Archive for the ‘books’ Category
This started as part two of my list of web resources for students. But it has kind of devolved into a list of free stuff available online. Basically, as far as I can tell I got most of the good sources for philosophy online the first time round…
Here are some more sources for free stuff on the net.
- John Baez has a great big list of free maths and physics texts available online. Be careful, there’s an animation on that page that crashes my browser.
- Project Gutenberg is a massive store of out-of-copyright texts in electronic formats. Lots of cool stuff available there.
- The Online Books page has lots of stuff on it. I don’t know if any of it is any good, though.
- Books about linux available online.
- Googling online free books gets you lots of hits. Most will probably be dubious however… Most search results always are…
- Here’s a book that looks interesting and is available for free by Alexandre Borovik of A dialogue on infinity fame. It’s called Mathematics under the Microscope.
- Another free book. It’s called God’s Debris and it is by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. This one I have read. But I can’t really remember if it is any good…
Any suggestions as to other similar stuff is welcome.
I forgot to mention Cicero’s The Nature of the Gods which is kind of almost a dialogue. And while I’m linking to freely available stuff, The Elements is online for free. Read Digest and Be Impressed by the most successful maths textbook ever. 2000 years and still going strong.
“Read, digest and be impressed” I like that phrase. I shall use it regularly. Whether it is relevant or not.
Probability is something I am interested in. I’m interested in the philosophical aspects of probability. When I was a maths student, probability didn’t excite me at all. But I am interested in the philosophy of probability and I wanted to write something more about it. My philosophy of physics essay was about one aspect of probability in science. But I’d like to look more at probability in general. I thought maybe of making it the topic of my postgrad seminar talk. It would be an interesting diversion from writing my dissertation. On the walk back from the bookshop today (dammit. I forgot to by the book I meant to pick up…) I was planning out how the talk would look in my head. It would have three sections… I use bullet points quite a lot in this blog, so perhaps I’ll use the ennumerate thing this time…
- Discuss some of the terminology of philosophical work on probability. Different writers distinguish different numbers of types of probability and give them different but sometimes overlapping names. So I’d talk about what people mean by; objective, subjective, epistemic, ontic, chance, credence and so on…
- Look at which of the extensions of these terms overlap or are contained in one another. Come up with my own classification of probabilities and associated vocabulary. This would probably take the form of different terms on different axes, because I think probability is more than a one-dimensional concept. (Does that make any sense? I might have to think about how to explain that some more…)
- As well as terminology and concepts, there is the interpretation of probabilty. So I would finish by looking at which interpretations cause what kind of collapsing of concepts. If you’re a determinist, objective probabilities are going to have to collapse somehow. If you believe in GRW you can’t be a frequentist. (I’ve mentioned this point before I am sure…)
I’d take a realist, indeterminist position for most of the talk, because I think that will allow you to differentiate the most types of probability. Then to avoid criticism of the “theory-ladenness” of my characterisation, in the third section I’d look at the problem through different philosophical goggles. Wearing different philosophical hats.
This got me thinking about another awkward point. If you’re a realist about objective, physical probabilities, how do you guarantee they satisfy the axioms of probability theory? I can’t see how you do it. Even if you replace Kolmogorov with some other axiomatisation (Luder’s rule conditionalisation or whatever) you still have to explain why the probabilities satisfy that system. Since the probabilities will be inherently independent how do you do this?
Right I have to stroll back up to the bookshop before it starts raining again. I need to pick up On the Shoulders of Giants.
Because it will look good on my bookshelf next to God Created the Integers and The Road to Reality. Because it will be a good source for my history of science essay.
I’m interested in the idea of the dialogue as a way of expounding philosophical ideas. So here is a list of some philosophical dialogues.
- Obviously, the daddy of them all; Plato’s whole oeuvre is roughly dialogue shaped.
- Berkley’s Dialogues between Hylas and Philonius
- Proofs and Refutations by Imre Lakatos. My favourite dialogue. It’s crazy! all the characters are named after Greek letters. It’s madness. But it’s really good. It gives you new perspectives on the history of maths. It also can kind of be seen as an allegory about the philosophy of science.
- Mary Hesse has a book called Models and Analogies in Science that has a dialogue between Duhem and Campbell. Have to admit I haven’t read it. But I did borrow the book from the library once to check it was there.
- Today I picked up Sue Blackmore’s Conversations on consciousness, which is basically dialogues between her and eminent philosophers and psychologists…
- Godel Escher Bach has many dialogues in it. They serve more as diversions and, again, as allegorical tools, rather than as the main expository tool. But they are still interesting and very clever.
