[FOM] Re: Contrasting methodologies

Timothy Y. Chow tchow at alum.mit.edu
Thu Oct 2 10:50:12 EDT 2003

On Wed, 1 Oct 2003 Harvey Friedman wrote:
> What methodological principle are you using to draw this if-then inference?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this question, but...

> The real point of my posting of 9/29/03 8:23PM was to reveal my
> reservations about the normal methodology in philosophy, and contrast it
> with normal methodology in f.o.m.

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do."  On the FOM list, I try to follow
what you are calling "normal methodology in f.o.m."

Regarding "normal methodology in philosophy," let me suggest something
that may let you squeeze more of what you call "permanent value" out of
philosophy.  A lot of philosophical texts have the structural form of an
argument A that a particular question Q should be answered in a certain
way (positively or negatively).  It is natural, especially for a scientist
or a mathematician, to consider that "permanent value" has been created
if A *settles* Q, meaning among other things that it more or less compels
assent to the argued conclusion.  I suggest instead that one take the
point of view that "permanent value" has been created if A succeeds in
clearly articulating a novel and powerful line of reasoning or way of
thinking.  That is, the goal of philosophy is not to settle questions
but to invent new ways of thinking; Q is merely a means towards an end,
a tool to help stimulate the creation of A.

On this view, endless back-and-forth is a healthy sign that permanent
value (i.e., good argumentation) is being generated.  Settling Q amounts
to killing the area.

Again, I do not claim that this is the "right" way to think about
philosophy but a way that might aid the extraction of what you call
"permanent value" from philosophy.  To some extent I think you already
take this attitude.


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