Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Novum Organum - Bacon

Francis Bacon wrote 'Novum Organum' as a kind of response to Aristotle's 'Organum' which deals with logic.  Bacon wrote his 'new' piece in large part to question how we prove things. 
Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm than spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own.
This is a reaction to the way that science was seen as established and permanent.  The works of Aristotle (especially) and others were held as settled science and no real effort could be made to question them.  Bacon sought to change that.
I propose to establish progressing stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction which follows the the act of sense I for the most part reject; and instead of it I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from simple sensuous perception.
From this, Bacon launched the scientific method and this created an enormous bloom of science. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Readings for the Rest of Year Four

For whatever reason, this year has been top heavy in terms of number of pieces.  After July, fully 2/3rd of the number of pieces will be done.  For those interested, that comes to 66 of the 180 pieces in the full list.  Or 11/30ths.
That's a little misleading though because the heaviest reading is in the second half.  Some is easy, some not so much.  I see my nemesis, Kant, lurking there in September again.  I will at least start the reading but I no longer make any promises on finishing the old windbag.  October and November are heavy from a page count sense but they're both fiction.  (Somewhat contrary to its own narrative, I predict smooth sailing with 'Moby Dick'.)
But let me not get too far ahead of myself.  Next month brings Descartes and Newton.  When I looked at June and July and this month I cringed at the amount of science reading there would be.  Not because I don't like science but because the primary sources here can be very dusty.  Galileo and (especially) Bacon surprised me.  Hopefully July will bring pleasant surprises too.

Descartes: Discourse on the Method link
Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (prefaces, definitions, axioms, general scholium) link

Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (book 2) link

Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding link
Kant: A Critique of Pure Reason (prefaces, introduction, transcendental aesthetic) link

Melville: Moby Dick link

Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov (part 3 and 4) link

James: Principles of Psychology (chapters 15 and 20) link

Friday, June 19, 2015

Links to the Past

Why the Magna Carta was signed by England's worst King link

What rights are granted by the Magna Carta? link

How you define a liberal arts education matters greatly link

Is the world starved for beauty? link

We're Losing Sight of What Art is For link

Sartre: A Show About Nothingness (Existential Comics) link

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two New Sciences - Galileo

(This only covers the beginning of the third day.)

Two New Sciences is an interesting book, possibly more interesting for its history than for its contents.  Galileo wrote it very carefully to avoid offending a school of thought within the Catholic Church that regarded the Aristotelian model of the universe to be perfect and complete.  From my understanding, he tried very hard to simply present things without making attacks on the former reasoning.  A large part of this is showing how mathematical formulas show how things work, rather than just observing and presenting a theory to explain it.
The book takes the form of a conversation between three men, Simplicio, Sagredo, and Salviati.  These men discuss various theories and the three are sometimes thought to represent Galileo's thought process from young man to more experienced and older man.  This allows Galileo to present an idea and then attack and defend it.  It works pretty well.  To my (modern) eyes, it's very readable.

The section that comes up from the Great Books reading list is about whether objects accelerate or slow down(!) as they fall.  Galileo argues that they fall faster and has a spiffy geometric chart to show that the rate of acceleration is, well, geometric.  The whole thing makes sense to me and I was left with a sense of 'wait, did they really think things slowed down as they fell?'.  Apparently so.
There are two things that make this type of reading especially striking now.  First, this is all well established science now.  There is broad (unanimous?) agreement on gravity and acceleration.  This wasn't true then and in fact had still to be argued out.
The other thing is that with our modern equipment, we can easily show how things behave as they fall.  I kept thinking about Mythbusters and their use of slow motion cameras and replay.  How different things would have been if Galileo could have marched people into a theater and shown them proof!  (And yes, that gets several horses and carts confused.  The thought still occurred to me.)

I liked reading Galileo.  We return to his writings in year seven and I look forward to it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Links to the Past

Thucydides and Soccer link

Hunting for Galen's writings link

Get Your Galileo going this summer link

Crisis in Physics (Use of Scientific Method today) link

How to Save Liberal Arts Education link

Philosophy News Network (Existential Comics) link

Wednesday, June 3, 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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Books Read in May

I'm a little late on this.  Sorry!  Not many this month.

Around the World in 80 Days, Verne - I'd never read this before.  Very enjoyable both in concept and especially as an historical piece.  If anyone is interested, you can now travel commercially around the world in something like 36-40 hours.
View from the Cherry Tree, Willo Davis Roberts - I think my teacher read this to us back in 5th grade and it stuck with me ever since.  This was the first murder mystery that I've ever read.  I enjoyed it this time too.
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson - This just came out a couple of weeks ago.  The idea behind the story is that the moon has broken up and will send enough stones down to earth to render it uninhabitable.  An emergency attempt is made to use the ISS and some quickly designed pods to put people into orbit.  This works but there are large problems.  At some point humanity dwindles to only seven child bearing women.  And then the story takes off.
Did I like it?  Eh.  I love Neal Stephenson but this one was far too heavy on info-dump and light on people.  It would have been much, much better broken into two books.  As it is, I can't really recommend it.

And then parts of other books.  I'm working my way through the very good 'Black Swan' by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (theory explained here).  I'm slowly rereading 'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo, taking my time and savoring.
As far as short stories go, I only got to three of them this month but that still keeps me ahead of schedule.

The Dead by Joyce - good, but not as good as my expectations had led me to hope for
Greatness Strikes Where it Pleases by Gustafson - only ok
The Man to Send Rain Clouds by Silko - very good

Monday, June 1, 2015

Readings for June

Two pieces.

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