Archive for May, 2011

Music as thought

I have remarked before that music is a form of thinking.  It is a form of thinking for the composer and may also be for the listener.  If the performers are to transmit its essence effectively and well, it will be a form of thinking for them also. Listening recently to the music of Prokofiev,  I realize I don’t think in the way he does, and so I find his music alien.

But what is the nature of this musical thought?

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Australian improv comedy pre-history

My father saw a young Melbourne comedian named Barry Humphries try out an act as an ordinary Moonee Ponds housewife in a Review at the Phillip Street Theatre in Sydney in about 1955.   He and I saw undergraduate mathematician Adam Spencer winning theatre sports improv contests at The Harold Park Hotel in about 1988.   As well as being so witty that I would remember his name all this time, he also still had a full head of blonde hair.




Reliable Knowledge

How little scientists know who only know science!  Thanks again to Norm, I learn about some statements by a retired professor of chemistry, Peter Atkins, about how we know what we know.   Atkins is quoted as saying:

The scientific method is the only reliable method of achieving knowledge.”

Well, first, it is worth saying that the scientific method does not produce reliable knowledge.  One of the two defining features of science is that scientific claims are defeasible:  they may be contested, questioned, challenged, and even overthrown, if the evidence warrants.   There is nothing inherently reliable about any scientific claim or theory, since new evidence may be found at any time to overthrow it.  The history of science is littered with examples.   (The second key feature is that anyone may do this contesting; science is not, or rather should  not be, a priesthood.)

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Presidential exceptionalism

A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog notices that Bam is a post-industrial nomad:

I wish people would realize that we have a President that was born in the USA, raised in Asia and multi-cultural Hawaii, and who lived in Harlem, and went to uppity Harvard and then spent a lot of time in African-American ‘hoods. Oh, and he’s driven up and down the rural highways of Illinois hundreds of times. Furthermore, much of his life was spent in obscurity, so he had to live amongst us normal people paying back student loans. Even as a Senator he lived in a run-down apartment in D.C. This is why I never worried about Obama’s lack of experience. All he’s had is experience. Even Bill Clinton, who entered into the political upper-class networks by the time he was at Georgetown, looks provincial and cut-off from real America compared to this. Have we ever had a President who has lived in this many American worlds and cultures and succeeded in all of them?

Well, yes:  Certainly TR and possibly also Herbert Hoover and JFK.




Untitled (Helsinki 2003)