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Post 20

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 11:13amSanction this postReply
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Sarah,

Am I the only one that finds it absurd to criticize Feynman for sloppy epistemology when he wasn't claiming to have thought it through and then turn around and say Rand, who did claim to be a philosopher, was "leaving parts of Objectivism for us to fill in" when someone points out sloppy philosophy on her part? To point it out is one thing, but to turn around and not grant Rand the same criticism?


Its important to get to 1st principles to understand the nature of a thing. Again, a human creates a conceptual framework by engineering their abstractions according to a value system (or lack thereof) for a purpose - to live, or evade living, according to their motives.

A scientist has the demanding task of making abstractions according to objective truth. 1st principles result traversing the branches of a conceptual tree to the *ostensive concepts* and axioms.

I criticize Feynman for not questioning his premises (points 2 and 3), point 4 stealing the concept of purpose from scientific investigation, as if it was some random, unchosen phenomena (Skinner and behaviorists would perhaps claim it is), then point 1 claiming he sees method in his madness.

Perhaps Feynman was a pragmatic politician that knew how to achieve authority by going along and getting along, and not offending the liberal government and academia that paid his salary.

Scott



Post 21

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 11:21amSanction this postReply
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Scott, let me start here:

Again Rand shines in her theory of art; physics is an art - it is a selective recreation of what the artist-of-reality, the physicist, considers important!

Maybe you are making some vague metaphor, but otherwise this is absurd. Physicists do not recreate reality according to their metaphysical value judgements, they seek to discover what reality is.


A hypothesis is a creative act. I don't know how the mind works, but I know how to teach computers a few tricks. It involves creative, logical effort - engineering.

I suppose to test a theory, say Newton's or Maxwell's you could start a random generator creating random mathematical relationships, computer code, and test it against reality.

But we know logic and a trained mind (which is the reality that is selectively re-created, re-expressed in a different, yet analagous context) which come together to engineer a scientific model.

As Feynman said, "nature is what she is", i.e. she doesn't give a damn about the scientists metaphysical value judgement. Reality exists, and science when done properly is limited to reality, not the scientists value judgements.


A scientist's "aesthetic style" is objective truth, in the media of conceptual logic.

Scott



Post 22

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 12:09pmSanction this postReply
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Scott,

My point is, would you criticize Rand as harshly if you say a flaw in her thinking, or would you let her off the hook as I described, or would you do something all together different?

Sarah



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Post 23

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 5:36pmSanction this postReply
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Scott-
Feynman never tried to 'pacify' anyone, this was one of his most admirable traits.

Maybe I should just number these.
1. Feynman was not writing a treatise on ethics.  Let me ask you this, when you refer to someone as 'good', do you give them your philosophical treatise as to what you mean by that term orally, or do you have a written version prepared that you just hand out as a footnote to your use of a word?

2. Scientist, especially famous ones, are often asked to comment upon things that are outside their area of expertise.  It is nothing but admirable that Feynman admits these things are outside his area of expertise.  All too often scientists ARE willing to make pronouncements about things they know nothing about, and all too many people are willing to believe them as an authority figure.

3. Feynman was right: physics has nothing to do with ethics, nor do any of the other 'hard' sciences.  Rand would agree with this and say that the study of right vs. wrong behavior in the realm of human actions falls to philosophy, especially the branch which deals with ethics.  As a matter of fact, the only times I have seen people try to delegate ethics to the realm of the hard sciences it has led to beliefs of determinism.

4. This is redundant, but bears repeating.  Feynman admitted what his expertise was and became quite agitated when people took it for granted that he would assume omniscience and pontificate upon any question they asked him.  He honestly admitted he did not know--even when people asked him about other areas of physics that he did not consider himself expert enough in to make definitive statements.  Feynman was a hero intellectually, and a damned admirable individual.




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Post 24

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 6:33pmSanction this postReply
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Perhaps Feynman was a pragmatic politician that knew how to achieve authority by going along and getting along, and not offending the liberal government and academia that paid his salary.

It's crazy to suggest such a thing about Feynman.  Pure, unfounded, offensive speculation.  Totally off the mark.




Post 25

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 7:04pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah,


Scott,

My point is, would you criticize Rand as harshly if you say a flaw in her thinking, or would you let her off the hook as I described, or would you do something all together different?


Yes, certainly. In fact I will now, having just identified an inconsistency today. In Romantic Manifesto, she says a persons sense-of-life (what most people think of as enthusiasm about living, morale) can be poisoned, damaging their ability to choose. Yet in Atlas Shrugged, she attacks the "monstrous absurdity" of *original sin*, because one can hardly be morally guilty for what one has no choice about.

The fact I'm here exercising my understanding of Objectivism, rather than chatting with Marxists or theists demonstrates I've found more of interest and less B.S. here. Or so I thought.

Jody,


Feynman never tried to 'pacify' anyone, this was one of his most admirable traits.


