Letter to Arnold

Letter to Arnold

I believe at the back of it all we have very different approaches to
the kinds of questions one can ask and the kinds of ways that we know things.
I am not a philosopher, and so am kind of intuitive about what constitutes evidence for me –
Not that i am some kind of mystic or believer in odd things.

For instance you say at the beginning
” The demands of science are fairly straight forward and clear cut: ”
My reaction is, if that were so then why are there so many arguments and books about these things, and why do people disagree so much?
I tend to think a little like, though not so well as, Stephen Toulmin that different sciences have different standards or modes or whatever of what constitutes demonstration.
So I don’t know much about straightforward.

For instance if we take the argument between Richard  Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould – if I can figure out or remember what it is –
something to do with adaptation –
I don’t see anything clear cut there at all.
If science was clear cut how could they ever get in such a debate,

Then there is the border between your proto-science and science,
very fuzzy to me.
Then there are the so-called human sciences, where ideology and bias seem to come long before the application of any agreed empirical standards.
And where the definition of the problem to be studied turns out to completely influence the resulting concepts.

And as for “facts”                                                                                                  Think of all the scientific “facts” that are no longer actually believed.  And the stubbornness of scientists to give up believing the ‘facts’ and theories they know for  those that will replace them.

If we are going to make distinctions doesn’t the reader need to know why the author wants to worry about these distinctions.
Certainly criteria of science are important in discussions
about irrational beliefs and certain kinds of religion.
But among scientists are these things always helpful.

I think of the video assembled from interviews with Richard Feynman
called, to the point, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.
He starts from the position he says his father taught him
that the names of things are not the things themselves. This is itself a radical philosophical position, though very useful in doing certain kinds of science. But it shows the “finding things out’ may not be the same as  deciding ‘What is Science”.

So perhaps I am not temperamentally the person to read
your intro constructively. Certainly I am in no position to judge its value.

How could we question the basic empirical requirements
of knowledge in our world, starting with the senses.
And yet science in this sense is such a peculiar and recent
enterprise.   If it was straightforward, why were there so
many milenia of immensely complex explorations conducted
without this sense of the boundaries.

You go to great lengths to give people “free will” in their moral and non-scientific choices. I myself find no need to grant free will in religion or other fantastic choices. I deal with relatively devout Catholics or people in touch with past lives, etc by ignoring these things about them.
Or as a kind of anthropological fieldwork in strange socieities.
I suppose I have an irrational belief in a universe in which
there are worlds with evolution of life in strange forms like us.
And we too shall pass.
So that it is an effort for me to take the other imaginative worlds we build seriously. (Except for music).
But I don’t believe that people have a right to believe crazy things.
How do I know something is crazy. Partly their craziness is unempirical
but partly I just know it is crazy.

This makes me an ignorant unmethodical and as I say unphilosophical



Let us say for the purpose of argument that humans have the “free will” to  choose not to love others.

(Lord knows, as others have observed, humans may not “deserve” it)

If we had a small community and one made this decision, the community might well kill you. Can’t we extrapolate this to the long run effects in the community at large.     (In spite of Basar al Assad, Peña Nieto of Mexico, various narco bosses, etc.)         Then we can call these guys slippage in the system.                                                        On the face of it hating mankind in action is not a true CHOICE of free will,                 Ethics has some force. Humans insist on believing this in the face of numerous counter examples, because it is a necessity of human society to believe it.

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” –Kurt Vonnegut

‘We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know'”
English music-hall and radio comedian John Foster Hall (1867-1945), who called himself The Revd. Vivian Foster, the Vicar of Mirth


One response to “Letter to Arnold

  1. “I suppose I have an irrational belief in a universe in which
    there are worlds with evolution of life in strange forms like us.”

    I sure hope they don’t want to eat us. Actualism informs us they probably do.

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