Monday, 27 April 2015

Flat Earthers - exploring human nature

 Can graphic art offer unique and particular insights that words alone may miss?

By Tessa Den Uyl

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I believe that they can. It was as a result of working on a project to create an animated film about the processes of the imagination that I came to the idea behind these images...  And so, the drawings here (part of a longer series) are a kind of path that I followed in a bid 'to solve' a particular philosophical question

'Flat Earth' was conceived as a kind of platform to display aspects of imagination, modesty, and alertness envisioned within a character who inquires into himself about how language games determine his ways of thinking.

This central character tries to understand in what kind of landscape he sees his habits, and whatever he produces materially within that created world is not merely the reflected image of the creation that he imagines, but instead what he perceives is a privileged space, where an image becomes an epiphany, and it is in that space that he can develop his imagination.

Imagination is an activity, it is never passive, it is never negative. Instead, it is active within the limitations that the thinker - and the central character in my imaginary world -  assigns to it. That is why the character reveals himself, in the images here, as he really is: defined in relation to the biases of his own worldview, his own philosophy of knowledge.

Imagination is reaching out towards him and he cannot help but grow inside of it. This is the temptation of imagination; he cannot refuse to grow up and enter into a deeper relationship with the world.

On the other hand, even if the character is willing to “grow up” it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is capable of doing so. Instead, what he wants to see, what he has learned to see, excludes what he can actually see.  His knowledge doesn’t describe the world, but only tends to ascribe to things its own relations.

So the human being on Flat Earth recognises that he has nothing but relations; that imagination is about making relations between things, and this means that he will always have to deal with language and context. The Flat Earth is that space in which the character tries to “un-culture” himself. In the process, he has to face how he perceives, for it is too easy to be transported along the paths of semantic distortions and to inadvertently give a false value to something in the process of trying to transform values we have created into ultimate truths. The character in my imaginary world does not want to postulate a world, to impose a particular view, but tries instead to enhance the possibility of many different ones.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Particles Dreaming

 By Pierre-Alain Gouanvic

What do particles know?

The original intution of Thomas Young (1802) was to reproduce the cancellation of water waves, but with light; the double slit was simply used to yield two exactly identical light sources (the same, divided in two). Notice the straight lines that seem to radiate from the source of the water waves: they are made of the cancellation of each other, and are analogous to the dark regions on the five-step picture on the right, a true depiction of the impact of electrons in an experiment made by Tanamura.

The double-slit experiment is a demonstration that light and matter can display characteristics of both classically defined waves and particles. It is also said that it displays the 'fundamentally probabilistic nature' of the universe at the quantum scale.
In the Bohm interpretation of quantum physics, the reason why single particles seem to interfere "with themselves", in other words, the reason why, in the double-slit experiment, even single particles ultimately form a figure of interference despite of the fact that they are not emitted as beams but one after the other (see the 5-step process, right), is because each of these particles have a kind of pilot wave which does interfere with itself in some circumstances like the double slit apparatus. The analogy of the sonar helps to explain the phenomenon : picture a dolphin who would have to echolocate through two holes and you get the picture!

Bohm had many analogies for the quantum potential, his revised version of the pilot wave. The sonar is one of them. The information given by the surroundings guides the dolphin, it is called 'active information'

However, what this analogy leaves unattended is the fact that particles do not "send" signals to the surrounding and do not "wait" for this signal to bounce back. Another analogy far remote from the sonar one, was given by Bohm : each particle is like a piece of an hologram, each contains information about the whole, but each is concretised in a specific context.

The 'echolocation' process would be more like a pulsation between the particle as a located entity and the particle as one concretion of the whole. Pulsating infinitely rapidly between being-discrete and being-the-whole, the particle would be more like a process taking the form of an object.
What kind of "thing" can be everything half of the time and something the rest of the time?

Humans, for starters. We, as particles, tend to forget that we also are the whole, each night. We dream.

Monday, 13 April 2015

A Philosophy of Gestures

By Thomas Scarborough


A weighty philosophical tome it may not have been, nor a seminal paper, nor a famous meeting which made the greatest contribution to modern philosophy, but a single gesture. Unusually, for a gesture – since gestures are so quickly lost in the tumult of our daily life – it was one of the best recorded gestures of time. 

Piero Sraffa – otherwise known for his lectures on economics at Cambridge – impulsively brushed his chin with his fingers. So important was Sraffa to Ludwig Wittgenstein – above all, it would seem, through that single gesture – that Wittgenstein acknowledged Sraffa in his Philosophical Investigations. The same Wittgenstein, that is, who wrote to his professor G.E. Moore: “Dear Moore,... the whole business [of acknowledgement] is too stupid and too beastly.” For such sentiments, Wittgenstein was denied his BA degree. Citations, at Cambridge, were required by the regulations.

