Thursday, February 25, 2010

Channeling Gaunilon

Via Bill Vallicella. My take on this -- to live up to the blogosphere's tradition of commenting on things you don't fully understand -- is that it's not clear to me why the fact that we can imagine something being true of A but not of B entails that A and B cannot be identical. Take someone who thinks the evening star and the morning star are two different entities rather than the same thing (namely, the planet Venus). That person could then make claims that are true of the evening star which are not (so he thinks) true of the morning star. "The evening star changed color or blew up" or whatever, "but the morning star remains the same as it always has." In other words, the fact that you can imagine something applying to the one without applying to the other could mean nothing more than that you've misidentified one thing as two. However, this may not apply to Plantinga's argument, since the evening/morning star is an object, and the individual is a subject; and it is precisely as subject that the apparent distinction between it and the body arises.

It looks to me that this modal argument shares a similar intuition with the Ontological Argument: if we can imagine X, then that imagining shows the actual possibility of X. As such, it seems to be subject to the common objection to the Ontological Argument: just because I can imagine X, it doesn't mean that X is actual, and X's actuality is necessary in order for the argument to hold. The counter-response in both cases is that the case under question has a particular quality such that such an imagining does entail its actuality. I tend to agree with Bertrand Russell, that Ontological Arguments are easily dismissed, but it's much harder to explain exactly what's wrong with them. Since Plantinga is one of the most prestigious contemporary defenders of the Ontological Argument, I suspect he might have a better grasp on this than I do.

(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shipping down to Oz

As I think I may have mentioned before, I did my master thesis at the University of St Andrews on the topic of 19th century Emigration from my home region of East Anglia to Australia. In writing this up I was able to rely heavily on the first hand accounts of emigrants who sent letters home from the colonies, which were then printed in local newspapers. Thanks to the herculean efforts of members of the Foxearth and District Local History Society, these are now all available online.

Hence I was intrigued to see this morning that a newly discovered journal has been discovered and put up for auction in London. The account, which was written by a junior officer named James Bell, was composed for his sweetheart back in Britain and documents a voyage from Deptford in east London to Adelaide in 1838. Whilst en route to Oz, the passengers and crew appear to have spent their time engaging in drunken debauchery. As the article I read related:

Diarist James Bell said there were 11 daughters of a Mr McGowan from Liverpool making the voyage as well as a party of women who were ‘natives of some obscene Alleyt’ – namely prostitutes.

Capt Beasley later ‘made love’ to two of the McGowan girls and shared his bed on deck with them. As Bell described:

"The captain was allowed to keep the daughters company at all hours and during the whole time of our being in warm weather our bed on deck sufficed for all three ... such an example was soon followed up by all the Ship's Co: but particularly the 3 Mates [who] carried immorality to a glaring height, particularly the first mate – whom I saw take farewell of a wife and child at Deptford – and who is a man of 40 or more.’

He also tells of how the chief mate ‘bloated with hard drinking’ was treated by the surgeon ‘himself flushed with drinking’ when he fell and ‘cut and mangled’ his head. Matters got progressively worse and the aforementioned surgeon later got into a drunken dispute with the captain. According to the account "the dispute ran so high as to provoke the former to knock the latter down with his fist."

The historian who analysed the text, Felix Pryor said that:

" I have never seen anything like it. I was expecting a gentle story of sightings of flying fish and the like and instead was faced with this extraordinary story of sex, drunkenness and fighting…….With all this whoring and drunkenness, it is amazing the ship ever arrived in Australia."

Mr Pryor has obviously never read 'The Floating Brothel'.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Chilling Effect

Jason Rosenhouse – an author and contributor to scienceblogs - has blogged a review of ‘Galileo Goes to Jail and other myths about Science and Religion’. This book was conceived by the historian Ron Numbers because he and his colleagues were sick and tired of encountering the same myths being trotted out in the modern day American ‘culture wars’. Numbers himself has attracted some controversy for being on civil terms with a number of creationists and (whilst not agreeing with it) appearing sympathetic to their position; though this is perhaps understandable given he is the author of the definitive history of the anti-evolution movement.

