• anonymous
Can science be used to evaluate philosophy? Be sure to support your answer by explaining what science is and what types of questions can be evaluated or answered using scientific investigation.
  • Stacey Warren - Expert
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  • katieb
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  • anonymous
Of course. Science can be used to evaluate anything. However, science can only answer scientific questions -- so it can only be used to answer scientific questions about philosophy. For example, you could ask whether philosophers who preach philosophies of nonviolence are themselves more or less violent than the average person, or than philosophers who espouse different philosophies. That's a scientific question, and objective measurement can find the answer for you. You could ask whether certain philosophies have or have not led to some measure or other of objective success or happiness to their adherents. You could ask whether all the tenets of a philosophy are mutually logically consistent, or not. But if you start asking philosophical questions abou philosophy -- which philosophy is more worthwhile? Is there any sense to the whole idea of philosophy anyway, how do we know we even have the free will to choose one? How do I really know that any man is capable of self-awareness? What is self-awareness? -- then science cannot help you, because these things are not measureable. Science is not a discipline restricted to a particular area of human effort, like fixing cars or growing corn. It is not a technology. Science is a way of posing questions and constructing theories about things that depends critically on measurement -- on the axiom that what we measue experimentally is superior, in its probable truth, to everything else imaginable. If we find an experiment that casts doubt on the most ironclad possible logic, the scientific attitude is to doubt the logic, not the measurement. (Although you are permitted to doubt both!) You will find many people who want to confine science -- or more properly, the idea of thinking and asking question scientifically -- to atoms, forces, stars and molecules. Unfortunately, this is sometimes because their own livings depend on you NOT deciding to apply critical science thinking to what they're doing. Politicians, for example, will insist that you can't answer the question of whether they're doing a good job or not scientifically. Not because you really can't, I think, but because they would much rather you did NOT measure how they're doing -- because it isn't very good! For much the same reason, you will find astrologers and faith healers and folk medicine practitioners doing the same thing. If you're essentially a con man, then the last thing you want your marks to do is start thinking scientifically. This isn't to say there aren't areas where thinking scientifically has little point. Why think scientifically about why you like the kind of music you like, the kind of partner you marry, why you love your children? Who has time for that? Some things, you just enjoy, and thinking about the why is silly and a waste of time.

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