This is a collection of transcripts from a series of lectures that Feyerabend gave in the early 90s. Consequently there is no systematic philosophicalThis is a collection of transcripts from a series of lectures that Feyerabend gave in the early 90s. Consequently there is no systematic philosophical account, but given the anti-method "anarchist" views of the author, the conversational style fits thematically (as well as making this an easy read).
Best known for his work Against Method, Feyerabend is best described not as a skeptic, which would imply a disbelief in science as the word is typically used, but an anarchistic critic of scientific methodologies. This is a compelling alternative to the widely-held view of an infallible, Truth-wielding science as the one and only means of establishing knowledge.
Note here that I'm using "science" in the most abstract, mainstream, golden-ideal sense of the term -- the definition you'd receive when asking someone who has spent little or no time wrestling with the underpinnings. The fact that not all types of science are created equally is one point of contention.
Feyerabend is clearly in what we might call the empiricist camp, though he is far from starstruck by what he sees as an emphasis on abstraction and theory to the exclusion of practical forms of knowing. The "anarchism" comes from Feyerabend's "anything goes" quote, meant not to throw out scientific methodologies but rather to step away from the Platonism -- the need to quantify and categorize -- and adopt an approach that is less method-driven and more pragmatic. The question should be "does it work?" rather than "is this what the book says?" In this he finds institutionalized "science", as often as not, to be more problematic than the process itself.
Feyerabend's philosophy is not above criticism, to be sure, but given the growing dominance of scientific (and scientistic) thought in our society, it's more important than ever to realize the limits of knowledge produced by the sciences -- and most important of all, what we do with that knowledge. With that goal in mind, this is a good introduction to sorely needed criticism....more
If nothing else, Jaynes gets his stars just for telling a good story and making me think. I understand now why Dawkins said what he did about this booIf nothing else, Jaynes gets his stars just for telling a good story and making me think. I understand now why Dawkins said what he did about this book -- Jaynes's ideas on the historical development of consciousness are either brilliant scholarship or starry-eyed quackery. My current philosophical views on consciousness leave me sympathetic to the former, though I imagine a more skeptical lot will find much to pick apart.
Jaynes's premise begins simply enough. Up until around 3000 BC, give or take a few millennia, human beings weren't conscious as we understand the idea today. Our species lacked the internal mind-space, the capacity for narratization (story-telling) of past and future, and the sense of "I" that we all take for granted as features of the mental. In place of the intentional sense-of-self, we were split in half: the brain's left hemisphere, capable of language, could understand commands but not issue them, while the right hemisphere, which lacks linguistic powers, generated auditory and visual hallucinations under conditions of novelty or stress which, Jaynes argues, stood in for volition or will in this bicameral arrangement.
The hallucinations manifested as gods, deities, and other assorted spirits, and Jaynes draws on a diverse range of historical, anthropological, and literary sources to make his case. He argues that, despite common features of language, there was something different about ancient peoples up until around the first millennium BC. Ancient art and text from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and what little we have from China and the Indus Valley all suggest a mode of thought which is substantially unlike present-day peoples, and this manifested in the very structure of civilization at the time.
There's much more to be found here, and Jaynes paints a convincing case to which I see no easy knock-down response. As a read, the book is easy enough if you have any familiarity at all with the subject matter. It does in places stray into some detail on language and mentation in the first section, but anyone reading this would likely have an interest in those areas to begin with. I found section II, detailing the literary and historical records, to be the slowest part of the book and I ended up skimming quite a bit in those chapters. The final section deals with a range of topics from hypnosis, possession, poetry and music, schizophrenia, and the remnants of the bicameral mind in modern science, and I found these chapters to have a more lively pace.
Have a look if you're interested in consciousness and a thought-provoking case on how it might have originated (and shaped history)....more
This was a fun read. Goldacre has some axes to grind and he does so in a non-too-overwhelming set of lessons on what scientific research is, what it iThis was a fun read. Goldacre has some axes to grind and he does so in a non-too-overwhelming set of lessons on what scientific research is, what it implies, and how the media gets it ever so wrong. Meant as a light-hearted, and at times funny, read, this is nevertheless an excellent and readable overview of both hucksterism and how to apply scientific thinking to see past it. ...more
A fun book, covering the life cycle, behavior, and intelligence of octopuses and related cephalopods. The three authors are scientists who've all workA fun book, covering the life cycle, behavior, and intelligence of octopuses and related cephalopods. The three authors are scientists who've all worked with marine animals during their careers, and consequently there's a wealth of hands-on information.
The presentation could have been improved I think, as I found some parts to get overly dry and technical to the point that my eyes glazed over, but there's enough here to keep the read interesting if you don't mind a little of that. ...more
A nice summary of recent happenings at the LHC and, through that, a survey of contemporary physics. Randall's got an interesting perspective on the inA nice summary of recent happenings at the LHC and, through that, a survey of contemporary physics. Randall's got an interesting perspective on the intersection of particle physics and cosmology, two topics which have fascinated me since I was a teenager, and this is a good overview of where those fields stand.
Randall intersperses the book with her thoughts on creativity and science-thinking, which I appreciated as she touches on the disparity between theory and data that underlies so many public misconceptions about science as a concept.
There were parts which tended to drag and which I didn't find all that interesting. I glossed over them without losing anything. Beyond those infrequent rough parts, I don't have any complaints. ...more
About as light a read as a discussion of Godel's incompleteness theorem can be. Which is to say it's not light at all, but if you don't mind getting yAbout as light a read as a discussion of Godel's incompleteness theorem can be. Which is to say it's not light at all, but if you don't mind getting your feet wet with a little mathematical logic, set theory, and meta-mathematics, you can pick up the gist of it easily enough. A nice short explanation of an incredibly complex topic. ...more