September 26, 2012

me+ME: Rich van Konynenburg dies| Two excellent books about philosophy  | My eyes and M.E. 


1. Rich van Konynenburg dies

2.  Three excellent books about philosophy
3. My eyes and my M.E.

PHILOSOPHY: But what's your job? There's no harm in asking that.
LUCIAN: I'm an anti-cheatist, an anti-quackist, an anti-liarist, and an anti-inflated-egoist. I'm anti all the revolting types like that - and there are plenty of them, as you know.
PHILOSOPHY [smiling]: Well, well! You're quite an anti-body, aren't you?
LUCIAN: I certainly am. You can see why I've got myself aso much disliked, and why I'm in such a dangerous situation. Not that I'm not an expert pro-body too. I'm a pro-truthist, a pro-beautician, a pro-sinceritist, and a pro-everything that's pro-worthy. But I don't find much scope for exercisting my talents in that direction, whereas thousands of people are always queuing up for the anti-treatment. In fact I'm so out of practice as a probody, that I dare say I have lost the knack of it by now - but I'm a real expert at the other part of my profession.
PHILOSOPHY [seriously]: That's bad. They're opposite sides of a coin, as it were. So don't specialize in one at the expense of the other. They should merely be different aspects of the same fundamental attitude.
LUCIAN: Well, you know best, Philosophy. But I'm so constituted that I can't help hating bad types and liking good ones.
(From: Lucian Fishing for phonies, in de Turner-vertaling, p. 177-8)


I leave the above quotation standing for the moment, since I like it a lot, and it also describes me - or an aspect of me. (See my Spiegeloog-columns, for one example.)

There have been made a number of corrections to the previous Nederlog on September 23, 2012.

And I improved the more about M.E./CFS section at the end: The links now ought to work.


1. Rich van Konynenburg dies
I was notified of the fact mentioned in the title by a correspondent, who also directed me to this item on the Phoenix Rising Forums under the title of "Some sad news from Rich Van Konynenburg's wife":
Dear group members.

This post is from Rich's wife. There is no easy way to say this, and this message is very difficult for me to write.

Rich died early this morning. It appears that he suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep. He did not have a history of heart disease, so this was sudden and quite unexpected. It doesn't seem possible to me that Rich is gone. I am at a loss to express how profoundly I will miss him (I already do!).

I am trying to figure out how to begin notifying everyone who will want to know. Please feel free to repost this message on any forum or group where people who interacted with Rich will want to know of his passing.

Diana Van Konynenburg
I am very sorry to read this. Rich van Konynenburg, Ph.D., seems to me to have been a good, kind and intelligent man, who did a lot for patients with M.E., especially as he found a plausible explanation and helpful therapy (for more than not of those who tried it and reported on it) for M.E.

Here is more about and from the man himself:
These contain links to his lecture in Sweden, the second containing the most links, and some links to his theories about M.E. and his protocol.

The pity for people with M.E. is that he had his own theory, that seems quite sensible to me, and also has some empirical evidence, as the videos explain, and that he seemed honestly concerned about patients, and quite dedicated to helping them, while he did have a fine scientific education and a clear non-pretentious style of writing - and speaking, as the videos show.

I do hope someone else - Dr Nathan perhaps, who cooperated with Dr Van Konynenburg? - will try to keep this theory alive, to develop and test it further, and I also do hope his texts and videos will be kept available on the internet.
2. Three excellent books about philosophy
I am more than anything else a philosopher, and that of a type that is fairly rare:

I am a scientific realist, that is, one who holds that the best way  to understand one's experiences and reality is by assuming there is a real world and investigating it by the methods of science, and I have been most interested in philosphy in philosophy of science, logic, human reasoning, and the classical philosophers.

The is not
the only way, for there is also art, and there is conversation with other people, and there is one's memory of things one experinced, and there is individual thinking and judging to the best of one's abilities, and there are books of any kind on any subject - but by and large real science has the best explanations.

Having trouble with my eyes. especially if I look at the screen of my computer, I am rereading books in my own - large - library, and thus arrived at the topic of this section.

That topic is that there are three excellent books on philosophy, all written in the 20th Century, that seem to be read and indeed to have been read by far too few:
The links are to the Wikipedia articles on the writers. Here is some about each - and let me warn you that none of the books I mentioned is easy, though all are well written and well informed.

Hermann Weyl was a mathematician, and as such one of the best of the previous century, who also wrote a lot about physics, and some about philosophy.

The book "
Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science" started as a German article in a German book about philosophy in 1926; was translated and extended in 1946, of which I owe a 1963 reprint, and - so Wikipedia said - it was published again in 2009, with a new introduction.

It is a great book about philosophy, mathematics and science, because Weyl knew very much of all three subjects, and had a very clear mind and very clear style.

The only problem I can see is that it probably requires some prior knowledge of
philosophy, mathematics and science, but if you have that you'll find Weyl's judgments are excellent, and also that - so I found now, having not looked into it for decades - quite a few writers on philosophy seem to have "borrowed" from him without proper acknowledgement.

