I'm too tired (and too busy) for a proper review right now. All I'll say is that this is a great overview of some of the formal tools needed to undersI'm too tired (and too busy) for a proper review right now. All I'll say is that this is a great overview of some of the formal tools needed to understand philosophical issues: set theory, infinity, Turing machines and computability, formal semantics, probability theory. It's not a book on philosophical issues, it's a book on math and logic that is motivated by philosophical issues. The attempt is not to tackle these philosophical issues themselves, but rather to present the purely formal mathematical (not philosophical) tools needed to understand the debates going on regarding the philosophical issues. It's a sort of "mathematics for philosophers" book, and a very good one....more
An extremely confusing and confused book. While the style itself is not difficult, enabling effortless decoding of individual sentences, the argumentaAn extremely confusing and confused book. While the style itself is not difficult, enabling effortless decoding of individual sentences, the argumentation and the usage of terminology and technical philosophical devices is puzzling. This is perhaps partly due to me not being particularly familiar with the subject matter (I have taken a course on the philosophy of language, have encountered many arguments about mental content and the meaning of meaning, but have only very brief acquaintance with normativity and meta-ethics, the latter of which is used in an analogous fashion in parts of the book), but the problems I encountered in trying to understand this book are clearly not solely due to my own lack of understanding. This is not an unsubstantiated claim. I read this for a seminar on this book in which we carefully went through every last chapter in detail, one at a time. The seminar was attended by several PhDs in philosophy, and everyone had the same problems. Instead of spending our time on discussing the strength of Gibbard's arguments, we found ourselves constantly trying to figure just what he was even trying to say. The text seems to have gone through absolutely no editorial process: there is often no seeming logical connection between chapters, technical devices are used without any apparent motivation for the theory being elaborated, and there are just tons and tons of spelling as well as grammatical errors. There are some interesting discussions here and there, but the overall theory eludes me except for the fact that I understand his program to be one in which meaning is normative and tied to "planning" (in a sense, readily acknowledged by Gibbard himself, that diverges from the ordinary meaning of the word) such that "plans" are somehow fundamental and left unanalyzed, with meaning arising from them (in stark contrast to the obviously more sensible way to handle meaning in which sentences require meaning in order to be used to form plans). I understand these general points (though I can't begin to comprehend how anyone could consider them sensible), but apart from that, there is no obvious connection between this overall theory and the various specific discussions found in the book. Sometimes when reading some advanced or fairly advanced book on philosophy, especially when it comes to technical matters (and this is not one of those books) I have the experience of understanding the overall project, grasp the different steps of the argumentation on a conceptual level, but can have trouble understanding the details. Here, I had almost the exact opposite experience. I do not understand the motivation for using the concepts Gibbard uses to motivate his project, but I do understand the details as long as I don't try to think too much about how these are supposed to support his thesis that meaning is normative and grounded in "plans". Had I read this on my own, I would have concluded that I simply lacked the basic requirements for understanding the subject matter. Hearing from several PhDs with extensive knowledge about the subject matter that they had almost as much trouble understanding just what Gibbard is even doing though, leads me to the conclusion that not even Gibbard himself could answer that question......more
En duglig och lättläst, väldigt kort, sammanfattning av upplysningens idévärld och dess sammhälleliga konsekvenser. Författaren lyckas ta upp olika stEn duglig och lättläst, väldigt kort, sammanfattning av upplysningens idévärld och dess sammhälleliga konsekvenser. Författaren lyckas ta upp olika strömningar, visa att upplysningens olika centrala figurer inte utgjorde någon helt enhetlig rörelse utan att det fanns kraftig variation deras åsikter emellan, samtidigt som han inte ryggar för att säga att det ändå finns några centrala tendenser som karaktäriserar upplysningen. Överlag är det ett väl avvägt verk, slutsatser hålls till ett minimum på ett ansvarsfullt vis: det går knappast att genomföra några giltiga analyser på så få sidor och då hade det varit oansvarigt att dra några egentliga slutsatser. Istället får vi en kort förteckning av de viktigaste figurerena samt deras idéer och handlingar. Resultatet är bra, det känns som att läsa en lite längre Wikipedia-artikel med ett antal kommentarer om vilka slutsatser andra har försökt dra och några varningar gällande dessa. Tyvärr behandlas dock materialet alltför ytligt för att slutresultatet ska kunna ses som särskilt intressant, jag ser faktiskt knappt poängen med att skriva böcker om ämnen där dessa sammanfattas och förenklas på denna nivå, sådana sammanfattningar lämpas sig bättre för lite längre artiklar, i bokform blir det mest underligt att inte få något mer än vad som känns som ett först