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  #1    
Old September 12th, 2013 (09:45 PM).
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If you could go back in time and change a major past historical event, what would you change? Knowing that a change of that magnitude will undoubtedly effect everything else, what exactly would happen if you were to act?

Given: Say I traveled back in time and shot Adolph Hitler in Germany in 1923, right before the Beer Hall Putsch. Based on what you know, how would the history of the 20th Century be different? Any hypotheses? (a knowledge of 20th century events + politics would be helpful here)

Obviously this is going to be full of hypotheticals, but come up with some ideas that could be plausible in a different timeline, based on some other realities of the time period.
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Old September 13th, 2013 (04:24 AM).
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Oh snap. Does anyone else here read alternate history? XD There are plenty of WWII threads concerning what the era would've been like without Hitler, and all that tells me is that I need to study that period more deeply.
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Old September 13th, 2013 (05:56 AM).
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Video game, I know, but if you want to see what happens if we remove Hitler then Red Alert paints a interesting possibility. Minus Kane ofc.
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Old September 13th, 2013 (06:24 AM).
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Awesome topic, and the main reason I say this is because people's answer to this question will depend on what they think is important. Some will try to change music history, others political/social decisions, and so on- depending on what interests them. Unless of course, you're asking everyone to think along the lines of social utilitarianism- to change the event in history that would be most beneficial to humanity. That sounds like a scary topic to me, simply because there are way too many variables to consider. I personally would treat this topic as more of a fun-ish thread, to make the change in history which would be most interesting- as opposed to most beneficial. There could be overlaps between the two though!

So this is what I would do. I would go back to Aristotle' Lyceum and tell him that science works chiefly by relying on empirical observations, not by studying supposed formal causes which are based on our a-priori knowledge. This would probably start the scientific revolution much earlier in history. Europe and Middle East's scientific advancements would really be affected at a large level were I able to pull this off. I think a very exciting result would emanate from this. The people back then, with their limited resources and technology, had to rely a lot on philosophy. With the key scientific principles in place, they would make impressive strides in science. This however would not do away with the reliance on philosophy, because of the lack of technological progress. So for hundreds of years altogether, philosophy and science would co-exist as soulmates in humanity's quest for knowledge. This isn't really how human history played out, unfortunately- I think European philosophy took a radical turn from exclusive reliance of philosophy to exclusive reliance on science. If they were seen as complementaries and not as opposites, human academia would be a more interesting and less-polarized place.

The more I think about it, the more exciting the results seem. The Scientific orthodoxy, due to its progress and success, has almost received a cultish following, especially in the popular masses. A little bit of context and perspective would really be beneficial. That context would come from the mind of the philosopher. This would spur interesting discussions in at least the following:

- Interpreting evidences for evolution and evolutionary psychology
- Philosophy of Mind and neuroscience
- Physical cosmology
- Parapsychology, and so on.

Maybe all of this would cause the popular masses to be more appreciative of the academia as well. The philosophers would act as the mediators between the scientists and the general masses, putting scientific discoveries in their proper contexts for people. There would be more education and awareness about issues like global warming. People in general would be more well-informed.

Overall, humanity's quest for knowledge would become a lot more fun and convenient!
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Old September 13th, 2013 (08:38 PM). Edited September 13th, 2013 by Stormbringer.
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I do think recognizing the scientific method several centuries ahead of time could very well accelerate technological innovations. I think it's pretty reasonable to suggest that some of our major scientific breakthroughs could be bumped up a few decades, maybe even a few centuries.

To go back to my example, what if Hitler were assassinated before he took power, I think with Hitler & a re-militarized Germany out of the way, Europe would become either new Roman colonies or extensively Russian. The biggest check to Soviet expansion is out of the way - nothing in eastern or central Europe would be able to stop Stalin. Add Mussolini to the mix, and oddly enough I think we have a pretty similar scenario, with the French & English and the other western European nations resisting a fascist dictator in Mussolini. And a massive, probably aggressive, Soviet nation under Stalin, who was completely ruthless. This all assuming Soviet Russia and Mussolini get along, which makes some sense given that originally, Nazi Germany & Stalin's Russia had a non-aggression pact - Soviet Russia invaded Poland and some of the Baltic areas also.

So we still have an axis, just with a perhaps even more fearsome enemy in Russia, because they didn't let a fanatical madman make military decisions. Part of Nazi Germany's fall was that Hitler ignored the advice of his top brass and made strategically poor military decisions that cost the Reich. So instead of that, you have Russia with its harsh climate, giant amount of territory and resources, and a disciplined and formidable army. So we're essentially in the same boat, minus that the Holocaust & accompanying racial cleansing may not have happened. That's well over six million less casualties.

I can't say that a war with Imperial Japan, facist Italy, and Soviet Russia would have gone any better for the allies, it may very well be worse. But, the United States still has the bomb in 1944-45, sooo.

