Friday, July 01, 2005

The Two Cultures Revisited - again

Pleased to find this interview with Rebecca Goldstein

which is in a way, for me, a "ontology recapitulating phylogeny" kind of thing, in that, not a mathmetician in any way, I went down a similar course, reading Barratt's Irrational Man [perhaps everyone did]in the early 70s - never heard of it: sitting, lonely, unread on a public library shelf with an irrestistable title - and then, later, coming to Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bacha decade later - luckily finding a mint-condition secondhand paperback, still unfinished but often returned to - after a struggle through a variety of philosophy: Kant, Wittgenstein, Popper, et al. Though never getting through A Critique of Pure Reason word by word, I did find a wonderful summary which satifyingly demonstrated the superiority of science over philosophy. Even if irrevocably embued with the efficacy of science as a method, I do recognise the value of the philosophical method: where you can philosophise to some purpose and where you can only resort to science or "the creative imagination".

By my token, given free rein, intellectuals hell bent on being sure to read the right things to get the right answers will tend to read the same stuff. No rocket science: obvious. It would be quite easy to examine the hypothesis by doing a survey of individuals reading, over time. I have checked what I read over the years against other people of similar bent: the same material pops up all the time. This doesn't prove I knew what to read - I could have imitated what others were reading - but there was an instinct, somehow, in me to hone in on the important books, or at least to attempt to read them because of the recognition I would not get much further unless I did.


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