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Materialism is absurd

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Sculptor1
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Sculptor1 » June 12th, 2019, 2:50 pm

Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 1:15 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
June 10th, 2019, 6:02 am


If you want something that is absurd, you call everything the same thing. So black is white, white is black. Beware next time you cross the road.
You totally missed the point as usual. I didn't say that everything is the same, just that there are no known separations, divisions. Human thinking makes it seem like there are.
Pure nonsense.

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Atla » June 12th, 2019, 2:58 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:50 pm
Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 1:15 pm

You totally missed the point as usual. I didn't say that everything is the same, just that there are no known separations, divisions. Human thinking makes it seem like there are.
Pure nonsense.
Nah, you're just the average materialist who is stuck in the late 19th century scientific worldview (which was since then refuted by science).

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Consul
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Consul » June 12th, 2019, 3:59 pm

Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:26 pm
In other words you as a materialist argued that in human heads, something goes beyond the physical.
No, I'm arguing that something physical occurs in human and other animal heads/brains that doesn't occur anywhere else in the universe.
Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:26 pm
There is this mental subject there, capable of conscious vision, of undergoing subjective color-impressions.
Mental subjects are physical objects, viz. animal organisms.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Sculptor1
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Sculptor1 » June 12th, 2019, 4:11 pm

Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:58 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:50 pm


Pure nonsense.
Nah, you're just the average materialist who is stuck in the late 19th century scientific worldview (which was since then refuted by science).
You are a lost cause. Careful not to bump into that door on your way out since the door may not be distinguishable from the hole in your head.

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Consul
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Consul » June 12th, 2019, 5:03 pm

Consul wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 3:59 pm
No, I'm arguing that something physical occurs in human and other animal heads/brains that doesn't occur anywhere else in the universe.
One mustn't forget that…

"The human brain is the most complex entity we know of. It contains at least 90 billion neurons (nerve cells). Each of these is a complex information-processing device in its own right and interacts with about 1,000 other neurons. Understanding this degree of complexity is a daunting task."

(Seth, Anil, ed. 30-Second Brain. London: Icon Books, 2017. p. 6)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Sculptor1 » June 12th, 2019, 5:35 pm

Consul wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 5:03 pm
Consul wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 3:59 pm
No, I'm arguing that something physical occurs in human and other animal heads/brains that doesn't occur anywhere else in the universe.
One mustn't forget that…

"The human brain is the most complex entity we know of. It contains at least 90 billion neurons (nerve cells). Each of these is a complex information-processing device in its own right and interacts with about 1,000 other neurons. Understanding this degree of complexity is a daunting task."

(Seth, Anil, ed. 30-Second Brain. London: Icon Books, 2017. p. 6)
Materialism has given us those facts.
"Absurd" is just ridiculous.

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Bluemist
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Bluemist » June 12th, 2019, 9:01 pm

Tamminen wrote:
May 20th, 2019, 9:25 am
Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Materialism: a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter
“Everything is matter.” Who says so? I, the subject. And if there were no subject who says so, there would be no one for whom matter matters
I just don't understand this.
1) How can "physical matter" be the only or fundamental reality when physics, the real physics of mathematical physics, nowhere says what "matter" is?
2) If matter is not physical, then what is it?
2a) Is matter but a figment of our naïve metaphorical imagination attempting to give a name to what we imagine ought to be there to make some sense of our daily experience?
2b) Or, if matter is substantial then what is its substance?

Here, I won't even attempt to tackle "reality" or something worse, a "fundamental" reality. Nor the OP's attempt to steer towards the subjectivity of the I, or my private notions about the world.
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Felix » June 13th, 2019, 3:58 am

Bluemist: How can "physical matter" be the only or fundamental reality when physics, the real physics of mathematical physics, nowhere says what "matter" is?
That's true, physics doesn't really know what matter is, they're down to three levels of subatomic particles now, but parity is still absent, and they suspect they won't be able to see any deeper, the limit of visibility has been reached, which would mean their mathematical models could not be empirically verified.

But in simple terms, materialism deals with sensory objects. It's a funny thing how some people have more faith in the objects sensed than the being that is sensing them - might be a self esteem issue.
Bluemist: Or, if matter is substantial then what is its substance?
We may never know because, as I said, the answer may be beyond the sensory event horizon, and then metaphysics will come back in vogue. Out-a-sight, man!
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Bluemist » June 13th, 2019, 4:24 pm

Felix wrote:
June 13th, 2019, 3:58 am
materialism deals with sensory objects
In ancient philosophy there were at least two versions of materialism:

The first was what you mention, materialism arising from the senses.

