Monday, July 14, 2008

arm chair philosophy

there has been much discussion of the validity of armchair philosophy in the blogosphere lately.

Now it seems to me that without some sort of empirical grounding you cant even have a thought - i.e. for me to say 1+1 = 2 I need some sort of empirical knowledge of what 1 is and that it has relationships like + and = with other things. reality give these concepts to me whether it is via evolution or teaching.

Any process that has empirical roots will have some "information content". For example if the input was rain and the result was a tree even though the tree provides a very complex intermediary step I could still determine information about the rain from its rings, but if that information was false (eg if someone was watering the tree) then I would have no information.

So I am left with the following issues with armchair theorizing is that conclusions are stated with confidence when they haven't plugged all the leaks (so to speak). Leaks are every where where there is not a 100% logical connection between the facts. Intuitions are obvious issues here as are definitions of words that are not shared or are vague.

This means in practice (but not necessarily) armchair philosophers end up discovering things about their own psychology as opposed to about the world. This is an empirical question and is revealed by how one can get different moral intuitions on key moral problems from people from different cultures or even individuals within a culture.


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