Post Aristotle

Now got through Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in Gottlieb’s book – by far the bulk. The remainder up to 1650 is packed into relatively few pages – as many others have mentioned (see note below). Gottlieb is very defensive of his Greek heros, and to be fair, I’ve learned a lot – makes a change from all those books that just seem to re-inforce what by now seems blindingly obvious – but that’s another story.

Actually, and predictably I guess, the post-socratic blind turn is not actually due to Plato and Aristotle themselves, but due to the way their ideas were picked-up and exploited. It’s memetic latching again isn’t it. The church latched conveniently onto the arguments for divine purposeful cause behind the workings of the world, natural science latched onto logic, cos it’s black and white – easy to understand metaphors and easy to apply to objective argument and proof. Holistic questions of balance and values ? Plato and particularly Aristotle had Socratic wisdom too – but much too difficult to apply. Let’s just ignore that stuff for a millenium or two.

Note : Gottlieb himself comments on the fact he has only 100 pages covering 550 to 1550 AD, and points out that this is quite common and unsurprising in histories of Western Philosophy – he cites Hegel in particular.

Am I right ?
Just bought Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” on the strength of Gottlieb’s Aristotle.

Conceptual Structures at Work

This 12th International Conference at the Huntsville University, Alabama has an interesting range of subjects, and a Peircean theme based in the HUA Computer Sciences department. eg This year’s invited speakers will be
Jeff Heflin, USA (the semantic web)
John Sowa, USA (conceptual graphs)
Rudolf Wille, Germany (formal concept analysis and concept graphs)
Frithjof Dau, Germany (existential graphs)
Kelly Parker, USA (American pragmatism)
Terrence Deacon, USA (biological anthropology and linguistics)

Note John Sowa in there. Interesting person whose path has crossed with my interests several times – SUO & KIF for example. Didn’t notice he was a graduate of VUB, where Heylighen and Joslyn are based. I notice Cliff Joslyn is also speaking at this event.

John Sowa’s book on “Knowledge Representation” looks comprehensive, but expensive. His paper on Architectures for Intelligent Systems is an interesting read in my current day-job context. The notation sparked a memory of Garth Kemmerling’s summary of the syllogisms.


Interesting new site in the area of Cognitive Science – picked-up from Google.Groups.AI forum. Not much content yet, but shows promise.

FN4 is the social barrier to acceptance of robots in the human environment, coined by Wired’s Bruce Sterling – begs the question what FN’s 1, 2 & 3 are, but one can guess – the absence of ethics is the FN4 bottom line. The usual AI problem, decision making with (human) values.

Socrates my Hero

Still making my way through Gottlieb’s book (see previous blog). Not much new since Democritus and Socrates I reckon – call me dismissive – but I still see the last 2500 years as the “post socratic blind-alley of western civilisation” thanks to Plato and particularly Aristotle, with help from the Romans and Christianity.

Easy to create a philosophical web-timeline from Gottlieb’s book, to compare / contrast and indeed supplement the DoPoM Timeline of Philosophy, part of Garth Kemmerling’s Philosophy Pages.

MAJOR ISSUE with Gottlieb’s book is it’s subtitle should really be “the history of western philosophy ….” There’s only the odd reference to hindus & buddhists, and no chapters where these are the subject matter. As well as a sequel, from the renaissance to the present time, it clearly needs a parallel volume to cover the eastern threads too.

Embedded Software

Met one Alex Lennon last night (in the Pickerell, where else). He has his own personal website and works for Organix in Cambridge.

He spotted I was reading Anthony Gottlieb’s “The Dream of Reason – a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance” [QUOTE] Already a classic in its first year of publication, this landmark study of Western thought … supplant[s] all others, even the immensely successful History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. [UNQUOTE] says A. C. Grayling. (Gottlieb, executive editor of the Economist amongst other things, is penning a follow-up volume completing the story up to the present day.) Excellent so far, succinct, pithy and easy to read – on Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, the pre-Socratics – looking forward to the rest of it.

What our discussion in the Pickerell did not reveal is that Alex has an inspiration, in common with me, in Robert Pirsig’s ZMM, revealed on his web site.