Science Depends On Philosophy, and practice at examining logical arguments.

This post will be severing two purposes. First as a review for an excellent video Gary Edwards put out on Sunday, and an examination of a deductive argument that I promised on my post about deductive and inductive logic.

Here’s the Video titled “Science Depends On Philosophy” for those interested the video does have a full transcript which can be read by going to the Youtube page clicking the ⚫⚫⚫ More button under the video title.

For ease I will include the definitions and the deductive argument here.


A = “The Hypothetical Philosophy Denialist”

P = “A is doing empirical science”

Q = “A has taken a conceptual and evaluative side” (You have agreed to certain definitions of what your looking at and looking for, that you won’t be redefining things as you go along and that you won’t be moving the goal posts if you don’t like any answers you might get. As well you value some thing, general try of evaluation, or forms of evidence, over other kinds.)

R = “A has engaged in appropriate discourse”

S = “A is Hypocritical and conceited”

T = “A is doing Philosophy”


1. “P” [assumption]

2. “NOT S” [assumption]

3. IF “P” THEN “Q” [premise]

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S” [premise]

5.  IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T” [premise]

6. EITHER “R” OR “NOT R” (This is a case of an exclusive or) [premise]

7. EITHER “S” OR “T” (This is also a case of an exclusive or) [deduction 4+5+6]

8. “T” [deduction 2+7]

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T” [deduction 1+2+3+8]

Well scared yet? Hopefully not! Though if your needing the refresher I’ll link back to my discussion of logical connectives here, and the the basic form of an argument here.

First I’m going to take this argument step by step and restate each step of the argument, and discuss it’s importance. If you had no problem following Gary then you may wish to skim though this part, but given this is formal logic and may reading this will have little to no exposure to this type of rather intimidating notation. It is best to try to make the argument as clear as possible.

First come the assumptions. For this argument we are assuming 1. Your doing empirical science (P), and 2. you are not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S). Both of these are build in to give the argument charitability to the philosophical denialists (A). I haven’t yet talked much about charitability and I’ll be writing a full post on it soon as it is very important. I won’t go into it much here other then to say that by being charitable Gray has made his fair, and respectful which is always a good route to go.


So we know “A” is doing empirical science and is not conceited or hypocritical. Now to the premises.

3. First premise is IF “P” THEN “Q”. Which translated back into English is saying:

IF someone is doing empirical science (P) THEN it is the case that that person has taken a conceptual and evaluative side.

Which is to say that someone has accepted some set of acceptable scientific and empirical methodologies in which they will base their conclusions upon. How do we know those methodologies are acceptable? For that we need to go on to the next premise.

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), but has not engaged in appropriate discourse (NOT R). THEN it is the case that person is a conceited hypocrite (S).

What is means to engaged in the appropriate discourse varies some depending on the particular science in questions, but generally speaking this means that you agree to follow those definitions, and methodologies agree on by the scientific consensus, and to be clear about place where you diverge. As well in mean that you will engage in the peer review process allowing other to look over your work, and that you will do the same, taking into considerations and criticism you get, and make corrections as needed. I could go on, but I think that is a compete enough overview for our purposes here.

5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).

This is the first place most might object to the argument, but I think this premise fits well for both science and philosophy.


EITHER someone is engaged in appropriate discourse (R) OR they’re not (NOT R).

Another place you might object and say there is nuance, but I’ll save arguments against for later.

Now that we have all 4 Premises. Lets move onto the three deductions.


7. EITHER “S” OR “T”

EITHER your a conceited hypocrite (S) OR your doing philosophy (T).

This deduction follows from premises 4, 5 and 6 as follows. First we know from premise 4 and 5 that if someone engaged in appropriate discourse (R) that they doing philosophy, and if they’re not engaged in appropriate discourse they are a conceited hypocrite. With Premise 6 we know you must either be doing appropriate discourse or not, there is not middle group on that issue. Because of that we know that “A” must with be “T” or “S”.

8. “T”

The Hypothetical philosophy denialist (A) is doing philosophy (T).

Due the deduction 7 we know “A” must be “S” OR “T”, and since assumption 2 is that “A” is Not A conceited hypocrite (NOT S) then we know the “A” must be doing philosophy.

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T”

This final deduction draws from all the premises and deductions some directly and indirectly. We know that “A” is doing Science from the first assumption. We also know that “A” is not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S) from assumption 2.

As also know that from Assumption 1 and Premise 3 that “A” is doing Empirical Science (P) so “A” must also have taken a conceptual and evaluative sides (Q). Based on deduction  8 and all that came before it we know that If “Q” then we must either have “T” or “S”, but not both. We also know we must have “R” or “NOT R” (6), and that they follow from “Q” (4, 5), and that “Q” follows from “P” (3). Because of all of that confusing mess we know that to do empirical science (Q) we must either do philosophy (T) or be conceited hypocrites (S). We already now we are doing both Science and that we are not conceited hypocrites so we must be doing philosophy! Hopefully that made sense!

Gary Edwards explains line 9 a bit differently and I suggest everyone who’s gotten this far go back and watches again. Both are correct, though his is more concise. My explanation is drawing out the logic more in hope it may help a few people reading this understand.

Though if some this doesn’t make sense, and anyone doesn’t understand why these deductions follow from the premisses and assumptions please ask questions. I’ll do my best to answer, though do try to be specific what line your having issues with. This is formal logic so if it doesn’t make sense the first time though don’t worry it did make sense to me at first either.

