Hippocratic Oath for Philosophers

Based on Paul Willmott’s modeler’s version of a hippocratic oath:

I will remember that I didn’t make the world, and that it doesn’t conform to the simplistic ideas I have of it.

I recognize that what I find conceivable has no bearing on what is true.

Though I will use arguments boldly to grasp reality, I will not be overly impressed by intuition.

I vow not to corrupt the young, even if they have to take a class with me.

I will never sacrifice reality for elegance without at least three a priori justifications.

Nor will I give students who have to sit through my lectures false comfort about the scope of my ideas. Instead, I will make explicit their biases and oversights.

I understand that my work may not have any relevance to anyone’s life, and I humbly accept this fact.


Filed under Humour

5 responses to “Hippocratic Oath for Philosophers

  1. Hans

    FYI, I didn’t make up my version, it came from a guy named Paul Wilmott. I like yours though.

    • Hans–
      Thanks for the clarification. If only I would have read your page more carefully, I should have known… 🙂 I have made the corresponding change.

  2. This is excellent. Of course, your Kantians, etc. may revolt if you restrict their unbridled appeals to intuition… 😉

  3. Hans

    Take out the math, and what I know about philosophy could fit into one undergrad class. In fact, it did fit.

    But as a statistician, I will comment on sacrificing reality for elegance. Because that is basically my job description.

    Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you start with perfect reality, and trade bits of it for elegance. All models start with sacrifices that would sound impossibly huge, were you to fully describe them to an untrained audience. Yet with all your training, you may forget that they are there in every model you have ever used. And often enough, you are going the other direction – losing bits of elegance to add in some bit of reality.

    At least that’s how it works in my field.

    • Thanks, Hans, for your thoughts. I left this part of the Oath unchanged (at least the first clause) because I believe it also to be pertinent for philosophers. It is only too often that elegance takes precedence over reality… For us, too, we often start with a very elegant and simple thought, and then reluctantly add bells and whistles to accommodate at least a glimpse of reality!

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