Or does it? Albert Einstein penned a letter to FDR about the future of atomic power and how its destructive power could be harnessed for military means, and that the Germans were going to pursue it, with Germany having been an intellectual center of Europe at the time leading up the World Wars. Germany supplied many of the minds working towards the atomic bombs/harnessing atomic power. So without that Germany, there may not have been a bomb to race to perfect. Just like there wouldn't be a U.S. space program without the Nazis. (Little known fun fact btw) So, we may not have had a nuclear bomb to use as a last resort to win the war.
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Old September 13th, 2013 (08:44 PM).
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I was thinking something along what Shamol brought up, but perhaps change something like the burning of the library at Alexandria. You know, one of those events from way back that caused a great loss of knowledge and writings and which could theoretically change how and what people learned and knew for centuries to follow if it had happened differently.

The playful part of me would also wonder what would have happened if Genghis Khan hadn't died right as the Mongols were invading Europe. How things could have gone differently if they hadn't turned around then.

On a more personal note though, I do wish we hadn't lost MLK or Lennon like we did. I would love to see them still in the world working to make it better.
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Old September 13th, 2013 (09:13 PM). Edited September 13th, 2013 by Kanzler.
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Quote originally posted by Shamol:
snip
I'd have to disagree here. I think it's arbitrary to cast philosophy and science as opposing, let alone as others. Science, to me, is just an extension of modern philosophy - one that is more rational and reality-oriented. I don't see how philosophy and science can coexist as you explain it. If we go back and convince Aristotle that his a-priori knowledge too are founded on assumptions that really have no bearing on reality as we see it, I'm thinking he'd come around to abandoning his ideas as insignificant speech. Or maybe we couldn't if he's too deep in his constructions to escape the cave would he be able to see the irony there (it's Plato's work, but still)?

But whatever, let's say he's able to see past "truth" and throws all that away, now thinking of the world as matter in motion. His classical philosophy of old would still disappear. Aristotle was trying to explain reality, but that reality has become obsolete. The assumptions would not stand. I suppose his philosophy could guide morals, but perhaps Aristotle would even see through his assumptions on human nature. Even come to the conclusion that there is no truth, or at least humbled enough to admit that there is more for him to think about.

Even with an accelerated development of science, its fruits would not reach the masses until an industrial revolution. And such a circumstance needs to reward constant (or as much as it can be) innovation. I'm talking about capitalism and the profit motive, the pursuit of using machines to make more, better, quickly. Without a concentration of resources and mass production, the lifestyle we have today could not come about. Even with the development of basic chemistry and optics pre-industrial revolution, people largely lived the same way the did for hundreds of years, producing food and manufacturing on a small scale. But that's a digression.

We have come from believing there to be a truth to undermining what we thought to be truths to discovering reality, just once again to undermine what we thought to be reality to discover how we construct reality. I don't think philosophy and science coexisting as you've described it to be possible :\ Each step, from the classics to modernism and now post-modernism shakes up the old paradigm, makes it look parochial - too small for an ever bigger world with ever bigger issues. In any case, fret not for we may be soulless, but we are still philosophic as ever!

Quote originally posted by Livewire:
I do think recognizing the scientific method several centuries ahead of time could very well accelerate technological innovations. I think it's pretty reasonable to suggest that some of our major scientific breakthroughs could be bumped up a few decades, maybe even a few centuries.

To go back to my example, what if Hitler were assassinated before he took power, I think with Hitler & a re-militarized Germany out of the way, Europe would become either new Roman colonies or extensively Russian. The biggest check to Soviet expansion is out of the way - nothing in eastern or central Europe would be able to stop Stalin. Add Mussolini to the mix, and oddly enough I think we have a pretty similar scenario, with the French & English and the other western European nations resisting a fascist dictator in Mussolini. And a massive, probably aggressive, Soviet nation under Stalin, who was completely ruthless. This all assuming Soviet Russia and Mussolini get along, which makes some sense given that originally, Nazi Germany & Stalin's Russia had a non-aggression pact - Soviet Russia invaded Poland and some of the Baltic areas also.

So we still have an axis, just with a perhaps even more fearsome enemy in Russia, because they didn't let a fanatical madman make military decisions. Part of Nazi Germany's fall was that Hitler ignored the advice of his top brass and made strategically poor military decisions that cost the Reich. So instead of that, you have Russia with its harsh climate, giant amount of territory and resources, and a disciplined and formidable army. So we're essentially in the same boat, minus that the Holocaust & accompanying racial cleansing may not have happened. That's well over six million less casualties.

I can't say that a war with Imperial Japan, facist Italy, and Soviet Russia would have gone any better for the allies, it may very well be worse. But, the United States still has the bomb in 1944-45, sooo.

