Christian solitude -- Bounded solitude in Augustine's Confessions -- The humanist tradition : Petrarch, Montaigne, and Gibbon -- Rousseau's myth of solitude in reveries of the solitary walker -- Thoreau at Walden : soliloquizing and talking to all the universe at the same time -- Twentieth-century varieties of solitary experience -- Thomas Merton and solitude : the door to solitude opens only from the inside -- Solitude, writing, and fathers in Paul Auster's The invention of solitude -- Conclusion: The value (...) of solitude. (shrink)
An infinite lottery machine is used as a foil for testing the reach of inductive inference, since inferences concerning it require novel extensions of probability. Its use is defensible if there is some sense in which the lottery is physically possible, even if exotic physics is needed. I argue that exotic physics is needed and describe several proposals that fail and at least one that succeeds well enough.
Ever since Copernicus, scientists have continually adjusted their view of human nature, moving it further and further from its ancient position at the center of Creation. But in recent years, a startling new concept has evolved that places it more firmly than ever in a special position. Known as the Anthropic Cosmological Principle, this collection of ideas holds that the existence of intelligent observers determines the fundamental structure of the Universe. In its most radical version, the Anthropic Principle asserts that (...) "intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the Universe, and once it comes into existence, it will never die out." This wide-ranging and detailed book explores the many ramifications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle, covering the whole spectrum of human inquiry from Aristotle to Z bosons. Bringing a unique combination of skills and knowledge to the subject, John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler--two of the world's leading cosmologists--cover the definition and nature of life, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and the interpretation of the quantum theory in relation to the existence of observers. The book will be of vital interest to philosophers, theologians, mathematicians, scientists, and historians, as well as to anyone concerned with the connection between the vastness of the universe of stars and galaxies and the existence of life within it on a small planet out in the suburbs of the Milky Way. (shrink)
Applying an ever more radical hermeneutics, John D. Caputo breaks down the name of God in this irrepressible book. Instead of looking at God as merely a name, Caputo views it as an event, or what the name conjures or promises in the future. For Caputo, the event exposes God as weak, unstable, and barely functional. While this view of God flies in the face of most religions and philosophies, it also puts up a serious challenge to fundamental tenets (...) of theology and ontology. Along the way, Caputo’s readings of the New Testament, especially of Paul’s view of the Kingdom of God, help to support the "weak force" theory. This penetrating work cuts to the core of issues and questions—What is the nature of God? What is the nature of being? What is the relationship between God and being? What is the meaning of forgiveness, faith, piety, or transcendence?—that define the terrain of contemporary philosophy of religion. (shrink)
In books such as The World Within the World and The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, astronomer John Barrow has emerged as a leading writer on our efforts to understand the universe. Timothy Ferris, writing in The Times Literary Supplement of London, described him as "a temperate and accomplished humanist, scientist, and philosopher of science--a man out to make a contribution, not a show." Now Barrow offers the general reader another fascinating look at modern physics, as he explores the quest for (...) a single, unifying theory that will unlock nature's secrets. Theories of Everything is more than a history of science, more than a popular report on recent research and discoveries. Barrow provides a reflective, intelligent commentary on what a true Theory of Everything would be--its ingredients, its limitations, and what it could tell us about the universe. Never before, he writes, have physicists been so confident and so eager in the hunt for this "cosmic Rosetta Stone," as he calls it: "a single all-embracing picture of all the laws of nature from which the inevitability of all things seen must follow with unimpeachable logic." He lays out eight essential ingredients for a Theory of Everything and then explores each in turn, tracing how our knowledge has developed and how scientific discovery relates to our changing philosophy and religious thought in each area. Some of these ingredients are obvious--the laws of nature must be explained, for example, as well as its organizing principles--but others may be surprising, such as broken symmetries and selection biases. A Theory of Everything must account for the fact that the universe is "messy and complicated," he tells us, and for the limitations imposed by the questions we ask and the information we can obtain. The key lies in the remarkable capacity of mathematics to express the fundamental workings of the physical world--a language that the human mind is uniquely equipped to understand and manipulate. Barrow examines what mathematics actually is and describes how it makes the universe intelligible and provides a path to the underlying coherence in nature--which has led, in fact, to arguments that the universe itself is a vast computer. Yet even the most complete theory, even the most comprehensive mathematical explanation, cannot account for the uncomputable varieties of human experience and thought. "No non-poetic account of reality," he writes, "can be complete." In a field where the authorities converse in equations and mathematical notations, John Barrow speaks with the voice of thoughtful and knowledgeable humanist. Written with eloquence and expertise, Theories of Everything establishes a new perspective on humanity's efforts to explain the universe. (shrink)
Constructivists, such as Harvey Brown, urge that the geometries of Newtonian and special relativistic spacetimes result from the properties of matter. Whatever this may mean, it commits constructivists to the claim that these spacetime geometries can be inferred from the properties of matter without recourse to spatiotemporal presumptions or with few of them. I argue that the construction project only succeeds if constructivists antecedently presume the essential commitments of a realist conception of spacetime. These commitments can be avoided only by (...) adopting an extreme form of operationalism. (shrink)
Pushing past the constraints of postmodernism which cast "reason" and"religion" in opposition, God, the Gift, and Postmodernism, seizes the opportunity to question the authority of "the modern" and open the limits of possible experience, including the call to religious experience, as a new millennium approaches. Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, engages with Jean-Luc Marion and other religious philosophers to entertain questions about intention, givenness, and possibility which reveal the extent to which deconstruction is structured like religion. New interpretations of (...) Kant, Heidegger, Husserl, and Derrida emerge from essays and discussions with distinguished philosophers and theologians from the United States and Europe. The result is that God, the Gift, and Postmodernism elaborates a radical phenomenology that stretches the limits of its possibility and explores areas where philosophy and religion have become increasingly and surprisingly convergent. Contributors include: John D. Caputo, John Dominic Crossan, Jacques Derrida, Robert Dodaro, Richard Kearney, Jean-Luc Marion, Frangoise Meltzer, Michael J. Scanlon, Mark C. Taylor, David Tracy, Merold Westphal and Edith Wyschogrod. (shrink)
"This is a remarkable book: wide-ranging, resonant, and well-written; it is also reflective and personable, warm and engaging." —Philosophy and Literature "With this book Caputo takes his place firmly as the foremost American, continental post-modernist... " —International Philosophical Quarterly "One cannot but be impressed by the scope of Radical Hermeneutics." —Man and World "Caputo’s study is stunning in its scope and scholarship." —Robert E. Lauder, St. John’s University, The Thomist For John D. Caputo, hermeneutics means radical thinking without (...) transcendental justification: attending to the ruptures and irregularities in existence before the metaphysics of presence has a chance to smooth them over. Radical Hermeneutics forges a closer collaboration between hermeneutics and deconstruction than has previously been attempted. (shrink)
John Barrow is increasingly recognized as one of our most elegant and accomplished science writers, a brilliant commentator on cosmology, mathematics, and modern physics. Barrow now tackles the heady topic of impossibility, in perhaps his strongest book yet. Writing with grace and insight, Barrow argues convincingly that there are limits to human discovery, that there are things that are ultimately unknowable, undoable, or unreachable. He first examines the limits on scientific inquiry imposed by the deficiencies of the human mind: (...) our brain evolved to meet the demands of our immediate environment, Barrow notes, and much that lies outside this small circle may also lie outside our understanding. Barrow investigates practical impossibilities, such as those imposed by complexity, uncomputability, or the finiteness of time, space, and resources. Is the universe finite or infinite? Can information be transmitted faster than the speed of light? The book also examines the deeper theoretical restrictions on our ability to know, including Godel's theorem--which proved that there were things that could not be proved--and Arrow's Impossibility theorem about democratic voting systems. Finally, having explored the limits imposed on us from without, Barrow considers whether there are limits we should impose upon ourselves. For instance, if the secrets of the atom are to be found only by recreating extreme environments at great financial cost, just how much should we devote to that quest? Weaving together this intriguing tapestry, he illuminates some of the most profound questions of science, from the possibility of time travel to the very structure of the universe. (shrink)
While there is no universal logic of induction, the probability calculus succeeds as a logic of induction in many contexts through its use of several notions concerning inductive inference. They include Addition, through which low probabilities represent disbelief as opposed to ignorance; and Bayes property, which commits the calculus to a ‘refute and rescale’ dynamics for incorporating new evidence. These notions are independent and it is urged that they be employed selectively according to needs of the problem at hand. It (...) is shown that neither is adapted to inductive inference concerning some indeterministic systems. (shrink)
It is proposed that we use the term “approximation” for inexact description of a target system and “idealization” for another system whose properties also provide an inexact description of the target system. Since systems generated by a limiting process can often have quite unexpected, even inconsistent properties, familiar limit systems used in statistical physics can fail to provide idealizations, but are merely approximations. A dominance argument suggests that the limiting idealizations of statistical physics should be demoted to approximations.
My purpose in this chapter is to survey some of the principal approaches to inductive inference in the philosophy of science literature. My first concern will be the general principles that underlie the many accounts of induction in this literature. When these accounts are considered in isolation, as is more commonly the case, it is easy to overlook that virtually all accounts depend on one of very few basic principles and that the proliferation of accounts can be understood as efforts (...) to ameliorate the weaknesses of those few principles. In the earlier sections, I will lay out three inductive principles and the families of accounts of induction they engender. In later sections I will review standard problems in the philosophical literature that have supported some pessimism about induction and suggest that their import has been greatly overrated. In the final sections I will return to the proliferation of accounts of induction that frustrates efforts at a final codification. I will suggest that this proliferation appears troublesome only as long as we expect inductive inference to be subsumed under a single formal theory. If we adopt a material theory of induction in which individual inductions are licensed by particular facts that prevail only in local domains, then the proliferation is expected and not problematic. (shrink)
Mathias Frisch has argued that the requirement that electromagnetic dispersion processes are causal adds empirical content not found in electrodynamic theory. I urge that this attempt to reconstitute a local principle of causality in physics fails. An independent principle is not needed to recover the results of dispersion theory. The use of ‘causality conditions’ proves to be the mere adding of causal labels to an already presumed fact. If instead one seeks a broader, independently formulated grounding for the conditions, that (...) grounding either fails or dissolves into vagueness and ambiguity, as has traditionally been the fate of candidate principles of causality. Introduction Scattering in Classical Electrodynamics Sufficiency of the Physics Failure of the Principle of Causality Proposed 4.1 A sometimes principle 4.2 The conditions of applicability are obscure 4.3 Effects can come before their causes 4.4 Vagueness of the relata and of the notion of causal process Conclusion CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Contrary to formal theories of induction, I argue that there are no universal inductive inference schemas. The inductive inferences of science are grounded in matters of fact that hold only in particular domains, so that all inductive inference is local. Some are so localized as to defy familiar characterization. Since inductive inference schemas are underwritten by facts, we can assess and control the inductive risk taken in an induction by investigating the warrant for its underwriting facts. In learning more facts, (...) we extend our inductive reach by supplying more localized inductive inference schemes. Since a material theory no longer separates the factual and schematic parts of an induction, it proves not to be vulnerable to Hume's problem of the justification of induction. (shrink)
The Insistence of God presents the provocative idea that God does not exist, God insists, while God’s existence is a human responsibility, which may or may not happen. For John D. Caputo, God’s existence is haunted by "perhaps," which does not signify indecisiveness but an openness to risk, to the unforeseeable. Perhaps constitutes a theology of what is to come and what we cannot see coming. Responding to current critics of continental philosophy, Caputo explores the materiality of perhaps and (...) the promise of the world. He shows how perhaps can become a new theology of the gaps God opens. (shrink)
There can be no mistaking the importance of Caputo's work." —Edith Wyschogrod "No one interested in Derrida, in Caputo, or in the larger question of postmodernism and religion can afford to ignore this pathbreaking study.
