Since I have spent the summer studying mathematics at Harvard University with Jameel Al-Aidroos (Ph.D Berkeley), expect that my next few posts, or at least some of them, will be on topics related to mathematics. I want to take some time, in this blog post, to look at where mathematical thought fits into some of my understandings of I have gleaned from studying the history of science. The upshot of the historical, philosophical, and mathematical content and musings will be pedagogical, just to give the reader some idea of where I am going. An important thing to understand, before reading this post, is the distinction between pure and applied mathematics. “Pure mathematics,” as opposed to “applied mathematics,” is, in its essence, math for its own sake, entirely apart from possible applications. In many cases, pure mathematics initially has no known application. Additionally, pure mathematics deals with abstract entities that have been detached from particular entities —and this will prove to be important to what I will say later.
Category Archives: Philosophy
Between Feynman in Babylon and Metaphysics: What the Mathematical Process and the History of Science Can Tell Us Philosophically about the Education Process
If I am not careful, I am going to begin sounding like my friend, Matt Segall —not a bad thing, just this blog post’s content is more his forte than it is my typical fare. I was recently hiking Mt. Pisgah, which is in North Carolina, and I was struck by some ideas; dualities in reflection, mostly. Near the top of the craggy trail, which is hardly “moderate,” as at least one website claimed, I chanced upon a tree and shrubbery-like growth that looked like something out of a movie. Continue reading
Serendipity often leads to some of our most fruitful realizations, creative ideas, and understanding —and are even responsible for our most citation-worthy bits of supporting information. Such is the case to be discussed here. It so happened that, just after writing the blog in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ignorant position on philosophy, I read Richard P. Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law to unwind. The Nobel laureate was always notoriously, even devilishly, anti-philosophy. Continue reading
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Philosophy: The Voice and Never-Was of Science Insults the Foundation of All Intellectual Thought
The primary problem with putting anyone on any kind of pedestal is that the positioning in the spotlight contains quite a bit of power, power that can be misused or abused. Anyone possessing the spokespersonship of a particular academic discipline, in promoting their discipline, as a rule, should never knock other disciplines. Rather unfortunately, Neil deGrasse Tyson occupies one such position as a science advisor to the government and a science popular, and he has also misused (abused?) his position by knocking another discipline, philosophy. During a podcast that featured his presence, he spoke condescendingly of philosophy, spoke of its uselessness, and pointed out that it can ‘mess you up,’ presumably, meaning to say that philosophy can adversely affect the general mode of one’s thinking. (For the complete podcast, click on this sentence.) The objective in this blog is to address some of what Tyson has said, and hence partly a work of philosophy apologetics to a certain extent, but I also want to besmudge his reputation a bit, as he is in serious need of deflating —and I think the reader will find that very little needs to be done to each either of these ends, just a bit of thought.
There is a fellow by the name of Mike A. Robinson running about and self-publishing just about everything he writes, blogging the rest. I have yet to find, within the expanse of his writings, anything that is particularly good or well informed. I stumbled upon one of his blog postings, entitled “The Brain and the Mind Are Not Identical,” and I felt it was closely enough related to my last blog post that I should comment on it. Originally, my intention was to demonstrate how assumptions made by any side of a debate, such as the free-will/determinism and soul/no-soul debates, make it unlikely that we will ever have a clear and definitive answer; but this blog has turned into a review of Mike A. Robinson, as an author. I cannot recommend avoiding his writings enough.
I want to take a look at an article published in the Atlantic a few years ago, called “The Brain on Trial” by David Eagleman. (The link to the original article can be found here by clicking on this sentence.) I will not critique the general legal conclusion that Eagleman pushes for, because I largely agree with him, i.e., the conclusion that neuroscience can be used to determine whether some temporary abnormality can and should exculpate an alleged criminal offender. What I will address is the sloppy philosophy that Eagleman performs. I do appreciate that Eagleman is well aware of the intellectual domains of which he speaks, but his craft in each varies widely —his philosophy, in particular, needs critiquing.
In one of my first blog posts, I posted the notes for help in understanding the role Kant’s antinomies play in the refutation of transcendental realism. It was just a skeleton of references and bits of commentary over a secondary sources and the first Critique. I have recently been impelled to flesh out this skeleton. The essay presented is a work in progress. Continue reading
Some time ago, I was discussing the qualitative-quantitative divide with a friend, a medical doctor, who happens to be very interested in the philosophy of science. The discussion became a debate, where we trying to get to the bottom of whether it was as I said, that the world is a qualitative entity, wherein the mind supplies quantity; or as he said, that the world has a mathematical ontology, something like the worldview championed by Meillassoux or Galileo. To be clear, I was just arguing that it could be either way, with some slightly greater likelihood that the world may not have quantity in it, apart from that supplied by the mind. By contrast, my colleague, the M.D., did not understand how it could be that there is no such thing as quantity in the world, in the sense that he could not envisage as scenario in which number does not inhere in the world. Between us was the barrier of language and experience, which was constituted in the difference between education of a physicist —though I did do a pre-med track and have interests in the philosophy of medicine— and that of a physician. We ended up settling on an example that is grounded in physiology. I will set up the groundwork for the discussion, then, give the example, and, finally, provide the resolution that has come to me only recently.
Between having had two undergraduate courses on the Platonic dialogues —one on ancient Greek philosophy, one on Plato’s dialogues, specifically, and having read the remainder of the dialogues on my own—, I had never encountered the “Unitarianism versus Revisionism” debate, until taking (currently) a graduate course on Plato’s theory of knowledge. Not just that, I had no inkling or intuition that there might be such a debate. In examining why, with a mind to Theaetetus, I felt it difficult to buy the Revisionist position, and so it seems blog-post worthy to explain.
There is some discussion going on in the blogosphere (and youtube) about whether the world we live in is pluralistic or monistic. Critical Animal’s blog (click here) contains a list of some of these blog posts. As with most ideas, I am of many minds about the issue. While I think I would prefer a world that is as envisioned by the zeitgeist of the Enlightenment, axiomatically and formally structured from the bottom up, it is becoming very difficult to see how the world could be anything other than pluralistic. What I will do in the following is lay out why it seems to me that the world is pluralist, and then lay out why I think the human mind has such a natural bias toward mosism. On the latter point, I think most readers will agree with me that the commonsense disposition —the disposition of any ole jane or joe on the street— is one inclined toward a single truth, possibly slightly more nuanced, in the axiomatic manner I described; and so I will spend some time explaining why this is probably the case.