August 14, 2015
On natural philosophy, philosophy of science and psychiatry


The following essay was part of Nederlog several times - lastly a bit over a year ago, here - which means that I like it, and that I think each of my readers is benefitted by reading it. (And no, you don't need to agree. Also, you might have seen it before, but since I last published it, I have published over 400 Nederlogs, so it is not a miracle if you forgot it.)

The essay that follows I reissue today almost completely unchanged, except that I have bolded a few more terms, and inserted a number of notes between square brackets, that provide some information about events and persons that reached me since the essay was published originally, in 2011. (Most new notes are in the psychiatry section.)

Also, two reasons to publish it today are, first, that yesterday I ended with a section about psychiatry, which I am rather well placed to judge rationally:

This essay and the - long but good - " DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"" from 2012 are the best theoretical objections I have against psychiatry, and you should know that, while you are completely free to think what you please, I do have excellent academic degrees in both philosophy and psychology. I may be wrong, but I certainly am informed (and indeed a lot better about philosophy of science than any psychiatrist I've ever read). And besides, the first two parts of the present essay are wholly independent of the third part, and constitute a good introduction to philosophy (of science).

Second, the other reason to publish the essay today is that I intended to publish it again anyway, simply because it is a good essay. And because today there was remarkably little to be found about the crisis, I decided that today there will be no Nederlog about the crisis, and instead there is the following essay.


On natural philosophy, philosophy of science and psychiatry

   Even today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the process of charting the brain’s intricate functioning has barely begun. As Rita Carter writes in her book Mapping the Mind, ‘the vision of the brain we have now is probably no more complete or accurate than a sixteenth-century map of the world.'
    Richard Webster:
Freud, Charcot and hysteria: lost in the labyrinth
      "I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador--an adventurer, if you want it translated--with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort"
     (Sigmund Freud, letter to Wilhelm Fliess, Feb. 1, 1900).

The opening quote states a point of view I reached myself independently in the sixties, seventies and eighties, when I studied philosophy and psychology, hoping and expecting to become eventually a philosopher of science and a logician. This did not work out because of ME - I think it is fair to say, since quite a few who should know were impressed by my intellect.

Also, the webpages of Richard Webster [1] are interesting for those who want some good explanations of what Freud, and indeed psychiatry, is about for the most part, in informed and clear English also.

I come to these in my third section, since in the first two I give at least an outline of my own philosophical and methodological assumptions, continuing in fact what I wrote the last two days about the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and its DSM-5, that I hope will finish this association as soon as possible, since it clearly is not rational, not moral, not scientific and not honest [2]:

1. Natural Philosophy - foundations of rational philosophy and
2. Philosophy of science - foundations science and methodology
3. Some links about psychiatry

Note please that in good scientific theorizing as foundation there is a many-layered structure, that in fact has been built up by mathematicians, physicists, and scientifically oriented philosophers since Galileo Galileo laid the real foundations of modern rational empirical science:

It starts with a general philosophy, usually followed by a philosophy of science of the specific science someone is interested in, combined if done well with introductions to mathematics, mathematical logic, and probability theory and statistics, which in turn is followed by the more specific methodological problems and techniques of the science.

This can be given and has been done for real sciences like physics and chemistry, starting for serious in the 19th Century by Faraday, Mill, Whewell, Peirce, Jevons, Clifford, Hertz and continued in the 20th by Poincaré, Russell, Keynes, Johnson, Broad, Campbell, and Carnap: See section 2 for some relevant texts. [3]

None of this was done for psychology, with a few partial exceptions, and especially in the 19th Century notably Peirce, James and Helmholtz - who unlike later psychologists and psychiatrists really knew real science - and it was not done for psychiatry either, at least if one speaks of foundations informed by real scientific knowledge.

The reasons this was not done are, among others: (1) that psychology and psychiatry were far less well-developed when institutionalized as "sciences" in universities, in which one could be taught, and receive degrees in, than were physics, chemistry and mathematics; (2) that psychology and psychiatry are far more complicated than physics and chemistry, which are many orders of complexity less; and (3) that very soon both psychology and psychiatry were torn apart by competing schools, that disagreed down to the very foundations, methods and presuppositions of the supposed sciences.

In any case, here follow some of my own assumptions and background when I think about and discuss psychiatry and psychology, that for me are for the most part as yet not real sciences, for the quoted reason mostly, since both these sciences are essentially about the human brain:

 ‘the vision of the brain we have now is probably no more complete or  
  accurate than a sixteenth-century map of the world.'
    (Rita Carter)

This fact is not, itself, the fault of psychologists or psychiatrists: The human brain seems the most complex organ nature has produced, and most of the fundamentals about how it works its miracles - consciousness, sentience, morality, free will (or its strong illusion), seeing colours, young love in spring, playing, speaking languages, composing and enjoying great music and art, doing mathematics, cooperating to make a humane society - lies hidden in the dark to this day.

