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ANTHROPOMORPHIZING SCIENCE – I AM AS GUILTY AS SPINOZA WAS.

February 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Dick in Comment | Critique

I cannot describe the pleasure it gave me to find philosophers in Spinoza’s home country reading my blog. While I will not go into the issue of whether or not I misinterpreted classical physics concepts, as Mark Behets comments, I can only suggest I am following the lead of Seth Lloyd’s ‘Programming The Universe’. And yes, Lloyd has also been criticized by some philosophers on the same issue. I think Lloyd’s book is one of the great books of our times.
As for being anthropomorphic, I confess I am guilt. especially in my graphic essay, ‘Bud the Brain.’ I wrote it in a playfall manner, not as a science test. For ‘play’ please see Charles Sanders Peirce’s, ‘A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God,’ in his Collected papers, Vol 6.
I know I am being anthropomorphic but it is no more than Spinoza was. He was guilty of anthropomorphizing science but not humanity. My recent work, ‘Spinoza: The Man Who Changed the God Game’ demonstrates the reason I say this.
Here is my argument as to why it is okay to anthropomorphize science: We are caught in the dilemma of being finite beings in an infinite universe. Grunts or ordinary language are always inadequate and force us to relate them to things around us. Because ordinary language is based on metaphors, it must be anthropomorphic. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said: We do not realize that we calculate, operate with words and in the course of time, translate them sometimes into one picture, sometimes into another.” ‘Philosophic Investigations,’ p. 131 e
Mathematics is the only language that does not anthropomorphize…however for mathematicians to explain their discoveries, they need to use ordinary language and thus anthropomorphize. This is much like the old saw, ‘Statistics do not lie. But only liars do statistics.’
Then the only question is: Do we make science human by anthropomorphizing or does nature as we discover it in science, make us human? The Ancient Greeks with their notion of ‘demonstration,’ believed the latter as did Spinoza.
I thank Mark Behets for making me consider the anthropomorphic question. This kind of criticism is something I sadly lack. Because I am a retired prison guard and not an academic, I have no peers with whom I may discuss Spinoza.
This is why I so much appreciate feedback from the philosophic community. I wish I could speak Dutch. Spinoza considered the friendship of adequate thinkers one of the greatest blessings we can have. I consider this great Dutch blog such a blessing. I shall post a link to it soon.

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3 Responses

  • Sarah Clay says:

    The same ordinary language that allows the expression of various common-sense beliefs also allows their negation, their questioning, their doubting. What is binding is not ordinary beliefs, but the ordinary language in which they are expressed; and it is not binding because the common man is normative for the theorist, but because the ordinary language is also the theorist’s own.

  • Mark Behets says:

    Hello Dick,
    Stan Verdult has published today your blog above as a reaction on his blog of 26 August 2012. And so I arrived here. Thank you for your kind words above. However, you think too high of me: I’m not a professional philosopher, only an amateur. Some of the regular respondents on Stan’s blog are professional philosphers though, and in gegeral I hold Stan’s blog in high esteem. Your website looks also very interesting, and I will certainly do some surfing on it, and maybe post some comments in the future.
    Best regards
    Mark

  • Mark Behets says:

    Dick, I can almost completely agree with what you write above. In fact, I posted a few days ago a comment on a LinkedIn discussion forum, and this comment is remarkably similar to your text above (although not so remarkable, as we’re both Spinozists đŸ™‚ . Your quote of Wittgenstein was new to me, thank you for bringing it under my attention.

    Best regards,

    Mark

    Here is the link to this discussion forum, and a copy of my comment:
    http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=247688748&gid=78660&commentID=145667373&trk=view_disc&ut=3_8YLlXrvLSBM1&_mSplash=1

    Mark Behets • Dear Hartley,
    Do i understand well that you’re saying that truth, which is knowledge and not something ontological, is never independent from the subject and its sociolinguistical environment? Although I’m a believer that absolute truth exist, I can agree with you. Our language is mostly not a suitable tool to achieve a satisfying correspondence with reality. But some very formal languages, like mathematics, come close to describe elementary physical reality. The fact that mathematics work, is the proof that knowledge and reality are fundamentally the same. However, because of complexity of reality and of the limitations of our senses and brain -being a limited part of reality- our knowledge seems very limited. But our situation is not that dark: thanks to our intelligence -which is not so much ours but belongs to reality- we are able to synthesize information, and discover keys in it. So we can understand much more than we can know.



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