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Monday, 08 January 2018


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Well, as an American familiar with the history of our Founders, the only 'greater collection of intellectual power' was Thomas Jefferson when he dined alone.

All brilliant individuals in their own right, but the philosophy which they gave rise to ("Logical Empiricism" in the early days, which became "Logical Positivism" when A.J.Ayer got hold of it) is now largely discredited. People realised that one of it's central tenets - that the meaning of a proposition was the steps one would take to verify it - was itself meaningless because there were no steps one could take to verify it. So it is a system that almost literally disappeared up it's own bumhole.

Interesting how so many of them, like Russell and Ayer, were great men for the ladies, whereas others, like Wittgenstein, were so repressed they found the whole business disgusting.

Dammit, Whiters, that's another American President I need to investigate, and I will, honestly, I will, er, eventually!

To be honest, 'W', it was Karl Popper I really admired possibly because I could just about understand most of what he wrote!

David, another famous group of scientific geniuses worked on the Manhattan Project. This article names only a few, but comes from an angle you'll probably appreciate:

Godel and Popper blew logical positivism out of the water.

One on the inside (Godel), and one on the outside (Popper), of the Vienna Circle.

Logical positivism was the very essence of a mandate for authoritarianism.

One day, when the Libertarian revolution comes, the wider world will know the enormous debt of gratitude we owe Godel and Popper.

As for the knuckle-dragging materialists and technologists who made nuclear bombs, to even put them in the same sentence as Godel and Popper is offensive.


Heavens to Betsy, I actually find myself in agreement with 'SoD', although I would not have put it anywhere near as virulently as he does. Nevertheless, he is right in criticising Bob's suggestion that the nuclear physicists working on the Manhattan Project were in the same intellectual league as the Vienna Circle. Of course, they were tremendous swots, all of them, and I thank God for their efforts but they were, so to speak, highly specialised 'technicians' when compared to the stratospheric thinkers of the Vienna Circle.

It's no surprise, Gaffer.

Amongst the infinity of things you and the little Memsahib gave me for which I am eternally grateful, putting Popper, Hayek, Friedman, Mill, and Smith under my nose at an early age is up there amongst the best of 'em.

We may disagree the means, but the end's not in doubt.


I am beginning to think that you are a sort of dangerous intellectual!

Well, SoD, I suppose they made a change from all those old copies of Playboy and Penthouse that you used to nick from the bottom of my wardrobe to share with your scallywag friends!

Mmmm, on balance, if I was stranded on a desert island with a choice of the two types of reading material ... ever the phili.


I didn't think logical positivsm existed outside Monty Python's flying circus.

That's me told.


If you think producing atomic bombs was only technology, you don't know anything about the Manhattan Project. It was a huge, cutting edge effort that included the coordination of many types of scientists. Please explain how pure philosophy has ever added anything to our quality of life.

"Please explain how pure philosophy has ever added anything to our quality of life."

There's some folks might wanna take you up on that, Bob ...

Ancient Philosophy

- The Pre-Socratics: Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus and Protagoras

- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

- Ancient Philosophy after Aristotle: The Cynics, Sceptics, Epicureans, Stoics and Plotinus

Catholic Philosophy

- The Fathers: St Ambrose, St Jerome, St Augustine, St Benedict and Pope Gregory the Great

- The Schoolmen: John the Scot and St Thomas Aquinas

Modern Philosophy

From the Renaissance to Hume: Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume

From Rousseau to the Present Day: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Byron, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, William James and John Dewey

The Philosophy of Logical Analysis: Popper, Godel, Wittgenstein, Russell

Apart from reasoning, rigorous thought, logic, mathematics, geometry, advantageous cultural behavior, democracy, systems of justice, prosperity, and the meaning of life (take your pick), what have the Western philosophers ever done for us, eh?


To name but a few . . . !

Oh, and the pre-requisites and framework without which science, engineering, and technology would not be possible (including making nuclear bombs).


Yes, we should respect history and developmental frameworks. Democritus had rudimentary ideas about atoms based on observation and is sometimes considered one of the first scientists. And there's the distinction. Science and mathematics could always be viewed as things apart from philosophies of pure reason because they always involved hypothesis, experimentation and verification, even before Immanuel Kant recognized the difference. As for pure reason, do either of you still care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? My guess is that you do.

Based on my reading of the review, and my studies (chemistry, physics, philosophy, biology, religion) it is not worth your time to read that particular book. If you have tried to read Popper, Gödel, Einstein, Russell, and Wittgenstein you have read more important works than this book. SoD provided a phenomenal list of the important thinkers over time. Some are shown to be wrong, but their work is still read because of the way they framed the questions.

As for doubting the importance of philosophy, logical positivism gave rise to naturalism which is primarily physicism. It is the idea that all that exists is what we physically measure. From that we get modern militant atheism, which wages wsr in the US against all forms of Judeo-Christian religion.

Sorry, forgot to mention one of the most consequential philosophers, Karl Marx, the father of communism. Consequential does not mean approval, by the way.

Just to be clear, I'm not waging a war on religion or anything else, only trying to make the point that philosophy is not a powerful enough tool to criticize the scientific method or its discoveries. The post-modernists were some of the latest to make fools of themselves in that regard. Scientists recognize there are epistemological limits if they have to think about it at all, and most don't. For example, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle limits the precision of certain measurements, but it hasn't been a show stopper.

Science has come together independent of, and often in spite of, some of the philosophies listed above. Galileo Galilei is a well-known example of a scientist persecuted on philosophical grounds. The Soviets were slow on the uptake of computer science and robotics because their political philosophy considered them anti-human.

"Scientists recognize there are epistemological limits if they have to think about it at all, and most don't. For example, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle limits the precision of certain measurements, but it hasn't been a show stopper."

But Godel's incompleteness theorem was, is, and always will be, science's show stopper ...

"Truth that is not provable, and form that is not formulate-able, exists. Proven to be so by logical systems, the very foundation systems of science."

Conceptual reasoning and logic, the essence of philosophy, geed up the possibility of science - and set it's limits.

Science will always be the philosopher's little bitch.


SoD, from time to time you test my patience with your swearing and your endless pro-EU regurgitations but then, suddenly, amongst the swirling sludge I spy a gleam of gold:

"Science will always be the philosopher's little bitch."

For that little gem you are hereby granted 'The Freedom of D&N', er, but only on a temporary basis, natch!


I would refer you to any basic text on the history of science to find its relationship to philosophy. You can even start with a Wiki:

Godel's incompleteness theorem only suggests what is unknowable will always outweigh what is known. Even if it's true, there's still an infinity of knowledge to be found. It is not a practical limit on scientific research.

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