Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’
The life expectancy for the average woman in the United States is 81 years and 2 months. For men, it’s 76 years and 5 months. These are the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just subtract your current age from those numbers for a rough estimate of how many years you have left.
It feels accurate. It feels precise.
But people die at various ages. Life is imprecise. Otherwise, you could just plan your days all the way up to your last.
Also, life expectancy is typically quoted “from birth.” It’s the number of years a baby is expected to live the moment he or she escapes from the womb into the wondrous realities of the outside world. This is a good measure for progress in countries and is a fine wideout view, but it’s just so-so for you and me, as individuals.
The range of your life expectancy is much more interesting…
* Woody Allen
As we memento mori, we might spare a thought for Giambattista Vico; he died on this date in 1744. A political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist, Vico was one of the greatest Enlightenment thinkers. Best known for the Scienza Nuova (1725, often published in English as New Science), he famously criticized the expansion and development of modern rationalism and was an apologist for classical antiquity.
He was an important precursor of systemic and complexity thinking (as opposed to Cartesian analysis and other kinds of reductionism); and he can be credited with the first exposition of the fundamental aspects of social science, though his views did not necessarily influence the first social scientists. Vico is often claimed to have fathered modern philosophy of history (although the term is not found in his text; Vico speaks of a “history of philosophy narrated philosophically”). While he was not strictly speaking a historicist, interest in him has been driven by historicists (like Isaiah Berlin).
… Or so Schopenhauer argues.
Neuroscientists from Charité –Universitätsmedizin Berlin have run an experiment, using a “duel” game between human and brain-computer interface (BCI), to find out “Do we have free will?”
* Arthur Schopenhauer
As we act as though we do, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Paul Karl Feyerabend; he was born on this date in 1924. A student of Karl Popper, Feyerabend became a philosopher, largely concerned (as was his mentor) with the practice and communication of science. He came to be a opponent of rigid understandings of “the scientific method” and a critic of rules that might, in their arbitrariness and constraint, both alienate scientists from the people (general humanity) the are meant to serve and impede scientific progress. For this, he was often accused of having an anarchistic view of science; in any case, he seems clearly to have believed in a scientist’s free will.
How do you spend your days? Since 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Time Use Survey have asked thousands of people this question. See the answers– and use interactive charts to see where you fit– at “Counting the Hours.”
* Calvin (Bill Watterson)
As we consider a nap, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Baruch (or Benedict) de Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher whose rationalism and determinism put him in opposition to Descartes and helped lay the foundation for The Enlightenment, and whose pantheistic views led to his excommunication from the Jewish community in Amsterdam; he was born on this date in 1632.
As men’s habits of mind differ, so that some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another, for what moves one to pray may move another to scoff, I conclude … that everyone should be free to choose for himself the foundations of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by its fruits; each would then obey God freely with his whole heart, while nothing would be publicly honored save justice and charity.
– Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670
Longtime readers will know of your correspondent’s deep affection for Rube Goldberg (see here and here) and those he inspires (see here). To wit, the above film– the first of a new series– from Joseph Herscher.
* Ralph Waldo Emerson
As we do it the amusing way, 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.
From The Guggenheim, “an online exhibition that enables you to take a position on the future of a world increasingly shaped by emerging technologies.” Built with the help of a variety of contributors—from artists and architects to theorists and strategists–Åzone (from azone, ancient Greek for “without nation,” with reference to Åland, a unique and autonomous region of Finland, and the site of a Guggenheim-led retreat where this project was initiated) is “an online marketplace that allows visitors to learn about, discuss, and evaluate the effects of technology-driven change.”
Invest in the future at Åzone.
* Albert Einstein
As we place our bets, we might spare a reasoned thought for the Enlightenment giant John Locke; the physician and philosopher died on this date in 1704. An intellectual descendant of Francis Bacon, Locke was among the first empiricists. He spent over 20 years developing the ideas he published in his most significant work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), an analysis of the nature of human reason which promoted experimentation as the basis of knowledge. Locke established “primary qualities” (e.g., solidity, extension, number) as distinct from “secondary qualities” (sensuous attributes like color or sound). He recognized that science is made possible when the primary qualities, as apprehended, create ideas that faithfully represent reality.
Locke is, of course, also well-remembered as a key developer (with Hobbes, and later Rousseau) of the concept of the Social Contract. Locke’s theory of “natural rights” influenced Voltaire and Rosseau– and formed the intellectual basis of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
Las Vegas– and the world– lost two icons of neon sign design on April 19th: Betty Willis, seen above with the iconic “Welcome” sign that she designed, and Brian “Buzz” Leming, creator of many of the Strip’s most memorable marquees, passed away within hours of each other.
Willis and Leming both worked at the Western Sign Company, where they struck up a friendship. Many of their creations are preserved in the Neon Museum’s outdoor “Boneyard,” where it stores its relics.
* Nelson Algren (writing about Chicago, though it’s surely apropos of Las Vegas as well)
As we switch on the lights, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121. The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.