Law School Discussion

1 year later....still glad u went to law school?

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #500 on: December 15, 2008, 06:15:29 PM »


Hegel's dialectic


Hegel credits Immanuel Kant for resurrecting the importance of dialectics. "In modern times it was, more than any other, Kant who resuscitated the name of Dialectic, and restored it to its post of honour. He did it ... by working out the Antinomies of the reason." Hegel addressed a paradox posed by Kant, that the world consists of antinomies -- contradictions that cannot be resolved. Kant discusses "a dialectical doctrine of pure reason" that must involve "a natural and unavoidable illusion ... which can never be eradicated." Kant goes on to say, "after they [the hypothetical opposing forces on the 'dialectical battlefield'] have rather exhausted than injured one another, they will perhaps themselves perceive the futility of their quarrel and part good friends." The problem as Kant sees it is that reality presents us with an insoluble dilemma. Kant identifies 4 antinomies, in which it is possible to prove that both sides are true. These antinomies are:

1. The world is both limited in time and space and it is infinite

2. Matter is both made of discreet particles and is also a continuous composite

3. Everything is determined according to laws of nature and there are other causes apart from nature

4. An absolutely necessary being both exists and does not exist in the world.

Because of these irreconcilable dialectics Kant argued that we cannot know a "thing-in-itself." We can only know the appearance, not the essence of reality. Hegel replied, yes, contradictions are inherent in reality, but so what? Everything is made of opposites. Hegel believed that it is the interplay between opposites that leads to all observable phenomena and our interactions with the world. As he responded to Kant, "... profounder insight into the antinomial, or more truly into the dialectical nature of reason demonstrates any Notion whatever to be a unity of opposed moments..." Hegel argues that Kant's "conception of the antinomies ... as contradictions which reason must necessarily come up against ... is an important view." But Kant is unable to resolve the contradiction because each of the "opposed moments ...[is taken] in isolation from the other." Hegel uses Kant's example of the antinomy/contradiction that matter is both discrete and continuous. Hegel argues, "... neither of these determinations taken alone, has truth; this belongs only to their unity. This is the true dialectical consideration of them and also the true result." Hegel states, "the Antinomies are not confined to the 4 special objects taken from Cosmology: they appear in all objects of every kind, in all conceptions, notions, and Ideas.... The true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements. Consequently to know, or, in other words, to comprehend an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations."

Two young followers of Hegel, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, took Hegel's ideas and transformed them into a philosophical tool for analyzing history, nature, and making social change. They kept the idea of dialectics -- motion and change coming about through opposing forces -- but turned Hegel "upside down." They argued that thought is a manifestation of the natural world -- that our thoughts flow from our experiences and the material world. Most of the credit for popularizing the idea that this dialectical process is based in nature and human affairs goes to Engels. He boiled down the voluminous and opaque writings of Hegel into three "laws" as cited on the previous page of this site. Marx either didn't have the patience to do this or was not interested. He did remark to Engels in a letter in 1858 that he "would greatly like to make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in two or three printers sheets, what is rational in the method which Hegel discovered, but at the same time enveloped in mysticism."

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #501 on: December 15, 2008, 06:16:01 PM »

Engels books, "Anti-Duhring" and "Dialectics of Nature," mark his attempt to explain dialectics to a popular audience, but they are not exactly easy reading. Engels owe a lot to Hegel, not that dialectics as Engels formulated it is identical with Hegel.

1. Unity of Opposites - Hegel describes "The Law of Contradiction" - "Everything is inherently contradictory.... contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity. Also, "... the grasping of opposites in their unity ... is the most important aspect of dialectic..." Also note the quotes above where Hegel both credits and refutes Kant's concept of antimonies. Note that Hegel uses the word contradiction to mean the conflict between two opposing sides. He does not mean simply a logically contradictory statement such as, "That object is a horse and a television." Rather contradiction in dialectics refers to two sides which are separate, but in relation with each other -- positive proton/negative electron, husband/wife, being sleepy/staying awake, etc.

