I read this as an introduction to Arthur Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, Vol 1 and, fortunately, that's what the author originallI read this as an introduction to Arthur Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, Vol 1 and, fortunately, that's what the author originally intended. He was able to critically summarise Schopen's aesthetics and metaphysics in just a few pages, and it was a very amusing read. However, some concepts that are alien to Western Philosophy because they were borrowed from Buddhism/Hinduism seem to have been lost in the author, who sees Arthur as an ordinary Neo-Kantian (which he sort of is), and not as a Buddhist Kantian (which I guess would be a better description), since he draws from Buddhism and Hinduism about as much he seems to get from Immanuel Kant. Oh, did I mention the first pages double as a very brief introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason?...more
First things first: Although Karl Popper had already published his idealised account of science in The Logic of Scientific Discovery some 9 years befoFirst things first: Although Karl Popper had already published his idealised account of science in The Logic of Scientific Discovery some 9 years before these lectures, which ushered in something of a golden age in philosophy of science, Michael Polanyi doesn't seem to have been much affected by it - their Austro-Hungarian origins notwithstanding. Also, even though he shares many insights with Thomas S. Kuhn (who is said to have attended some of Polanyi's lectures anyway), this is not exactly a pre-The Structure of Scientific Revolutions either. Scientific change is not really the central theme of this book. Having said that, it's a very good read.
As a PhD student, I must admit Polanyi gave the best description I've ever seen from a philosopher about actual scientific practice. Science behaves almost exactly the way he says, and I can't help noticing it's in accordance with pragmatist epistemology (he does mention John Dewey at some point) with his anti-scepticism and the belief in social knowledge (two points Charles Sanders Peirce would find all too familiar). If he seems to reduce science to mob mentality, that's because there's some truth to it. We're all flawed anyway.
Now, I would've given this book 4 stars had he not let scientists off the hook so easily (there's hardly any criticism that isn't embedded in several layers of justification saying it could be worse). Also, I'd have given it 5 stars had he offered solutions and ideas to scientists' shortcomings - instead, he just shows freedom and love for truth (loosely defined) are needed to keep science going, which is most definitely correct... but as Paul Karl Feyerabend later pointed out, this shouldn't be taken lightly. ...more
Haha, this is great! Not so much for the philosophy (that alone would've made this a 3-star book), but for the apparently angry (and wronged) Agassi tHaha, this is great! Not so much for the philosophy (that alone would've made this a 3-star book), but for the apparently angry (and wronged) Agassi talking about what it was like to know all these people. Kunh comes across as somewhat confused, Lakatos as something of a bastard, and Feyerabend as a pretty likeable (and Popperian) firebrand. Except for Lakatos, that's sort of what I expected.
As a result, I can't help seeing Agassi as Popper's bulldog (though just a quick visit to his Wikipedia article would've already shown me this much)... he even made me want to read all those doorstoppers Karl wrote to check what is(n't) original in Feyerabend. I should've done it a long time ago anyway.......more
Can't say I'm surprised I'm only the second person to rate this doorstopper - this is 900 pages long, written by 50 plus authors, and I was actually hCan't say I'm surprised I'm only the second person to rate this doorstopper - this is 900 pages long, written by 50 plus authors, and I was actually hoping a mock diploma on political philosophy would appear out of thin air once you finished reading this. But, alas, nothing of the sort happened. I mean, not that I'm aware of.
As you can see in the index, the book is divided into three parts: "Disciplinary contributions" (mainly the different kinds of philosophers and scientists interested in politics), "ideologies" (I'll let you guess what this is about), and "special topics" (i.e. everything else). The first two parts were very thorough, and the last one is made up of smaller chapters.
I've learned quite a lot, even about my own field (the chapter on "discourse" mentions a history of linguistics that we linguists usually neglect). The chapters are all written for complete beginners, so even a hopeless ignoramus about politics can learn from it (trust me on that one, I'm a living proof!). The first two parts are splendid, but some of the chapters on the third part felt a bit random, but with fun titles (the chapter titled "Dirty Hands" felt like a mini-treatise on applied ethics). By far, the second part about the ideologies is what most people think of when someone says "politics": from liberalism and socialism to conservatism and fundamentalism, it's all there.
There's so much information here it's hard to make sense of it all at once, but it was well worth it. From now on though, I guess I'll read shorter books... like the Bible....more
I know the book is called "Voltaire", but the book is not an ordinary introduction to Voltaire: Rather, it's a critique of Voltaire as an EnlightenmenI know the book is called "Voltaire", but the book is not an ordinary introduction to Voltaire: Rather, it's a critique of Voltaire as an Enlightenment thinker, written by someone who is not the Enlightenment's greatest fan. For this reason, this book is much more honest than an ordinary introduction to Voltaire.
There's an angry mob on Amazon complaining the book isn't quite what they had imagined. I can see why: This is a book about Voltaire as much as this is a book by John N. Gray - and, if you know a thing or two about John N. Gray, you should know he wouldn't praise Voltaire unless there was a very good reason (and there are a couple of them).
The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is because I wish the author developed some of the ideas more thoroughly. And, if you know John N. Gray, you already know a good deal of what's going to be said in this book, so I can't say I was surprised or blown away by it.
