PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Philosophy of Sciencethe philosophy of science
By: Professor Jeffrey L. Kasser

Narrated by Professor Kasser Lecture Series

DR. JEFFREY L. KASSER (ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY)This is a tough audiobook to adequately summarize. Dr. Jeffrey Kasser offers evidence for the value and advance of human knowledge through philosophy and science. Kasser explains that philosophy is the beginning of what becomes a scientific world view. Kasser attempts to drag skeptics out of Socrates’ cave  with a “36 lecture” series titled “Philosophy of Science”.

KARL POPPER (1902-1994)

KARL POPPER (1902-1994)

Kasser recounts the history of science from a world controlled by fickle gods to a world of cause and effect. Then, in the early twentieth century, Kasser notes that science reveals a world of probability. Kasser reports on views of science changed by philosophers like Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, and Bas van Frassen.

Popper suggests science cannot be proven but only falsified. His point is that only infinite experimentation can prove the truth of a scientific theory. Infinity, by definition, is boundless; therefore, science offers limited truth in so far as no one can reach an infinite number of experiments to prove a theory.

PAUL FEYERABEND (1924-1994)

PAUL FEYERABEND (1924-1994)

Feyerabend argues that scientific method is a constraint rather than exploratory tool of science. To Feyerabend, when science begins with hypothesis, research is restricted and experimentation becomes biased by pre-conceived or experienced perception.

BAS van FRASSEN (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY)

BAS van FRASSEN (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY)

Bas van Fraassen suggests that, at best, science can only reveal approximate truth about the physical world. His view lends itself to quantum physics where cause and effect become probabilistic rather than definitive.

These three philosophers, as well as several others noted by Kasser, steer science to a category of understanding called logical positivism. Logical positivism is argued to be the primary focus of what is called good science. Logical positivism suggests that science must be based on direct experience and logic; within limitations like those argued by Popper, Feyerabend, von Frassen, and others.

However, Kassen suggests even logical positivism is challenged by the realization that acts of analysis, particularly measurement of results, distort reality. Distortion comes from the act of measurement and the bias of human cognition. In other words, experiments done by different scientists with the same results remain only qualified scientific truths. Experimentation, even accompanied by logic, becomes suspect. Observational measurement and human perception are critically important to science but, by nature, both measurement and perception taint objective truth.

Kasser explains the truth of science lays in experiment designed to disprove hypothesis. Logic generates hypothesis. Hypothesis is tested for falsity through experiment. Experiment requires measurement. Science experiment is influenced by measurement and human perception which raises doubt about results of tested hypothesis.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

Newton’s laws work in the macro world. We no longer believe rocks fall to the ground because they live there. Newton’s laws of motion suggest that a bowling ball and a basketball will fall at the same rate of speed, even though their mass is different. This is experimentally and logically provable. Kasser notes that Newton’s laws infer a cause-and-effect world. If a rock, bowling ball, or basketball are picked up and dropped, they will fall to the ground. If they are in a vacuum, they will fall to the ground at the same rate of speed.

In the micro world, components of atoms that combine to form what we see as bowling balls and basketballs cohere to each other in a way that does not conform to Newton’s laws. The components of atoms operate in accordance with quantum mechanics which shows that elements of atoms in bowling balls and basketballs do not follow Newton’s laws of motion. The orbital planes of atomic elements like quarks and leptons appear and disappear; i.e. they do not follow a predictable pattern of action. Cause and effect in the macro world is replaced by probability in the micro world.

MULTI-LEPTON EVENTS

MULTI-LEPTON EVENTS

None of this is to suggest that Newton’s laws are false or that quantum mechanics are anything more than an expansion of Newton’s laws. However, at this stage of scientific discovery, the two laws are not presently compatible, even though both laws are experimentally confirmable. Attempts have been made to unify these laws. String theory is the present day most studied hypothesis but it fails the criteria of null hypothesis because of today’s instrumental and cognitive limitations.

Philosophy and science are integral to the advance of human civilization. We are still looking at shadows of reality but Kasser infers philosophy and science are the best hope for Socrates’ spelunkers.

HORRORS

Book Review
Personal Library
By Chet Yarbrough

Purepure
By Andrew Miller

The word pure is defined as something which has foreign elements removed. “Pure” is a novel by Andrew Miller set in 1785. The year is relevant because it takes place in France, four years before the revolution.

HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

The author does not refer to revolution but there is a macabre prescience and parallel to France’s 1789 rebellion. Social deterioration depicted in “Pure” reminds one of the horrors reported in the aftermath of the French revolution.

LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)

LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)

“Pure” is about dismantling a grave yard in Paris. Les Innocents’ grave yard was disgorged of cadavers and abandoned in 1786. Miller writes about an engineer, commissioned by the French royal court, to relocate burial remains and dismantle a church from an overburdened cemetery. The engineer reluctantly accepts the commission and moves from a small town to Les Innocents in Paris.

IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL

IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL

IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY

IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY

Miller’s engineer is commissioned to purify Les Innocents just as the French revolution is designed to purify France. The Les

Innocents’ commission is to remove area degradation caused by too many graves. The French Revolution’s commission is to remove degradation caused by too many aristocrats. The consequence in both instances turns into something more than purification. Human beings become savage and irrational; life becomes driven by repressed anger rather than normative morality.

