john42t

Scientific Certainty?

Recommended Posts

How did this subject come up on the thread anyway?

Ellen.

When a question like this arises, here's a shortcut.

Think, "Phil, as usual."

:smile:

(It's true, but I'm not in the mood to look it up.)

As to the whitewashing, I don't care about the nits you want to pick. I just want it to be clear to the reader that the entire Objectivist movement split down the middle during the break not because the Evil Ones chose the Brandens over Rand.

Most of the complaints I have read from that time dealt with people wondering how Rand could demand people take her on faith and still promote her philosophy which taught that you should use your own mind to judge things--that you should never take people on faith. I mostly read accounts of people who were reacting against being bullied, not accounts from people who wished to trash Rand and exalt the Brandens.

I get tired of the insinuation that these complaints did not exist in the form they existed (at that time and in every single decade since) or that the condition that you had to swear off the Brandens in order to participate in her activities (formal and informal) all happened without:

1. Her knowledge,

2. Her approval, and

3. Her prompting.

The nit-picking to keep this insinuation alive--as an issue people take seriously--is going the way of the dodo bird and I say good riddance.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to front, and circular - concepts grow from verified facts, and "real reality".

One thousand disconnected facts mean nothing and can't be grasped.

In the last act, facts must decide principles.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Eureka! Now we've ended up on the same page.

While you are in such a concessionary mood, can you not find it in you to admit

you've been unjust to a certain Greek gent who you have judged solely by his empirical

output, and hardly by his discovered principles?

That Gent did not bother to check his work empirically. I do not pardon him at all. His "no check" attitude carried on by his followers retarded genuine natural science in the West for between one thousand and two thousand years.

I forgive him the errors brought about by incomplete knowledge. In every time and age we are all subject to that problem. But not checking? No forgiveness.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I know, Bob. It's a disgrace.

I blame the Athenian government, partly, for not releasing funds for the Aristotle Academy of Human Sciences.

Tough, he had to make do with dated lab equipment - a sundial, accurate to +/- 1 hour - when he badly needed the latest Siemens water clock. His lab assistants, too - nothing like those in Plato's day. Hanging out at tavernas, when they should have been dropping rocks and feathers off the Acropolis' roof.

But you know how Greeks are forever mismanaging the public purse. Pity.

But a good point; why, oh why, didn't Ari step aside and let somebody serious think out his theories, and do the

checking? Unpardonable.

Obviously dozens could have, but as a result, today, look what we're stuck with - Ba'al moaning, Objectivism, Ba'al again-

all kinds of horrors and retarded behavior, setting back civilization who knows how long?

You're a consequentialist, Bob.

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're a consequentialist, Bob.

Tony

Bloody right. Isn't everyone? If you know an action has a bad turnout you reject the action or learn to reject it in the future.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why are Objectivists nearly absent from the ranks of just about anything? Because their numbers are miniscule.

What do you think is the reason for the minuscule number?

That’s a question that would require a lengthy essay to answer, but I would say this goes a long way toward explaining it. . .

. . .The coda for the Objectivist mass movement would be played when Rand demanded that her followers denounce her second-in-command for reasons she refused to divulge. Ironically, followers of a creed of selfishness were asked to sacrifice their own judgment in favor of blind faith in the judgment of one woman. Many did.

Intellectual Morons by Daniel J. Flynn (p. 198)

Coda is a term used in music to designate a passage that brings a piece or movement to an end.

FYI:

Looks like it started about here with the Flynn reference...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But a good point; why, oh why, didn't Ari step aside and let somebody serious think out his theories, and do the

checking? Unpardonable.

Obviously dozens could have, but as a result, today, look what we're stuck with - Ba'al moaning, Objectivism, Ba'al again-

all kinds of horrors and retarded behavior, setting back civilization who knows how long?

You're a consequentialist, Bob.

Tony

You think this is a joke. Bruno didn't think so after they light the flames under his arse.

The Aristotelians were in command when Galileo was sentenced to life under house arrest.

Real progress was not made in the the physical sciences until the last bit of Aristotelian slag and dross was purged from physics and the experimental method was entrenched. Then things started to cook.

