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.
There seems to be some question, in the minds of some (many?), about the value of teaching mathematics in middle and high school, and even whether we should, as a society, continue to institute such education. Being a science- and mathematics-trained philosopher (and, in some attenuated sense, an historian), I usually find myself defending the humanities against the pervading scientism of, “what’s the point of all these poems, stories, and philosophizing; what does it do, from a practical standpoint?” When I hear the question, “why should we teach the general populace mathematics beyond elementary school?” I become thoroughly disconcerted —can’t we see the value in any intellectual activity? I came across the TEDx video by John Bennett (below), in which he says, ‘I am a middle school and high school math teacher, but I have to tell you something: I don’t think what I teach is very important. In fact, if it were up to me, I would no longer require math to be taught in middle school or high school.’ Continue reading
I am posting a paper (click here) I have been playing with for a little while. I generally don’t post anything that I might publish, but, with some added input and further vision in formulating it, I may be able to turn this into something worth publishing. The essence of the paper is on vitalism and how teleology has not been stripped out of the original nascent formation (i.e., romantische Naturphilosophie) of the biological discipline. The paper grew out of my reading of Timothy Lenoir’s The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in nineteenth-Century German Biology. Continue reading
The Subject-Object Divide, Corey Anton, and on the Priority Debate between Being and Knowing (Part 2)
With the conceptual baggage drawn out more fully and clearly marked, it is clear that the heart of the matter is overcoming correlationism, whose tenet of the subject-object split is paramount. A great deal of work has been performed in the attempt to resolve the issue of the subject-object divide, which originally arose in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It’s important to understand the centrality of the critical project in this discussion, because Kant’s way of resolving the debate between the rationalists and empiricists synthesized the positions in such a way as to instantiate in remarkably lucid terms, and formulating in its present form, the subject-object divide. Perhaps beginning with an exchange between Chad and Corey is the way to go, and then following it up with a very perceptive remark made in a video (“Ontological Creativity (response to professoranton)”) by Matthew Segall, a graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Continue reading
The Subject-Object Divide, Corey Anton, and on the Priority Debate between Being and Knowing (Part 1)
Prefatory remark: I will be breaking this blog into two parts, due to its length.
Corey Anton (of Grand Valley State University) recently published a series of videos (“Ontology”, “Epistemology Is a Subset of Ontology”, “A Lively Dialogue on Ontology, Epistemology, Emergence & Agency”, and “Understanding Agency (Information, Language, Literacy, Calendars)”), hosted by youtube, concerning the idea that epistemology is a subset of ontology.
One of the fascinating things about the discipline of history and philosophy of science is that, while it is, in some respects, truly an integrated discipline, there are other respects in which it is not. In fact, I would call the process of integrating history of science and philosophy of science a kind of “tension,” which bears the seeds of incredible fruit and creativity. I love this aspect of the discipline. Continue reading
Since, naturally, my experiences at American Public University (APU) were limited, this review will be limited. I do not claim it to be a sweeping, all-encompassing review of the institution. I’ll begin by explaining the kinds of coursework I did at APU, what I intended to get out of it, and the general nature of my educational relationship with APU. I will end with my assessment of the quality of the programs and school. Continue reading
I recently bumped into a graduate student in the economics department at the University of Pittsburgh, Shawn McCoy, and he brought to my attention that there are some folks who wish to claim that .9999…=1. That is, the decimal value, .9-repetend, which has infinitely many places of ‘9’ after the decimal, is equivalent to the whole number, 1. Any individual of sufficient commonsense and no real inclination toward contrarianism-for-the-sake-of-contrarianism will maintain that the claim is silly and move on. However, there is a bit of mathematical prestidigitation —and that’s precisely what it is, as I will show— presents an “argument” to the contrary of commonsense. The argument requires that we do the following:
Let x be .9999… Then, let the left-hand side (LHS) of our equation be 10x-x. Also, let the right-hand side of the equation (RHS) be the same, not in algebraic terms, but in numerical terms: 9.9999…-.9999…=9. Solving the LHS, we get 10x-x=9x. The conundrum is that it should be the case, of course, that LHS=RHS. However, if one divides LHS and RHS by 9, the consequent value is x=1, though, ab initio, we said that x=.9999… Therefore, some try to conclude, .9999…=1. Continue reading
I have often found it difficult to explain to someone the difference between theoretical science and the philosophy of a special science. In general, by “someone,” I mean any fairly intelligent human being possessing some modicum of scientific literacy. The problem is not limited to the communication with intellectuals and general academicians, but also non-specialists in more closely related to the field of history and philosophy of science. For instance, a preeminent scholar in the philosophy of biology has often told me that she sees biologists and general philosophers having a difficult time delineating theoretical biology and philosophy of biology; for those trained in a traditional philosophy program, it seems what this scholar does is biology, not philosophy; for those trained in biology, especially in departments that are not very philosophical in their science, what she does is philosophy, not a matter for biologists so much. If demarcation of what a science is has been a problem, then the plight of the historically- and scientifically-knowledgeable philosopher of science is sui generis. I have found explaining the distinction between philosophy of physics and theoretical physics impossible. After all, explaining how discretization of space could have implications for symmetry breaking in the special theory of relativity (STR) is just confusing to the technically-untrained intellectual, because, after all, if it could have an impact on physical explanation, why wouldn’t physicists be interested? Explaining that symmetries in nature are tacitly taken as axiomatic, and that physicists have their own implicit metaphysical assertions when going about their science, is a tall task. Between the scientific technicalities and thorough philosophical subtleties, it is impractical to explain why it is that physicists don’t want to deal with an issue and express why the issue is sufficiently philosophical for it to not be classified as science properly, at least not yet properly science. However, an example of where philosophy of science could make a valuable contribution to pragmatic science, even if the philosophy of science does not make a direct contribution to scientific theory. That is, an example of philosophy of science, in which there is a tangible product in methodology and knowledge, but that does not properly contribute to particulars within scientific, should serve as a satisfactory illustration of the distinction between philosophy of science and science. Continue reading