A light read, but some incredibly funny bits. If you want to know about defecation in zero g, this is your book. Not a spoiler per se, but my favoriteA light read, but some incredibly funny bits. If you want to know about defecation in zero g, this is your book. Not a spoiler per se, but my favorite story was about a guy exploring the bowels (yeah, I did that) of a NASA medical research facility and finding a number of freezers marked with astronauts names. And he's thinking "this is like Raiders of the Lost Ark ... this is where they keep the astronauts!" But the freezers were full of labeled bags of cosmic excrement frozen for posterity. In trying to re-find the room later he comments "you can't just go there ... you have to, kinda, uh, stumble upon it. It's like Narnia." ...more
Disappointing. Just a series of cases giving no real insight into the context of hallucination. Sure, it's amusing to hear about the older woman withDisappointing. Just a series of cases giving no real insight into the context of hallucination. Sure, it's amusing to hear about the older woman with the hallucinatory gentleman caller, or that the exaggeration of teeth and eyes in hallucinated faces is rooted in cerebral anatomy (a part of the brain processes these features), but the most interesting questions are those unanswered about culture. For example, why is there a stigma around hearing voices, such that it alone is sufficient for one to be categorized as schizophrenic? Why do visions in religious context get something of a pass, but other hallucinations are denigrated? What drives us, as humans, to seek out these kinds of altered perceptions - as shown by the ubiquity of hallucinogenic drugs in every culture that could conceivably get access ... and the use of the environment or deprivation, such as hunger, to enhance or induce? ...more
One thing I find very interesting in biographies is to look for the faults you find in yourself, and see how the great men andNot the man I expected.
One thing I find very interesting in biographies is to look for the faults you find in yourself, and see how the great men and women overcome them, use them to their advantage, or, in some cases, struggle with them, ignore them, address them unsuccessfully. In Einstein, I see my own desire to reject received ideas which, oddly, can sometimes result in a form of perceived conservation when prevailing winds blow in a radical direction - e.g. Einstein's debates at the Solvay conferences with Niels Bohr, Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and others regarding quantum mechanics (the famous "God does not play dice" line). I also see myself in his love of humanity but often disinterested relationships with actual humans - the impersonality that resulted from the fact that he loved physics more than he loved any one person. I suppose that's in line with his highly theoretical nature; every relationship is a thought experiment.
One of my favorite moments is an anecdote about Goedel, with whom Einstein would take long walks around Princeton later in life ... usually in silence since, though friends, their nature's were somewhat incompatible. When applying for US citienship, Goedel took the task very seriously, studying the constitution with diligence. He was certain that he found a logical inconsistency in the text that allowed for the possibility that the US could be pushed into totalitarianism, fascism, all forms of repression, and was eager to share this with the presiding judge. Einstein and others attempted to dissuade him, unsuccessfully. The judge, however, having become familiar with many of the brilliant but eccentric emigres that orbited around the Institute for Advanced Studies, dismissed him with "oh, we don't have to go into all that" ... and robbed us of Goedel's bizarre insight into the constitution! ...more
A very important book, profound, but occasionally difficult to get through. Canguilhem, for his renown as a philosopher, originally trained as a physiA very important book, profound, but occasionally difficult to get through. Canguilhem, for his renown as a philosopher, originally trained as a physician and wrote his thesis, which forms the first section of this volume, at the completion of his medical doctorate from the University of Strasbourg. Point being, there are long passages of medical detail that are impenetrable and uninteresting to someone coming at this from a philosophical or history of science angle.
What is most interesting is the assault on the perception of life sciences, the investigation of how they are framed and frame themselves, teasing their conclusions into various threads - the normal, norms, normativity, error, health, disease, physiology - and using this analysis to challenge the self-conception. Biological sciences, far from being statistical / rigorous / neutral, are woven from politically / economically / technologically / culturally / religiously influenced interpretations of "fact".
Beyond his writing, Canguilhem was incredibly influential in the second half of the 20th century in France through his institutional positions as Inspector General and, later, President of the Jury d'Agregation in Philosophy. His impact on thinkers such as Derrida, Althusser, Lacan, and particularly Foucault, are easy to trace and to "feel." As Foucault writes in his introduction, "[...:] it is easy to find the place of those who, from near or from afar, had been trained by Canguilhem." Trace back to his antecedent, and you find Bachelard. A fine set of poles to connect.
Having read and enjoyed The Birth of the Clinic, History of Madness, and more general philosophical writings on the nature of scientific inquiry & progress, such as Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it's surprising to me that I skipped this for so long. Happy to have corrected that omission. ...more