The absence of empirical resolution is what separates theology from science. Science delivers the Goods, among which are rather good descriptions of reality, explanations for phenomena, and high value material technology. Theology and its cousin philosophy deliver hot air, word salad and no gadgets. But there I go again, being a consequentialist.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread seems to have wandered off-topic, but regarding the split in the movement, I haven't read or thought much about it, but it seems to me that it's a mistake to discredit someone's ideas merely because they're not able to live up to them at all times. Is hypocrisy irrational? you may be deceiving others, but not necessarily denying that A is A (ie; deceiving yourself). And it's a logical fallacy (appeal to hypocrisy) to discredit the opponent's position by asserting his/her failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, which I've often seen in attacks against Rand.

BTW michael, thanks for the compliment, I hope to be able to post more often in the coming months, so I guess we'll find out how much more we have in common.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How did this subject come up on the thread anyway? I haven't traced back to see. Never can anticipate the vagaries of threads.

The discussion unfolded starting with Ba'al's question to DH:

I have a question for you. Why are Objectivists nearly absent from the ranks for first line physicists and mathematicians. Have you ever wondered?

DH replied:

Why are Objectivists nearly absent from the ranks of just about anything? Because their numbers are miniscule.

I then asked DH:

What do you think is the reason for the minuscule number?

DH's reply:

That’s a question that would require a lengthy essay to answer, but I would say this goes a long way toward explaining it. . .

. . .The coda for the Objectivist mass movement would be played when Rand demanded that her followers denounce her second-in-command for reasons she refused to divulge. Ironically, followers of a creed of selfishness were asked to sacrifice their own judgment in favor of blind faith in the judgment of one woman. Many did.

Intellectual Morons by Daniel J. Flynn (p. 198)

Coda is a term used in music to designate a passage that brings a piece or movement to an end.

So it was about assessing why the Objectivist movement became so depleted, which one can also regard as an attempt to gain "certainty" on an issue.

It is true that the thread title is about "scientific certainty", but the parallel discussion about this topic is ongoing as well.

I'd be interested in your opinion re the comments I made on Rand's theory of concepts (#168, #184), so if you should find the time to reply, TIA .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> The Aristotelians were in command when Galileo was sentenced to life under house arrest. [baal]

Actually, I think there might have been some Catholics around as well. <_<

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen,

Would you agree that the signatories, via the signed statement, gave a clear signal in terms of their loyalty toward Ayn Rand regarding the issue? (That's what it really is about, isn't it?).

I'd agree that Peikoff and Sures were giving a clear signal, but for one thing I think you aren't taking account of how much resentment of Nathaniel there was.

You are probably right about their resentment toward NB having played a role as well.

Since NB had been the undisputed 'alpha male' in the Objectivist hierarchy, it is rational to assume that this created a certain amount of envy/jealousy among the other men of Rand's inner circle.

For another, you don't explain, if signing the statement was a "precondition" of continued association with Rand, all the missing signatures of other associates (including even Joan Blumenthal, Allan's wife).

The statement could also have been an action of 'preemptive/anticipatory obedience' on the part of the signatories, but I think they did seek Rand's approval before publishing it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> The Aristotelians were in command when Galileo was sentenced to life under house arrest. [baal]

Actually, I think there might have been some Catholics around as well. <_<

The were the Aristotelians. The Church bought into the philosophy of Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas had something to do with that.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen' date='

Would you agree that the signatories, via the signed statement, gave a clear signal in terms of their [i']loyalty toward Ayn Rand regarding the issue? (That's what it really is about, isn't it?).

I'd agree that Peikoff and Sures were giving a clear signal, but for one thing I think you aren't taking account of how much resentment of Nathaniel there was.

You are probably right about their resentment toward NB having played a role as well.

Since NB had been the undisputed 'alpha male' in the Objectivist hierarchy, it is rational to assume that this created a certain amount of envy/jealousy among the other men of Rand's inner circle.

Angela:

Perhaps this section from the 1971 REASON interview, Break Free, will help support your presumption:

There is no way to communicate the tension in that circle surrounding Miss Rand. There

is a constant concern with doing nothing to upset her. A constant concern to avoid her anger or disapproval.