Senses other than vision are rarely discussed. The sense of touch would be the most obvious case, as it gives rise to impenetrability of material things and Newton's law of action-reaction.

Vision, the primary sense used by Plato, leads to various paradoxes of seeming. These, Plato thought, are due to personal perspective of distance, the inconsistency of what is seen from different sides, and from change over time. If there were to be underlying material things, then things when looked at do not look constant and what is said of things cannot be said absolutely.

The second version is physicalism arising from physical theories about unobservable presumably underlying entities, relations, or motives. Examples of this were Pythagorean natural rationalism, Heraclitus's dynamicism, the atomic theories of Leucippus and Democritus, and Plato's geometric solids.

In modern philosophy materialism and physicalism are used interchangeably, as far as I can tell.
Arguments for materialism then shift back and forth from one to the other without making a distinction.

Unfortunately, our naïve sensibilities are materialistic of the first kind, which sympathetically disrupts critical judgment of any theory of materialism.
We don't think of biting into a juicy red conglomeration of molecules or quantum particles.
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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Consul » June 13th, 2019, 8:04 pm

Atla wrote:
June 12th, 2019, 2:58 pm
Nah, you're just the average materialist who is stuck in the late 19th century scientific worldview (which was since then refuted by science).
Well, the sophisticated contemporary materialist isn't stuck in obsolete premodern physics.

"The physicalist is the materialist who has learnt the lessons of twentieth-century physics. The most basic teaching of both relativity and quantum physics is that our intuitions are of no help in the scientific quest to understand the fundamental nature of matter. The world, as conceived by modern physics, both in its vastness, as described by astrophysics and cosmology, and in its minuteness, as revealed by the quantum-mechanical Standard Model of particle physics, is so strange, so immensely complex and difficult to grasp, that speculations based on ordinary ideas can contribute nothing to the painstaking practice of science."

(Brown, Robin Gordon, and James Ladyman. Materialism: A Historical and Philosophical Inquiry. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019. p. 121)

"I say 'materialistic' where some would rather say 'physicalistic': an adequate theory must be consistent with the truth and completeness of some theory in much the style of present-day physics. (…)
Some fear that 'materialism' conveys a commitment that this ultimate physics must be a physics of matter alone: no fields, no radiation, no causally active spacetime. Not so! Let us proclaim our solidarity with forebears who, like us, wanted their philosophy to agree with ultimate physics. Let us not chide and disown them for their less advanced ideas about what ultimate physics might say."


(Lewis, David. "Naming the Colours." In Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology, 332-358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. p. 332n2)

"[Materialism] was so named when the best physics of the day was the physics of matter alone. Now our best physics acknowledges other bearers of fundamental properties: parts of pervasive fields, parts of causally active spacetime. But it would be pedantry to change the name on that account, and disown our intellectual ancestors. Or worse, it would be a tacky marketing ploy, akin to British Rail's decree that second class passengers shall now be called 'standard class customers'."

(Lewis, David. "Reduction of Mind." In A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, edited by Samuel D. Guttenplan, 412-431. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. p. 413)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Consul » June 13th, 2019, 8:25 pm

Felix wrote:
June 11th, 2019, 6:51 pm
Consul: Metaphysical theorizing ought to be consistent with, informed and constrained by our empirical knowledge! Antiscientific metaphysics ought to be "committed to the flames"!
You'll have to also dispense with much of the metaphysical theorizing of modern physics on subjects such as particle physics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, that have not been empirically substantiated.
I don't want my statements to be read as indiscriminate metaphysics-bashing or -dissing. Thumbs up for metaphysics, because there's nothing wrong with metaphysical speculation per se! By "antiscientific metaphysics" I don't mean metaphysical theorizing in general but that particular sort which is out of touch with and doesn't care about what goes on in science.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by BigBango » June 13th, 2019, 11:45 pm

Consul wrote:
June 13th, 2019, 8:25 pm
Felix wrote:
June 11th, 2019, 6:51 pm
You'll have to also dispense with much of the metaphysical theorizing of modern physics on subjects such as particle physics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, that have not been empirically substantiated.
I don't want my statements to be read as indiscriminate metaphysics-bashing or -dissing. Thumbs up for metaphysics, because there's nothing wrong with metaphysical speculation per se! By "antiscientific metaphysics" I don't mean metaphysical theorizing in general but that particular sort which is out of touch with and doesn't care about what goes on in science.
Again, well said Consul. To Felix and Atla - modern physics is not wrong about particle physics, quantum mechanics and cosmology. While not wrong, it is simply too narrow. Modern physics is simply focusing on the nature of visible matter, that is, electro dynamically active matter. We must ask what about the nature of the other 90% of the mass of the universe?

I mean, QM has its problems because science tries to discover the nature of the world using instruments that are made of the same matter that they are observing. This narrowness of science's metaphysics should not just be discarded because it fails to answer all metaphysical questions. No, we must expand our horizons without dismissing what science has learned.

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Consul » June 14th, 2019, 1:54 pm

"Empiricism may be defined as the assertion 'all synthetic knowledge is based on experience'."

(Russell, Bertrand. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. 1948. Reprint, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009. p. 437)

"The stimulation of his sensory receptors is all the evidence anybody has had to go on, ultimately, in arriving at his picture of the world."

(Quine, W. V. "Epistemology Naturalized." In Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, 69-90. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. p. 75)

"From impacts on our sensory surfaces, we in our collective and cumulative creativity down the generations have projected our systematic theory of the external world."

(Quine, W. V. Pursuit of Truth. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. p. 1)

First of all, there is no sharp boundary between theoretical science and philosophy.

"Metaphysics is the conjectural end of science. Its ontological claims must be tested by general scientific plausibility. Plausibility is largely a matter of maximal coherence of our beliefs in the light of often recalcitrant experience: in other words not only must theoretical beliefs cohere with one another but they must cohere with beliefs derived from observation and experiment."

(Smart, J. J. C. "Methodology and Ontology." In Imre Lakatos and Theories of Scientific Change, edited by Kostas Gavroglu, Yorgos Goudaroulis, and Pantelis Nicolacopoulos, 47-57. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1989. p. 51)

"I regard metaphysics as continuous with science. Science gets metaphysical when it gets very general and controversial and relates itself also to humanistic and other non-typically scientific concerns. A criterion for metaphysical truth is plausibility in the light of total science."

(Smart, J. J. C. "Physicalism and Emergence." 1982. In Essays Metaphysical and Moral: Selected Philosophical Papers, 246-255. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987. p. 248)

The epistemic foundation of empirical science are observations (sensory perceptions) and sentences describing these—observation sentences (Quine), protocol sentences (Neurath), basic sentences (Popper). The body of basic empirical knowledge is extended by means of logical inferences therefrom, there being three main sorts of inference:

"In a deductively valid inference, it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. In an inductively strong inference, it is improbable (to some degree) that the conclusion is false given that the premises are true. In an abductively weighty inference, it is implausible that the premises are true and the conclusion is false. The abductive type of inference tends to be the weakest of the three kinds."

(Walton, Douglas N. "Abductive, Presumptive and Plausible Arguments." Informal Logic 21/2 (2001): 141-169. p. 143)

Assertions, assumptions, or beliefs (synthetic ones) are purely metaphysical or freely "metempirical" (George Lewes' term—see below!) when there is no (actual or possible) empirical justification, no (actual or possible) empirical confirmation or disconfirmation (refutation) of them in terms of observational data or logical inferences therefrom. That is, (asserted or believed) propositions which aren't conclusions of any deductively valid, inductively strong, or abductively weighty argument with some empirical, observation-based premises are totally metaphysical or metempirical. What then remains is "anarchic" or "wild", i.e. empirically unconstrained and uncontrolled, philosophizing that is mere speculation or pure conjecture lacking scientific certainty, probability, or plausibility.


"Speculation is seeing with the mind's eye what is not present to Sense or to Intuition. It is ideal construction, and begins with conjecture,—too often, alas! ending where it began." (p. 27)

"…is it not obvious that he quits the ground of Experience to enter on that region where all sensible data and all verifiable inferences vanish? His conjectures on this point may be approximately right or absurdly wrong; no possible means of determining whether they are right or wrong exist." (p. 28)