kapitel i en introduktionsbok. Dessutom finns det flera passager där någon intressant fråga avhandlas lite snabbt och där en stundtals rent förargande naivitet uttrycks. Det nämns exempelvis att upplysningsmännen ville ersätta religionens mytbildning med en vetenskap om människan och detta följs upp med en kommentar om att upplysningsmännen inte faktiskt lyckades etablera någon sådan vetenskap. Istället, hävdar författaren, sysslade de med sin egen mytbildning vilken kom att ersätta den traditionella. Denna kommentar är tvetydig och i en av tolkningarna är den fullständigt absurd, i den andra är den rimlig men detta hade då behövt förtydligas och vidareutvecklas. Det är visserligen sant att upplysningens tänkare knappast hade de verktyg som krävs för en vetenskaplig förståelse av människan, men det projekt i vilket de var involverade bestod ändå i att ersätta vetenskaplig metod med mytologisk dito. Om de endast lyckades ersätta en uppsättning myter med en annan så var detta ett tecken på att det inte var vetenskapliga nog (vare sig detta berodde på slarv och fördomsfullhet eller att det vid den tiden helt enkelt inte fanns lämpliga experimentella metoder att tillgå). Om man dock har en god vetenskaplig metod och bygger upp en teori baserat på detta så utgör inte denna teori en "alternativ myt", vilket författaren antyder, utan en verklighetsbaserad teori vilken kan och bör ersätta den ej verklighetsbaserade myten. Nu kanske jag övertolkar författarens kommentar, men i den nämnda passagen nämns att det har genomförts jämförelser mellan den klassiska kristna berättelsen om hur människan kom till och hur hon har utvecklats å en sidan och den alternativa historiska berättelse som lades fram av upplysningens tänkare. Identifikationen av en sådan likhet betyder dock inte, vilket antyds i boken, att man har visat att de utgör likvärdiga myter. Detta kan man endast visa genom att poängtera att upplysningens tänkare, om detta nu är fallet, inte använde metoder som var mer vetenskaplig en kristendomens. Bara det faktum att de kommer fram till idéer vilka på ytan verkar likna varandra är fullständigt irrelevant och verkar avslöja precis det missförstånd kring vetenskaplighet som är så tragiskt vanligt bland vanligt folk: att vetenskapen skulle skilja sig från mytologi på basis av vad den talar om, hur "flummiga" eller abstrakta dess studieobjekt ter sig, osv. Vetenskapens natur ligger dock i det faktum att teorier utsätts för prövning på ett intersubjektivt upprepningsbart vis, de teorier som går igenom testen och klarar sig är styrkta, de som inte klarar sig är försvagade. Mytbildning kan endast sägas föreligga då vi har att göra med idéer vilka inte ens är utformade för att utsättas för prövning och/eller vilka vägrar att passa in sig i det empiriska ramverk genom vilket vi undersöker hur verkligheten faktiskt är oavsett vad vi för tillfället tror eller vill tro. Det kanske är lite underligt att ägna så mycket tid i vad som var menat att bli en kort kommentar och ingen längre recension åt en så liten aspekt av en bok, men det är en fruktansvärt viktig poäng för att förstå vad som är unikt med vetenskapen, varför vetenskapen inte bara utgör ännu en mytbildning vid sidan av andra, och för att förstå varför upplysningen innebar ett intellektuellt framsteg. Inte för att härleda alla framsteg sedan dess från upplysningens idéer, men för att se att idéerna själva innebar ett så stort framsteg jämfört med tidigare idéer: upplysningens tankevärld var inte bara annorlunda än det som hade kommit tidigare, den var mycket, mycket bättre. Dess principer var bättre, dess verktyg var bättre och dess ställningstaganden var bättre än de som hade gällt innan man förstod att uteslutande använda vetenskapen för att reda ut världens natur....more
After finishing Consciousness Explained recently and liking it very much, feeling convinced Dennett tackles the issues in the appropriate way, I feltAfter finishing Consciousness Explained recently and liking it very much, feeling convinced Dennett tackles the issues in the appropriate way, I felt a need to read this one next. Here, Dennett elaborates on his ideas that in order to understand consciousness, we need to take empirical findings seriously and if we do, we realize that there is no room for any center of consciousness in the brain. Rather, we find that activities are spread out over different areas having different functional roles, somehow adding up to conscious experiences. He sketches a theory of how and why certain activities result in conscious awareness, reshaping his earlier attempts through the multiple drafts model and fame models of consciousness, into the fantasy echo theory, according to which our consciousness is explained in terms of our ability to recall experiences which results in episodic memories being possible. As I understand Dennett here, he calls attention to an important difference between lower forms of attention, such as that exhibited by lower forms of life who we agree do not enjoy consciousness, at least not of our kind, and higher forms of attention that requires the ability to form experiences of episodes. It is just this ability to experience not just simple inclinations towards reacting in certain ways in response to perceptions, but complete episodes that can be memorized and recalled that explains our conscious experiences. An important aspect of the theory is that any conscious experience consists simply in a multitude of lower, unconscious states in the mind which come together to form the experience and that there is no one moment in which something enters into consciousness but that there is competition at any moment between different sets of lower brain states to rise in activity.