About science, agreed. About politics and philosophy, I suspect he was a swell go-along-get-along kind of guy, not rigidly principled pissing people off like Rand. I really haven't read enough to say that with over 20% confidence, but there I go.


Maybe I should just number these.
1. Feynman was not writing a treatise on ethics. Let me ask you this, when you refer to someone as 'good', do you give them your philosophical treatise as to what you mean by that term orally, or do you have a written version prepared that you just hand out as a footnote to your use of a word?


His book was called "The Meaning of It All", dealing with science, philosophy and religion. Surely you'll concede that speech was rambling and vague, casual and easy going. Not crystalline precise.


2. Scientist, especially famous ones, are often asked to comment upon things that are outside their area of expertise. It is nothing but admirable that Feynman admits these things are outside his area of expertise. All too often scientists ARE willing to make pronouncements about things they know nothing about, and all too many people are willing to believe them as an authority figure.


Well now, that's a fine defense; he admits he's giving a speech about something he doesn't know about, and not only that, but writes a book about it too! LOL! You are trying to defend him, aren't you? LOL :-D


3. Feynman was right: physics has nothing to do with ethics, nor do any of the other 'hard' sciences. Rand would agree with this and say that the study of right vs. wrong behavior in the realm of human actions falls to philosophy, especially the branch which deals with ethics. As a matter of fact, the only times I have seen people try to delegate ethics to the realm of the hard sciences it has led to beliefs of determinism.


All right, I'm not going to fight over semantics and taxonomy. Perhaps Rand describes best in her book on writing non-fiction, that every branch of knowledge is interconnected and interelated, and a primary skill for a writer is choosing how to delimit, and what to leave out. I think she would agree with you about semantics, and me regarding the interdependence of science and philosophy that subsumes it.


4. This is redundant, but bears repeating. Feynman admitted what his expertise was and became quite agitated when people took it for granted that he would assume omniscience and pontificate upon any question they asked him. He honestly admitted he did not know--even when people asked him about other areas of physics that he did not consider himself expert enough in to make definitive statements. Feynman was a hero intellectually, and a damned admirable individual.


Weren't you freaking-out over religion, Jesus-worship? Yet now defend this defender of theistic sentimentality. Aren't you hero-worshiping him for his humble evasions to make the most of his extraordinary mind, so we congitive pigmys can bask in the resplendent glory of his magnificent intellect?

But I agreed with you regarding his technical achievement and character. I wish I had him for a professor, or drinking buddy. I wouldn't (couldn't) party with Rand or Peikoff, or anyone smarmier than I. Yet I can't help but think if Rand read what he wrote about the moral-neutrality of science to morality, of the impotence of reason to guide purposeful living, she'd bite his friggin head off. In fact, in AS she attacks the scientist (Steddler?) who builds the death-ray for the despot. Either she or Peikoff in VOR attacks scientists and encourages students to not do science for evil systems. Feynman wouldn't have objective, but rather his own sentiments to guide him in his choices.

Daniel,

Perhaps Feynman was a pragmatic politician that knew how to achieve authority by going along and getting along, and not offending the liberal government and academia that paid his salary.

It's crazy to suggest such a thing about Feynman. Pure, unfounded, offensive speculation. Totally off the mark.


When someone so affable and brilliant yet is so philosophically stupid, there must be something crazy going on which merits investigation, and perhaps some extreme explanation.

I am at an Objectivist forum, not the Richard Feynman fan club?

Scott



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Post 26

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 7:11pmSanction this postReply
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Scott-
His book was called "The Meaning of It All", dealing with science, philosophy and religion


he admits he's giving a speech about something he doesn't know about, and not only that, but writes a book about it too! LOL!
You just exposed yourself.  Have a sense of ethics about you before you slander someone you obviously know nothing about.  Psst...just a little secret that I'm going to let your argument in on;  This book, along with the choice of it's title was not published by Feynman.  It was published 13 years after his death and is merely a title and a selection of his writings and comments that were chosen by an editor and pieced together after his death.




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Post 27

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 7:11pmSanction this postReply
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Scott,

Then you're ok in my book. I may get around to addressing your other questions about Feynman, or I may be lazy and not. If I do, I'll do my best to remove myself from the Feynman fan club during.

Sarah

(Edited by Sarah House
on 10/12, 7:12pm)




Post 28

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 8:18pmSanction this postReply
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Jody, excellent call in post # 26.




Post 29

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 8:18pmSanction this postReply
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You just exposed yourself. Have a sense of ethics about you before you slander someone you obviously know nothing about.


I obviously know something about him, having read that, and QED some ten years ago, while enduring several years of brain-fog from some hellish sinus disease. I've also seen some TV interviews, listened to some mp3 lectures, and collected chapters of his physics text-book off file-sharing networks and usenet binary groups. That's also where I found a little of Rand's work. (I may have transgressed copyrites receiving, not distributing, and after reading OPAR on the Objectivist CD I later purchased, I resist the temptation to file-snatch as I use to as a pragmatist.)

