides definite descriptions into the referential and the attributive. Attributive descriptions denote all important, essential information about whoever or whatever. Referential descriptions contain information that is accidental and not important, but rather is instrumental in accurately picking out particulars through idexical or deictic use.
Continuing with predicate logic, suppose we have the statement F(m, n) which stands for m applies force to n. In this way F is a property between m and n such that F is “applies force to”, and m and n are primitive names for Mike and Nail. So that, Mike applies force to Nail.
The semantics of these variables are dependently attributed.
Context is necessary to define any set of data. Finding an ultimate truth is akin to finding an ultimate context. Within any given context there are phenomena that can be said to be real and true, but extrapolating beyond that context can be a fatal move for a theory.
Names of objects and facts can have meaning, but only insofar as they have a context of propositions that are held together by a proper logical form.
Is science’s aim to provide truth within specific contexts? Or does science wish to provide truth of a greater context?
One can never truly close the context gap. One may think that a unique theory can explain a set of data. But this set of data may be explained by any number of theories. But what then will decide a prevailing theory? Can one be said to be any more real than another? If accuracy is the mark, where is the target and who is it set by?
Perhaps science’s aim is to find those phonomena that operate within a very limited context. But this seems counter intuitive.
Realists don’t claim to have knowledge of absolute truth. They only claim knowledge of approximate truths that grow continually
Can philosophy draw conclusions from science? No. Philosophers attempt to take scientific terms and extrapolate their meaning into conventional usage. When a scientist refers to the color red, does he refer to the facts about the color red, or the experience? Scientific terminology operates outside of the conventional usage of words and to extrapolate into ordinary language is to commit an error that destroys intended context and meaning. Seen as an activity, philosophy is useful in the continual clarification of context and meaning, but it can provide no useful facts about the world. When one makes a knowledge claim about perceiving an object, say a tree, one does not refer to the reliability of sense data impressions to infer its existence, or the logical facts that constitute its physical and chemical processes. Rather, the knowledge claim is made according to an enculturated gestalt, or an analysis within conventional language. That is, we believe we have knowledge of the tree because we can see it and sight is a reliable process for justified true belief. While one may refer to the same object, they have a different sense (sinn). However, insofar as they appeal to different contexts, these two evaluations are incommensurable in explaining the same phenomenon. They require a different sense and vastly different analysis for knowledge. Can one explanation be said to be closer to the truth? At the crux of the debate, it becomes evidently important to recognize how language is used and what it is used for.
“Ian Hacking argues in his book Representing and Intervening that we are justified in believing in those unobservable, theoretical entities that we have used to manipulate the world, but not in the explanatory and predictive theories we craft about them” (Hacking, 1983)
Interfering: constructing theories of entities
Intervening: experimental manipulation of entities
Hacking uses the PEGGY II example to justify experimentation as a means of proving the existence of entities. In the example, however, are theoretical entities
How do we quantify the existence of objects? Change (or discontinuity). Experimentation is a process of manipulation that allows for the observation of change or discontinuity. This change is measured, or observed, before it is postulated as a unique phenomenon or an anomaly. Is causation alone enough for entity knowledge claims?
What are we referring to when we use the word ‘truth’? Is it ontological existence? Or metaphysical? Or epistemological? Or linguistic semantics? Or logical? Often times the word truth is confused with logic and validity, where all the premises in a propositional argument are true and the argument is valid, where valid is confused with truth. In this case the knowledge is relational as it depends on the inferences between premises to deduce truth.
The problem with this version of truth is that it is context dependent. Given the laws of thought, logically proper truth claims are contextually dependent. However, reality is constantly changing. As a result truth cannot be transferred to substantive knowledge claims which change with time. The only way to know anything about ontological claims regarding substance is through induction.
What is science? How is scientific knowledge form? Science is more or less a form of epistemic external reliabilism. The principle of reliabilism is a form of epistemic externalism that generally states that a belief is justified when it results from a reliable belief forming process that is either doxastically dependent or doxastically independent. That is, S knows that p iff p is true, SBp is true, and S has a reliable process for arriving at p. In this way, SJp (att) iff (1) it is not in other epistemic evaluative terms, (2) explains how SJp is justified is a function of SBp’s genesis. This principle emphasizes the virtue of the belief forming mechanism and the veridical historicity of the belief over the truth value in order to account for the possibility of a false belief.
In this way Popper’s principle of falsifiability is preserved. Science experiments aim to refine the belief forming mechanism about knowledge claims.
Hacking claims: real entities or true theories? How can a scientist claim knowledge of a real entity, yet hold out on true theories?
Can someone really believe an entity exists, yet not believe in a theory?
What does a theory explain? Context?
Can an entity exist outside of context? Yes. Can it be understood? No.
Entity is content, whereas theory is context?
Can one falsify a theory without falsify the content?
What were they postulating about when referring to phlogiston. It was unobservable, yet it was posited to exist.
Are we getting to finer distinctions between entities and theories?
Was phlogiston theory too generalized? Did it encompass the properties of too many entities? Have we individuated between properties and properly allocated these mechanisms to a point where entities are more exact to other knowledge?