Does the supreme being deceive? “Until the Scientific Revolution, God’s power included a licence to deceive. How did science make an honest man of Him?” Dallas Dennery explains that “the commitment of the Scientific Revolution to rational causes for all events, even exceptional or seemingly anomalous ones, robbed God of the power to deceive.” Interesting discussion of differences between traditional conceptions of God and the God of the philosophers.
Another review of “The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science,” this one by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, the author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. Goldstein admires Aristotle but also defends Plato: “Plato and Aristotle: What an accident of history that two such contrasting orientations toward the physical world, animated by two such different aesthetic sensibilities, should have been pedagogically entangled with each other. One espies beauty in the elegance of the mathematical proportions he is certain rules the cosmos, the other in the richness of sensed particularities he is certain can be functionally explained. Both orientations would find application in the developed sciences to come … .”
What can we learn from a medieval philosopher who had visions of the Virgin Mary and explained how angels speak and move. Quite a bit, it turns out. Thomas Aquinas developed “a philosophical framework for the process of doubt and open scientific inquiry.”
Another review, this one by Henry Gee, of Armand Marie Leroi’s The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science. It’s true that Aristotle make some mistakes in his investiations. But “in science, there is no shame in being wrong. Scientists are wrong all the time. Aristotle was a pioneer in that he started not with a prior scheme, but sought, as dispassionately as he could, to explain what he saw.”
Susan H. Gordon’s review of Armand Marie Leroi’s The Lagoon: “And so, in 2014, Aristotle joins the ranks of his fellow biologists. ‘Intimacy with the natural world shines from his works,’ writes Leroi, a communion that allowed Aristotle to ‘sieve the ocean of natural history folklore and travelogue for grains of truth from which to build a new science.’ Following his new scientific inquiry, Aristotle arrived at a final why: Why does any of this happen at all? It would take centuries before Darwin could find a scientifically plausible answer, and in ancient Greece Aristotle looked again to the practical for his own: Biological systems are true so that we might exist. And to exist is simply better than to not exist.”
Should we teach Plato in gym class? Yes, according to Mark Edmundson. “We’ve got to entertain the idea that the hunger for glory and even for supremacy is part of every individual. In some people it’s nearly as strong as the hunger for food. All of us, but athletes and warriors in particular, have to understand how to deal with that hunger. As Plato told us, the spirit needs education just as much as the mind.”
Philosopher Simon Blackburn thinks Narcissus would be busy on Instagram. “Can we have a virtuous sense of worth without the vanity of self-love?”
… by putting the immaterial on the table? Is there any kind of thing in the universe in addition to the stuff physicists study?
In “Visions of the Impossible,” Jeffrey Kripal says: “After all, consciousness is the fundamental ground of all that we know or ever will know. It is the ground of all of the sciences, all of the arts, all of the social sciences, all of the humanities, indeed all human knowledge and experience. Moreover, as far as we can tell, this presence is sui generis. It is its own thing. We know of nothing else like it in the universe, and anything we might know later we will know only through this same consciousness. Many want to claim the exact opposite, that consciousness is not its own thing, is reducible to warm, wet tissue and brainhood. But no one has come close to showing how that might work. Probably because it doesn’t.” Under the circumstances, Kripal says, we need an account of consciousness that synthesizes the “Aristotelian” materialist understanding of consciousness with the “Platonic” nonmaterialist understanding.
In “Science Is Being Bashed by Academics Who Should Know Better,” Jerry Coyne replies: “When science manages to find reliable evidence for … clairvoyance, I’ll begin to pay attention. Until then, the idea of our brain as a supernatural radio seems like a kind of twentieth-century alchemy—the resort of those whose will to believe outstrips their respect for the facts.”
And in turn Kripal replies to Coyne in “Embracing the Unexplained, Part 2,” that Coyne’s piece is “name-calling and an attempt to control and manipulate the data so that the ‘proper’ conclusions are reached. My point is a simple one: If you put the ‘impossible’ data on the table, you will arrive at different conclusions.” And to make his case he calls on Barbara Ehrenreich’s “A Rationalist’s Mystical Moment” for support.
Happiness and its discontents. Is happiness being satisfied with your life? Is it pleasure and the absence of pain? According to Daniel Haybron, it’s an emotional state. Happiness fulfills our needs as persons. “What sorts of needs are we talking about? Among the most important sources of happiness are: a sense of security; a good outlook; autonomy or control over our lives; good relationships; and skilled and meaningful activity. If you are unhappy, there’s a good chance that it’s for want of something on this list.”
Did Descartes doom Terri Schiavo? “The plea … to prolong Ms. Schiavo’s feeding, against the wishes of her husband or what courts determined to be her own expressed inclinations, echoed the teachings of Aristotle, who considered existence itself to be inviolable. On the other side, the argument that Ms. Schiavo’s life could be judged as not worth living echoed Descartes, the Enlightenment philosopher who defined human life not as biological existence – which might be an inviolable gift from God – but as consciousness, about which people can make judgments.”