Philosophical theories

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    What do you think makes a theory effective?
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    How much is it capable of actually proving anything at all. When I say prove, I do not mean the GCSE term, such as "a statement which convinces any person, who is sound, rational and is open-minded", but rather much a definition of Davies - proof cannot usually "prove" anything to everyone, so a good prove of something, or otherwise a good theory, would be able to convince some of the rational people understanding it, and while usually most theories are debatable, good theories should be able to stand some criticism.
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    Whasupman, presumably you mean that an effective theory is a convincing theory? In empirical sciences, the theory is what is constructed to account for the experimental results, and is in turn proved (or at least not disproved) by further experimental results. Even in mathematics, one talks of 'theories' and 'proofs' separately. It seems still less plausible to think that in philosophy the theory itself proves anything.

    But it seems plausible to me to say that an 'effective' theory is one that has a high rate of success in convincing people of its truth. But if the original question was meant to be equivalent to 'what makes a theory successful?' then it seems to me that the answer is that a successful theory is one that is true.
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    (Original post by Estreth)
    Whasupman, presumably you mean that an effective theory is a convincing theory? In empirical sciences, the theory is what is constructed to account for the experimental results, and is in turn proved (or at least not disproved) by further experimental results. Even in mathematics, one talks of 'theories' and 'proofs' separately. It seems still less plausible to think that in philosophy the theory itself proves anything.

    But it seems plausible to me to say that an 'effective' theory is one that has a high rate of success in convincing people of its truth. But if the original question was meant to be equivalent to 'what makes a theory successful?' then it seems to me that the answer is that a successful theory is one that is true.

    I would have to disagree, as first of all philosophy is not an empirical subject, at least most of the time - we usually cannot "test the results", as most of the philosophic theories do not predict any. In fact, the whole term "philosophic theory" is rather controversial - we usually speak of arguments, as the vast majority, if not all, of philosophic theories are aimed at proving something right - therefore they are all arguments. As a result, if you want to have a "good" philosophical theory, you cannot define it as one which is "true" - and that is so for many reasons.
    First of all, define me true, if we go into the world of metaphysics. Is there an objective truth in this world? Can something be true in any given situation? I can name a whole bunch of arguments which would go on to say that no, you cannot. So how would we then know if any theory is true?
    Secondly, even if there were to be an objective truth, then it would still need proving. In philosophy people usually don't make sweeping statements without supporting them within the argument straight away, for example - "God exists" - that's a hypothesis, but against which facts can we test it? Do we lurk around trying to find God? What do we test? There are no predictions here at all. As a result, we would always have to go on and give an argument why our hypothesis must hold true - for example by saying that "God must exist, as he is the Greatest Possible being and Greatest Possible being must exist in reality to obey its definition and so on".
    Therefore, I would say, there is no point in saying that a good philosophical theory is the true one - as there is no objective truth in philosophy most of the time, as for every argumetn for anything there usually is a counterargument. As a result, the argument which is most convincing, and this usually means the strongest one, wins.
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    (Original post by Whasupman)
    I would have to disagree, as first of all philosophy is not an empirical subject, at least most of the time - we usually cannot "test the results", as most of the philosophic theories do not predict any. In fact, the whole term "philosophic theory" is rather controversial - we usually speak of arguments, as the vast majority, if not all, of philosophic theories are aimed at proving something right - therefore they are all arguments. As a result, if you want to have a "good" philosophical theory, you cannot define it as one which is "true" - and that is so for many reasons.
    First of all, define me true, if we go into the world of metaphysics. Is there an objective truth in this world? Can something be true in any given situation? I can name a whole bunch of arguments which would go on to say that no, you cannot. So how would we then know if any theory is true?
    Secondly, even if there were to be an objective truth, then it would still need proving. In philosophy people usually don't make sweeping statements without supporting them within the argument straight away, for example - "God exists" - that's a hypothesis, but against which facts can we test it? Do we lurk around trying to find God? What do we test? There are no predictions here at all. As a result, we would always have to go on and give an argument why our hypothesis must hold true - for example by saying that "God must exist, as he is the Greatest Possible being and Greatest Possible being must exist in reality to obey its definition and so on".
    Therefore, I would say, there is no point in saying that a good philosophical theory is the true one - as there is no objective truth in philosophy most of the time, as for every argumetn for anything there usually is a counterargument. As a result, the argument which is most convincing, and this usually means the strongest one, wins.
    I didn't mean to suggest that philosophy wasn't empirical; I agree that it's not. What I meant was that even in the empirical sciences, where proof is more straightforward, theories are not identified with proofs.

