Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum

You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?



11/10/2016 4:58 am  #1


Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

I was just wondering what everyone thinks are useful scientific resources for those of us mostly interested in those areas where science most has relevance for philosophy, especially theoretical physics, biology, and psychology/neuroscience/cognitive science?

By useful I particularly mean those that give the best information in the clearest and easiest ways to digest, and, dare I say it, with the least work involved. For myself, I don't have the time to acquaint  myself with masses of intricate scientific details, but there are areas where more knowledge would be useful for the sake of philosophical interests, but I'm keen to get the most from the least work and reading. After, all many of these disciplines are very large and complex.

I suppose one could also include mathematics and statistics here. One could even include human sciences and humanities.

 

11/10/2016 2:58 pm  #2


Re: Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

By useful I particularly mean those that give the best information in the clearest and easiest ways to digest, and, dare I say it, with the least work involved.

I didn't realise we had a comedy thread.

When it comes to physics I have a fairly low opinion of popular works. Some are decent - Feynman, especially, is an excellent writer who can get across a deeper understanding than many popular authors. The Feynman Lectures on Physics are a good general resource - my mathematics lecturer once suggested that we could learn as much from reading it as from all of our lecturers. They are also free to read online, though Feynman has also written more popular works.
Brian Cox will be familiar to any Brit, and his tv series tend to be pretty good. You won't learn enough about physics to seriously engage with any major theories, but he draws a decent outline.
EDIT: The Manchester Physics series is generally very good, but aimed more at undergrads than popular readers.

Last edited by Alexander (11/10/2016 3:10 pm)

 

11/10/2016 3:07 pm  #3


Re: Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

Mathematics is more difficult to learn unsupervised - it's the sort of subject for which it is very useful to have someone to show you where you've (inevitably) screwed up. But it's a must-have for understanding physics.
So long as you have a good head for basic algebra, differentiation, integration, and vector calculus (and don't mind dealing with complex numbers) you can probably understand most first-year physics textbooks. There aren't many good maths textbooks, though. Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering, by Riley, Hobson, and Bence, is alright. Then again, we live in the internet age - for any specific mathematical problem, there's a YouTube tutorial out there. Just be discriminating with your sources.

 

11/10/2016 5:05 pm  #4


Re: Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

Alexander,

Thanks, I own Feynman's Six Easy Pieces, though I haven't read it, and obviously I learnt a general knowledge level of science in secondary school. I certainly have no desire (or at least I can't imagine a time where I wouldn't have other things to learn and do first) to learn anything that is not useful for an aspiring philosopher. I wonder how much a philosophically inclined person should know of science. Obviously, I realise some of it depends on your interests. If you're not that interested in philosophy of mind, for example, then you probably wouldn't need much acquaintance with neuroscience or psychology.

     Thread Starter
 

11/10/2016 5:31 pm  #5


Re: Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

 I wonder how much a philosophically inclined person should know of science. Obviously, I realise some of it depends on your interests.

While I may be biased in favour of learning as much physics as possible, one potential issue with only knowing the bits that come into contact with philosophy, is that a lot of that kind of physics (often quite cutting-edge stuff) assumes a fairly strong grasp of basic physical concepts to properly understand. I'm not sure you could "jump in" to a lot of this stuff, and expect to see what implications it has for your field, if you don't understand it in the context of the field it properly belongs to. But perhaps I'm being pessimistic.

 

11/10/2016 5:40 pm  #6


Re: Scientific resources for aspiring philosophers

I'd say mathematics is indispensable. Mathematics trains logic and abstract thinking. Geometry trains sense of proportions. Topology trains a dynamic sense of analogy. These are the things that metaphysics is made of. In my view, philosopher is first and foremost a metaphysicist. Everything else is secondary.

A science book that greatly inspired me in my early philosophical years was Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, particularly the first three chapters of it. I haven't touched his later co-authored books and that's been probably a good idea.

 

Board footera

 

Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum