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review 2020-06-23 22:26
Galileo's Error - Philip Goff

Galileo determined that the natural world can be measured with math. Certain qualities, however, are unmeasurable because they are derived from the soul rather than from nature. Sensory qualities like “yellow” can’t be measured like size, weight, or movement. Aside from unmeasurable sensory qualities and similar information, Galileo’s method describes nature quite well. But the method creates an error: “Galileo’s error was to commit us to a theory of nature which entailed that consciousness was essentially and inevitably mysterious. In other words, Galileo created the problem of consciousness.”


It took a while to notice the problem. It didn’t trouble René Descartes at all that Galileo’s method couldn’t address unmeasurable qualities. For Descartes, matter was one thing while mind was another. While a bodily action might follow a mental intention, both body and mind, being distinct, can exist without the other.


Today Descartes’ dualism has fallen out of fashion. Materialists argue that it’s the brain that generates consciousness, nothing more. Some, such as Daniel Dennett, argue that consciousness is a brain-generated illusion.


Goff describes several arguments that refute the materialist view of consciousness. Of these, I’m most convinced by David Chalmers’s argument that materialism fails to address the “Hard Question of Consciousness.” Connecting the brain with its outward actions answers easy questions. Such examination can never explain why we experience life as we do. Nobody questions their own experience, but materialists encounter Galileo’s soul derived qualities when they attempt to explain it.


Goff explores one possibility that might save dualism. It involves quantum physics. By far the strangest aspect of quantum mechanics is that observation seems to make a difference to how the universe behaves.” If an observation is necessary, what else but a mind could perform that function?


The argument is complicated and involves Schrödinger’s imaginary cat. The cat does just fine when nobody is looking. It’s both alive and dead. But once an observation is made the cat becomes either living or dead. Weird as it sounds, physics has yet to solve this contradiction.


Goff does not defend dualism for long. Instead he moves on to panpsychism, a view that holds that consciousness is somehow an inherent quality of nature. The problem with panpsychism however is that it fails to provide a mechanism for how the simple consciousness of, say, atomic particles, combine to create the complex consciousness of a human being.


Every approach to philosophy of mind has problems, Goff explains. However he believes that panpsychism offers the best explanatory approach. While his arguments are inconclusive his explanations are clear and readable. That’s good. Philosophical arguments can be tough for non-philosophers to digest. I have only one criticism. In explaining how the observation problem in physics might save dualism, Goff misses an opportunity to investigate how the observation problem might strengthen the argument for panpsychism.


Goff’s book is a good introduction to philosophy of mind. Annaka Harris provides another good introduction in her book “Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind.” Despite its shorter length, her book covers the same territory and throws in meditation as well. I won’t say more now about her book now but hope to provide a more complete review later.


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text 2020-03-08 01:19
Oh, really?
Galileo's Error - Philip Goff

(reading progress half-way point)

Somewhat past the half-way point now, this book is becoming fascinating. I’ve read four thought experiments and am ready to tackle panpsychism, whatever that is. I expect I’ll find out in the last hundred pages. Panpsychism wasn’t discussed in his undergraduate philosophy classes, Philip Goff tells us. Learning of panpsychism rekindled the author's interest in philosophy. With renewed interest he began graduate studies. No surprise here. Dualism clashes with everything scientific, while extreme Materialism considers consciousness to be an illusion.

What reignited Goff’s interest in philosophy was his discovery of “Analysis of Matter” published in 1927 by Bertrand Russell. The astronomer, Arthur Eddington immediately embraced the book. Sadly, Russell’s ideas lay dormant after World War II. Goff is helping to revive them.


“Pointer readings” is how Eddington described scientific knowledge. Science never defines the intrinsic nature of anything. Instead, it only reveals “causal relationships” and “physical constituents.” Such a tool can never describe consciousness or any non-material object. A broader tool is needed. And here begins the panpsychism argument.

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text 2020-03-04 16:41
Galileo's Error - Philip Goff

(currently reading -- one third read)


Consciousness sounds simple, yet it’s not. Where does it come from? What does it consist of? Answering the first question, most say that the brain creates consciousness. But then they fail to explain how this occurs.


Galileo was a brilliant thinker. He gave us modern science by showing how math could be used to describe physical reality. However, he excluded unmeasurable qualities such as an object’s color. Qualities such as “yellow” are gleaned from the soul rather than derived from the mundane. Galileo’s error was in excluding unmeasurable qualities from his description of reality. Materialism.


Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” By this he meant just having a body proved nothing. Only thinking mattered. In Descartes’ world there’s no connection between mind and body. Dualism.


A third possibility exists. Panpsychism. But that’s for a future chapter.

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review 2019-03-16 15:45
Salvation of a Saint (audiobook) by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith, narrated by David Pittu
Salvation of a Saint - Keigo Higashino,Alexander O. Smith

When Yoshitaka married his wife, Ayane, it was on the understanding that she would at some point become pregnant. It has now been a year of trying, and still no baby. Yoshitaka sees marriage without children as pointless, so he informs Ayane that the two of them are done. Not only that, but he already has another potential mother of his children lined up. Ayane appears to quietly accept this, but in reality she has decided to put a plan into effect, something involving white powder.

A short while after Ayane and Yoshitaka's conversation, Ayane leaves to spend some time with her parents and some old friends. She provides her apprentice, Hiromi, with a spare key, just in case. As it turns out, Hiromi is Yoshitaka's secret lover. Hiromi makes Yoshitaka some coffee, and the two of them contemplate their future together. All appears well until Hiromi tries to contact Yoshitaka before their next planned date. When she gets to the house, she discovers him dead. The police determine that that the coffee he made himself was poisoned, and it isn't long before they start digging into Hiromi and Yoshitaka's secret relationship together.