What is the fault of psychologists or psychiatrists, and especially clinical psychologists and clinical psychiatrists, that is, the breeds that treat patients for money, are their lies and pretensions about knowledge and insight into others' minds that they cannot possibly have themselves, or at least not based on any known science or any known rational evidence:

For none of the things I mentioned - consciousness, sentience, morality, free will (or its strong illusion), seeing colours, young love in spring, playing, speaking languages, composing and enjoying great music and art, doing mathematics, cooperating to make a humane society - there is anything in the way of a full and satisfying rational explanation that is based on intersubjectively widely accepted and repeatable evidence, and for most, including thinking, feeling, and learning in a human way, there is hardly a start and also not even much good evidence. [4]

In any case... here are some outlines of rational foundations for rational science:

1. Natural Philosophy - foundations of rational philosophy and science

1. General Introduction: definition "Philosophy"
2. The fundamental problem of presupposition
3. Natural Language
4. Natural Logic
5. Natural Realism
6. Scientific Realism

1. General Introduction

Philosophy: Etymologically, from the Greek "love of wisdom". The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells us philosophy is:

1. (In the original and widest sense.) The love, study, or pursuit of wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical.

2. That more advanced study, to which, in the mediaeval universities, the seven liberal arts were introductory; it included the three branches of natural, moral, and metaphysical philosophy, commonly called the three philosophies.

3. (= natural p.) The knowledge or study of natural objects and phenomena; now usu. called 'science'.

4. (= moral p.) The knowledge or study of the principles of human action or conduct; ethics.

5. (= metaphysical p.) That department of knowledge or study that deals with ultimate reality, or with the most general causes and principles of things. (Now the most usual sense.)

6. Occas. used esp. of knowledge obtained by natural reason, in contrast with revealed knowledge.

7. With of: The study of the general principles of some particular branch of knowledge, experience or activity; also, less properly, of any subject or phenomenon.

8. A philosophical system or theory

9. a. The system which a person forms for the conduct of life. b. The mental attitude or habit of a philosopher; serenity, resignation; calmness of temper.

This is as clear a definition as any, and I shall presume it for my subject.

2. The fundamental problem of presuppositions

If we want to know or study "ultimate reality" (whatever that will turn out to be), what may we or may we not presuppose? This is a relevant question, if only because it seems that whatever we do presuppose will have some influence on whatever we come to conclude while also it seems we cannot conclude anything without presupposing something: To reach any conclusion one needs some assumption(s).

It is clear that any human philosophy is the product of people who already know and suppose something, in particular some Natural Language to reason and communicate with. So any human being concerned with philosophy uses and presumes in some sense some Natural Language.

3. Natural Language: Set of symbols that can be combined into statements, questions and stories, to convey information and represent anything whatsoever that can be thought about, experienced or imagined.

This allows the users of a natural language to frame philosophical questions and provide philosophical answers, and it is also clear that each and every human being that speaks a natural language therewith has a means to claim about any of its statements that it is true or not true, credible or not, necessary or not, and much more ("probable", "plausible", "politically correct", "sexist", "morally desirable" a.s.o.)

There are other definitions of natural language, but one essential point about it is that it is a distinctively human gift, and is - together with mathematics, that is also at least conveyed and expressed by language - what makes human beings different from other animals. Almost everything that makes human beings specifically human rests on the skill of natural language, that any healthy neonate can pick up in a few years by being exposed to speakers of the language.

For the purpose of doing philosophy, in the sense of seriously attempting to ask and answer general questions, some natural language must be considered given, for without it there simply are no questions to pose or answer. And indeed, all philosophy, including philosophies that conclude there is no human knowledge, in fact presumes some natural language.

This is itself a fact of some philosophical importance that is often disregarded. One of its important applications is to show that people who propound skeptical arguments to the effect that human beings cannot know anything, or cannot know anything with certainty, or cannot know anything with more or less probability than its denial (these are three somewhat different versions of skepticism, that also has other variants that are less easy to refute) must be mistaken, since they all presuppose some natural language known well enough to state claims that nothing can be known.

It should also be noted with some care that a natural language is not given to human beings in a completely clear, perfect and obvious way (since, for example, it is very difficult to clearly articulate the rules of grammar one does use automatically and correctly when speaking it), but it is given to start with as a tool for communication and expression that may be improved and questioned, and that enables one to pose and answer questions of any kind.

Natural language is, in other and somewhat technical words, a heuristic, i.e. something that helps one find out things. What other heuristics do come with being human?

Every Natural Language includes many terms and many - usually not very explicit and articulated - rules that enable its users to represent their experiences, and to reason or argue with themselves or others. We shall call this body of terms and rules Natural Logic:

4. Natural Logic:

A collection of terms and rules that come with Natural Language that allows us to reason and argue in it.

In any Natural Language there are the elements of what may be called its Natural Logic:

  • a collection of terms and rules that come with Natural Language that allows us to reason and argue in it.