Okay know I’m sure people are going to have some issue with the argument and would like to address some of it’s failings, if it has any. I’ll explain the basics of how you would go about doing so, and give an example.

First this argument is sound, the premises guarantee the conclusion. So saying the argument doesn’t work is a no go.The argument does work, if you have an issue you’ll need to indicate why the premise or assumptions are incorrect and how they are incorrect. Another way to think of it is that you can not refute the conclusions of a sound argument. Those are a given and above reproach. Instead you must show that the argument is build on unsound foundations by picking apart the premises.

I pointed out two places, Premise 5 and 6, where one might object. Of these two premise 5 seems the most likely candidate for criticism. That premise was:


5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).


This premise is largely undefended, while I do agree with it, it still remains a weak spot. This is an important point to remember, you can criticize your own ideas in this manner, and well as those ideas you like. In doing so all you risk is improving your argument by recognizing its weak points and strengthening them, or finding our your wrong.  And finding out your wrong for yourself eases that awkwardness of someone else doing it for you.


First and post obviously you could argue the “T” does not necessarily follow from “Q” & “R”, so far from the discussions those thing seem to be important only too doing “empirical science” (P). Though in order to make this an convincing counter point you must explain why “T” Does not follow from “Q” & “R” what about philosophy make those two things unnecessary? And when you think of that reason why do you think might be the response from Gary? I’m actually drawing a blank, on a good reason, but that might be because I biased anyone have some ideas?


I also suggest any interested parties try to tackle the argument from Premise 6 which in retrospect may have made a better example ;).

Next time I’ll be talking about charitability in arguments and more specifically counter arguments.



6 responses to “Science Depends On Philosophy, and practice at examining logical arguments.

  • D.T. Nova

    “Though in order to make this an convincing counter point you must explain why “T” Does not follow from “Q” & “R” ”
    Shouldn’t it be up to the one making the claim to explain why it does follow?

    ” what about philosophy make those two things unnecessary?”
    What? Premise 5 is not “philosophy requires those two things”; it is “anything that requires those two things is philosophy”, a statement that, it seems to me, requires a very inclusive definition of philosophy that, if accepted, would make the rest of the argument unnecessary because science would be philosophy by definition.


    • hessianwithteeth

      Well I never claimed the argument was perfect, only that I liked it. Those are good objections. Now we have to ask is an inclusive view of philosophy what Gary was after? What possible problems would an inclusive view entail.

      Alright fair philosophy might not require Q and R, though in that case are you saying that because they are out comes or because you think they are irrelevant?

      Perhaps Gary needs to defend these premises, but now we must have convincing arguments why. Now one argument could simply be that we feel he hasn’t done the conceptual leg work to think these claims are justified. Though I think from prior experience with Gary’s work that we ought give him the benefit of the doubt and think more deeply on his position.Though you may disagree! 🙂

      Though I for one think that should a given person do both Q and R they are doing philosophy. Much of what philosophy is, not all mind you but much. Is taking conceptual sides and doing the necessary work to understand and communicate with your peers and the relevant experts. Philosophy is probably the broadest of the intellectual fields by it’s very nature of questioning everything. Even the very notions of questioning and knowledge themselves. I’d also argue that science is a subset of philosophy, so if that’s true should you be doing science you would also be doing philosophy, although the reverse is not true.

      Though again you may disagree and I may have missed one of your point. Good comment regardless.


      • D.T. Nova

        “Alright fair philosophy might not require Q and R, though in that case are you saying that because they are out comes or because you think they are irrelevant?”
        Neither: I’m saying that premise 5 makes the assumption “there can be nothing that requires both Q and R and isn’t philosophy” .


        • hessianwithteeth

          Ah I see. Ya that a limitation of the form, premises look unfounded when looking at a basic argument. Doesn’t mean they are it just become intensely more difficult the more layers you tack on to an argument. What you’ll need to do to tackle this argument from premise 5 is locate a case where IF (Q & R) THEN T doesn’t make sense.

          The main argument being valid and sound defends itself, so now we are limited to defending and criticizing the premises and assumptions. However the premises are undefended (necessarily) in the formal structure, so in order to remain charitable it’s best not to assume that the assumptions are baseless assumptions. Rather it’s best practice to assume there is a decent enough reason and to try to think up cases for success and failure of the premise. It could still be wrong but it’s best not to make assumptions about if it’s correct or not.

          It’s argument build on arguments like everything else. Just because something has underlying assumptions doesn’t make it wrong. Though it is good that you notice those under lying assumptions.


        • hessianwithteeth

          Though in retrospect it is important to say that it is fair to demand definitions in case like this, but if the person making the argument isn’t there it charitability should be applied. If for example Gary was in this comment thread and refused to defend the point then we have a different issue. Though it’s still always a good idea to try to think if that premise has real issues or are you just objecting to the fact there are under lying assumptions.

          This are tricky line to navigate and depending on the field there are different expectations, so you won’t find clear cut guidelines for every area of argument. In philosophy of science such as this it’s best to give this some credit to Gary because he is a trained philosopher in the relevant areas. Now I’m not saying this make him right regardless, that would be fallacious, but I am saying that it means we can give him more leeway with out risking too much. I also find myself readily able to defend those underlying assumptions myself, so if you’d like to hear my take I would happy to oblige.

          This video by him is somewhat relevant though not directly, it may give some push back to your criticism.


  • leonardkaplan

    Thank you for making my head spin. I have to read this again tomorrow.


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