Wednesday, March 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, March 1, 2015

Readings for March

Two pieces, but neither of them are long.

Aristotle: Physics (book 4, chapters 1-5, 10-14) link
Aristotle: Metaphysics (book 1, chapter 1-2, book 4, book 6 chapter 1, book 11 chapter 1-4) link

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books Read in February

There have been some big changes in the past month.  I've moved from being a stay at home dad/part time worker to a full time in the office guy.  (The kids are old enough that this now makes sense.)  I'm not sure what that will mean schedule wise for reading but I'm pushing ahead anyway.
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo - I found this 2002 Pulitzer winner at a used bookstore.  It's a story of a small New England town that is dealing with great changes since the textile industry changed.  It provides a very interesting (and amusing!) look at small town life.  The first 400 pages were very good, but it kind of fizzled at the end.  
  • The Player of Games by Iain M Banks - A reread for me.  This book is set in the far future when the dominant civilization (known as the Culture) finds another civilization that is organized around an unbelievably complicated board game.  They recruit their finest game player to play against them.  A great book full of surprising cultural details.
  • There were a handful of other books that I'm only part of the way through.  The most interesting is 'The Cave and the Light' by Arthur Herman.  This is a comparison of Plato and Aristotle and what each of them has meant to western civilization.  Well written and interesting throughout.
I'm a bit behind on the short stories, about one week to be precise.  This month I read:
Father and the Boys by Weissenberg, a very dark story
With Acknowledgments to Sun Tzu by Hodge, nearly as dark
No Place for you, my Love by Welty, which was frustrating

Not much joy there.  Respect for crafting and art, but probably too much darkness.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Classic Links

Best Marriage in Literature?  link

Book recommendations from Neil Degrasse Tyson link

Traveling to Antarctica and reading Moby Dick link

Twelve Angry Philosophers link

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Theaetetus - Plato

I don't have a lot to say about 'Theaetetus'.  The dialogue is (mostly) between Socrates and a young man named Theaetetus.  Theaetetus is very smart and humble and Socrates treats him with respect and gentleness.  The dialogue is concerned with how we know things.

The biggest thing that I learned was a bit of personal discovery.  Discussions of epistemology make my eyes glaze over.  This may be my problem with Kant, too.  Not sure what it is but I think the problem is is that the theories of knowledge seem incomplete or unconvincing.
This doesn't bode well for the rest of the year, either.  Both Locke and Hume have pieces concerning human understanding.  They're followed up by part of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason'.  August and September could be long . . .

Friday, February 20, 2015

Readings for March

Two pieces:

March Aristotle: Physics (book 4, chapters 1-5, 10-14) link Aristotle: Metaphysics (book 1, chapter 1-2, book 4, book 6 chapter 1, book 11 chapter 1-4) link

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Questions about Plato's Cave

If you are unfamiliar with Plato's Cave or only vaguely familiar, please read yesterday's post, which has most of the text regarding it.  The entire concept is fascinating and well worth extensive study.

  • How reliable a comparison is the suddenly freed person to a philosopher?  A philosopher, in this context, is taking a deep dive into the deep questions of life.  This separates the individual philosopher from the 'go along to get along' everyday person type.  Once they grapple with the deep ideas of ethics and the formation of the state, their life will be altered in such a way that they will be different than those who haven't.  That's obviously true on some level but is it overstated as well?  If you were at a party with various people, could you spot the philosopher?
  • Then there is the idea that what we perceive in regular life is the same as flickering shadows from an unknown (to us) source.  Does that imply some other type of existence that is dimly communicating to us?  Are we getting garbled messages from some place else or is the world really what we see it as?  (This was almost certainly Ayn Rand's big beef with Plato.  She fervently believed that reality gave us all the tools we needed to understand the world around us.  The idea that this information was simply leaking to us must have appalled her.)
  • Is there some kind of agent at work here?  The prisoners are bound and they see only shadows of puppets(?).  Does this mean that some other party must be . . . moving those puppets?  Or have created them?  Or am I taking the story too far?
  • The idea that I find most personally powerful is the idea that we need to give thinkers some time and room while they figure things out.  Criticism should be gentle and understanding.  (This rule is probably suspended if the thinker is too brash and arrogant, of course.)  
  • How much should we, the 'prisoner' really trust those outside opinions though?  Just because someone has told us that they have glimpsed an outside world that is closer to the truth, can we really be asked to simply go with that?  That probably depends on what exactly it is that they're telling us and how far from our normal experience they expect us to deviate.  But if the cave analogy is accurate, would we have any real gauge on just how far from normal is problematic?  The freed philosopher has better information than we do, certainly.  But how do you differ between madmen and those that have seen the truth?  (More worrisome, is there a difference?)
The ideas here are incredible but I'm not quite sure what else to do with them.  Think of them, certainly.  Watch for future references and arguments, I suppose.  But I'm not sure what else.  If I'm one of the prisoners, can I ever be in a position to judge?