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new book – ‘Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us?’ by John Campbell and Quassim Cassam

October 3, 2014

Berkeley's Puzzle

Berkeley’s Puzzle: What Does Experience Teach Us? by John Campbell and Quassim Cassam (Oxford University Press, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Sensory experience seems to be the basis of our knowledge and conception of mind-independent things. The puzzle is to understand how that can be: even if the things we experience (apples, tables, trees etc), are mind-independent how does our sensory experience of them enable us to conceive of them as mind-independent? George Berkeley thought that sensory experience can only provide us with the conception of mind-dependent things, things which cannot exist when they aren’t being perceived.

It’s easy to dismiss Berkeley’s conclusion but harder to see how to avoid it. In this book, John Campbell and Quassim Cassam propose very different solutions to Berkeley’s Puzzle. For Campbell, sensory experience can be the basis of our knowledge of mind-independent things because it is a relation, more primitive than thought, between the perceiver and high-level objects and properties in the mind-independent world. Cassam opposes this ‘relationalist’ solution to the Puzzle and defends a ‘representationalist’ solution: sensory experience can give us the conception of mind-independent things because it represents its objects as mind-independent, but does so without presupposing concepts of mind-independent things.

This book is written in the form of a debate between two rival approaches to understanding the relationship between concepts and sensory experience. Although Berkeley’s Puzzle frames the debate, the questions addressed by Campbell and Cassam aren’t just of historical interest. They are among the most fundamental questions in philosophy.

Google Books preview:

See also: John Campbell on Berkeley’s Puzzle at Philosophy Bites

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new book – ‘Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything’ by Peter Morville

August 27, 2014

Intertwingled

Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything by Peter Morville (Semantic Studios, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

This is a book about everything. Or, to be precise, it explores how everything is connected from code to culture. We think we’re designing software, services, and experiences, but we’re not. We are intervening in ecosystems. Until we open our minds, we will forever repeat our mistakes. In this spirited tour of information architecture and systems thinking, Peter Morville connects the dots between authority, Buddhism, classification, synesthesia, quantum entanglement, and volleyball. In 1974 when Ted Nelson wrote “everything is deeply intertwingled,” he hoped we might realize the true potential of hypertext and cognition. This book follows naturally from that.

See also: Author’s website, book excerpt

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new book – ‘The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning’ by Marcelo Gleiser

June 6, 2014

The Island of Knowledge

The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning by Marcelo Gleiser (Basic Books, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Do all questions have answers? How much can we know about the world? Is there such a thing as an ultimate truth?

To be human is to want to know, but what we are able to observe is only a tiny portion of what’s “out there.” In The Island of Knowledge, physicist Marcelo Gleiser traces our search for answers to the most fundamental questions of existence. In so doing, he reaches a provocative conclusion: science, the main tool we use to find answers, is fundamentally limited.

These limits to our knowledge arise both from our tools of exploration and from the nature of physical reality: the speed of light, the uncertainty principle, the impossibility of seeing beyond the cosmic horizon, the incompleteness theorem, and our own limitations as an intelligent species. Recognizing limits in this way, Gleiser argues, is not a deterrent to progress or a surrendering to religion. Rather, it frees us to question the meaning and nature of the universe while affirming the central role of life and ourselves in it. Science can and must go on, but recognizing its limits reveals its true mission: to know the universe is to know ourselves.

Telling the dramatic story of our quest for understanding, The Island of Knowledge offers a highly original exploration of the ideas of some of the greatest thinkers in history, from Plato to Einstein, and how they affect us today. An authoritative, broad-ranging intellectual history of our search for knowledge and meaning, The Island of Knowledge is a unique view of what it means to be human in a universe filled with mystery.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

Comments (1) - culture,new books,reality

new book – ‘How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking’ by Jordan Ellenberg

June 2, 2014

How Not To Be Wrong

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

The Freakonomics of matha math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.
Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?
How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.
Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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Kindle Daily Deal (Mon. 4/21) – ‘This Explains Everything: 150 Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works’ ed. by John Brockman

April 21, 2014

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