Or does it? Albert Einstein penned a letter to FDR about the future of atomic power and how its destructive power could be harnessed for military means, and that the Germans were going to pursue it, with Germany having been an intellectual center of Europe at the time leading up the World Wars. Germany supplied many of the minds working towards the atomic bombs/harnessing atomic power. So without that Germany, there may not have been a bomb to race to perfect. Just like there wouldn't be a U.S. space program without the Nazis. (Little known fun fact btw) So, we may not have had a nuclear bomb to use as a last resort to win the war.
As a student of realism, I would imagine that Germany would still re-militarize. It still has its industrial capacity and its manpower and its economic power and its key central location in Europe. Any statesman would look at that picture and say "something ought to be done with that potential". And the German people would still be upset and nationalist over the treaty of Versailles. Germany would not see itself contained by France and Poland, especially when it has the resources to break out and regain its preeminent position on the continent. Britain and France, and especially the United States, would be more than happy to appease a more rational and less aggressive Germany. I could see them annexing the Sudetenland in the name of German nationalism, but keeping the rump Czechoslovakia as a satellite, perhaps broken. Austria would follow sooner or later. I could see them getting away with a limited war on Poland, with a limited scope of reclaiming the old borders. Even if France and Britain declare war on Germany, she will accomplish her war goals long before either of them can help and present the re-annexation of her lost territories as a fait accompli. The war would probably fizzle out, as Germany would not be threatening any other countries and it would be better to cut their losses with a slightly smaller Poland than another European war. This Germany's foreign policy would be more schrewed and less aggressive, arguing on behalf of its security and unequal treaties.

At this point the situation in Europe is highly volatile and anything can happen. There would probably be an uneasy peace as German nationalism and irredentism is fulfilled. Will there be a Soviet threat? How could a war start? What if Germany is losing? Would Britain or France intervene?

On the other side the planet, Japan would probably carry on its invasion of China and establishing its sphere of influence in Southeast Asia. Sanctions against Japan would occur, probably a war in the Pacific. Again, anything can happen. Would the Communists win? Could the Nationalist Party receive support from both the US and Germany? Due to the military parity, could there be a coalition between the Communists and the Kuomintang? <3 Or would the civil war just be slogged out for longer?

TL;DR - Alternate history is fun!
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Old September 14th, 2013 (06:53 AM).
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Old September 14th, 2013 (09:09 AM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
I'd have to disagree here. I think it's arbitrary to cast philosophy and science as opposing, let alone as others. Science, to me, is just an extension of modern philosophy - one that is more rational and reality-oriented. I don't see how philosophy and science can coexist as you explain it. If we go back and convince Aristotle that his a-priori knowledge too are founded on assumptions that really have no bearing on reality as we see it, I'm thinking he'd come around to abandoning his ideas as insignificant speech. Or maybe we couldn't if he's too deep in his constructions to escape the cave :P would he be able to see the irony there (it's Plato's work, but still)?

But whatever, let's say he's able to see past "truth" and throws all that away, now thinking of the world as matter in motion. His classical philosophy of old would still disappear. Aristotle was trying to explain reality, but that reality has become obsolete. The assumptions would not stand. I suppose his philosophy could guide morals, but perhaps Aristotle would even see through his assumptions on human nature. Even come to the conclusion that there is no truth, or at least humbled enough to admit that there is more for him to think about.

Even with an accelerated development of science, its fruits would not reach the masses until an industrial revolution. And such a circumstance needs to reward constant (or as much as it can be) innovation. I'm talking about capitalism and the profit motive, the pursuit of using machines to make more, better, quickly. Without a concentration of resources and mass production, the lifestyle we have today could not come about. Even with the development of basic chemistry and optics pre-industrial revolution, people largely lived the same way the did for hundreds of years, producing food and manufacturing on a small scale. But that's a digression.

We have come from believing there to be a truth to undermining what we thought to be truths to discovering reality, just once again to undermine what we thought to be reality to discover how we construct reality. I don't think philosophy and science coexisting as you've described it to be possible :\ Each step, from the classics to modernism and now post-modernism shakes up the old paradigm, makes it look parochial - too small for an ever bigger world with ever bigger issues. In any case, fret not for we may be soulless, but we are still philosophic as ever!



As a student of realism, I would imagine that Germany would still re-militarize. It still has its industrial capacity and its manpower and its economic power and its key central location in Europe. Any statesman would look at that picture and say "something ought to be done with that potential". And the German people would still be upset and nationalist over the treaty of Versailles. Germany would not see itself contained by France and Poland, especially when it has the resources to break out and regain its preeminent position on the continent. Britain and France, and especially the United States, would be more than happy to appease a more rational and less aggressive Germany. I could see them annexing the Sudetenland in the name of German nationalism, but keeping the rump Czechoslovakia as a satellite, perhaps broken. Austria would follow sooner or later. I could see them getting away with a limited war on Poland, with a limited scope of reclaiming the old borders. Even if France and Britain declare war on Germany, she will accomplish her war goals long before either of them can help and present the re-annexation of her lost territories as a fait accompli. The war would probably fizzle out, as Germany would not be threatening any other countries and it would be better to cut their losses with a slightly smaller Poland than another European war. This Germany's foreign policy would be more schrewed and less aggressive, arguing on behalf of its security and unequal treaties.

