history_of_ideas   434

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The Scientific Method — Henry M. Cowles | Harvard University Press
"The surprising history of the scientific method—from an evolutionary account of thinking to a simple set of steps—and the rise of psychology in the nineteenth century.
"The idea of a single scientific method, shared across specialties and teachable to ten-year-olds, is just over a hundred years old. For centuries prior, science had meant a kind of knowledge, made from facts gathered through direct observation or deduced from first principles. But during the nineteenth century, science came to mean something else: a way of thinking.
"The Scientific Method tells the story of how this approach took hold in laboratories, the field, and eventually classrooms, where science was once taught as a natural process. Henry M. Cowles reveals the intertwined histories of evolution and experiment, from Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection to John Dewey’s vision for science education. Darwin portrayed nature as akin to a man of science, experimenting through evolution, while his followers turned his theory onto the mind itself. Psychologists reimagined the scientific method as a problem-solving adaptation, a basic feature of cognition that had helped humans prosper. This was how Dewey and other educators taught science at the turn of the twentieth century—but their organic account was not to last. Soon, the scientific method was reimagined as a means of controlling nature, not a product of it. By shedding its roots in evolutionary theory, the scientific method came to seem far less natural, but far more powerful.
"This book reveals the origin of a fundamental modern concept. Once seen as a natural adaptation, the method soon became a symbol of science’s power over nature, a power that, until recently, has rarely been called into question."
history_of_ideas  history_of_science  pragmatism  adaptive_behavior  science  methodology  philosophy_of_science  via:cshalizi 
yesterday by rvenkat
The Scientific Method — Henry M. Cowles | Harvard University Press
"The surprising history of the scientific method—from an evolutionary account of thinking to a simple set of steps—and the rise of psychology in the nineteenth century.
"The idea of a single scientific method, shared across specialties and teachable to ten-year-olds, is just over a hundred years old. For centuries prior, science had meant a kind of knowledge, made from facts gathered through direct observation or deduced from first principles. But during the nineteenth century, science came to mean something else: a way of thinking.
"The Scientific Method tells the story of how this approach took hold in laboratories, the field, and eventually classrooms, where science was once taught as a natural process. Henry M. Cowles reveals the intertwined histories of evolution and experiment, from Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection to John Dewey’s vision for science education. Darwin portrayed nature as akin to a man of science, experimenting through evolution, while his followers turned his theory onto the mind itself. Psychologists reimagined the scientific method as a problem-solving adaptation, a basic feature of cognition that had helped humans prosper. This was how Dewey and other educators taught science at the turn of the twentieth century—but their organic account was not to last. Soon, the scientific method was reimagined as a means of controlling nature, not a product of it. By shedding its roots in evolutionary theory, the scientific method came to seem far less natural, but far more powerful.
"This book reveals the origin of a fundamental modern concept. Once seen as a natural adaptation, the method soon became a symbol of science’s power over nature, a power that, until recently, has rarely been called into question."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_ideas  history_of_science  pragmatism  adaptive_behavior  science  methodology  philosophy_of_science  dewey.john 
2 days ago by cshalizi
Old Thiess, a Livonian Werewolf: A Classic Case in Comparative Perspective, Ginzburg, Lincoln
"In 1691, a Livonian peasant known as Old Thiess boldly announced before a district court that he was a werewolf. Yet far from being a diabolical monster, he insisted, he was one of the “hounds of God,” fierce guardians who battled sorcerers, witches, and even Satan to protect the fields, flocks, and humanity—a baffling claim that attracted the notice of the judges then and still commands attention from historians today.
"In this book, eminent scholars Carlo Ginzburg and Bruce Lincoln offer a uniquely comparative look at the trial and startling testimony of Old Thiess. They present the first English translation of the trial transcript, in which the man’s own voice can be heard, before turning to subsequent analyses of the event, which range from efforts to connect Old Thiess to shamanistic practices to the argument that he was reacting against cruel stereotypes of the “Livonian werewolf” a Germanic elite used to justify their rule over the Baltic peasantry. As Ginzburg and Lincoln debate their own and others’ perspectives, they also reflect on broader issues of historical theory, method, and politics. Part source text of the trial, part discussion of historians’ thoughts on the case, and part dialogue over the merits and perils of their different methodological approaches, Old Thiess, a Livonian Werewolf opens up fresh insight into a remarkable historical occurrence and, through it, the very discipline of history itself."
