The Ship of Theseus sails in Water (and not H2O)

The difference between natural language and the language of science

The problem of reference in philosophy deals with relations of words to the world. Do words correspond to some mind-independent objects in the external world? In the following text, I propose the thesis that “reference” is one area where science and everyday affairs take sharp, diametrically opposed directions, and that this in turn implies that we use different faculties of the mind in doing science as opposed to everyday work.

In everyday life, words can be used to communicate to others what we mean. “There is a chair in the room”. This sentence appears simple to understand. And it is. Everyone can easily understand what it means and it communicates one’s beliefs about the world. The simplicity of the sentence leads us to believe that the constituents of this expression, the words of the sentence, refer to some mind-independent objects called “chair” and “room”.

Let’s examine the word “chair”. The dictionary defines a chair as: “A seat, especially for one person, usually having fours legs for support and a rest for the back and often having rests for the arms.”

Instead of wasting “ink” over explaining why the word chair can’t possibly refer to any external object in the world, I refer the reader to the following pictures of chairs, Continue reading The Ship of Theseus sails in Water (and not H2O)

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William James and Free Will Peril

The problem of free will, as classically defined, is that since each event is caused by a chain of antecedent events, nothing we do is of our own free will; if we do have free will, its hard to see how it could come about.

Humankind has been at this problem for millennia. Instead of Continue reading William James and Free Will Peril

Newton’s ‘Quantum Revolution’ and the Death Knell of Materialism

In an earlier post on Einstein, I discussed Newton’s demolition of the mechanical philosophy. Since the topic of materialism is so widely misunderstood, I think the significance of what Newton did should be discussed at length. Unfortunately, the revolutionary import of what Newton did has still not been absorbed by many people, even after the lapse of over 300 years. (Newton obviously had nothing to do with Quantum Theory. The reason I have used the words ‘Quantum Revolution’ in the title are to underline the fact that what Newton did, was considered by everyone (including himself) to be as exotic, mind-boggling and non-sensical, in his time, as Quantum Mechanics is considered in our day. This is a fact that is forgotten even by many physicists who describe Newton’s physics as ‘common-sense’ physics, which it was anything but). Continue reading Newton’s ‘Quantum Revolution’ and the Death Knell of Materialism

Popper’s falsification

The Black Swan?

Popper’s falsification approach might be a good logical exercise but that’s not how science is done. We often can’t know if a phenomenon falsifies a theory. There are way too many factors. Since I am not a philosopher, I will narrate a personal anecdote that might illuminate matters. This happened during the time I was in the beautiful city of Delft Continue reading Popper’s falsification