Socrates is known only through his dialogues at Plato’s hand. Herein are four:
Euthyphro – Prior to Socrates’“… a victim, not of the laws, but of men.”
Socrates is known only through his dialogues at Plato’s hand. Herein are four:
Euthyphro – Prior to Socrates’ trial, he and Euthyphro discuss piety, truth, and his impending trial.
Apology – Soliloquy of Socrates to the Athenian court, answering the charges of Meletus that he has corrupted the youth of Athens and is an atheist, and in which he responds to his eventual conviction and sentence.
Crito – Socrates is imprisoned prior to execution, and refuses Crito’s sincere offer to jailbreak him, replying that the answer of one injustice with another is not moral.
Phaedo – in which Phaedo gives a lengthy recounting of the final discussions between Simmias, Echecrates, Cebes, and the Thebans. Centers on the soul, immortality, resurrection, and culminates in Socrates’ death by drinking hemlock.
These are important works of the Western Canon and things I haven’t read since adolescence. It is interesting how even the greatest minds of previous millennia can seem to employ a type of casuistry in their grasp for explanations (the entire discussion of when the soul precisely joins and breaks from our corporeal form comes to mind). Even the most uneducated person today knows more about our physical and natural world than Socrates did (or could have).
Underlying the Socratic method, though, is the mark of any educated person: knowing that you don’t know enough, can never know enough, and anyone claiming knowledge they cannot have is suspect. ...more
Persecution Mania? The book can serve to make one very introspective about a well-lived life. Or even to reconsider normal pleasures. I found myself suPersecution Mania? The book can serve to make one very introspective about a well-lived life. Or even to reconsider normal pleasures. I found myself suddenly realizing that there may be a similarity between someone so idle that he seeks oblivion in drunkenness/drugs – and a person who skydives off cliffs or performs other adrenaline-laden-pleasure-binges. Russell argues (and this is early last century!) that a premium is put on escapism, pure experience or pure emotion. These might be momentarily enjoyable, but do not further social or family good. Of course anyone is free to pursue anything they wish. But is it really happiness?
There are musings about family, vanity, work, persecution mania (maybe my favorite), and all with an erudition and wit that is almost timeless. Short, to the point, and a modern philosophy that does not feel aged despite a 1930 publication date. ...more
In mid-17th century England, the re-institution of a priori pubishing “licensure” was met with John Milton’s entreaThe Iron Yoke of Outward Conformity
In mid-17th century England, the re-institution of a priori pubishing “licensure” was met with John Milton’s entreaty for free expression in Areopagitica. The Licensing Act of 1643 created 20 Licensers or Censors who would read all prospective published material in England and decide what was fit to be read (and, more importantly, what was not).
Milton is a religious man of letters and his arguments are infused with appeals to the Divine and the human ability to discern good from wicked ideas as we were donated this ability by our supposed Creator. In this vein, the arguments don’t resonate well with a modern secular reader. Most importantly, though, he argues for unfettered free expression and argument for its own sake. The alternative is a regression of our society into a less informed ward of the state, which History reminds us has never gone well.
If our innate human dignity is not sufficient argument, then the sheer logistics of pre-publication censure by a small group of fallible humans is the proverbial nail in the coffin to the censorious instinct. In 2015, this is still a great and powerful work. To no avail, of course, as the Licensure Act continued until its expiry in 1695. ...more
Bill Warner has a keen and objective eye for explaining Sharia to those of us not intimately familiar with the foundational texts. The true implicatioBill Warner has a keen and objective eye for explaining Sharia to those of us not intimately familiar with the foundational texts. The true implications of this type of religious law is a horrible, sexist, murderous world of 7th century barbarisms. Many millions wish it to be imposed on us today.
To be objective myself, he seems unable to turn his inciveness to his own Western Christian beliefs. While his religious views do not directly inform this work, a little bit of internet searching, both for video and print, allows us to see that Bill Warner himself is an apologist for his own monotheism. I am an antitheist, so such inconsistency in his thinking is glaring. I am not an acolyte of Warner, but he has a directness that we can all appreciate. The texts speak for themselves....more
“The purpose of a system is what it does.” ~Stafford Beer
It is critical that we question orthodoxy, particularly in medicine and the sciences. Steve Hi“The purpose of a system is what it does.” ~Stafford Beer
It is critical that we question orthodoxy, particularly in medicine and the sciences. Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts suggest that the now-dominant paradigm of experimental design in medicine, so-called Evidence-Based Medicine or “EBM” is misleading, fraught with cognitive biases, and wittingly serves a industry-centered medical culture. As someone early in a surgical career and who has published and spent time and effort conforming to the purported auspices of EBM, I approach a polemic like this one with intense skepticism. Its core tenets are contrary to everything I have been lead to believe about epistemology and the practical means by which I should be building my career. As I finish the book and reflect on my notes, I find its contents deeply troubling but surprisingly resonant. I think there is much truth in these pages.
