Thursday, May 28, 2015

Positivists vs. Darwin's bull-dog (social-scientism vs. reductionist-scientism, Part II)

Sixteenth in a series of sixteen posts (123456789101112, 13, 14 & 15

In my last post on scientism, I claimed to have excavated distinct uses in that word's history (and in the history of the French scientisme). I labeled the older use social-scientism. This use was directed primarily at Saint-Simon, Comte, and their followers. These philosophers and scientists were not in thrall to reductionism; they did not, for example, prophesy the reduction of other sciences to physics. Nor did they envisage the elimination of special sciences (such as sociology). In fact, Comtean positivists embraced a levels picture, on which the special sciences (such as biology and sociology), while dependent upon lower, more general empirical sciences (such as physics and chemistry), were nonetheless capable of explaining phenomena that could not be accounted for in the terms of the more basic sciences. In short, the special sciences were taken to do distinctive explanatory work that could not, even in principle, be accomplished without them. Still, critics used the word 'scientism' to ridicule the Comteans' vision of sociology, an empirical science that (supposedly) held the key to understanding all human activities in terms of observed uniformities of conduct and that could be used to revamp society.

I called the second use of 'scientism' reductionist-scientism. I should, perhaps, have called it eliminative-scientism, for its critics were horrified by the prospect of a physical science, such as biology, putting both the old, humanistic disciplines and the newer, social sciences out of work by giving an exhaustive explanation of these disciplines' putative subject matter. The critics feared that biology would eliminate the social sciences and the humanistic disciplines by answering all the sensible why-questions that could be posed about human beings. For its critics, the impetus behind this type of scientism was Darwinian theory, and its champions were members of the X-Club.

In an old periodical, I found a fierce exchange between a Comtean positivist and the most famous member of the X-Club -- well, fierce by Victorian standards. The positivist was Frederic Harrison, and the X-Clubber was 'Darwin's bulldog', T. H. Huxley.

What follows are selections from Harrison's contribution, in which Harrison defends a levels view of the sciences. He wants to police the boundaries between the sciences, ensuring that evolutionary theory does not gobble up the explananda of other scientific fields of inquiry. Harrison writes:
I am quite aware that Prof. Huxley has elsewhere formulated his belief that biology is the science which 'includes man and all his ways and works.' If history, law, politics, morals, and political economy, are merely branches of biology, we shall want new dictionaries indeed. (A Modern Symposium II: the Soul and Future Life, first published in The Nineteenth Century [September, 1877]: 175)
More generally, Harrison ridicules Huxley for 'fancying that one science can do the work of another' (Ibid. 178). Harrison acknowledges that everything in the proprietary domain of the human sciences depends on the phenomena that are described in the more basic physical sciences. Still, he takes Huxley to task for
that hallucination of his about questions of science all becoming questions of molecular physics. The molecular facts are valuable enough; but we are getting molecular-mad, if we forget that molecular facts have only a special part in physiology, and hardly any part at all in sociology, history, morals, and politics; though I quite agree that there is no single fact in social, moral, or mental philosophy, that has not its correspondence in some molecular fact, if we only could know it. (Ibid., 178-9)
Harrison is vague about the nature of the dependence relation in question -- he doesn't say 'emergence' or 'supervenience' -- but he stresses that it does not supply an explanation of the dependent items. Again, in his words:
We both agree that every mental and moral fact is in functional relation with some molecular fact. ... But, then, says Prof. Huxley, if I can trace the molecular facts which are the antecedents of the mental and moral facts, I have explained these mental and moral facts. That I deny; just as much as I should deny that a chemical analysis of the body could ever lead to an explanation of the physical organism. Then, says the professor, when I have traced out the molecular facts, I have built up a physical theory of moral phenomena. ... [T]here is no such thing, or no rational thing, that can be called a physical theory of moral phenomena, any more than there is a moral theory of physical phenomena." (Ibid., 172-3, emphases in original)
Harrison's emphasis is squarely on the relations between sciences (their taxonomies and laws) rather than on the entities or facts that fall within the purview of any given science. He says:
We do not diminish the supreme place of the spiritual facts in life and in philosophy by admitting these spiritual facts to have a relation with molecular and organic facts in the human organism -- provided that we never forget how small and dependent is the part which the study of the molecular and organic phenomena must play in moral and social science. (Ibid., 158, italics added)
In view of these quotations, it's safe to say that Harrison would side with the critics who accused Huxley of eliminative-scientism. Nevertheless, many of those critics would charge Harrison with social-scientism, for he remained committed to the program of naturalistic social sciences that broadly follow the empirical methods of the physical sciences and that will, eventually, describe laws of human functioning that afford as complete an understanding of us as can be had. The methods in question needn't invoke empathy, or Verstehen. As Harrison remarked in another context, 'We take man as he is and history as we find it, and we seek to interpret the whole on one uniform scientific method' ('The Creeds - Old and New', The Nineteenth Century, No. XLIV, [October, 1880]: 526-49, at 544).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Some quotations on facts