It tends to make all spontaneity impossible. But
she has such a great mind
, she has so much to offer, and

intellectual conversations with her can be so intellectually exciting and stimulating that
it seemed to make

everything else worthwhile.
At least, that's how it was for me, for many years.

It was hard for me to face the fact that, as a person, I did not really like her in important respects. It is not

pleasant for me to say it, even now.

Another reason why I was not happy during my New York years was because although I did not acknowledge

it,
I did not really care much for the other members of the circle. I wanted to like them, but I didn't, not really.

I couldn't admire them. Whatever her faults, Ayn Rand had and has genius. But the others...

REASON:

What about them?

BRANDEN:

The ones who are still there just aren't anything in particular, not by my standards. I don't mean that some of

them don't have intelligence. But they are not in any way unusual as people. Without Ayn Rand, what would

they be?
Any moral significance they imagine their lives may have results from their association with her.

She is their one claim to fame, if you know what I mean.

It's not a healthv situation. However, perhaps some of them will accomplish something worthwhile in the future.

It's possible. Who can say?
It's even possible that some of them may break free, may strike out on their own.

This interview, so close in proximity to "the break," is a treasure trove of insight and perspective.

Adam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> The Aristotelians were in command when Galileo was sentenced to life under house arrest. [baal]

Actually, I think there might have been some Catholics around as well. <_<

The were the Aristotelians. The Church bought into the philosophy of Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas had something to do with that.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Robert, your ignorance is showing. The interplay between the works Plato and Aristotle as inherited in late antiquity and the Middle Ages is complicated and at best (or worst) simplified as a pendulum. I mentioned the hard work of computus in astrology carried out and tested by experiment to establish the time of Easter -- the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. By 1000 AD, they wanted to calculate it for the next 1000 years. But after only a hundred or so years, a careful observer noted a difference of a quarter day, and so the arithmetic was worked over again. The Church supported astrology (astronomy) and even around 900 AD, a community of men and women established a new observatory in Germany under religious auspices.

All of that had nothing to do with the Protestant Reformation. You heard of that, I assume? It is a common mistake to claim that the Inquisition punished heretics. It did not. It investigated heresies. Why? Because learning never ceased. The Vulgate Bible of St. Jerome (Hieronymous) is theologically not the Revealed Word of God, but only a guide to it. Therefore, many people took upon themselves the study of Hebrew and Greek in order to translate passages, verses, chapters, and books of the Bible or to comment on them. By 1200 AD, Latin itself had changed to those who used it daily and letter writers apologized for "the new style" that they were using. New words were invented -- largely in fact to meet the needs of commerce. But the point is that with a whirl of new ideas, some centuries old, just as we still cite Locke and the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Church wanted to separate "fact" (ahem) from fiction.

The Albigensians, the Hussites,(Jan Hus 1369-1415) ... Ulrich Zwingli (1484 - 1531) .... Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) ... John Calvin (1509-1564) ... And we have not even gotten to the Thirty Years War yet... For over a century 1500-1600 this raged, just as socialism versus capitalism does still for us.

Because of Galileo, we pay taxes so that moronic college professors can preach their doubletalk. There was a time about 1830-1850 when Ohio had more universities than all of Europe. Back then "academic freedom" did not exist, but academic competition did. In the Progressive Era, that began to change.

In 1900 when noted economist Edward Ross lost his job at Stanford University because Mrs. Leland Stanford didn't like his views on immigrant labor and railroad monopolies, other professors were watching. ("History of the AAUP" here.)

John Dewey was the first president of the AAUP. While Ross's views may well have been as described, the real reason he was fired would be hard to explain to the idiots today. Ross ticked off the Stanfords on the issue of free silver. Bottom line. But Stanford was and is a private school, like a private home or church or shoe store. Ross was free to go elsewhere, and he did. But because of Galileo and the Church, we do not dare to presume on anyone who wears a cap and gown.

Religion frames all of the works of the Church. Where is the surprise in that. Today, politics informs our debates. The First Amendment is run up every flagpole when the sides rally over socialism, sex, or science in the classroom.