GRAVE DIGGER

ROBESPIERRE'S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD

ROBESPIERRE’S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD

Upon arrival in Les Innocents, the engineer smells the fetid air of decaying corpses. The smell permeates clothing, housing, and the psyche of local residents. Residents are accustomed to the smell. Some believe it is the smell of history and society; they love it. Others think it is only the smell of death and a reliable employer; so they tolerate it.

The engineer is from a mining town. He calls on a former friend to offer work as foreman for the grim job. The friend is to hire a team of miners to demolish a church and remove bodies from an adjacent graveyard.

Because they are miners, they are accustomed to digging and are willing to pursue less dangerous work above ground. The team arrives at the cemetery and begins work.

MINERS WORK

MINERS WORK

Soon after beginning work; digging through dirt and stacks of bodies, the miners, the foreman, and the engineer begin to have behavioral problems. All seek escape from their grim duties by soliciting local prostitutes. The foreman rapes a 14-year-old girl and shoots himself.
The engineer closets himself from society. He rents a room in a local family’s home. The landlord’s daughter attacks the engineer.  She bashes a groove in the engineer’s skull.

The Landlord’s daughter is obsessed with the cemetery’s history. She focuses her terror of loss on the engineer because he is destroying her interest in life, her obsession with the cemetery. The engineer nearly loses his life. He suffers from memory loss, severe headaches, and bad dreams.

The Landlord’s daughter is exiled from the family home. The engineer chooses a prostitute to live with him in the daughter’s former bedroom. The landlord is demeaned by the arrangement but allows it because of guilt over his daughter’s actions. The engineer’s arbitrary commands remind one of stories of unjust treatment of the poor and middle class by revolutionaries that were supposed to rid France of arbitrary decrees from Aristocratic masters.

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Les Innocents is to be abandoned because it became a dumping ground for human remains. France needed a revolution because cities had become dumping grounds for the poor.

There were justifiable reasons for closing Les Innocents but the nature of the work became dehumanizing. The same may be said of the French revolution.

Miller infers abandoning normative morality makes savages of us all. Life is not only about why or what human beings do. It is also about how it is done. For the health of residents in the area of Les Innocents, the cemetery had to be moved. For the poor of 1789, France’s government had to change.

The story of “why” and “what” seem clear in the novel, “Pure”,  but the “how” is in question. When one knows the “why” of life and the “what” of action, the ends do not always justify means.

DIVINING HUMAN NATURE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Great Expectationsgreat expectations By: Charles Dickens

Narrated by Charlton Griffin

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens’ art is in divining human nature, and making readers care for heroes that covet and receive natural justice. Every character in Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (and there are many) are good and bad, heroes or villains that receive just rewards; at least, by the turn of the final page.

Pip is Dickens’ main character. Pip is a young orphaned boy, living with his sister and her husband. The husband is Joe Gargery, a perfect surrogate father to Pip. Joe is kind and nurturing with a simple view of life. Joe neither judges nor condemns Pip’s growth to manhood. His shrewish wife is counterpoint to Joe’s nature. She gives depth to Joe’s character by contrast to his ideal goodness.  Her shrewish habits show  too much pride, little understanding and no empathy for others. Pip learns and exhibits all of Joe’s and his wife’s characteristics as he grows to manhood. Pip is not perfect; i.e. he is burdened by human nature, the fault of being human.

Dickens serialized many of his 19th century novels. One imagines reader anticipation of the next chapter, the next step in Pip’s journey to self-understanding. Like waiting for the next episode of “Downton Abbey”, one wonders–which character will die next; who will fall in love, and who will be hoisted by their own petard. Will love triumph over adversity? Dickens keeps readers in suspense, not knowing but wanting to know; thinking they know and finding they are wrong.

Listening to this version of “Great Expectations” adds dimension to Charles Dickens’ story; i.e. Charlton Griffin, the narrator, vivified Dickens’ characters. Jaggers is a formidable lawyer. Magwitch is an uneducated criminal. Miss Haversham is a mysterious wealthy shut-in. Estella is Miss Haversham’s ward, raised to revenge Miss Haversham’s ill treatment by a suitor.  Estella is destined to be intertwined in Pip’s life. Wemmick is a clever and secretive employee of Jaggers that lives two lives; each known only by Pip. Biddy is Pip’s first mentor. Orlick is Pip’s most dangerous enemy. These are characters Dickens’ weaves into a story of mystery, murder, and misanthropy. There are more; each plays a part in explicating Pip’s journey to middle age.

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

Dickens is admired by contemporaries as well as modern authors. One of Tolstoy’s favorite novels was “The Personal History of David Copperfield”. It is over 200 years since Dickens was born but even today there is high praise for his insight to human nature, his descriptive prose, and his consummate ability to suspend disbelief in the coincidence of life.

“Great Expectations” is a wonderful story. It entertains while offering lessons for living life. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is the credo of those who believe in natural justice; i.e. human nature is rewarded by a just measure of reward and punishment. At least, that seems Dickens’ view of life. There are other beliefs, less just, and consequently less comforting.

Audio Book Reviews and Las Vegas Views


Notice: Trying to get property of non-object in /home/content/58/7538158/html/wp-content/plugins/site-button-by-extension-factory/extensionfactory.php on line 77
Extension Factory Builder
%d bloggers like this: