[FOM] Foundations/Philosophy

Robbie Lindauer robblin at thetip.org
Sat Oct 4 15:10:12 EDT 2003

On Friday, Sep 19, 2003, at 00:12 America/Los_Angeles, Harvey Friedman 

> So engaging in that iteration for its own sake is not the focus of
> foundations. The focus is on what new subjects arise from analyzing
> philosophical criticisms and defenses - even iterated.

The value of a creative process of iteration is without question in 
either the history of philosophy or of mathematics.    But the pursuit 
of these subjects without the foundational "philosophical approach" of 
attempting to establish the Truth about the particular matter is of 
less value.  That is, it is essential to the iterative process that 
someone be trying to establish a truth which would come under the 
heading of Philosophy.

> Just giving it their best
> shot, hoping that their views and criticisms will stand the test of 
> time.

This is a flimsy view of philosophers which they no doubt deserve, but 
it has been often thought that philosophers try to Prove what they 
believe to be true much in the same sense that a geometer would be said 
to prove that a cube has such and such characteristics.

> But I am not at odds with the philosopher. I have to be philosophically
> perceptive and engaged in order to create philosophically motivated
> subjects. And philosopher's arguing interminably - even running around 
> in
> circles with dubious progress - just gives me more material to work 
> with.
> And I don't have to put up with "running around in circles with dubious
> progress"!

Here the systematic difference breaks down.  Without being a 
philosophically committed and motivated interlocutor, there will be no 
progress at all - given that progress would be defined not as merely 
expansion into other areas of potential interest VS. attempts to find 
"The Truth".

> 1. Philosophers do not normally engage in the development of new 
> subjects
> (in the sense we are talking about).

This is just straightforwardly false, historically speaking - all of 
the subjects which we currently think are "hard or social sciences" are 
derivatives/results of either philosophical or religious investigation.

Recently, philosophers have been responsible for the development of 
information theory which is foundational for computer science as well 
as the various forms of political and social analysis which are popular 
today (Marx, etc.).

I would say that Philosophy is vigorous and fecund.

> 2. Mathematicians do not normally engage in philosophical thinking (in 
> the
> sense we are talking about).

This is straightforwardly false at least since Theodorus of Cyrene and 
Plato.  You appear to be a towering example of it not being true.  But 
trying to rid the world of the word "Philosophy" won't make it 



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