Bottom line: do not blame Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas for Galileo's house arrest. Ignorance stopped being Strength in 1984.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ ^ ^

Why was Galileo sentenced to house arrest for "vehement suspicion of heresy" and "for pernicious error". See -The Galileo Affair- by Maurice A. Finocchiaro

In Galileo's famous book dialogues concerning the two chief world systems Galileo put all the Aristotelian arguments in the mouth of the character Simplicio who sounded suspiciously like Pope Urban. This did not endear Galileo to the upper management of the Church. On thing led to another and the rest is history. Simplicio was made to look... well. simple.

Here is more detail on Galileo's "crime"

Therefore . . . , invoking the most holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His Most Glorious Mother Mary, We pronounce this Our final sentence: We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture, and, consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against delinquents of this description. From which it is Our pleasure that you be absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome.

From http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1630galileo.asp

While Galileo was not tried for contradicting Aristotle, he refutation of Aristotelian arguments annoyed the management of the Church a great deal. And of course the way he refuted the arguments was key to the situation. Galileo, to put it bluntly, was a smart ass. By making Simplicio, a surrogate for Urban VIII, look stupid he opened himself up to all sorts of trouble from the Church. Seventy years earlier, Copernicus very quietly published his anti-Aristotelian findings and he did it in a much more acceptable manner. He never put forth the heliocentric hypothesis as a fact, but as a means of "saving the appearances". He also conveniently delayed publication until he was on his death bed so no trouble came to Copernicus. Galileo was a blatant wiseguy and he put Urban VIII to ridicule just at a time when he was being very hard pressed in his struggles against the Protestants. This was not a very wise career move.

Here is a snippet from the Wiki article showing how Galileo's anti-Aristotle position led to his later troubles:

"At this time, Galileo also engaged in a dispute over the reasons that objects float or sink in water, siding with Archimedes against Aristotle. The debate was unfriendly, and Galileo's blunt and sometimes sarcastic style, though not extraordinary in academic debates of the time, made him enemies. During this controversy one of Galileo's friends, the painter,Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli, informed him that a group of malicious opponents, which Cigoli subsequently referred to derisively as "the Pigeon league,"[6] was plotting to cause him trouble over the motion of the earth, or anything else that would serve the purpose.[7]According to Cigoli, one of the plotters had asked a priest to denounce Galileo's views from the pulpit, but the latter had refused. Nevertheless, three years later another priest,Tommaso Caccini, did in fact do precisely that"

You can see how Galileo's style and his opposition to Aristotle lent seriousness to his troubles.

O.K. enough of the historical details. The main point was Galileo ended up in trouble for views the Church considered bordering on heresy and blasphemy. To escape torture Galileo had to abjure and even that did not save him from a life sentence to house arrest.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread seems to have wandered off-topic, but regarding the split in the movement, I haven't read or thought much about it, but it seems to me that it's a mistake to discredit someone's ideas merely because they're not able to live up to them at all times. Is hypocrisy irrational? you may be deceiving others, but not necessarily denying that A is A (ie; deceiving yourself). And it's a logical fallacy (appeal to hypocrisy) to discredit the opponent's position by asserting his/her failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, which I've often seen in attacks against Rand.

BTW michael, thanks for the compliment, I hope to be able to post more often in the coming months, so I guess we'll find out how much more we have in common.

I think the issue goes deeper, and that the question arises whether the demand to lead a "fully rational" life is compatible with human nature, with man's feelings, needs and desires. Does this really work? If not, why not? It looks like quite a few Objectivists suffered emotional hardships in trying to live up to the ideal of a fully rational personality.

Is hypocrisy irrational? you may be deceiving others, but not necessarily denying that A is A (ie; deceiving yourself).

Imo "rational" is primarily a cognitive, not a moral category (the Objectivist position is different: the rational is always also the moral there).

If one treats rationality as cognitive category, one could say that it was rational on Rand's part to conceal her affair with NB from the public, for no doubt hell would have broken loose had she divulged it. But since per Objectivism, the rational is always also the moral, keeping her mouth shut about the affair would have qualified, per Objectivist standards, as a moral action. But this in turn would have gotten in conflict with another Objectivist principle: never to fake reality. It all results in contradiction.

The way Rand dealt with her affair thus provides interesting material for philosophical analysis, making it possible to subject Objectivist principles to testing with an example from real life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ellen' date='

Would you agree that the signatories, via the signed statement, gave a clear signal in terms of their [i']loyalty toward Ayn Rand regarding the issue? (That's what it really is about, isn't it?).