At this point the situation in Europe is highly volatile and anything can happen. There would probably be an uneasy peace as German nationalism and irredentism is fulfilled. Will there be a Soviet threat? How could a war start? What if Germany is losing? Would Britain or France intervene? :P

On the other side the planet, Japan would probably carry on its invasion of China and establishing its sphere of influence in Southeast Asia. Sanctions against Japan would occur, probably a war in the Pacific. Again, anything can happen. Would the Communists win? Could the Nationalist Party receive support from both the US and Germany? Due to the military parity, could there be a coalition between the Communists and the Kuomintang? <3 Or would the civil war just be slogged out for longer?

TL;DR - Alternate history is fun!

I think Germany could have re-militarized to a degree, but I wonder just how cohesive and effective it would have been without the Nazi partty infrastructure. I don't think a sans-Nazi German war machine would have been as frightening and powerful as the Nazi one was - The Luftwaffe, the Blitzkrieg, the use of the Panzer tank divisions, etc. Unless somebody stepped in Hitler's shoes - while may have been dead, the res of what would become the Nazi party is still alive and well - Goring, Mengele, Himmler, Bormann, Goebbels, etc. One of them, in particular Goring, could have filled the void. Goring almost did, at the end of the war. Asked Hitler on 22 April 1945 to assume the position of Fuhrer if/when Hitler committed suicide.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (09:44 AM).
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Did you guys watch the video from Ray William Johnson about exactly this same topic?
link

They talked about it for a while and I think I've always shared Ray's point of view about not changing anything that happened in the past, It'd feel a lot like the Butterfly Effect movie. I wouldn't want to take the chances of me not existing in the future or never being born. I appreciate how life is, through the hardships and all the bad things, I know it may sound a little selfish, but, you have to always consider how everything could be, in fact, worse than what it is right now. I think all bad historical events that have happened have, somehow, taught us something, trying to skip through WW2 or even trying to skip through the Dark Ages caused by the church might change society enough to make it weaker than what it is today.

Humans learn a lot from experience, it's not all "logic", sometimes we need to hit ourselves a couple of times with the same thing in the face to understand, maybe I'm being a bit of a pessimist, but I believe changing such important of big things could lead to many much more bad things.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (10:04 AM). Edited September 14th, 2013 by Stormbringer.
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Quote originally posted by danks_:
Did you guys watch the video from Ray William Johnson about exactly this same topic?
link

They talked about it for a while and I think I've always shared Ray's point of view about not changing anything that happened in the past, It'd feel a lot like the Butterfly Effect movie. I wouldn't want to take the chances of me not existing in the future or never being born. I appreciate how life is, through the hardships and all the bad things, I know it may sound a little selfish, but, you have to always consider how everything could be, in fact, worse than what it is right now. I think all bad historical events that have happened have, somehow, taught us something, trying to skip through WW2 or even trying to skip through the Dark Ages caused by the church might change society enough to make it weaker than what it is today.

Humans learn a lot from experience, it's not all "logic", sometimes we need to hit ourselves a couple of times with the same thing in the face to understand, maybe I'm being a bit of a pessimist, but I believe changing such important of big things could lead to many much more bad things.
I didn't see that. o.0

You pretty much said what I was trying to allude to, and tried to imply in my OP, just better. XD I think there's always the chance for unintended consequences, for fate or chance to rear its ugly head. Like the scenario I made with the Soviet Union being the replacement for Nazi Germany as a scourge of Europe. Sometimes, things could get worse. History is something I see as a collection of very-interconnected events, a giant web. If you make a change to even the most miniscule part of that web, the whole thing can become compromised.

I wouldn't go so far to say that we needed these horrible events to happen so that we as a civilization could learn some kind of lesson from it, because History is cyclical, it repeats itself. So if we didn't learn the lesson before, I don't think another similar event will change much. The only outcome for a repeat world war would be more senseless death.

And +1 for The Butterfly Effect, one of my favorite movies.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (10:06 AM).
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Quote originally posted by Livewire:
I think Germany could have re-militarized to a degree, but I wonder just how cohesive and effective it would have been without the Nazi partty infrastructure. I don't think a sans-Nazi German war machine would have been as frightening and powerful as the Nazi one was - The Luftwaffe, the Blitzkrieg, the use of the Panzer tank divisions, etc. Unless somebody stepped in Hitler's shoes - while may have been dead, the res of what would become the Nazi party is still alive and well - Goring, Mengele, Himmler, Bormann, Goebbels, etc. One of them, in particular Goring, could have filled the void. Goring almost did, at the end of the war. Asked Hitler on 22 April 1945 to assume the position of Fuhrer if/when Hitler committed suicide.
Maybe it would've been more effective without the Nazi party mucking about without a coherent foreign and economic policy. I don't think the Nazi party was particularly effective, nor did it have an infrastructure. It relied on the Fuhrerprinzip of unquestioned loyalty and obedience - which works in the military when there's a common objective, but not so much elsewhere when everybody has their own agenda. There were many times in the war when the military leadership would have rather had more power in their hands. If the Nazi party couldn't make it without Hitler's rhetoric and leadership, then there might be another party - probably militant conservative - or a conservative coalition that would seek out the support of the military.

