empiricism

How to Break up Like a Philosopher

Teleologist: We aren’t meant for each other.
Deontologist: We aren’t right for each other.
Solipsist: It’s not you, it’s me.
Empiricist: I think we should see other people.
Rationalist: I’ve been doing some thinking…
Continentalist: You’ve lost that love and feeling.
Egalitarian: This is the best thing for both of us.
Functionalist: I don’t care about accommodating your feelings.
Quinean: I’m sorry, but you don’t mean anything to me anymore.
Foundationalist: We have nothing left to build upon.
Relativist: It’s no one’s fault.
Atheist: These things just happen.
Kantian: You lied to me!
Consequentialist: You should have lied to my mother about her pot roast!
Anti-Fictionalist: I’m sick of faking it.
Cartesian: I don’t clearly and distinctly perceive a future together.
Hegelian: Do we have to go through this again?
Lockean: Our primary qualities simply aren’t compatible.
Behaviorist: I just can’t keep going through the motions anymore.
Presentist: There just isn’t any future for us.
Eternalist: At least we’ll always have that weekend in Paris.

Only within that world where the inventions accumulated; only within that world was that quantifying, “exact” scientific  methodology brought to perfection; and, finally, only within that world, that Christian world which is perpetually engaged in the most ruthless imperialism imaginable, could one find those men who have sought to conquer all of the non-Christian races, just as they have sought to conquer the whole of nature.
—  Ludwig Klages, Man and Earth in The Biocentric Worldview

Isaac Newton assumed an inverse square law for gravitation and considered two incompressible perfect spheres with nothing else in the universe. This allowed him to compute the orbits of the planets to tolerable precision. Deviations from these predictions taught us new things: unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus led to the discovery of Neptune, the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit became one of the major proofs of general relativity. We now have far more sophisticated models of gravity than Newton’s, and are working on refining them further.

But you can also tell this story another way. Newtonian orbits gave rise to the idea of a clockwork universe, which turned out to be deeply misleading. In the actual solar system, tidal forces and the influence of other planets on orbits mean that orbits are constantly changing. The solar system does appear to be reasonably stable, but for an entirely different reason than the one suggested by the simplified two-body problem. The adoption of important ideas was delayed due to over-rigid Newtonian thinking.

Obviously Newtonian gravity was a tremendous intellectual advance, and probably a necessary step to further progress in physics. So it is good that some people think this way. But it is also good that some people thought other ways and were willing to come out of left field with inconsistent ideas rather than working on refining existing models. Intellectual history is filled with advances that came about because someone insisted stubbornly that inconvenient observations were correct, and other advances that came about because someone had the courage and insight to ignore observations.

—  Aaron Brown

The structure and physiology of the brain furnish no explanation of the psychic process. The psyche has a peculiar nature which cannot be reduced to anything else. Like physiology, it represents a relatively self-contained field of experience to which we must attribute a quite special importance because it holds within itself one of the two indispensable conditions for existence as such, namely, the phenomenon of consciousness. Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously expressed by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position coequal with the principle of physical being. The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche on his own volition but it is, on the contrary, performed by it and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness during childhood. If the psyche must be granted an overriding empirical importance, so also must the individual, who is the only immediate manifestation of the psyche.

Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self

Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and truth, it may with reason be expected, that those who have spent most time and pains in it should enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, a greater clearness and evidence of knowledge, and be less disturbed with doubts and difficulties than other men. Yet so it is we see the illiterate bulk of mankind that walk the high-road of plain, common sense, and are governed by the dictates of Nature, for the most part easy and undisturbed. To them nothing that’s familiar appears unaccountable or difficult to comprehend.
—  George Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge

The discoveries that have been achieved by scientists who espouse a methodological formalism based upon an alleged universally applicable quantifiability of everything that exists, are no more significant to the goals of genuine science than so many additional tools at a work-site. And it is precisely these “exact” findings that in truth provide the student with nothing more earth-shaking than an advanced yard-stick that should increase somewhat our extant store of cognitive data. On top of that, this whole formalisitc methodology has never, and CAN never, succeed in any one of its attempts to engage in research into the mysteries of human consciousness.

Ludwig Klages, On the Value of Science in The Biocentric Worldview

This is honestly one of my favourite ways of all time of representing different approaches to knowledge. Plato is pointing to heaven, saying that we should get our knowledge of the world from forms; Aristotle is reaching out towards the earth, saying that we should get our knowledge from empirical observation. (I personally agree with painting!Aristotle on this one.)