Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing

More philosophy ramblings

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Writing down my thoughts about my research proposal was such a good idea that I’ve decided to write a little something about all the other things I’m up to at the moment. If nothing else, it will help me work out what I’m doing. First things first: I’m writing three essays for the three courses I’m taking this term. I shall say a little about each in turn.

History of Science. The course is focussed on the Copernican revolution, so I thought I’d look at the influence of progress in mathematics on the progress in astronomy. I’m aware that Ptolemy and Aristotle probably had a better knowledge of conics than did anyone afterwards in Europe up until the Eighteeth century. The works of Apollonius were translated from Arabic into Latin only in the 1700s. So Copernicus and Galileo didn’t have that stuff available. This might go some way to explaining why it took so long to get over the idea of orbits being circles… So that’s what I want to look at there.

Philosophy of Biology. This is the one I am least sure about. I don’t really know what I want to do. Possibly something about levels of explanation and abuses of language. I feel strongly that people use the idea of “fitness” where they really shouldn’t. As a statistical tool to assess differential population growth based on certain traits or genes, it’s fine. But when people start talking about a gene or trait “conferring a selective advantage” or “increasing fitness” then I start to feel uncomfortable. They seem to be creating an extra level of explanation that is vacuous and possibly misleading. I don’t know if this vague unease can be stretched out to five thousand words, though…

Scientific Epistemology and Methodology. This course is really very broad, and I have managed to pick an essay topic that is kind of outside of the scope of the course. I’m writing about robot scientists and what they can teach us about science. There isn’t really much written on this so I’m sort of a bit all over the place at the moment. I’m looking at robot science from lots of different philosophical perspectives.

The other thing I have going on at the moment is much more on the back-burner until I get these essays out of the way. That is my dissertation topic. I’m looking at structuralism and geometry. A lot of talk about structuralism in philosophy of maths is centred on discussing the natural number structure. I want to look at to what extent can we think of geometry as being structural. I’d also like to look at the relationship between structuralism and axiomatics.

So… that is what I’m currently pondering. That was useful to get it all written down at least in a cursory way…

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Written by Seamus

March 4, 2008 at 6:41 pm

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