2. Quantitative Change Becomes Qualitative - Hegel's Science of Logic, gives numerous "examples of such nodal lines," i.e. the leap from quantitative to qualitative change. He states that "metal oxides ... are formed at certain quantitative points of oxidation ... They do not pass gradually into one another; the proportions lying in between these nodes do not produce a neutral or a specific substance.... Again, water when its temperature is altered does not merely get more or less hot, but passes through from the liquid into either the solid or gaseous states; these states do not appear gradually; on the contrary, each new state appears as a leap, suddenly interrupting and checking the gradual succession of temperature changes at these points. Every birth and death, far from being a progressive gradualness, is an interruption of it and is the leap from a quantitative into a qualitative alteration." In his book, "Phenomenology of Mind," Hegel writes that the spirit of man "... is indeed never at rest, but carried along the stream of progress ever onward. But it is here as in the case of the birth of a child; after a long period of nutrition in silence, the continuity of the gradual growth in size, of quantitative change, is suddenly cut short by the first breath drawn -- there is a break in the process, a qualitative change -- and the child is born.... In like matter the spirit of the time, growing slowly and quietly ripe for the new form it is to assume, disintegrates one fragment after another of the structure of its previous world .... This gradual crumbling to pieces, which did not alter the look and aspect of the whole, is interrupted by the sunrise, which, in a flash and at a ingle stroke, brings to view the form and structure of the new world."

3. Negation of Negation - Engels describes his 3rd law as "negation of negation." He argued that this is "the fundamental law for the construction of the whole system" [of dialectics]. Unfortunately, "Dialectics of Nature," is an unfinished work, and Engels never proceeded to give rigorous examples of negation of negation in the same way that he did for quantitative/qualitative changes. Engels did say that negation of negation is "a very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand." Hegel repeatedly uses the three-fold process of negation of negation in his logic. E.g. Being-Nothing-Becoming; Essence-Appearance-Actuality; Theoretical Mind-Practical Mind-Free Mind; The Universal-The Particular-The Singular. In each case the first element is negated by the second, which is in turn negated by the third. And in each case the third element, the negation of negation, has features of the original element, but is at a higher level of meaning. The problem, as noted earlier, is that Hegel is primarily focused on the mind, not on nature.

Engels, similar to Hegel's example of a bud, uses the example of a grain of barley. "... if such a grain of barley ... falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture a specific change takes place, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain. But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilized and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten, twenty or thirty fold." The importance of negation of negation is to understand that change does not simply go in circles. Cycles do occur -- rain, CO2, seasons, life itself -- but with each cycle some things change. Most importantly, every conscious act that we carry out should result in a higher level of information for us -- e.g. try - fail - learn from mistakes and try again.

Dialectical Materialism - The philosophy that Marx and Engels originated is called dialectical materialism, a term coined by the Russian Marxist philosopher G. Plekhanov. Does this mean that those who agree with dialectical materialism have to agree with Marx's writings on capitalism, or Stalin's 5 year plans, or Mao Tse Dung's cultural revolution, or others who describe themselves as Marxist-Leninists? Not at all. Dialectical materialism is a tool for analyzing reality, not a set of dogmatic beliefs. Unfortunately in the former Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin, the Party leaders justified their actions in the name of dialectical materialism. Since history has shown that many of the Party's policies were repressive and/or inept, the concept of dialectical materialism was also discredited. But dialectical materialism is not to blame for the failure of Soviet socialism any more than it is to blame for the failure of a car to start. Those who believe that socialism is impossible could argue that the fall of the Soviet Union is no more due to a failure of dialectical materialism than is the inability to get a car to fly. Personally I think that the problems of socialism have to do with what the free-market economist Ludwig von Mises called "the calculation problem". The problem with socialism was not dialectical materialism. While dogmatism on the part of Marxists was surely part of the problem, the failure of dialectical materialism to catch on as a popular world view is not just the fault of the left. People in power are generally not thrilled by a philosophy that teaches people how to change the status quo. It is a lot more comfortable for the powers-that-be (follow the money to see who that is) to downplay the way changes happen and how people can bring change about. With the end of the cold war, the victorious capitalists would just as soon see dialectical materialism disappear, like the former Soviet Union did.

Re: Eigenstate.Eigenmode.Eigenfunction
« Reply #502 on: December 16, 2008, 07:53:44 PM »

Eigenfunction


This solution of the vibrating drum problem is, at any point in time, an eigenfunction of the Laplace's equation on a disk.