I think remilitarization is a given no matter who is in power - it'll restart the economy, it'll give the military elite something to do instead of twiddling their thumbs, and it'll be something the citizens and voters would enjoy. Plus, the military leadership was already busy theorizing about the merits of armoured warfare from the lessons learned in WWI. And they've always had a fine military tradition. All they need is a civilian leader to give them the go-ahead and a budget.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (10:26 AM).
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Quote originally posted by Livewire:
I didn't see that. o.0

You pretty much said what I wanted to, and tried to imply in my OP. I think there's always the chance for unintended consequences, for fate or chance to rear its ugly head. Like the scenario I made with the Soviet Union being the replacement for Nazi Germany as a scourge of Europe. Sometimes, things could get worse. History is something I see as a collection of very-interconnected events, a giant web. If you make a change to even the most miniscule part of that web, the whole thing can become compromised.

I wouldn't go so far to say that we needed these horrible events to happen so that we as a civilization could learn some kind of lesson from it, because History is cyclical, it repeats itself. So if we didn't learn the lesson before, I don't think another similar event will change much. The only outcome for a repeat world war would be more senseless death.

And +1 for The Butterfly Effect, one of my favorite movies.
Well, re-sahring your thoughts then, I guess... I never said I didn't misunderstood your post ;P just sharing my concrete perception of it all. Also, yes TBE is a good movie.

As for history being cyclical, it sometime is, but not in every aspect. I think I might have put it out wrong like, all those major terrible events had to happen... I just think there's always a positive aspect to look at, for example, Germany is now a cheerful country where xenophobia has been reduced and even tho it exists in someplaces, it's not what it used to be before, the whole "we master race" feeling you get when talking to europeans as a southamerican (in my own and my family's experience and stories) has faded away and it's not just germany, it's a lot of other countries in Europe and the world in general, had the whole thing not happened, maybe it would've had taken the world a lot of more time to understand, not sure, just letting that out of my brain.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (10:53 AM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
I'd have to disagree here. I think it's arbitrary to cast philosophy and science as opposing, let alone as others. Science, to me, is just an extension of modern philosophy - one that is more rational and reality-oriented. I don't see how philosophy and science can coexist as you explain it. If we go back and convince Aristotle that his a-priori knowledge too are founded on assumptions that really have no bearing on reality as we see it, I'm thinking he'd come around to abandoning his ideas as insignificant speech. Or maybe we couldn't if he's too deep in his constructions to escape the cave would he be able to see the irony there (it's Plato's work, but still)?

But whatever, let's say he's able to see past "truth" and throws all that away, now thinking of the world as matter in motion. His classical philosophy of old would still disappear. Aristotle was trying to explain reality, but that reality has become obsolete. The assumptions would not stand. I suppose his philosophy could guide morals, but perhaps Aristotle would even see through his assumptions on human nature. Even come to the conclusion that there is no truth, or at least humbled enough to admit that there is more for him to think about.
This really goes into the topic of comparative epistemic superiority of science and philosophy, which is a whole other topic of its own. To be relevant to the present thread, I will only go into it briefly.

It really depends on how you define science. Science could be understood as adherence to a particular method- one that involves controlled experiments, measurement of observations, testing predictions, replicating results, and so on. Or, science could be understood in a more loose sense as simple "rational inquiry". If you understand science to be the second, I would really have no qualms whatsoever- after all, philosophy is no more than, as one modern philosopher put it, "thinking hard about something".

If you understand science to be the first, however, I don't think I'd agree with your conclusions. For starters, philosophy deals with questions science can really shed no light about- or at least give partial answers to narrow the possible explanations. Examples of this would include metaphysical truths, epistemological truths (which would include the epistemology of science, ironically), ethical truths and so on. Sure, the guiding light of science could narrow down philosophical thinking. Your views about quantum indeterminacy or cosmogony would doubtless affect metaphysical beliefs about causation or accounting for the universe's beginning. But these are only partial contributions on the part of science, for our answers to be more exclusive we would have to adopt philosophical thought. So I don't think philosophy is simply "better science". Also, philosophy is much more than Aristotelian a-priori assumptions. Tangentially, not all a-priori assumptions are bad- Kant's synthetic vs. analytic truth (simplistically, a-priori vs. a-posteriori) distinction is often adopted in today's discussions in epistemology and philosophy of science as well. So I don't think science can, in principle or in practice, "replace" philosophy in any significant or meaningful way. Maybe we can discuss this topic in more detail in another thread?