to:NB  mythology  historiography  history_of_ideas  books:noted  psychoceramics  coveted 
2 days ago by cshalizi
Rediscovering the Islamic Classics | Princeton University Press
"Islamic book culture dates back to late antiquity, when Muslim scholars began to write down their doctrines on parchment, papyrus, and paper and then to compose increasingly elaborate analyses of, and commentaries on, these ideas. Movable type was adopted in the Middle East only in the early nineteenth century, and it wasn’t until the second half of the century that the first works of classical Islamic religious scholarship were printed there. But from that moment on, Ahmed El Shamsy reveals, the technology of print transformed Islamic scholarship and Arabic literature.
"In the first wide-ranging account of the effects of print and the publishing industry on Islamic scholarship, El Shamsy tells the fascinating story of how a small group of editors and intellectuals brought forgotten works of Islamic literature into print and defined what became the classical canon of Islamic thought. Through the lens of the literary culture of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Arab cities—especially Cairo, a hot spot of the nascent publishing business—he explores the contributions of these individuals, who included some of the most important thinkers of the time. Through their efforts to find and publish classical literature, El Shamsy shows, many nearly lost works were recovered, disseminated, and harnessed for agendas of linguistic, ethical, and religious reform."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_ideas  islamic_civilization  the_printing_press_as_an_agent_of_change 
23 days ago by cshalizi
[1404.7828] Deep Learning in Neural Networks: An Overview
In recent years, deep artificial neural networks (including recurrent ones) have won numerous contests in pattern recognition and machine learning. This historical survey compactly summarises relevant work, much of it from the previous millennium. Shallow and deep learners are distinguished by the depth of their credit assignment paths, which are chains of possibly learnable, causal links between actions and effects. I review deep supervised learning (also recapitulating the history of backpropagation), unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning & evolutionary computation, and indirect search for short programs encoding deep and large networks.

http://people.idsia.ch/~juergen/deep-learning-miraculous-year-1990-1991.html
neural_networks  review  history_of_ideas  machine_learning  cybernetics 
6 weeks ago by rvenkat
Historicizing the Self-Evident: An Interview with Lorraine Daston - Los Angeles Review of Books
Interview with Daston, mainly about her work on the idea of probability and attempts to automate or mechanize judgment, which are precursors to algorithmic decision-making systems today.
science  history  history_of_ideas  probability  math  automation  algorithms  technology  objectivity  reason  rationality 
8 weeks ago by johnmfrench
The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences, Josephson-Storm
A great many theorists have argued that the defining feature of modernity is that people no longer believe in spirits, myths, or magic. Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm argues that as broad cultural history goes, this narrative is wrong, as attempts to suppress magic have failed more often than they have succeeded. Even the human sciences have been more enchanted than is commonly supposed. But that raises the question: How did a magical, spiritualist, mesmerized Europe ever convince itself that it was disenchanted?

Josephson-Storm traces the history of the myth of disenchantment in the births of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, folklore, psychoanalysis, and religious studies. Ironically, the myth of mythless modernity formed at the very time that Britain, France, and Germany were in the midst of occult and spiritualist revivals. Indeed, Josephson-Storm argues, these disciplines’ founding figures were not only aware of, but profoundly enmeshed in, the occult milieu; and it was specifically in response to this burgeoning culture of spirits and magic that they produced notions of a disenchanted world.

By providing a novel history of the human sciences and their connection to esotericism, The Myth of Disenchantment dispatches with most widely held accounts of modernity and its break from the premodern past.
book  history_of_ideas  anthropology  sociology  rationality 
9 weeks ago by rvenkat
Mind As Machine - Margaret Boden - Oxford University Press
The development of cognitive science is one of the most remarkable and fascinating intellectual achievements of the modern era. It brings together psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, computing, philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology in the project of understanding the mind by modelling its workings. Oxford University Press now presents a masterful history of cognitive science, told by one of its most eminent practitioners.
cognitive_science  history_of_ideas 
11 weeks ago by rvenkat
Useful Enemies - Noel Malcolm - Oxford University Press
"From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 until the eighteenth century, many Western European writers viewed the Ottoman Empire with almost obsessive interest. Typically they reacted to it with fear and distrust; and such feelings were reinforced by the deep hostility of Western Christendom towards Islam. Yet there was also much curiosity about the social and political system on which the huge power of the sultans was based. In the sixteenth century, especially, when Ottoman territorial expansion was rapid and Ottoman institutions seemed particularly robust, there was even open admiration.
"In this path-breaking book Noel Malcolm ranges through these vital centuries of East-West interaction, studying all the ways in which thinkers in the West interpreted the Ottoman Empire as a political phenomenon - and Islam as a political religion. Useful Enemies shows how the concept of 'oriental despotism' began as an attempt to turn the tables on a very positive analysis of Ottoman state power, and how, as it developed, it interacted with Western debates about monarchy and government. Noel Malcolm also shows how a negative portrayal of Islam as a religion devised for political purposes was assimilated by radical writers, who extended the criticism to all religions, including Christianity itself.
"Examining the works of many famous thinkers (including Machiavelli, Bodin, and Montesquieu) and many less well-known ones, Useful Enemies illuminates the long-term development of Western ideas about the Ottomans, and about Islam. Noel Malcolm shows how these ideas became intertwined with internal Western debates about power, religion, society, and war. Discussions of Islam and the Ottoman Empire were thus bound up with mainstream thinking in the West on a wide range of important topics. These Eastern enemies were not just there to be denounced. They were there to be made use of, in arguments which contributed significantly to the development of Western political thought"
in_NB  books:noted  history_of_ideas  early_modern_european_history  ottoman_empire  orientalism  via:auerbach 
11 weeks ago by cshalizi
Mechanism: A Visual, Lexical and Conceptual History - University of Pittsburgh Press
"The mechanical philosophy first emerged as a leading player on the intellectual scene in the early modern period—seeking to explain all natural phenomena through the physics of matter and motion—and the term mechanism was coined. Over time, natural phenomena came to be understood through machine analogies and explanations and the very word mechanism, a suggestive and ambiguous expression, took on a host of different meanings. Emphasizing the important role of key ancient and early modern protagonists, from Galen to Robert Boyle, this book offers a historical investigation of the term mechanism from the late Renaissance to the end of the seventeenth century, at a time when it was used rather frequently in complex debates about the nature of the notion of the soul. In this rich and detailed study, Domenico Bertoloni Melifocuses on strategies for discussing the notion of mechanism in historically sensitive ways; the relation between mechanism, visual representation, and anatomy; the usage and meaning of the term in early modern times; and Marcello Malpighi and the problems of fecundation and generation, among the most challenging topics to investigate from a mechanistic standpoint."

--- Based on the lectures A. tried to get me to go to (which I passed on because I didn't realize that was her idea of asking me on a date...)
to:NB  books:noted  scientific_revolution  explanation_by_mechanisms  history_of_ideas  history_of_science 
january 2020 by cshalizi
Mandarins of the Future | Johns Hopkins University Press Books
"Because it provided the dominant framework for "development" of poor, postcolonial countries, modernization theory ranks among the most important constructs of twentieth-century social science. In Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America Nils Gilman offers the first intellectual history of a movement that has had far-reaching and often unintended consequences.
"After a survey of the theory's origins and its role in forming America's postwar sense of global mission, Gilman offers a close analysis of the people who did the most to promote it in the United States and the academic institutions they came to dominate. He first explains how Talcott Parsons at Harvard constructed a social theory that challenged the prevailing economics-centered understanding of the modernization process, then describes the work of Edward Shils and Gabriel Almond in helping Parsonsian ideas triumph over other alternative conceptions of the development process, and finally discusses the role of Walt Rostow and his colleagues at M.I.T. in promoting modernization theory during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. By connecting modernization theory to the welfare state liberalism programs of the New Deal order, Gilman not only provides a new intellectual context for America's Third World during the Cold War, but also connects the optimism of the Great Society to the notion that American power and good intentions could stop the postcolonial world from embracing communism."
