This is a fairly hard read for anyone to pick up, not to mention it is a thick book. I had to accompany this with a study guide, Routledge PhilosophyThis is a fairly hard read for anyone to pick up, not to mention it is a thick book. I had to accompany this with a study guide, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant and The Critique of Pure Reason, and I found a lecture series, by J.M. Bernstein. Kant, in this book is trying to save metaphysics (this is what many would consider the point of philosophy now; what does it mean to be, to know, cause and effect, etc...) from the criticism he has found in Hume. After reading him, he famously says, he was "awakened from his dogmatic slumber". Hume recognized there were problems in regard to the more classical stances regarding metaphysics and eventually recommended to "Commit [them] then to the flames". Kant found this to be too hasty and felt that Hume was not seeing the whole picture. There is a good to keeping some of the metaphysics in tact. So, Kant took his rationalistic upbringing and combined it with Hume's empiricistic point of view in what Kant termed his "Copernican turn". Hume felt that all knowledge was derived from experience, but Kant recognized that while most knowledge comes from experience, there is still something the mind contributes on its own, namely the structural components of time and space through the senses, along with the ability to understand what the senses are telling us. Using this framework he places limits on how metaphysics can be done. That while our minds provide some structures that allow us to perceive and understand the world around us, that ultimately the rest of our knowledge is grounded in experience. This is definitely a book I will need to re-read to understand more fully, but that will be at a later time....more
This is a posthumously published work by the late great Scottish philosopher David Hume. It can be difficult to read as the language is a bit archaic,This is a posthumously published work by the late great Scottish philosopher David Hume. It can be difficult to read as the language is a bit archaic, but if you can get past the 5 dollar words, like "pernicious", it is a wonderful read. Hume takes on and accomplishes the philosophical dialog with flying colors.
The dialog takes place between 3 characters, each representing a different point of view with regard to the subject matter discussed; and the topic is (as the title states) Natural Religion; that is the idea that religious beliefs can be derived naturally through reason (as opposed to revelation). Cleanthes represents someone who believes in natural religion, Demea represents someone who believes God is unknowable and as a result is outside the realm of reason, and Philo the skeptic (who is usually identified most with Hume's beliefs). Hume does an excellent job of not giving all the best lines to the proponent of his ideas and it is very enjoyable to see the back and forth of such imaginative arguments....more
I recently finished reading a short political treatise called The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli, written in renaissance Italy in 1513. Machiavelli wI recently finished reading a short political treatise called The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli, written in renaissance Italy in 1513. Machiavelli was a public servant who worked in the Florentine republic as a clerk and ambassador for Florence, Italy, but was exiled when the Medici (a powerful Florentine family that ruled Florence before the republic was formed) regained control of the city state. Machiavelli seems to have a need to be in the political arena and The Prince seems to be an attempt to convince the new rulers of Florence, the Medici, that he would be a valuable addition to their government.
The Prince reads like a guide to rulers of principalities on how to best run their government. Unlike previous guides that told princes to be virtuous, Machiavelli took an approach that reflected more of the political turmoil of his time. Battles over Italian territories were a dog eat dog world where only the ruthless and cunning rulers succeeded. Machiavelli, as a public servant, witnessed first hand how this all worked, and decided to put it down on paper.
Some of the shocking advice given by Machiavelli are: * Only be virtuous as far as it suits your purposes. * It is better to be feared than hated. * One should be both feared and loved, but if you cannot be both, it is better to be feared. * Never do an enemy a small injury. * There are 2 methods of fighting, by law and by force, but law is not always sufficient, so you must always have force as a backup. * A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
As a result of this his name has been used as a synonym for 2 faced deceit, "Machiavellianism".
Some, including some prominent philosophers, have called The Prince a satirical piece. Machiavelli's really only loved the republic form of government, and much like how Aristotle talked about how to successfully run a tyrannical monarchy in Politics, he was showing how outrageous you must be in order to run a successful monarchy.
Some of his other advice is on how you should prefer the use of your own local armies over hiring outside help to do your fighting for you. And if you want people to listen to what you have to say, you need to be armed in order to "convince" your dissenters of your side of things.
This book reminded me of some ideas taken from game theory, namely the Hawk-Dove game. For those who don't know this its a population game where you call all aggressive players hawks and all passive players doves. You pair each member to represent a fight or struggle. There are some variables in this namely V (value of the resource being fought over) and C (cost of fighting over that resource). When a hawk fights a hawk it is a colossal struggle and they split the value of the item minus the cost of the fight, or (V-C)/2. When a hawk fights a dove it always wins scoring V and the dove always loses, scoring 0. When a dove fights a dove they split the value of the item and score V/2. Some conclusions from analyzing this game are: * You can never have a population without a hawk. If everyone is a dove, it will always be to the advantage of someone to become a hawk and always win. * The larger the cost of fighting, the less the number of hawks can be supported by the population. A similar affect happens as the value of the resource goes down.
