It is interesting that there is a debate called “Philosophy vs Science”, since science was considered as a subbranch of philosophy in the ancient times. Through history science has improved a lot, and truth be told, today it is a more esteemed discipline than philosophy. Although both sides have different arguments on some of the big questions of life, I still see hope that they can come to terms with one another.
First of all, I think philosophy and science are still fundamentally the same discipline. They both serve the purpose of understanding the Cosmos. So why do they have so much conflicts? The reasons are quite clear to me:
In our times, most of the philosophers do not have enough knowledge on physics to interpret the new findings. They are lost in the world of words and meanings, and the facts do not seem to attract their attention.
In my opinion, thinking only about former philosophers’ theories and criticizing them is not enough to be counted as a productive thinker. Especially, an ontologist has to understand modern physics, and be able to use the notions taken from physics in order to build a comprehensive logic.
On the other part, some scientists belittle philosophy and claim that it is an unnecessary occupation. I do not really agree with them, I think science still needs philosophy on certain matters. To exemplify, without the help of semantics and ontology, a correct interpretation of quantum mechanics does not seem possible to me.
Now let us examine the arguments of both sides on certain topics, and discuss how they could come to terms with each other:
1) Mind vs Brain
The mind, consciousness, and the self have always been important subjects of philosophy. Furthermore, some thinkers have even suggested that consciousness is what makes existence possible. See, there is a reason why “I think, therefore I am” is the most famous philosophy quote. The mystery of the mind has always been and always will be attractive.
On the other hand, the dominant view in science is that the mind is only an illusion arising from the brain activities. Most neuroscientists do not regard the mind as an entity on its own. According to them, consciousness is ‘just a result’. The new discoveries may have made them think that consciousness, also, can be explained only by experimenting on matter; but I cannot say I totally agree:
Yes, our emotions are directly related to the neurochemical reactions in the brain and the body; that is a scientifically proven fact. However, we can not ignore a first hand reality: There is an invisible ‘image storage’, the location of which we can not identify. Existence of this image storage (the mind) is the only thing that one can be 100% sure of. We perceive everything else secondhand, via our minds.
For these reasons, I think that the mind is not ‘just a result’, it is more of a fundamental necessity in terms of existence. Matter and the mind both have to be elements of the ultimate equation of existence, if there is one. To read more about my views on the issue, you can check out my other post “Metaphysical Idealism and Materialism: Practice vs Theory”.
2) The God Issue
Until modern times, idealism had been the main method for philosophers. Most of the idealist philosophers have thought of God as the fundamental source of existence. We could discuss the reasons why they did so:
In my opinion, when they could not find a reasonable answer, they chose to take the easy way out and put ‘a superior creator’ forward as a reason. In addition to that, they might be influenced by the dogmas and the religious societies of their times.
Scientists try to understand the Cosmos without assuming the existence of a creator. Although I think their method is right, I find it a little deficient:
If there is a cosmic system, isn’t the system itself “numinous”? Ultimately, that system is what makes existence possible. Remember Spinoza, he asserted that the Cosmos is God, because if the Cosmos is able to create itself, it must have a kind of “holiness” to it.
Existence can not be just a ‘reasonless, random thing’, there has to be a reason. However, in my opinion, that reason is not a creator, but a ‘logical exigence’ like Spinoza suggested. For more information, you can read my “Spinoza’s God | The Sameness Of God And The Universe” post.
3) After Death
Although there are arguments in philosophy suggesting that we will totally disappear after death, there also are many philosophers who claim the opposite. On the other hand, science does not offer us any information about an afterlife. According to many scientists, since our bodies become useless when we die, the sense of self and consciousness is lost for good.
However, basic logic runs counter to this argument. See, nothing can be ‘nothing’, because ‘being nothing’ is impossible. Has anyone ever seen something called ‘nothing’? No, so how can we be ‘nothing’ after we die?
Unfortunately, for now, this issue is far from being illuminated. We first have to solve the puzzle of consciousness, and then we can start to think about whether there is an afterlife, or not.
4) Free Will
Many philosophers think we have free will, because in practice, we make choices. But when you take a closer look, it is easy to see that these chocies have biological, neurochemical and environmental reasons.
Take the decisions we make for happiness, for instance: The state of happiness arises from the neurochemical reactions in the brain and the body. Even the things you do for others are done bacause they trigger these reactions and make you feel good. In choices of pleasure, we are not completely free, we are dependent on our bodies.
“Logical decisions”, also, are made in order to be happy. In choices of logic, in addition to your body, you are dependent on your memories; because one’s logic is built upon what has happened in the past.
Scientists seem to be winning this competition, since they have solid arguments which seem to be proving that we do not have free will. We have no difference from pre-programmed robots, I’m sorry.
I’m kidding, I have some good news for you:
I found out one type of choice which is not bound at any of the biological, neurochemical and environmental limits. We have freedom in one important choice, and that choice affects every other thing we do.
Unfortunately I cannot tell you about it now, because I want you to read it in “The True Puzzle”, which is an online puzzle game I designed to explain my theories. The game will be out very soon, if you want to be informed when it is, feel free to follow me on Twitter.