INDEX

Topics are arranged alphabetically in the INDEX.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Gaarder on Changes He'd Make to Sophie's World




Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories and children's books. Gaarder often writes from the perspective of children, exploring their sense of wonder about the world. He often utilizes metafiction in his works and constructs stories within stories. His best known work is the novel Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy. It has been translated into 60 languages; there are over 40 million copies in print.


Sophie’s World in danger: Living as though everything centres on our time is just as naive as thinking the Earth is flat

Two decades ago, a history of philosophy by an unknown Norwegian teacher became a most unlikely phenomenon. But how has time changed the writer? And how might he change his book now, if he could? Jostein Gaarder takes up his own story.
 
He says:
From time to time I am asked a question. If I had written Sophie’s World today, is there something important I would have added? Is there something I would have placed more emphasis on? The answer is a resounding yes. If I were to write a philosophical novel today, I would have focused a lot more on how we treat our planet."

It is strange to look back after only 20 years and realise that Sophie’s World doesn’t really address this question. The reason may be that over the course of these 20 years we have gained an entirely new awareness of climate change and the importance of biological diversity.

An all-important principle in the study of ethics has been the golden rule, otherwise known as the reciprocity principle: do to others what you would like them to do to you. Over time, we have learnt to apply this rule more widely. In the Sixties and Seventies, people came to realise that the reciprocity principle must apply across national borders, both to the north and to the south.

But the golden rule can no longer just apply across space. We have begun to realise that the reciprocity principle applies across time, too: do to the next generation what you would like them to have done to you, had they lived on the planet before us.
 
Read it all here: Sophie's World in Danger
 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ancient Philosophers Portrayed on Byzantine Frescoes


Fresco of Hippocrates dates to 1342
National Library of France

John Sanidopoulos has posted images of ancient Byzantine frescoes that pay homage to Thales, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Sophocles, among other wise ones.  This is well worth a look.  Go here.

Related reading: Ancient Seats of Wisdom; Who Laid the Foundations of Science?; Wisdom Seeks to Understand; Paul's Application of Greek Philosophy; Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English

Image result for image of a child reading a book

Jenny Anderson

Schools face relentless pressure to up their offerings in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. Few are making the case for philosophy.

Maybe they should.

Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study (pdf).

More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas.

Read it all here.




Sunday, March 13, 2016

Schools Discovering Value of Philosophy

Image result for Image of children learning

“The life of the mind grows upon ideas”--Charlotte Mason

America’s early grammar schools. These schools consisted of six classes (a.k.a. “grades”) geared toward boys between the ages of 8 and 16 which taught everything from English grammar to classic literature.

One of Franklin’s more surprising recommendations was the suggestion to begin studying moral philosophy in the fourth class. A year later, students were to build on this foundation by studying logic and reasoning.

While teaching philosophy to young students seems a little overboard to modern minds, it turns out that Franklin – and other schools in America’s past – may have been on to something. As Quartz reports, modern schools are noting a number of side benefits which come from teaching philosophy to young children:

“Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study (pdf).
More than 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England participated in weekly discussions about concepts such as truth, justice, friendship, and knowledge, with time carved out for silent reflection, question making, question airing, and building on one another’s thoughts and ideas.
Kids who took the course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others.”

British educator Charlotte Mason once noted that “the life of the mind grows upon ideas.” Would we see more academic growth in today’s students if we gave them challenging food for thought by reintroducing philosophy into the curriculum?



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

John Haldane to Teach at Baylor University



As one of the world’s leading Roman Catholic philosophers, John Haldane might seem an unlikely addition to the faculty of Baylor University, a Baptist-affiliated institution in Waco, Tex.

In the fall Mr. Haldane, an adviser to popes and a frequent print and broadcast commentator on social issues in Britain, became the first holder of the J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Chair in Philosophy at Baylor.

He professes to be undaunted, saying he values Baylor as an exception to a "secularization, or desacralization" of American religious universities, and as an institution that, nonetheless, "is quite open and wants to be part of a larger conversation about the future of higher education."

Mr. Haldane has crossed doctrinal borders before. When he began teaching at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, more than 30 years ago, the Jesuit-educated scholar, whose paternal grandfather was an anti-Catholic Presbyterian, became the country’s first declared Catholic professor of philosophy since the Reformation.

Mr. Haldane became known for pioneering the school of Analytical Thomism, which applies philosophical analysis to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, a pivotal 13th-century thinker.

Read it all here.




Sunday, February 14, 2016

Einstein on the Value of Philosophy


Gathering of Genius

Sinclair Lewis, Frank Kellogg, Albert Einstein, and Irving Langmuir at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York in 1933 gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s birth.


"So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering."

Albert Einstein, 1944


Friday, January 22, 2016

George Ellis on testing what existed before the universe


George Ellis

George Francis Rayner Ellis is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He is known for his work in physical cosmology. Physical cosmology is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the Universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate.

John Horgan interviewed George Ellis in 2014. He found that Ellis has a great deal to say about fields other than physics. What follows is an excerpt from the interview published in Scientific American:

Horgan: Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree?

Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did. And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.

Read the whole interview here.