24 7 / 2012

G.E.M. Anscombe (1919-2001) made important contributions to a number of philosophical fields, especially in the philosophy of action, ethics, and the metaphysics of causation. Anscombe was tough-minded and had a determined intellect. She sometimes wore a monocle, smoked cigars and pipes (as a substitute for cigarettes), occasionally used foul language, and was called “Dragon Lady.” Anscombe proved to be capable of easily changing a mugger’s intentions:

Once, threatened by a mugger in Chicago, she told him that that was no way to treat a visitor. They soon fell into conversation and he accompanied her, admonishing her for being in such a dangerous neighbourhood.

While Anscombe fiercely opposed contraception and homosexuality, in other areas she was a strong proponent for women’s rights.

Except when pregnant, she wore trousers, often under a tunic, which, in the 50s and 60s, was often disapproved of. Once, entering a smart restaurant in Boston, she was told that ladies were not admitted in trousers. She simply took them off

Sources: Elizabeth Anscombe (Jane O’Grady), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 

G.E.M. Anscombe (1919-2001) made important contributions to a number of philosophical fields, especially in the philosophy of action, ethics, and the metaphysics of causation. Anscombe was tough-minded and had a determined intellect. She sometimes wore a monocle, smoked cigars and pipes (as a substitute for cigarettes), occasionally used foul language, and was called “Dragon Lady.” Anscombe proved to be capable of easily changing a mugger’s intentions:

Once, threatened by a mugger in Chicago, she told him that that was no way to treat a visitor. They soon fell into conversation and he accompanied her, admonishing her for being in such a dangerous neighbourhood.

While Anscombe fiercely opposed contraception and homosexuality, in other areas she was a strong proponent for women’s rights.

Except when pregnant, she wore trousers, often under a tunic, which, in the 50s and 60s, was often disapproved of. Once, entering a smart restaurant in Boston, she was told that ladies were not admitted in trousers. She simply took them off

Sources: Elizabeth Anscombe (Jane O’Grady), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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30 6 / 2012

Temporary hiatus

I haven’t been able to post for the last week or so. But fear not, there are more badass philosophers to come. Posts will resume next week.

10 6 / 2012

R.M. Hare (1919-2002) was an English moral philosopher. He argued that evaluative terms are essentially prescriptive and universalizable. Moral reasoning does not, he thought, involve inferring from certain matters of fact to what one should do. Instead, one begins with a moral judgment and, considering what it implies (according to the rules of prescriptivity and universalizability), sees whether it should be thrown out. While this sounds like an abstract picture of moral reasoning, Hare was no stranger to extreme circumstances calling for extreme grit and integrity. A.W. Price writes,

When war broke out, he characteristically volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery, and circumvented the results of a medical test in order to be permitted active service overseas. He was eventually put on a ship for India in autumn 1940. He had a year (which he described as one of the happiest of his life) training Punjabi soldiers, and enjoying some adventures (twice finding his own way back through the jungle, once after losing his guns to the Japanese). He was finally taken prisoner when Singapore fell in February 1942. He then suffered a long march up the River Kwai to near the Three Pagodas Pass, with a group of officers whose task was to work as coolies building the railway from Siam into Burma…. He was eventually imprisoned with fellow officers in Singapore, whence he was released after exactly three and a half years when the war ended.
…
While on leave in 1940, he wrote twenty pages setting out ‘my philosophy’. When Singapore fell, he looted a ledger from Changi jail, and started writing a monograph called ‘An Essay in Monism’. He carried this on his back during the march, and completed it just before being released.

In the postscript to “An Essay in Monism,” Hare wrote, coyly:

There are circumstances - and I have had my fill of them - in which one becomes absolutely convinced of the contemptibility of the human race in general, and of the supreme importance of oneself in particular.

Sources: Wikipedia, "Richard Mervyn Hare" (A.W. Price), R.M. Hare: A Memorial Address (John Hare)

R.M. Hare (1919-2002) was an English moral philosopher. He argued that evaluative terms are essentially prescriptive and universalizable. Moral reasoning does not, he thought, involve inferring from certain matters of fact to what one should do. Instead, one begins with a moral judgment and, considering what it implies (according to the rules of prescriptivity and universalizability), sees whether it should be thrown out. While this sounds like an abstract picture of moral reasoning, Hare was no stranger to extreme circumstances calling for extreme grit and integrity. A.W. Price writes,

When war broke out, he characteristically volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery, and circumvented the results of a medical test in order to be permitted active service overseas. He was eventually put on a ship for India in autumn 1940. He had a year (which he described as one of the happiest of his life) training Punjabi soldiers, and enjoying some adventures (twice finding his own way back through the jungle, once after losing his guns to the Japanese). He was finally taken prisoner when Singapore fell in February 1942. He then suffered a long march up the River Kwai to near the Three Pagodas Pass, with a group of officers whose task was to work as coolies building the railway from Siam into Burma…. He was eventually imprisoned with fellow officers in Singapore, whence he was released after exactly three and a half years when the war ended.