 Bernard Mandeville (1732):
Facts are stubborn things.
(Mandeville, 'An Enquiry into the Origin of Honor, and the Usefulness of Christianity in War' [1732])
John Donne (1608):
Contemplative and bookish men must of necessity be more quarrelsome than others, because they contend not about matter of fact, nor can determine their controversies by any certain witnesses, nor judges. But as long as they go towards peace, that is Truth, it is no matter which way. (Biothanatos,'Preface', 1608)
Emily Dickinson (c. 1875?):
Opinion is a flitting thing, but truth outlasts the sun; if then we cannot own them both, possess the oldest one
 Cicero: res ipsa loquitur, the basis for the English phrase,
Let the facts speak for themselves
T. H. Huxley (1860):
Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. (Huxley, letter to Charles Kingsley [September 23, 1860])
Charles Dickens (1854) -- Mr. Gradgrind in Hard Times:
Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them. Stick to Facts, sir  .... We hope to have, before long, a board of facts, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact.
John Tyndall (1871):
Facts looked at directly are vital; when they pass into words half the sap is taken out of them. (Tyndall, Fragments of Science for Unscientific People [1871], p. 360)
From the Dictionnaire de théologie dogmatique, liturgique, canonique, et disciplinaire: Volume 3 (1851):
Les faits ne parlent pas d'eux-mêmes. [The facts do not speak for themselves.]
Johann Gustav Droysen (c. 1860-1880):
It is only in appearance that the 'facts' speak for themselves, alone, exclusively, 'objectively'. Without the narrator to make them speak they would be dumb.
(Droysen, Outline of the principles of history [Grundriss der Historik] trans. E. Benjamin Andrews [1897], pp. 52-53[The original German: Nur scheinbar sprechen hier die „Thatsachen" selbst, allein, ausschliesslich, „objectiv". Sie wären stumm ohne den Erzähler, der sie sprechen lässt.]
Arthur Dukinfield Darbishire (1917):
'The facts speak for themselves,' we say. But it is an illusion .... Facts do not speak. If the reader should answer and say, 'Well, at any rate they speak to me,' I would come out and meet him on the same ground and reply, 'Very well, then; so do they speak to me, but they do not say the same thing.' Facts are like the dolls of the ventriloquist and say what we want them to. (Darbishire, Introduction to Biology [1917], p. 9)
Aldous Huxley (1944):
Facts are ventriloquist’s dummies. Sitting on a wise man’s knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom; elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diabolism. (Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop, 1944)
Talking Heads ('Crosseyed and Painless')
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

Monday, May 18, 2015

Born today: Russell, Carnap, etc.

Philosophers and kindred spirits born on May 18: Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap, Bishop Butler, Pope John Paul II, W. G. Sebald.