Newton’s equations of motion tell us that a mass at rest at the apex of a dome with the shape specified here can spontaneously move. It has been suggested that this indeterminism should be discounted since it draws on an incomplete rendering of Newtonian physics, or it is “unphysical,” or it employs illicit idealizations. I analyze and reject each of these reasons. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA (...) 15260; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Our likes and dislikes--our senses and sensibilities--did not fall ready-made from the sky, argues internationally acclaimed author John D. Barrow. We know we enjoy a beautiful painting or a passionate symphony, but what we don't necessarily understand is that these experiences conjure up latent instincts laid down and perpetuated over millions of years. Now, in The Artful Universe, Barrow explores the close ties between our aesthetic appreciation and the basic nature of the Universe, challenging the commonly held view that (...) our sense of beauty is entirely free and unfettered. Barrow argues that the laws of the Universe, its environments and its astronomical appearance, have imprinted themselves upon our thoughts and actions in subtle and unexpected ways. Why do we like certain types of art or music? What games and puzzles do we find challenging? Why do so many myths and legends have common elements? Who created the cornucopia of constellations in the night sky? And why? In this eclectic and entertaining survey, Barrow answers these questions and more as he explains how the landscape of the Universe has influenced the development of philosophy and mythology, and how millions of years of evolutionary history have fashioned our attraction to certain patterns of sound and color. Barrow casts the story of human creativity and thought in a fascinating light, considering such diverse topics as our instinct for language, the origins and uses of color in Nature, why we divide time into intervals as we do, the sources of our appreciation of landscape painting, and whether computer-generated fractal art is really art. Barrow reconsiders the question of whether intelligent extraterrestrial life exists, showing that the benefits (and even the likelihood) that might follow from the discovery of life on other worlds could be very different from what we might have been led to expect. Remarkably, we find that some of the properties of the Universe that are essential for the existence of any form of life play a key role in determining psychological and religious responses to the Cosmos. Drawing on a wide variety of examples, from the theological questions raised by St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis to the relationship between the pure math of Pythagoras and the music of the Beatles, The Artful Universe covers new ground and enters a wide-ranging debate about the meaning and significance of the links between art and science. It will change our view of the creation of art and the way we see the world in which we live. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophical discussion of religion neglects dualistic religions: although Manichaeism from time to time is accorded mention, Zoroastrianism, a more plausible form of religious dualism, is almost entirely ignored. We seek to change this state of affairs. To this end we present the basic tenets of Zoroastrian dualism, argue that objections to the Zoroastrian conception of God are less strong than typically imagined, argue that objections to the Zoroastrian conception of the devil are less strong than typically imagined, and offer (...) some brief concluding thoughts. (shrink)
Must a Maxwell demon must fail to reverse the second law of thermodynamics? Standard attempts to show it must fail make use of notions of information and computation. None of these attempts have succeeded. Worse they have distracted both supporters and opponents of these attempts from a much simpler demonstration of the necessary failure of a Maxwell's demon that employs no notions of information or computation. It requires only Liouville's theorem and its quantum analog.
I deny that the world is fundamentally causal, deriving the skepticism on non-Humean grounds from our enduring failures to find a contingent, universal principle of causality that holds true of our science. I explain the prevalence and fertility of causal notions in science by arguing that a causal character for many sciences can be recovered, when they are restricted to appropriately hospitable domains. There they conform to a loose collection of causal notions that form a folk science of causation. This (...) recovery of causation exploits the same generative power of reduction relations that allows us to recover gravity as a force from Einstein's general relativity and heat as a conserved fluid, the caloric, from modern thermal physics, when each theory is restricted to appropriate domains. Causes are real in science to the same degree as caloric and gravitational forces. (shrink)
In Norton(2003), it was urged that the world does not conform at a fundamental level to some robust principle of causality. To defend this view, I now argue that the causal notions and principles of modern physics do not express some universal causal principle, brought to light by discoveries in physics. Rather they merely assert that, according to relativity theory, spacetime has an invariant velocity, that of light; and that theories of matter admit no propagations faster than light.