Eigenmode

A normal mode of an oscillating system is a pattern of motion in which all parts of the system move sinusoidally with the same frequency. The frequencies of the normal modes of a system are known as its natural frequencies or resonant frequencies. A physical object, such as a building or a bridge or a molecule, has a set of normal modes (and corresponding frequencies) that depend on its structure and composition. It is common to use a spring-mass system to illustrate a deformable structure. When such a system is excited at one of these natural frequencies, all of the masses move at the same frequency. The phases of the masses are the same, such that they all pass through both equilibrium and maximum amplitude simultaneously. The practical significance of this can be illustrated by a mass-spring model of a building. If an earthquake excites the system near one of the natural frequencies, the displacement of one floor with respect to another - depending on the mode - can be maximum. Obviously, buildings can only withstand this displacement up to a certain point. Modeling a building by finding its normal modes is an easy way to check the safety of the building's design. The concept of normal modes also finds application in wave theory, optics, quantum mechanics, and molecular dynamics.


Various normal modes in a 1D-lattice.


I did not know this board allowed pictures like these

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #503 on: December 16, 2008, 08:25:42 PM »
Oh yeah, juillet - it does. They make the boards more interesting and entertaining, don't they?!

Law students' lives are quite a bit stressful in December and these sites do help us a lil' to alleviate that stress and pain of the post exam period, holidays, and of getting a loan to keep up with Joneses! :)

By the way, how are you doing? Here it is a big kiss for you, honey!

:-X

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #504 on: December 17, 2008, 08:10:33 PM »
Wow - great post AmyL! Good for ya!

Love, and only love, will save the world!

No Jam Today
« Reply #505 on: December 23, 2008, 11:21:04 AM »



How do people come to understand their actions as their own? Common sense tells us we know when actions are ours because we have caused them; we are intrinsically informed of what we do by our conscious will. But it turns out people can be mistaken about their own authorship, either because they suffer from schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, or a psychogenic movement disorder -- or because they encounter situations that mislead them about the origins of action. In hypnosis, facilitated communication, and co-actions such as ouija-board spelling, for example, people can become profoundly mistaken about the sources of their actions. People can come to believe that they have performed actions they did not do, or that they were not the source of actions that were in fact their own. Wegner and Wheatley (1999) proposed a theory of apparent mental causation that accounts for these anomalies by suggesting that people will feel they are the source of action when they think about that action in advance of its occurrence, and alternative sources of the action are not known. This theory calls into question the common sense view that conscious will is the cause of action.


Imagine yourself standing on a cliff where you not only fear falling off it, but also dread the possibility of throwing yourself off. In this experience that "nothing is holding me back," you sense the lack of anything that predetermines you to either throw yourself off or to stand still; you experience your own freedom.


In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," the Queen offer Alice a job with a salary of "jam every other day," then she tells Alice that she can't actually ever have the jam, even if she earns it. "It's jam every other day." The Queen declares, "Today isn't any other day. you know." It never is any other day. It's always today.

But we experience the present as eternally flowing out of the past and into the future. For the determinist there is a continuity of strict causality between the past and the present and between the present and the future. The past necessarily causes the present, which in turn necessarily causes the future. Therefore, for the determinist, freedom is impossible. For example, for Freud, an event in your childhood, which memory is locked in your unconscious can cause your neurotic behavior as an adult. Or for Skinner, all of our present acts are effects of past conditioning. We can deny all this. Being-for-itself is separated from its past by a nothingness. It is true that the past has "facticity." That is, there are certain facts in the past that one cannot change. But nothing in the past can CAUSE you to do anyhting now. There is nothing that can be considered a human action (as opposed to reflexes or bodily functions) that follows necessarily from the past.

Then, you may ask, why is it that most people act in such predictable ways? Well, most people choose an aspect of their past, then project it into the future as part of themselves, and then claim that because of this feature of their personality, they have no choice but to behave as they do.

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #506 on: December 31, 2008, 10:11:43 AM »


Hegel's dialectic


Hegel credits Immanuel Kant for resurrecting the importance of dialectics. "In modern times it was, more than any other, Kant who resuscitated the name of Dialectic, and restored it to its post of honour. He did it ... by working out the Antinomies of the reason." Hegel addressed a paradox posed by Kant, that the world consists of antinomies -- contradictions that cannot be resolved. Kant discusses "a dialectical doctrine of pure reason" that must involve "a natural and unavoidable illusion ... which can never be eradicated." Kant goes on to say, "after they [the hypothetical opposing forces on the 'dialectical battlefield'] have rather exhausted than injured one another, they will perhaps themselves perceive the futility of their quarrel and part good friends." The problem as Kant sees it is that reality presents us with an insoluble dilemma. Kant identifies 4 antinomies, in which it is possible to prove that both sides are true. These antinomies are:

1. The world is both limited in time and space and it is infinite

2. Matter is both made of discreet particles and is also a continuous composite

3. Everything is determined according to laws of nature and there are other causes apart from nature

4. An absolutely necessary being both exists and does not exist in the world.

Because of these irreconcilable dialectics Kant argued that we cannot know a "thing-in-itself." We can only know the appearance, not the essence of reality. Hegel replied, yes, contradictions are inherent in reality, but so what? Everything is made of opposites. Hegel believed that it is the interplay between opposites that leads to all observable phenomena and our interactions with the world. As he responded to Kant, "... profounder insight into the antinomial, or more truly into the dialectical nature of reason demonstrates any Notion whatever to be a unity of opposed moments..." Hegel argues that Kant's "conception of the antinomies ... as contradictions which reason must necessarily come up against ... is an important view." But Kant is unable to resolve the contradiction because each of the "opposed moments ...[is taken] in isolation from the other." Hegel uses Kant's example of the antinomy/contradiction that matter is both discrete and continuous. Hegel argues, "... neither of these determinations taken alone, has truth; this belongs only to their unity. This is the true dialectical consideration of them and also the true result." Hegel states, "the Antinomies are not confined to the 4 special objects taken from Cosmology: they appear in all objects of every kind, in all conceptions, notions, and Ideas.... The true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements. Consequently to know, or, in other words, to comprehend an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations."

Two young followers of Hegel, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, took Hegel's ideas and transformed them into a philosophical tool for analyzing history, nature, and making social change. They kept the idea of dialectics -- motion and change coming about through opposing forces -- but turned Hegel "upside down." They argued that thought is a manifestation of the natural world -- that our thoughts flow from our experiences and the material world. Most of the credit for popularizing the idea that this dialectical process is based in nature and human affairs goes to Engels. He boiled down the voluminous and opaque writings of Hegel into three "laws" as cited on the previous page of this site. Marx either didn't have the patience to do this or was not interested. He did remark to Engels in a letter in 1858 that he "would greatly like to make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in two or three printers sheets, what is rational in the method which Hegel discovered, but at the same time enveloped in mysticism."


Could you expand, por favor?

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #507 on: January 02, 2009, 11:09:56 AM »



How do people come to understand their actions as their own? Common sense tells us we know when actions are ours because we have caused them; we are intrinsically informed of what we do by our conscious will. But it turns out people can be mistaken about their own authorship, either because they suffer from schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, or a psychogenic movement disorder -- or because they encounter situations that mislead them about the origins of action. In hypnosis, facilitated communication, and co-actions such as ouija-board spelling, for example, people can become profoundly mistaken about the sources of their actions. People can come to believe that they have performed actions they did not do, or that they were not the source of actions that were in fact their own. Wegner and Wheatley (1999) proposed a theory of apparent mental causation that accounts for these anomalies by suggesting that people will feel they are the source of action when they think about that action in advance of its occurrence, and alternative sources of the action are not known. This theory calls into question the common sense view that conscious will is the cause of action.


Imagine yourself standing on a cliff where you not only fear falling off it, but also dread the possibility of throwing yourself off. In this experience that "nothing is holding me back," you sense the lack of anything that predetermines you to either throw yourself off or to stand still; you experience your own freedom.


Or to put it in other words, consider this:

A young bride is in terror, when her husband left her alone, of sitting at the window and summoning the passers-by like a prostitute. This young woman, perhaps angry at her new husband's inattention, may have thought to herself, "I can have any man I want simply by beckoning him from the window." She is terrified by the possibility that has just entered her mind -- terrified that she might act on that possibility. This "psychoasthenic ailment" is actually an exaggeration of the normal condition of the mind, because consciousness is "a vertigo of possibility," demonstrating that we are "monstrously free."