Observation statements are based on unconscious theorizing (says Sir George Lewis in 1849)

Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 'Essay on the Influence of Authority in Matters of Opinion' (1849):
It is true that even the simplest sensations involve some judgment: when a witness reports he saw an object of a certain shape and size, or at a certain distance, he describes more than a mere impression of his sense of sight, and his statement implies a theory and explanation of the bare phenomenon. When, however, this judgment is of so simple a kind as to become wholly unconscious, and the interpretation of the appearances is a matter of general agreement, the object of sensation may, for our present purpose, be considered a fact.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Philosophy links (May17)

Corey Robin on 'The Trials of Hannah Arendt'.

Hilary Putnam posts 'an unpublished letter from Quine to Hookway'.

The new Philosophical Percolations blog is perking.

A. W. Carus (who published a book on Carnap) has a Carnap blog.

Stan Persky reviews Barry Dainton's Self.

Three months after the dress craze, psychologists and neuroscientists explain why people saw different colours:
Nearly three months after the infamous blue and black dress (or was it white and gold?) tore the Internet apart, three teams of scientists have provided a closer look at the science behind the viral phenomenon. In their papers, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, the teams have proposed reasons that different people saw different colors, and what the whole thing means for our understanding of visual perception.
Gordon Marino reviews Philip Kitcher's The Case for Secular Humanism.

Rowan Williams reviews three books on freedom (by Baggini, Mele, & John Gray).

Podcast of Hans-Johann Glock's talk at Cambridge's Moral Sciences Club (May 5, 2015): 'Of Toads, Dogs and Men: Agency, Intelligence and Reason in Human and Non-Human Animals'.

The latest in the University of Chicago's Elucidations podcast series is Susan James on 'Spinoza on the good embodied life'.

Lapham's Quarterly has an interesting series, 'Conversations', in which a passage from a 20th-Century author is set alongside an excerpt from a pre-20th-Century philosopher's oeuvre. Examples: Schopenhauer & Adorno, Comte & Timothy Leary, Hegel & John Fowles, Nietzsche & Clarence Darrow, Freud & Plato, and (entirely pre-20th-Century) Bentham & Aristotle.

Iris Dement:

A discussion of Michael Slote's 'Philosophical Reset Button'.

The Journal of Applied Philosophy has posted several podcasts (Kitcher, Sen, Annas, etc.).

Oxford has posted Rae Langton's John Locke Lectures.

From Yovisto, 'Fechner and Psychophysics'.

From Schlemiel Theory, 'Martin Buber and “Bogus Grandeur” – A Note on Saul Bellow’s Literary Treatment of Buber in “Herzog”.'

From Siris, 'Scientific Terms We Owe to William Whewell'.

From Neuroskeptic, 'Is Science Broken? Let's Ask Karl Popper'.

From Partially Examined Life:
Paul Forman (1937 - ) is a German-American historian of physics and curator at the National Museum of American History. In a series of papers written in the early 70's, he argued that quantum mechanics emerged from an "antirational" Weimar culture, and that much of its weirdness can be attributed to that "antirationalism." 
Also from Partially Examined Life, two posts on 'Schopenhauer on Music', with guest Jonathan Segel of Camper van Beethoven (inc. podcast and video).

Samir Chopra on 'Schopenhauer On Disillusioned Lovers'.

Krishna Mani Pathak reviews Stephen Cross' Schopenhauer’s Encounter and Indian Thought: Representation and Will and Their Indian Parallels.

Charlie Huenemann on 'Overcoming Babel'.

Michael Welton on 'Navigating the Intricacies of Habermas'.

Michael McCarthy reviews a book about Karl Polanyi's critique of market fundamentalism.

Lars Cornelissen reviews Stedman Jones' Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics.

Jo Baker interviews Peter Singer.

Jo Littler interviews Nancy Fraser: 'An astonishing time of great boldness: On the politics of recognition and redistribution'.

Philip and Carol Zaleski on 'Oxford's Influential Inklings'.

Wayne Cochran:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Links (mostly philosophy)

Rare policy statement: the most comprehensive roundup of philosophy links is the Daily Nous's 'Heap of Links'. In my philosophy link lists, I try to link to items that haven't yet been captured there.