While on leave in 1940, he wrote twenty pages setting out ‘my philosophy’. When Singapore fell, he looted a ledger from Changi jail, and started writing a monograph called ‘An Essay in Monism’. He carried this on his back during the march, and completed it just before being released.

In the postscript to “An Essay in Monism,” Hare wrote, coyly:

There are circumstances - and I have had my fill of them - in which one becomes absolutely convinced of the contemptibility of the human race in general, and of the supreme importance of oneself in particular.

Sources: Wikipedia, "Richard Mervyn Hare" (A.W. Price), R.M. Hare: A Memorial Address (John Hare)

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07 6 / 2012

Angela Davis (1944-) is a black feminist philosopher and political activist. During the 1980s, she was a prominent member of the Communist Party and the Black Panther Party. Davis is an outspoken abolitionist about the prison system. She should know a thing or two about prison, since in 1970, J. Edgar Hoover placed her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. This was the result of Jonathan Jackson’s attack of a courtroom with weapons that were originally purchased by Davis. Davis fled. When she was eventually captured, Nixon congratulated the FBI on their “capture of the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis.” After spending 18 months in prison, she was acquitted of all charges. When once asked if she approved of violence, Davis responded by describing the bombings of black houses and churches that occurred as she was growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, saying:

That’s why when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through. What black people have experienced in this country since the time that the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.

Sources: Wikipedia, The Black Power Mixtape (video)

Angela Davis (1944-) is a black feminist philosopher and political activist. During the 1980s, she was a prominent member of the Communist Party and the Black Panther Party. Davis is an outspoken abolitionist about the prison system. She should know a thing or two about prison, since in 1970, J. Edgar Hoover placed her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. This was the result of Jonathan Jackson’s attack of a courtroom with weapons that were originally purchased by Davis. Davis fled. When she was eventually captured, Nixon congratulated the FBI on their “capture of the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis.” After spending 18 months in prison, she was acquitted of all charges. When once asked if she approved of violence, Davis responded by describing the bombings of black houses and churches that occurred as she was growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, saying:

That’s why when someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through. What black people have experienced in this country since the time that the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.

Sources: Wikipedia, The Black Power Mixtape (video)

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05 6 / 2012

Diogenes of Sinope (412/404-323BCE), or “Diogenes the Dog,” was guided by his philosophical views (he was a Cynic) to live in a tub in the marketplace, in an attempt to live as close to nature as dogs do. He frequently ridiculed public figures:

while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight in the morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, “Yes, stand out of my sunlight”. Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.”

Diogenes was also fond of making his point through obscene demonstrations:

Diogenes is said to have eaten in the marketplace, urinated on some people who insulted him, defecated in the theatre, masturbated in public, and pointed at people with his middle finger. From “Life of Diogenes”: “Someone took him [Diogenes] into a magnificent house and warned him not to spit, whereupon, having cleared his throat, he spat into the man’s face, being unable, he said, to find a meaner receptacle.”

He often accused Plato of vanity and conceit.

Plato had defined Man as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, “Here is Plato’s man.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (Diogenes Laërtius)

Diogenes of Sinope (412/404-323BCE), or “Diogenes the Dog,” was guided by his philosophical views (he was a Cynic) to live in a tub in the marketplace, in an attempt to live as close to nature as dogs do. He frequently ridiculed public figures:

while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight in the morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, “Yes, stand out of my sunlight”. Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.”

Diogenes was also fond of making his point through obscene demonstrations:

Diogenes is said to have eaten in the marketplace, urinated on some people who insulted him, defecated in the theatre, masturbated in public, and pointed at people with his middle finger. From “Life of Diogenes”: “Someone took him [Diogenes] into a magnificent house and warned him not to spit, whereupon, having cleared his throat, he spat into the man’s face, being unable, he said, to find a meaner receptacle.”

He often accused Plato of vanity and conceit.