Machiavelli seems to advocate it is not always best to be the dove when it comes to handling state affairs. In The Prince he rails against the "unarmed prophet", saying they are only destined to be destroyed. He appeared virtuous and lawful when the need suited, but was a beast when all else failed....more
I read this as a counter point book to my books on evolution. In this book, the author, Michael Behe, presents an idea that he calls irreducible complI read this as a counter point book to my books on evolution. In this book, the author, Michael Behe, presents an idea that he calls irreducible complexity. In a nut shell, a biological system is irreducibly complex if you are unable to take a piece of it away and have it still function in the same way. Evolution operates through gradual changes; so, an irreducibly complex system cannot be brought about by evolution, because that would require a drastic change, where all parts of the system come into existence at the same time. This leads to the idea that since we cannot see a way for evolution to do this, there must have been an intelligent designer who created the system.
Behe demonstrates his idea through an analog, the spring loaded mouse trap. This is composed of a hammer, spring, catch, holding bar, and a platform; take away any of these pieces and the mouse trap will no loner work. So, it is impossible for there to be a gradual build-up of this mousetrap in an evolutionary way. Behe, then goes into list several examples of biological systems that he thinks are irreducibly complex, this includes: cilium (little hairs of a single celled organism that help it swim), the bacterial flagellum (some bacteria have a whip like tail that gives them locomotion), the immune system, the blood clotting cascade (the chemical reactions your body uses to clot its blood), etc.
A problem with all of this is it depends on an argument from ignorance. Just because you don't know how it was done, does not mean an intelligence did it. As Frances Bacon once said, "the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument." What Behe does not seem to realize, is there are ways to gradually improve systems to the point that they are irreducibly complex. There can be, for example, "scaffolding" in place with a less efficient system that supports the new system and then is evolved away because it wastes resources to keep both the scaffolding and the more efficient, but irreducibly complex system in place. Another point that is lost on Behe, is the current function might not have been needed before each of the pieces were assembled. It has been shown, for example with the bacterial flagellum, that each piece of it are already in use in the bacteria doing other jobs.
In later chapters, Behe takes notes from creationists, and decides to quote mine biologists. He tries to paint the picture that evolution is falling out of favor with the scientists. This only works if you don't look up the quotes and trust his research. He even goes as far to pick up one of their books, claiming that not a word of evolution is mentioned in it (judging from the index). I was reading an article by the author of this textbook and he was baffled on how Behe got it all wrong. He pointed out, his book expected the audience to already know evolution and his book was not even about that topic; but he did find some chapters in his book that mention evolution. This is an even bigger disappointment for me as it shoots his credibility to hell. I have listened too much to the biological community to believe evolution, something they claim is fundamental to the science, is falling out of favor.
In closing, this has not swayed me to believe in Intelligent Design over the theory of evolution; it is an old and interesting idea that depends on the god of the gaps. That and he really could have left out the BS about biologists not supporting evolution. ...more
**spoiler alert** Bart Ehrman did a wonderful job of explaining the current scholarship behind piecing together the "New Testament" from its many frag**spoiler alert** Bart Ehrman did a wonderful job of explaining the current scholarship behind piecing together the "New Testament" from its many fragmented source manuscripts, and how there are "there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament." Most of the problems are simple spelling, grammatical, and line transposition errors, but some seem to be added later by people pushing an agenda or added material from previous copiers' marginal notes that were mistaken for the actual text. While these changes did not seem to be malicious and people were merely "clarifying" what they believed the original author was trying to say; none the less, we still cannot be certain as to what the original authors said because we don't have any of the original manuscripts, and the oldest ones are still centuries older than the estimated age of the originals....more
This is one of the best introductory books on the Documentary Hypothesis of the Books of Moses. According to Friedman modern biblical scholarship hasThis is one of the best introductory books on the Documentary Hypothesis of the Books of Moses. According to Friedman modern biblical scholarship has deemed the first 5 books of the "Old Testament" to not be written by Moses (as tradition holds) but by several schools of thought labeled: "P" for the priestly source, "E" for the Elohimist source, "J" for the Yahwehist source, "D" for the Deuteronomy source, and "R" for the redactor source....more