The different models come together more or less, and can be seen as elaborations on each other. In the multiple drafts model, Dennett made the analogy to academic articles. There are often no one canonical version of the article, it can be in circulation as one or several different drafts, be published in a conference proceedings and then in a slightly different version in a journal and so on. There simply is no answer to the question of when the article is officially published and Dennett suggested, by his multiple drafts model, that there similarly is no answer to the question of when a something first enters into consciousness. It is a gradual process of many lower brain states being activated together yielding conscious experiences that arise as "drafts" that get revised multiple times. The fame model describes the situation in other terms: different conscious experiences have a potential at any moment to arise from the activity of the brain, with these potential experiences competing for the "fame" of attention. In the fantasy echo model, Dennett seems to focus on another aspect of this. With the previous models, he attempted to explain how there is no one moment when something reaches a point of awareness, that there's an ongoing process by which conscious experiences shifts and changes gradually. Now, he lays down a theory of how conscious experiences are explained by focusing on our ability to recall events, to shape memories and experiences into episodes, which supposedly is meant to explain how we get rich experiences and not merely the primitive responses of unconscious life forms (let's take bacteria, for an uncontroversial example of a responsive yet unconscious life form).
The other side of this view of conscious experiences is that they are analyzable, at least potentially, in terms of lower, unconscious brain states and this is where Dennett spends a lot of time, I think rightly, to attack the idea of qualia and to show what goes wrong if some intuitions are left unexamined when considering some classic thought experiments meant to prove the existence of qualia. Philosophical zombies and Mary the color scientist are treated at length and the analysis seems to hold, but I'm not going to try to summarize them here now.
In conclusion, Dennett is to the point, unimpressed by intuitions, and carefully considerate of scientific results. His models are attempts to account for something beyond that which science can currently investigate fully, but he provides suggestions informed by scientific results for where to look for a theory of consciousness rather than, as Chalmers and others seem to be doing, suggest that consciousness is some sort of fundamental building block in our ontology such that no scientific, third-person, investigation can ever explain it. It's a lovely book further explaining Dennett's views of consciousness, perfect reading for anyone who has already read Consciousness Explained. The only reason I'm giving it only four stars (and I would have given it four and a half if that had been possible) is that there are times when Dennett writes tiny dialogues in which he pits his views against those of his opponents. Such passages can be enlightening and interesting (as we know from Plato...) but Dennett does not do a very good job with them. Even though I agree with most of his conclusions and think he does a good job of defending himself against his opponents, I think he does so best when he quotes them and picks apart their arguments one by one. In the dialogues though, he mostly succeeds in creating straw men that are way too easily defeated. I think the qualia people are misguided and confused but, as is shown when Dennett does quote them, their arguments take some time to pick apart and he does not do any of his opponents justice by making them go down so quickly as he does in the dialogues. Thankfully, these passages are few and short so they do not harm the reading experience too much, but it's enough that the rating needs to fall short of the full five stars. Another, tiny, flaw is that there are several passages that are repeated twice (and some, if I remember correctly, thrice). Dennett comments on this in one chapter, attributing it to the text of that chapter being a revised version of a lecture he gave which included material from the papers being the bases of the other chapters. This is understandable, but I'm pretty sure there was another repetition or two in the latter chapters. Perhaps this comment by Dennett was meant to apply to several of the last chapters. In any case, it doesn't matter much but the repetition was a minor annoyance which, in combination with my comment above on the badly written dialogues, necessitated the four out of five stars. I do, nevertheless, consider it a must read for anyone interested in theories of consciousness....more
Dennett has conducted a wonderful investigation into the nature of consciousness. Not being satisfied to treat consciousness as something ontologicallDennett has conducted a wonderful investigation into the nature of consciousness. Not being satisfied to treat consciousness as something ontologically and fundamentally "special", he dismisses some misguided notions of the workings of consciousness which makes it seem as though there has to be some sort of "center or awareness" in which it all comes together along with the related notion of conscious experience as something which has further unexplainable phenomena, qualia, as its building blocks. Dennett insist on treating consciousness as just another biological phenomenon, needing an explanation in terms of more fundamental, unconscious, building blocks thereby dismissing the idea of qualia as ungrounded (unless understood as something further analyzable in terms of phenomena that do not exhibit qualia. These two intellectually unmotivated notions are related in that they both suppose that in order to explain consciousness, we need to find something fundamental which is itself like that which it is there to explain. Need to understand conscious experiences? Postulate the existence of basic states of conscious awareness which can not be "explained away": qualia. Need to understand the nature of a conscious person experiencing the world? Postulate the "Cartesian theater" at "the center of the mind" in which all the processing of the brain comes together to yield the final experience. Both these approaches to these questions are highly misguided: to explain the nature of conscious states, we need an explanation of their constituent parts in the brain, how the processes of the brain amount to experiential states, we do not need there to be, in addition to the purely physical processes of the brain, an accompanying unanalyzable state of conscious experience of the processing; to explain the nature of the conscious agent having these experiences, we do not need to find a further, smaller agent inside the mind, taking in all the results of the processes and experiencing their end result. Being predisposed to naturalistic explanation, as any thinking person should be, Dennett rightly concludes that these other explanations, being grounded in myths and mystery, will not do to explain what consciousness is and are often at odds with experimental results (which is, of course, enough to dispel them). Dennett does not have a detailed account of exactly how the processes of the brain amount to conscious experience (and it would be too early to attempt such an explanation), but goes a long way towards showing how scientific discoveries show us the way to asking the right questions. This is, it seems to me, both his usual approach and the right one. Upon suggesting that the mind and consciousness works a certain way, he accompanies the claim with scientific sources conducting experiments on the issue and sometimes suggest future experiments of his own that would test his thesis.
