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I presume that philosophy could not work as well or better as such, or it would be going on already. But why couldn't it? I'm sure there are good reasons I can't think of. But those not in the business like myself wouldn't be able to apprehend them.

The pie in the sky that's partly to blame for obscuring my thinking on this point. . .

I imagine an online "hub," analogous to existing software hubs (which I only have a quickly passing acquaintance with), where people form groups, establish axioms from seminal works perhaps including some of their own, and then go on to establish propositions with proofs. At every step of the way, a graph-theoretic graph of the system in its present state is pictorially viewable at any zoom level or through any filter that extracts graph paths. A node would represent an axiom or a proposition with a proof, any of them possibly accompanied by secondary items in their own directories.

The 3D moderately interactive models wouldn't be an essential feature. We just assume it's a feature in our imaginary hub to try to help one indulge the intuition with me if needed. If you don't need it or find nothing to indulge, the question probably ends here or before here for you.


At any given point, "[System Name] Orthodoxy" would be all the accepted supporting literature plus what the group has established themselves. New nodes (directories, each of which contains a proof with a bibliography along with perhaps copies of the supporting literature) would be either incorporated or pending incorporation, if not outright rejected. Further new nodes may be derived from nodes pending incorporation (or from a combination of pending and incorporated nodes), but their future status depends completely on the status of its weakest parent (if it's not eventually just ordered for deletion).

Deep self-modification may always follow as a group (which may involve some social hierarchy), such as adding axioms, and modifying or deleting axioms and making sure the changes propagate. The group may merge with another group. All of this, except maybe the adding of axioms, could be a lot of additional work – but no one assumes that philosophical reorganization and development isn't without end (especially if it's receiving possibly another cue of the relevant kind from pure mathematics).

There would be casual and less casual discussion areas separate from the orthodoxy.

You get the idea.

Hopefully. I can also already imagine minor technical complications to the idea (the implementation not being important here), but the ones I'm coming up with also have equally mundane solutions and plead not be invoked as red herrings. For example, "External literature would apparently defeat the point." And to this an answer could be that external literature would serve as records of the "dirtier" or "poetic" thought processes that inspired a new proof or serve as a continued source of income for the journals and those who can sell their works, among other purposes similar and disparate.

If observed from the outside there would sometimes be seen a lot of similarity among groups. This would be a positive aspect. Given that no one could be in more than one group at a time and that anyone can start a group, anyone with internet access could find a philosophical system she fully and clearly identifies with at its current state and can become part of its group and environment either as an observer initially or as an accepted participant – not much different to how the sociology already works anyway.

Perhaps this way, as one substantial improvement to the domain of philosophy, people can be much clearer on what all they believe and what all others believe. There would perhaps be somewhat fewer drawn-out impasses, less apologetics, more substantive production. Someone could just give you a link to their system or a link to a graph walk portraying their current specialized focus (accompanied by its overall acceptance status in its family). Maybe stronger thinking or a fresh morning mind could've elaborated much more or elicited additional reasons in favor.

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    First off, welcome to philosophy.se. Second, thanks for using paragraphs. I'm not sure if I can completely grasp your question, so that's why this is a comment. But philosophy as an academic discipline does involve several semi-isolated "deductive systems" that mostly do research on their own. So medievalists don't generally get involved in Kantian conversations, and Plato scholars are not by any means required to run their thoughts past Analytic M&E guys. Is that what you're asking or am I missing something? – virmaior Oct 15 '14 at 9:49
  • Thanks for the welcome, virmaior! I hope you're having a great day! That helpfully confirms a significant part of my question, basically to say that philosophers can and do carry on without heavy world-holistic concerns with respect to the philosophy domain. I didn't have as clear of a view, but I somewhat anticipated it. [cont. due to space...] – Dise Oct 15 '14 at 14:32
  • There's still a core part of my question that I think still wants to be satisfied, or at least shown to be ill-formed if it is in fact (I wouldn't be surprised if it's already a dead horse, since my perusings tend to turn out to be deficient). [cont. due to space...] – Dise Oct 15 '14 at 14:32
  • It's basically about getting to whether it makes sense or not, in philosophy, as individuals or groups, in principle, (1) to have running full and clear accounts for all "sanctioned" (i.e., "proved" or axiomatic) propositions and propositional attitudes and (2) to explicitly act as if belief systems are necessarily axiomatic at a given time even if the axioms aren't relatively stable and are traditionally deeply obscured. [cont. due to space...] – Dise Oct 15 '14 at 14:33
  • For an example of the rough nature of a derived proposition, it has one clear conclusion in a valid argument and its premises unambiguously reference the conclusions of other arguments or to some of the current axioms (even if some of the these conclusions come from "outside" and get put in the queue for "conclusions that yet need to be proved in our system"). [cont. due to space...] – Dise Oct 15 '14 at 14:33
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I would say that the reason philosophy doesn't operate like this is because philosophy doesn't primarily progress by the deduction of provable points from known or accepted axioms. Rather, much (if not all) philosophy is formed in negation or opposition to other schools of philosophical thought.

