Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING

in the fall of 1954, i had tea with bertrand russell.  in a television interview, he had said that were he to do it over again, he would not have gone into philosophy.  i took the occasion to ask him what he would have chosen.  physics, he said [and somehow i think he was confident that he would have won a nobel prize in that field rather than in literature.]  were he alive today, i suspect he would say molecular biology, for that is where the most exciting scientific work is being done these days.

once again, my big sister, barbara, has put me onto a splendid book, which i have now begun to read.  it is called ARRIVAL OF THE FITTEST, by andreas wagner.  here is what barbara had to say.

'I know that (quite appropriately) your focus these days is on MARX, MARX, MARX...but I throw this out because it's what I'm thinking about these days!

I've been (sort of) following your blog -- it's pretty much of a slog for me. But my attention was caught by your reference to the BLS data sets. I have just read a remarkable book that I think could change the face of evolutionary biology forever, if taken seriously. It is called The Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner.

Wagner points out (correctly) that for all the progress in molecular biology etc, biologists still have no conceptual framework within which to try to understand the link between genotype and phenotype. [As you are probably aware, geneticists for the past half century since the modern synthesis have relegated what connects the two -- genotype and phenotype -- to a black box. Now that I think of it, it is rather like the invisible hand. ]

Wagner says that with the amount of data that has become available, and the computer power we now have, it is possible to begin to explore the links, and what he's done (in the popular book noted above, but also in a much more technical one that I am trying to read) is to start building the appropriate conceptual framework.

It occurs to me that any serious attempt to build the kind of socialist economic structure that you are talking about would have to go down the same path, finding a way to use the mountain of data available from sources like the BLS to create a conceptual framework that would make possible actually making the decisions that would have to be made.'


you can see why i always take her suggestions seriously.  wagner's book, by the way, is charmingly written, a delight to read.  i recommend it.

5 comments:

Jerry Fresia said...

I'm delighted to learn that your "big sister" thinks your blog is a "slog." Your reviews of the books she recommends are compelling and I keep telling myself that I ought to pick one up soon. Perhaps she could recommend the top 3 for people, like myself, who know absolutely zip about biology.

I do think, however, that theoretical physicists must be giving molecular biologists a run for their money. Quantum entanglement, dark matter/energy, the multiverse, 11 dimensions and all the rest seem destined to explode conventional paradigms regarding time and space. For example, as I understand it, the past, the present, and the future all exist. So if we want to know what happens post capitalism, all we have to do is get into the right position in the universe, travel in the right direction, and at the right speed and vois là, it will be in plain view. That's hard to beat, the contributions of molecular biology notwithstanding. Moreover, the concept of time, in this regard, raises a host of philosophical questions.

Jerry Fresia said...

PS Speaking of Bertrand, do you have strong views, one way or another, on Wittgenstein?

Jamie said...

The paradigmatic framework for explaining the link between genotype and phenotype is Crick's "Central Dogma."

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Yes, I'd also like to hear your take on Wittgenstein. You sometimes say things like this, "...the language in which a social theory finds expression must be adequate, in its linguistic resources, to the ontological structure of the object of its discourse." Reminds me of the Tractatus, a bit. Any connection?

David Auerbach said...

a propos philosophy of time, see:
http://timetravelphilosophy.net/