Rosenhouse’s reaction to the book demonstrates the difficulties of refuting the set of comfortable myths that people on both side of the science-religion debate tend to subscribe to. Although you might succeed in denting them, you will commonly find that a smaller, yet no less weaker myth is erected next to them and asserted with just as much force. Our view of late antiquity –through the lens of Edward Gibbon – used to be that of a book-burning free for all with fanatical Christians running around destroying the fruits of the Greco-Roman world and replacing the rational thought of Hellenistic culture with obscure discussions about how three people could fit plausibility into one person and what angels get up to at weekends. This is such an appealing image that it’s a hard one to let go of. Eventually the view Rosenhouse goes for (which is similar to Richard Carrier’s) is that the early Christians did not kill science, they merely lost interest in it (although I don’t know what a figure like John Philoponus or Boethius would have made of that). This is in many ways as powerful a myth as the previous one. A concerted effort by Christians to kill all science for a thousand years is, well, kind of cool. Simply losing interest is just lame.

The truth I think is something like this. There was undeniably a decline in scientific knowledge in the Western Roman Empire as it declined and collapsed but the roots of this can be traced to the pagan Romans. After 200 BC there was a fruitful cultural contact between Greeks and the bilingual Roman upper classes. This introduced a version of the classical tradition into the Roman Empire but it was a thin popularised version which was translated into Latin. Bilingualism and the conditions which favoured scholarship then declined rapidly after AD180 as the empire entered the 3rd century crisis. Roman citizens who were gradually becoming Christian were therefore limited to pieces of the classical tradition which had been explained and summarised by Latin authors. Meanwhile the richer, more complete version of the classical tradition fell into the hands of the Muslims as they rapidly expanded across Asia and the Mediterranean. It was then translated into Arabic, further developed and moved across north Africa to Spain. As soon as Western Europe had recovered sufficiently it’s intellectuals travelled to Spain to translate the materials and bring them into medieval culture.

One thing certain commentators point to is an 'anti-intellectual' streak which was exhibited by some of the church fathers, and here the most commonly quoted example is Tertullian, who famously said 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?'. Ultimately this counter-cultural point of view lost out to those like Justin Martyr who sought common ground between classical philosophy and Christianity, and (more importantly) Augustine of Hippo who, while being ambivalent toward Greek learning applied it vigorously to scripture in his writings and came up with the vastly influential 'handmaiden formula' whereby natural philosophy could be put to use in the interpretation of the bible. Of course we now all think that – in principle - science should be studied for it's own sake, but this would have been alien to the classical world in which it was always subordinated to ethics and the wider philosophical enterprise. It’s also far from being a safe principle today and, in practice, over the course of the twentieth century science has been used as the handmaiden of pretty much any loony ideology you’d care to mention.

What explains the 'anti-intellectual' stream of Christian thought? It appears to have been a principled stand rather than simple 'know-nothing-ism' as you can see from consulting the great teachers of antiquity. You would find, for example, in Plato's republic that the guardians of the state should be produced by selective breeding. That wives and offspring must be assigned to a common pool for the general good and humanity is divided into men of gold, men of silver, men of brass and men of iron. The populace, regarded as a kind of mob, must be ruled as if they were a bunch of rowdy children. If births don't result in desired 'types', infants will have to be put to death. If you look at Aristotle (of whom the early Christians had rather less knowledge) you'll find that he is very much taken by the natural world but his thought contains no trace of the loving and providential God of Christian faith. He also displays the elitist attitude held by upper class Greeks of his day. As Bertrand Russell said:

the distinction between moral and other merits has become much sharper now than it was in Greek times. It is a merit in a man to be a great poet or composer but not a moral merit; we do not consider him more virtuous for possessing such attitudes or more likely to go to heaven. .......When we come to compare Artistole’s ethical tastes with our own, we find in the first place an acceptance of inequality which is repugnant to much modern sentiment. Not only is there no objection to slavery or to the superiority of husbands and fathers over wives and children, but its is held that what is best is essentially only for the few—proud men and philosophers. Most men are mainly means for the production of a few rulers and sages…There is in Aristotle an almost complete absence of what might be called benevolence or philanthropy. The sufferings of mankind, in so far as he is aware of them, do not move him emotionally; he holds them intellectually, to be an evil, but there is no evidence they cause him unhappiness except when the sufferers happen to be his friends’.