Marx's Revolutionary Materialism
« Reply #508 on: January 15, 2009, 12:36:35 PM »


Two young followers of Hegel, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, took Hegel's ideas and transformed them into a philosophical tool for analyzing history, nature, and making social change. They kept the idea of dialectics -- motion and change coming about through opposing forces -- but turned Hegel "upside down." They argued that thought is a manifestation of the natural world -- that our thoughts flow from our experiences and the material world. Most of the credit for popularizing the idea that this dialectical process is based in nature and human affairs goes to Engels. He boiled down the voluminous and opaque writings of Hegel into three "laws" as cited on the previous page of this site. Marx either didn't have the patience to do this or was not interested. He did remark to Engels in a letter in 1858 that he "would greatly like to make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in two or three printers sheets, what is rational in the method which Hegel discovered, but at the same time enveloped in mysticism."


People, wrote Marx, in the "Poverty of Philosophy," are both the authors and the actors of their own drama. Likewise, philosophers "do not spring up like mushrooms out of the ground," he added, in an editorial for Kolnische Zeitung, but are "products of their time, of their nation, whose most subtle, valuable, and invisible juices flow into the ideas of philosophy." So in order to understand Marx, it is possible, rather than wading through the volumes of quasi-empirical research, to trot briskly through the rather smaller body of information on Marx's personal life and his social 'existence.' After all, as Marx and Engels also wrote, "the production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life." "Pure philosophy is merely a kind of 'onanism' -- intellectual masturbation -- they said, even as, of course, they were commititing the sin themselves...

Marx was born in Trier, which was, and for the matter still is, a very bourgeois market town in Germany. His parents were impeccably bourgeois. His father was a lawyer, and although he could have been a member of a persecuted minority, by virtue of being Jewish, had opted for improved social standing by converting. The house was bourgeois, full of all the most learned and cultured things, including books on the likes of Racine, Dante, Shakespeare, and philosophers like Rousseau and Voltaire. One of Marxs' neighbors, the Baron of Westphalen, the celebrated socialist thinker, also lent Marx books, as well as, in due course, "the most beautiful girl in Trier." This being the baron's daughter, Jenny, who had fallen in love with the thickest, dark, handsome, ever-scowling Karl. Whether for his flamboyant style, his style for excessive drinking, his dueling, or for his romantic love poetry, history does not say. For the next fourty years she would be both Marx's faithful wife and secretary, writing up Marx's notes into legible, coherent form. This seems to have suited her as she records her view of the most important qualities for a woman as being "devotion." For a man, she says, it is "moral courage." Conversely, for Marx, the most important quality for a man is simply to be "strong," and for a woman to be "weak." And his idea of happiness, he says, is "to fight." Engels, incidentally, and irrelevantly, considered the ideal man to be one who "minded his own business," and happiness to be found somewhere in a bottle of revolutionary vintage wine.

But this talk of revolution is jumping ahead. First the Marxs had to quit their dull German town for glamorous Paris. Here they mixed with poets like Herweight and Heine, and political philosophers like Bakunin. Engels, whom Marx had already met, was there too, and the two men established a firm bond. Engels, unlike Marx, was thin and pale, blue-eyed and short-sighted, and he wrote well. Their relationship was to be enduring, whether the communist vanguard would usher in the classless society or simply degenerate into a corrupt, cruel, and incompetent bureaucracy. But falling out with Bakunin had to wait its turn. First Marx fell out with the French authorities, and on being expelled from Paris instead declared himself "a citizen of world." He then fell out with the Belgians, after settling briefly in Brussels, and having inherited a small fortune (the first of several such happy financial events.) The Belgian authorities complained that he tried to use some of the money to buy guns for the workers of Brussels.