Wittgenstein finally wrote acknowledgements in his Philosophical Investigations, but not to his mentors Gottlob Frege, or Bertrand Russell, nor to any of the luminaries he there refers to merely as “other people” – only to Frank Ramsey and Piero Sraffa. The acknowledgement to Ramsey seems somewhat cursory: through him, he “was helped”. But his acknowledgement to Sraffa is profound: "I am indebted to this stimulus for the most consequential ideas in this book". And “this book”, in turn, arguably had the most consequential effects of the century, in philosophy. While it is not known which stimulus it was that Wittgenstein refers to in his book, it is generally assumed that the gesture encapsulates it all – followed by Sraffa's interrogation of Wittgenstein: 
“What is the logical form of that?”  
Sraffa need not have brushed his chin with his fingers. It might as easily have been a punch. “What is the logical form of that?” Or a hug. Even a jig. Or, for that matter, a legacy, or a rampage. President Kennedy's visit to West Berlin, we may suppose, was a gesture. The Bomb under Mururoa. The independence of East Timor. The destruction of the Twin Towers. In their broadest sense, these are gestures all. They are actions, that is, performed to convey a feeling or intention.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Monday, 30 March 2015

Plato, Democritus and Alternative Medicine

Could the history of philosophy, and in particular the unresolved debate between Plato and Democritus, explain the present debate between alternative and conventional approaches to nature and health?

'Alternative Medicine' is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "any of a range of medical therapies not regarded as orthodox by the medical profession", citing chiropractic, faith healing, herbalism, homeopathy and reflexology as examples. 1 Yet a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over one third of people preferred alternative medicine to conventional methods, citing the medical establishment's emphasis on diagnostic testing and drug treatments that did not consider the patient's well-being and health as a whole.2 Edzard Ernst, a Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in the U.K puts usage even higher, saying that "about half the general population in developed countries use complementary and alternative medicine".3 And in some countries, notably China and India, what are considered 'alternative' treatments are central to government health strategies. 4 In fact, there are social and cultural dimensions to health policy as well as scientific and historical ones. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the response and acceptance of so-called 'alternative' health treatments.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Aspects of Mind

by Thomas Scarborough

Part I. Mind and Matter

I tap my finger on a table-top. I drink a glass of milk. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Such experiences seem perfectly real to me. So does the passion I have for my diesel pick-up, my grief over my grandmother's passing, or the fact that I am a Yorkshireman. Which means that, on the surface of it, my life seems real to me, through and through.

Now consider what this means to me philosophically. It seems to me, therefore, that I am living in a real world. It is not imagined, or illusory. Further, it would seem to me that I am an observer of this world, not merely a “robotic” presence there. And on this basis, it would seem to me that I have a mind which observes reality: mind here, reality there, which separates my mind from the matter which it observes.

If it were so simple. As to what reality really is, is another question. It is a problem which has become acute in recent generations. Three things in particular have changed. Firstly, the natural sciences have enabled us to get behind our surface impressions, to understand that the physical world is no more than it seems to be to me. Secondly, psychologists have discovered that our senses can all of them without exception be wrong: sight, smell, touch, and all. And thirdly, an increasingly materialistic outlook has led us to wonder whether there is any mind at all: the mind, said D.M. Armstrong, is nothing but the brain.

What should we do, then, with the old intuitive view, which leads us to set our mind apart from matter?

Monday, 16 March 2015

BBC propaganda

BBC propaganda

An alarming insight into how the BBC operates?


  Who's Churning the BBC Machine?

 • 'How the BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots 
 - as recounted by its former news frontman, Peter Sissons

Based on  the Daily Wail story which in turn drew on Peter Sissons's memoirs, with additional comments by Pi editors.

Sissons diagnoses it as 'political correctness'. Worrying about manmade climate change was an incontrovertible duty - a view also taken, for example, at the Guardian and the Times newspapers. But Sisson's writes:

'From the beginning I was unhappy at how one-sided the BBC's coverage of 
the issue was, and how much more complicated the climate system was than 
the over-simplified two-minute reports that were the stock-in-trade of 
the BBC's environment correspondents.

These, without exception, accepted the UN's assurance that 'the science 
is settled' and that human emissions of carbon dioxide threatened the 
world with catastrophic climate change. Environmental pressure groups 
could be guaranteed that their press releases, usually beginning with 
the words 'scientists say..'. would get on air unchallenged.

On one occasion, an MP used BBC airtime to link climate change doubters 
with perverts and holocaust deniers, and his famous interviewer didn't 
bat an eyelid.

On another occasion, after the inauguration of Barack Obama as president in 2009, the science correspondent of Newsnight actually informed viewers: 
'scientists calculate that he has just four years to save the world'. What she didn't tell viewers was that only one alarmist scientist, NASA's James Hansen, had said that.

My interest in climate change grew out of my concern for the failings of 
BBC journalism in reporting it. In my early and formative days at ITN, I 
learned that we have an obligation to report both sides of a story. It 
is not journalism if you don't. It is close to propaganda.

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