- There’s Lewis Carroll’s original dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise which served as the inspiration for Hofstadter’s GEB dialogues.
- Galileo used Salviati, Simplicio and Sagredo in his dialogues to discuss new sciences and new world systems. (Bizarrely Project Gutenberg has no results for galileo. Disappointing.)
- Schopenhauer has also used the dialogue.
I can’t think of any more dialogues for now. But I feel I’m missing some… Anyway, I think it is an interesting way of presenting an argument. I’d like to think more about what sort of discussions can usefully be presented in this form.
One thing we did in our house last year was discuss who we would cast as whom if certain things were made into films: Brendan Fraser was made to play Peter Perfect from Wacky Racers. And our house, being our house, always had a role for Sam Leeroy Jackson. So, I’ve been reading Titus Groan recently, and I’ve been thinking about who I would cast.
- The obvious choice for Fuschia would be Addams family-era Christina Ricci.
- Johnny Vegas as Swelter would make me laugh.
- Sepulchrave, Flay and Sourdust are all too alike in my mind to cast indiviually, but you could choose from a pool of Christopher Lee, Vincent Price (circa Edward Scissorhands), Ian McKellen…
- Prunesquallor should be played by Mark Heap like a less neurotic, more annoying version of Alan Statham from Green Wing
- I wonder if Rupert Grint could pull off a convincing Steerpike. Or maybe Edward thingy from American History X and Terminator 2.
It’s an interesting way to amuse oneself. If you share my film-geekery and my book-nerdage. Of course, the whole thing is spoiled if the book has been made into a film. You can’t really talk about casting for Harry Potter characters or Lord of the Rings chaps without having the actual choices impinge upon your discussion.
I’m going to think about this with other books…
First up, Charles Darwin was born a week on Tuesday. Thus evolution sunday is soon! Interesting project. Nice to see people trying to do more than just alienate religious people. Speaking of which; The four horsemen. I haven’t watched it yet, but I have my reservations. Putting four notorious atheists round a table isn’t exactly a recipe for reasoned debate on religion. That said, I have a great amount of respect for Dawkins as a scientist and Dennett as a philosopher. (I know nothing about the other two except that they are not fans of Him Upstairs)
In other news; why are people who study metaphysics called metaphysicians and not metaphysicists? I can’t see how metaphysics is more like being a physician than a physicist. When Aristotle coined the term it was because it came after the Physics, not because it came after a treatise on medicine.
I am buying books faster than I read them. And I’m amassing a list of books I want faster than I buy them. This despite the fact I got about a dozen books for Christmas… How the devil will I ever get out of this mess? I bought and have started reading the Gormenghast trilogy. None of the books I got for Christmas have been touched yet! Oh, except Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days.
My essays have been handed in now and I’m at a bit of a loose end. Nothing much to do. Well, all sorts of things I should do, like tidy up my room and catch up with the reading for my new courses, return my the library book Everest I have built on my desk and so on. But I’m enjoying not doing much a bit too much to start any of that nonsense.
I watched Bobby today. Quite a good film. Incredible cast… Not much else to say about it really…
So I went to the library today looking for a translation of a paper by Max Born which I needed to read for Physics. But of course, the only copy of the book was out. And in the physics library which I don’t know where it is… or… whose location I am ignorant of. Anyway, I left the library and popped into Waterstones, as you do. I sort of accidentally ended up buying three books. Oops.
In my defence, two of them make tangential allusions to Henry Oldenburg, so they might provide some background for my putative essay topic for the history course next term. And the third one is about the history of maths. (Nicolas Bourbaki, to be specific.) So they were all sort of a bit almost relevant to stuff. Kind of… I also got 10% off with my new shiny Waterstones card… So I really only bought 2.7 books.
OK. The Einstein Podolsky Rosen paradox. That’s why I’m here. I need to vent a bit. What? Seriously. It’s bonkers. I know Bohr and friends went a bit crazy with the “indeterminacy is a feature of the world not a defect of the quantum theory” thing with no evidenc. But EPR seems to make similarly unfounded claims about the “reality” of physical quantities witout really explaining what a quantity is or what it means for it to be real. For example is “hage” (=height*age) a real quantity? I don’t know. Its all very silly. I hope Bohr’s reply, which I have yet to read, is a decent paper…
I started writing a piece for the student paper about how crap celebrity gardeners are. But it was rubbish so I’ve put it on the back-burner for now. I would like to get into doing more stuff for the paper, the rather pompously entitled “Epigram.”