"Against Ethics is beautifully written, clever, learned, thought-provoking, and even inspiring." —Theological Studies "Writing in the form of his ideas, Caputo offers the reader a truly exquisite reading experience.... his iconic style mirrors a truly refreshing honesty that draws the reader in to play." —Quarterly Journal of Speech "Against Ethics is, in my judgment, one of the most important works on philosophical ethics that has been written in recent years.... Caputo speaks with a passion and a concern that are rare (...) in academic philosophy. His profound sense of humor deepens the passion of the viewpoints he develops." —Mark C. Taylor "Obligation happens!" declares Caputo in this brilliant and witty postmodern critique of ethics, framed as a contemporary restaging of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. (shrink)
The epistemic state of complete ignorance is not a probability distribution. In it, we assign the same, unique, ignorance degree of belief to any contingent outcome and each of its contingent, disjunctive parts. That this is the appropriate way to represent complete ignorance is established by two instruments, each individually strong enough to identify this state. They are the principle of indifference (PI) and the notion that ignorance is invariant under certain redescriptions of the outcome space, here developed into the (...) ‘principle of invariance of ignorance' (PII). Both instruments are so innocuous as almost to be platitudes. Yet the literature in probabilistic epistemology has misdiagnosed them as paradoxical or defective since they generate inconsistencies when conjoined with the assumption that an epistemic state must be a probability distribution. To underscore the need to drop this assumption, I express PII in its most defensible form as relating symmetric descriptions and show that paradoxes still arise if we assume the ignorance state to be a probability distribution. *Received February 2007; revised July 2007. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; e-mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
The replicability of experiment is routinely offered as the gold standard of evidence. I argue that it is not supported by a universal principle of replicability in inductive logic. A failure of replication may not impugn a credible experimental result; and a successful replication can fail to vindicate an incredible experimental result. Rather, employing a material approach to inductive inference, the evidential import of successful replication of an experiment is determined by the prevailing background facts. Commonly, these background facts do (...) support successful replication as a good evidential guide and this has fostered the illusion of a deeper, exceptionless principle. (shrink)
Mathias Frisch has argued that the requirement that electromagnetic dispersion processes are causal adds empirical content not found in electrodynamic theory. I urge that this attempt to reconstitute a local principle of causality in physics fails. An independent principle is not needed to recover the results of dispersion theory. The use of ‘causality conditions’ proves to be the mere adding of causal labels to an already presumed fact. If instead one seeks a broader, independently formulated grounding for the conditions, that (...) grounding either fails or dissolves into vagueness and ambiguity, as has traditionally been the fate of candidate principles of causality. Introduction Scattering in Classical Electrodynamics Sufficiency of the Physics Failure of the Principle of Causality Proposed 4.1 A sometimes principle 4.2 The conditions of applicability are obscure 4.3 Effects can come before their causes 4.4 Vagueness of the relata and of the notion of causal process Conclusion. (shrink)
In a formal theory of induction, inductive inferences are licensed by universal schemas. In a material theory of induction, inductive inferences are licensed by facts. With this change in the conception of the nature of induction, I argue that the celebrated “problem of induction” can no longer be set up and is thereby dissolved. Attempts to recreate the problem in the material theory of induction fail. They require relations of inductive support to conform to an unsustainable, hierarchical empiricism.