In order for a system like yours to work, even in theory, a much more coherent and widely accepted definition of the overall project of philosophy would first need to be established.

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  • It just seems to me that all philosophical conflicts between interlocutors root either in predispositional differences or in mutual misunderstandings due to prolonged engagement using mostly ordinary language. If the latter, then the other either would agree to a mutual development of a very formal system or would not. If not, there's no point to further engagement or ever caring what the other thinks. For predispositional differences, there's no fact of the matter to resolve them. Again here, there'd be no point in engaging the other or caring about what the other thinks. [...] – Dise Dec 17 '14 at 17:49
  • Philosophers waste a lot of time, and the time of others, when they don't explicitly acknowledge all the predispositions at play or their inherently sloppy tools. But I suspect most philosophical conflicts between interlocutors root in predispositional differences. This means that it's a high chance that a person is wasting their time with others if all philosophically involved are not interested in first getting clear on the predispositions of all philosophically involved (if only to find that they'd be continuing to waste their times). [...] – Dise Dec 17 '14 at 17:49
  • In order for my system to work, everyone would just need to observe and respect these basic facts. Of course, since virtually everyone is predispositioned not to get clear on predispositions at the outset, the system wouldn't work. And since that's one point where I predispositionally differ, I really don't care. – Dise Dec 17 '14 at 17:50
  • I think you're here demonstrating why your system won't work. Your system itself outlines a certain approach to philosophy, and involves a number of presuppositions that are themselves philosophical contentions. Absent universal agreement on your "basic" facts, the system falls apart --at least as a replacement for the entire scope of philosophy. On the other hand, you could potentially create a new and perhaps fruitful subset of philosophy if you could recruit enough like-minded philosophers. Unfortunately, "like-minded" and "philosopher" are very nearly mutually-exclusive descriptions. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Dec 17 '14 at 18:52
  • I do agree I think on all points. But I thought I had just pointed out everything you just stated, including why I even thought myself that my "system" wouldn't work (which I don't think is really a philosophical system, just some personal first principles on philosophically interacting with others).... My apologies if that's a misunderstanding. – Dise Dec 17 '14 at 21:45
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From the point of view of a basic modern philosophy of science, I think this question reduces to "Doesn't science exist? And why have anything but sciences?" Well, of course it does, but we need a broader philosophy anyway.

Once you accept a basis and cease to ask foundational questions, whatever you are doing falls into a paradigmatic structure (a la Kuhn). Even if that paradigm immediately splinters or controverts itself and generates 'schools' of thought, you have a discipline with a basis, and 'philosophizing' is purposely limited. The subject matter then stops being considered philosophy but instead gets accounted under the heading of whatever science that is.

But sciences fall apart from time to time. European Alchemy took a chunk of Aristotle, mixed in some Gnostic theology, and pursued it earnestly until it didn't work. We needed a different kind of philosophical base, more like physics, proceeding out of atomism, to find a replacement. But Atomism, as obviously scientific as it is today, was just philosophy at that point, borne forward from Democritus and Leucippus.

Without a fund of framings and contentious idealizations, sciences have no seeds for recovery when their paradigms falter.

Also many aspects of life, we find objectionable to consider as rigidly as we expect sciences to proceed, even "soft" sciences like literary criticism, clinical psychology or anthropology that are composed of 'schools' with bridges between them. For example, we want to keep ethics a realm of philosophy.