Examples of such logical terms are: "and", "or", "not", "true", "false", "if", "therefore", "every", "some", "necessary", "possible", "therefore", "is the same as", "any (arbitrary)" and "one (specific)", and quite a few more. Examples of such logical rules, that are here formulated in terms of what one may write down on the strength of what one already has written down (pretending for the moment that natural language is written rather than spoken) are: "If one has written down that if one statement is true then another statement is true, and if one has written down that the one statement is true, then one may write down (in conclusion) that the other statement is true" (thus: "if it rains then it gets wet and it rains, therefore it gets wet") and "If one has written down that every so-and-so is such-and-such, and this is a so-and-so, then one may write down that this is a such-and-such" (thus: "if every Greek is human and Socrates is a Greek, therefore Socrates is human").

We presuppose Natural Logic in much the same way as we presuppose Natural Language: as something we have to start with and precisify later, and that may well come to be revised or extended quite seriously, but also as something that at least seems to be in part given in more or less the same way to any able speaker of a Natural Language: In it there are a considerable number of terms and - usually implicit - rules which enable every speaker of the language to argue and reason, that every speaker knows and has extensive experience with.

Again, it does not follow that these rules and terms are clear or sacrosanct. All that I assume is that they come with Natural Language and are to some extent articulated in Natural Language and understood and presupposed by everyone who uses Natural Language.

Three very fundamental assumptions about the making of assumptions that come with Natural Logic are as follows - where it should be noted I am not stating these assumptions with more precision than may be supposed here and now:

1. Nothing can be argued without the making
     of assumptions.
2. An assumption is a statement that is
     supposed to be true.
3. Human beings are free to assume whatever
     they please.

These I suppose to be true statements about arguments and people arguing, where it should be noted that especially the third assumption, factually correct though it seems to be, has been widely denied in human history for political, religious, philosophical or ideological reasons: In most places, at most times, people have not been allowed to speak publicly about all assumptions they can make.

Four other assumptions about argumentation that should be mentioned here are:

1. Conclusions are statements that are inferred in arguments from earlier assumptions and conclusions by means of assumptions called rules of inference, that state which kinds of statements may be concluded from the assumption of which kinds of statements.
2. Definitions of terms are assumptions to the effect that a certain term may be substituted by a certain other term in a certain kind of arguments.
3. Rational argumentation about a topic starts with explicating rules of inference, assumptions and definitions of terms, and proceeds with the adding of conclusions only if these do follow by some assumed rule of inference.
4. A statement is true precisely if what it says is in fact the case.

The first two assumptions need more clarification than will be given here and now, but, on the other hand, again every speaker of a Natural Language will have some understanding of setting up arguments in terms of assumptions, definitions and rules of inference, and drawing conclusions from these assumptions and definitions by means of these rules of inference.

The third assumption, when compared with the normal practice of people arguing, entails that mostly people do not argue very rationally, at least in the sense that all too often they rely in their arguments on rules of inference, assumptions or definitions they have not explicitly assumed yet have used in the course of the argument. (Often such assumptions are made because of wishful thinking.)

The fourth assumption is in fact a definition of the term "true" that expresses an idea that is older than Aristotle, who seems to have been the first to formulate it clearly and stress its central importance. It needs also more explanation than will be given here and now, but it seems to clearly express the meaning of "true" people use when they discuss ideas about reality that are personally important to them.

5. Natural Realism:

A minimal metaphysics that most human beings share may be called Natural Realism and stated in terms of the following fundamental assumptions:

  • There is one reality that exists apart from what human beings think and feel about it.

  • This reality is made up of kinds of things which have properties and stand in relations.

  • Some of these things, properties and relations are invariant, at least for some time, and therefore predictable.

  • Human beings form part of that reality and have experiences and fantasies about it that originate in it.

  • All living human beings have beliefs and desires about many real and unreal entities, that are about what they think is the case in reality and should be the case in reality.

  • All living human beings have very similar or identical feelings, sensations and beliefs and desires in many ordinary similar or identical circumstances.

Some assumption like natural realism is at the basis of human social interaction, at the basis of the law, and at the basis of promises, contracts and agreements, while the last of the assumptions I used to characterize Natural Realism amounts to an assumption of a shared human nature.

We shall assume Natural Realism is also at the basis of philosophy, at least initially, firstly, because we must assume something to conclude anything; secondly, because even if we - now or eventually - disagree with Natural Realism it helps to try to state clearly what it amounts to; and thirdly, because it does seem an assumption like that of Natural Realism is involved in much human reasoning about themselves and others, and about language, meaning and reality.

Finally, since this implies not only a logical and rational approach to knowledge but also an empirical and scientific approach, we assume, to start with, and until we have found better rules, next to logic, Newton's "Rules of Reasoning" in his "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy".

6. Scientific realism: The thesis that human beings all are part of one and the same reality that is most successfully known, understood, explained and changed by scientific methods.

Note that there are other ways of trying to understand or influence nature, such as religion, superstition and magic, which tend to have claims and results that are only believed by the faithful in such things (see: Wishful thinking), and that there are other ways of trying to understand or influence human beings, namely by art, intuition, imaginatively taking their place, or talking or living with them.