This is what I have to read for my Philosophy of Physics course. I’m finding it quite hard to extract the philosophy from it so far. I’m only about half way through though… Maybe all the philosophically relevant stuff is at the end? Maybe?
Despite the title of my course (Philosophy and History of Science) there seems to be very little in the way of history this term. The phil. physics course is all about quantum theory and a wee bit of relativity. No classical philosophy of science at all. The phil. maths course is about contemporary issues in the philosophy of mathematics… I’m a little disappointed, but oh well. I’m sure I can read around the subject if I am interested in a particular part of the history.
I’ve decided to try and write my essays in LaTeX where appropriate. This does mean relearning how to write in LaTeX and making sure I have all the relevant programs and whatnot installed. But I’m a geek, so I’ll enjoy that kind of thing…
I bought 300 and Zodiac on DVD a couple of days ago. I watched 300 and thought it was stylishly devoid of substance. It also fails to explain the point of the battle until the very end. They were slowing up the Persians to allow the “Greek” forces to amass further down for the fight that stopped the advance of Xerxes. If that isn’t explained the whole sacrifice at Thermopylae has no meaning. Gates of Fire does a much better job of making you appreciate the battle and feels a lot more authentic. I put “Greek” in inverted commas because there was no such thing as Greece as a political or cultural entity at the time.
I also watched Brick. Once you get used to how they speak and begin actually picking up meaning in the dialogue, I thought this was a pretty good film. I will have to watch it again at some stage. My favourite line was “I’ll see you at the parents’ conference” delivered as if it was straight out of some gritty film noir. I don’t think it was supposed to be that funny…
Good lord, the amazon.co.uk website is horrifically slow at the moment. I wonder if that is due to Resnet or some other thing. I was going to link to Gates of Fire, but it’s so damn slow I can’t be bothered waiting. That’s Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield. Or is it Steven?
There’s a nice factoid to start off this long overdue post. I guess this blog will start in earnest again once I start back at uni on monday. That will give me some ammunition to write about. I intended this blog to be primarily about my philosophical musings. But then of course I had a great big summer holiday with v. little philosophising going on at all.
Here is an essay I wrote last year about Hegel and the Phenomenology of Spirit. There was another essay too but that one was rejected by Helium, I think I should split it into several different essays or something. I’m pondering finding some other way to have my writing published online. I don’t know.
Anyway. So I’m back in the UK. I’ll be starting a course on the Philosophy and History of Science at Bristol University in a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking units about the history/philosophy of physics, maths and logic. Exciting stuff, no?
My bookshelf looks terribly showy at the moment, overloaded as it is with philosophy textbooks and Penguin popular classics… Must buy some trash to balance it out. My stock of DVDs that I brought over from Luxembourg is pitiful;
- Being John Malkovich
- Das Boot
- Dog Soldiers
- Dog Day Afternoon
Not much of a selection. But these films are all films I haven’t seen. So they should keep me entertained for a while…
Why does my spell-checker recognise that “decaffeinated” is a word, but red-squigglies “caffeinated”?
I have yet to reorganise this blog as yet. Also, I haven’t posted anything in a while. The reason is I’ve been busy. Well, I haven’t really I’ve been playing on my 360 and going out.
I’ve been to the cinema a few times and so I’m going to do some little review things!
Another sneak preview, another film I would never have gone to see otherwise. Another surprisingly good film. Despite Kevin Costner, Mr Brooks is a pretty solid film. The premiss is that Mr Earl Brooks (Costner) is addicted to killing people. He is also the owner of a successful box factory and he loves his family very much. Oh and then he meets someone who wants to go with him when he goes a-killing. Cue tension, suspense and a very very very loud gunfight in a flickery neon lit corridor. My favourite moment was when the police lady get catapulted out of the van.
I was not expecting anything much from this film and in that regard it didn’t disappoint. Wholly underwhelming in its “meh” quotient. That might be a double negative or something. Wait… What I mean is that this film is superlatively average. There are some neat touches and some funny moments, but overall the story isn’t that great, some of the jokes fall flat (the “evan falling off things” montage is a case in point). Best thing about this film? Morgan Freeman. Obviously. Steve Oedekerk wrote the screenplay. And Kung Pow is one of my favourite films… If I’d known this I would have been more excited by the film. So it was lucky I didn’t find that out until after the film…
So… I have also seen Transformers and The Simpsons movie. I will probably review them at some later stage.
I’m currently reading Moby Dick. Its really odd. I’m nearly 200 pages in and they haven’t even spotted a whale yet… It is good though. I like it. Interesting fact; Moby is called Moby because he is related to Herman Melville. Cool huh?