[FOM] methodological thesis

Studtmann, Paul pastudtmann at davidson.edu
Wed Apr 30 10:11:29 EDT 2008

Just two quick questions about this thesis.  How would you formalize the concept of philosophical progress?  If the concept of philosophical progress cannot be properly formalized, does it not follow by your thesis that your thesis does not represent philosophical progress?

Paul Studtmann
From: fom-bounces at cs.nyu.edu [fom-bounces at cs.nyu.edu] On Behalf Of Harvey Friedman [friedman at math.ohio-state.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 1:13 PM
To: fom
Subject: [FOM] methodological thesis

I would like to discuss a methodological issue related to philosophy.

THESIS. Suppose that a philosophical paper P, in any part of
philosophy, consisting of informal prose, without new formalisms or
new theorems or new formal conjectures, represents intellectual
progress. Then there exists a paper Q with the following properties.
1. Q focuses on associated new formal definitions, new formalisms, new
formal conjectures, and new theorems.
2. Q has a relatively small amount of informal prose.
3. Q can be written using the current level of practice in formal
methods and foundational thinking.
4. P is fully subsumed by Q.

Note that this THESIS is subtly different from the stronger THESIS
that I am *NOT* putting forward: that formal methods are applicable to
every problem in philosophy.

Basically, I am saying that philosophical progress of any real kind is
always followed, or is realistically follow-able, by formal, or
formally systemized, progress.

Most philosophers believe (or would believe if they looked into it)
that what I do is not philosophy. On the contrary, what I do is
appropriately viewed as philosophy of type Q, that subsumes any type P
philosophy that does or could have preceded it.

In other words, I omit writing the P papers, keeping their essence in
my head, to be used to create Q papers. Only the Q papers are then

Proposed COUNTEREXAMPLES to this thesis would be greatly appreciated.
The challenge to me would be to subsume the proposed P paper into the
subsuming Q paper.

Harvey Friedman

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