In the end, Dennett is unclear about exactly it means for someone to be conscious of something other than that it consists in the person being in a state where his or her brain currently processes information regarding the thing of which he or she is currently conscious. This might seem unsatisfactory, and this is perhaps necessarily so considering the current state of our scientific understanding of the mind. In any case, he does not dismiss consciousness, is not a complete eliminativist regarding it (as some seem to think he is), but rather seeks to demystify it, explain how it is that we are conscious beings and trying to convince the readers that we can keep our conscious minds without clinging on to unwarranted convictions of the special nature of the conscious mind. It's all very clear headed and Dennett seems to say almost exactly as much as should be said about the subject: there is no center of the mind in which experience and intentions arise (no Cartesian theater, no central meaner), there are no basic building blocks of conscious experience such that they can not be further explained in naturalistic terms (no qualia), there is no serious possibility of there coming into being creatures with all the behavioral complexity of conscious human beings who are nonetheless not conscious (no zombies) and the mind and all its workings, consciousness included, needs to be analyzed as a naturalistic phenomenon with no prejudices concerning the "special nature" of subjective experience (phenomenology) that is not explained in terms of objective phenomena (the scientific method)....more
En väldigt kort och ytlig introduktion till filosofin, här ges knappast någon ingående debatt kring frågorna, utan endast en kort presentation av vilkEn väldigt kort och ytlig introduktion till filosofin, här ges knappast någon ingående debatt kring frågorna, utan endast en kort presentation av vilka slags frågor som ställs inom några utvalda delområden inom filosofin tillsammans med några snabba hänvisningar till några olika försök till svar. Med andra ord, plocka inte upp denna om du vill förstå vad filosofi handlar om, se den endast som ett försök att väldigt, väldigt översiktligt redogöra för vilken slags frågor som filosofin behandlar, någon förståelse för hur dessa frågor behandlas ges knappast. Med detta i baktanke är boken dock välskriven och så länge det ända man vill ha är just en extremt ytlig överblick över några av filosofins frågeställningar, så duger den....more
Jag kan inte ge något betyg och än mindre någon mer eller mindre utförlig recension till denna bok. Orsaken är att jag inte gick igenom materialet nogJag kan inte ge något betyg och än mindre någon mer eller mindre utförlig recension till denna bok. Orsaken är att jag inte gick igenom materialet noggrant, jag har inte gått igenom bevisen i detalj och har inte gjort några övningar. Anledningar till att jag ändå läste boken nu var att jag ville färska upp minnet kring en del grundläggande algebra innan jag ger mig i kast med mer noggranna studier i ämnet. Intrycket jag fick var i vilket fall att boken ger en bra och mer eller mindre lättfattlig sammanfattning av algebrans fundament tillsammans med något mer abstrakta matematiska områden såsom logik (om detta nu ses som ett delområde till matematiken, vilket verkar vara en vanlig uppfattning) och en del matematisk logik där definitioner av de olika klasserna av tal (naturliga tal, heltal, bråktal, reella tal, komplexa tal) ges i termer av logik och mängdlära. Boken är tydligen tänkt som en överbryggning från gymnasiets matematik till universitetets mer avancerade behandling av till stor del samma saker fast med en mer rigorös metodik som förlitar sig mycket på formell bevisföring, och det är någonting den lyckas med bra, fast en mer utförlig utvärdering av bokens fördelar och nackdelar känner jag mig alltså inte beredd att genomföra då jag inte har läst igenom den tillräckligt noggrant....more
I really don't feel like writing a long, serious review right now (and I probably won't later either) so I will just write something short about my geI really don't feel like writing a long, serious review right now (and I probably won't later either) so I will just write something short about my general impressions and compare Searle's treatment of intentionality with that found in Dennett's "The Intentional Stance" which I recently finished reading.
In short, Dennett displays a rigid analytical ability with which Searle is too impatient to bother. Whereas Dennett treats seriously the question of the reality of intentional states, Searle see the question as having an obvious answer: they are real biological phenomena! Both Dennett and Searle treat intentionality seriously, they are not eliminativists (even though Dennett is sometimes mischaracterized as such), but Dennett is wise enough not to jump from the observation of the efficacy of the intentional stance to the conclusion that intentional states are real biological phenomena in the brain: they could be more like something along the lines of behavioral tendencies, or something else describable at a higher level, a possibility Searle dismisses out of hand because, a favorite style of "argument" of his, it is supposedly obviously false. Searle definitely has some interesting points in analyzing the logical structure of the phenomenon of intentionality, but seems to think that he has arrived at the obvious, biological structure of this phenomenon in the brain, moving along way too quickly without considering other possible logical analyses (the fact that his logical structure makes sense is of course no proof that it is an correct description of a real biological phenomenon) or accounting for empirical questions that raise problems for his account. This puts him in stark contrast with Dennett, and it makes his account of intentionality much more speculative, however logical and convincing it may seem....more
As for introductory books (of which I feel like I've read quite a lot recently, maybe due to recalling writing much about introductory works in my revAs for introductory books (of which I feel like I've read quite a lot recently, maybe due to recalling writing much about introductory works in my reviews here as of late) this one stands out for me. The typical approach I've encountered elsewhere always seems to involve something along the lines of trying to outline the central issues of the subject and then to say something of the division of the subject into different parts which deal with different kinds of questions (as for example, an introductory book on epistemology might do by dividing the subject into the areas of definitions of knowledge, skeptical challenges, epistemic value and so forth) or which involve different increasingly advanced extensions or variants of basic theoretical frameworks (as one might do in an introductory book on logic in dealing first with the propositional calculus and then deal with the predicate calculus, other possible extensions and variations, all the while treating the two different aspects of syntax and semantics, or proof theory and model theory, for these different calculi). In this typical approach, the subject is mainly divided into these different areas which are then dealt with, one after the other, with many citations in some books, dealing with the different views expressed by different authors, and no citations at all or very few in other books, relying instead of the author's own views on how to best present the central questions of the subject to a newcomer.
