Friday, November 11, 2005

Fear and Loathing of Metaphysics

A well-done thought piece on ID and theism was opposed and critiqued by one of our beloved constant commenters. In any case, it brought to mind a quote that I thought I would reproduce here. Etienne Gilson was writing about the universal knowledge aimed at by metaphysics, why Kant got it wrong, and why we should not be afraid because of him.


Theology, logic, physics, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, are fully competent to solve their own problems by their own methods; on the other hand, however...as metaphysics aims at transcending all particular knowledge, no particular science is competent either to solve metaphysical problems, or to judge their metaphysical solutions.

Of course Kant would object that, so far, his own condemnation of metaphysics still holds good, for he never said that metaphysical problems could be solved in that way; he merely said that they could not be solved at all. True, but it is also true that his condemnation of metaphysics was not the consequence of any personal attempt to reach the foundations of metaphysical knowledge. Kant busied himself with questions about metaphysics, but he had no metaphysical interests of his own. Even during the first part of his career there was always some book between this professor and reality. To him, nature was in the books of Newton, and metaphysics in the books of Wolff. Anybody could read it there; Kant himself had read it, and it boiled down to this, that there are three metaphysical principles, or transcendental ideas of pure reason: an immortal soul to unify psychology; freedom to unify the laws of cosmology; and God to unify natural theology. Such, to Kant, was metaphysics; a second-hand knowledge, for which he was no more personally responsible than for the physics of Newton. Before allowing Kant to frighten us away from metaphysics, we should remember that what he knew about it was mere heresay.
--E. Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience

6 Comments:

Blogger jamie said...

Surely you realize what you just betrayed - that biology, and science generally - solves only a specific set of problems with a specific tool box. This is the crux of biologists' objection to intelligent designism. We know, as biologists, that we cannot answer metaphysical questions, and that's why we do not ask them with science in tow.

Intelligent Designism tries to claim the certainty of that framework, but goes out of scientific bounds with its questions. You can't have your flagellum cake and eat it too, you know. Therein lies the mendacity of the ID program - claiming the authority of science while asking non-science questions. Why, then, does ID-ism show such scientismist penis envy of our discipline?

Surely ya'll see this, no? (And okay, I'll stop calling you shirley, tsk).

3:14 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Jaime,
Yes, each science solves its own problems according to its own methods. But, no, that is not a valid argument against ID as empirical or scientific. On the contrary, ID is asking its own questions upon empirical lines. The questions asked are not metaphysical per se, though its object of inquiry can be approached metaphysically, just like the object of any study can.

To rule out ID as non-scientific depends on demarcation criteria that I am not privy to. But your argument just reveals the assumptions you already had, which you were so gracious to share with us.

Matt

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to be cranky and disagreeable, but ID is not asking its own questions along empirical lines. The ID movement focuses only on the intelligence that *may* *be* *implied* if only design were to be found. I wish it would focus on design and empiricism, but if you look at what it as a movement is actually doing...its all about the intelligence and the meaning of the intelligence. Nobody in the movement has any actual interest in design.
If you think they do then just ask them to separate the intelligence and see what reaction you get from these ID people. They drop design like a hot potato. If it doesnt point to their particular favored intelligence they no longer have any interest. This proves to me it was all religion (and bluff) from the very beginning. With no sincerity.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous said:
"The ID movement focuses only on the intelligence that *may* *be* *implied*"

This confuses Intelligent design theory and various *people* who use intelligent design implications to shore up their pre-conceived world views.
That is confusing logic and science with people. How inept. And it fails to negate any of the claims of ID Theory. Implications are irrelevant. And it is completely irrelevant whether religious people shore up their religious view or whether atheistic naturalists shore up their own atheistic view. Neither can be science. So, why is it that when naturalists claim there is no design possible, nobody worries about their leap of faith and goes on to denigrate their implications for being implications? No, its only positive religious implications that are forbidden, never negative ones. Nobody asks for the mathematical basis and empirical basis of the naturalists claim? Naturalists don't have any scientific basis or empirical basis for naturalism.
They only have a theological basis.
Is this naturalism of the gaps?

8:56 PM  
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10:57 AM  

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