Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Professor Kreeft, in The Modern Scholar’ lectures, offers stories of interesting philosophers and what they think they know about moral thought. Ethics: A History of Moral Thought is a whirlwind tour of how philosophers define ethics. It begins in antiquity and continues through tomorrow. What one hears in these lectures may be accepted and practiced in life tomorrow or never; if never, one is seemingly confirming belief in free choice, but not much more. As a warning to the curious, the tour is circular. The tour ends as it begins.
Nearing the end of Krefft’s lectures, he addresses the attempts of science to define morality and ethics. Krefft acknowledges the idea of observational analysis, dating back to Machiavelli’s views of history but the scientific movement gains momentum with David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), and John Stewart Mill (1806-1873). It seems these three users of the scientific method provide little light in their analysis of morality and ethics. Their contribution is in the use of scientific method to understand normative standards of society.
By the end of Professor Krefft’s lectures a listener returns to Socrates suggestion; i.e. “Know thyself” because “The unexamined life is not worth living”. What you believe is what you believe. Krefft suggests we should always seek to understand why we believe what we believe.
This is a tough audio book to adequately summarize. Dr. Jeffrey Kasser offers evidence for the value and advance of human knowledge through philosophy and science. Kasser explains that philosophy is the beginning of what becomes a scientific world view. Kasser attempts to drag skeptics out of Socrates’ cave with a “36 lecture” series titled “Philosophy of Science”.
Newton’s laws work in the macro world. We no longer believe rocks fall to the ground because they live there. Newton’s laws of motion suggest that a bowling ball and a basketball will fall at the same rate of speed, even though their mass is different. This is experimentally and logically provable. Kasser notes that Newton’s laws infer a cause-and-effect world. If a rock, bowling ball, or basketball are picked up and dropped, they will fall to the ground. If they are in a vacuum, they will fall to the ground at the same rate of speed.
In the micro world, components of atoms that combine to form what we see as bowling balls and basketballs cohere to each other in a way that does not conform to Newton’s laws. The components of atoms operate in accordance with quantum mechanics which shows that elements of atoms in bowling balls and basketballs do not follow Newton’s laws of motion. The orbital planes of atomic elements like quarks and leptons appear and disappear; i.e. they do not follow a predictable pattern of action. Cause and effect in the macro world is replaced by probability in the micro world.
None of this is to suggest that Newton’s laws are false or that quantum mechanics are anything more than an expansion of Newton’s laws. However, at this stage of scientific discovery, the two laws are not presently compatible, even though both laws are experimentally confirmable. Attempts have been made to unify these laws. String theory is the present day most studied hypothesis but it fails the criteria of null hypothesis because of today’s instrumental and cognitive limitations.
Philosophy and science are integral to the advance of human civilization. We are still looking at shadows of reality but Kasser infers philosophy and science are the best hope for Socrates’ spelunkers.
With a smile and a pair of tennis shoes, Jim Holt tries to sell the idea that there is an answer to the question, “Why Does the World Exist?” Like Willy Loman, in “Death of a Salesman”, Holt has a gift for gab but neither he nor anyone else is able to close the sale.
It is certainly not that Holt is not a good salesman but he tries to sell a thing impossible to define. No known person has enough theoretical or experimental proof to convince one there is an answer to “Why Does the World Exist?” All that remains is faith, either in science, religion, or philosophy. Holt’s “…Existential Detective Story” is a terrific synthesis of physics, religion, and philosophy but the mystery remains, “Why Does the World Exist?”
Like Don Quixote, Holt puts a pan back on his head, grabs his lance, swings his leg over Rocinante, and tilts at Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” to answer the question of why the world exists. It is simply a matter of what you think. Of course, Holt does not believe this is an answer either. He is a very smart guy, a good writer, and an interesting philosopher.