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JCC "All I Know Is That I Don't Know Nothing" - The JCC PhilSci Book Club

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ramza, Jul 7, 2014.

  1. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Rampant scientism got you down? Abuses of the demarcation problem making it tough to pick a paradigm? Copenhagen interpretation not jiving with your metaphysics? Casual joke in another thread gaining terrifying un-life?

    This thread is here to make it so much worse all better.

    [​IMG]
    Paul Feyerabend, here shown already disapproving of this thread.

    The premise is simple: we pick a reading, we pick a length of time, we read the selection, we discuss it.

    The twist: every book is going to be related to the philosophy of science. This is a pretty niche subject area so we might expand to other areas. I'm kind of playing this by ear. For now, I'm calling that the goal.

    Insofar as I'm aware no one's a professional, so we're not going to judge. Alternatively: insofar as I'm aware no one's a professional, so we're all going to judge a lot. In any case I think this might be an entertaining undertaking, or at least an excuse for me to plow through some of the books in my backlog. Terrifyingly, we might all learn something, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Also terrifyingly, this thread might just devolve into my doing a poor man's version of a Rogue1.5 thread... but that's also a risk I'm willing to take.

    Some ground rules:
    [ol][li]No theology. Unless you're specifically commenting on something in a reading that invokes god or a lack thereof, leave it at the door. Don't invoke your holy book, don't invoke your Dawkins, just don't.[/li]
    [li]Try to clarify your definitions. Technical terms abound, try to explain what you mean if necessary.[/li]
    [li]Outside material is fine but try to cite it. Not, like, formally, just mention it.[/li]
    [li]Look up Operation Ivy before you complain about the thread title. Also Socrates or whatever.[/li][/ol]
    Some resources:
    [ul][li]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Your one-stop shop for entirely too much background information.[/li]
    [li]Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Because you have to have at least two competing resources for your one-stop shopping.[/li]
    [li]Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online - I lied, it's actually three stops.[/li][/ul]
    The first book I'd like to put forward for this foolish undertaking is Alan F. Chalmer's introductory text What Is This Thing Called Science? It's a pretty popular book on the subject and comes recommend by noted "guy Ramza admires too much" Massimo Pigliucci, so hey, why the hell not? I recommend either the third or fourth edition - the former's the last highly substantive revision, but apparently the latter has a really interesting postscript. I'll be reading the third because it's the one my university's library had, and also the one that certain Canadian universities have uploaded. Convenient.

    My proposal for the first bit of reading is that we read the introduction and first chapter ("Science as knowledge derived from the facts of experience") from Chalmers by the end of next week - say, July 18th. If you get done early, feel free to write up some initial thoughts.
     
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  2. dp4m

    dp4m JCC Playoff Pick 'Em Winner, Also a Narc star 10 VIP - Game Winner

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    Nov 8, 2001
    taH pagh taHbe'.
     
  3. Ender Sai

    Ender Sai Chosen One star 10

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    Feb 18, 2001
  4. tom

    tom Chosen One star 7

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    Mar 14, 2004
    i've requested the book through interlibrary loan. hopefully it will arrive by friday. if not it will have to wait until i get back from vacation.
     
  5. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Man, I thought I was being unsubtle what with the whole "also the one that certain Canadian universities have uploaded" line. I'm not saying if you google "What is this thing called science" there might be a pdf, but I'm not not saying it.
     
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  6. tom

    tom Chosen One star 7

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    Mar 14, 2004
    you weren't being subtle, but i'd prefer an actual book.
     
  7. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    No, I follow you; I was responding to Ender.
     
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  8. GrandAdmiralJello

    GrandAdmiralJello Comms Admin ❉ Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque star 10 Staff Member Administrator

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    Nov 28, 2000
    Paraleipsis.
     
  9. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Gesundheit.

    Also, I don't think I made this terribly clear in the opening post, but if you have suggestions for how fast we ought to be proceeding in the book, I'm open to them. I've blocked out about 20 pages for this first chunk just to give everyone time to get their hands on a copy, but we can go faster thereafter if that's the prevailing opinion.
     
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  10. PRENNTACULAR

    PRENNTACULAR VIP star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Dec 21, 2005
    Reading as soon as I get my comp back! Excited about this


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  11. Jabbadabbado

    Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Mar 19, 1999
    The only modern work on the philosophy of science I remember reading is Thomas Kuhn's, and that was more than 20 years ago. I'm glad this book includes a review.
     
  12. Rogue_Ten

    Rogue_Ten Chosen One star 7

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    Aug 18, 2002
    nassim nicolas taleb is my fave philospher of science
     
  13. Ender Sai

    Ender Sai Chosen One star 10

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    Feb 18, 2001
    Don't you dare knock Black Swan. Changed the way you look at out of the money options.
     
  14. Rogue1-and-a-half

    Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 2, 2000
    As long as it's not the stupid goat leg version of a Rogue 1.5 thread.

    I will be getting this book and attempting to read along. Hopefully this won't be over my head.
     
  15. Jabbadabbado

    Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Mar 19, 1999
    First section is pretty basic. The limits of observation start with sensory limitations and the fundamental subjectivity of visual perception once retinal images pass through the optic nerve and land in the brain's black box, and are dependent on the knowledge and conceptual framework of the observer, who needs a high level of expertise to observe properly and to formulate the right fact statements about observation. Valid experimental results are subject to later revision and rejection as new information and technology becomes available, and are bounded by the limits of available experimental design and technology. Replicable results aren't necessarily correct.

    I've been discussing the Svante Pääbo book a lot, just because it's wildly entertaining, but it gives an excellent modern narrative of exactly the kind of experimental issues Chalmers discusses - Pääbo's team's journey to get the right samples and obtain the dna from them in the right way, clean room procedures and the level of precaution necessary to avoid contamination from DNA, arguments among colleagues about which techniques to use, long waits for the right technology to sequence enough DNA quickly enough to get the job done at all, worries about competition from other labs creating pressure to cut corners, etc.
     
  16. Eeth-my-Koth

    Eeth-my-Koth Jedi Grand Master star 9

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    May 25, 2001
  17. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    As Jabba said, the first section is fairly straightforward and I don't think it'll get more intense than that, terminology wise, since it's aimed primarily at newcomers to the topic. The one thing that could potentially become problematic is the rapid fire namedropping.
     
  18. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Well, depending on your time zone we're roughly a day or less away from the completely arbitrary deadline for the first chapter - do people need more time? Less? Anything leap out as demanding further elaboration?
     
  19. Rogue1-and-a-half

    Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 2, 2000
    I have finished the intro and first chapter.
     
  20. Penguinator

    Penguinator Jedi Grand Master star 6

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    May 23, 2005
    WOO GO CANADA BUDDY DRINKING BEER AND UPLOADING PHILOSOPHY TEXTS EH I'm sorry.
     
  21. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Alright, the arbitrary deadline has been reached, so here's kind of my overarching stab, based on some now week and a half old notes:

    It's a little ironic that Chalmers starts off by discussing the Christian science push considering thread rule 1, but what I think is the interesting take away from his introduction is precisely his rationale for its inclusion: for some reason (Which we will perhaps be able to answer by the end of the book), science is held up as an almost sacrosanct field of activity. With a few exceptions - such as Paul Feyerabend, who he namedrops for being such a notable one - people tend to position their arguments within science, rather than in spite of it. We're never told, for example, that we ought to abandon evolution because science has no special privilege, but rather because it is "unscientific" in some sense, or is contradicted by "scientific evidence." Implicit in the commonplace nature of such arguments - across a multitude of stripes, I might add, not just that case - is that there's something special going on when we talk about science.

    This appears to me as if he's setting up the thesis of the book - how do we define science, and why is it considered so exceptional as a method of acquiring knowledge? Why do public scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson hold it in a higher regard than, say, philosophical enquiry? Why do so many people agree with them? What Is This Thing Called Science? if I'm being obnoxious. His reassurances that he is seeking understanding, and not the destruction of epistemological anarchy, are pretty promising. I was admittedly a tiny bit worried until I got there. :p

    Chapter 1, as Jabbadabbado pointed out, is primarily concerned with undermining what the layman might hold as an intuitive or common sense notion of science - and, indeed, I believe the next few chapters will be concerned with this same point. I come from a position of having already read some of the theories that are going to be discussed in later chapters of this book, and from having done some work in theoretical physics which is very much not in line with the "observation precedes theory" take on the subject, so I didn't find any of this terribly surprising or controversial, but I did like some of his examples. The picture of a staircase not even being viewed as an optical illusion in some cultures was a very interesting little case study. I've sometimes taken it for granted that the treachery of images is relatively universal, despite that making perfect sense within my Heideggerian shtick.* I am a bad existentialist, I guess. The discussion of specialization impacting our perception was less striking, it's a conclusion that seemed apparent to me even in nonscientific contexts like film.

    Still, a good crash course in trying to get you punched out of your traditional modes of thinking without being all "WHOA MIND=BLOWN AMIRITE?" about it. I'm quite fond of Chalmers' overall style and presentation.

    Other folks have any thoughts? We've got a multitude of backgrounds represented in the earlier thread posts, I'd love to hear what you all think about this first chapter and these intuitive notions. Do you think Chalmers has a point? Are you unconvinced? All of that fun stuff. If nothing else - how much do you want to read for next time? Should we sprinkle in some outside articles as supplemental material?

    Because I made "try to clarify" a rule, of sorts, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a German philosopher most famous for his work on ontology (What is? What exists?) and is typically classified as being part of an existentialist tradition which considered meaning to be derived from that imparted by humanity, rather than preexisting or existing independently of human interaction. Heidegger's most famous work, Being and Time, was all about how the world is necessarily parsed and part of our perceptions and the network of relationships between objects. So he would probably consider it perfectly natural for the staircase illusion to be nonexistent for someone who did not impart the properties of "stairness" onto it - although he'd probably justify it by talking about how stair was derived from the old German, which of course had its roots in the Greek, and blah blah blah. The man was verbose.

    Heidegger's also famous for being a guy who totally jumped onboard the Nazi train for reasons that may never be entirely clear. I think the smart money's on him being from and almost exclusively living in a rural part of Germany, as the party's message played well to those types. Others disagree.
     
  22. Jabbadabbado

    Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Mar 19, 1999
    I'm just getting into the problem of induction. I took a detour to read the novel Rogue_Ten recommended, and I'm ready to bring in the Lucretius translation whenever it seems like we need some poetry. Like you I'm trying to take a very systematic approach.
     
  23. Jabbadabbado

    Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Mar 19, 1999
    Great, now I need to take another detour to read Hume.
     
  24. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

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    Jul 13, 2008
    Understandable, Hume is kind of unavoidable in these sorts of inquiries because of the sheer amount of work he did as regards empiricism.

    I think I'm going to try to get up through Chapter 4 by next week. I have no idea if anyone besides the two of us is reading, but I'm eager to get to falsificationism.
     
  25. Rogue1-and-a-half

    Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Nov 2, 2000
    I'm reading. I definitely have some thoughts on the first chapter, but I'll have to kind of get them straight in my head before I post them.