Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On absurdity

For some quaint reason, there has been some debate going on about philosophy versus science. This is the kind of silly un-reason which occurs when (1) people don't read Newman's The Idea of a University (2) the liberal arts people resist doing math, physics, engineering (3) the tech people resist doing poetry, history, philosophy or (4) people don't read enough Chesterton. This is not a brag on my part, I am certainly willing to admit I am a Juvenal delinquent - that is, one who has not read enough of the classics. As part of my efforts to remedy this, I have put Juvenal quotes into my software (yes, in the original Latin!) See here for all the details.

However, this nonsense about "intelligent design" and "evolution" and "science" and "philosophy" has gotten tiresome, because people have missed a very important parallel.

It is just as absurd to say "I am doing physics now and therefore I cannot do philosophy at the same time" as it is to say "I am doing physics now and therefore I cannot do mathematics". Simply absurd. Even funnier: you have to do "English" (either written or spoken) if you hope to do science at all! Or you can't do very much. History, tradition, philosophy, natural language, mathematics, science - this is why it takes a Catholic (like Newman) to see these things. Or, as Chesterton said, "I never can really feel that there is such a thing as a different subject." [ILN Feb 17 1906 CW27:126]

The fields are quite a bit more intimately related than they were in the past. That is not to say that we can mix the uses of the various tools: a voltmeter is not a dictionary. But we need to begin working in a cooperative way. This is not a new idea - Newman was talking about this in the 1850s.

So why haven't we gotten serious about it?


Post a Comment

<< Home