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Error: "Doctor, It Hurts Here, And Here, And Here!"

Getting ready for intellectual labor

1) Introduction

You've probably heard the joke about the Blonde who bursts into the doctor's office, in a state of total panic, and screams: "Doctor, Doctor! I must have a horrible disease: I feel pain here (while putting her finger on her head), and here (while putting her finger on her arm), and here (while putting her finger on her knee)".

The doctor calmly grabs the Blonde's hand and says: "You have a broken fingernail".

2) A problem with the General Science will have consequences on all Particular Sciences

We can laugh at that Blonde with the broken fingernail, who believes her head, her arm and her knee are sick. But a similar problem occurs in more intellectual matters. In order to understand this, remember that Philosophy is also called "the General Science". In other words, a "philosophical disease" will cause pain in many other locations, like Biology, or Jurisprudence, or Art, etc.

We can see symptoms of this when specialists get bogged down in apparently unsolvable general questions. For example, when artists start to argue about works of art, and one artist says: "Art is independent of Morality". At that moment, this artist is unconsciously putting his broken philosophical fingernail on Art, and saying "Ouch"! In other words, he is now stating a philosophical error, not an artistic statement. And the problem he has just raised cannot be solved with paintbrushes, or canvas, or drawing charcoal. It is a philosophical problem.

Another example is when physicists start arguing, and one of them states that: "Science is only concerned with things you find in a laboratory, i.e. statements about measurable facts". Here again, this scientist is putting his broken philosophical fingernail on Physics and saying "Ouch"! Think about it. Where in a laboratory can you observe through a microscope the statement: "Science only deals with measurable facts"? Maybe you could use a telescope and see that sentence written on a planet? No! In other words, this Physicist is stating a philosophical position, and an incorrect one at that.

A final example is when lawyers start arguing, and one of them says that: "Sticks and stones hurt bones, so we can make objective laws forbidding physical violence. But words can only be judged offensive subjectively, since what will appear offensive to one, will appear harmless to another. So all censorship is subjective and therefore bad." This lawyer is putting his broken philosophical fingernail on the Legal system, and saying "Ouch"! You need philosophical tools to solve his problem. No amount of wordsmithing, no amount of quotes from case law, no amount of decisions from the Supreme Court can help this lawyer.

3) Conclusion

Everybody agrees that you cannot solve plumbing problems with the tools of a dentist, or dental problems with the tools of a lumberjack, or forestry problems with the tools of a plumber. So if you say: "This is a philosophical problem, and it can only be solved with philosophical tools", most people will agree. But then they will immediately start saying things like Our senses deceive us, or All philosophers contradict each other, or Truth doesn't exist, etc.

That's OK. At least now you've grabbed their hand, and you can start working on that broken fingernail!

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