To make matters worse, those who were most conversant with Hellenistic thought were the very effete, aristocratic Romans who could afford to school their children with philosophy and rhetoric. This would not have been the world of the early Christian, rather it was the world which had been intermittently persecuting them, the culture of the oppressor. So I think that partly explains why the city of God and the city of man were held to be separate in early Christian writings and why there is this suspicion of philosophy as the right guide.

The reason why it did not persist is that, once a religion gains greater prominence it has to be promulgated by teaching. This requires a firm background in the history of thought; for example, the partial rejection of Aristotelian requires that you be an Aristotelian. You can’t mount a credible attack on a system of thought without being schooled in that system of thought yourself. Even Tertullian was trained in dialectic and used it in his own work.

Rosenhouse was also displeased with Michael H Shank’s essay tackling the myth that the Medieval Church suppressed the growth of science. Shank’s conclusion, if I recall correctly was that, if the church has been trying to repress science they had done an amazingly bad job of it. Rosenhouse will have none of this and brings up the 1277 condemnations as an example of the Church’s meddling.

‘Shank, it would seem, is unfamiliar with the notion of a “chilling effect.” To argue that the only people affected by a given condemnation were those specifically under the authority of some local prelate simply ignores the indirect effects such things have. Some eager young scholar, noting that church authorities are routinely in the habit of condemning certain modes of thought and argument, quickly learns not to step out of line.”

He must be unfamiliar with the conclusions of Edward Grant that in stressing ‘the contingency of God’s operations and his omnipotence to do as he pleased, short of a logical contradiction’, the condemnations favourably influenced scientific development by stimulating philosophers to contemplate possibilities such as a plurality of worlds of the existence of a vacuum. (Edward Grant ‘The effect of the condemnation of 1277 in ‘The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy’ 537-539); or James Edward McClellan’s view that ‘An extraordinary flourish of what might be termed ‘hothouse science resulted, theologically inoffensive work wherein scholastic philosophers entertained all variety of scientific possibilities, but only hypothetically, on the basis of suppositions’ or thought experiments, or as products of their ingenious imaginations’(Science and Technology in World History (p187-88); or David C Lindberg’s view of the condemnations as a 'conservative backlash' but one which nonetheless 'encouraged scholars to explore non Aristotelian physical and cosmological alternatives'. I think he probably is familiar with Pierre Duhem's (over enthusiastic) view that "if we must assign a date for the birth of modern science, we would, without doubt, choose the year 1277 when the bishop of Paris solemnly proclaimed that several worlds could exist, and that the whole of heavens could, without contradiction, be moved with a rectilinear motion" since it was actually cited in Shank's essay, but perhaps he skim-read it. If that’s what a ‘chilling effect’ does then we could do with a few more of those.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Fine tuning solved....or not?

I was interested this week to see the blurb for an article in the January 2010 edition of ‘Scientific American’; the U.S equivalent of ‘the New Scientist’. Like it’s UK doppelganger this mag has had something of a reputation among grouches like Peter Woit for ‘multiverse pseudo-science stories’ including ‘Parallel Universes, The Great Cosmic Roller-Coaster Ride and Does Time Run Backwards in Other Universes?’. Now they have produced an article by Alejandro Jenkins and Gilad Perez purporting to address the issue of so called cosmic ‘fine tuning’. The article description reads:

Multiple other universes—each with its own laws of physics—may have emerged from the same primordial vacuum that gave rise to ours. Assuming they exist, many of those universes may contain intricate structures and perhaps even some forms of life. These findings suggest that our universe may not be as “finely tuned” for the emergence of life as previously thought.

It begins:

'Remarkably, we have found examples of alternative values of the fundamental constants, and thus of alternative sets of physical laws, that might still lead to very interesting worlds and perhaps to life. The basic idea is to change one aspect of the laws of nature and then make compensatory changes to other aspects

Or ‘very few’ examples as it transpires. The rest is a quite interesting discussion of alternative biochemistry, with an abundance of ‘maybe’s, ‘could’s and ‘possibly’s. I have to say I was more impressed by how little you could actually change rather than the alternate scenarios that could work. In fact you can’t alter any of the values of many of the forces without compensating in other areas. Some of the conclusions seemed more than a little dodgy, for instance they reckon you could knock out the weak nuclear force and still produce a habitable universe (you would still have to fiddle with the standard model to get the remaining forces to work properly).

