Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 68

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

It’s possible I’m missing something, but this smells too much of postmodern nonsense about immunology.

Foucault understood the Stoics only in part, but he got something out of ’em by the end of his life.

A temporary marriage makes more sense than marriage for life (though why marriage to begin with?).

A well balanced follow up to the discussion on whether the philosophy curriculum should be “decolonized.”

The circles of American financial hell and what causes them.

How to do social media shaming in an ethical way (though I’m not convinced it is actually possible).

6 big differences that turn city dwellers into liberals (very down to earth and enlightening).

Not from Venus, not from Mars: what we believe about gender and why it’s often wrong.

163 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 68

  1. synred

    Hi Dan and Coel,

    I don’t care what is called a planet or not.

    I’m NOT distinguished in the least. I am ordinary journeyman experimenter.


  2. synred

    It like the Lauretian Mountains in Quebec. As you approach them from a distance they look like mountains (convex), but when you get there they are disappointingly small (hills).

    What the heck? They are what they are. The geology that makes them look mountain-like for their size might be interesting, The name not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. synred

    Particle physicist may not be a good model for lexicographers. We have a long history of rather silly [a] names — up, down, strange, charm, bottom(a.k.a., beauty), top (a.k.a., truth).

    And up-quark is heavier than down. Well you could argue the the heavier quark will be a little lower on average. I like to think of it as the dolly-parton. up does have a positive charge, but that’s just because old Ben with his kite got the sign wrong (confusing generations of undergraduate physics majors).


    [a] We might make more money if we used Latin. You should never give names to objects qua objects of knowledge that people can pronounce, if you want to enhance the reputation of your field.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. synred

    The whole Pluto thing seem’d quite silly to me. The popular names need not be a rigorous classification scheme.

    It is more interesting that there a lot more ‘planets’ of a different types than what we call ’em.Pluto will still be famous as the first of it’s kind.

    Still classification can be a useful part of science. E.g., Linnaeus, and the difference between say mammals and fish or the difference between leptons and hadrons, or Fermions and Bosons. These are scientific issues. At bottom I don’t buy the argument that classification and the associated naming is something other than science — not that this means that some help from philosophy and lexicography might not be useful when the terminology get confused.

    Paleontologist likely have more detailed classification schemes (or will as they learn more and find objects further out).

    Names can be confusing. e.g., Ben’s ‘mistake’ of calling the charge that don’t move the positive one leading to electric current being in the opposite direction of the motion of the particle (electrons) that carry the current. Philosophy, however, c]would have helped; Ben did not know what carried the current.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robin Herbert

    “foundational” is an interestingly inappropriate metaphor.

    A foundation is a temporary thing – nearly every physical foundation that has been laid down has been torn up or left to crumble.

    A foundationalist, then, would be someone who uses axioms only when they are useful and abandons them when they cease to become useful or are superseded.

    In fact there are probably very few people who really think there are unquestionable axioms (outside of fundamentalist religions). Socrates (as depicted by Plato) was always questioning axioms. Aristotle right out rejected the idea of unquestionable axioms (but in practice failed to question some of his own assumptions).

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  6. Coel


    Coel, I repeatedly support my assertions. You just refuse to accept them because you would have to admit you’re wrong. We’ve been down this road before, with your commission of logical fallacies and other things.

    I’ll just remark that this comment is an as-usual set of assertions with no argument.


  7. Coel

    Morning Dan,

    Coel, you presume about a half dozen things that are seriously disputed, on the basis of quite serious arguments, none of which have been settled. You clearly know none of the literature on natural kinds or the scheme/content distinction and have no idea what the relevant arguments are and what it would even mean to adequately address them.

    It must be the case that science’s concept, categories and models do in fact do a good job of mapping to a real material world since there is no other explanation for the fact that science works. It has demonstrated “technological mastery” (to use a phrase from the previous thread), and is indeed easily the most successful knowledge-gaining enterprise that humans have ever undertaken.

    The fact that your typing on an electronic device causes your words to be visible on my device demonstrates that science’s categories and concepts do accurately model the real, material world. If science didn’t understand things like “conductor”, “insulator”, “semi-conductor”, “electron”, and a zillion other concepts — if these were mere arbitrary language games having no relation to how things actually were — then there would be no reason why any of this technology worked, and no reason why we could predict solar eclipse times of any of the other zillion things that science can demonstrably do w.r.t. the real world.

    Set against that, whatever Wittgenstein came up with is a feeble counter-argument. If Wittgenstein didn’t think that the above could be done then, well, he was wrong, because it’s blatantly obvious that science’s categories and concepts are indeed good models of the real world.

    But I also know that you have no respect for that scholarship and that as a result, you will never engage the relevant issues, but simply endeavor to win your arguments by attrition. […] You so thoroughly poison the water with your combination of ignorance and relentlessness that no one ever makes it until the end of the discussion but you.

    It is rather that I approach the whole topic from a scientific perspective whereas you do so from a philosophical perspective. You get frustrated that I don’t agree that I should adopt that same philosophical perspective; but as I see it science works better in attaining and generating correct knowledge, which is why I make no apology for adopting the scientific perspective, and no apology for putting the above technological-mastery argument above any of Wittgenstein’s mere language games.

    It is very different talking with synred. Despite the fact that his scientific credentials and background far outshine yours, he is a true seeker; genuinely interested in philosophy and more generally, in learning things beyond what he already knows.

    Leaving aside the truth or otherwise of the claim, that should not be a “despite”, ok?

    Dan, this sort of resort to ad-hom should surely be beneath you (and I just take it as an indication that you can’t actually argue your case — or, rather, can only argue it within the confines of one particular philosophical framework, and are lost otherwise).

    By the way, the “technological mastery” argument for a real, material, external world, of which science’s models give a good account, is widely accepted as powerful among philosophers of science, it’s not just me who thinks it. Can you really not do better than this in countering it?


  8. Markk

    “Set against that, whatever Wittgenstein came up with is a feeble counter-argument. If Wittgenstein didn’t think that the above could be done then, well, he was wrong, because it’s blatantly obvious that science’s categories and concepts are indeed good models of the real world.”

    I should probably leave this to Dan, given my mistake on foundationalism, but I don’t think language-games are supposed to be anti-science. Rather the game metaphor highlights that language has imprecise boundaries, is pragmatic, adaptive and defined by a community of language users. Whereas science has imprecise boundaries, is pragmatic, adaptive and is defined by a community of scientists …


  9. Markk

    “Science is defined” in the sense that for any given scientific question, whatever the rules are to answer it are whatever other scientists decide the rules are.


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