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Posts Tagged ‘Wittgenstein

“The heart of science is measurement”*…

 

In October 1958, Oliver R. Smoot (future Chairman of the American National Standards Institute) repeatedly laid down on the Harvard Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, so that some of his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers could measure the entire length of the bridge in relation to his height. At 5 feet 7 inches tall, the bridge was found to be 364.4 “Smoots” long (plus or minus an εar). The prank quickly became the stuff of legend (to this day, graffiti on the bridge still divides it up into Smoot-based sections) until finally, in 2011, the word smoot was added to the American Heritage Dictionary, defined as “a unit of measurement equal to five feet, seven inches.”…

More exceedingly-specific units of measurement, and the stories behind them: “10 Ridiculously Precise Units of Measurement.”

* Erik Brynjolfsson

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As we quantify quantity, we might spare a thought for Richard Bevan Braithwaite; he died on this date in 1990.  A Cambridge philosopher who specialized in the philosophy of science, he focused on the logical features common to all sciences.  Braithwaite was concerned with the impact of science on our beliefs about the world and the appropriate responses to that impact.  He was especially interested in probability (and its applications in decision theory and games theory) and in the statistical sciences.  He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1946 to 1947, and was a Fellow of the British Academy.

It was Braithwaite’s poker that Ludwig Wittgenstein reportedly brandished at Karl Popper during their confrontation at a Moral Sciences Club meeting in Braithwaite’s rooms in King’s. The implement subsequently disappeared. (See here.)

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“Question: ‘How does one philosopher address another?’ Answer: ‘Take your time.’”*…

 

Vincenzo Di Nicola argues that

We need a philosophy of Slow Thought to ease thinking into a more playful and porous dialogue about what it means to live…

Read his “Slow Thought: a manifesto.”

[Image above from “Why Slow Thinking Wins,” a less philosophical, more functional argument…]

* Ludwig Wittgenstein

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As we listen to Ludwig, we might spare a thought for Saint Thomas Aquinas; he died on this date in 1274. A Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church, he was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of Scholasticism.  Following Aristotle’s definition of science as sure and evident knowledge obtained from demonstrations, Thomas defined science as the knowledge of things from their causes. In his major work, Summa, he distinguished between demonstrated truth (science) and revealed truth (faith).  His influence on Western thought is considerable; much of modern philosophy (especially ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory) developed with reference– in support or opposition– to his ideas.

Thomas, from an altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli (15th century)

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Written by LW

March 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”*…

 

What is a sentence? But that is such a formal question. How about, what is a sentence for? Less formal, perhaps, but obviously impossible to answer, for sheer variety. There may be some human purposes that don’t find their way into sentences, but writers keep trying, and for any limit we experience there may be a sentence in waiting and a writer to try it…

I’ll propose one purpose that all sentences have in common. The purpose of a sentence is to end. If this is a property of all sentences, any ought to do for an example, but here is one particularly determined to be done with itself:

1 The world is everything that is the case.

It comes from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as translated from German into English by C. K. Ogden in 1922…

From the first of the Paris Review’s eight-part series, Life Sentence, the literary critic, scholar, and poet Jeff Dolven takes apart and puts back together one beloved or bedeviling sentence every week.  Tom Toro illustrates each sentence Dolven chooses.

[TotH to John Stedman]

* H.L. Mencken

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As we pause to parse prose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1983 that the celebration of the crafter of so very many elegant sentences, Martin Luther King, was made official, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday.  Reagan had opposed the holiday, citing its cost, joining southern Republicans like Jesse Helms, who were more naked in their reasoning; but the enabling legislation had passed by a veto-proof margin.

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Monsters of Grok…

 

From Amorphia Apparel:

Fake band t-shirts for history’s greatest minds:  I don’t know about you, but I think science and philosophy are pretty bad ass, so join me in rocking out with some the most influential thinkers of all time!

More sagacious shirts at Amorphia Apparel

 

As we opt for ring-spun wisdom, we might wish a thoughtful Happy Birthday to cognitive and computer scientist John McCarthy; he was born on this date in 1927.  A recipient of the Turing Award, McCarthy coined the phrase “Artificial Intelligence” (in a 1955 proposal for a 1956 Dartmouth conference), founded the first A.I. Lab (at MIT in 1958), and created LISP (List Processing Language), the computer language most commonly used in AI research.

In 1961, McCarthy was the first to imagine and propose a future in which computers could be shared by multiple users, and computing could be provided as a utility.  The idea was popular in the late 60s, then waned in the 70s, as it became clear that hardware and software weren’t (yet) up to the task.  But with the new millennium, McCarthy’s concept retook the fore– and in the last few years, rose to The Cloud…

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