Plato had defined Man as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, “Here is Plato’s man.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (Diogenes Laërtius)

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03 6 / 2012

Alfred Tarski (1901-1983) was one of the most important logicians of all time. His work on formal logic and semantics revolutionized contemporary logic. In addition to being a brilliant logician, Tarski had what might be called a “Napoleonic” comportment. The Fefermans write, in their biography of Tarski,

At lectures he always made an entrance and when walking through a crowded room he never hesitated or shifted from side to side to weave his way around people. Chest out, with quick little steps, he walked straight through the middle, expecting the waters to part.
Far from conventionally handsome, he emanated a physical aura of energy, intensity, and sensuality. His face was mobile, his expressions volatile, reflecting his immediate mood, thought, and appetite. 

Tarski was a chain smoker and an enthusiastic drinker. He frequently used speed in order to “clear his mind during the day,” and his lectures were commonly fueled by stimulants. He was a ladies’ man. But, the Fefermans write, “While he was busy seducing them, or trying to, Tarski took women seriously.” He took on an unusually large number of female graduate students, whose intellectual and professional success he was deeply invested in. 
Sources: Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic (Feferman & Feferman); “A Portrait of Alfred Tarski” (Givant); Mathematical Apocrypha Redux (Krantz)

Alfred Tarski (1901-1983) was one of the most important logicians of all time. His work on formal logic and semantics revolutionized contemporary logic. In addition to being a brilliant logician, Tarski had what might be called a “Napoleonic” comportment. The Fefermans write, in their biography of Tarski,

At lectures he always made an entrance and when walking through a crowded room he never hesitated or shifted from side to side to weave his way around people. Chest out, with quick little steps, he walked straight through the middle, expecting the waters to part.

Far from conventionally handsome, he emanated a physical aura of energy, intensity, and sensuality. His face was mobile, his expressions volatile, reflecting his immediate mood, thought, and appetite. 

Tarski was a chain smoker and an enthusiastic drinker. He frequently used speed in order to “clear his mind during the day,” and his lectures were commonly fueled by stimulants. He was a ladies’ man. But, the Fefermans write, “While he was busy seducing them, or trying to, Tarski took women seriously.” He took on an unusually large number of female graduate students, whose intellectual and professional success he was deeply invested in. 

SourcesAlfred Tarski: Life and Logic (Feferman & Feferman); “A Portrait of Alfred Tarski” (Givant); Mathematical Apocrypha Redux (Krantz)

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31 5 / 2012

Hypatia (ca. 350-370-415) was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher in Alexandria. She was the first historically noted female mathematician, and also taught astronomy for the Platonist school in Alexandria. While she was an important figure in the intellectual and political community of Alexandria, her specific contributions to mathematics and the sciences are unknown. The Suda, a 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, describes the following event where Hypatia rejects a suitor:

She was so very beautiful and attractive that one of those who attended her lectures fell in love with her. He was not able to contain his desire, but he informed her of his condition. Ignorant reports say that Hypatia relieved him of his disease by music; but truth proclaims that music failed to have any effect. She brought some of her female rags and threw them before him, showing him the signs of her unclean origin, and said, “You love this, O youth, and there is nothing beautiful about it.” His soul was turned away by shame and surprise at the unpleasant sight, and he was brought to his right mind. Such was Hypatia, both skillful and eloquent in words and prudent and civil in deeds.

Accused of witchcraft and straining the relations between Romans and Christians, Hypatia was brutally murdered by a Christian mob during Lent in 415 AD. 
Sources: Wikipedia, Suda

Hypatia (ca. 350-370-415) was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher in Alexandria. She was the first historically noted female mathematician, and also taught astronomy for the Platonist school in Alexandria. While she was an important figure in the intellectual and political community of Alexandria, her specific contributions to mathematics and the sciences are unknown. The Suda, a 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia, describes the following event where Hypatia rejects a suitor:

She was so very beautiful and attractive that one of those who attended her lectures fell in love with her. He was not able to contain his desire, but he informed her of his condition. Ignorant reports say that Hypatia relieved him of his disease by music; but truth proclaims that music failed to have any effect. She brought some of her female rags and threw them before him, showing him the signs of her unclean origin, and said, “You love this, O youth, and there is nothing beautiful about it.” His soul was turned away by shame and surprise at the unpleasant sight, and he was brought to his right mind. Such was Hypatia, both skillful and eloquent in words and prudent and civil in deeds.

Accused of witchcraft and straining the relations between Romans and Christians, Hypatia was brutally murdered by a Christian mob during Lent in 415 AD. 

