In Our Time: Robert Boyle

[soundcloud height=200]https://soundcloud.com/in-our-time-science/robert-boyle[/soundcloud]

Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and work of Robert Boyle with Simon Schaffer, Michael Hunter and Anna Marie Roos.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Robert Boyle, a pioneering scientist and a founder member of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first natural philosophers to conduct rigorous experiments, laid the foundations of modern chemistry and derived Boyle’s Law, describing the physical properties of gases. In addition to his experimental work he left a substantial body of writings about philosophy and religion; his piety was one of the most important factors in his intellectual activities, prompting a celebrated dispute with his contemporary Thomas Hobbes.

For more “In Our Time” relating to Robert Boyle, see the programme on alchemy and the “In Our Time” blog.

George Boole 200 Inaugural Lectures, UCC, 5th Feb 2015, 6-9 pm

There will be a number of lectures to commemorate the George Boole Bicentenary. The first addressed George Boole’s legacy and is now available to watch online here. Introduced by Desmond MacHale (Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at UCC and author of Boole’s biography), this lecture will be given by Professor Muffy Calder OBE (University of Glasgow) … Read more

‘Political Thought in Ireland: the Contribution of Ulster-Scots’, Queen’s University, Thur 22 Jan 2015, 9.30am – 5pm.

The Ulster-Scots influence on Ireland’s political landscape will explored in a symposium entitled: ‘Political Thought in Ireland: the Contribution of Ulster-Scots’. The symposium is funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and supported by DCAL’s Ministerial Advisory Group on the Ulster-Scots Academy. The event will be held in the School of Sociology and … Read more

“Censorship and deception in the printing of Swift’s works 1690-1758” , National Print Museum, 15th Jan 2015.

From ECIS: There will be a public lecture at the National Print Museum entitled ‘Censorship and deception in the printing of Swift’s works 1690-1758’, on Thursday, 15 January 2015, at 6.30pm. The lecture will be given by Professor Andrew Carpenter as part of the National Print Museum’s ‘Censored’ lecture series and is free of charge … Read more

Burke, Beauty and the Sublime

Burke on the difference between Beauty and the Sublime (Youtube). Narrated by Harry Shearer and scripted by Nigel Warburton for the BBC Radio 4 series A History of Ideas.

Burke was not the first to write about the sublime, but in his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756) he suggested for the first time that the sublime and the beautiful are mutually exclusive. For Burke, the sublime could be ugly, and thus ugliness was not merely a lack of form as Augustine and others had suggested. Unlike the pleasure invoked by beauty, Burke suggested that the sublime evoked a “negative pain” which he called delight. The sublime evokes fear and attraction. Overcoming fear to confront the sublime removes the pain, producing the intense feeling of delight.

David Berman sets the end of the Irish Golden Age of Philosophy at the publication of The Sublime and the Beautiful, the last great work of the period. For more on the idea of the Sublime see this In Our Time episode. Also see this from Existential Comics on the sublime.

Edgeworth Schools

Two schools set up by Maria Edgeworth (c) IrishArtHistory
Two schools set up by Maria Edgeworth
(c) Ciarán MacGonigal

Reproduced with permission of Ciarán MacGonigal @IrishArtHistory, originals here and here. Both schools, set up by Maria Edgeworth, are in Edgeworthstown. The one on the left which bears her family arms was opened in the Porters Lodge. The one on the right was the eighth and last she opened.

Maria Edgeworth (1 January 1768 – 22 May 1849) not only expressed philosophical ideas through her novels and short stories but also wrote a treatise Practical Education (1798), a progressive work that joins the ideas of Locke and Rousseau with scientific inquiry.

Drury: “ceremonies were a form of language, a form of life.”

Wittgenstein got me to read aloud to him the opening chapters of Frazer’s Golden Bough. Frazer thinks he can make clear the origin of the rites and ceremonies he describes by regarding them as primitive and erroneous scientific beliefs. […] Now Wittgenstein made it clear to me that on the contrary the people who practised these rites already possessed a considerable scientific achievement: agriculture, metal working, building, etc., etc.; and the ceremonies existed alongside these sober techniques. They were not mistaken beliefs that produced the rites but the need to express something; the ceremonies were a form of language, a form of life. Thus today if we are introduced to someone we shake hands; if we enter a church we take off our hats and speak in a low voice; at Christmas perhaps we decorate a tree. These are expressions of friendliness, reverence, and of celebration.”

Maurice O’Connor Drury in the preface of “The Danger of Words”, on ritual and tradition as a form of life and a language.

Small and Far Away: Thomas Kingsmill Abbott

Landscape by George Barret Wikimedia, Public Domain
Landscape by George Barret
Wikimedia, Public Domain

Dublin born Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (26 March 1829 – 18 December 1913) is probably best known for his translations of Kant’s ethical works published in 1873 which remained the standard English texts into the 1940s (Duddy, 2004). He had a wide range of scholarly interests, being professor various of Moral Philosophy, Greek and Hebrew in Trinity College Dublin. However his greatest philosophical contribution was made in his early career, where he disputed the theory of vision outlined by (fellow Trinity man) George Berkeley.

The roots of Berkeley’s theory are in Locke. Just before he introduces (William) Molyneaux’s Problem, in his Essay on Human Understanding (IX, 8) Locke states that “When we set before our eyes a round globe of any uniform colour […] it is certain that the idea thereby imprinted on our mind is of a flat circle”. The roundness we think we see, says Locke, is the effect of experience, which differentiates what we see: “…only a plane variously coloured, as is evident in painting.” He does not, however, claim we cannot tell that the sphere is at a distance.

William Molyneaux does claim this, however, in his Dioptrica Nova (1692, 113):

Distance of itself is not to be perceived. For it is a line (or a length) presented to our eye with its end toward us which must therefore be only a point, and that is invisible.

Berkeley expands these ideas in A Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709/1732), referenced previously in relation to the Moon Illusion. Berkeley agrees with Molyneaux that distance cannot be seen (II):

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Forgotten Genius: George Boole

A five minute documentary on George Boole, creator of Boolean algebra and forefather of the digital age. The memorials mentioned are those in Lincoln where Boole was born. Click here for the Lincoln Boole Foundation, who encourage citizens of Lincoln and the world to celebrate George Boole’s digital legacy -especially in 2014 & 2015, his binary bicentenary.

Also see UCC’s commemoration here.

Ones and Zeros: the life and work of George Boole

Mathematician and logician George Boole died 150 years ago today, on 8th December, 1864. Today also marks the start of the year-long schedule of events UCC are running to commemorate Boole, culminating in the bicentenary of his birth on 2nd November 2015 (see GeorgeBoole.com for more).

George Boole was born in Lincoln, the eldest son in a family of modest means. For details of his life as a self-taught mathematician to first professor in UCC (then Queens College Cork) in 1849, where he lived until his death see the detailed biography here.

Boole had a large impact on mathematics, providing the basis for invariant theory, and working on differential and difference equations, and probability. Developments of his work such as set theory and boolean algebra are taught to school children today.

However, of most interest philosophically are The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, and its successor An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on which are founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities published in 1854. These proposed that ideas expressed in language can be expressed in algebraic form. This combination of philosophical logic and algebra, as DeMorgan said “would not have been believed until it was proved.

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