Why v How
My only point (in this thread was to demonstrate that) the scientific method generates answers to"how" questions. The "why" question is simply suigeneris and there is no value judgment wrapped up in making that distinction.
Concerning Azrael’s question, “why do we eat?” and sprinkles’ “why do stars glow?” questions, there seem to be a number of issuesat hand.
The first, as mentioned above, is that often the question“why” is simply the question, “what is the causal mechanism of such-and-such.” This does not immediately seem to apply to “why do we eat” but most certainly to “why do stars glow.” For example, cannot the second question be reworded thusly; “why does gravitationally induced hydrogen fusion emit light?” The answer is, “because gravitationally induced hydrogen fusion emits light.” There really is no “why” question here at all to speak of. If I’m missing something here, please help me out.
In the case of “why do we eat” I think we get into dasein or the lived experience of being. Why do we eat? Because we get hungry. Hunger is very familiar and self-evident experience. This seems to dive into themess of free will, making choices and otherwise contributing to one’s existential project. From here, we can go two ways; continue with “why” or realize that the “why” may merely (or conveniently make it) be “what is the causal mechanism of…” question in disguise. To stick with “why,” we can say something along the lines of, “I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten in a while.” This too can laps into either how the body produces energy or into a further existential reflection of “why haven’t I eaten in a while?” This “why” seems to get really out of control. This seems to be the case with chasing down the “why” answer to “why do we eat” as it explodes off into the infinite inter-connectedness of human existence. To sustain life? For pleasure? Because we’re being polite? Because it is evolutionarily advantageous? Seems infinite to me.
Hmmm… Take, “why is my sandwich here?” It seems that “why”pulls off into human volition (hunger, earning a living selling sandwiches, skill and tradition of baking bread, a pig farmer fattening up his pigs to make awesome bacon, the lumberjack that felled the hickory tree that smoked the bacon). Chasing the “how” chain does the same thing. The difference between the two is that “why” deals with lived human experiences and “how” deals with material causality (or at least I think so).
My other suspicion is that “why” questions are either tautologically absurd or simply redefine the question. Take gravity. Why does gravity pull things down? Is this even a fair question? Gravity is that which pulls things down. What does this question even mean??? Seems like “how” is our only option for a meaningful discussion. “Why do we eat”f alls into this trap too at times. Why do we eat? To sustain life? Why does eating sustain life? Because for mammals, life is sustained by taking in energy. At this point, we reach a dead end. That life needs energy seems to be the end of the line as it is definitional.
Concerning redefining, when we ask “why do we eat?” we seem to be secretly implying our answer by reinterpreting the original question. Why do we eat? In the series of variable options above, the answer suggests a contextual assumption that redefines the original question in our favor. The answer then is a very liberal and nearly artistic interpretation of the question. For example, “why do we eat when we are visiting grandma even though we’ve gorged ourselves already and are not hungry in the least?” Thus we answer, “to be polite.” That has far more to do with dasein again and the infinite web of the world that supports our query.
So, I will propose that “why” questions deal with further examining our own existential projects and our all-too-human ways of making sense of our world, whereas “how” questions rely on objectively identifying the causal mechanisms that animate a given phenomenon.