In Morris' introductory work, with which we are concerned at the present, we certainly do find a general characterization of the subject in the beginning, but the division of the rest of the book is not motivated by any division of areas claimed to be central within the subject, but rather by considering some central texts on the subject. Every chapter deals with one or two texts that form the basis of the chapter, and then goes on to attempt an explanation of these texts with a critical eye. The texts are given one or more possible interpretations, with the implications of those interpretations dealt with so that the reasonableness of the views expressed in the texts is challenged. In evaluating the texts, Morris relies on both his own conclusions and the views expressed by others in other publications which can be relevant to the evaluation in, it seems to me, in one of two ways: (1) they can be texts which are written in direct response to the main texts of the chapter; and (2) they can be alternative views that need be considered in order to come to any conclusions at all regarding the plausibility of the views expressed in the main texts.
Morris performs this task, of explaining these important texts and the things needed to be taken into consideration both in understanding and evaluating them, expertly, leaving little to be desired either in the way of presentation or the argumentation (or, indeed, in pedagogical terms), but there is still something in the approach which I find somewhat confusing. It is not that there is no overall structure to the book, the central theme could be said to be meaning (and maybe it's the central theme of philosophy of language overall) and there is a progression in the issues dealt with: first comes a theory of language based on Locke which is used, it seems, mainly as a target which had to be dealt with before the modern conception of language within philosophy was formed; then comes Frege who lays out perhaps the basis for a treatment of language on philosophical terms with which every later philosopher has to deal; and after that, the book goes on to deal with more and more complications to the picture of meaning proposed by the Fregean account in a way that leads to a progression in complication regarding the issues, with several directions to precious chapters of the book.
My problem with the approach is rather that in focusing the chapters on specific texts dealing with rather specific issues, the overall structure is obscured. I found that I as a reader was left with a confusion, after reading the book, regarding the question of what the major areas are within the subject of the philosophy of language, regarding how to divide the subject into different areas in the way for which I found myself to be able to account after reading William's introduction to epistemology. The subject seems now to be very messy and without clear distinctions between different considerations within it. There's a certain obviousness to this statement: any subject will, on a closer look, refuse to be divided neatly into different separable areas, the areas will all interconnect. Though this will certainly be the case, my attempt at explaining why this statement was obvious relies upon the phrase "on a closer look". As a simplification, introductory books tend to do divide their subjects into such areas, while also (at least in good introductory books) noting that the areas will in fact interconnect and that this will be encountered during the reading of the text. Nevertheless, I think such broad simplified divisions serve a purpose, at least pedagogically: they structure the subject so that one feels that one can account for different kinds of questions dealt with within the subject. After reading Morris, I feel no ability to divide the philosophy of language into any such areas, it all seems to be about meaning, in some sense of the word, and in that it seems to involve a lot of discussions about how meaning is generally to be understood (are we speaking only of reference or is Fregean Sense also relevant?), how a theory of meaning is supposed to look in general, and how interpretation and translation fits into this picture. This last example might seem to be something different than the others, but really only comes up in trying to deal with meaning. So it all is concerned with meaning, and lots of different specific question concerning meaning, but Morris does nothing to show how these different questions could be divided into different areas.