Sources: Wikipedia, Suda

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30 5 / 2012

A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) was an outspoken proponent of logical positivism. His book Language, Truth, and Logic advocated for, explored, and applied the doctrine of verificationism: roughly, the meaning of a statement is supplied by the ways in which it would be empirically verified or logically proven. His overriding goal was to rid philosophy of metaphysics, false pretentions, and lack of rigorousness. At a party held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson who was forcing himself upon a model, Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: “Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world,” to which Ayer replied: “And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” Ayer and Tyson then began to talk, while Naomi Campbell slipped out.
Sources: Wikipedia

A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) was an outspoken proponent of logical positivism. His book Language, Truth, and Logic advocated for, explored, and applied the doctrine of verificationism: roughly, the meaning of a statement is supplied by the ways in which it would be empirically verified or logically proven. His overriding goal was to rid philosophy of metaphysics, false pretentions, and lack of rigorousness. At a party held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson who was forcing himself upon a model, Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: “Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world,” to which Ayer replied: “And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” Ayer and Tyson then began to talk, while Naomi Campbell slipped out.

Sources: Wikipedia

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27 5 / 2012

About Jean Cavaillès (1903-1944), French epistemologist Georges Canguilhem remarked:

A philosopher-mathematician loaded with explosives, lucid and reckless, resolute without optimism. If that’s not a hero, what is a hero?

Cavaillès was a logician and philosopher of mathematics. His most notable work is On Logic and the Theory of Science. In it, Cavaillès surveys strands of neo-Kantianism, logical positivism, and Husserlian phenomenology, assessing whether any of them can supply an adequate theory of science. 
Serving as a lieutenant at the start of World War II, Cavaillès was honored for bravery twice. After being taken prisoner in May 1940, he escaped to Clermont-Ferrand, where he resumed teaching courses.  He was one of the four or five founders of the first Resistance movement in France, known as “the Last Column.” Once hired at the Sorbonne in 1941, Cavaillès continued to help sprout resistance groups. In 1942, he began work for French intelligence (operating out of London), setting up intelligence networks, all the while forming more resistance groups and being denounced by the Vichy regime. On Logic and the Theory of Science was written while he was imprisoned in Montpellier, from which he escaped in December 1942. In the Editors’ Preface to the book, discussing Cavaillès’ work for the Resistance, the editors write:

This task nevertheless did not detract him from his philosophical work. The two were not really separate for him. The return to reflection in the heat of action seemed to him indispensible in order to preserve his sanity.

After escaping from Montpellier, he continued to sabotage German and Vichy efforts. However he was soon captured by Vichy authorities and in 1944 he was executed by a German Wehrmacht firing squad. 
Sources: Wikipedia; Cahiers pour l’Analyse; Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences (Kockelmans & Kisiel)

About Jean Cavaillès (1903-1944), French epistemologist Georges Canguilhem remarked:

A philosopher-mathematician loaded with explosives, lucid and reckless, resolute without optimism. If that’s not a hero, what is a hero?

Cavaillès was a logician and philosopher of mathematics. His most notable work is On Logic and the Theory of Science. In it, Cavaillès surveys strands of neo-Kantianism, logical positivism, and Husserlian phenomenology, assessing whether any of them can supply an adequate theory of science. 

Serving as a lieutenant at the start of World War II, Cavaillès was honored for bravery twice. After being taken prisoner in May 1940, he escaped to Clermont-Ferrand, where he resumed teaching courses.  He was one of the four or five founders of the first Resistance movement in France, known as “the Last Column.” Once hired at the Sorbonne in 1941, Cavaillès continued to help sprout resistance groups. In 1942, he began work for French intelligence (operating out of London), setting up intelligence networks, all the while forming more resistance groups and being denounced by the Vichy regime. On Logic and the Theory of Science was written while he was imprisoned in Montpellier, from which he escaped in December 1942. In the Editors’ Preface to the book, discussing Cavaillès’ work for the Resistance, the editors write:

This task nevertheless did not detract him from his philosophical work. The two were not really separate for him. The return to reflection in the heat of action seemed to him indispensible in order to preserve his sanity.

After escaping from Montpellier, he continued to sabotage German and Vichy efforts. However he was soon captured by Vichy authorities and in 1944 he was executed by a German Wehrmacht firing squad. 

Sources: WikipediaCahiers pour l’Analyse; Phenomenology and the Natural Sciences (Kockelmans & Kisiel)