As I finish transitioning from Windows to Linux, I'll be quoting titles, chapters and versus again.

Psst...just a little secret that I'm going to let your argument in on; This book, along with the choice of it's title was not published by Feynman. It was published 13 years after his death and is merely a title and a selection of his writings and comments that were chosen by an editor and pieced together after his death.


Thanks for reminding me. I'll think a little bit better of him now.

Scott



Post 30

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 6:28amSanction this postReply
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Scott-
I thought that might make a difference.  I myself always hated that title chosen by the editor.  It would have been antithetical to Feynman.




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Post 31

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 7:10amSanction this postReply
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I've read Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the parts about the time when he had to edit the schoolbooks and the *essential object* part.



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Post 32

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 12:47pmSanction this postReply
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Really I am surprised to find so many people here so dismissive of Feynman.  Personally he is one of the four largest intellectual inspirations in my life, Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Nikola Tesla, and Richard Feynman.  Feynman was incredibly intelligent, avoided ivory towers like the plague, despised groups that derived their value solely from their exclusivity (he spent years trying to resign from the national academy of sciences) he was superlatively aware of his own intellectual shortcomings just as much as he was aware of areas where he excelled intellectually.  Some people refer to him as humble, but he would readily object and disagree with people on things he had a great deal of knowledge about.

 

In ‘Perfectly Reasonable Deviations’ he details an encounter with a wealthy Argentinean business man.  The man had inherited most of wealth and was never able to deal with that fact, his characterizations of the man’s wondering through various religions, obsessions of everyone else’s culture and perpetual seeking of a point to his life read like story of Hopton Stoddard’s twin.  Reading that gave me an even greater appreciation for Rand’s assessment and description of such people.

 

That book ends with a few letters he wrote to people who were asking advice on what to do with their lives, always sincerely and eloquently he pushed them toward pursuing whatever they most enjoyed doing and to completely disregard vocations based on social conventions, parental pressures, social status seeking or habit. 

 

His relationship with his first wife, Arlene, was incredibly beautiful and inspirational and some of her letters to him read like she was reciting some of Rand’s writings on the proper foundations of love.  Their life together was presented in a movie form in ‘Infinity’ which I also highly recommend.

 

He was of course no Radian hero, but I think most objectivists would find a lot of value in perhaps 90 – 95% of what he wrote and said, while disagreeing with the remainder. 

 

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman is one of the first books I recommend to people if I notice they are starting to develop a deeper sense of their own life.

 

And given the current state of philosophy, even philosophers of science, I find it perfectly reasonable that he despised most of it.

 

Regards,

 

Michael F Dickey




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Post 33

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 12:52pmSanction this postReply
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I've read Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the parts about the time when he had to edit the schoolbooks and the *essential object* part.

The part where he revealed the school board had positively reviewed a blank text book was classic!  The publishers hadnt finished the book yet and sent it out for review by the school board anyway. Feynman was the only person who actually opened the book up.

His interviews with the NASA managers detailed in (I think) 'What do you care what other people think' was another great classic moment.

Michael F Dickey




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Post 34

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 5:47pmSanction this postReply
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This is something else I came across in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations.   A publisher had written Feynman expressing concern that the complimentary books they were sending out to professors in order to advertise them were being sold without the publisher receiving royalties.  Feynmans response regarding these unsolicited books was perfect, and was one that I could easily imagine reading here on SOLO.

"It seems to me that if you intend the books you send out free to promote the books and to create good will, they have presumably served their purpose.  If they can be sold for others to read, good.  If you don't like it, just don't send them out.
"If you send them out because you get value from doing so, so let it be--you have already been "paid off" by whatever value you imagine you get by sending them.  If the receiver can get further value, we have no claim to stop him.
"If the net result is a net loss(the loss of sale offsetting the value of advertising and good will) simply stop sending them and stop the loss.
"Previously I have always returned, unopened, unsolicited books from publishers (I dislike advertising).  But now you have given me a better idea."
Perfect.




Post 35

Friday, October 14, 2005 - 6:17amSanction this postReply
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Yes indeed - Feynman was a wonderful guy... and I think would have been more interesting a conversationalist than Teller was [whom I met in the 70's and enjoyed conversing with]...



Post 36

Monday, October 17, 2005 - 12:11pmSanction this postReply
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     It's been years since I've read any of Feynman's books, but, Michael Dickey correctly assessed Feynman's worthwhileness in reading.

     If one can get by his clear distaste for 'philosophy' as he saw what it primarily consisted of up to then, and, given his own school-learning about what 'science' is inclusive of and exclusive of, surely one can see some Randite perspective of his.

     One shouldn't regard him as someone who read AS and threw it out the window, or, being a physicist, should have been John Galt. He probably read little fiction at all (other than the 'classics' maybe) from what I remember.

LLAP
J:D




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