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Would philosophy still exist without life? For example, for us humans, philosophy answers big questions and sort of governs society. But is philosophy something that would exist without life? On this site, many tags like philosophy-of-science exist. And science would still exist without life. But is philosophy a human invention, or something that would exist without us and apply to science and physics and even metaphysics?

In other words, is it possible to be a "philosophical realist" the same way some people are "mathematical realists"?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Swami Vishwananda, Frank Hubeny, Jishin Noben, Mark Andrews, Bread Mar 1 at 2:09

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    How would science exist without life? – David Blomstrom Feb 26 at 0:24
  • There is no difference between philosophy, science or mathematics on this one, and the answer depends entirely on one's terminological conventions. On the one hand, they would surely not exist since they are our idiosyncratic representations of things (science included). On the other hand, they are abstract possibilities that one can declare to "exist" eternally as such. – Conifold Feb 26 at 0:32
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    I doubt that anything could exist without life. – Bread Feb 26 at 0:34
  • Actually, see quora.com/Would-mathematics-exist-if-humans-didnt-exist and other things about mathematical realism. It states math would still exist without life, waiting to be discovered – Math Bob Feb 26 at 0:36
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    Obviusly NOT; philosophy is a human activity. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 26 at 6:50
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There are general philosophical principles that some philosophers would claim exist independent of human life and formulation of those principles. But other philosophers would disagree both with the principles themselves and with the claim that they are independent of human thought.

So, it's not really possible to be a realist about philosophy as a whole, even though many people are realists about various topics within philosophy.

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We should be careful not to confuse:

  1. the enterprise to acquire knowledge itself
  2. its truths/facts, theories or models of reality
  3. its subject matter

If we’re talking about point 1, trivially, science, mathematics and philosophy would not exist anymore if there was no intelligent life.

Point 3 is also relatively easy to explain: Virtually nobody believes that the subject matter of astronomy (celestial bodies) would stop existing just because there is nobody around who does astronomy.

Similarly, I would say, that there are branches of philosophy (if we’re not totally misguided) which have a subject matter independent of intelligent life, like metaphysics. But this is not the case for other sub-fields, like philosophy of language.

Point 2 is the really difficult one. While simple facts, like “the Earth’s lithosphere is subdivided into tectonic plates” seem clearly independent of intelligent life, the more complex it gets the less sure I am about it. Even in physics we don’t have any absolutely pristine and flawless scientific theory. Instead only approximations; with certain quirks; where some kind of intuition is needed; where you have to take shortcuts. This doesn’t feel like the proverbial “timeless truth” but rather pretty “human”.

And this problem is incomparably worse for philosophy. So in my view, philosophical theories (well… let’s imagine we would even have one where there is some sort of consensus!) do not ‘latch onto’ reality tightly enough to be considered in any sensible way independent of humans.

  • "If we’re talking about point 1, trivially, science, mathematics and philosophy would not exist anymore if there was no intelligent life." Because of mathematical realism, I cannot accept – Math Bob Feb 26 at 5:03
  • Science can work between non-intelligent computers. Basic math is valid anyway. But philosophy would require sentient life. – Overmind Feb 26 at 8:29
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Welcome Bob

  1. Without life philosophical inquiry could still exist. It could be carried on by AI machines with consciousness but not life, or by such machines with a quasi-consciousness, a cognitive functionality, that enabled them to consider philosophical problems. (To hold that there cannot be consciousness without life is to adhere to a claim, not to endorse an indisputable fact.)

  2. Philosophical problems could also still exist. They are propositional; and in order to exist, propositions do not require a living thing to entertain or contemplate them. They are mind-independent extra-linguistic abstract objects.

  • Thanks for the answer. This would work with math, and mathematical realism. But there is an inherent contradiction. Philosophy⊨Governing Society⊨Moral Laws⊨Morality. Therefore philosophy's deepest roots are morality (which seems true). But morality cannot exist without life and all life strives to be moral(at least, that's why we uncovered philosophy). Take the contrapositive and we get life⇔morality. But since morality leads to philosophy, life⇔philosophy. Therefore life cannot exist without philosophy and philosophy cannot exist without life. – Math Bob Feb 26 at 16:03
  • But that contradicts with mathematical realism, so I don't know what to think. – Math Bob Feb 26 at 16:04
  • I am not accepting your answer, but I am upvoting it. – Math Bob Feb 26 at 16:05
  • If you could give an example of a philosophical problem that could be contemplated without life, that would be great! – Math Bob Feb 26 at 16:07
  • Hi Bob. I take a wider view than yours of philosophy. I include, for example, metaphysics. Is truth a matter of correspondence between truth-bearer and truth-maker ? Why should there be something rather than nothing ? How would these problems not exist even if there were no consciousnesses to consider them ? You reduce philosophy to morality. How would you defend this restriction ? There's more to philosophy, outside math & science, than Governing Society, Morals Laws, Morality. But you have posed a v. good question and I appreciate the upvote esp given that we are poles apart. Best - Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas Feb 26 at 17:05
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In my opinion, assuming the feasibility of a Technological Singularity, the option of Philosophy being carried on by AI machines, cancels the condition of ”no life”, as machines would become a lifeform themselves, as they will be able to perform the processes required to be considered a lifeform or even redefine the concept.

In the case of no life existence at all, yes, Philosophy would still exist as long as information about the science is stored in any persistent media. As long as concepts, theories, essays and constructions exist, the science will still exist. Even if nobody may be conscious of it.

Philosophical problems would still exist too, and they will remain there even if nobody is able to identify them.

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