Monthly Archives: October 2012

Equal Opportunity via Philosophy

There is much talk about bringing equality to females and minorities, that is, providing equal footing and a fair chance to all.  I hear a number of claims about what the problems are, and some of these have studies to support them.  Many of them boggle my mind, because they don’t correspond to my personal experience, not that my experience is exhaustive by any means.  I have given a bit of thought to all of this, and I find it likely that there are many destabilizing factors that need accounting for, before the envisaged can be achieved.  To present my case and line of thought, maybe I can supply an anecdote, and provide some commentary, and go from there. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Personal, Philosophy

On Whether We Should Fund String Theory Research

In my more ignorant days, that is, my early days as an undergraduate student of physics, I would say that string theory doesn’t deserve to be funded.  In fact, I would have said it wasn’t really physics, or at least that nobody have proved that string theory was physics to me.  That has changed.  No, my actual view of string theory vis-à-vis physics has not changed; but what has, is my view of the relationship between all of the human endeavors to understand the world, or, more broadly, “what is the case” —even what might be the case.  This change has come about as a direct result of my studies of philosophy and, really, my understanding of how the human condition, in its healthiest state, is heavily embedded in the process called the “liberal arts.” Continue reading

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Filed under Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Popular Science

“…the Last Person You Want in the Room Is a Philosopher.”

I recently attended a great lecture sponsored by IU Bloomington’s Center for the Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities.  The lecture was given by a very intelligent and insightful scholar, Laurence Hemming, who has a book coming out, called Heidegger and Marx: A Productive Dialogue over the Language of Humanism.  Unfortunately, this scholar induced a facepalm of the likes the world may not see for quite some time.  Okay, “facepalm” indicates a hell of a lot less insult than was my actual disposition, but I have gotten over the immediately induced state of having been insulted.  The state was induced by his comment, which, maybe, he wanted to take it back as soon as he said it (I paraphrase slightly): “When the powers-that-be get together to discuss “rethinking money,” the last person you want in the room is a philosopher.”  Continue reading

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October 22, 2012 · 12:52 am

Not-So-Faster-Than-Light Particles and the GZK Cutoff: Philosophical Considerations of Wayward Travels

As promised, I am posting some of my philosophy of physics ideas that aren’t as well formulated.  Click here.  The idea in the attached paper is that there are a number of large-scale phenomena that might suggest that the notion of “travelling” might not be so well defined.  In the time to come, I will be blogging about Wesley Salmon’s “at-at” theory, which has been universally embraced by nearly all philosophers and, almost assuredly, every physicist holding a university position.  This paper, “Not-So-Faster-Than-Light Particles and the GZK Cutoff: Philosophical Considerations of Wayward Travels,” is really a shot in that direction, contra “at-at” theory.  The “at-at” theory says that an object moving from point A and B occupies each spatial point, xi (i = 1, 2,…,n), at some corresponding point in time, tj (j = 1, 2,…,n), satisfying the following two criteria: 1) i=j, 2) the object occupies each contiguous location en route to the final point, and 3) this set, the set of contiguous locations, is the unique set such that distance is minimized between point A and B.  Continue reading

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October 20, 2012 · 6:48 pm

A Problem in Academia: The Problem of the “Outstanding Book Reviewer”

The modern university has a major problem, and that problem may be presented in the form of a description, a description the “platonic form” of professor: has memorized more than history has forgotten and can write a book review like it’s nobody’s frickin business.  That’s really it, that last part; the part about the outstanding book reviewer.  In my opinion, there is a fundamental problem with the university, in that it is structured to produce people that know a bunch of stuff and can write book reviews.  Of course, I have a particular person in mind, when I say “the outstanding book reviewer,” but I won’t say who it is, because I mean the phrase in the pejorative —and as far as I have been able to tell, this individual has never had an original thought in his or her life.  Continue reading

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October 20, 2012 · 2:24 am

Thoughts on Physicists Versus Philosophers

In her opinion article “Physicists Versus Philosophers” (in The Philosophers Magazine Issue 58, 3rd Quarter 2012), Ophelia Benson presents a short, but interesting, account of friction between philosophers and physicists.  I was a bit bothered by a number of elements presented in the article, and provoked to sympathy for the physicists, by way of reflection.  “Sympathy,” not because I side with the comments of physicists, like “‘The only people, as far as I can tell, that read works by philosophers of science are other philosophers of science’”; but because of all of the changes in tides and shifts in power away from physics.  It really is a tumultuous time in academia.  Take a second to consider it.  Many (maybe most?) scientists and philosophers no longer believe in ontological reduction down to the level of physics.  Continue reading

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October 19, 2012 · 5:53 am

S.L. Clemens and J.-J. Rousseau: Similar Dispositions Toward Life?

Right around the time of making a trip to Samuel Clemens’ boyhood home, in Hannibal, Missouri (see my travelogue), I was reading a great deal of Rousseau, and I noticed an interesting similarity.  The realization takes some developing, so I will start with how I arrived at noticing the similarity, before saying what it was.

There is a very good biography of Clemen’s last years (approximately his last decade) by Michael Sheldon, called Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of his Final Years.  It struck me as very, very out of place, with respect to my overall impression of Clemens.  In retrospect, I know that this is because I read much of Twain’s books, while knowing very little about Clemens, the man.  “Grand Adventure” is a really bizarre way of putting such a grim, dismal, and pessimistic end to a life.  It had its ups, don’t get me wrong; for instance, he was awarded his DLitt and doctoral robes from Oxford.  Continue reading

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