Friday, May 22, 2015

Links to the Past

A portrait of Shakespeare from his lifetime?  link

On not having read authors of the Great Books link

Video proof of Galileo's observations of gravity link 

Sharing Don Quixote on its 400th anniversary link

The Role of Philosophy in Physics link

Existential Office (Existential Comics) link

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Readings for June

Two pieces.  I read the Galileo last night and it was very good.

Galileo: Two New Sciences (third day through Scholium of Theorem II) link
Bacon: Novum Organum (Preface, Book 1) link

Monday, May 11, 2015

Apology for Raimond Sebond

Montaigne's father handed him a large book written by Raimond Sebond and asked him to translate it from the Latin it was written in.  A short time later, his father died.  Montaigne took the wish to translate it to heart and did so. 
The book was on theology and it had gone in and out of favor with the church over time.  It sought to prove various theological beliefs through rationalistic means.  It had been attacked by other rationalists.  Montaigne took it upon himself to defend the writing.  (An 'apology' can be thought of as a 'defense'.)  He defends Sebond from rationalistic attacks by suggesting that rationalism is always limited, especially in matters of faith.  In short, his 'defense' also negates Sebond completely.
I'm not displeased with this approach, though I'm not entirely convinced either.  I do believe that there are areas of theology and faith that can't really be grappled with by straight reason.  However, I don't know that this is really a limitation of reason so much as just an area outside of its expertise.  Mathematics won't tell me which cheeseburger tastes better, but that doesn't mean that it's useless.

This is a long piece and I don't know that I'd recommend it that highly.  Montaigne is a wonderful and talented writer but, well, that's more clear in shorter pieces than this.  In fact, I've got a Treasure of Montaigne that skips it all together.  If you're interested, I thought that the pieces from Year One were stronger and more interesting.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Links to the Past

Dating eclipses of antiquity link

Obit for scholar who edited Norton Anthology link

Teaching about liberty in the middle ages link

Ovid is 'triggering' link

Harvard Classics available for download link

Crazy Christian Eights (Existential Comics) link

Monday, May 4, 2015

Author Timeline

Euripides 480-406
Plato 428-348
Aristotle 384-322

Augustine 354-430
Aquinas 1225-1274
Montaigne 1533-1592
Galileo 1564-1642
Bacon 1561-1626
Descartes 1596-1650
Newton 1642-1726
Locke 1632-1704
Hume 1711-1776
Kant 1724-1804
Melville 1819-1891
Dostoyevsky 1821-1881
James 1842-1910

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Studying the Mind

Interesting article on a widescale attempt to replicate 100 different psychological studies.  They were only able to replicate 39.  I mentioned last week that I don't think we know much about the mind and how it works and this backs that up.  The real question is, can that ever be improved?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Books Read in April

One of the strange things that has happened since I've gone back to working full time is that I still have time to read (at least as much) but less time to actually write.  Or maybe less time in the mental state most conducive to writing...
Anyway, April was a good month for reading:

  • The Joy of X, by Steven Strogatz - This is a collection of articles about mathematical concepts, pitched to aid the mathphobic.  I was hoping that this would be something along the quality level of 'The Disappearing Spoon' but I was disappointed.  Some of it was too simple, while other concepts were compressed to a point that I really didn't understand them.  A great idea, but not great execution.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand - A reread for me.  This is probably my very favorite play ever but it had been years since I last read it.  Cyrano is so, so beautiful!  Clever and courageous; only held back by his nose.  (I made the mistake of reading the last act while on a treadmill at the gym and I had to fight back tears.)
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus - Yes, more Camus for me. The Stranger is about a fairly normal (though possibly slow) man who murders someone almost on a whim.  The trial happens almost without his understanding.  Almost completely without his input.  A very interesting book but not as good as 'The Plague'.  Striking and well worth reading though.
  • Catcher in the Rye by Salinger - I never read this while young and perhaps I missed that window when it can be enjoyed.  I read the first half of the book and decided that I'd spent more than enough time with Caulfield.  If anyone wants to make the case that I should go back and read the second half, I'm willing to listen.
  • Delores Claiborne by Stephen King - A reread.  This story is told as a 300+ page monologue given from an older woman to the police after she is accused of a murder.  It's a fascinating story with that mixture of everyday observation and utterly horribleness that King does so well.
  • Some other this and that, including pieces of books like the last climatic 200 pages of Tom Clancy's 'Sum of All Fears'.
And then the short stories.  One of these days I'll sit down and figure out exactly where I should be as I certainly haven't stayed with any kind of strictly once a week rule.  In April I read:
The Calf by Sforim - good
Lady with a Lapdog by Chekov - very good
Texts by Leguin - haunting
The Flowers by Walker - very good

I continue to be very happy with this little side project and I mean to continue it again at least next year.