Cass Sunstein uses the development of Star Wars to illustrate points about law and other narratives:
Narrative offers broad lessons not only for movies, but also for creativity of many different kinds, and in areas that include novels, poems, histories, music, and law. Those lessons involve, above all, the impossibility of planning (in literature or law), the eruptive nature of the creative imagination (in literature and law), and the (challenging but blessed) difficulty of achieving coherence.
Peter Singer on 'Effective Altruism'.

Gary Gutting on Michael Ruse's atheism book.

Robert Sapolsky on how language influences thought.

Open Culture gathers several of the Open University's philosophy cartoons, narrated by Harry Shearer and Gillian Anderson.

David Byrne interviewed by Jules Evans on 'music, ecstasy and catharsis':
As ER Dodds pointed out in The Greeks and the Irrational, ecstatic cults (with drumming!) were always around…but when did they lose acceptance? With the triumph of the Enlightenment?... I began to sense that rhythmic and repetitive music could do something more that just be an outlet for my unspoken unheard self- it could gradually change that self….and it seemed to be most effective in music rooted in a something that had been repressed or cast aside by western culture.
Ether Wave Propaganda on Agassi, Feyerabend, and Lakatos.

Philosopher Irving Thalberg, Jr. with his Hollywood exec father (Irving, Sr.) and his mother, actress Norma Shearer:
Irving Thalberg, Sr., Jr., and Norma Shearer

Neuroskeptic applies Popperian theory to see if science is broken.

Kevin Orrman-Rossiter on teleology in nature and culture

Andrew Manns on Girolamo Cardano: 'Much like other creatives in history, such as Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe, and Carl Jung, Cardano’s visions were coincidental with his mental exhaustion and anxiety.'

Danny Heitman on Montaigne, who '...Pioneered the Personal Essay and Made Candor Literary'.

A Five Books entry in which John Gray recommends books on utopia and apocalypse

The Taylor & Francis Philosophy Hall of Fame.

Melvyn Bragg interviews Peter Adamson, Carole Hillenbrand, and Robert Gleave about Al-Ghazali; in February, Bragg interviewed Richard Whatmore, Donald Winch, and Helen Paul about Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Here's a list of Bragg's recent BBC interviews.

Audio from Eugene Wigner's 1964 interview on the Manhattan Project

From the CBC Archives: A televised interview of Northrop Frye (1973).

Some Desert Island Discs (BBC) episodes: Ian Fleming ('All history is sex and violence'), Tennessee Williams, Roald Dahl, Jessica Mitford, Nancy Mitford, Tariq Ali, Randy Newman, Zadie Smith, and Barbara Pym.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Social-scientism vs. reductionist-scientism (Part I)

Fifteenth in a series of sixteen posts (123456789101112, 13, 14 & 16)

I've distinguished two strands in the use of 'scientism'. On the one hand, there's what I've called 'the mid-20th-Century' use (post 9), or the 'cold-war use' (post 11), which channels apprehensions about left-wing political agendas, especially Marxism. In post 11, I conjectured that this deployment of the term echoes some of the concerns behind the earliest uses of the French 'scientisme'. In both cases, 'scientism(e)' gave voice to dark forebodings about radical, 'socialist' agendas whose aim was to jettison much of tradition in a drastic redesign of society. Such radical programs were linked to science by their putative roots in the new social sciences.