These complaints might not have anything to do with Morris specifically, it might be that philosophy of language is different from, for example, epistemology in just this sense: that it refuses such division. If indeed this is the case, Morris should have noted as much in his introduction, but I remember no such commentary. Furthermore, the focus on specific texts can lead the reader to feel like the issues dealt with in the book are those specific texts rather than the more general issues dealt with in those texts. Perhaps the focus should instead have been on these different issues where the discussion of these issues within the philosophy of language could be exemplified by certain important and influential texts, after having the author try to first clarify the issues at hand at a more general point than that arising from a focus on a specific text at the outset. Concerns such as this leads me to feel somewhat critical towards the book as an introduction because it fails to supply the reader with a general understanding of the structure of the subject, but while I still feel like I've gotten a really well presented and argued account of some of the seemingly central issues within the philosophy of language, I still feel inclined to say that it was in some way a good introduction. I therefore feel a bit divided as to what to think of the book overall, it's really good, but I'm not sure the approach is well suited for an introductory text. Four out of five stars it is, then. It comes highly recommended, but if (or rather, when) I read another (or several other) introductory book (or books) on the philosophy of language which do approach the introduction of the subject in the way which I would prefer, I might be more inclined to recommend them as introductions to the subject than the current text....more
Dahlén ger läsaren en kortfattad inblick i fem utvalda mördare (eller i ett fall, en sektledare som gav order om mord). Redogörelserna för de enskildaDahlén ger läsaren en kortfattad inblick i fem utvalda mördare (eller i ett fall, en sektledare som gav order om mord). Redogörelserna för de enskilda mördarna och deras historia är mycket kortfattade och ger ingen särskilt mycket djupare insikt än den som kan fås genom att läsa Wikipedia-artiklar om detsamma, i ett fall kände jag mig också tvungen att gå till Wikipedia för att få bättre insikt i omständigheterna som ledde till att ett av fallen, japanen Issei Sagawa, är en fri man, en omständighet som Dahlén borde ha beskrivit bättre i boken. Liknande exempel gällande bokens brister är för många att ta upp, gång på gång känner jag att jag i stort sett inte har läst något mer än en lite längre tidningsartikel om en mördare fast med ett mindre fokus på själva mördaren och dennes brott fast med desto större inblick i författarens egen psykologiska process då denne möter och funderar kring mördarna. Nu ligger uppenbarligen fokus i boken inte på att genomföra några detaljerade analyser av dessa utvalda mördare, istället får de snarast utgöra exempel på fenomenet mord och framför allt vår fascination av detta. Där gör Dahlén ett bättre jobb, men är dock alltför ytlig för att jag ska kunna se boken som mer än en snabbläst och underhållande inblick seriemördare och deras rockstjärnestatus. Följaktligen måste jag ge boken ett hyfsat betyg: underhållande läsning som dessvärre är varken vidare välskriven eller bidrar med någon särskilt intressant analys. Den blir snarare till ett personligt reportage kring författarens egen fascination, nästan besatthet, vid dessa mördare och en uppgörelse med denna fascination, med vilken Dahlén uppenbarligen inte känner sig bekväm. Boken är läsvärd och inte alls dålig, men inte heller en text som jag känner mig särskilt benägen att rekommendera annat än till den som redan är intresserad av ämnet och gärna vill läsa allt som finns skrivet om det. Snabbläst är den definitivt så risken för bortslösad tid är minimal, mer än så är jag inte villig att säga om boken, den är helt enkelt inte intressant nog att förtjäna min uppmärksamhet längre....more
I think my first real encounter of a clear abuse of Gödel's incompleteness theorem came when I was engaged (as I so often am) in the debate on religioI think my first real encounter of a clear abuse of Gödel's incompleteness theorem came when I was engaged (as I so often am) in the debate on religion, online as well as elsewhere. This was one of the former kind and in one of the lower subcategories of the bigger category of online venues for the exchange of ideas: YouTube... Some atheist or number of atheists had argued against religion, presumably (because the response regarded this aspect of the religious question, but it wouldn't surprise me much to learn that the atheist/atheists in question had in fact asked about the ethical standards of the Bible or something else completely unrelated, the intellectual integrity and rational capacity of the staunch Bible defenders most of the time leave something to be desired) specifically regarding the question of the rationality behind belief in god. The response went something along the lines of this: "Gödel proved that there are unknown/unprovable truths [he did nothing of the sort], and therefore... [something about how belief in phenomena without evidence isn't so crazy after all]". The whole thing was topped off with the brilliant argumentative tactic consisting in showing a photograph of Gödel standing next to Einstein and saying something like "Look what kind of friends he had! Kind of a smart guy that Einstein!" This feeble attempt got some responses of its own pointing out how this application of Gödel's theorem to a religious debate was... hrm, somewhat misguided (for an offense to reason of this magnitude, any adjective seems insufficient so why not use one that is so wildly insufficient as to call attention to the difficulty of finding the proper words to describe how bad it is?), though as I recall, the commenters, quite appropriately, used much harsher words. Regarding those who abused Gödel in such a horrible fashion in this particular instance, I hold little hope as to their ability to understand either the theorem itself or the actually fairly simple arguments needed to explain why it was not applicable to this situation, but in the hope that such attempts are not always entirely vain, here's a book clarifying the issues!