    I won't get into defining truth because there's an immense philosophical literature on it already, but yes I do think there is such a thing as truth. For these purposes we can just say that 'p' is true if and only if p. I don't know which arguments you're referring to that can show that there is no such thing as truth, but I'd be happy to explain why I disagree with them if you want to give one.

    I don't understand the argument in your penultimate paragraph. In what sense does a philosophical theory 'need' to be proved? Of course we don't make sweeping statements without backing them up with argument; that's the whole point of philosophy. But what we are aiming at in offering justifications for our statements, I would suggest, is convincing our interlocutors that the statements (of the theory) are true.

    Just because every argument has a counter-argument does not mean that neither argument is correct. This is the case for whatever arguments you like, not just philosophical argument. Listen to a conversation between a biologist and a creationist about evolution: the creationist will have a counter-argument to everything the biologist says in support of the Darwinian synthesis, but their counter-arguments will be bad ones - either invalid or supported by false empirical premises. Just because they have a counter-argument doesn't mean there's no truth to the matter. There is: the theory of evolution by natural selection is true.

    Of course it's true that the most convincing argument 'wins', in the debating sense: if you take a vote on it, by definition, the greatest number of people will vote for the most convincing argument. But if that's all you're looking for, you should be doing rhetoric, rather than philosophy. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion; philosophy is the love of wisdom.

    It's hard to see how anyone can sincerely offer arguments to justify a position in philosophy unless they think the position is the correct one. It's also hard to see why anyone would bother to do most of philosophy if the 'philosophy is rhetoric' view were correct. Certainly in ethics and political philosophy, you could aim merely to persuade people to your view in order that they act in the way that you want them to, but what about in metaphysics or the philosophy of language? What's the point of arguing about the nature of causation or modality, or the correct analysis of conditionals unless you're trying to come to the correct view? Why bother persuading someone of something just for the sake of the persuasion?
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    (Original post by Estreth)
    I didn't mean to suggest that philosophy wasn't empirical; I agree that it's not. What I meant was that even in the empirical sciences, where proof is more straightforward, theories are not identified with proofs.

    I won't get into defining truth because there's an immense philosophical literature on it already, but yes I do think there is such a thing as truth. For these purposes we can just say that 'p' is true if and only if p. I don't know which arguments you're referring to that can show that there is no such thing as truth, but I'd be happy to explain why I disagree with them if you want to give one.

    I don't understand the argument in your penultimate paragraph. In what sense does a philosophical theory 'need' to be proved? Of course we don't make sweeping statements without backing them up with argument; that's the whole point of philosophy. But what we are aiming at in offering justifications for our statements, I would suggest, is convincing our interlocutors that the statements (of the theory) are true.

    Just because every argument has a counter-argument does not mean that neither argument is correct. This is the case for whatever arguments you like, not just philosophical argument. Listen to a conversation between a biologist and a creationist about evolution: the creationist will have a counter-argument to everything the biologist says in support of the Darwinian synthesis, but their counter-arguments will be bad ones - either invalid or supported by false empirical premises. Just because they have a counter-argument doesn't mean there's no truth to the matter. There is: the theory of evolution by natural selection is true.

    Of course it's true that the most convincing argument 'wins', in the debating sense: if you take a vote on it, by definition, the greatest number of people will vote for the most convincing argument. But if that's all you're looking for, you should be doing rhetoric, rather than philosophy. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion; philosophy is the love of wisdom.

    It's hard to see how anyone can sincerely offer arguments to justify a position in philosophy unless they think the position is the correct one. It's also hard to see why anyone would bother to do most of philosophy if the 'philosophy is rhetoric' view were correct. Certainly in ethics and political philosophy, you could aim merely to persuade people to your view in order that they act in the way that you want them to, but what about in metaphysics or the philosophy of language? What's the point of arguing about the nature of causation or modality, or the correct analysis of conditionals unless you're trying to come to the correct view? Why bother persuading someone of something just for the sake of the persuasion?
    +rep, long story short I got schooled here)
 
 
 
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