Great philosophical questions that are seen never to be solved
Philosophy goes where hard science can’t, or won’t. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension.
1- Why is there something rather than nothing?
2- Is our universe real?
3- Do we have free will?
4- Does god exist?
5- Is there life after death?
6- Can you really experience anything objectively?
7- What is the best moral system?
8- What are numbers?
Though the field is highly specialized, a few touchstone ideas have made their way into the mainstream. Here’s a quick explanation of just a few concepts associated with the philosophy of science.
The philosophy of science
- Epistemology – branch of philosophy that deals with what knowledge is, how we come to accept some things as true, and how we justify that acceptance.
- Empiricism – set of philosophical approaches to building knowledge that emphasizes the importance of observable evidence from the natural world.
- Induction – method of reasoning in which a generalization is argued to be true based on individual examples that seem to fit with that generalization. For example, after observing that trees, bacteria, sea anemones, fruit flies, and humans have cells, one might inductively infer that all organisms have cells.
- Deduction – method of reasoning in which a conclusion is logically reached from premises. For example, if we know the current relative positions of the moon, sun, and Earth, as well as exactly how these move with respect to one another, we can deduce the date and location of the next solar eclipse.
- Parsimony/Occam’s razor – idea that, all other things being equal, we should prefer a simpler explanation over a more complex one.
- Demarcation problem – the problem of reliably distinguishing science from nonscience Modern philosophers of science largely agree that there is no single, simple criterion that can be used to demarcate the boundaries of science.
- Falsification – the view, associated with philosopher Karl Popper, that evidence can only be used to rule out ideas, not to support them. Popper proposed that scientific ideas can only be tested through falsification, never through a search for supporting evidence.
- Paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions – a view of science, associated with philosopher Thomas Kuhn, which suggests that the history of science can be divided up into times of normal science (when scientists add to, elaborate on, and work with a central, accepted scientific theory) and briefer periods of revolutionary science. Kuhn asserted that during times of revolutionary science, anomalies refuting the accepted theory have built up to such a point that the old theory is broken down and a new one is built to take its place in a so-called “paradigm shift.”