June 13, 2010


me: Real science, real intellectuals, Chinese, chess and much more


    (...) all three men, though so different, shared certain basic ideas about human knowledge: these included, but were not limited to, the importance of linguistic precision, the need for broad-based comparative studies, the role of clarity in argument, the need for thorough scrutiny of philosophical and theological principles, boldness of explication, and clarity.   
    -- Jonathan Spence, about three real intellectuals of the 17th C

I am still not well and sad, and still not inclined to write about various topics, but then I am getting somewhat better and less sad, and I do like to write about what I really like.

So here is just a very short bit on someone I wrote before on the site, but can't presently find fast, and who I also quoted to show that in the 17th Century some scientists were as sensible about real scientists as real scientists are now, namely Robert Boyle, here is quite a lot more on the man and his many interests, talents and activities and indeed some of his friends and co-workers:

This is the text of Jonathan Spence's (professor emeritus of history at Yale) 2010 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, and I liked it very much, because it really explains what real intellectuals are and always were: intellectually bright men and women who are most interested in using their minds to find knowledge, and because it tells quite a lot of interesting things about things that interest me, such as about science, philosophy, China and Chinese in various respects, chess, and some very intelligent and universally interestedd polymaths in the 17th Century.

It also relates many things I don't know, such as that there was a Chinese who had Latin in England in the 1680ies, who also met Robert Boyle and had his own portrait painted, and about one Thomas Hyde I had never heard about, who among other things must have been an amazing linguist (what with serious interests in Chinese, Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and his cooperation with Shen Fuzong, the Chinese who had learned Latin in China from Jesuits, and who travelled to England in the 1680ies.

Here is a little quoted from Spence's lecture on the manner of men real intellectuals are, and what they are interestes in besides foreign languages, mathematics, physics, philosophy, science, books, and many other things, and how they collaborate:

Shen’s presence in England intrigued both Hyde and Boyle, but did not intrude in any cumbersome way. For the relationship between Hyde and Boyle went back to the 1660s, and from that time onward they had corresponded at fairly regular intervals. Their letters ranged widely, but the majority of them seem to have focused on problems of language or scientific experiments, due to Hyde’s stated wish to “consult chiefly such authors as have not been perused by Europeans.” They discussed Arabic and Persian texts, Malay grammars and Bible translations into Malay, Dutch translations from the Malay, and how to access books from Tangier, Constantinople and Bombay. Among the many scientific subjects they explored were the chemical constituents of sal ammoniac and amber, the efficacy (or lack of it) in medical diagnoses made from measuring the pulse, the effectiveness of certain Mexican herbs, rare plant seeds, the properties of vinegar and nitre, current studies of human blood and air, the nature of papyrus, the writings of Ramon Llull and the use of elixirs and alchemy.

Here is Hyde to Boyle, on Easter Sunday 1677, quoted by Spence, with a fine idea, and some ten years before knowing of and meeting Shen Fuzong:

“It were to be wished, that we had in Oxford a college for the maintenance of some able men out of the several eastern countries; it would be a great help to all eastern learning: …such eastern men being amongst us, would enable us to be so accustomed to the true and genuine pronunciation of those languages, that so our emissaries might be enabled to discourse readily with the natives; for book learning alone will not do it. And therefore I, for my own both benefit and pleasure, do catch at all opportunities of discoursing with the natives of those countries in their own languages.”

In brief: This is a very interesting lecture, with many fascinating details about many things, mostly not mentioned here, that also very well shows what real intellectuals are like, which is a topic that in these modern times in which I live, in which most tenured academics I met and know of are not real intellectuals like the men mentioned by name in this text so evidently were or are, is of considerable importance.

To end with, here are Spence's concluding words from his lecture, that show - in my terms - what all real intellectuals have in common, at least. Boyle died in 1691, to locate things in time:

When one of the memorial speakers at Boyle’s funeral asked Hyde if he had any last thoughts on his friend, Hyde replied yes, he had one thought to share. Boyle had told him that, whenever he went to English church services, he always carried with him a volume of the relevant scriptures either in Greek or in Hebrew. That way, Boyle told Hyde, he “alwaies had in his hand the original, wondering to heare our English translation so different from it.” Shen, like Hyde, would have known just what larger point about cultural interchange Boyle was making; for all three men, though so different, shared certain basic ideas about human knowledge: these included, but were not limited to, the importance of linguistic precision, the need for broad-based comparative studies, the role of clarity in argument, the need for thorough scrutiny of philosophical and theological principles, boldness of explication, and clarity. Theirs, though brief, had been a real meeting of the minds. And the values they shared remain, well over three hundred years later, the kind that we can seek to practice even in our own hurried lives.

Highly recommended! 

P.S. As to the new forum: It's still advancing and still not open to all.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

"Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

Maarten Maartensz

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