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Philosophy

Defining: Philosophy, Art and Science

When starting university I realised that definitions of philosophy, art and science where not as obvious as I first had thought. In many cases people use these words more for a marketing coolness than a meaning driven purpose. My goal was to try to connect the words to each other, in a meaningful way.

Philosophy

The human thought in itself. Organised in doctrines and ideologies.

The idea that gravity exists is an example of philosophy. It belongs to the philosophy of physics. The idea that humans can fly if we just flap our arms enough is also a philosophical idea. But in contrast to the idea of gravity, it is not as credible. How come? We will discuss this further down in the section on science.

The philosophers goal is to describe a certain idea in a meaningful manner. It is however not the art of conveying meaning in itself. To learn about how to convey philosophical thought to a listener you should turn to the art of rhetorics (not to be confused with sophistry).

Dogma

To achieve this goal the philosopher must chose a set of dogma to ground their arguments in. A dogm is a foundational presumption which the rest of the argument is built upon. The dogm is special because it is the only part of the argument without a need of motivation. The dogm gets this exemption because if the philosopher was forced to motivate all their dogmas in every text, they could continue in finitum.

Rationalism

Depending on which dogma you chose the following text will have to conform to different rules. Most philosophical argumentation is to some level connected to the rationalist school of thought. Which means that it has to keep to its own internal logic. However this does not mean it is correct. There are plenty of philosophies without ground in reality that manages to uphold an internal logic. If you’ve read a fantasy book like Harry Potter, you have provably noticed this, as it may be logical for Harry Potter to fly on a broom, even though it’s not grounded in reality.

For more about rationalism: rational vs. reason

Art

How to implement things into the real world and reach real goals. For example the art of engendering or the art of war.

Art is to some level the most fundamental of the three different academic disciplines. The basic idea of art is not to elaborate on why or how, but rather to teach the practicals of a subject. The obvious arts are music, theatre and painting, but it is also an art to tie once shoes or to do your book-keeping.

Many of the practises of art we’ve built up through out the ages can according to our definitions be described as philosophies, and we can prove the usefulness of different artistic schools through science. Probably the area of art where this has gone the furthest is within the art of engendering, which heavily relies on the philosophy of physics, based in the result of scientific testing.

It is not improbable that the pursuit of philosophy was born out of the creation of artistic schools, just as science was born out of or accumulating knowledge of philosophy and art.

Science

The conduct of comparing the results of art to the philosophy that guided their action. In other words things like empirical testing of hypothesis.

Science has sprung form art and philosophy. In a way, conducting science is an art. Doing measurements and analysing is a big part of science. However the reason why we can trust science lay in the philosophy of science, which ironically cannot be proven to be true.

What a scientist tries to do is to test if a philosophical idea hold true. Therefore the scientist creates a hypothesis. For a hypothesis to be valid, it must be testable. You cannot for example test the idea that god exists or not with any current measures. First you would need a philosophical framework which makes claims about how god can be found or would react. Then you could test those claims. However even then you would not be sure about the existence of god.

Positivism

Most science conducted is based in the positivistic school of philosophy. The idea behind the positivistic school is that humans are flawed in our perception of the world, we believe things not because we have good grounds for it, but because of other reasons. Further more it is very easy to get stuck in a curtain way of looking at the world. If we believe gravity to not exist, then we will find proof of that belief and ignore the evidence against our belief.

Instead of trying to prove that a hypothesis is right, positivism tries to show that all other possibilities are more imposable. Therefore positivism lacks absoluts in its positive description of the world, but rather works with what is probable. This in aggregate partly solves the problem of us wanting to prove ourself right.

Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

Sherlock Holmes, A.C. Doyle

Positivism tries to bridge the gap between rationalism and empiricism. Where compared to empiricism it allows us to elaborate on possible reasons for why something happens, it gives up some assurance about what we can measure.

Empiricism

Another popular school of philosophy within science is empiricism, which claims that we can only know what we can observe, but we cannot understand it. Within the empirical framework we could make a claim about which direction the hammer is falling, but we could not deduct why, since as Hume put it:

You cannot derive an ought from an is.

David Hume

Meaning not only that in empiricism we cannot deal with matters of ethics, but also that we cannot deal with matters of how we ought to think the world is. We can according to empiricism know that it is 10 degrees celsius, but not what it means. Or in simpler terms, if you cannot measure it, you cannot know it, and you cannot measure why.

To conclude

The philosopher comes up with an idea. The artist implements the idea in reality. The scientist tests how well the idea transfers to reality, which leads to knew philosophical explanations, and the circle continues.

Sadly many people commit to strongly to their own part of the trinity, not seeing the importance of the others. Scientists looking down on philosophers thought experiments and looking down on artists expressions. Philosophers looking down on scientists self-importance and artists never-ending will to build without researching. Artists looking down on scientists overcomplicated testing and philosophers lengthy books.

If we want to have a comprehensive understanding of a subject, we need to explore the art of doing, the science of proving and the philosophical schools to guide us. It is today true that no single person may understand the intricacies of their subject, however it is the proof of mastery to be able to handle all three parts with grace.