This Philosophical Dictionary is written mostly from a point of view that is fairly described as scientific realism, in the sense defined. See also: Natural Realism.

See also: First Assumptions, Natural Logic, Natural Philosophy, Natural Realism, Metaphysics, Minimal metaphysics, Personalism, Rationality, Representing, Science, Basic Logic - semantics

2. Philosophy of science - foundations science and methodology

And now for something completetely different... good modern philosophy texts.

As it happens, I give only texts that fall within the traditions of philosophy of science, analytical philosophy or methodology, and for a good reason: Only these - for the most part - make rational sense. Also, I am using the text of my Ten good modern philosophy texts of 2009.

So yes, good books of philosophy exist - and yes, like almost all good things, they are rare, and they deserve to be known and savoured, so in this piece I will name some really good modern philosophy books and briefly say why I think they are.

But first I should say what is a "modern philosophy text". As I wish to use the term, at least in this piece, it is a text about philosophy that was published since 1900 and that is not postmodern.

This is not quite as the term is used normally, for in terms of philosophical periods, the modern period starts around 1600, but I do not want to consider books from that period, but only from the last century or so, and also I have used "modern" in opposition to "postmodern", for I think the last school of philosophy is not real but bogus philosophy - a kind of nihilism with pretensions and media appeal, but related to real philosophy and real science as are journalism and prostitution related to the subjects of real wisdom and real love.

Also, it should be mentioned in this context that "philosophy", broadly and vaguely speaking, but precisely enough for the moment, was a rather different sort of thing in the 20th Century, in the West at least, than in earlier centuries, and for several reasons, that deserve to be listed in part, for they are somewhat curious and interesting.

First, there was much more of philosophy about and around in the 20th century (again in the West, especially, but this I will leave tacitly understood in the rest of this text), for four different sort of reasons:

  • There was much more freedom to discuss philosophies of all kinds (including religions for the moment) freely than in previous centuries.
  • There was much more attention paid to philosophies of many kinds in the daily and periodical press and media, that only came into existence in the end of the 19th Century.
  • Practical implementations of the politicial philosophies of fascism and communism ruled dictatorially in large countries over many millions (and appealed to many millions outside these dictatorships).
  • Philosophy was taught as a special subject on a much wider scale in the universities than ever before, which fuelled the printing of lots more books about philosophy than in previous centuries.

The first two points are - perhaps - somewhat ephemeral or fleeting, in the sense that a public, and especially a public with daily public media, may discuss much and may even do so heatedly without this making much of a real difference, but they do constitute a real difference with earlier centuries.

The third point was of fundamental political, social and human importance, as it ruined the lives and chances of many millions, and shows that philosophy really is of practical importance - but it also is about philosophy run insane, or dictatorial or populist, which is practically and politically important, but not cognitively so, which is what I am concerned with here.

The fourth point means that there was in fact a flood of philosophy books of all kinds, schools, contents and qualities published in the 20th Century, of which any one person can have read only a small fraction.

Note that much of this - probably by far the greatest part - was not so much serious philosophy as serious publishing: There was a market for it, unlike in previous centuries, either because it had become fashionable for - would be - intellectuals to be informed about philosophy or to have philosophical opinions or because it catered to philosophy courses in Western universities.

As it happens, I believe that I have read more modern philosophy than almost anyone. There must be some who have read more, but (i) they are very probably professionally employed as teachers of philosophy at some university and especially (ii) it is unlikely they have read as widely as I have, for professional philosophers tend to be well read only in their own academic specialisms, and not outside it.

As it happens also, although I have read widely in modern philosophy, I have read critically, and the modern philosophy I like (or indeed: can take seriously) is almost always of the analytical, scientific and realistic kind, since only that kind of modern philosophy may hope to escape Hume's severe judgment that most philosophy is little better than sophistries and illusions, that are designed to make life seem bearable or worthwile, rather than being designed to further finding the truth about things.

So here is a brief list of good philosophical texts in English, followed by some explanations why I think they are good and deserve reading.

I'll list them in the order from introductory to demanding, and give summaries below [6]:

1. Nagel & Cohen: Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method

This is an introductory university text for beginning students and interested laymen that dates back to the 1930ies, and that has been published and republished in various formats until, at least, the 1970ies. The edition I mean is the full edition, that gives a readable and basic if today also somewhat old-fashioned introduction to logic and philosophy of science, including the foundations of probability theory and statistics.

It is in some ways definitely out of date, but it does give a good and clear introduction to realistic, analytical and scientific philosophy, without being partial or excessively formal, and it also does a good job of relating philosophy to science and to daily life.

2. Klaus & Kuntz: Philosophy: The Study of Alternative Beliefs

Klaus & Kuntz is another introductory university text for beginning students of philosophy, and has the merits of being clear, fair and well done. Like Nagel & Cohen it will not impose logical or mathematical technicalities on you, and it also does a good job of relating philosophy to science and to daily life.

Overall, this seems to me to be the best introduction to philosophy in one volume that I have read, especially because of its clarity, fairness and scope.