Franzén has written an overview of the whys and hows of Gödel's theorem in a general, fairly non-technical way, so that one can see what exactly the theorem states, what it does not state (which we will focus on a little more soon), when and where it is applicable and what general conclusions can be drawn from it on purely mathematical grounds (which does include considerations in philosophy of mathematics as these are still bound by the technical details of the mathematics, but does not include metaphorical extensions of the theorem into other fields in ways that take no considerations of the mathematics needed to prove the theorem). The focus of the book is to guide the reader through the landscape of the theorem in order to show when it can be called upon and when it can not by exhibiting a number of bad arguments that try to lean on the theorem, but fail to produce convincing (or in many cases, even sensical) arguments for their conclusions due to failures to understand the theorem, misconceptions about its reaches and consequences, and showing how these arguments go wrong. The examples are gathered into different categories: there are those that, as in my anecdote above, relate to religious debates (but the examples found in the book tend to be more about atheists misapplying the theorem to try to show how the Bible is necessarily "incomplete" if "consistent", a grave error resulting from a misunderstanding of the theorem though the Bible is quite obviously "incomplete" in the sense of not being a complete guide to the universe as some Christians like to claim it is, but not an error showing a misunderstanding of the theorem anywhere near the level exhibited by the Christians on YouTube described above), to arguments against the possibility of a Theory of Everything in physics, bold proclamations of a "post-modern" era in mathematics following Gödel's theorem (!), and various arguments about the implications of the theorem both for the supposed limits of the human mind to grasp all truths and for the limits of computers as contrasted against human minds concerning their ability of proving theorems.
None of these attempts at deriving interesting conclusions in other fields from the proof of Gödel's theorem follow at all in fact. The main points Franzén use to show this is that there is a requirement upon any system exhibiting incompleteness first that it is a formal system (in a technical sense meaning that it is a set of basic axioms with a set of rules for deriving new theorems), second that it is possible to do a certain minimal set of basic arithmetic in the system (a requirement that needs no further elaboration here other than noting that this requirement is specified exactly), and third that even when a system does exhibit these characteristics, the incompleteness is still only a property of the arithmetical component of the system, the theorem says nothing about the completeness or incompleteness of the system with regards to the other, non-arithmetical, statements included in it. Taking this as a starting point for evaluating claims of incompleteness found in other areas, or supposed philosophical implications of the theorem (of which there are many that are legitimate), Franzén goes on to show what kind of misunderstandings that seem to lie behind the abuses of this famous theorem.
We need not let the details of Franzén's investigation prolong this text needlessly, but some deliberation on the kind of things people have been found to claim in regards to the theorem deserve mention. Many seem to think that Gödel showed that the peculiar sentence "This statement is not provable in the theory PA" while shown to be indeed, not provable in PA, has somehow still been shown to be true and that it has been shown to be true in some fashion that goes beyond formalization. The view seems to be based on the observation that this formal theory has been shown to not be able to prove the statement whereas this fact is just what the statement says so we can see that it is true after all. So far so good (unless I'm misrepresenting things a bit here myself, I have to be careful not to do what the people exhibited in the book are called out for doing): Gödel did show the statement to be unprovable and if it is indeed unprovable, it is true since this is what it says. The problem with overinterpreting this is that if we do see that it is true, we do so by some further deliberation, probably by evaluating the claim and seeing that the statement's unprovability in PA is just what makes it true. This further deliberation is necessary to see this though, and Gödel's theorem by itself by no means shows that the statement is unprovable but true (the only way it could be shown to be true by a proof carried out in the system PA is if it could be proven in PA, which is exactly what can not be accomplished). So no conclusions regarding "true but unprovable statements" follow: the statement is unprovable in PA, not in any absolute sense (there is no absolute sense of being provable). Another source of confusion is that people generally fail to understand that Gödel proved only that if the theory in question is consistent, then it is incomplete, not that it is incomplete. So the question of the incompleteness of the theory depends on whether it is consistent or not, but this is something which, according to the second incompleteness theorem, the theory itself cannot prove if it is consistent. In other words, with additional reasons to suppose the theory to be consistent, we can draw the conclusion that it is indeed incomplete, but we can not prove it to be so unless we can also prove the theory's consistency, which needs another theory which will itself be incomplete if consistent and unable to prove its own consistency if consistent and so on. This all complicates matters to a degree rarely taken into account in the many attempted uses (turned abuses) of the theorem.
Franzén does an excellent job exhibiting some common (and perhaps some not so common but nevertheless sever and therefore, attention worthy) abuses and explaining carefully why they are abuses. In doing so, he also covers the landscape of related results, additional ways to prove incompleteness that do not rely upon Gödel's strange self-referential formula showing, importantly, that the theorem is not just something having to do with self-referential (always a suspect in intellectual discourse) exotic sentences never encountered outside the proof of the theorem. Though doing so is necessary to understand the theorem thoroughly enough to appreciate who and why uses of it go wrong, but Franzén tends to take these mathematical side stepping too far, going into the many (interesting but nonetheless inessential to the question of the abuses of the theorem) details of the theorem and its implications (even when it is done in a mostly informal fashion) does little to inform the reader of why many popular attempts to draw conclusions from the theorem go wrong, and the facts that this does little to inform the reader in this is evident in how Franzén uses these issues in exhibiting the failures in the abuses: not much at all. Again and again, when he demolishes yet another piece of bad writing referring to Gödel, he comes back to the main points mentioned above: the theorem only applies to formal systems powerful enough to support a certain amount of arithmetic and even so, only to the arithmetical component. The additional details of different axioms for mathematics, variants of arithmetic and so on are of course very important for understanding the implications as well as the applications of the theorem, but are only relevant to a exposition of the abuses of the theorem when such details can be used to show the errors in the abuses, otherwise they belong instead in a much more encompassing work on the reaches and limits of Gödel's theorem, a work that would not be focused on explaining how and why so many of the attempts at using Gödel's theorem outside its field fail. Such a book would be extremely interesting, but it would need to be much, much, long than the current text which does seem to want to be about the abuses. It is also clear from the text that the abuses are in focus since the rest is just there to "set the stage" and asides into the land of mathematics not directly related to any abuses of Gödel's theorem only arrive when the discussion slides into them. In these cases, Franzén should have backed off a bit more readily and kept his focus on exhibiting abuses which would, on some occasions, have been more interesting and enlightening had there been a few more pages devoted to them.
