Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Comparing science to poetry

Philosophers sometimes complain that they get no respect from scientists.

The NY Times has a running series of essays, and the latest one denies the scientific method because he says science is like poetry:
In 1970, I had the chance to attend a lecture by Stephen Spender. He described in some detail the stages through which he would pass in crafting a poem. He jotted on a blackboard some lines of verse from successive drafts of one of his poems, asking whether these lines (a) expressed what he wanted to express and (b) did so in the desired form. He then amended the lines to bring them closer either to the meaning he wanted to communicate or to the poetic form of that communication.

I was immediately struck by the similarities between his editing process and those associated with scientific investigation and began to wonder whether there was such a thing as a scientific method. Maybe the method on which science relies exists wherever we find systematic investigation. In saying there is no scientific method, what I mean, more precisely, is that there is no distinctly scientific method.

There is meaning, which we can grasp and anchor in a short phrase, and then there is the expression of that meaning that accounts for it, whether in a literal explanation or in poetry or in some other way. Our knowledge separates into layers: Experience provides a base for a higher layer of more conceptual understanding. This is as true for poetry as for science. ...

James Blachowicz is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago
Science finds objective truths about the world. Poetry just expresses thoughts in an entertaining way. If he cannot see the difference, he deserves no respect.

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