Can’t believe how long it is since my last post – but currently buried under a pile of domestic things needing attention, basically a very late-running house improvement project that barely “completed” before Christmas, family Christmas itself, and seeking new paid work since the new year … lots of connected pieces to be picked-up.
Lots of draft posts, stalled due to guilt of those other things needing attention. Loads of tweets too (see guilt) as a substitute for longer posts on the usual subjects. Scientific “rationality” vs religious “irrationality” – the recurring knotty mind-body, free-will, truth-goodness, model-reality “hard problems”, not to mention all the more immediate and evil extreme real-life manifestations reaching us through the news.
Amongst all the tweeted links I’ve also as usual been reading a few books,
so for now a brief Reading Update:
- Captured by all things Bowie in today’s media reminded me one read was a musical biography; Elvis Costello’s “Unfaithful Words & Disappearing Ink“. Recommended read if you’re a fan or interested in Elvis. Densely packed name-dropping anecdotes of all the people and places he’s worked, but organised all over the place by musical and lyrical links in inspiration, writing and performing, his and others. Plus a good deal of his own family and Liverpool heritage of course. The sheer breadth is maybe the most illuminating aspect.
Also reading two more thought provoking works.
- “Vision & Realism – A hundred years of the Freethinker” by Jim Herrick (1982). Fascinating in my current role as board member for the Rationalist Association to get another view of the overlapping (and internally conflicting) relationships and heritage between the various players and publications (and agendas) in the UK rational “free-thought”, secularist, ethical, atheist and humanist movements. The same internal conflicts pop-up daily, and in fact one of my draft posts is a call to unity amongst the warring twitterati factions against the bigger picture.
- Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s (1949) “Problems of Life – an Evaluation of Modern Biological Thought” is altogether deeper on the philosophical topics behind scientific rationality, with a pan-Darwinian biological view of processes behind the whole of science and rationality. (The original German title translates as The Biological Worldview.) It’s an Organismic Conception or viewpoint smack bang in the middle between the fundamental “exact sciences” and the higher human and social “sciences”. He uses a gestalt take on how levels dependent on more fundamental levels nevertheless have their own identity (and properties and behaviours) not determined in any direct sense by the sum of their underlying parts, but by their level(s) of organisation. (A view that Pirsig scholars will appreciate.) It’s the organismic principle that is the driver, not any predetermined plan or any eventual patterns themselves – tough for scientists even now, but a paradigmatic change proposed in his work from the 1920’s onwards, and summarised in this 1949 work. [And it’s no coincidence the book is published in English by Watts & Co, founders of the Rationalist (Press) Association (see above) and the copy I am reading I bought second hand from their library in Conway Hall. Small world.]
Will be writing more on both of these in the right context.
Now, my own garden to tend, where’s my to do list?