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Posts Tagged ‘Kant

Caveat discipulus…




As we lick our pencils, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Immanuel Kant; he was born on this date in 1724.  One of the central figures of modern philosophy, Kant is remembered primarily for his efforts to unite reason with experience (e.g., Critique of Pure Reason [Kritik der reinen Vernunft], 1781), and for his work on ethics (e.g., Metaphysics of Morals [Die Metaphysik der Sitten], 1797) and aesthetics (e.g., Critique of Judgment [Kritik der Urteilskraft], 1790).  But he made important contributions to mathematics as well:  Kant’s argument that mathematical truths are a form of synthetic a priori knowledge was cited by Einstein as an important early influence on his work.

There is … only a single categorical imperative and it is this: Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

- Chapter 11, Metaphysics of Morals



Written by LW

April 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

Period, Full Start…

Computersherpa at DeviantART has taken the collected wisdom at TV Tropes and that site’s “Story Idea Generator” and organized them into an amazing Periodic Table of Storytelling

click here (and again) for a larger image

[TotH to Brainpickings]

Along these same lines, readers might also be interested in the “Perpetual Notion Machine” (which includes, as a bonus, the story of Dmitri Mendeleev and the “real” Periodic Table…)  See also the Periodic Table of Typefaces (“‘There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kinds of fools…’“) and the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods (“Now See Here…“).

As we constructively stack our writers’ blocks, we might wish a thoughtful Happy Birthday to Immanuel Kant; he was born on this date in 1724 in Königsberg, Prussia (which is now Kaliningrad, Russia).  Kant is of course celebrated as a philosopher, the author of Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and Critique of Judgment (1790), and father of German Idealism (et al.).

But less well remembered are the contributions he made to science, perhaps especially to astronomy, before turning fully to philosophy.  For example, his General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens (1755) contained three anticipations important to the field: 1) Kant made the nebula hypothesis ahead of Laplace. 2) He described the Milky Way as a lens-shaped collection of stars that represented only one of many “island universes,” later shown by Herschel. 3) He suggested that friction from tides slowed the rotation of the earth, which was confirmed a century later.  Similarly, Kant’s writings on mathematics were cited as an important influence by Einstein.


Great minds…

From College Binary, a series of “Three Minute Philosophy” lessons….

Consider this refresher on the thinking of Rene Descartes:

From Aristotle to Kant, illuminations awaits one at Three Minute Philosophy.

(Warning number one:  some of the language is… well, decidedly non-academic.  Warning number two:  our instructor is from Brisbane– so readers should brace themselves for an Australian accent… thus warned, watch away– they’re quite wonderful.)

As we console ourselves that we think, therefore we are, we might recall that it was on this date in 1875 that Black Bart (Charles Bolles), a poet with a fondness for Wells Fargo, robbed his first stagecoach, the Sonora to Milton stage, in Calaveras County, California — the same stage line he targeted in his last heist (his 29th) in 1883– after which he left a taunting verse in the empty money box.

Here I lay me down to sleep

To wait the coming morrow,

Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,

And everlasting sorrow.

Let come what will, I’ll try it on,

My condition can’t be worse;

And if there’s money in that box

‘Tis munny in my purse.

Black Bart

Just say “Nietzsche” to Kant…

The World Values Survey, conducted by a global network of social scientists and compiled by Dr. Ronald Inglehart, is concerned to understand variations in cultures around the world.  Its “Inglehart Values Map” visualizes the strong correlation of those values– that’s to say, the remarkably predictable way in which countries cluster…

Dr. Inglehart explains (prose alert– the following is from a social scientist; perseverance may be required– but will be rewarded):

The World Values Surveys were designed to provide a comprehensive measurement of all major areas of human concern, from religion to politics to economic and social life and two dimensions dominate the picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

The Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. A wide range of other orientations are closely linked with this dimension. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics.

The second major dimension of cross-cultural variation is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies-which brings a polarization between Survival and Self-expression values. The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. Thus, priorities have shifted from an overwhelming emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life. Inglehart and Baker (2000) find evidence that orientations have shifted from Traditional toward Secular-rational values, in almost all industrial societies. But modernization, is not linear-when a society has completed industrialization and starts becoming a knowledge society, it moves in a new direction, from Survival values toward increasing emphasis on Self-expression values.

A central component of this emerging dimension involves the polarization between Materialist and Postmaterialist values, reflecting a cultural shift that is emerging among generations who have grown up taking survival for granted. Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, tolerance of diversity and rising demands for participation in decision making in economic and political life. These values also reflect mass polarization over tolerance of outgroups, including foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality. The shift from survival values to self-expression values also includes a shift in child-rearing values, from emphasis on hard work toward emphasis on imagination and tolerance as important values to teach a child. And it goes with a rising sense of subjective well-being that is conducive to an atmosphere of tolerance, trust and political moderation.

Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.  This produces a culture of trust and tolerance, in which people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, and have activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that the political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy.

The summary map, above, is accompanied by 11 others focused on particular dimensions of the values map, for instance, this plot of “self-perceived well-being” (a sense of happiness) against the state of democracy (note the position of China, along the bottom of the chart…  may help explain why so many in the West have so much trouble understanding the culture and its attitude toward its government):

click image to enlarge

As we wipe away the Dewey and turn from values, we might recall that it was in this date in 1905 that Las Vegas was established as a railroad town, when 110 acres owned by the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad was auctioned off in what is now downtown Las Vegas.  Six years later, Las Vegas was formally incorporated.

What a difference a century makes…


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