3. Russell: History of Western Philosophy

Russell's History of Western Philosophy is reputed to be partial (to Russell and to analytical philosophy), unscholarly (Russell didn't know Greek) and superficial (less than a 1000 pages), but it has the great merits of being well-written, easily readable, being the only introduction to philosophy or its history that made me laugh, and to do its job, namely to give a survey of Western philosophy in one book, by one mind, quite well.

There are better systematic introductions to the subject, but they are not better written or more readable, and if all you want is a readable and adequate survey of the field, this is a fine text.

4. Russell: Human Knowledge - Its scope and its limits

Russell's Human Knowledge - Its Scope and Limits, in fact was his last serious book about philosophy, and was not well received, because it did not fit in well or at all with the dominant philosophical schools at the time, which were forms of fairly crude but very pretentions neo-positivism or linguistic philosophy.

Also, later this text was not widely read, because it was considered old-fashioned, mistaken, or not of the right neo-positivist (empirical) or linguistic kind, but it seems to me a good and interesting statement and discussion of its subject, written by a philosopher who, unlike most modern philosophers, could write and who did know science.

So far, the books I have been mentioning and commenting were (mostly) introductory texts. The same holds for the following two, except that these are a little more demanding, especially as regards mathematics

5. Hawkins: The Language of Nature

Hawkins' book is a very fine text on philosophy of science and its relation to mathematics. It was written by someone who was neither a professional philosopher nor a professional mathematician, but who was also, according to Stanislav Ulam, who was a great mathematician, "the best amateur mathematician I know". In result, the book is a lot better than most books by "real" (that is "professional") philosophers of science or mathematicians on the subject.

It also is well-written and clear, and the only setback I can think of is that it may require some interest and knowledge of mathematics to savour and comprehend it fully.

6. Toraldo di Franca: The investigation of the physical world

Toraldo di Franca's book is a fine text that is mostly about the philosophies of science and of physics, that was written by an Italian physicist. It has the merits of being very clear and of discussing rather a lot of the fundamental ideas of physics quite sensibly and the only setback I can think of is that it may require some interest and knowledge of mathematics to understand all of it.

7. Broad: The Mind and its Place in Nature

Broad's text is probably still the best introduction to its subject - philosophy of mind - in one book, although it dates back to the 1920ies. It was written by a very capable English philosopher, who also had good groundings in mathematics and science, and who wrote very clearly and fairly.

If the book has a setback (besides not referring to literature written after it), it may be that it is an impressively fat tome, but that setback is balanced by Broad's excellent common sense and very readable and clear style. If you are interested in the subject at all (also if you are not a philosopher), this is a text you should read.

8. Burtt: The metaphysical foundations of modern science

Burtt wrote a number of books relating to philosophy and religion that are all worth reading, because he had a fine mind, a clear style, and a fair manner of exposition, but the book I name is the book that made him well-known, and deservedly so.

The book discusses, with many quotations, especially the precursors of Newton in England, and makes many points relating to the philosophies of science and of physics that tend to be not discussed in other texts relating to these subjects. It really clarifies the subject of its title, and if it has a setback it must be that it discusses the contributions to philosophy of very interesting and able scientific men like Boyle that are not often discussed in philosophy texts.

I have finally arrived at the last two texts, and these differ from the ones I have mentioned so far in at least four important respects:

  • First, these are not single books, but collections of books with the same title and subject, of which the number depends on the edition one uses.
  • Second, these are texts that are mostly addressed to specialists, notably philosophers of science, mathematicians, and physicists.
  • Third, these texts require some minimal grounding and abilities in mathematics and logic (though especially Stegmueller's texts explain a considerable amount of this quite well).
  • Fourth, these texts treat a lot of material, in a somewhat encyclopedic way, and indeed are meant to be handbooks of some kind, where one can find many fundamentals of many subjects.

9. Stegmueller: Probleme und Resultaten der analytischen und Wissenschaftsphilosophie

Stegmueller - the title means: Problems and results of analytical philosophy and philosophy of science - I only know in German and in the form of rather a lot of paperbound so-called Studienausgabe, but it seems to have been originally in four thick clothbound volumes, that also have been translated into English. It has the great merits of being an excellent summary of and introduction to its subjects, and it also gives a fine survey of it, and explains a lot about the foundations of logic and probability, that tend to be difficult to find elsewhere.

Of all the texts I mention in this piece, this is the most scholarly, the longest, and the most technical, but it also teaches its readers a lot about many things. The only setbacks I can think of are that, taken together, it is a lot of text, if one reads all, although that is not at all necessary, for the volumes can be mostly read independently; that it is quite thorough, which has the advantage of explaining lots of things quite well that other texts don't explain at all (especially as regards logic, probability and statistics); and that it is written in scholarly German, which in this case means that it usually is quite clear but normally is not exhilirating reading.

However... if you really want to learn about the foundations of philosophy, science, mathematics, logic, probability theory or statistics, this is the text to turn to, for it explains much of this really well, and also with full references.