I'd agree that Peikoff and Sures were giving a clear signal, but for one thing I think you aren't taking account of how much resentment of Nathaniel there was.

You are probably right about their resentment toward NB having played a role as well.

Since NB had been the undisputed 'alpha male' in the Objectivist hierarchy, it is rational to assume that this created a certain amount of envy/jealousy among the other men of Rand's inner circle.

Angela:

Perhaps this section from the 1971 REASON interview, Break Free, will help support your presumption:

There is no way to communicate the tension in that circle surrounding Miss Rand. There

is a constant concern with doing nothing to upset her. A constant concern to avoid her anger or disapproval.

It tends to make all spontaneity impossible. But she has such a great mind, she has so much to offer, and

intellectual conversations with her can be so intellectually exciting and stimulating that it seemed to make

everything else worthwhile. At least, that's how it was for me, for many years.

It was hard for me to face the fact that, as a person, I did not really like her in important respects. It is not

pleasant for me to say it, even now.

Another reason why I was not happy during my New York years was because although I did not acknowledge

it, I did not really care much for the other members of the circle. I wanted to like them, but I didn't, not really.

I couldn't admire them. Whatever her faults, Ayn Rand had and has genius. But the others...

REASON:

What about them?

BRANDEN:

The ones who are still there just aren't anything in particular, not by my standards. I don't mean that some of

them don't have intelligence. But they are not in any way unusual as people. Without Ayn Rand, what would

they be? Any moral significance they imagine their lives may have results from their association with her.

She is their one claim to fame, if you know what I mean.

It's not a healthv situation. However, perhaps some of them will accomplish something worthwhile in the future.

It's possible. Who can say? It's even possible that some of them may break free, may strike out on their own.

This interview, so close in proximity to "the break," is a treasure trove of insight and perspective.

Adam

Thanks for posting these very interesting excerpts, Adam.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

> The Aristotelians were in command when Galileo was sentenced to life under house arrest. [baal]

Actually, I think there might have been some Catholics around as well. <_<

The were the Aristotelians. The Church bought into the philosophy of Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas had something to do with that.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Let me just say this....

Objectivists have a bad habit of using "Aristotelian" at a very wide level of generality, whilst simultaneously using terms like "Randian" at an ultra-specific level of generality, and "Kantian" at a very wide level of generality as well.

It is true that the Roman Catholic Church adopted many elements of Aristotelian philosophy. You're absolutely correct, Bob. The Catholic acceptance of Aristotelian Essentialism is still the basis of their solution to the Problem of Universals (which they require to justify/explain the Holy Trinity).

But.

Aquinas altered a hell of a lot of Aristotle, and the Platonic influence was still very great. The RCC is indeed influenced by Aristotelian philosophy, but not all Aristotelians think that the Catholics are right.

"Aristotelian" in the broad sense refers to Aristotle's philosophical methodology... if you read Aristotle himself, most of his arguments are appeals to 'enlightened common sense' basically, combined with empirical observation.

Galileo was being Aristotelian in this broad sense.

But the Roman Catholic Church was being Aristotelian in the sense of 'sticking to Aristotle's ideas as if they were rationalistic unquestionable dogmatic first principles.' They were sticking with what Aristotle concluded, and in the process diverging from Aristotle's method.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Galileo was being Aristotelian in this broad sense.

Also in a narrower sense. Galileo never got rid of circular motion. Neither did Copernicus. That was not done until Kepler and then only after 8 years of tearing his garments and gnashing his teeth. The Aristotelian dross and dregs were not fully purged from the natural science of motion and matter until Newton.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a nice article here on why scientists don't like philosophy, but do it anyway. He takes the view that most philosophers are essentially Platonists.