One ethics, quantitative utilitarianism, is really the basis for the science of economics. Within that domain, one does not question the principle of utility, one simply elaborates it to explain other motivations in its terms. But we are not ready to abandon any of the other ideas of natural human motivation so broadly that we feel we can stop elaborating them as well.

Perhaps, economics will eventually need a paradigm shift, and will have to borrow the precepts of another ethics in a complex, quantitative form to improve its predictions.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – stoicfury Oct 18 '14 at 14:23
  • @stoicfury The link doesn't work for me. It looks syntactically broken. It only works if I highlight, copy and paste it. – Dise Oct 18 '14 at 16:13
  • Yeah, the "auto-move comments to chat" feature generates html links for some reason; they don't work here. I keep having to remember to go back and fix 'em. Thanks! :) – stoicfury Oct 19 '14 at 2:55
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There are a couple of problems with what you are suggesting.

You say that people should "establish propositions with proofs." This is impossible. Proving any statement is true or probably true is impossible, unnecessary and undesirable. This is true whether the statement is deemed to be philosophical or not. If you assess ideas using argument then the arguments have premises and rules of inference and the result of the argument may not be true (or probably true) if the premises and rules of inference are false. You might try to solve this by coming up with a new argument that proves the premises and rules of inference but then you have the same problem with those premises and rules of inference. You might say that some stuff is indubitably true (or probably true), and you can use that as a foundation. But that just means you have cut off a possible avenue of intellectual progress since the foundation can't be explained in terms of anything deeper. And in any case there is nothing that can fill that role. People make mistakes in logic, formalist mathematics, interpreting sense data and so on so none of those sources are anything like a secure foundation.

The second problem is that your suggestion would be impediment to the growth of knowledge. You write:

At any given point, "[System Name] Orthodoxy" would be all the accepted supporting literature plus what the group has established themselves.

We don't create knowledge (useful or explanatory information) by showing stuff is true or probably true for reasons so how do we create knowledge? We can only create knowledge by finding mistakes in our current ideas and correcting them piecemeal. You notice a problem with your current ideas, propose solutions, criticise the solutions until only one is left and then find a new problem. We shouldn't say that a theory is false because it hasn't been proven because this applies to all theories. Rather, we should look at what problems it aims to solve and ask whether it solves them. We should look at whether it is compatible with other current knowledge and if not try to figure out the best solution. Should the new idea be discarded or the old idea or can some variant of both solve the problem? So the growth of knowledge relies on people being able to advocate variants of existing ideas. This is incompatible with having an established orthodoxy that does not allow casual discussion.

Another problem is that in reality there are no divisions between subjects. Rather there are just problems and solutions to problems. These solutions are sometimes labelled as belonging to a subject such as physics, say. But the resulting knowledge might be relevant to lots of problems that have nothing to do with why they were invented. For example, discoveries about nuclear processes have been useful for designing techniques for diagnosing illnesses like positron emission tomography.

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    Asserting "Problem X in context Y is not a problem if you change the context to Z(=falibilsim)" is not a (highly) responsive answer. It's akin to answering a programming question with "use a different language". – Dave Oct 16 '14 at 12:14
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    Is the answer I gave right or wrong? – alanf Oct 16 '14 at 12:41
  • There would never be anything stopping developers of a philosophical system from constantly reevaluating and modifying their foundations. A lot of times, even, these could be clean additions to the foundations when they don't create logical inconsistencies within the rest of the system. And I can't concede right now to "it's impossible to establish propositions with proofs." An argument only needs to be valid; it doesn't need to be sound except with respect to the system, but the "high-profile" systems would never be assumed sound, just optimized for their purposes at given times. [cont.] – Dise Oct 16 '14 at 16:54
  • And even that needn't always be the case for new arguments. A new argument (proof) doesn't always need to be sound with respect to the system because the argument depends on new ideas from the author, or authors other than the author, that themselves need to be established in the present system with either new axioms, a modification to the existing foundation, or new lemmas from the current system. So there may always be some "gray graph-wise walks" that extend from the moment's "black graph" – in any direction. [cont.] – Dise Oct 16 '14 at 16:55
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    Do you have an argument against my criticism of justification? – alanf Oct 17 '14 at 10:13

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