10. Bunge: Treatise on Basic Philosophy

Bunge is an Argentinian theoretical physicist and philosopher, of a pronounced realistic and scientific bend in philosophy, that I like a lot. He wrote many books, that also are recommendable, but his main work in philosophy is bound to be the text I mentioned, which comes in some ten paperback volumes (as I have them), and fundamentally states his own philosophy, which is realistic, scientific, strongly related to physics, and very informed about science and physics.

I like Bunge's Treatise a lot, but I am aware of the setbacks: One must know something about both science and philosophy to appreciate them; taken collectively, it is a lot of text; it is - unavoidably so - somewhat dogmatic in parts; and it contains printing mistakes, especially in formulas; and to understand it (and correct the printing mistakes) one needs a fairly good grounding in logic and mathematics (for which see Stegmueller).

On the other hand, it is a relief to read a knowledgeable and bright physicist about science and philosophy, rather than a dimwitted and pretentious philosopher, and it gives a lot of background, general ideas, summaries, points of view, and clearly stated principles and assumptions, that also seem mostly sound and sensible to me, also if I did not quite agree. And no other twentieth century philosopher I know of did something like this, on Bunge's scale, with his thoroughness - to which it may be added that he also has the merit of writing a clear and readable English.

Summing up: The above gives a list of useful, interesting, generally well written books about philosophy, all written in the 20th Century, all well worth reading, all informed, that ought to keep you from the streets for half a year at least, if you were to decide to read them all, and spend most of your time on them, and work through them all.

I did so myself, but not in half a year, and not consecutively, but in the course of some 45 years of reading in and around philosophy and science. Much of what I think I have learned about these subjects is to be found somewhere in these books, usually well explained and with clear references.

So... if you really want to acquire some philosophical knowledge and competence, I have herewith sketched a path towards it, and my final recommendations of the path I indicated is that none of the above books was written by a narrow specialist or for narrow specialists; all are at least tolerably well written; all will teach you things you did not know before; while the general sum-up of all is that real philosophy - the trying to solve or clarify fundamental problems - is these days mostly done by real scientists or real mathematicians, and not by academic philosophers. 

And for those who really want to know: There is more on lines like the above in my Review of Books relating to philosophy in my Philosophical Dictionary, with a discussion of 20th-Century philosophers and their books in Books - 20th C.   

For psychologists and psychiatrists: If you do not know at least the full text of Wolfgang Stegmüller's (the link is to the Wikipedia article on him) and his co-workers great 4-volume work (also available in quite a few socalled "Studienausgabe", following below with their original dates of publication and their German titles, my position is that you are not really qualified, not really competent, and in fact are bullshitting anyone you lecture on the foundations of psychology or psychiatry:

  • Probleme und Resultate der Wissenschafttheorie und Analytischen Philosophie
    • Band I, Erklärung-Begründung-Kausalität, 1983
    • Band II, Theorie und Erfahrung, 1974
      • 1. Teilband: Theorie und Erfahrung, 1974
      • 2. Teilband: Theorienstrukturen und Theoriendynamik, 1985
      • 3. Teilband: Die Entwicklung des neuen Strukturalismus seit 1973, 1986
    • Band III, Strukturtypen der Logik,1984
    • Band IV, Personelle und statistische Wahrscheinlichkeit, 1973
      • 1. Halbband: Personelle Wahrscheinlichkeit und rationale Entscheidung, 1973
      • 2. Halbband: Statistisches Schließen - Statistische Begründung - Statistische Analyse, 1973
  • I should add that I have read myself all or nearly all of this, and in the form of the Studienausgäbe. Also, I should add that (1) I have heard it said repeatedly - last century, to be sure - this work had been or was being translated, but I cannot find it (2) I have some later editions than those listed (3) volumes III and IV were made in cooperation with others.

    Anyway: These volumes contain and explain the sort of thinking one should know if one wants to or pretends to discuss science and its foundations rationally.

    3. Some links about psychiatry

    I have had a very low opinion of psychiatry ever since I bought and read, when 17, Patrick Mullahy's "Oedipus - myth and complex" - which is, as it happens, a capable introduction to the main schools of psychiatry that existed up to the 1960ies.

    My main two reasons to rapidly develop a very low opinion of psychiatry were that at 17 I still could recall my childhood very well, and I could verify none of the attributions Freud and other psychiatrists made to me and anyone else, and that I then also was quite capable of logical and rational thought, and found that most that I read in Mullahy was neither logical nor rational in my opinion - that I later found very strongly confirmed, both in the academic study of psychology and the academic study of philosophy.

