"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Popper, Bragg, The Poverty of Political debate and Nancy Cartwright ; Amazing Picture !

There are many who find Lord Melvyn Barg's egregious and unfailing smile, his irritating flaccid nasal tones and (on TV) Armenian carpet seller's hand waggling, irritating beyond measure. Lord Patel does, but his contribution as a catalyst or a mid wife for those better equiped than him to explain the cultural history, science, philosophy and enduring values of Western Civilisation over several decades is remarkable and worthy.

Today's program on BBC 4 "In our Time" examined the contribution of Karl Popper to 20th century scientific thinking and methodology and it's impact through his book "The Open Society". Lord Patel was educated as a scientist in the post war period when Popperian views were promulgated and expressed on the BBC and visits to speak at Universities by P.B.Medawar, PMS Blackett, JD Bernal, Lancelot Hogben who awakeded many unformed minds to the history of scientific thought. Alhough this was at the time when the portentous and preposterous C P Snow ( a fellow alumnus of Lord Patel but of an earlier re-war generation) was lauded (quite absurdly) by the mainstream press with his nonsensical views on "The Two Cultures" - which was effectively demolished by FR Leavis, but not before it's pointless dichotomy had been seeded, grown and fruited, much in the way that the current "debate" on climate change (and by a subtle but meaningless terminological shift to Global Warming) is now an idee fixéé in the minds of Newspaper Editors and school teachers and other feeble minded souls.

Today's excellent contributors who provided an excellent brief and concise introduction were John Worrall, Professor of Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics, Anthony O'Hear, Weston Professor of Philosophy at Buckingham University, Nancy Cartwright, (see pic) Professor of Philosophy at the LSE and the University of California. (No it's not the one who is the voice of Bart Simpson !) Despite her astonishingly good looks for a philosopher, she doesn't however correspond by e-mail - is this a revolt against technology, idleness or a value judgment on e-mailers who might clutter her mailbox and possibly her unsullied mind ?

The latter was (despite here US origins) lucid and clear, especially in explaining how Popperianism (?) had affected post war thinking about social welfare. This reminded Lord Patel of is his Tutor Winifred Tutin, a statuesque lady (oddly reminiscent of Eliza Manningham Buller and probably like her a supporter of the UK foundation garment industry - the Spirella corsetiére must have been a frequent visitor) of immense scientific rigour who undertook prodigious ammounts of detailed work on the palynology of the sediments of the Lake District to pioneer the understanding of the post glacial warming and vegetative development of Cumbria. Work which has been disregarded it appears in the flurry of "peer reviewed literature" that makes insupportable claims of authority and authenticity, based as it often is on insupportable assumptions and fed by selective and tenuous data streams.

On visiting the department in the late 90's after her husband Tom, (joint author of the authoritative UK Flora and the first Editor of the massive Flora Europea) had died, Lord Patel introduced himself to and she silently reflected on the name for some time, (much as say a descendant of the survivors of Bannockburn may dwell on the name) attempting to grasp at a identity of a more youthful, and less well kempt person. "Ah ..... yes Lord Patel ... you were the first person who I ever heard use the term "value judgement"". With that, she muttered some excuse and sped off to look down a microsope.

Which only serves to confirm how ill informed and ill educated our political masters are, who rail about "taking children out of poverty" by which they rely on a whole series of value judgements and dubious rationalism about what poverty (of flesh, ideas, food, transport,medicine, love.. ?) is, and can so easily be distilled into the single monetary figure of household income. A figure which can be bragged about, and hurled around as a substitute for thought in what passes for political debate by oiks like Milliband, Balls, Bradshaw with the minds of shoolchidren ... which is probably why Popper went on the write "The Poverty of Historicism".

The BBC have made these programs available as podcasts and this one is highly recommended. Every schoolchild should listen to it and learn to recite the important bits by heart - much better than lessons on "climate change" and "Britishness" .. they might ..God forbid, learn to think for themselves.

Instructions on downloading BBC podcasts here

Lord Patel's Index of Extraordinary Minds could easily be applied to Nancy - this consist of comparing the desirability of a post-coital conversation between Margaret Beckett and the person being Indexed, on a scale of 1 to 100. (MB being the datum point of zero) Suggestions are solicited.


Mr Sock said...

There really is far too much Melvyn Bragg on that podcast. Nasty

Nancy Cartwright - the voice of Bart Simpson AND a professor of philosophy! A talented woman...

Mr Sock said...

oh, you beat me to that gag


Shutter said...

Dearest Sock,

Clicking on your icon reveals a larger and more detailed image and helps to place you fairly high on the Index of Extraordinary Minds - somewhere slightly below Kylie Minogue - whose gold ruched, hot pants the Victoria and Albert Museum have borrowed from my store of memorabilia (which acts as a helpful database and memory jogger in research) for their new exhibition - which I am alarmed to say they have fiubd the need to add a scholarly note in their exhibition catalogue as being " worn at the crotch".

Whilst not anxious to sell these iconic items, entering the "swaps" market for them was contemplated but there appear to be so many sellers one could truly say the "bottom had dropped out of the market".

As to Barg, admittedly his presence (like the Dimblebores on Question Time and Any Questions) is intrusive and disturbing to concentration, he (and they)take the place of a small child in asking those apparently simple, straightforward questions , "Just remind us again Professor how did the Universe begin".

Einstein said that if you cannot explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it ... in this sense Barg and the Dimblebores act in stead of that child, as a sort of philosophical lubricant or laxative, forcing clarity and concision and use of apt and telling metaphor that even the meanest intellect can grasp ...Barg etc., so we all benefit as we do the ironing, clean out those kitchen cupboards or briskly jog.

The difficulty is that from this, Barg and the Dimblebores the Millibands (and even the Russeell Brand's) acheive an unwelcome and unwarranted status of sauvant politique et philosophique not by their originality of thought but simply by the seemingly endless and seamless presence on the airwaves.... (here the lesson passeth over the role of Tony of Wogan) ... a torch which a bloody Scotsman, James Naughtie and a bloody Welshman, Jaweh Humphreys are anxious to snatch from their grasp.

An interesting point, not relevant to the above directly , taken from another news item today about the forthcoming "digital swap over" (no it's not a sexual act,although it might well be) , BBC 4 listener numbers are up (worldwide) due to DAB / internet ...and their reception on Digital TV receivers...

..Off now, to write to Nancy to see if she would agree to us forming an Official Professor Nancy Cartwright Fan Club.. which reminds my Secretary that we haven't had an answer yet from Dame Pauline Neville Jones. Must give her another prod.

Our 5 year old grandaughter asks, what does it mean, to "put a sock in it ?"


Mr Sock said...

Do you suppose that Melvyn Barg is any relation to the Borg?

It would explain much

Anonymous said...

My Lord Patel may find Stephen Senn's book, Dicing with Death, of interest. In particular he discusses Bruno de Finetti according to whom: "[a serious cause of error in our thinking is the ] inveterate tendency of savages to objectivize and mythologize everything." cf environmentalism and other such scientisms.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish