Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Science’ Category

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The 10 Commandments of Logic!

July 21, 2015

10 Commandments Caress

Logic is the tool of philosophy. Developed by philosophers over thousands of years to ensure clear reasoning on difficult concepts like we are currently just starting to explore. So, to keep our thoughts on track, thou shalt read:

The 10 Commandments of Logic!

  • Thou shalt not attack the person’s character, but the argument. (Ad Hominin fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (Straw Man fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not use small numbers to represent the whole. (Hasty Generalization fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (Begging the Question fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not claim that because something occurred before that it must be the cause. (Post Hoc/False Cause fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not reduce the argument down to two possibilities. (False Dichotomy fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not argue that because of our ignorance the claim must be true or false. (Ad Ignoratum fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not lay the burden of proof onto the person who is questioning the claim. (Burden of Proof Reversal fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not assume that “this” follows from “that” when there is no logical connection. (Non Sequitur fallacy)
  • Thou shalt not claim that because a premise is popular that it must be true. (Bandwagon fallacy)

Note: Try to find these in the news and TV. People love getting worked up to a fever with the Post Hoc, Bandwagon and Appeal to Authority (because Charlton Heston said so) fallacies. Religious arguments (and Rene Descartes) tend to revolve around Begging the Question and Appeal to Faith (self-explanatory). And politicians are particularly guilty of, well, pretty much all of these!

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What the Hell Does Plato Know? (Space II) or Space! Part Deux, Second Round, Slightly Edited

June 26, 2015

In Timeus** (approx. lines 50-53), Plato, writing in the voice of Socrates (or So-crates, for all my Bill & Ted buddies out there) turns his questions toward the nature of space. Plato believes that, so long as you have a conceptual starting point, you can discover new information about anything. His foundation comes at [50b-c] where Plato defines all that exists as:

(i) that which comes to be,

(ii) that in which it comes to be, and

(iii) that after which the thing coming to be is modeled, and which is its source.

The first one (i), “that which comes to be,” is matter. This is the stuff we and our senses interact with everyday. Things like the chair I’m sitting on and these pretzels I’m eating – and boy are they making me thirsty. The second (ii), “that in which it comes to be,” is space. It’s everything between that matter we are so familiar with. As Plato says, “Everything that exists must of necessity be somewhere, in some place and occupying some space” [52b]. The third (iii) is the infamous realm of Platonic forms. Forms are Plato’s conceptual ideal of all that is. A perfect equilateral pyramid may never be built by clumsy human hands, but we have the ideal concept of what it what it would look like. We can conceive of it through pure thought. Forms are a whole other blog series (or book).

Plato is fully aware of the complexity surrounding a definition of space. He sees it as something we look at as in a dream. He starts by developing three questions to guide his way. The first is, “what is space?” Is it material as in a container that holds all things or is it some kind of strange immaterial structure? Plato speaks of space as acquiring properties similar to matter. It is available for elements to make their impression upon while never taking on any characteristic of the objects which enter it. Like stamped clay, it can carry copies of objects without absorbing their traits. For Plato space seems to actually be material – “pure matter.” But, still far from being certain, he calls it “a thing extremely difficult to comprehend” [51b].

Plato’s second question is how can we come to find out anything about this invisible, elusive, yet all pervading thing? If space is something that cannot be learned about via pure reason (as the forms can) or empirical evidence (physical object), but can only be apprehended by a sort of intuitive “bastard reasoning” [52b], how can we hope to find anything out about it? How can we test our theories about it?

Plato’s last question involves the interaction of space and material objects. He wants to know how matter and space (also matter for Plato) interact with one another. It is obvious that objects lie in space, but what else does the relationship entail? Plato reasons that space and the elements all react with one another and affect each other.

You can see that even though he lived two and a half thousand years ago, Plato managed to set the stage for modern physics. He did so by dividing the concept of space into the three elemental questions above: the metaphysical which asks what kind of a thing is space; the epistemological, how can we come to know anything about space; and the physical, how do space and matter interact? All three of these must be explored to discover anything about the relation of place, motion, inertia, and the correlation between space and matter. Natural philosophers! Crack your knuckles and fire up your neural transmitters! I think we just boarded the Wonka boat. It’s gonna be a weird ride!

**The translation is from Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy (pp. 463-466), Plato, “Timaeus,” translated by M.L. Gill and P. Ryan and published by Hackett in 1995.

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Spaceman Spiff (Space I) – Repost for a long overdue restart!

June 16, 2015

 

Spaceman Spiff surrounded by space. And lots of it.

What is space?

Not outer space where stars and satellites live – well, not specifically at least. But the stuff between everything around us.

This mysterious final frontier is the place where all objects reside. The area between everything that exists. That weird thing that holds everything from the planet Jupiter, to the air we breathe to the creepy little stinkbug sitting on the mantle. We are all submerged within it and there’s no chance of escape. But what is it? Is it material? If it’s immaterial, how can we hope to learn about it? Does it affect objects within it? Do objects affect it? Our next philosophical foray will be exploring the concept of space. We’ll look at the history and development of space by uncovering how great thinkers, from Ancient Greece to the Modern Era, have all contributed to the modern concept. My first entry will be from Plato, whose greatest contribution was defining the problem and forming just the right questions.

*Note: I’ll basically be discussing the book “Space from Zeno to Einstein” by Nick Huggett. The book includes primary sources from Zeno, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Clarke, Berkeley, Kant, Mach, Poincare, and Einstein. Each are followed up with contemporary commentary from the author.

**Here’s a link to “Space from Zeno to Einstein.” It’s well worth the read!

http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/space-zeno-einstein

***Spaceman Spiff is owned by Bill Waterson. I hope he’s not mad I’m using the image. I use it out of my life-long love of Calvin and Hobbes. And because I sometimes overshare, The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki:

http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

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Pale Blue Dot

March 16, 2014

Pale Blue Dot quote:
“From this distant vantage point the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us its different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0345376595/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=2MRIDEQZBKPKW&coliid=IF0YCF37S6JEA

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What the Hell Does Plato Know? (Space II)

October 7, 2013

20131006-232727.jpg

In Timeus, Plato, using the voice of Socrates (or So-crates, for all my Bill & Ted buddies out there) turns his questions toward the nature of space. Plato believes that, so long as you have a conceptual starting point, you can discover new information about anything. His foundation comes at [50b-c] where Plato defines all that exists as:

(i) that which comes to be,
(ii) that in which it comes to be, and
(iii) that after which the thing coming to be is modeled, and which is its source.

The first one (i) is matter, the stuff we and our senses interact with everyday. Things like the chair I’m sitting on and these pretzels I’m eating – which are making me thirsty, by the way. The second (ii) that in which it comes to be is space. It’s everything between what that matter we are so familiar with. As Plato says, “Everything that exists must of necessity be somewhere, in some place and occupying some space” [52b] The third (iii) is the infamous realm of Platonic forms. Forms are Plato’s are the conceptual ideal of all that is. A perfect equilateral pyramid may never be built by clumsy human hands, but we have the ideal concept of what it what it would look like. We can conceive of it through pure thought. Forms are a whole other blog series (or book).

On this blog we’re interested in space. Plato is fully aware of the complexity of trying to define space. He sees it as something we look at as in a dream. Plato starts by developing three questions to guide his way. The fist is, what is space? Is it material as in a container holding all things or is it some strange immaterial structure. Plato speaks of space as acquiring properties similar to matter. It is available for elements to make their impression upon while never taking on any characteristic of the objects which enter it. For Plato space seems to be pure matter that carries copies of objects without absorbing their traits. But, far from certain, he still calls it “a thing extremely difficult to comprehend” [51b].

Plato’s second question is how can we come to find out anything about this invisible, elusive, yet all pervading thing? If space something that cannot be learned about via pure reason (as the forms can) or empirical evidence (physical object), but can only be apprehended by a sort of intuitive “bastard reasoning” [52b], how can we hope to find anything out about it?

Plato’s last question involves the interaction of space and material objects. He wants to know how space and matter interact with one another. It is obvious that objects lie in space, but what else does the relationship entail? Plato reasons that space and the elements all react with one another and affect each other.

You can see that even though he lived two and a half thousand years ago, Plato set the stage for modern physics. He did so by dividing the concept of space into three elemental questions: the metaphysical which asks what kind of a thing is space; the epistemological, how can we come to know anything about space; and the physical, how do space and matter interact? All three of these must be explored to discover anything about the relation of place, motion, inertia, and the relation of space and matter. Natural philosophers! Crack your knuckles and fire up your neural transmitters! I think we just boarded the Wonka boat. It’s gonna be a weird ride.

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Spaceman Spiff (Space I)

October 1, 2013

20130930-220128.jpg
Spaceman Spiff surrounded by space. And lots of it.

What is space?

Not outer space where stars and satellites live – well, not specifically at least. But the stuff between everything around us.

This mysterious final frontier is the place where all objects reside. The area between everything that exists. That weird thing that holds everything from the planet Jupiter, to the air we breathe to the creepy little stinkbug sitting on the mantle. We are all submerged within it and there’s no chance of escape. But what is it? Is it material? If it’s immaterial, how can we hope to learn about it? Does it affect objects within it? Do objects affect it? Our next philosophical foray will be exploring the concept of space. We’ll look at the history and development of space by uncovering how great thinkers, from Ancient Greece to the Modern Era, have all contributed to the modern concept. My first entry will be from Plato, whose greatest contribution was defining the problem and forming just the right questions.

*Note: I’ll basically be discussing the book “Space from Zeno to Einstein” by Nick Huggett. The book includes primary sources from Zeno, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Clarke, Berkeley, Kant, Mach, Poincare, and Einstein. Each are followed up with contemporary commentary from the author.

**Here’s a link to “Space from Zeno to Einstein.” It’s well worth the read!
http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/space-zeno-einstein

***Spaceman Spiff is owned by Bill Waterson. I hope he’s not mad I’m using the image. I use it out of my life-long love of Calvin and Hobbes. And because I sometimes overshare, The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki:
http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

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Al’s House

February 24, 2013

Al's House

Whose houe is it?
Al’s House!

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