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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

“Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are”*…

Lars Yenken‘s “The Great Language Game” is an interactive game, being played worldwide, that challenges users to distinguish among (currently) 87 languages based on their sound alone.  As Lars explains,

There are perhaps six or seven thousand languages in the world. Even so-called hyperpolyglots, people who learn to speak six or more fluently, barely scratch the surface. You and I will never be able to communicate in all these languages without machine aids, but learning to identify what’s being spoken near us, that’s within our reach…

Besides, it’s fun!

[TotH to reddit]

* Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As we prick up our ears, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Alfred North Whitehead; he was born on this date in 1861.  Whitehead began his career as a mathematician and logician, perhaps most famously co-authoring (with his former student, Bertrand Russell), the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–13), one of the twentieth century’s most important works in mathematical logic.

But in the late teens and early 20s, Whitehead shifted his focus to philosophy, the central result of which was a new field called process philosophy, which has found application in a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology).

“There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.”

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“I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast…”*

The Draco constellation from “Uranographia” by Johannes Hevelius, 1690. David Icke’s “reptoid hypothesis” posits that humanity is ruled by descendants of reptilians from Draco.

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David Icke, a BBC sports reporter turned conspiracy theorist, argues that

Reptilian humanoids are the force behind a worldwide conspiracy directed at manipulation and control of humanity. He contends that most of our world’s leaders, from George W. Bush to members of the British royal family, are in fact 7-foot tall, blood-drinking reptilians from the star system Alpha Draconia.

According to an interview with David Icke, Christine Fitzgerald, a confidante of Diana, Princess of Wales, claims that Diana told her that the Royal Family were reptilian aliens, and that they could shapeshift. David Icke and others have claimed that U.S. President George W. Bush and his family are part of this same bloodline (Icke, 2004).

Icke claims, based on his exploration of genealogical connections to European royalty, that many presidents of the United States have been and are reptilian humanoids. In his view, United States foreign policy after September 11 is the product of a reptilian conspiracy to enslave humanity, with George W. Bush as a servant of the lizards.

And, Public Policy Polling reports, 4% of of the U.S.– over 12.5 million Americans–  believe him… still, as The Atlantic observes, that’s at the bottom of PPP’s conspiracy theory chart:

[C.f. also, "What It's Like To Believe You're Controlled By Reptilians."]

* The Queen, to Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

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As we slip on our sunglasses, we might spare a thought for Blessed John (Johannes, Ioannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M.; he died on this date in 1308.  One of the most important philosophers of the High Middle Ages (with his arch-rival, William of Ockham), he was a champion of a form of Scholasticism that came to be known as Scotism.

But he may be better remembered as a result of the slurs of 16th Century philosophers, who considered him a sophist– and coined the insult “dunce” (someone incapable of scholarship) from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s.

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Written by LW

November 8, 2013 at 1:01 am

Click bait…

 

From the ever-exquisite xkcd.

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As we linger over listicles, we might send almost-but-not-quite existential birthday greetings to Albert Camus; he was born on this date in 1913.  A Nobel Prize winning author (The Plague, The Stranger, among others), journalist, and philosopher, he was a creator of Absurdism… a resonant but different variety of philosophical thought from Existentialism.  Indeed, Camus firmly rejected the Existentialist label: “I am not an existentialist.  Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked…”

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Written by LW

November 7, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated…”*

 

Capt. Kirk facing a Horta, a silicon-based life-form (in “Devil in the Dark” from “Star Trek: The Original Series”

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Silicon-based (and other alternate) forms of life are a staple of speculative fiction.  But are they as far-fetched as they might seem?  In Smithsonian‘s Daily Planet blog, astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch suggests not

It would be extremely “earth-centric” to presume that the biochemistry on our planet is the only way life can operate. But just how different can it be? One extreme example are the “Horta,” the silicon-based life portrayed in Star Trek. Could we expect organisms like that on a terrestrial, meaning Earth-type, planet? Most likely not, because the biochemistry of life is intrinsically related to its environment. On Earth, silicon and oxygen are the main building blocks of Earth’s crust and mantle. Most rocks, particularly volcanic and igneous rocks, are built from silicate minerals, which are based on a silicon and oxygen framework. Any free silicon would be bound in these rocks, which are inert at moderate temperatures. Only at very high temperatures does the framework become more plastic and reactive, which led Gerald Feinberg and Robert Shapiro to suggest the possible existence of lavobes and magmobes that could live in molten silicate rocks

Adam and 3-CPO, from “Darths and Droids”

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One can read the full story at “Is Silicon-Based Life Possible?

And one can muse on a resonant issue: if we earth-bound humans tend to be pretty precious about our definition of life, we are even more sensitive– indeed, often down-right chauvinistic– in our understandings of consciousnesssentience and who/what can or can’t enjoy them.

* Confucius

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As we study up for the Turing Test, we might send animated birthday greetings to Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch; he was born on this date in 1867.  The father of experimental embryology and the first person to clone an animal, Driesch was also the creator of the philosophy of entelechy–  and thus the last the last great spokesman for vitalism.  Following in the footsteps of Epicurus, Galen, and Pasteur, Driesch argued that life cannot be explained as physical or chemical phenomena.

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Written by LW

October 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

True Confessions…

Librarians come clean on the riveting Tumblr “Librarian Shaming

More.

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As we check it out, we might send free-thinking birthday greetings to Henri Bergson; he was born on this date in 1859.  A philosopher especially influential in the first half of the 20th Century, Bergson convinced many of the primacy of immediate experience and intuition over rationalism and science for the understanding reality…. many, but not the likes of Wittgenstein, Russell, Moore, and Santayana, who thought that he willfully misunderstood the scientific method in order to justify his “projection of subjectivity onto the physical world.”  Still, in 1927 Bergson won the Nobel Prize (in Literature); and in 1930, received France’s highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Legion d’honneur.

Bergson’s influence waned mightily later in the century.  To the extent that there’s been a bit of a resurgence of interest, it’s largely the result of Gilles Deleuze’s appropriation of Bergson’s concept of “mulitplicity” and his treatment of duration, which Deleuze used in his critique of Hegel’s dialectic.

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Written by LW

October 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

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