    To outline what I learned later, over and above what is already in the present text, goes beyond the limits I have set myself now, but since this started in fact in my abhorrence with the DSM-5 - and see (for example) [7]

    I limit myself to some links to work by Richard Webster, who wrote i.a. "Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis (Revised edition, Harper Collins 1996"):

    • Hysteria, medicine and misdiagnosis
    • Freud, Charcot and hysteria: lost in the labyrinth
      (especially interesting if you've ME)

    There is more interesting stuff about psychiatry in the links. Also good, in various respects also, is Robert T. Carroll's the Skeptic's Dictionary

    • Freudian psychoanalysis (in the Skeptic Dictionary)

      (Opening paragraph, first - pictorial - link added:)

      Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is considered the father of psychoanalysis, which may be the granddaddy of all pseudoscientific psychotherapies, second only to Scientology as the champion purveyor of false and misleading claims about the mind, mental health, and mental illness.  For example, in psychoanalysis schizophrenia and depression are not brain disorders, but narcissistic disorders. Autism and other brain disorders are not brain problems but mothering problems. These illnesses do not require pharmacological or behavioral treatment. They require only "talk" therapy. Similar positions are taken for anorexia nervosa and Tourette's syndrome (Hines 1990: 136). What is the scientific evidence for the psychoanalytic view of these mental illnesses and their proper treatment? There is none. (Skeptic Dictionary) [8]
    • Phil Parker Lightning ProcessTM   (in the Skeptic Dictionary)
      "His core principal [sic] is that people are geniuses with amazing skills, qualities and talents, and he hopes he can help as many people as possible to find that out about themselves. You can get Phil's latest thoughts, self-help tools and videos for free from his podcast, blog, twitter and Facebook sites." (LP site on PP) [9]

           See also:
           - Radboud Ziekenhuis Nijmegen - Natural Home of the
             - Get your whee-whees cuddled...

           - Of Bees, of Johnson, of Brain Tapping and more
           - Dr. Esther Crawley is a genius 
    • (New Age) psychotherapies (in the Skeptic Dictionary)

      "What is ˜be-ing™? It™s very simple - almost too simple; it's just what it appears to be - it™s just be-ing - it™s the place present just before thought, a place of stillness and peace that spiritual practitioners (and philosophers) assert is who we really are - a place of grace. When we are just be-ing in the moment things come naturally, things they flow more..If you™re an athlete and you inhabit be-ing you™re a star if you're unhealthy and you inhabit being - you are at peace." (Cort Johnson) [10]

            See also:
      Be your Be-ing for hav-ing Wellness - Cort's Whee-Whee

    Anyway.... here is the brief general formulaic description of Fraudian psychoanalysis, Charcotian bogosity, Breuerian delusions and posturing AND Reeves, Wessely's and Bleijenberg's lies, postures and fraudulence:

    Charcot eventually came to the conclusion that many of his patients were suffering from a form of hysteria which had been induced by their emotional response to a traumatic accident in their past such as a fall from a scaffold or a railway crash. They suffered, in his view, not from the physical effects of the accident, but from the idea they had formed of it. 

    Freud was immensely impressed by Charcot's work on traumatic hysteria and took from it the notion that one of the principal forms of neurosis came about when a traumatic experience led to process of unconscious symptom-formation....
       (Richard Webster, on Freud and Charcot)

    They called it over the past 130 years "hysteria", neurasthenia, "conversion disorder", "psychosomatic", "somatisation disorder", "complex" or "simple somatisation disorder", but the intellectual and moral schema is every time precisely the same psychiatric scam:

    "We psychiatrists can't explain it, so therefore you patients 
      must be making it up

    The reason psychiatrists and psychotherapists say so and have said so is that they are dishonest, pretentious, out for money, and far less interested in your well being than they publicly claim they are; the reason psychiatrists and psycho- therapists can get away with it is the same as religious scams are so often succesful: Mundus vult decipi, especially where they fear things about which they are ignorant. [11]

    Finally, there are good psychologists and psychiatrists, as there are good people: In a minority, and often discriminated. One way to recognize them by is that while they are clearly more intelligent and erudite than most, they also do not pretend knowledge they have not and indeed cannot have, the state of science being what it is. [12]

    And see my A realistic numerical look at human morality + 12 references.

    P.S.  Corrections have to be made later. And the short summary is: You can not trust psychiatrists or psychologists who lack a demonstrable ready knowledge of philosophy of science and mathematics - especially not if they make money from you, or expound their pseudoscience to the public, 'educated' or not.

    And if they have not read Stegmueller, or something comparable (which there isn't, in four volumes, of that level of preciseness and clarity), you can be morally certain they are bullshitting you or deluding themselves - and the more intelligent ones are certainly bullshitting you, if only because it is not that difficult to see through and because they do make fine well paying careers with it.

    And this also applies to the editors of the DSM-5: Frauds like Freud, I must conclude, having considered the evidence of his and their published work.


    August 14, 2015: That was the essay On natural philosophy, philosophy of science and psychiatry that I did read through today, and left almost totally unchanged, apart from the twelve notes you find below.

    In case you want to read more about psychiatry, see note [7] below, and try these two fairly long but thorough articles I wrote in 2012:

    Finally, here are the two reasons why so very many psychologists, psychiatrists and other intellectuals are so dishonest: First, very few are genuinely competent and interesting scientists, and second, they all make money by pretending to know a lot more than they do know, to naive folks who pay them considerable amounts of money to learn things or to get some kind of help from them.