The fundamental problem the 'weakless' universe is going to have is that the stars produced are only going to churning out energy at a few percent that of our sun. Secondly the elements would not be spread by supernovas as these would fail (but they could still be spread to a lesser extent by thermo-nuclear explosions caused by accretion). Earth like planets would have to be a lot closer to suns and they would have no plate tectonics (that has implications serious for evolutionary processes). If any complex life did eventually evolve it would doubtless be bored out of it’s mind as the lack of heavy elements would make this alternate earths landscape flat and dull; a bit like the Midwest.

These objections however pale in comparison to that raised by Dr. Robert Piccioni on his blog:

“Contrary to the cover story in Scientific American's January 2010 issue, life would NOT be possible in a universe without the weak nuclear force, because then matter and antimatter would have completely annihilated each other, leaving no atoms to make life. Only the weak force treats matter and antimatter asymmetrically, allowing slightly more matter to develop in the first second after the Big Bang. Everything we see, and are made of, comes from that slight excess that the weak force enabled.”

On the other hand it looks like you can fiddle with the values of the three lightest quarks and still get some kind of functioning chemistry (but not by very much).

If quark masses were adjusted to make the proton heavier than the neutron, then the proton in a hydrogen nucleus would capture the surrounding electron and turn into a neutron, so that hydrogen atoms could not exist for very long. But deuterium or tritium (hydrogen 3) might still be stable, and so would some forms of oxygen and carbon. Indeed, we found that only if the proton became heavier than the neutron by more than about 1 percent would there cease to be some stable form of hydrogen. With deuterium (or tritium) substituting for hydrogen 1, oceans would be made of heavy water, which has subtly different physical and chemical properties from ordinary water. Still, there does not appear to be a fundamental obstacle in these worlds to some form of organic life evolving.

This seems like a fair conclusion on the surface but I suspect it's not that simple. Heavy water in large quantities has the effect of slowing down a great many chemical reactions occurring in biological systems. Smaller forms of cellular life can adapt to this pretty well but more complex lifeforms get into difficulties.

Yet all this speculation proves to have been of no avail since, following this discussion of cosmological ‘what ifs’, the authors still go back to arguing for the multiverse at the end on the basis of the 'cosmological constant' problem.

Our work did not address the most serious fine-tuning problem in theoretical physics: the smallness of the “cosmological constant,” which our universe neither recollapsed into nothingness a fraction of a second after the big bang, nor was ripped part by an exponentially accelerating expansion. Nevertheless, the examples of alternative, potentially habitable universes raise interesting questions and motivate further research into how unique our own universe might be.… the late 1990s, astronomers discovered that the universe is indeed expanding at an accelerating rate, pushed by a mysterious form of “dark energy.” The observed rate implied that the cosmological constant is positive and tiny—within the bounds of Weinberg’s prediction—meaning that dark energy is very dilute. Thus, the cosmological constant seems to be fine-tuned to an exceptional degree. Moreover, the methods our teams have applied to the weak nuclear force and to the masses of quarks seem to fail in this case, because it seems impossible to find congenial universes in which the cosmological constant is substantially larger than the value we observe. Within a multiverse, the vast majority of universes could have cosmological constants incompatible with the formation of any structure.

So having read all the way through an article purporting to have solved the fine tuning problem you find at the end that the problem is just as intractable as ever and it’s full speed ahead to the multiverse. Bottom line is, if you read the blurb for an article of scientific paper, take it with a pinch of salt.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Calvinist Doctrine of Glossolalia

(If you can't see it, go here.)

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Human Vivisection and Dissection

If you enjoy a good argument and you’re at all interested in the history of science and religion, have a look at the post and discussion over at Richard Carrier’s blog on medieval science. It started when Mike Flynn corrected a really quite stupid piece of anti-Christian polemic. Richard found the polemic quite stupid too but was more interested in correcting Mike. The debate continued happily below the line and showed how good the internet can be at linking people who share interests but not points of view.

I’m not going to comment on the debate for the moment as Richard has kindly promised to say something about my book. It seems appropriate that I shouldn’t write anything much until then.

But I’d like to flag two related issues that Richard raises on which I happen to have reviewed some of the literature. The first is the question of whether or not the Hellenic physicians Herophilus and Erasistratus carried out human vivisections in Alexandria. Richard says not and claims that this is a “slander”. I expect he has in mind a remark made by Tertullian (On the Soul 10) who accuses Herophilus of being a "butcher". The Latin for butcher, lanius, can also mean executioner, so it is by no means clear whether Tertullian is accusing the Alexandrians of dissecting humans or vivisecting them. Either way, he doesn’t like it at all. If this was the only evidence, Richard would be quite right to dismiss it – it is ambiguous and hostile. But the key text is neither of these things.