Also, it has a curiosity I know of no other book, that I start with a quote to provide context and some instruction:

Weyl was an admirer of L.E.J. Brouwer, the founder of intuitionism (in mathematics) - and I quote from the last link, in fact from Weyl's book:
"According to Weyl 1946, 'Brouwer made it clear, as I think beyond any doubt, that there is no evidence supporting the belief in the existential character of the totality of all natural numbers ... the sequence of numbers which grows beyond any stage already reached by passing to the next number, is a manifold of possibilities open towards infinity; it remains forever in the status of creation, but is not a closed realm of things existing in themselves. That we blindly converted one into the other is the true source of our difficulties, including the antinomies – a source of more fundamental nature than Russell's vicious circle principle indicated. Brouwer opened our eyes and made us see how far classical mathematics, nourished by a belief in the 'absolute' that transcends all human possibilities of realization, goes beyond such statements as can claim real meaning and truth founded on evidence." (Kleene (1952): Introduction to Metamathematics, p. 48-49)
As it happens, I agree with this, but that is not the curiosity I mentioned, which is that in Weyl's book there are several quotations from Brouwer in Dutch, without translation. One is on p. 61, one on p. 63 of my edition, and here it is for the Dutch, in Dutch that is over a 100 years old (with a much better spelling than nowadays):
"Dit neo-intuitionisme ziet het uiteenvallen van levensmomenten in qualitatief verschillende deelen, die alleen gescheiden door den tijd zich weer kunnen vereenigen, als oergebeuren in het menschelijk intellect, en het abstraheeren van dit uiteenvallen van elken gevoelsinhoud tot de intuitie van twee-enigheid zonder meer, als oergebeuren van het wiskundig denken."

Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science, p. 63, section 11)
Weyl read at least 5 languages, and probably more, and probably also read Dutch (which is not difficult for an intelligent German), and also knew Brouwer personally. Since this is close to Brouwer's fundamental ideas about the subject, here is a translation:
"This neo-intuitionism looks upon this falling apart of mments of life into qualitatively different parts, that can be united again only when separated by time, as the primal event in the human intellect, and [looks upon] the abstraction of this falling apart from any content of feeling as the intuition of two-oneness as such, as the primal event of mathematical thinking."
I will not attempt to explain this, but it does make sense.

Hao Wang also was a mathematician, who did most of his work in mathematical logic. I have most of his logical books, and they are all very clear and well written, but not about easy subjects.

He also was interested in philosophy, and was one of the few intellectuals, next to Einstein, who had a personal relation with Kurt Gödel  (the discoveret of the 
incompleteness theorems). He wrote several books about this, of which I owe Reflections on Kurt Gödel. Wang also succeeded in making Kurt Gödel write out some things that Wang was allowed to publish, in his own From Mathematics to Philosophy. Since Gödel was very reticent, this was quite a feat.

Also, Wang's book is excellent in many ways, and is about mathematics, logic, minds and machines, computing and knowledge, and contains some fine criticisms of analyic philosophers. Again, as in Weyl's case, it probably needs some prior knowledge of mathematical logic.

One special reason why I like it - indeed the same holds for Weyl's book - is that it is by a very fine mathematician and mathematical logician, about problems of philosophy and logic: These men have a very interesting perspective, and also a better mind and greater mathematical and logical competence than most philosophers, including analytic philosophers.

Michael Devitt and his book are not as well known as they deserve to be: He is an
analytic philosophers who upheld realism and truth in the time they were under attack from many analytic philosophers, and also many others.

His book is about realism and truth, as the title says, and I agree with most of it, and with its general tenets, viz. scientific realism and the importance of the correspondence theory of truth.

The Wikipedia article on the subject is postmodernistically lousy, so I linked to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The former, and indeed also the latter, but less stridently and more sensibly objects to the theory - to the effect that a statement "s" is true if and only if what s means is so in fact - that "we don't have independent access to reality".

This is a nonsensical point, credible only to folks who aspire to be academic philosphers for lack of scientific talent: Any map will show it is nonsense, and besides it can be met by "How do you know?" or "Then you must also believe my experience does not exist" or "Let me stand on your toes to argue that you thus cannot possibly have direct access to my mass ". Besides, it is as convincing as "Things have no insides, because all we ever see is their outsides", and we have to make assumptions to get anywhere at all outside our direct experience - which is also given to us in terms of assumptions we have made.

Anyway... Devitt is concerned about that kind of nonsense, i.e. that there is no reality and there is no truth, which is totally at variance with all real science, and he gives many good arguments against many who have maintained variants of those positions.

Also, it is quite important to argue this, not only cognitively because of real science, but morally and politically, because real bullshitters of all kinds are much in favor of argueing that there is no truth and there is no reality precisely because then their own brand of bullshit cannot be refuted  and lying, propaganda and PR aka "Public relations" become the norm and standard of what is "appropriate" and "(politically) correct" in all things.
3. My eyes and my M.E.
There is little to add to the previous entry, except that I have to take care with looking at my computer screen and that I probably wasn't careful enough writing this.

That's the way of good intentions: easy to make, hard to keep, especially if they go against the grain or habit.


Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.