The Risk of Thinking, pt. 2

I have previously written on this blog concerning the “Risk of Thinking”, by which I name the risk that in order to think nothing may be ruled out from the beginning. The topic was largely in response to a long comment debate on sindark’s blog concerning the nature of democracy, in which the inability to put our general political system up for question made itself obvious in the comments of extremely intelligent people.

I return to the risk of thinking because of this notion: that philosophy, because it risks thinking, is dangerous. I would counter, that to not risk thinking is the real danger. One thing for example which we choose not to think about is Freedom, and the apparent contradiction between the scientific world view and the empirical one.  If we allow science to swallow up the world, things it cannot explain are eliminated. Thus, the problem of Freedom is not a problem for science, because to science there doesn’t appear to be anything like freedom. A common everyday solution for relatively intelligent folk is to guess that freedom comes from the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics, but then since we’ve made the origin of freedom chaotic, we are unable to say anything intelligent about it, we jump directly from chaotic origin to first person experience.

What I am suggesting we notice is that the problem of freedom is a result of thinking not being risked, of not risking the possibility that science could be radically false or simply one way among others of seeing the world. If science is “the best way”, it is the best for what it is the best for (a tautology), in other words, the issues science cannot elucidate are not “the best” elucidated by science. In other words, we oughtn’t use science to understand freedom.

What is really at stake here is the “instrumentalist” versus “ontological” conception of science – does science correspond to reality, or is it merely a useful way for dealing with things? If it is a useful way for dealing with things, then we should deal with things in its way only insofar as it remains useful. Many will claim an instrumental outlook but then reject other accounts of freedom as being unscientific, because the ontological scientific outlook was hiding in the closet.

To finish, my point is simply that thinking ought be risked at very least in any situation where not thinking (the essence of science) comes up short. (The practice of science requires not putting everything into question, but restricting what you will put into question – this is the human created analytic-synthetic distinction which reflects scientific revolution as analytic shift).


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