Thursday, 29 June 2017

What is...?

It is worth stopping and asking how one might define certain things should one be required to do so. It helps clarify one's understanding of the world. This is particularly worthwhile when it comes to familiar things - objects as well as concepts. There are many things with which we are so familiar that trying to give a clear and succinct definition or description can prove very difficult. Some things may even prove impossible to define satisfactorily. Dictionaries may give an idea of how words are used but what about the real essence of a thing?

Here are two definions that won't be found in any dictionary:

What is a philosopher?

"Everything is perceptually modified by proximity and perspective and philosophy is the capacity to pan in and out at will - and a philosopher is someone who can do this."
Christopher J. Ross - Tunnel Visions: Journeys of an Underground Philosopher (6) p12. 
Similarly, What is a gentleman?

"A gentleman is a man who can describe a woman without using his hands."
Unattributed (and perhaps rightly so)

Friday, 23 June 2017

On Travelling to Work - 2

Driving to work takes effort: concentration on the road and arriving safely. When one arrives at work this level of effort and concentration continues into the work of the day. At the end of the day, that effort and concentration continues as one drives home again. From leaving home to returning home again, one is expending effort and concentrating. The working day is extended as a result by the work that it takes to get to and from work.

Going to work by train or bus, if undertaken in the right frame of mind (and in the right circumstances: on trains and buses that are not overcrowded or uncomfortable) can (or perhaps should) be an extension of the leisure time one has at home.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Epictetus - 27

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

Asked, Who is the rich man? Epictetus replied, "He who is content."

It is hard to combine and unite these two qualities, the carefulness of one who is affected by circumstances, and the intrepidity of one who heeds them not. But it is not impossible: else were happiness also impossible. We should act as we do in seafaring.
"What can I do?"—Choose the master, the crew, the day, the opportunity. Then comes a sudden storm. What matters it to me? my part has been fully done. The matter is in the hands of another—the Master of the ship. The ship is foundering. What then have I to do? I do the only thing that remains to me—to be drowned without fear, without a cry, without upbraiding God, but knowing that what has been born must likewise perish. For I am not Eternity, but a human being—a part of the whole, as an hour is part of the day. I must come like the hour, and like the hour must pass!

Sunday, 11 June 2017


In my experience, centaurs are almost always represented as the head, arms and trunk of a male and the body of a horse (presumably also male!). I do not recollect ever seeing a female centaur. Looking into this, I find that they are not mentioned in early Greek mythology but that centauresses or centaurides are mentioned in later Greek literature. After all, without female centaurs, where would any centaurs come from? I found this image somewhere, some time ago. I doubt if the ancient Greeks had this sort of image in mind though.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Seeing things differently

In his Jayne Lectures of 1968 - which appeared as 'Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought' (which was later incorporated in 'Pluto's Republic') - and in his book 'Advice to a Young Scientist', the Nobel prize winning biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987) describes four types of experiment.

They are:

* Baconian (or Inductive) Experimentation.
This type of experimentation is typified by the phrase, "I wonder want would happen if … ?"
All investigations, Medawar suggests, begin this way.

* Galilean (or Critical) Experimentation.
This is the type of experiment where "actions are carried out to test a hypothesis or preconceived opinion by examining the logical consequences of holding it." Here Medawar's words reflect the ideas of Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994).

* Aristotelian (or Demonstrative) Experimentation.
This type of experiment is "intended to illustrate a preconceived truth and convince people of its validity."

and then there is...

* Kantian (or Deductive) Experimentation.
This type of experimentation is based on: "Let's see what happens if we take different view" and consists of "experiments in which we examine the consequences of varying [our] axioms or presuppositions."

Taking a different view is not just useful or important when it comes to scientific experiements. It makes a big difference when just looking at the world.

Here are some images to make one think (differently):

and what about this...?