Writing about 30AD, the Roman medical author Celsus made a statement of a quite different character in the prologue to his book On Medicine. It is worth quoting in full:

Consequently, it is necessary to dissect dead bodies and examine their viscera and intestines. Herophilus and Erasistratus adopted the best method. They dissected criminals, received from the kings out of prison, and contemplated even while the breath still remained those things that nature had before concealed.

Now this statement is not only as clear as daylight, it is also approving of the practice (at least from a scientific point of view). The doyen of scholars on Herophilus, Heinrich von Staten, states that “the ancient evidence may be trusted” (p. 139, Herophilus (Cambridge, 1989)) and he should know given that his mammoth edition and commentary of Herophilus fragments and sources covers all the ground. Von Staten notes Richard’s objection that Galen is silent on the matter in his extant works. The trouble is that this is an argument from silence one hundred and fifty years after the positive and unambivalent statement by Celsus. Von Staten also notes that Galen refers to a lost treatise that he wrote specifically on vivisection (p. 151, Herophilus). If Galen did discuss whether the Alexandrians vivisected humans, we might expect it to be in this lost work. In any case, Galen’s lack of comment in no way cancels out Celsus. Richard also suggests vivisection would be against the Hippocratic Oath, but who knows what they actual swore. The linked version appears to apply only to patients, not criminals. So, however distasteful, we must face the fact that they probably did carry out anatomies on live victims.

And why shouldn’t they? Torturing people to death was no big deal in the ancient world. Indeed, cutting open live people may have been less offensive to social mores than waiting until they were dead. They were convicting criminals after all. Our own squeamishness may be what leads us to discount the clear evidence. It seems similar to the way humanists would avoid facing up to the blatant homoeroticism in Plato’s Symposium and elsewhere.

I think Richard also errs in his statement that Galen carried out human dissections himself. He clearly has the advantage over me in that he has gone over all the relevant passages in the Galenic corpus. But still the scholarly consensus is against him. As Von Staten notes, Galen’s anatomy is that of a simian overlaid onto a human skeleton. (It is a bit odd that Richard cited Von Staten in his case that Galen did perform human dissections where von Staten actually thinks the opposite, but doubtless we are referring to different works of his.)

The error is systematic and not amendable by adopting a particular reading of passages that mention human dissection. Galen never says he has done it and makes it very clear that he’d like to. This is a good argument from silence since it is not contradicted elsewhere and is consistent with the clear pattern of his anatomical observations.

But I haven’t seen Richard’s own detailed work on this topic. If feels he is successful in overturning the scholarly consensus, he should publish as soon as possible (although the delays in getting material accepted by journals are now nothing short of scandalous). Let’s hope an article sees the light of day soon.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Collapse of Good Faith in Science

In legal circles, the words “in good faith” simply mean without an agenda. A person acting in good faith or giving evidence in good faith is assumed to have integrity and to be an honest witness. And quite often, we assume good faith because to do otherwise makes life very difficult. If you thought your doctor was following his own agenda, as it seems Mr Andrew Wakefield was doing in his research on autism and MMR, you might hesitate before popping the pills he was prescribing you.

What happens when the presumption of good faith collapses? There is a technical term for rejecting the idea that anyone acts in good faith – it’s called being paranoid. Conspiracy theories thrive on the idea that the other side have something to hide.

Creationists assume that evolutionary biologists lack good faith because they are following a materialist agenda. Of course, in the case of Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, they are probably right. But the vast majority of biologists are just getting on with the job. Unfortunately, the lack of a presumption of good faith on either side of the creationism debate means that it cannot be resolved by evidence or argument. Nobody trusts their opponents enough for that.

And now the climate change fiasco has caused scientists to lose a vast amount of public goodwill. The scientific arguments are irrelevant because any evidence that climate scientists present will be assumed to be bogus by sceptics. And sceptics now make up half the population of the UK and an even larger proportion in the US. They have good reason to doubt the proclamations of the scientists.

