Why People Say The Things They Do

Really just a holding post for two presentations (with some overlapping content) from Brian Josephson thanks to a cross-link on the man himself. A hero of mine, sceptical of sceptics’ motives and abuse of power for rejecting scientific claims. Cold Fusion, The Memory of Water and more examples killed by the cultural spread of scepticism rather than any good reasoning, scientific or otherwise. The memes have it.

Good and Bad Ways to do Science
Pathological Disbelief

If X were true, everything else we already know about Y would be false.
So what ? Maybe we might actually be learning something new.

9 thoughts on “Why People Say The Things They Do”

  1. I read the article. Seems like sceptics can be a quite closed minded bunch. My daughter thinks so.

    I remember back in the seventies (eighties?) going through an airport and being approached by some young people who were giving out a magazine about cold fusion. I had absolutely no background in the subject, but they seemed nice, so I took it and I read it. It seemed like it would be the answer to all of our energy problems. Now I wonder who they were and what would entice them to stand in an airport passing out such information.

    My husband (have I mentioned he’s an engineer?) thinks it’s real. (for whatever that’s worth).

    Russell does mention Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus”

    And I will mention again Pinker’s “The Language Instinct”.

  2. Hi Alice,

    Winning hearts and minds is as much a part of science as any other part of life I guess.

    Dennett majors on “cuo bono” (who benefits) or “cherchez la femme”, in looking at the motivation of so-called scientific refutations. (Proving a great read “Darwin’s Dangeorus Idea”)

    I have no doubt Russell quotes Tractatus, but the point I was making earlier was wondering if Russell ever learned like Wittgenstein himself did that he was misguided in his earlier work, and ultimately his Philosophical Investigations led to more lingustic than logical avenues.

    Which leads us nicely to Pinker. I have read a couple of books but not The Language Instinct – he quote himself a lot in The Blank Slate. On my list.

  3. The book I am reading is “Human Knowledge its Scope and limits” So far he is giving an overview of past and presnt scientific knowledge. Of course, this book was written in 1948, so lots of that, I’m sure, has changed quite a bit. He calls the age of the earth 3,000 million years, while I know now the estimate is 4,500 million years (yes?). Hadn’t the word billion been invented by 1948?

    He makes quantum mechanics a little more easy for me to understand. But of course a little understanding can be a dangerous thing.

    I haven’t got to the linguistic parts yet, but he alludes to the issue of the private experience vs. the public one.

    I’m stiil working on it. I find him to be pretty accessable.

    Did you know he was a pacifist?

  4. I looked up philosophic and found I misused it. that’s why you called me on it “of or pertaining to natural philosophy or physical science” I was trying to be jaunty. I should probably not try that again.

    I’m plowing through Russell. Why is it that I feel I’m only getting a smidgeon of what he’s saying? Of all the people who actually read philosophy for entertainment I am probably the least qualified. I find myself saying “OK, What’s your point?” I even found myself looking in the back to get to the bottom line.

    So maybe it’s about the journey.

  5. OK, so you haven’t seen fit to reply or maybe you are in Singapore. Myself, I haven’t put more that fifty miles on my car in the last two weeks. My life stays in one place. My husband, have I mentioned that he’s an engineer?, is working on our house. He says it will be finished by October. I am trying to sell the one we live in now. No offers. Oh Shit!

    Anyway, Bertrand Russell seems to be working on the mathmatical/logical end of things. Something about getting “not” out of the logical equation.

    I had this ephiphany while reading which was probably false because I really didn’t understand what the hell he was getting at. but it was something about the set of “not”. And if something is in the set of not…. Oh I really don’t get it, OK?

    So I went to one of those “philosophy for idiots” books and it said that Russell was interested in saying that because the set of a collection of things is not included in the set itself, there needs to be several classes of sets. and then to include language in the mess he proposed several types of language. Plain language, metalanguage, metametalanguage.

    Which brings me to two questions…why the hell am I reading this stuff? (and damn it I will finish it) and why do philosophers do what they do?

    One guy I was talking to about this said that reading philosophy was like having just suffered a stroke. you know what the words mean, but you can’t figure out how they are being used.

  6. Hi Alice,

    I didn’t see anything that needed a response in the previous comments. Yes, you did mention you were planning to move house, hope it works out, and yes, you did mention hubby was an engineer 🙂

    Actually I’ve been out and about with my sons, visiting me in Perth the last few days, so I’ve only skimmed the blog in that time. You may have noticed my “Whale-Watching” post.

    Why philosophy ? ‘Cause you’re interested in the questions maybe having answers, I guess, like me.

    Russell is an interesting person on several levels, political / pacifist too as you pointed out, wrote a good history of western philosophy, and undoubtedly very clever, but (without having read him, and partly why I haven’t) he got tied in knots in set theory and logic, which for me is never going to be the main event. Godel’s incompleteness pointed out why his set-of-all-sets-including-itself (Russell’s paradox) was a non-starter for a “formal” system. Your own common sense understanding of sets is probably as good as it gets (for anyone in the real world). That’s one of the reasons I asked you, out of genuine curiosity, whether Russell ever learnt that later, from his protoge Wittgenstein; I suspect not ?

    BTW “People just love to play with words, haven’t you heard ?” Men At Work circa 1980-something.

  7. It’s a very small world …. and nothing much new under the sun …. philosophers of mind invoking surreal art – Magritte and/or Escher in particular.

    BLTC looks like a weird and whacky, but interesting, site.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.