Not even Newton was a complete Newtonian, and it may be doubted if life generally offers the luxury of not having an opinion on anything that cannot be reduced to predicate calculus plus certified observation statements. While the Newtonian insistence on ensuring that any statement is testable by observation (or has logical consequences which are so testable) undoubtedly cuts out the crap, it also seems to cut out almost everything else as well. Newton’s Laser Sword should therefore be used very cautiously. On the other hand, when used appropriately, it transforms philosophy into something where problems can be solved, and definite and often surprising conclusions drawn. A Platonist who purports, for example, to deduce from principles which he has wrested from a universe of ideals by pure thought that euthanasia or abortion is always wrong, is doing something quite different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ ^ ^ ^

Alder's essay is a honey. I love the metaphor - Newton's Flaming Laser Sword-.

Alder uses the term "Greek Magic". I sometimes use the term "Greek disease" that is to say, galloping a priorism. The Greek thinkers were in Thrall to the Logos.

By the way, here is a "dirty little secret". Mathematicians are closet Platonists. No mathematician would devote ten years of his life to something that he did not consider real. No matter what a serious mathematician says, he does not consider the exercise of his craft merely formalized play with symbols. There is something more substantial there. If you accuse a mathematician of being a Platonist, unless he is Kurt Goedel, he will deny it but he really is a Platonist of some sort.

Thank you for the reference. It was a pleasure to read.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to front, and circular - concepts grow from verified facts, and "real reality".

One thousand disconnected facts mean nothing and can't be grasped.

One thousand unverified or uncorroborated generalities are hot air.

In the last act, facts must decide principles.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I think Ayn Rand's epistemological goal really was to avoid the pitfalls of not relating concepts to perceptual data (see ITOE, p. 3).

But she got stuck too much on the definition and classification issue, disregarding how dynamic the process of concept-formation is, given our ever increasing knowledge of the world. Imo her reluctance toward forming neologisms illustrates the problem she had with this permanent transformation. A neologism like "space-time" for example acklowledges the fact that the older human concept of "time" doesn't stand up to current scientific knowledge anymore.

I don't think Rand was a Panta Rhei type who readily accepted going with the flow. She was more the type to drive 'philosophical pillars' into the ground on which to hold onto.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Aristotelian" in the broad sense refers to Aristotle's philosophical methodology... if you read Aristotle himself, most of his arguments are appeals to 'enlightened common sense' basically, combined with empirical observation.

Andrew:

Excellent point which clearly explains the essential aspect of Aristotle that matters today.

Your use of the term "enlightened common sense" is critical to understanding Aristotle and the Greek gestalt.

How do you define that term?

Adam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Aristotelian" in the broad sense refers to Aristotle's philosophical methodology... if you read Aristotle himself, most of his arguments are appeals to 'enlightened common sense' basically, combined with empirical observation.

That is indeed the case. Most people develop a notion of how the world works, in particular how matter moves which is extremely similar to what the (received) Aristotle taught and wrote. The thing that is missing from the (received) Aristotle are careful empirical corroborations of what he wrote and taught. To put it briefly he either did not check or did not check carefully. Or if he did, he did not record his corroborations or they did not survive to our time. I suspect he did not check. Now you may ask why? My hypothesis to answer that question is that the (received) Aristotle did not think it was necessary to check because he did not think that his inferences from what he observed could be wrong.

Nowadays scientists (aka natural philosophers) are a good deal more cautious about their conclusions. They are fussy and they insist on careful experimental corroborations of the consequences of the basic laws of the theories (aka predictions and retrodictions).

Too many hypotheses and theories have been overthrown for scientists to be naively optimistic about their their theories. The trail of science is littered with the corpses and skeletons of busted theories: phlogiston, caloric, aether, vital essence, strict mechanical determinism, continuity of radiation ... And who knows, maybe the Higgs Boson will be one of the victims of falsification or non corroboration.

Physics is sure, but not certain and so it will be until the Last Fact is known.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the way, here is a "dirty little secret". Mathematicians are closet Platonists. No mathematician would devote ten years of his life to something that he did not consider real. No matter what a serious mathematician says, he does not consider the exercise of his craft merely formalized play with symbols. There is something more substantial there. If you accuse a mathematician of being a Platonist, unless he is Kurt Goedel, he will deny it but he really is a Platonist of some sort.

Thank you for the reference. It was a pleasure to read.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I agree with you about mathematicians being closet Platonists, the 'pure' ones anyway. Surely you have to be a Platonist to believe that infinite sets have any meaning in the real world?