Because climate science fully deserves the opprobrium being heaped upon it. We find researchers in senior positions conspired to hide data from their critics – data that turns out to have been badly flawed (as even the front page of the Guardian alleged this week). We find that the sacrosanct IPCC reports contain conclusions cherry-picked from popular magazines and environmentalists’ campaign material. It is clear that some climate scientists saw themselves as advocates and not as objective researchers.

So what can we do about this? It is bad enough that such an important issue as climate change cannot now be discussed with a presumption of good faith. But if this contagion spreads to other areas of science (and there are enough scandals in medical research for that field to reach tipping point as well) we will all be the poorer. The problem is getting serious.

It seems likely that the answer will involve additional layers of bureaucracy and regulation to police the activities of scientists. As for climate science, it is effectively back at year zero and almost everything ever done on the field will have to be reviewed by panels that include sceptics who are currently outside the mainstream. The careers of several eminent climatologists are now over, but they will need to be publicly defrocked and preferably confess to their sins for public confidence to be restored. And if climate change is the crisis that we were told, we really have had it. The popular and media consensus has evaporated and without it no western government can act.

Luckily, there was an important breakthrough in fusion power this week. Thank goodness for physicists...

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So it turns out frankincense may cure cancer. They really were wise men. The news isn't in yet on the myrrh. Via Alphecca.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Updates on God's Philosophers and Related Matters

I hope I’ll be forgiven for a bit of self promotion. Much of this stuff will already be known to followers of the God’s Philosophers Facebook page. By the way, I've added a followers' box for this blog too if anyone fancies signing up. Somewhat to my surprise, I've found we have seventeen fellow clerks already...

After a six week hiatus caused by Boris Johnson cleaning us out just before Christmas, God’s Philosophers has been reprinted a second time and is finally back on and will shortly return to the shops. This will certainly be the last reprint of the hardback, so if you like that format, as I do, then you should pick one up for twelve quid while stocks last. The paperback should appear over the summer.

In the autumn, Nieuw Amsterdam will be publishing a Dutch translation (and thus seeing me become a stable mate of Richard Dawkins). I’ll be over in the Netherlands doing a bit of promoting around the time it comes out. Rights for other languages are still available through the Marsh Agency.

Most exciting of all, Regnery will be bringing out a U.S. edition of the book. As often happens, the American version will have a new title and will hopefully be out later this year or early next. More news as I get it.

In other news, I’ll be giving a talk on early-medieval cosmology at Bede’s World in Jarrow, Newcastle on 24 April. It will cover Bede’s own view of the universe and also how the best Latin sources of astronomy were mastered in the court of Charlemagne, laying the groundwork for the rediscovery of the advanced Greek texts later on. I’m looking forward to seeing my patron saint’s home and especially the surviving Saxon chancel of Jarrow’s church.

Finally, I’ll be giving a lecture on medieval science on the first full day (12 July) of the Faraday Institute’s summer conference in Cambridge. It’s quite daunting to be sharing the bill with luminaries such as Sir John Polkinghorne, Simon Conway Morris, Peter Harrison and Ernan McMullin.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Fall of the West

If you haven't already, you really should read Tim O'Neill's outstanding review of Adrian Goldsworthy's The Fall of the West: The Death of the Roman Superpower. Like all the best reviews, it nearly renders the book in question superfluous. Certainly, I now feel qualified to bluff with the best of them on the current state of scholarship on the fall of the Western Empire.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Medieval Blog

Dan Jones, author of the riotous history of the Peasants' revolt, Summer of Blood, has started regularly updating his blog about all things medieval in popular culture. If the Middle Ages are your thing, and they are certainly mine, it is well worth adding to blog feed.

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The Indivisible Intellect

I recently posted a review of The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments by Ben Mijuskovic (here). This book deals with the history -- primarily in the early Modern era -- of the idea that "The essential nature of the soul consists in its power of thinking; thought, being immaterial, is unextended, i.e., simple (having no parts); and what is simple is (a) indestructible; (b) a unity; and (c) an identity."

I have recently been pointed to this summary of Mijuskovic's writing on the Simplicity Argument, including another book, Contingent Immaterialism: Meaning, Freedom, Time and Mind, which looks pretty darn interesting. It also looks at recent developments in this argument, including a collection of essays entitled The Achilles of Rationalist Psychology. There are many more references at the link. It looks like my reading list just doubled.

(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)

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