Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing

Dialogues in philosophy

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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.

[edit] A couple more dialogues have come to mind since I wrote the above post, so I thought I’d stick them in here.

  • Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods
  • Donald Knuth’s Surreal Numbers
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Written by Seamus

March 8, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Posted in books, philosophy, science

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