Alder has written a few popular articles for 'Philosophy Now', you'll probably enjoy the others which you can find on his home page (scroll down to 'Public Service Work').

Isn't the internet wonderful? there's some really cool stuff out there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why was Galileo sentenced to house arrest for "vehement suspicion of heresy" and "for pernicious error". ... While Galileo was not tried for contradicting Aristotle, he refutation of Aristotelian arguments annoyed the management of the Church a great deal. And of course ...

Thanks for the link to The Crime of Galileo: Indictment and Abjuration of 1633 (here). You know that Fordham is a Jesuit school, right? It is sort of ironic that one of their sales pitches to the imperial courts of China and Japan was that they had a better calendar (based, ultimately, on the teachings of Galileo).

You are right that it was wrong for the Church to use its civil authority to place Galileo under house arrests. It is clear, however, as I said, that by definition everything they do is religious. So, the crime was the publication of heresy. They interpreted the Bible to indicate a geocentric universe. I do note that it was a time of religious wars. As I said the Reformation was 100 years running at this point and in fact, by this time 1633, all of Europe was at war over religion. Wrong as the Church was, the error was political, just as when Woodrow Wilson ordered all radio receivers to be seized. There was a war on. It does not mean that the Presidency or the Democratic Party is in favor of seizing radios as a matter of policy.

Also, as limiting as it is to argue counter-factuals, my feeling is that Copernicus and Galileo would have been better received in the Middle Ages. The astrolabe was a welcomed imported good. The years 1100-1300 were vibrant times - Count Henry the Liberal, Rabbi Shlomo Itzakh, and the Great Fairs of Troyez invigorated Champagne as Chretian the troubadore invented the Arthurian legends to please Eleanor of Aquataine - but the Black Plague changed peoples' view of the world and our place in it.

PHYSICS by Aristotle Public Domain English Translation by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye

Available at MIT Classics Online here. And also E-Books from the University of Adelaide here. And also from The "Ellpenor" Greek culture site here. Unfortunately, the Tufts U. "Perseus" site, which provides native-language original sources, does not have the Physics online.

For the Greek, I recommend the Loeb Classic Library

Physics, Volume I Aristotle, Wicksteed, P. H. and Cornford, F. M. HARDCOVER 1957 $24.00

Physics, Volume II Aristotle, Wicksteed, P. H. and Cornford, F. M. HARDCOVER 1934 $24.00

See here.

I rely on the Loeb Classic Library when I write for publication about ancient numismatics. You can see the original and judge the translation for yourself. I have on occasion retranslated passages that I was not comfortable with in English. If your local library does not have them, ask about an Inter-Library Loan. ILLs are a special service that they are happy to provide when they can.

But all this meta-argument is silly. Pointing to Alaska sure beats actually addressing the issue. You guys are funny.

As I read Aristotle, he was fairly insightful and the relevant points argued here are clearly about motion through a resisting medium. Any citizen who ever rowed a trireme would know that a heavier anchor hits bottom sooner than a lighter one... in fact a cork "anchor" would never hit bottom, for as Aristotle said, it is the nature of light things to be lifted up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Subject: Claims that are Perhaps Too Sweeping or Grandiose for one's Knowledge or Experience Base

> To put it briefly he either did not check or did not check carefully. Or if he did, he did not record his corroborations or they did not survive to our time. I suspect he did not check. [baal]

You seem to be portraying yourself as knowledgeable enough in Aristotle to make this rather general sweeping statement. I, for one, certainly would not be able to have an encyclopedic, integrated enough knowledge of what Aristotle -checked- or -did not check- in physics, biology, astronomy, the special sciences in order to assert or deny this on such a cosmic scale. Especially given that Aristotle has such an enormous range of statements and especially given that you'd then have to integrate each of these to the state of the art, the availability of -means- of checking [specimens, microscopes, telescopes, etc.] in so many cases. Especially since I know enough to know that he didn't always give pages and pages of the "back up" for their conclusions or that only a fragment of his basis or evidence survives.

I often get the feeling you are claiming a grand sweep of knowledge and I have to politely wonder if you have actually read extensively enough (in this case in the works of Aristotle) to claim this with such great assurance:

Which works of Aristotle have you read in their entirety?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...