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.

Last night, one of the flatmates invited round a particle physicist studying for his PhD. We were all chatting away quite nicely, my (limited) past studies in physics serving to keep me more-or-less on board with what he was saying. Flatmate brings up the “observer problem” (airquotes his), and particle physicist begins explaining Schrodinger’s Cat, and the problem resulting from what we may count as an observer (the cat?). My question to him was, if we took humans as the only observers (not my position, but this is more fun), then could everything have existed as some kind of chaotic quantum indeterminacy until humans magically appear on the field, causing everything to collapse into its finite and observed state? His reply was, “Technically, we cannot say that isn’t the case.” I couldn’t help but laugh.

Identifying pseudoscience

Science is the method of eliminating the maximum number of biases from observation as readily possible, describing results with as little interpretation as possible, and attempting to using valid and sound arguments to explain patterns in data with theorhetical models, peer reviewing results, and predict future results under similar conditions to experimentation.

The following may be very useful to read, especially with a topic in mind to examine whether it relates to these bullet points. Think of any broad topic relating to sets of political or religious beliefs, various practices in medicine, diet, fitness, spirituality, psychology, community, counseling, any subject presented as science. Really, any system of interpreting truth can be put under the microscope of the rest of this post, and It doesn’t even absolutely have to be a topic that presents itself as science, just any system of thought that makes claims. Once you have a topic in mind, consider how it relates to each bullet point. The subject I obviously would like people to examine is feminist theory.


The following are some of the indicators of the possible presence of pseudoscience.

Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims

  • Assertion of scientific claims that are vague rather than precise, and that lack specific measurements[47]
  • Assertion of a claim with little or no explanatory power.[36]
  • Failure to make use of operational definitions (i.e. publicly accessible definitions of the variables, terms, or objects of interest so that persons other than the definer can measure or test them independently)[Note 5] (See also: Reproducibility).
  • Failure to make reasonable use of the principle of parsimony, i.e. failing to seek an explanation that requires the fewest possible additional assumptions when multiple viable explanations are possible (see: Occam’s razor).[49]
  • Use of obscurantist language, and use of apparently technical jargon in an effort to give claims the superficial trappings of science.
  • Lack of boundary conditions: Most well-supported scientific theories possess well-articulated limitations under which the predicted phenomena do and do not apply.[50]
  • Lack of effective controls, such as placebo and double-blind, in experimental design.
  • Lack of understanding of basic and established principles of physics and engineering[51]

Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation

  • Assertions that do not allow the logical possibility that they can be shown to be false by observation or physical experiment (see also: Falsifiability).[18][52]
  • Assertion of claims that a theory predicts something that it has not been shown to predict.[53] Scientific claims that do not confer any predictive power are considered at best “conjectures”, or at worst “pseudoscience” (e.g. Ignoratio elenchi)[54]
  • Assertion that claims which have not been proven false must therefore be true, and vice versa (see: Argument from ignorance).[55]
  • Over-reliance on testimonial, anecdotal evidence, or personal experience: This evidence may be useful for the context of discovery (i.e. hypothesis generation), but should not be used in the context of justification (e.g. Statistical hypothesis testing).[56]
  • Presentation of data that seems to support claims while suppressing or refusing to consider data that conflict with those claims.[26] This is an example of selection bias, a distortion of evidence or data that arises from the way that the data are collected. It is sometimes referred to as the selection effect.
  • Promulgating to the status of facts excessive or untested claims that have been previously published elsewhere; an accumulation of such uncritical secondary reports, which do not otherwise contribute their own empirical investigation, is called the Woozle effect.[57]
  • Reversed burden of proof: science places the burden of proof on those making a claim, not on the critic. “Pseudoscientific” arguments may neglect this principle and demand that skeptics demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a claim (e.g. an assertion regarding the efficacy of a novel therapeutic technique) is false. It is essentially impossible to prove a universal negative, so this tactic incorrectly places the burden of proof on the skeptic rather than on the claimant.[58]
  • Appeals to holism as opposed to reductionism: proponents of pseudoscientific claims, especially in organic medicine, alternative medicine, naturopathy and mental health, often resort to the “mantra of holism” to dismiss negative findings.[59]

Lack of openness to testing by other experts

  • Evasion of peer review before publicizing results (termed “science by press conference”):[58][60][Note 6] Some proponents of ideas that contradict accepted scientific theories avoid subjecting their ideas to peer review, sometimes on the grounds that peer review is biased towards established paradigms, and sometimes on the grounds that assertions cannot be evaluated adequately using standard scientific methods. By remaining insulated from the peer review process, these proponents forgo the opportunity of corrective feedback from informed colleagues.[59]
  • Some agencies, institutions, and publications that fund scientific research require authors to share data so others can evaluate a paper independently. Failure to provide adequate information for other researchers to reproduce the claims contributes to a lack of openness.[61]
  • Appealing to the need for secrecy or proprietary knowledge when an independent review of data or methodology is requested[61]
  • Substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all view points is not encouraged.[62]

