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Posts Tagged ‘French

“What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”*…

 

Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it’s the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter.

This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the “panpsychist” view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose…

The materialist viewpoint states that consciousness is derived entirely from physical matter. It’s unclear, though, exactly how this could work. “It’s very hard to get consciousness out of non-consciousness,” says [David Chalmers, a philosophy of mind professor at New York University]. “Physics is just structure. It can explain biology, but there’s a gap: Consciousness.” Dualism holds that consciousness is separate and distinct from physical matter—but that then raises the question of how consciousness interacts and has an effect on the physical world.

Panpsychism offers an attractive alternative solution: Consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter; every single particle in existence has an “unimaginably simple” form of consciousness, says [Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest]. These particles then come together to form more complex forms of consciousness, such as humans’ subjective experiences. This isn’t meant to imply that particles have a coherent worldview or actively think, merely that there’s some inherent subjective experience of consciousness in even the tiniest particle…

More at “The idea that everything from spoons to stones are conscious is gaining academic credibility.”

(For a speculative playing out of this notion (and a basketful of other mind-twisting conceits of consciousness) at a cosmic scale, enjoy Vernor Vinge’s exquisite A Fire Upon the Deep…)

* Stephen Hawking  (Panpsychists argue that consciousness is the answer to his question.)

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As we treat inanimate objects with more respect, we might send carefully-catalogued and phrased birthday greetings to Émile Maximilien Paul Littré; he was born on this date in 1801. A philosopher (friend and supporter of Auguste Comte, and contributor, with Comte, to the development of positivism), he is better remembered for his Dictionnaire de la langue française, commonly called “The Littré,” a project that ran from 1844-1872, and was originally issued in 30 parts– the largest lexicographical work on the French language at that time.

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Written by LW

February 1, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but neither are the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine”*…

 

Dr. Philip Durkin is Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. author of Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English— and creator of the nifty interactive infographic pictured above:

I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focusing on the 14 sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised entries in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Using the date buttons at the top of the graphic, you can compare the impact that different languages have made on English over time. In the “per period” view, you can see the proportions of words coming into English from each source in 50-year slices from 1150 up to the present day. Compare, for instance, how the input from German has grown and then declined again from 1800 to the present day. (The earliest period, pre-1150, is much longer than 50 years, because more precise dating of words from this early stage in the history of English is very problematic.)

If you switch to the “cumulative” view, then you can see how the total number of loanwords from each language has built up over time. Here the shifts from one 50-year period to another are rather less dramatic, but the long-term shifts are still very striking. You can see, for instance, how German, Spanish, and Italian all slowly come to greater prominence. You can see this very clearly if you select any start date and then press the “play” button. (If you would like to see the numbers behind the graphic, a selection of graphs and charts from Borrowed Words is available here.)…

Get a feel for the truly global scope of English’s borrowing, and at the same time, an appreciation of just how “dependent” we are on Latin and French– play with the interactive graphic at “The Many Origins of the English Language.”

* Dorothy L. Sayers

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As we marvel at the mash-up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1413 that Henry V became King of England.  Immortalized by Shakespeare as the slacker prince who redeems himself in battle (the Henry IV plays) and as the inspirational commander at Agincourt (Henry V), Henry does in fact seem to have been an effective monarch, pursuing a unifying domestic policy that led to relative calm during his reign. His foreign policy was dominated by a steady military campaign against France that continued to his death.

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Written by LW

March 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

Time’s past..

From the inquisitive folks over at Reason, an amusing, and at the same time provocative, look at “The Top 10 Most Absurd Time Covers of The Past 40 Years

Consider for example:

Oh, Just Settle Down: The crack kids myth has been extensively debunked, most recently in the January 2009 New York Times article “Crack Babies: The Epidemic That Wasn’t.” The Times quoted researchers who’ve been following the so-called crack generation of kids, and they’re finding the effects to be minor and subtle, and virtually indistinguishable from other problems that kids of crack mothers might experience, such as unstable families and poor parenting. Persistent scare stories from Time and other media outlets (including The New York Times itself) made “crack babies” a nationwide moral panic, inspiring a racially fueled push for stricter drug laws. As the Times article explains, the crack baby myth itself may now be doing harm to otherwise normal kids: “[C]ocaine-exposed children are often teased or stigmatized if others are aware of their exposure. If they develop physical symptoms or behavioral problems, doctors or teachers are sometimes too quick to blame the drug exposure and miss the real cause, like illness or abuse.”

For similar treatments of Mr. Luce’s Magazine’s hysteria over satanism, porn, crack, and Pokemon see here.

As we contemplate the substitution of hyperbole for reportage in so much– too much– of the mainstream media, we might recall that it was on this date in 1812 that President James Madison signed the declaration of war against Great Britain that formally launched the War of 1812.  Three U.S. incursions into Canada launched in 1812 and 1813 were all handily turned back by the British despite the fact that the bulk of British force was tied up in an unpleasantness with the Emperor of France and his troops.  But the decline of Napoleon’s strength freed the English to devote more resources to the West… leading to the 1814 burning of the White House, the Capital, and much of the rest of official Washington by British soldiers (retaliating for the U.S. burning of some official buildings in Canada.  Still, by the end of 1814 a combination of naval and ground victories by the Americans had driven the British back to Canada, and on December 14, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, was signed…  sadly for the British, word of the accord did not reach troops on the Gulf Coast in time to head off an attack (on January 8, 1815) on New Orleans– which was turned back by American forces led by Andrew Jackson.  Jackson became a national hero, who rode his fame to the (rebuilt) White House; Johnny Horton got a Number One record out of it (Billboard Hot 100, 1959)…  and the English had to console themselves with their victory at Waterloo later that year– on this date in 1815…

James Madison (a very cool guy)

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