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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Four Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy


Isaac Newton is known as one of the most important philosophers and scientists within the Western World. His work Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy published in 1687 helped others understand the differences between science and magical thinking. The work put forward basic concepts that have ever since been part of scientific thinking. It is a process of weighing, comparing, measuring, reasoning, and philosophizing.

Rule 1: We are to admit no more causes of natural things that such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.

Confounding variables in research is not a beneficial event for furthering understanding. We sometimes have this natural propensity to become more complex, more theoretical, and abstract in our overall analysis. The more parsimonious the explanations the more likely it is to be correct. Researchers should seek the simple explanations first before become complex.

Rule 2: Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.

This is an integration of causes. When the same cause and effect is experienced in two different phenomenon there is likely to be a similar mechanism at play. Exploring and understanding these mechanisms and how they apply to different circumstances can lead one to understand more basic and fundamental principles of cause and effect.

Rule 3: The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intension nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever. 

When different bodies (i.e. organisms) share common principles they can be seen as similar. Analysis of these bodies may find an element that is present in all other properties. It is possible to think about how the ion spins around the atom, the atom spins around the object, the object spins around the earth, and the earth spins around the sun and the sun spins around the universe.  Gravity as an element is universal as far as we can understand.

Rule 4: In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.

Experimental research is a process. What we believe today may not be what we believe tomorrow. As new analysis information comes forward the principles by which we base science change to incorporate that information. Validity is created through repetition. When it is not repeated in similar circumstances new explanations are needed.

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