Quote:
Even with an accelerated development of science, its fruits would not reach the masses until an industrial revolution. And such a circumstance needs to reward constant (or as much as it can be) innovation. I'm talking about capitalism and the profit motive, the pursuit of using machines to make more, better, quickly. Without a concentration of resources and mass production, the lifestyle we have today could not come about. Even with the development of basic chemistry and optics pre-industrial revolution, people largely lived the same way the did for hundreds of years, producing food and manufacturing on a small scale. But that's a digression.
This was kind of my point. Even with the scientific method in place, it would take quite a while for scientific knowledge to reach the message, the limiting factor being technology. But this would give humanity just enough time to understand both philosophy of science in their proper contexts, providing- dare I dream it?- a more mature framework to the whole human enterprise of quest for knowledge.

Hope this doesn't sound too old-fashioned, but I always had faith in the cumulative growth in human knowledge, pace Thomas Kuhn. Now with all the postmodernist earthquakes, we may be tempted to think of all (or most) past human knowledge as have paled into insignificance, but if you look close enough- the fruits and lessons of one generation aren't completely lost on the next. The more I study the history of philosophy and science, the more strongly I come to embrace this belief. I think it nothing short of miraculous that human beings throughout history (perhaps unconsciously) learnt from their mistakes, set up checks and balances, worked with a reflective equilibrium in mind in their quest for knowledge.

Just my opinion!
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Old September 14th, 2013 (11:53 AM). Edited September 14th, 2013 by Kanzler.
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The philosophers would act as the mediators between the scientists and the general masses, putting scientific discoveries in their proper contexts for people.
How do you mean for this to happen, and what's with improper contexts vs proper ones?

Edit: When you say there is an over-reliance on science, do you mean that people look to science to answer questions it cannot answer? or that they attempt to use science to answer these questions?
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Old September 15th, 2013 (05:51 AM).
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All you people with your long comments.

I'd go back and murder Thomas Edison.
I'd also then become an assassin and ensure Tesla's free wireless energy became a thing.

You're welcome.
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Old September 15th, 2013 (05:57 AM).
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I wouldn't even go back that far. I would make sure the military and everybody knew that 9/11 was going to happen and tell them all the day before to prepare. However, I am sure that they would end up doing it a different day and not much would've ended up changing. But you never know.
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Old September 15th, 2013 (10:06 AM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
How do you mean for this to happen, and what's with improper contexts vs proper ones?

Edit: When you say there is an over-reliance on science, do you mean that people look to science to answer questions it cannot answer? or that they attempt to use science to answer these questions?
Let's talk about philosophy of science as a starter. At a very basic level, what is science? Science is an epistemological tool, a method which aims to learn the truths about reality. So by its very definition- as an epistemological tool- it has a context. Science isn't a stand-alone enterprise, it does come with its assumptions. For example, the epistemological context of science is inclusive of ideas such as:

- Induction
- Falsification
- Inference to the best explanation or abductive reasoning, etc.

So the task of the philosopher here is to try and provide justification for these ideas.

On another level, the philosopher of science would define the areas which science can and cannot reach. For example, scientific facts/theories doesn't have any normative value ("ought" properties)- it's meaningless to say that the General Theory of Relativity is good in the sense we say helping your neighbor is good. So ethical questions would be beyond science's grasp. Same with metaphysics- the reach of which is at a level broader than science's.

So the philosopher-mediator's duty would be to clarify what science is and what it is not, what does scientists mean when they say a theory is true, etc. If such a set of answers can be provided with justification, then we could say that is the proper- as opposed to the improper- context of science. There would be disagreements here, sure. But that's just the nature of academia.

Will Durant, in his preface of the book "The Story of Philosophy", makes this point much more eloquently. I can't help quoting the full section, it's just so beautiful to pass up.

Spoiler:
Human knowledge had become unmanageably vast; every science had begotten a dozen more, each subtler than the rest; the telescope revealed strs and systems beyond the mind of man to number or to name; geology spoke in terms of millions of years, where men before had thought in terms of thousands; physics found a universe in the atom, and biology found a microcosm in the cell; physiology discovered inexhaustible mystery in every organ, and psychology in every dream; anthropology reconstructed the unsuspecting antiquity of man, archeology unearthed buried cities and forgotten states, history proved all history false, and painted a canvas which only a Spengler or an Eduard Meyer could vision as a whole; theology crumbled, and political theory cracked; invention complicated life and war, and economic creeds overturned governments and inflamed the world; philosophy itself, which had once summoned all sciences to its aid in making a coherent image of the world and an alluring picture of the good, found its task of coordination to stupendous for its courage, ran away from all these battlefronts of truth, and hid itself in recondite and narrow lanes, timidly secure from the issues and responsibilities of life. Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind.