iinstein oered the priniple of generl ovrine s the fundmentl physil priniple of his generl theory of reltivityD nd s responsile for extending the priniple of reltivity to elerted motionF his view ws disputed lmost immeditely with the ounterElim tht the priniple ws no reltivity priniple nd ws physilly vuousF he disgreeE ment persists todyF his rtile reviews the development of iinstein9s thought on generl ovrineD its reltion to the foundtions of generl reltivity nd the evolution of the ontinuing dete (...) over his viewpointF.. (shrink)
I give an informal outline of the hole argument which shows that spacetime substantivalism leads to an undesirable indeterminism in a broad class of spacetime theories. This form of the argument depends on the selection of differentiable manifolds within a spacetime theory as representing spacetime. I consider the conditions under which the argument can be extended to address versions of spacetime substantivalism which select these differentiable manifolds plus some further structure to represent spacetime. Finally, I respond to the criticisms of (...) Tim Maudlin and Jeremy Butterfield. (shrink)
This, the first of two linked papers, presents the Buddha's analysis of the nature and origins of dukkha (suffering) as a basis for understanding the ways in which mindfulness can transform suffering. The First and Second of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths are presented in a way that has proved helpful to teachers of mindfulness-based applications. These Truths offer a framework of understanding that can guide the application of mindfulness to stress and emotional disorders, while stressing the continuity and inevitability (...) of the experience of dukkha in clients, teachers, and those primarily seeking a new way of being. The crucial involvement of self-view and identification with experience are emphasized. (shrink)
Thought experiments are ordinary argumentation disguised in a vivid pictorial or narrative form. This account of their nature will allow me to show that empiricism has nothing to fear from thought experiments. They perform no epistemic magic. In so far as they tell us about the world, thought experiments draw upon what we already know of it, either explicitly or tacitly; they then transform that knowledge by disguised argumentation. They can do nothing more epistemically than can argumentation. I defend my (...) account of thought experiments in Section 3 by urging that the epistemic reach of thought experiments turns out to coincide with that of argumentation and that this coincidence is best explained by the simple view that thought experiments just are arguments. Thought experiments can err—-a fact to be displayed by the thought experiment - anti thought experiment pairs of Section 2. Nonetheless thought experiments can be used reliably and, I urge in Section 4., this is only possible if they are governed by some very generalized logic. I will suggest on evolutionary considerations that their logics are most likely the familiar logics of induction and deduction, recovering the view that thought experiment is argumentation. Finally in Section 5 I defend this argument based epistemology of thought experiments against competing accounts. I suggest that these other accounts can offer a viable epistemology only insofar as they already incorporate the notion that thought experimentation is governed by a logic, possibly of very generalized form. (shrink)
According to the underdetermination thesis, all evidence necessarily underdetermines any scientific theory. Thus it is often argued that our agreement on the content of mature scientific theories must be due to social and other factors. Drawing on a long standing tradition of criticism, I shall argue that the underdetermination thesis is little more than speculation based on an impoverished account of induction. A more careful look at accounts of induction does not support an assured underdetermination or the holism usually associated (...) with it. I also urge that the display of observationally equivalent theories is a self-defeating strategy for supporting the underdetermination thesis. The very fact that observational equivalence can be demonstrated by arguments brief enough to be included in a journal article means that we cannot preclude the possibility that the theories are merely variant formulations of the same theory. (shrink)
Bayesian probabilistic explication of inductive inference conflates neutrality of supporting evidence for some hypothesis H (“not supporting H”) with disfavoring evidence (“supporting not-H”). This expressive inadequacy leads to spurious results that are artifacts of a poor choice of inductive logic. I illustrate how such artifacts have arisen in simple inductive inferences in cosmology. In the inductive disjunctive fallacy, neutral support for many possibilities is spuriously converted into strong support for their disjunction. The Bayesian “doomsday argument” is shown to rely entirely (...) on a similar artifact, for the result disappears in a reanalysis that employs fragments of inductive logic able to represent evidential neutrality. Finally, the mere supposition of a multiverse is not yet enough to warrant the introduction of probabilities without some factual analog of a randomizer over the multiverses. (shrink)
Landauer’s principle is the loosely formulated notion that the erasure of n bits of information must always incur a cost of k ln n in thermodynamic entropy. It can be formulated as a precise result in statistical mechanics, but for a restricted class of erasure processes that use a thermodynamically irreversible phase space expansion, which is the real origin of the law’s entropy cost and whose necessity has not been demonstrated. General arguments that purport to establish the unconditional validity of (...) the law fail. They turn out to depend on the illicit formation of a canonical ensemble from memory devices holding random data. To exorcise Maxwell’s demon one must show that all candidate devices—the ordinary and the extraordinary—must fail to reverse the second law of thermodynamics. The theorizing surrounding Landauer’s principle is too fragile and too tied to a few specific examples to support such general exorcism. Charles Bennett’s recent extension of Landauer’s principle to the merging of computational paths fails for the same reasons as trouble the original principle. (shrink)