Weekly Update #3

Again, not much done this week because of wedding planning and job stress. ^^;

However, I got through 3 chapters of A History of Western Philosophy:

  1. The Rise of Science
  2. Francis Bacon
  3. Hobbes’s Leviathan

(and a little bit into Descartes but I’ll leave that for next time…)

“The Rise of Science” summarizes the work of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. It talks about how Protestantism led the way for the rise of science because it broke up of the Roman Church into national churches, which weakened the Church so it was less able to suppress science. Kepler’s ellipses were controversial because it contradicted Aristotle’s belief that the planets were gods and moved in circles (which were aesthetically perfect and thus the only shapes worthy of gods). Russell briefly mentioned Sir Thomas Browne, who sounds like an interesting guy (he wrote about medicine and angels, and took part in witch trials?!) and I wonder if he’s a distant ancestor of mine (haha). He wrote Religio Medici and Hydrotaphia, Urn Burial. Russell says there was a huge difference between 1600s, when supernatural things were taken for fact, and 1700s, when educated people stopped believing in the supernatural because of all that was discovered in the 1600s.

Francis Bacon was probably the most influential champion of the skeptical scientific method, based on inductive reasoning. His writings about “idols” (idols of the tribe, the cave, the market-place, the theater, and the school) were outlines of logical fallacies and laid out patterns of thinking that scientists should avoid when conducting experiments. He died from a cold he caught while stuffing a chicken full of snow while doing an experiment in refrigeration. Winter weather was no joke back then… Descartes would suffer a similar fate in Sweden.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) wrote the book Leviathan, which laid out his vision of social contract theory. His theory wasn’t quite what we would think of as social contract theory today, since the people in his imaginary state would have no rights against the government except for the right of self-defense. The Sovereign (which could be a collective or a single person) would control the subjects’ property, speech, and pretty much everything else. Hobbes’s Leviathan is kind of like the opposite of America. That’s what I like best about reading philosophy, that it questions the values of society that are so ingrained that you can’t even see them. The right of self-defense would mean that a citizen could fight back against the government if it were to attack him or refuse to be drafted into the military. On the other hand, all the citizens would be brainwashed by teachers teaching only what the Sovereign finds useful, so resistance wouldn’t be too likely. Hobbes’s tendency towards fascism and deep fear of anarchy were inspired by his experiences during the English Civil War, and he describes life without government (in a “natural state”) as a “war of all against all”. It’s interesting to hear someone argue the upside of strict government control of the people.

Anyway, that’s all for this week! See you next, and hope I can get a real review ready. ;)





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