to:NB  books:noted  in_library  development_economics  cold_war  history_of_ideas  modernity 
december 2019 by cshalizi
POPE BENEDICT XVI ON INSTRUMENTAL REASON AND THE HIDDEN THEOLOGY OF CRITICAL THEORY: Oxford German Studies: Vol 43, No 2
This paper analyses the affinity between the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and the position of German critical theorists in their critiques of instrumental reason, thereby exposing common theological motives that constitute German critical theory. Based on a thorough analysis of his critical reflections about instrumental reason I advance two propositions: on the one hand, that Pope Benedict XVI is a critical theorist; on the other hand, that critical theorists embed theological assumptions in their expositions of modernity and instrumental reason. Both parties rely on common cultural tools that speak through the myth of Faust, and they share the same narrative of doom and fall in their analyses of modernity and instrumental reason.
critical_theory  theology  history_of_ideas  sociology 
december 2019 by rvenkat
The case of Brownian motion | The British Journal for the History of Science | Cambridge Core
The explanation of the phenomenon of Brownian motion, given by Einstein in 1905 and based on the kinetic–molecular conception of matter, is considered one of the fundamental pillars (or even the main one) supporting atomism in its victorious struggle against phenomenological physics in the early years of this century. Despite the importance of the subject, there exists no specific study on it of sufficient depth. Generally speaking, most histories of physics repeat the following scheme: the discovery made by Robert Brown in 1827 (but only announced the following year), of the continuous movement of small particles suspended in a fluid did not arouse interest for a long time. Finally, at the close of the century, Gouy's research brought it to the attention of the physicists. Gouy was convinced that Brownian motion constituted a clear demonstration of the existence of molecules in continuous movement. Nevertheless, he did not work out any mathematized theory that could be subjected to quantitative confirmation. All nineteenth-century research remained at the qualitative level and yet it was able to clarify some general characteristics of the phenomenon: the completely irregular, unceasing, motion of the particles is not produced by external causes. It does not depend on the nature of the particles but only on their size. The first significant measurements, carried out by Felix Exner in 1900, appeared to deny the possibility of reconciling the kinetic theory with Brownian motion. The discovery of the ultra-microscope then allowed Zsigmondy to perceive the presence of movements, which were completely analogous to Brown's, in the particles of the colloids; these movements were rather smaller in size than those invesigated up to then. Thus Zsigmondy aroused interest in the phenomenon. Finally, in 1905, Einstein succeeded in stating the mathematical laws governing the movements of particles on the basis of the principles of the kinetic–molecular theory. The following year Smoluchowski arrived at conclusions which corresponded to Einstein's. These laws received a first, rough confirmation in the years immediately following by the work of The Svedberg, Seddig and, for some historians, Henri. Then in 1908 Jean Perrin gave it a definitive confirmation.
history_of_ideas  history_of_science  brownian_motion  stochastic_processes 
november 2019 by rvenkat
Magic and the Dignity of Man — Brian P. Copenhaver | Harvard University Press
"Pico della Mirandola died in 1494 at the age of thirty-one. During his brief and extraordinary life, he invented Christian Kabbalah in a book that was banned by the Catholic Church after he offered to debate his ideas on religion and philosophy with anyone who challenged him. Today he is best known for a short speech, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, written in 1486 but never delivered. Sometimes called a “Manifesto of the Renaissance,” this text has been regarded as the foundation of humanism and a triumph of secular rationality over medieval mysticism.
"Brian Copenhaver upends our understanding of Pico’s masterwork by re-examining this key document of modernity. An eminent historian of philosophy, Copenhaver shows that the Oration is not about human dignity. In fact, Pico never wrote an Oration on the Dignity of Man and never heard of that title. Instead he promoted ascetic mysticism, insisting that Christians need help from Jews to find the path to heaven—a journey whose final stages are magic and Kabbalah. Through a rigorous philological reading of this much-studied text, Copenhaver transforms the history of the idea of dignity and reveals how Pico came to be misunderstood over the course of five centuries. Magic and the Dignity of Man is a seismic shift in the study of one of the most remarkable thinkers of the Renaissance."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_ideas  mirandolla.pico_della 
november 2019 by cshalizi
Project MUSE - Confucianism
"“In Confucianism: Its Roots and Global Significance, English-language readers get a rare opportunity to read in a single volume the work of one of Taiwan’s most distinguished scholars. Although Ming-huei Lee has published in English before, the corpus of his non-Chinese writings is in German. Readers of this volume will soon discover the hard-mindedness and precision of thinking so associated with German philosophy as they enter into his discussions of Confucianism. As readers progress through this book, they will be constantly reminded that all philosophy should be truly comparative. . . ."
