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RPGWatch Forums » General Forums » Politics & Religion » Why respecting Christianity without friction is so dangerous

Default Why respecting Christianity without friction is so dangerous

April 29th, 2009, 15:55
There's another reason, IMO. Philosophy, like most other "soft" sciences like sociology and what not, lacks the built-in reality check that "hard" sciences have. If a physicist says that his theory predicts that you can drive a car full-tilt into a reinforced-concrete wall and come out the other side with both the car and the wall intact, there's a very simple way to verify it — put the physicist into a car and have him drive full-tilt into a reinforced concrete wall. That'll kill two birds with one stone — a lousy theory and a lousy physicist.

With philosophy, however, it often appears to happen that (1) someone comes up with a new, genuinely useful, genuinely interesting idea; (2) he applies it to some domain and comes up with some new, genuinely interesting insights; (3) he attracts disciples, (4) the disciples start applying the idea all over the place, end up with any number of stupid, pernicious, flat-out wrong insights, and (5) defend both the theory and the insights to their last breath based on the beauty and influence of the original theory.

Take semiotics, for example. That genuinely revolutionized the way we think of communication. It's a really great conceptual model for what actually happens in each of our heads when I write this message, you and others read it, and then proceed to reply. Before semiotics, we had a pretty naive idea of how communication happens — I have an idea, I encode it in some symbols, you decode the symbols, and end up with the same idea, minus static and errors in encoding and decoding. The semiotics framework, OTOH, explains a great deal more about how we communicate, why we so often miscommunicate, and what we can do about it.

But… semiotics got applied all over the place, gave birth to postmodernism, and ended up in a place where a paper called "The Social Construction Of Quantum Gravity," written as a complete joke and spoof, gets accepted and favorably reviewed in a leading peer-reviewed academic publication. The theory has entered domains where it's lost all explanatory power, but is still fiercely defended by people with much intelligence but very little sense.

(By the way, I just finished reading a fascinating book about the social construction of technology. It contained some brilliant insights, a solid conceptual framework, and a genuinely fresh way of examining how we create our technological artifacts. I'm quite sure it has since been applied to death in all kinds of places where it shouldn't be.)
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April 29th, 2009, 16:01
I think the idea of what a philosopher is have changed throughout the ages as far as I concern. Today we clearly distinguish scientists and philosophers. We might retroactively call someone a "scientist" because they worked like one, but I do not know if they were thought of anything different than philosophers back in the ages.

Still, nothing is accepted because some old guy said it. In fact, many people who made great contributions of our understanding of ourselves, nature and the universe, had some really bad ideas on the side.

In general we give people recognition for their ideas, but only if the ideas have merit today or had great merit to bring forth history. We do not give ideas recognition for their founder (which creationists try to imply by saying "Darwinism", or by calling a historian great), nor do we protect ideas we know is wrong as a belief system.

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An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
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April 29th, 2009, 16:41
@Prime Junta: could you recommend a good book / review / paper on semiotics that explains the nontrivial parts and does not dwell on the rest too much?
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April 30th, 2009, 07:33
Originally Posted by coyote View Post
@Prime Junta: could you recommend a good book / review / paper on semiotics that explains the nontrivial parts and does not dwell on the rest too much?
Sure: [ http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Int…/9780415046725 ]

It's short, sharp, and to the point, and contains lots of pointers about where to go for more.
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April 30th, 2009, 13:34
Thanks, it is on its way and I will read it if only to correct any undue prejudice towards modern philosophy (actually, it should not hurt to learn something about communication, too )
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