Let's coin the label social-scientism for the kind of scientism that was being attacked in these uses. Who was supposed to be guilty of social-scientism? While cold-war fulminations targeted Marxism, the earlier French uses of 'scientisme' were more often motivated by opposition to the visions of Saint-Simon and Comte (and their followers). My understanding of the earlier French concerns is suggested by Richard G. Olson's work. In his Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Olson writes: 
The Saint-Simonians unquestionably understood themselves as scientists, developing a science that comprehended the events of the social as well as of the natural world. Moreover, nearly thirty years before Friedrich Engels appropriated the term 'scientific socialism' for the doctrines that he and Karl Marx had developed, Karl Grün (1817-87) had applied the term to Saint-Simonianism (Olson, Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe, [Urbana, IL: the University of Illinois Press, 2008], p. 59).
In both the cold-war and earlier French castigations, social-scientism was reviled for its supposed reduction of persons to mere cogs in a machine, social bits and pieces susceptible of the same sort of understanding to be had in the physical sciences. To be sure, proponents of social-scientism might abjure attempts to reduce special sciences to physics, denying that the subject matter of the social sciences (or of any science other than physics) could be reduced to that of any more basic science. Nonetheless, they (e.g., Comtean positivists) held that the same sort of method that had met with such stellar success in the physical sciences now promised an understanding of humanity (if only it were applied to that subject matter). The kind of intellectual operation at work in this method involved the subsumption of the subject matter under universal laws of nature, themselves to be discovered by empirical study.

Note that those who were charged with social-scientism need not be taken by their critics to have embraced reductionist materialism or, indeed, any metaphysics at all. Instead, they were seen as using their science to plot other people's lives, designing a new social order in which people were treated as pawns to be manipulated rather than as free agents to be let alone. (Such worries about social-scientism are echoed by libertarian animadversions about social engineering.)

Note, also, that since social-scientism was associated with socialism, its critics tended to be conservative traditionalists. However, many who have warned of the dangers of scientism have been further to the left on the political spectrum.

This observation brings us to the second strand in the uses of 'scientism'. The main theme in this second strand is a concern about reductionist programs in which a physical science (such as biology) threatens to gobble up the subject matter of the old humanistic disciplines or of the newer social sciences. Let's call scientism of this second variety reductionist-scientism. This is the kind of scientism that members of the X-Club were thought to embrace. Critiques of reductionist-scientism were more likely to include the accusation that its adherents were committed to a materialistic metaphysics. Clearly, concerns about this brand of scientism were fueled by the advent of evolutionary theory. The concerns were exacerbated by the subsequent rise of social Darwinism. Opponents of reductionist-scientism included not only traditionalists but many left-wing authors as well.

The current use of the term 'scientism' incorporates elements from both social-scientism and reductionist-scientism, although the influence of the latter variety has been more pronounced in the past few decades.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

'Scientism' 14 - 1891-1968

Fourteenth in a series of sixteen posts (123456789101112, 13, 15 & 16)

In 1891, the New York positivist T. B. Wakeman chose, as W. M. Brown would later do, to embrace 'scientism' (the doctrine and the label). Wakeman wrote:
We find the religious history of our race to consist, therefore, of a gradual evolution of its leading peoples from a broad base of general animism and fetichism [sic], thence to astrology, thence to polytheism, thence to monotheism, and thence to scientism expressed chiefly to us in the pantheism of Goethe, the positivism of Comte, the synthetism of Spencer, the cosmism of Fiske, and finally by the monism of Haeckel. He proposed this word monism as expressive of the world-unifying law of science, as the summary of all that was true and good in the other philosophic names proposed by the philosophers just named, while it excluded what he regards as the crude and vulgar notions of materialism, spiritualism, and dualism. (Thaddeus B. Wakeman, 'Ernst Haeckel', in Evolution in Science, Philosophy, and Art: Popular Lectures and Discussions before the Brooklyn Ethical Association [NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1891], p. 41; italics in the original)
Uses from the 1930s are interesting, since they precede the papers by Hayek that popularized 'scientism'. In his 1935 doctoral dissertation, Contribution of the Ideologues to French Revolutionary Thought, Charles van Duzer had this to say:
Two major currents ran through French thought during the latter half of the eighteenth century. On the one hand was Rousseauistic sentimentalism which tended toward the close of the century to pass into a religious mysticism as exemplified in the writings of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and Saint-Martin; on the other, the Voltairian philosophy of common sense and scientism which informed the rational and utilitarian tendencies of Encyclopedic thought. (van Duzer, Contribution of the Ideologues to French Revolutionary Thought in The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science Series 53, No. 4 [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1935], p .5 of the number [p. 419 of the volume])
Next, there are two uses from the late 1940s. First, we have Max Horkheimer's use in 1947: 'Like any existing creed, science can be used to serve the most diabolical social forces, and scientism is no less narrow-minded than militant religion'  (Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason, 1947).