Returning to his native Germany, he and Engels rushed out the "Communist Manifesto," to try to catch the waive of revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. The Manifesto, written (despite his public protestations) primarily by Engels, opens with the famous claim, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." If the Manifesto did not seem to help with the revolutions, it helped make Marx unwelcome in Germany, so much so that in 1849, Marx and Jenny (and their children and their "loyal housekeeper") set up in London instead. The Marxs' circumstances at this time were 'straitened,' to use the euphemism for 'debt-ridden,' but their lifestyle remained undeniably still bourgeois. At this time, Marx supplemented a modest income from articles in the New York Daily Tribune (although actually most of the columns were ghost-written by Engels) with money sent to them, in used 1 notes, by Engels. This arrived half a note at a time, not so much because Engels was being mean, but because the two men believed, probably correctly, that their letters were being intercepted. Although this was money resulting from the exploitation of workers in Engels' factory in Manchester -- at least it allowed Marx to continue his 'research' in the Reading Room of the British Library, as well as in various taverns around London, and (it would turn out) in the bedroom of one Helene Demuth, by whom he would have a lovechild. The child, Freddy, was eventually fostered out, and features not at all in history. But the fate of Karl and Jenny's seven children was not to be envied either -- malnutrition took the lives of four of them in infancy.

In 1856, the Marxs received more money from another inheritance, which they spent partly on a comfortable house near Hampstead Heath and on sending the three remaining children to the South Hampstead College for Ladies. Alas, the inheritance soon ran out, and even though Marx wrote furiously, "I will not allow bourgeois society to turn me into a money-making machine," he had to redouble his money-making efforts, which consisted of writing letters to Engels. One such ran:

Quote
Dear Engels,

Your letter today found us in a state of great agitation. My wife is ill. Little Jenny is ill. Lenchen [the housemaid] has some sort of nervous fever, I could not and cannot call the doctor because I have no money to buy medicine. For the last 8-10 days I have been feeding the family solely on bread and patotoes, but whether I shall be able to get hold of any today is doubtful...

The best and most desirable thing that could happen is for the landlady to throw me out. Then I would at least be quit of the sum of 22. But such complaisance is hardly to be expected of her. [One of the evil landlord class...] On top of that, debts are still outstanding to the baker, the milkman, the tea chap, the Greengrocer, the butcher. How am I to get out of this infernal mess...?


The next day Marx received 4 fro Engels. Four measly quid! Times were evidently hard in the textile factory business. Being a writer, even a revolutionary one, was no bed of roses. As Marx snorted angrily, "Capital will not even pay for the cigars I smoked writing it!"

The 1860s saw Marx lose his income as 'Europe correspondent' for the NYDT, but two more legacies provided the family with financial lifeline, which they used... to move to a bigger house and hold grand parties. In 1870, Engels retired as factory master, taking down the hammock he used (slightly bizarrely) to sleep in one last time from his factory office, and moved to London. So that his friend could 'retire' too, he provided Marx with a kind of pension -- the not inconsiderable sum of 350 per annum. And it is around now that Marx's long career of political agitation begins to earn him public recognition. A surprisingly reasonably piece written in praise of the egalitarianism, democracy, and simplicity of the Paris Commune gained him the excellent sobriquet of "the red terror Doctor," in place of his other nickname, "Doctor Cranky."

Mina

Re: 1 year later....still glad u went to law school?
« Reply #509 on: January 18, 2009, 07:15:20 PM »


This has come to be known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The physicist Werner Heisenberg suggested that just by observing quantum matter, we affect the behavior of that matter. Thus, we can never be fully certain of the nature of a quantum object or its attributes, like velocity and location. This idea is supported by the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Posed by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, this interpretation says that all quantum particles don't exist in one state or the other, but in all of its possible states at once. The sum total of possible states of a quantum object is called its wave function. The state of an object existing in all of its possible states at once is called its superposition. According to Bohr, when we observe a quantum object, we affect its behaviour. Observation breaks an object's superposition and essentially forces the object to choose one state from its wave function. This theory accounts for why physicists have taken opposite measurements from the same quantum object: The object "chose" different states during different measurements.


Speaking of Heisenberg, the inventor of the 'uncertainty principle': he thought Heraclitus (you know who Heraclitus is, don'tcha) views only needed a bit of tweaking to bring them totally up-to-date:

Quote
Modern physics is in some ways extremely near to the doctrines of Heraclitus. If we replace the word 'fire' by the word 'energy' we can repeat this statement word for word from our modern point of view. Energy is in fact the substance from which all elementary particles, all atoms and therefore all things are made, and energy is that which moves... Energy may be called the fundamental cause for all change in the world.

