Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’
You have to see it:
That’s from an OpenCulture post by Colin Marshall, worth reading in its own right.
The video comes from an Open Culture post by Josh Jones, which has some content worth reading.
This is from Open Culture, posted by Colin Marshall. He provides an introduction (and, later in the post, some discussion):
“A runaway train is heading towards five workers on a railway line. There’s no way of warning, but you’re standing near a lever that operates some points. Switch the points, and the train goes down a spur. Trouble is, there’s another worker on that bit of track too, but it’s one fatality instead of five. Should you do that?” Here we have the trolley problem, which since its first articulation in 1967 by Philippa Foot has become the classic example of an ethical dilemma as well as perhaps the best known thought experiment in all of philosophy.
The post at the link has two videos. Here’s one:
I touch on some of the points mentioned in the film, but the film has quite a bit more in terms of the alternatives.
Update: See also this review in the NY Review of Books.
Take a look at—or, more accurately, a listen to (the visual images don’t amount to much)—this brief exposition. Certain one can see the relevance of Kierkegaard’s analysis if not his solution to the problems of today. And if he’s smart enough to figure out the situation, maybe he’s also smart enough to figure out the solution—or at least a solution schema. Via Open Culture, of course.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is perhaps best known for his systematic philosophical ethics, conceived of as a post-religious framework for secular morality. His primary ethical mandate, which he called the “categorical imperative,” enables us—Alain de Botton tells us in his short School of Life video above—to “shift our perspective, to get us to see our own behavior in less immediately personal terms.” It’s a philosophical version, de Botton says, of the Golden Rule. “Act only according to that maxim,” Kant famously wrote of the imperative in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, “by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
This guide to moral behavior seems on its face a simple one. It asks us to imagine the consequences of behavior should everyone act in the same way. However, “almost every conceivable analysis of the Groundwork has been tried out over the past two centuries,” writes Harvard professor Michael Rosen, “yet all have been found wanting in some way or other.” Friedrich Nietzsche alluded to a serious problem with what Rosen calls Kant’s “rule-utilitarianism.” How, Nietzsche asks in On the Genealogy of Morals, are we to determine whether an action will have good or bad consequences unless we have “learned to separate necessary events from chance events, to think in terms of cause and effect, to see distant events as if they were present, to anticipate them….”
Can we ever have that kind of foresight? Can we formulate rules such that everyone who acts on them will predict the same positive or negative outcomes in every situation? The questions
It occurs to me that Kant’s approach is somewhat similar to John Rawl’s “veil of ignorance” that we assume as we define the roles, responsibilities, and rights of the various social groups without knowing beforehand which role we shall assume. It’s more or less the idea of fair sharing between two people: one cuts the portions, the other gets first choice: both are satisfied because the procedure ensures fairness.
UPDATE: See this good short video:
Natalie Wolchover reports in Quanta:
Physicists typically think they “need philosophers and historians of science like birds need ornithologists,” the Nobel laureate David Gross told a roomful of philosophers, historians and physicists last week in Munich, Germany, paraphrasing Richard Feynman.
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Fundamental physics faces a problem, Gross explained — one dire enough to call for outsiders’ perspectives. “I’m not sure that we don’t need each other at this point in time,” he said.
It was the opening session of a three-day workshop, held in a Romanesque-style lecture hall at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU Munich) one year after George Ellis and Joe Silk, two white-haired physicists now sitting in the front row, called for such a conference in an incendiary opinion piece in Nature. One hundred attendees had descended on a land with a celebrated tradition in both physics and the philosophy of science to wage what Ellis and Silk declared a “battle for the heart and soul of physics.”
The crisis, as Ellis and Silk tell it, is the wildly speculative nature of modern physics theories, which they say reflects a dangerous departure from the scientific method. Many of today’s theorists — chief among them the proponents of string theory and the multiverse hypothesis — appear convinced of their ideas on the grounds that they are beautiful or logically compelling, despite the impossibility of testing them. Ellis and Silk accused these theorists of “moving the goalposts” of science and blurring the line between physics and pseudoscience. “The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable,” Ellis and Silk wrote, thereby disqualifying most of theleading theories of the past 40 years. “Only then can we defend science from attack.”
They were reacting, in part, to the controversial ideas of Richard Dawid, an Austrian philosopher whose 2013 book String Theory and the Scientific Method identified three kinds of “non-empirical” evidence that Dawid says can help build trust in scientific theories absent empirical data. Dawid, a researcher at LMU Munich, answered Ellis and Silk’s battle cry and assembled far-flung scholars anchoring all sides of the argument for the high-profile event last week.
Gross, a supporter of string theory who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the force that glues atoms together, kicked off the workshop by asserting that the problem lies not with physicists but with a “fact of nature” — one that we have been approaching inevitably for four centuries.
The dogged pursuit of a fundamental theory governing all forces of nature requires physicists to inspect the universe more and more closely — to examine, for instance, the atoms within matter, the protons and neutrons within those atoms, and the quarks within those protons and neutrons. But this zooming in demands evermore energy, and the difficulty and cost of building new machines increases exponentially relative to the energy requirement, Gross said. “It hasn’t been a problem so much for the last 400 years, where we’ve gone from centimeters to millionths of a millionth of a millionth of a centimeter” — the current resolving power of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland, he said. “We’ve gone very far, but this energy-squared is killing us.”
As we approach the practical limits of our ability to probe nature’s underlying principles, the minds of theorists have wandered far beyond the tiniest observable distances and highest possible energies. Strong clues indicate that the truly fundamental constituents of the universe lie at a distance scale 10 million billion times smaller than the resolving power of the LHC. This is the domain of nature that string theory, a candidate “theory of everything,” attempts to describe. But it’s a domain that no one has the faintest idea how to access.
The problem also hampers physicists’ quest to understand the universe on a cosmic scale: No telescope will ever manage to peer past our universe’s cosmic horizon and glimpse the other universes posited by the multiverse hypothesis. Yet modern theories of cosmology lead logically to the possibility that our universe is just one of many.
Whether the fault lies with theorists for getting carried away, or with nature, for burying its best secrets, the conclusion is the same: Theory has detached itself from experiment. The objects of theoretical speculation are now too far away, too small, too energetic or too far in the past to reach or rule out with our earthly instruments. So, what is to be done? As Ellis and Silk wrote, “Physicists, philosophers and other scientists should hammer out a new narrative for the scientific method that can deal with the scope of modern physics.”
“The issue in confronting the next step,” said Gross, “is not one of ideology but strategy: What is the most useful way of doing science?”
Over three mild winter days, scholars grappled with the meaning of theory,confirmation and truth; how science works; and whether, in this day and age, philosophy should guide research in physics or the other way around. Over the course of these pressing yet timeless discussions, a degree of consensus took shape. . .