Another problem with Franzén's willingness to take up so many related issues regarding the theorem is that the reader can easily be overwhelmed by all the terminology in a book that is, after all, written for non-experts. It's even claimed to be accessible to people with no previous background in logic, a claim I'm by no so tired of commenting upon that I mostly force myself to do so due to some sense of obligation: it's technically (though not in the mathematical sense of course) true that no previous knowledge in logic is required since every bit of terminology needed to understand the argumentation is defined in the book, but considering the number of such definitions, any reader not already at least familiar with logic and Gödel's theorem is bound to be confused fairly quickly. Franzén does do a good job of commenting upon when a certain technicality is essential for understanding the rest and when it is not, but this is hardly sufficient since any reader not already familiar with the terminology will probably fairly quickly lose track of which of these terms he or she needs to remember and which only appears parenthetically. These kind of claims of the lack of a requirement of previous knowledge are so common in logic texts (and I suppose in other areas as well though I suspect it's somewhat peculiar to formal science where such claims seem necessary as to not scare away potential readers) that I've gotten used to it, but I still feel the aforementioned duty to report on them.
It is in any case a very good book and, as far as I understand, a very original one. It does an excellent job of showing how Gödel's theorem can be abused and how to respond to such abuses, but it is not the best choice for an introduction to the theorem or it's implications. It is not primarily a guide (or at least not among the best of those) to what the theorem does mean but what it does not mean....more
Ett av mina favoritämnen, religion, behandlas i det specifika fallet USA och genom det än mer specifika fenomenet den kristna högern. Texten tar mer eEtt av mina favoritämnen, religion, behandlas i det specifika fallet USA och genom det än mer specifika fenomenet den kristna högern. Texten tar mer eller mindre formen av ett rent reportage, men författaren flikar här och var in en del värderingar på ett något slumpmässigt vis. Ibland beskrivs rörelsens negativa effekter, men dessa värderingar fördjupas alltid, snart återtas den rena efterforskningen som verkar vara bokens fokus. Det är en aning förvirrande och förvirrat, om nu författaren ville komma med egna åsikter om fenomenet borde detta ha gjorts mer utförligt, annars borde liknande ha utelämnats helt. Detsamma gäller de få försöken att läsa in några djupare filosofiska poänger, vilket sker mycket ytligt. Foucault nämns i förbifarten och ett lite längre avsnitt om möjliga postmodernistiska tolkningar av utvecklingen dyker upp på slutet. Båda dessa känns helt slumpartade och (minst sagt) alltför ytliga och dåligt genomförda för att förtjäna sin plats i en bok som inte alls har ett filosofiskt fokus i övrigt. När det kommer till det rena reportaget och den undersökande journalistik som objektivt försöker beskriva det historiska skeendet gör författaren i vilket fall ett mycket gott arbete. Men även om kvalitén på de ingående avsnitten inte kan klandras från den vinkeln, så är bokens fokus överlag något att undra över. Boken ska vara en överblick av en rörelse, den kristna högern i USA, och lyckas täcka in de viktigaste aspekterna (eller i alla fall några av dem) men upplägget är slumpartat och mängden tid som ägnas åt olika frågor samt de ställen i boken där dessa avhandlas är allt annat än strukturerat. Sexualfrågor (såsom rätten till abort och jämlikhet för homosexuella) dyker upp gång på gång under flera olika kapitel, och utgör visserligen en av de viktigaste delarna i problemen skapade av rörelsen, men gällande den kristna högerns vetenskapsförakt sägs alldeles för lite. Inte så att detta utelämnas helt, kreationisterna avhandlas, men detta ges inte alls samma utrymme som sexualfrågorna. Kanske hade författaren ett visst fokus i tanke där frågor med mer omedelbara sociala konsekvenser skulle ligga i centrum? I så fall är inslagen om vetenskapsfientliga drag i rörelsen av marginellt intresse för boken och borde istället ha utelämnats helt. På flera vis lyckas alltså boken att alltför ytligt behandla vissa frågor och aspekter, som hellre borde ha utelämnats för att ge ytterligare plats åt det som redan dominerar texten och som uppenbarligen också är den centrala poängen med boken: att beskriva den kristna högerns positioner i frågor med mer eller mindre direkt sociala konsekvenser samt att utreda denna rörelses historiska utveckling samt influenser. Detta gör författaren mycket bra, men en mindre rörig, tydligare, mer fokuserad andra upplaga skulle höja betyget med åtminstone en stjärna....more