If I design an experiment, a “high-quality” journal will mandate an a priori sample size calculation ensuring my study is powered adequately. All this means: if I want to have a certain statistical significance, and wish to detect X difference between two treatments (X is based on previous studies, other studies, etc) then I need to enroll a certain number of patients. Hickey and Roberts remind us that this changes the research question entirely. No longer is the experiment designed to detect treatment effects. Instead, it is merely ensuring, ahead of time, that my study has statistical significance. Instead my question has morphed into: how many subjects do I need to ensure my study finds something, regardless of how small, irrelevant, or expected? The authors suggest that my experiment is already rigged.
As a clinician, can I take large population averages and apply the results of large cross-sectional and longitudinal data and apply it to a single patient? Is the fact that a database of joint replacements in California predicted slightly earlier failure rates and infection for knee replacements in patients under 50 years old really clinically helpful when I speak to a patient about the procedure? Or, instead, is my first person experience and knowledge of that patient’s medical history, exam, attitude, compliance, etc., more valuable? Opponents of EBM suggest that EBM doesn’t give physicians any practical decision-making tools, since the statistically significant findings in such studies are often spurious, diluted by the number of variables being manipulated, or may be mathematically correct but clinically irrelevant. Any reader of the literature would agree that all of these are occasionally (or often) true. This is not to say that EBM is useless. I contend it provides useful background information about large populations. EBM provides something vague on which to build. It certainly does not represent our only way of knowing.
There are other troubling trends, like the axiomatic praise of peer review. Any who participate in that arena are aware of its tendency to maintain the status quo opinion, to reject overly progressive ideas, to be insular and exclusionary, and promulgate intellectual cronyism. That situation is intensely disheartening.
How could we improve this situation? By current dogma, EBM could only be challenged and marginalized if it were rebuked by the rules of EBM itself. I am intensely skeptical of any system characterized by circular logic, inherent bias towards its own superiority, imbued with mass acceptance, and which stifles nonconformity by its very nature. The authors may or may not overstate their case. Yet they are entreating medical professionals to reflect intensely at their very own epistemology, and I guarantee most of us have never done so. ...more
Brief treatment of Christianity and Atheism, many of which written when Shelley was 19 years old! The most effective is not the title essay, "The NeceBrief treatment of Christianity and Atheism, many of which written when Shelley was 19 years old! The most effective is not the title essay, "The Necessity of Atheism" (half is translated from the French), but instead the last work, a Socratic dialogue between Theosophus and Eusebes regarding the veracity of supernatural claims. They discuss the evidence for God, the claims of Christ, and the major problems with the major monotheisms, all with a quick wit and razor-sharp reasoning that should avail all of us....more
Perhaps that is what your world becomes on the crack-cocaine that is video gaming. Tom Bissell figuratively (and literally) knows this is t Vice City
Perhaps that is what your world becomes on the crack-cocaine that is video gaming. Tom Bissell figuratively (and literally) knows this is true. He presents a self-deprecating, semi-autobiographical history of recent video gaming and focuses on why, if not high art, video games are something else entirely. Or maybe they are the highest art.
Bissell has serious literary chops and a voluminous knowledge of contemporary film and prose (he is a creative writing major and literary critic, after all). It's the reader of exceeding eclecticism that can digest all of his allusions to Epic Games, Nabokov, John le Carre, Braid , Cutting Crew, and David Foster Wallace (a mere iceberg tip). Every chapter is filled with fascinating interviews with adults who aren't just cynical suits piloting moneygrabbing corporations, but instead a smattering of brilliant and groundbreaking individuals who want to take gaming to an experiential height that we can't yet imagine, finances be damned. Along these chapters, Bissell recounts the games that morphed him into something other than himself, a feeling to which we might relate. Perhaps we snap at our girlfriends' temerity of a goodbye kiss during Demon's Souls (i.e. "What are you thinking!?"). Mayhaps we ignore our supposedly highbrow pursuits. Or simply lament the inordinate amount of time we have spent gaming. Bissell readily admits to 200+hrs playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , something to which I can entirely relate (120+ playing Dragon Age: Origins and ~150 hrs (so far) with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ). Are we doing anything worthwhile with these hours?
Slate.com's Michael Thomsen tried to tackle this question in a recent article entitled "Dark Night (After Night After Night) of the Soul:Is a 100-hour video game ever worthwhile?". I would submit that Thomsen only partially gets the point in his critique of the 100+hour game. The gaming journeys he criticizes in the epics of modern RPGs aren't important to gamers because of what has actually been accomplished (breaking boxes, amassing virtual currency, having polygonal polyamory, or drubbing enemies with increasingly cool magic). It's actually immaterial if the activity is repetitive, irrelevant, or goofy, and boy are some of them goofy. Gaming matters to me, at least today, because it gives me a buzz. Demon's Souls gives me literal goosebumps and can cause a literal rage. The SNES's Final Fantasy III made me weep. Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City made the capable author Tom Bissell disappear into another world, and be thankful for the opportunity. If video games don't do anything for you, you most certainly should not be playing. But as long as they do, you should never stop....more