Friday, February 22, 2013

Bertrand Russell... Again

“Science does not aim at establishing immutable truths and eternal dogmas; its aim is to approach the truth by successive approximations, without claiming that at any stage final and complete accuracy has been achieved.”

- Bertrand Russell

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Perception and Art

Eric Kandel (born November 7, 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He specialises in research into the nature of memory, for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2000. Here he talks about the links between art, perception, emotion and biology:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Knowledge and Responsibility

As hideous as the ongoing Lance Armstrong debacle has been, it has provided some interesting talking points in terms of TOK. His recent confession to drug use throughout his career has led to his fans retrospectively reassessing their knowledge of him and his achievements.

He was especially vehement when attacking those who questioned his reputation, and wrote two (fraudulent) autobiographies: It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and Every Second Counts (2003). Until he was forced into his confession he and his supporters denied that he was guilty of any wrongdoing, and now he is undergoing an agonising and embarrassing fall from the heights of fame and adulation.

As reported in the article below, Armstrong is now facing a class action lawsuit in the U.S., brought by disenchanted fans who bought his books. This poses questions about the extent to which those who disseminate false information are ethically, legally and financially responsible for it.

There are some parallels with the story of the scientists and government official in Italy who were found guilty of manslaughter in 2012 after failing to accurately predict an earthquake in the village of L'Aquila. However, they disseminated false information unknowingly, while Armstrong was all too aware that he was doing so knowingly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Scepticism, or skepticism (if you are in the U.S.), derives from the Greek work skeptomai, which means to think or consider. It is generally used to denote doubt or incredulity about particular ideas, or a wider view about the impossibility of having certain knowledge. This uncertainty is a philosophical position, and philosophical scepticism refers to the systematic doubt and testing of ideas.

Recently, sceptics (or skeptics) have become synonymous with two particular groups of people: those who doubt the accepted scientific consensus (for instance "climate change sceptics") and those who question these questioners (James Randi, for example, refers to himself as a skeptic). It's interesting that two completely disparate sets of thinkers could give themselves the same label.

In this (rather long) podcast a group of academics discus the philosophical origins and importance of scepticism in developing knowledge and belief.