In the same year, we find Werner Jaeger using the term as follows: 'The unilateral emphasis on the physical side of pre-Socratic philosophy in their works is a product of 19th-century scientism and its horror of everything metaphysical' (Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 195, n. 25).

In a letter to William L. Kinter (dated July 30, 1954), C. S. Lewis wrote that That Hideous Strength 'is about a triple conflict: Grace against Nature and Nature against Anti-Nature (modern industrialism, scientism, & totalitarian politics)' (C. S. Lewis: Collected Letters, v. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, ed. Walter Hooper [New York: HarperCollins, 2006], pp. 497-98).

By the 60s, uses of 'scientism' had become common , but it's interesting to see how Leszek Kolakowski used the word (in 1968):
...scientism, that is, the doctrine according to which any question that cannot be settled by the methods of the natural and deductive sciences is an improper question' [p. 160]. ... It [logical empiricism] professes scientism, that is, it asserts the essential unity of the scientific method, accounting for differences between the sciences on this score -- especially between the social and the physical sciences -- by the immaturity of the former [pp. 177-8] (Kolakowski, The Alienation of Reason, [1968]).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

WWI links, some literary

First German Gas Attack at Ypres by William Roberts

British entries on the Somme (National Archives) and on Passchendaele (the Wellcome Library).

Five Oxford University podcasts: 'Oh What a Lovely War? First World War Anniversary Lectures'.

Images and more from Canada's National Film Board.

Two items about Canadians defending against an early gas attack (at Ypres): Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge and Chlorine at Ypres.

Entries on WWI German generals.

Shashi Tharoor on the 1.3 million Indian troops who served in WWI.

Issam M. Fares on the Great War's devastation of the Middle East.

An extract from Charles Townshend's When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921.

French and German families commemorate the first (?) WWI casualties: 'French Lance Corporal Jules-Andre Peugeot and German Sub-Lieutenant Albert Mayer died in a fire exchange on August 2, 1914, one day before Germany formally declared war on France.'

Gary Sheffield looks at several books about the outbreak of WWI.

Review of John Gooch's The Italian Army and the First World War (2014).

Here's an International Encyclopedia of WWI.

'The 1914 Christmas Truces as History and Memory'.

From the BBC, several items on the influence of Craiglockhart Hospital (where Wilfred Owen met Siegfried Sassoon) on mental healthcare.

An American blog on WWI: Roads to the Great War; and the excellent Great War Fiction blog.

A very thorough collection of dust jackets for WWI books.

'How Tolkien's Experiences on the Somme in World War One Inspired his Famous Stories'.

In 2014, Yale published Edward M. Strauss' new translation of Louis Barthas' Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918.

Also in 2014, Thomas Keneally reviews Gabriel Chevalier's Fear (trans. Malcolm Imrie).

Susan R. Grayzel on teaching Henri Barbusse's Le Feu/Under Fire.

From last September in the TLS blog, 'Charles Péguy, early victim of the Great War'.

From the same blog, a post on the TLS reviewer and Russianist George Calderon. Here's Calderon on Tolstoy:
Tolstoi is, above all things, a good hater. In War and Peace he wants to lower Napoleon, his chosen enemy, in the eyes of the world. The ascription of his successes and failures to Fate is a splendid humiliation; there is such a crushing moderation about it.
Balliol College's page on WWI poet Patrick Shaw-Stewart. One of his friends, Ronald Knox, wrote a book about Shaw-Stewart.