Absence of progress

  • Failure to progress towards additional evidence of its claims.[52][Note 7]Terence Hines has identified astrology as a subject that has changed very little in the past two millennia.[63][64] (see also: scientific progress)
  • Lack of self-correction: scientific research programmes make mistakes, but they tend to reduce these errors over time.[65] By contrast, ideas may be regarded as pseudoscientific because they have remained unaltered despite contradictory evidence. The work Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1976) Cornell University, also delves into these features in some detail, as does the work of Thomas Kuhn, e.g. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which also discusses some of the items on the list of characteristics of pseudoscience.
  • Statistical significance of supporting experimental results does not improve over time and are usually close to the cutoff for statistical significance. Normally, experimental techniques improve or the experiments are repeated, and this gives ever stronger evidence. If statistical significance does not improve, this typically shows the experiments have just been repeated until a success occurs due to chance variations.

Personalization of issues

Use of misleading language

  • Creating scientific-sounding terms to persuade nonexperts to believe statements that may be false or meaningless: For example, a long-standing hoax refers to water by the rarely used formal name “dihydrogen monoxide” and describes it as the main constituent in most poisonous solutions to show how easily the general public can be misled.
  • Using established terms in idiosyncratic ways, thereby demonstrating unfamiliarity with mainstream work in the discipline

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
Judged scientifically, the individual is nothing but a unity which repeats itself ad infinitum and could just as well be designated with a letter of the alphabet. For understanding, on the other hand, it is just the unique individual human being who, when stripped of all those conformities and regularities so dear to the heart of the scientist, is the supreme and only real object of investigation.
—  Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self
Eldritch Diabolism

“ Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism. “ -H.P.Lovecraft 

A Brief Synopsis 

 The term “Eldritch Diabolism” literally means “Strange Devil-Worship”. It is defined by classical Diabolism (the worship of demonized gods through the understanding that they were among the first.) coupled with the belief that the gods described in the works, letters and personal notes of H.P Lovecraft were visions and revelations of such demonized gods - making him as a prophet unto us. 

 One may ask: “Is it not foolish to believe in the writings of a horror-fiction writer?” to which it must be rebutted that some 229,157,250 Americans hold a faith based on a book - written by mortal men, and often choose to congregate in large buildings on a particular day to speak and read about the stories contained within said text. Should a scarce few then not be allowed such a privilege, should they hold it in a private and serious manner with those texts they themselves choose, with those texts which at least tell a good story?

It becomes fact to those who choose to work under this system that to be sane is to be ignorant to the world around you. We understand it may be considered outlandish to believe that mankind was formed from mud and the blood of a god, and we revel in the outlandish-ness of such concepts through the acceptance that these stories of old and new, of pious scribes and a horror author, fabulous or not, contain and reveal mysteries of the universe, to be found through the terror or glamour they cast upon us. This universe is to be understood to be but a dream, a series of stories. Make sure your part entertains the ones that dream, and the ones that watch from just beyond the gates of the void.

The revelations of Howard Philips Lovecraft

 From a young age, Lovecraft was prone to vivid dreams, nightmares, visions and bouts of inspired writing. In one 1921 letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, he wrote this:

[…] Amidst this gloom came the nightmare of nightmares - the most realistic and horrible i have experienced since the age of ten […] As i was drawn into the abyss i emitted a resounding shriek … and the picture ceased. I was in great pain - forehead pounding and ears ringing - but i had only one automatic impulse - To write…”

It is then the belief of the Eldritch Diabolist that Lovecraft was receiving the secret names and images of what he titled “The Ancient ones” and “The elder gods” -That is the primordial gods, such as Achlys, Erebus and Tiamat; and the terrestrial gods like Olokun, Thoth, Aries and Dagon.

Many scholars and Diabolists have compiled their revelations over the years since Lovecraft’s death, here are a few interesting selections:

Dread Cthulhu - Olokun, the chained god. Leviathan, serpent of the seas.

Shub-Niggurath - Lilith, haunter in the night. Ishtar, The risen Goddess. Tiamat, Mother of Demons, creator of the world.

Dagon - Dagon, god of the seas and fish.

Azathoth - Primal Chaos, Infinite empty nothingness, yet the potential for all creation.

Yog-Sothoth - Enki, god of seed, magic and knowledge. Apollo, God of knowledge, music, healing, plague and prophecy. 

This list is in no means complete, for the interest of time and the attention of the reader it will be left relatively short - but such connections are not difficult to be drawn up by even the novice researcher, and should prove an act of pious devotion. 

I trust that this posting will help people understand and perhaps even delve into this wonderful and misunderstood path. 

Sources: Cults of Cthulhu; Fra .Tenerous. The Satanic Rituals; Anton S. LaVey Cthulhu Cult; Venger Satanis. The Myths of Greece and Rome; H. A. Guerber. More annotated H.P Lovecraft; S. T Joshi and Peter Cannon. Tales of H.P Lovecraft; Joyce Carol Gates. Olokun; Ifadoyin Sangomuyiwa. Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses; Michael Jordan. The Tree of death and Qliphoth; Jon Gee. Devoted; V.A. 

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.)