Category Archives: Philosophy of Science

The Mystery of the Varying Cosmological Constant (and What to Possibly Do about It)

I recently read an article by Jesus Mosterin, called “The Unity of Particle Physics and Cosmology?” (pg. 165-176 in The Problem of the Unity of Science edited by Agazzi and Faye). The article is very interesting, because it proposes something I hadn’t heard before, namely, that the Casimir effect might be the phenomenon that is the conceptual key to unifying quantum and cosmological scales.  The idea is that vacuum energies associated with a cosmological constant, Λ, might be the cause of the effect (there are numerous interpretations); but there is/are a problem(s), which has been noted by Steven Weinberg, Alan Guth, and others.  In particular, the one that immediately comes to the fore is the problematic nature of the consequences of a varying cosmological constant.  (Keep in mind that the early universe seemed to have an enormous vacuum energy present, while, now, all we have is this rinky-dink Casimir effect of quantum mechanical origin.)  Continue reading

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Filed under Cosmology, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Uncategorized

Cognition as Negation

The cognitive version of the onto-epistemic stance paper can be acquired by clicking on: Cognition as Negation.  Unfortunately, due to length restrictions, I had to summarize the original onto-epistemic paper, which has grown to forty pages, and try to slip in how I think it can be extended to cognition.  The headache of trying to organize the previous paper was trebly difficult, because I could not speak at length in this paper to describe in detail what was intended in: The Onto-epistemic Stance.  I included a couple of modified portions of the earlier text in this newer paper, which is being sent to the joint conference on cognition held by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.  As a result of the inordinate constraint placed on the text length of this paper, I did not have the space to do a ground-up presentation of how the onto-epistemic stance seems to be present already in cognitive science.  In fact, I am wondering whether the totality of the venture might not merit full monographic treatment.  With as little exposure as I have had to the sciences of mind, further research on, for instance, phonemes will assuredly thicken up the text, leading me to believe that a full-length endeavor might be necessary.

At any rate, please send me an e-mail or leave me a comment if you have any ideas on how to make the paper better, ideas that need to be explained further/clarified, or anything of that sort.

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Filed under Cognitive Science, Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Pure Philosophy

Humanity’s Relation to Nature: Hawthorne, Rappaccini and Blithedale

In his The Blithedale Romance and Rappaccini’s Daughter, Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates elements of an enduring clash between humanity and Nature, and humanity’s attempt to find an equilibrium point in its relation to the natural world.  Though they take different forms, and even their primary subjects are quite different, there is a sense in which they can be viewed as two parts of a larger story; and the two parts may be viewed as having some amount of overlap, as well.  For those who have not read The Blithedale Romance, the story is a very warm tale that ends grimly, postulating that communal living in close quarters to Nature is the aforementioned equilibrium point, and equally expostulating humanity’s inability to recognize and facilitate this fact. Continue reading

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Filed under Literature, Natural Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science

Reasons to Be Excited about Immanuel Kant, Or, Why Should I read Kant?

“Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

–Immanuel Kant

There is one thinker that is, in my opinion, far and away, the greatest thinker of all-time —and I mean it isn’t even close: Immanuel Kant.  He improved Newton’s physics by coming up with the modern idea of inertia (and Newton’s physics, still using Aegilus Romanus’ vis inertiae, was a bit of a mess); the idea that there are other galaxies (“island universes”); a metaphysical foundation for Newton’s physics; in a way, resolved the outstanding epistemological debate between the empiricists (Bacon, Hume, Locke, and so on) and the rationalists (Descartes, Berkeley, Leibniz, and so on), giving a framework illustrating that there was another, more attractive option; created the synthetic-analytic distinction that permitted mathematics and morality a completely new classification over and beyond the mere a prior and a posteriori, namely the synthetic a priori; created (as far as I know) the only rationalistic absolute system of morality; provided the modern foundation for cognitive science; and developing some loose rules of thumb for the predication of attributes in logic (resolving the Anselm’s Argument debate in definitive fashion…see below), among many other things.  The Critique of Pure Reason is Kant’s most important work, and I think it is the single most important piece of scholarship ever composed; so I recommend starting there.  The general consensus is that first Critique is difficult to understand, but a decent piece of secondary literature and Pluhar’s translation should be enough to understand the major points of the work.  (Pluhar’s translation sacrifices some accuracy, but this should be of little matter to general readership.) Continue reading

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Filed under Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Pure Philosophy

Flat Ontology and the Onto-epistemic Stance

I have been working on an idea for a seminar, entitled “Unity of Science,” which involves collapsing epistemology and ontology into one branch of philosophy.  The paper is called, “Abstraction as Dissection of a Flat “Ontology”: The Illusiveness of Levels” (click this sentence to view paper).  One of the motivations for doing this is that I think pragmatism and theory-ladenness call for it; and the two notions, themselves, seem to be naturally married by van Fraassen’s pragmatics of explanation —not to mention having been sort of suggested by Peirce.  I say “sort of” because theory-ladenness hadn’t been thought of, back then. Continue reading

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Filed under Epistemology, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science

Autopoiesis and Kant’s Theory of Time

Kant had a pretty trippy and extremely fascinating view of time.  (The Hstorical Dictionary of Kant and Kantianism says “innovative,” which I gladly grant.)  For Kant, time is a “pure form of sensible intuition” (Critique of Pure Reason, N. K. Smith trans., 2003, pg. 75), and “[t]ime is nothing but the form of internal sense, that is, of the intuition of ourselves and of our inner senses.  It cannot be a determination of outer appearances; it has to do neither with shape nor position, but with the relation of representations in our inner state” (ibid. pg. 77).  Continue reading

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Filed under History of Science, Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Physics, Pure Philosophy

A “Meillassouxian” Approach to Kant’s First Antinomy of Pure Reason and the Big Bang

This is a paper I am preparing for a graduate conference at Duquesne, whose theme is “physis and nomos.”  The paper is to be sent in on December 1, 2012, so any comments before then are especially welcome, but comments afterword are also welcome.

Click here for pdf of the paper: A “MEILLASSOUXIAN” APPROACH TO KANT’S FIRST ANTINOMY OF PURE REASON AND THE BIG BANG

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