All that remained was the scientific specialist, who knew "more and more about less and less", and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Perspective was lost. "Facts" replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom. Every science, and every branch of philosophy, developed a technical terminology intelligible only to its exclusive devotees; as men learned more about the world, then found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their educated fellow-men what it was that they had learned. The gap between life and knowledge grew wider and wider; those who governed could not understand those who thought, and those who wanted to know could not understand those who knew. In the midst of unprecedented learning popular ignorance flourished, and chose its exemplars to rule the great cities of the world; in the midst of sciences endowed and enthroned as never before, new religions were born every day, and old superstitions recaptured ground they had lost. The common man found himself forced to choose between the scientific priesthood mumbling unintelligible pessimism, and a theological priesthood mumbling incredible hopes.

In this situation the function of the professional teacher was clear. It should have been to mediate between the specialist and the nation; to learn the specialist's language, as the specialist had learned nature's, in order to break down the barriers between knowledge and need, and find for new truths old terms that all literate people might understand. For if knowledge became too great for communication, it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshiping at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon a technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology.


Good signs are appearing nowadays though, there have been a breed of philosophers devoted to specific sciences (philosopher of physics, philosopher of biology etc) who act as "humanizers" of science as Durant puts it. They not only make the information easy and accessible, but also puts it in proper context in respect to other areas of life and knowledge.

As for people's attitude towards science, there is both over-reliance and neglect among the masses. One group makes science out to be the only viable source of knowledge, regardless of the questions asked; while the other group denounces the authority of science altogether for faith in misplaced understanding of certain interpretations of religion. Both could have been avoided were the context and mediators were in place. That's all I'm saying.
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Old September 15th, 2013 (11:00 AM). Edited September 15th, 2013 by Kanzler.
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I've always felt that science was about the pursuit of knowledge, not truth. The attitude I've felt was that science is always changing and thinking about it in terms of truth is missing the point of its evolutionary nature and its mission to explain. I've never felt that my duty as a scientist was to uncover any truths, more so to create models that say "hey, it works pretty well, let's go with that". I guess we differ a lot in that I'm much more of a materialist. Truth isn't so much important to me as what works, and what works boils down to I guess the material interests of all of us. So yeup, by knowledge I mean something that is much more material than what one might suggest by truth (I'm only posing them against each other for simplicity's sake).

As for those of us who treat science as the only viable source of knowledge, perhaps it's because they're only concerned with a subset of knowledge that is useful to them, like practical knowledge.

Quote:
All that remained was the scientific specialist, who knew "more and more about less and less", and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more.
Oh, this popular dichotomy. I think it's a bit overplayed. I know from experience in political science we have debates on terminology all the time - whether they serve to clarify anything or are simply terminology for terminology's sake. And at least in this field we're not looking at less and less - the challenge is to explain politics in a rational manner and so we're always trying to generalize if possible (because if we can do it, it'll be very insightful). But the flip side is that we study specifics to learn if our generalizations really are generalizations, and what exceptions exist and why. At least in political science we study all scope of politics that are relevant and so we can't just go on learning "more and more about less and less". If we have specialists in that field, it's only because they're harnessed with the understanding and insight to synthesize and create new information that the rest of us can read and assess XD At the end of the day, I think specialists don't necessarily know more than the rest of us (since their ideas will be published and everyone will learn), but they are able to create more than the rest of us - and that to me is a very neat tool to have.

Same goes for biology really. There are many scopes of biological investigation from the molecular to the ecological level. If we become more specialized that's to dig down to the small-scale that is harder to investigate, but of course we can't separate that from its context. We could be looking for, I dunno, to what extent the alpha-Q1-IL10C2C4S5 receptor (I'm making this up btw) is affected by mutations in F348, CD351 whatever, but there's always a tissue level, organ level, physiological level and organism level context. Maybe we want to investigate how it effects a nervous response to whatever, or maybe this behaviour, or maybe that disease. And this goes up into a social context, an industrial context as we figure out how to deal with it. My point is, maybe there's no "wisdom" or really insightful conclusions that comes out of this, but maybe there'll be an impactful solution to an issue - or perhaps we've created a better understanding of a certain mechanism that might prove useful when we investigate the next issue. And technical terminology is really important for biology. It's not like people can't understand it. I'm sure that most scientists can explain the phenomenon they're studying to someone and it would make sense. It might just take a while to explain the background information and context, but if a person is actually interested in learning about something, they'll understand it. And if Durant's worried about too much specialization in the sciences, he certainly doesn't have to fret about that in biology. You've heard of genomics, but we can extend that to transcriptomics and proteomics and interactomics - there is a "revival" (now that is a word that imposes value) of holistic thinking as we realize how complex life is and how everything interacts with everything else.