"The speculative begins where the positive ends; and where the speculative quits the ground of Sense and Verification, the region of the metempirical begins. It is possible to move securely on the ground of Speculation so long as we carefully pick our way, and consider each position insecure till what was merely probable becomes proven. But in the metempirical region we have not even probability as a guide; it is a morass of uncertainty where all footing yields and all tests fail. In this region, conjectures, however fantastic, are as valid as conceptions which seem rational. They maintain their ascendency over the mind which has once admitted them, because being, by the nature of the case, incapable of proof, they are incapable of refutation; they never approach near enough to the truths of Experience for us to show how widely they diverge from or contradict it. Whenever a question is couched in terms that ignore Experience, reject known truths, and invoke inaccessible data,—i.e. data inaccessible through our present means, or through any conceivable extension of those means,—it is metempirical, and Philosophy can have nothing to do with it." (pp. 29-30)

"By way of preliminary I will ask permission to coin a term that will clearly designate the aspect of Metaphysics which renders the inquiry objectionable to scientific thinkers, no less than to ordinary minds, because it implies a disregard of experience; by isolating this aspect in a technical term we may rescue the other aspect which is acceptable to all. The word Metaphysics is a very old one, and in the course of its history has indicated many very different things. To the vulgar it now stands for whatever is speculative, subtle, abstract, remote from ordinary apprehension; and the pursuit of its inquiries is secretly regarded as an eccentricity, or even a mild form of insanity. To the cultivated it sometimes means Scholastic Ontology, sometimes Psychology, pursued independently of Biology, and sometimes, though more rarely, the highest generalizations of Physics. In spite of this laxity in its use, the term is so good a term, and has had godfathers so illustrious, that if possible it ought to be preserved. And it may be preserved if we separate it from its Method, and understand it in its primitive sense as ta meta ta physika, that which comes after Physics, and embraces the ultimate generalizations of Research. It thus becomes a term for the science of the most general conceptions. This is the Aristotelian view of it, adapted to modern thought. It is also in accordance with the scheme of Bacon, which represents Philosophy as a pyramid, having the history of Nature for its basis, an account of the powers and principles which operate in Nature (Physics) for its second stage, and an apex of formal and final causes (Metaphysics) for the third stage. Let us only modify the Baconian conception by substituting "the highest generalization of Research," in lieu of the "formal and final causes," and we have a grand province to bear the ancient name.

But what is implied in this arrangement? That since we are to rise to Metaphysics through Science, we must never forsake the Method of Science; and further that, if in conformity with inductive principles we are never to invoke aid from any higher source than Experience, we must perforce discard all inquiries whatever which transcend the ascertained or ascertainable data of Experience. Hence the necessity for a new word which will clearly designate this discarded remainder,—a word which must characterize the nature of the inquiries rejected. If then the Empirical designates the province we include within the range of Science, the province we exclude may fitly be styled the Metempirical.

The terms Empiricism, Empiricist, Empirical, although commonly employed by metaphysicians with contempt, to mark a mode of investigation which admits no higher source than Experience (by them often unwarrantably restricted to Sensation), may be accepted without demur, since even the flavor of contempt only serves to emphasize the distinction, There will perhaps be an equivalent contempt in the minds of positive thinkers attaching to the term Metempirical; but since this term is the exact correlative of Empirical, and designates whatever lies beyond the limits of possible Experience, it characterizes inquiries which one class regards as vain and futile, another as exalted above mere scientific procedure. Nor is this the only advantage of the term; it also detaches from Metaphysics a vast range of insoluble problems, leaving behind it only such as are soluble.

Thus whatever conceptions can be reached through logical extensions of experience, and can be shown to be conformable with it, are legitimate products, capable of being used as principles for further research. On the contrary, whatever lies beyond the limits of Experience, and claims another origin than that of Induction and Deduction from established data, is illegitimate. It can never become a principle of research, but only an object of infertile debate. The metempirical region is the void where Speculation roams unchecked, where Sense has no footing, where experiment can exercise no control and where Calculation ends in Impossible Quantities. In short, Physics and Metaphysics deal with things and their relations, as these are known to us, and as they are believed to exist in our universe; Metempirics sweeps out of this region in search of the otherness of things: seeking to behold things, not as they are in our universe,—not as they are to us,—it substitutes for the ideal constructions of Science the ideal constructions of Imagination."
(pp. 14-6)

"Whether the object of research be Nature, Man, or Society in general, or some special group of their phenomena, we always find it presenting three aspects: 1, the positive or known; 2, the speculative or unknown though knowable; 3, the unknowable. The two first are empirical; the third is metempirical. The two first rest either, 1, on direct Sensation and verified Inference, or, 2, on Intuition and logical deductions from Intuition, which are verifiable by direct or indirect reduction to Sensation. The third rests on no such bases, and is therefore distinguishable from the two former in kind, not simply in degree." (pp. 26-7)