By the way, Heraclitus was an aristocrat who lived on the Ionian cost of Greece. His preference for composing short, almost paradoxical philosophical epigrams later earned him the sobriquet 'the Dark'. But it is an innocuous-looking dictum about rivers that has made his reputation. You cannot step into the same river twice. Heracliteanism became a doctrine encapsulated by Plato as the view that "all is flux." But Plato himself was echoing Cratylus, who had only earlier decided for himself what it was that Heraclitus must have meant. Cratylus' idea that everything was changing all the time was then taken up by Empedocles, who embellished the other Heraclitean notion of a world continually torn between the two evocatively named forces, 'love' and 'strife', in order to reveal its essential character. The world becomes a sphere of perfect love in which strife, like a swirling vortex, has infiltrated. Whose idea was it, then? Heraclitus', or Cratylus', or...? It keeps changing.

But in any case, the point about the river seems to have been a more prosaic one to do with the nature of human experience. We encounter things all the time as being different, but behind the appearance of diversity is a more important and more fundamental unity: "cold things grow hot, the hot cools, the wet dries, the parched moistens." Not that Heraclitus is saying that the senses are deceived, for "whatever comes from sight, hearing, experience, this I privilege," he adds. Even life and death are as one, Heraclitus continues. "The same living and dead, what is awake and what sleeps, young and old... for those changed are those, and those changed around are these." The opposites are united by change: they change into each other. And change is the fundamental reality of the universe. The highest, 'divine' perspective sees all the opposites: "day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, plenty and famine," all are the same. With the divine perspective, even good and evil are the same.

Two thousand years later, Professor Hegel found in Heraclitus' swirling vortex of the unity of opposites the kernel of a new 'world philosophy', the origins of 'speculative logic', and the historical notion of perpetual change. For your information, it was not the first time Hegel was borrowing or echoing, whatever you wanna call it. In 1766, Johan Titius translated into German "Contemplation de la Nature" by the French natural philosopher Bonnet, where the latter remarks that maybe there are more planets in our solar system than were known at his time. Titus added to this remark that one may notice that the distances of the planets from one another can be approximated by a sequence of numbers that can be generated by an algorithm that is known as the 'Titius Bode Law.' Hegel's dissertation (1801) "De orbitis planetarum" revolves around the discussion of the Titius-Bode law and likely influenced his concept of history as a series of successive epochs from the Prehistoric and Asian, through Ancient, Feudal, Industrial and post-Industrial Stages. The predictive power of the Titus-Bode Law was improved by Stephen Phillips' formulation of the Titius-Bode-Phillips Spiral Algorithm, after he interposed Hegelian dialectic spiral of historical development on the photograph of the Whirlpool Galaxy, captured by the Hubble telescope.

At any rate, Hegel's battle between thesis and antithesis, searching for synthesis, led directly both to Marx's dialectical materialism and to the fascist idealogy of the purifying powers of conflict and war. But then, Heraclitus himself had declared: "You must know that war is common to all things, and strife is justice." It is only the heat of battle that can "prove some to be gods and others to be mere men, by turning the latter into slaves and the former into masters." Actually, there is another way of looking at Heraclitus. At the same time as he was outlining his theory of perpetual, cyclical change, the Chinese sage Lao Tzu was explaining the cyclical nature of the Tao, manifested in the famous interplay of yin and yang. But that is another story altogether.

 

This was pretty good.

Just some cautionary notes:

1. Heraclitus views are second-hand. He did not write a book, and the stuff we have from Heraclitus are a few fragments found in other historians recollection of him.

2. No one really agrees on his theory of fire, some co-opted it for their own use

3. His theory on unity of opposites is very complex. Under some interpretations it is completely incompatible with Hegel. For example, one idea of Heraclitus' theory of opposites holds the logos (logic) of the cosmos corresponds to the deepness of the soul, and thus even when we percive opposites, we are percieving the same logos. According to this interpretation, there can be no thesis, anithesis, or synthesis, since the unity of opposites would be a matter of perception of the logos. That is, the logos is the unity, and our perception creates the opposites. There would be no room for this idea of thesis or antithesis, or change, since everything stays the same.   

Another interpretation, would be that the unity of opposites was statement that each opposite is different from the other according to degree. For example, 1% Cold, is really 99% not hot.

Several others exist. The interpretation this quoted author proffers is not supported by arguments, but co-opted Heraclitus quotes (which is very easy to do). Readers beware!