to:NB  books:noted  philosophy  history_of_ideas  confucianism 
october 2019 by cshalizi
Project MUSE - The Idea of Progress in Classical Antiquity
"Ludwig Edelstein characterizes the idea of "progress" in Greek and Roman times. He analyzes the ancients' belief in "a tendency inherent in nature or in man to pass through a regular sequence of stages of development in past, present, and future, the latter stages being—with perhaps occasional retardations or minor regressions—superior to the earlier." Edelstein's contemporaries asserted that the Greeks and Romans were entirely ignorant of a belief in progress in this sense of the term. In arguing against this dominant thesis, Edelstein draws from the conclusions of scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and discusses ideas of Auguste Comte and Wilhelm Dilthey."
to:NB  books:noted  history_of_ideas  ancient_history 
october 2019 by cshalizi
Project MUSE - Respectable Folly: Millenarians and the French Revolution
"The French Revolution generated a wave of popular piety and religious excitement in both France and England, where millenarians—prophets of the millennium—attempted to interpret the Revolution as the fulfillment of the predictions of Daniel and St. John the Divine. This study discusses the millenarian ideal in the context of the intellectual and religious attitudes of the time. Rejecting interpretations of millenarianism that chalk it up to class struggle or mass hysteria, Garrett stresses the interaction between politics and religion, viewing the phenomenon as the interpretation, by a varied assortment of individuals, of coincident political events in eschatological terms. Faced with a change as significant as the French Revolution, people found in the prophetic books of the Bible an understanding of what was happening to them. If the Revolution was God's will, if its development had been foretold, then surely the final outcome would be beneficial, at least for the faithful. Political events became eschatological events, and dangers and misfortunes became simply the chastisements that a fallen world must undergo before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can redeem it. Although some of the beliefs may now seem bizarre, Garrett shows that, at the time, they attracted many followers for whom these ideas were both reasonable and respectable. Focusing on the careers of three millenarians—Suzette Labrousse, Catherine Théot, and Richard Brothers—Garrett tries to understand these prophets as persons rather than dismiss them as fanatics. Their prominence resulted from their success in transmitting a new political consciousness through familiar religious imagery. While the Revolution gave urgency and tangible reality to millenarian convictions, Labrousse, Théot, and others were convinced, well before the Revolution, that they were the bearers of divine revelations and thus welcomed the Revolution as confirmation of their own missions"
to:NB  books:noted  millenarianism  psychoceramics  french_revolution  18th_century_history  history_of_religion  history_of_ideas 
october 2019 by cshalizi
Project MUSE - Science and Justice: The Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials (1968)
"Far from being an isolated outburst of community insanity or hysteria, the Massachusetts witchcraft trials were an accurate reflection of the scientific ethos of the seventeenth century. Witches were seldom hanged without supporting medical evidence. Professor Fox clarifies this use of scientific knowledge by examining the Scientific Revolution's impact on the witchcraft trials. He suggests that much of the scientific ineptitude and lack of sophistication that characterized the witchcraft cases is still present in our modern system of justice. In the historical context of seventeenth-century witch hunts and in an effort to stimulate those who must design and operate a just jurisprudence today, Fox asks what the proper legal role of medical science—especially psychiatry—should be in any society. The legal system of seventeenth-century Massachusetts was weakened by an uncritical reliance on scientific judgments, and the scientific assumptions upon which the colonial conception of witchcraft was based reinforced these doubtful judgments. Fox explores these assumptions, discusses the actual participation of scientists in the investigations, and indicates the importance of scientific attitudes in the trials. Disease theory, psychopathology, and autopsy procedures, he finds, all had their place in the identification of witches. The book presents a unique multidisciplinary investigation into the place of science in the life of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century. There, as in twentieth-century America, citizens were confronted with the necessity of accommodating both the rules of law and the facts of science to their system of justice."
to:NB  books:noted  witch-craze  law  american_history  scientific_revolution  history_of_ideas  forensics 
october 2019 by cshalizi

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