There should be more introductions like this one....more
O Kurwa, Poland can into awesome philosophy of science!
Everything about this book is fascinating. Published in German by a Polish physician/biologist,O Kurwa, Poland can into awesome philosophy of science!
Everything about this book is fascinating. Published in German by a Polish physician/biologist, in what's now Ukraine, this book could've shaken the very foundations of science in 1935... except it didn't. As a matter of fact, Ludwik had to fight for his life (and those of other Jews) during WWII after being pushed into Lviv's ghetto. And then, no one really cared about the book for quite a while. Then Thomas Kuhn, an American philosopher, independently developed some of the themes found in this book, and nothing happened again. Until, that is, the early 80's when the book gradually became more popular. Why?
Fleck himself could've seen it coming. He realised that discussions happen in thought collectives (he went way beyond science when he developed this concept), and these thought collectives may well "filter" facts - depending on what they consider relevant. When he penned this tome, no thought collective really cared about what he had to say. Then, 50 years later, a thought collective (that of philosophers of science) took interest in what he had to say. Thought collectives are fickle like that.
In order to illustrate his point, Fleck analysed the history of syphilis, making it the world's best book about syphilis ever published. Mainly because it's just a case study, and it could've been about anything else, really (Feyerabend talked about the Galileo Affair, coming to not altogether different conclusions). Truth is, its history developed haphazardly, and there was hardly a crucial experiment that sorted everything out. That's, Fleck would've said, a myth from popular science and vademecum science (that is, the science consumed by educated amateurs and presented by textbooks). Journal science, produced by scientists on the go, is hardly so neat.
All in all, this book will never be a best-seller. He's no science-worshipper (like Popper), no revolutionary (like Kuhn), and no Feyerabend (like firebrand). It doesn't mean this book is bad though. He was so enthralled in his own activities that he was probably too honest and careful for his own good. And, thanks to this, the book is amazing....more
This is not exactly a bad book: The author did some interesting research and the breadth of his knowledge is quite vast. However, it soon becomes tooThis is not exactly a bad book: The author did some interesting research and the breadth of his knowledge is quite vast. However, it soon becomes too preachy for its own good, and the author's preference of utilitarianism as a form of meta-morality comes across as a source of bias rather than the product of careful analysis.
Although the first half was somewhat interesting, I couldn't make it to the end and eventually ditched it in the penultimate chapter for the reasons mentioned above. If anything, the book made me more suspicious of utilitarian claims, and I'm sure that wasn't what the author had in mind when he wrote it....more
There are good books. There are great books. And there are books I’d devour with cheese and chips if it meant having their content stored in my body fThere are good books. There are great books. And there are books I’d devour with cheese and chips if it meant having their content stored in my body fat, just so I could keep having flashbacks whenever I burned this intellectual cholesterol inside me. How happy would I be if I could run behind the bus in a hopeless effort to catch it and suddenly my memory suddenly retrieved something – anything, really – about Hamann’s philosophy of language? I’d probably just stop there and seize my very own moment of enlightenment, jotting down a few personal notes and blocking traffic. Unfortunately, I reckon this is not what they mean by “cellular memory”. Or “devouring books”. Or by “enlightenment”. I wish it worked like this though.
The first critic of the enlightenment in this book is Gianbattista Vico. His claim to fame is an interesting attack on Descartes, by pointing out maths is so precise because we bloody invented the thing, and building up a whole system of thought from there. He also seems to have outsmarted Marx long before Marx though about class struggle, and for this he remains as popular as ever. And by that I mean no one knows him. Seriously, I looked up his name on Google and my computer offered me some mentholated ointment for my throat. That’s how famous he is.
Hamann and Herder, master and pupil respectively, are a bit more well-known, and that’s not saying much. Although they kick-started German romanticism by cranking up their pietistic roots up to eleven, Goethe stole their thunder with the Sturm Und Drang movement, and romantic thinkers – from Jacobi to Hegel – hijacked and developed some of their ideas so that they entered mainstream philosophy and no one knew for sure how exactly that happened.
Isaiah Berlin did know. And that’s about as much as I can tell you without spoiling the book. Just go read it. There are enough Enlightenment fanboys these days to give you the impression it’s all fun and games, whereas these lads will make you think a bit about the whole project. ...more
I reckoned Descartes was very lonely to need a companion, so I gave it a go. Top bloke, it seems he did loads of things, like saying "I think thereforI reckoned Descartes was very lonely to need a companion, so I gave it a go. Top bloke, it seems he did loads of things, like saying "I think therefore I exist", and that's probably why he wanted to be safe rather than sorry and just didn't stop thinking.
How awesome would it be if he didn't really exist, and someone just attributed that Cogito line to a fictional character? I mean, people say his name like "Day Cart", it's got to be a made up name. Anyway, he'd both exist and not exist at the same time. Just like that, boom!
When I read the chapter on language acquisition, I was sold: She explained our linguistic abilities using pretty much nothing but Sigmund Freud's viewWhen I read the chapter on language acquisition, I was sold: She explained our linguistic abilities using pretty much nothing but Sigmund Freud's views on language. It was a refreshing reminder that not everyone was a behaviourist in the first half of the twentieth century. ...more