I dunno, I think he's painting in some very broad brushstrokes because science would be useless without context. And judging by what I've seen in life, scientists do try really hard to understand and contextualize what they learn. And there are a million different levels of analysis. It's not going to tell us the meaning of life or anything, but it is going to solve some big problems and hey, isn't that all we should ask for? I think, from what I just read, is that philosophers are too caught up with the idea of truth - so when you impose that on science, it doesn't make much sense. I read up the wiki page on the philosophy of biology, not sure if it's good enough an intro - but I, and many people that study biology, can identify with the questions it poses. Maybe some of us don't consider it as an individual, but the scientific community sure does consider these questions collectively through debate and discussion.

Quote:
So the philosopher-mediator's duty would be to clarify what science is and what it is not, what does scientists mean when they say a theory is true, etc.
As for this, I thought our education system was supposed to do this, innit? Have more kids stay in school, have scientific education be something that is valued in society, and we won't have to go back in time and create an entire class of the population to deal with this issue XD
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Old September 17th, 2013 (05:48 AM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
I've always felt that science was about the pursuit of knowledge, not truth. The attitude I've felt was that science is always changing and thinking about it in terms of truth is missing the point of its evolutionary nature and its mission to explain. I've never felt that my duty as a scientist was to uncover any truths, more so to create models that say "hey, it works pretty well, let's go with that". I guess we differ a lot in that I'm much more of a materialist. Truth isn't so much important to me as what works, and what works boils down to I guess the material interests of all of us. So yeup, by knowledge I mean something that is much more material than what one might suggest by truth (I'm only posing them against each other for simplicity's sake).

As for those of us who treat science as the only viable source of knowledge, perhaps it's because they're only concerned with a subset of knowledge that is useful to them, like practical knowledge.
I think all the differences in our opinion can be explained by the above paragraph. You seem to be an anti-realist of some form when it comes to science (i.e. the goal of science is to produce theories that work- that are empirically adequate- but not necessarily aimed at truth), but for the most part I don't ascribe to that.

The interesting thing to note here is this. The specific view that you adopt about science is a part of its context. So for you, all scientific facts and theories are to be filtered through that context. But of course, I'm sure you'll agree that seen this way, there can be more than one contexts of science, and some people would definitely be interested in knowing which of these contexts are more coherent. At a narrower level, they would be interested in knowing how theories are to be interpreted in a specific context. Now these are all philosophical discussions, aren't they?

Dr. Durant's views may be too generalized, but I definitely think there is an aspect of truth there. I think many scientists of this day fail to contextualize their discoveries. If you don't agree with this conclusion- I don't expect to take my word for it- then here is a more modest claim: sometimes the contextualizations scientists make of their findings are arguable. Now of course, there is nothing intrinsically bad about it whatsoever, disagreement is something so very essentially human. But the problems start arising when the scientists fail to take note of the fact that their contextualizations are arguable, and as a result- the scientific theory along with it's extra-scientific context and repercussions- masquerade as solid science among the masses. That's the problem I was talking about.

Examples of this are not uncommon. Perhaps the most popular and hotly contended debate concerns biology- whether evolution is an obvious defeater to the existence of teleology or consciousness in this universe. This question is very controversial- yet a breed of scientists (both theists and non-theists) fail to take note of the existence of this controversy, and simplistically claim evolution (and therefore, science) is necessarily anti-theistic. Same examples can be found in interpretations of cosmology (fine-tuning, beginning of the universe), neuroscience (mind-brain dualism, libertarian free will), evolutionary psychology (morality being a biological construct), and so on. These "scientific" theories then proceed to percolate to the popular level. All of this, I think, results from what Durant aptly calls loss of perspective. Were the study of philosophy as popular as that of science, then maybe we wouldn't be suffering from such a loss of perspective and contextualization today.

When I look back at human history- what immediately leaps into my mind's eye are dichotomies. We went from strict philosophers to strict materialists- with a little age of profusion between the two which I don't think was long enough to make a lasting effect- and now postmodernism. If humanity had a chance to communicate with both the gifts of philosophy and science simultaneously for a more extended period of time, maybe history wouldn't have been as dichotomous. Maybe science and philosophy today wouldn't have to be so ostensibly opposed. Relevant to your post, maybe people would be more aware that there are multiple ways of interpreting science (and possibly other sources of knowledge), and they would be aware of the importance of talking about these issues. Maybe- especially those who demand truth of science as opposed to mere empirical adequacy- would be able to learn in a way more convenient than the current status quo. That's all I'm saying.
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Old September 17th, 2013 (07:53 AM).
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If I could go back in time I will go and prevent World War I from happening. That way I'll also impact World War II as well. As without the first WW the situation Hitler used to take over wouldn't have happened as Germany would still be as vibrant as before, not war torn and depressed. Also by stopping WW I it could potetentially minimize or even eradicate the great depression as the first WW lead to the US becoming isolationist. Also by stopping WW I and II in the process the creation of Israel would be shifted a couple of years or never exist at all. This in turn would change the players of the Middle East...of course this may divide them even more due to the lack of a common enemy (well at the beginning)...
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