A review of Brian Bond's book on Western Front memoirs, and one of Ross Davie' 'A Student in Arms': Donald Hankey and Edwardian Society at War.

Paul Johnson on Max Egremont's Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew. David Crane reviews Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew.

Andrew Lycett on Rudyard Kipling:  'His early propagandist efforts were admittedly silly, fuelled by his virulent anti-Germanism. But as the conflict intensified, particularly after his only son John was killed at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, he was as merciless as Sassoon or Gurney in depicting the random cruelty of war.'

From the Australian Broadcast Corporation, Michael Cathcart talks to Mark Dapin about ANZAC WWI memoirs and poems, etc.

Excerpts of a German graphic-book version of Karl Kraus's Last Days.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Some philosophy links (February)

Chad Hansen's new MOOC 'Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought'.

'Stanford scholar explores Arabic obsession with language....Key also found that the early scholars benefited from a holistic perspective. The ancients lacked the modern methodological divide between arts and sciences, and so were able to see language as a cognitive function shared between poetry and logic.'

In Our Time - Melvyn Bragg talks with Simon Blackburn, Jennifer Hornsby, and Crispin Wright about truth. and with Simon Glendinning, Joanna Hodge, and Stephen Mulhall about phenomenology.

Julie Allard on 'Ronald Dworkin: Law as Novel Writing'.

A collection of new papers on Jaegwon Kim will be available this month from Cambridge University Press.

Harald Sack on Pierre Gassendi.

Gary Saul Morson: 'On Toulmin, Tolstoy, & the Dawkinsization of the humanities'.

Steven Shapin: 'The new scientism, for all its claims that there is a way science can make you good, shares one crucial sensibility with its opponents: having secularized nature, and sharing in the vocational circumstances of late modern science, the proponents of the new scientism can make no plausible claims to moral superiority, nor even moral specialness.'

Richard Zach on 'Carnap on "Syntax" vs. "Semantics"'.

Elucidations podcasts: from October,  Episode 64: James Conant and Jay Elliott discuss the analytic tradition; and from December, Episode 66: Haim Gaifman discusses mathematical reasoning.

Krista Tippett interviews Paul Elie, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Robin Lovin discuss Reinhold Niebuhr's legacy. Audio recordings of some of Niebuhr's sermons and lectures.

At Philosophy Bites, Christine Korsgaard on the status of animals.

'Ethics and Aesthetics are One: The Earnestness of High Modernism in Wittgenstein and Musil' by Genese Grill.

At Philosophers Zone, Joe Gelonesi talks to David Papineau about consciousness and the brain.

Nicholas Maxwell on 'what philosophy ought to do'.

Colin Strang's obituary.

Winthrop Pickard Bell: 'Husserl asked his Canadian student to write his dissertation on Royce, and when completed he praised it. ... [Bell] received his degree in 1922. Bell was the first teacher of phenomenology at Harvard from 1922-1927; his students included Dorion Cairns and Charles Hartshorne.' More about Bell:
During the fall of 1921 [Bell] returned to academia and taught philosophy at the University of Toronto and within the same time frame made an application to have his doctorate from Göttingen University re-instated. The formal doctorate was finally issued to Dr. Bell in May of 1922. His tenure in Toronto was to be short-lived and he resigned after the spring semester. In the fall of 1922 he took up teaching in the philosophy department at Harvard University.
Rebecca Suter reviews Matthew Strecher's The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami:  'According to Strecher, the metaphysical realm in Murakami’s work is the place where individual subjects are able to connect to their “inner narrative,” get in touch with their innermost feelings and (re)construct a worldview that is closer to their true self than the false myths or “collective narratives” produced by society.'

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, a student of Kant's -- well, he attended some of Kant's lectures -- wrote some early science fiction tales. Michael Hauskeller has a blog post on Hoffmann's tale 'Sandman'. Another blog post about 'Sandman'. In his chapter of Wiley's Companion to Science Fiction, 'The Origins of Science Fiction', George Slusser devotes a section to Hoffmann's 'Sandman'.