"There is then a rational and an irrational Ontology, and empirical and a metempirical Metaphysics. It is wholly a question of the manner in which the abstractions are formed, and not of the degree of abstractness." (p. 61)

"[W]e may say that understanding by Ontology the science of the abstract laws of Being, it is the science of those highest generalities which emerge from the study of Things, and there can be no difference between Science and Metaphysics except in the degree of generality. In other words, every science has its metaphysic; and our definition of empirical Metaphysics (we recognize no other) will be 'the science of the most general principles'." (p. 62)

(Lewes, George Henry. Problems of Life and Mind: First Series; The Foundations of a Creed, Vol. I. Boston: J. R. Osgood & Co., 1874.)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Thomyum2 » June 14th, 2019, 5:11 pm

Consul wrote:
June 14th, 2019, 1:54 pm
"Empiricism may be defined as the assertion 'all synthetic knowledge is based on experience'."

(Russell, Bertrand. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. 1948. Reprint, Abingdon: Routledge, 2009. p. 437)
So I think here is the gist of the problem - if we accept that knowledge is based on experience, then the question that naturally follows is 'whose experience?' Each of us is too limited to be able to individually experience the universe in all its aspects, so we have to rely on each other and form consensus in order to have knowledge.

I think of the analogy of the three blind men and the elephant, with each man experiencing a different aspect of the elephant and describing it in a different way. The reality of the elephant is different to different experiences. So the scientific theory in this analogy is the theory that comes up with a model or an explanation of what the elephant really is, and subjects it to tests empirical verification that all of the blind men can perform, so that then they can come to an agreement on what exactly a 'real' elephant is. As Stephen Hawking put it in The Grand Design, "when such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth." So reality or truth is not something a quality of an object in the world, but rather quality that we assign to it based on our way of understanding that it is reliable in predicting or explaining experiences. In other words, we call it real because it works for us. I see the role of science as a way to form a consensus, to allow us to resolve the contradictions of having multiple experiences of what we think must be a single reality, a single truth. But as history has shown us, many things work for a time until they don't work any more and we have to change our way of understanding what is around us, and we have no way of knowing what our future holds. So in a nutshell, and referring back to the original post's question, I think that is the problem with materialism - if matter is 'the only fundamental reality', it is because we have given it that quality, not because we have discovered that is has such.

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Re: Materialism is absurd

Post by Bluemist » June 14th, 2019, 10:44 pm

Thomyum2 wrote:
June 14th, 2019, 5:11 pm
if we accept that knowledge is based on experience, then the question that naturally follows is 'whose experience?' Each of us is too limited to be able to individually experience the universe in all its aspects, so we have to rely on each other and form consensus in order to have knowledge.
You are approaching philosophy from several scientific points of view. One issue there is that neither philosophers nor scientists understand the language, presumptions, or methods of the other. From the philosopher's point of view which I take here, it is obvious that the scientists, by-and-large, in the great majority of cases, are talking philosophical nonsense, that is, scientists think they are saying something philosophical but they are not.

Hawking was a fine example for this thesis. Hawking was a brilliant mathematical theoretical physicist, a venerated applied mathematician. His background in that field was of no value whatsoever for what he proposed to be an answer to the philosophical question "What is reality?" We can't really tell whether Hawking is referring to what ordinary people think they mean by reality, or what philosophers propose for a technical term of their own making, or whether Hawking is defining his own term from his mathematician's perspective. I would guess without further research that he was a Platonic realist of sorts, where particularly useful objects of mathematics are taken to be 'real' and even fundamental. Like Plato's solids made of geometric triangles.

Science has at least three traditional branches. 1) The first arises from personal experience generalized by induction. This one we know to be useful for initiating hypotheses but otherwise of scientifically limited value. 2) Socratic dialectic which attempts to reach a consensus of experts. This is the one used in modern science by theoreticians when arbitrating 'facts' in their specialties in meetings, conventions, and conferences. That's how we know, for example, the conventional number of planets. 3) Theoretical logical science, including mathematics, and mathematical physics.

Another modern version is 4) Observational science practiced in laboratories, and observatories strictly with instruments of sorts, making them repeatable and not subjective. This is science's answer to your question "whose experience?"
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