    Note on the following Notes: The notes between "[" and "]" are all of August 2015. The reason to add them is that the original essay is from 2011, and some things have changed meanwhile.


    [1] Richard Webster (<- Wikipedia) meanwhile has died. It is a considerable pity because he was a rational and fair-minded man, who could write, and who died at a younger age than I have reached. Happily, his website still exists, and is very well worth reading.

    [2] This did not happen (of course): Organizations that serve ends that are
    not rational, not moral, not scientific and not honest have a much larger chance of surviving and prosperting in our fine Western society than rational, moral, scientific and honest organizations, though these exist as well, I am glad to say (usually with less money, is also true). Then again, the APA - the American Psychiatric Association: there are quite a few other APAs - is certainly less popular than it was around 2011, and I suppose it also has (again) fewer members, for these days it doesn't list the number of its members. (My guess: around 30.000, but that is just my guess.)

    [3] Those who do know 20th century philosophy reasonably well, know that
    I stopped around 1940 or 1950. Since 1950 - say - there have been quite a large number of academic philosophers, but upon the whole it seems very little of their work has reached the general public (in part also because it was technical, i.e. included logic or mathematics), nor indeed other disciplines.

    Here are a few names that may be known in 50 or 100 years: W.V.O. Quine, Hillary Putnam, Nelson Goodman, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, Raymond Smullyan, Richard Jeffreys, and D.M. Armstrong. There are many more, but I guess most will not be known in 50 years from now (other than to a few academic specialists) and indeed those I listed, I listed in the order they seem to be known. Also, I did not list some - Lesniewski, Tarski, Beth and others - who mainly worked in logic or mathematics.

    [4] This is still the case: None of the human experiences I mentioned has any decent rational explanation. Also, I am saying so on the basis of over 45 years of reading in psychology and philosophy.

    O, and here is a remark on so-called "cognitive science", here mostly taken to be the study of human beings with the help of computers: This may and quite probably will - if there are humans who do science - lead to interesting results,
    but meanwhile, with no computer being able to do as much as a small part of the repertoire that makes a spider a spider (spinning webs, catching prey etc.) and no one having good ideas about how to realize this, I remain skeptical. (And I can program at least reasonably well in at least 7 programming languages.)

    [5] Please note this covers probabilities as follows: "it is true that the probabiity of throwing heads with a fair coin is 1/2"; "it is true that only 1 in 50
    has an IQ of 130 or higher" etc. etc.

    [6] As it happens, I own all these books (some for 45 years or more). I do not know whether you can get all of them from a good library (especially the items 2 and 5 may be troublesome), but my guess is that you still can get nearly all from a good library. (And note the last two items on the list in fact are quite a few books.)

    [7] The list that follows is in fact restricted to items I wrote in 2010 and 2011. In case you are interested: There are quite a few more, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 and even in 2015. The last links are to the indexes for these years in Nederlog, where you can find them using "psychiatry". In case you are interested, one you shouldn't miss is
    DSM-5: Thomas Szasz's ideas about psychiatry from 2012: You will find that I agree with Szasz on quite a few things, but that I disagree as well, also on quite a few things. And this is a fairly long review of his ideas.

    [8] In brief, Freud was a fraud, and not a small one - and see the Skeptic Dictionary for more. (Incidentally, most modern psychiatrists seem to agree, although they may not be as clear. Then again, agreeing that Freud did not know what he claimed to know does not mean modern psychiatrists know what they claim to know.)

    [9] As to the worthies dealt with in this section: I briefly checked them out in August of 2015, and found there is hardly any news about Parker and Crawley, though both are still active; Jos van der Meer and his clinical psychologist friend have both meanwhile been pensioned and are silent; while Cort Johnson removed himself quite suddenly from Phoenix Rising some years ago (the reasons are kept secret) and started his own site.

    [10] These are the authentic words of Cort Johnson, who planned a series. I think I may have stopped that completely, after reacting to this first piece of utter nonsense.

    [11] I have read literal claims by several psychiatrists that they could explain anything that was not in a medical dictionary as a recognized disease: Then - these psychiatrists claim - this must be a delusion of the patient. That is definite
    bullshit that in fact presumes everything that is to be known medically, in fact is known now, which is a complete delusion. Then again, part of the reason that psychiatrists are so dishonest is that the public is - for the greatest part - so trusting (and ignorant).

    [12] I can name several, both in psychology and in psychiatry. But while they exist, this does not mean that "therefore" psychology or psychiatry are scientific (or moral, or anything). It merely means that there are in these disciplines a few who did make a degree and who are (somewhat) honest and intelligent. Indeed,
    I am one of them, and one reason I am more honest than most is that I literally
    never made even one cent with my - extremely good - M.A. in psychology, which I didn't because I know since 1980 that psychology is not a science (<- see this article by Paul Lutus, who explains this well); I only got an M.A. in psychology after having been thrown out of the faculty of philosophy briefly before taking my M.A. there; and anyway I am and was ill since 1.1.1979.

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