Hiromi had access to the house and had even used Yoshitaka's coffee-making supplies and equipment shortly before Yoshitaka drank his poisoned cup. However, she had no motive, and it's unclear how and when she might have added the poison. Ayane had a motive but was nowhere near her husband when the poisoning happened, and if she'd sabotaged any of the coffee-making supplies or tools, Hiromi should have been poisoned as well when she and Yoshitaka made coffee together. It's up to police detectives Kusanagi and Utsumi to figure out what happened.

I listened to the first book in this series, The Devotion of Suspect X, not too long ago. Although I never got around to reviewing it, I enjoyed it and was looking forward to this. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to the first book for a variety of reasons.

The two books had similar structures. Readers were given several key details about the case that the police would be unaware of and would have to find out on their own. In the first book, readers knew exactly how the murder happened, who committed it, and who was involved in covering it up. The question seemed to be whether the police would figure out the truth. In this book, readers knew that Ayane had to have somehow used the white powder to poison her husband. The question was how she managed it and, later, what her intentions were for Hiromi. Both books ended with twists that revealed that readers knew less about what was going on than they thought - those "key details" at the start of the books were only part of the overall puzzle.

The mystery of how Ayane arranged for her husband's coffee to be poisoned without killing Hiromi seemed overly simplistic at first but gradually became more complex, as the police found more and more places with traces of the poison but no definitive source, and no explanation for how Hiromi and Yoshitaka managed to drink coffee together earlier without both of them winding up dead.

When Utsumi involved Yukawa in the case, I wondered if Kusanagi and Yukawa would ever talk about the events at the end of the previous book. While the events of the previous book were alluded to - I'd recommend that readers new to this series start there, if only to understand the tension between Kusanagi and Yukawa - they weren't discussed in any sort of detail.

I was impatient with Kusanagi's attraction to Ayane and, like Utsumi, thought he was ignoring obvious clues in an effort to continue to view Ayane as innocent. I was actually a bit surprised that Yukawa didn't needle him over it, since his desire to protect Ayane was a bit hypocritical considering how the previous book ended.

Anyway, I had fun thinking through the problem of how Ayane managed to poison her husband, but the actual solution turned out to be a bit much. It would have taken a ridiculous amount of dedication - once the plan was begun, there was no going back and no telling anyone, and the slightest slip-up could have resulted in an unintentional death. The possibility for failure was huge and, in real life, no one would have gone through with such a plan. And the backstory for it all was kind of gross. I mean, I was somewhat sympathetic towards Ayane for a good chunk of the book - yes, she likely killed her husband, but he'd used both her and Hiromi, viewing them as nothing more than his future baby incubators. Once additional details were revealed, though, I found myself disliking most of the book's cast.

The very end of the book further soured it for me. While discussing the murder and everything that led up to it, Yukawa basically concluded that women are illogical. I would have liked nothing more than for Utsumi (a woman) to smack him at that point, but unfortunately that didn't happen. And honestly, I'm not any more pleased with Keigo Higashino if he thought "women are illogical" would make all the difficult-to-believe aspects of the murder mystery solution easier to swallow.

All in all, this was disappointing. I haven't decided yet whether I'll continue on with the series.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-07-27 00:00
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World ... Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems - Galileo Galilei,Stillman Drake,Albert Einstein The end of Scholasticism starts with this book. The Aristotelian thought (or as the book usually calls them The Peripatetics) and its appeal to authority and the appearance of the phenomena as truth are overturned. Sometimes what we see (such as the sun rising in the east) is not what is.

I loved the way Galileo uses the Aristotelian logic to poke holes in the Ptolemaic science (particularly, using proof by contradiction). Often in the other books I've read they'll make a statement such that Galileo purposely kept his argument to the Ptolemaic versus the Copernican system and ignored the Tycho system because he couldn't refute that as easily. After having read this book, I don't see that at all. The argument on the movement of the sunspots moving across the sun are best explained by a moving earth (or otherwise would lead to bizarre motions of the sun) and would work against the Tycho system as well.

Except for the bible, I don't think any single book from all the books I've read over the last five years has been mentioned or quoted more frequently then this book has.

There are multiple reasons to really enjoy this book. It's a great peek into the mindset of the very beginnings of modernity countermanding the pernicious influence of religious thought by permeating reason and rational thought. Proof by authority is never sufficient. The narrative we use to explain the world is as important as the phenomena. Relativity is cool. Even a brilliant person gets things wrong such as Galileo does with his tide hypothesis (now I finally understand what that was).

Often the book would read exactly like the morons who today argue against Climate Change. Particularly, the section were Galileo was trying to show the super nova of 1574 was in the firmament and not below the moon. The argumentation that they were using sounded just like what the morons who say that the weather stations on earth (or the satellites) aren't recording accurately because of blah, blah, blah.

Science has multiple values and none of them are absolute. One of it's values is how the story your telling fits into the current web of knowledge that's available. The moving earth around the sun upsets everything that was thought to be known as true in 1610 Europe and shakes it to its core, but, in the end, good argumentation with the proper narrative will end out. Fortunately, simplicity, accuracy, explanation, and prediction are some of the other values of science.

Relative thought is hard to grasp and Galileo makes it easy. I would spend multiple days on two or three pages trying to digest what was being said. It's always good to learn how other people think before gravity was a force and calculus wasn't yet discovered.

This version of the book I thought was very good. It had necessary footnotes (I didn't know Etiopico was Ethiopia and often referred to all of Africa below Egypt, e.g.). The least self-aware statement I've seen is in the forward by Albert Einstein which he wrote in June 1952 while criticizing Galileo for ignoring Keplers' elliptical orbits: "a grotesque illustration of the fact that creative individuals are often not receptive". Gee, Einstein maybe should have been receptive to quantum theory, don't you think?
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