Saturday, February 25, 2006

Take Descartes, please!!!!

I have a very short (4 pages more or less) paper due in History and Systems. This is one of two papers for the class. We have a choice from three topics, but we don't see all three choices at once. This is a pain because I might really like the next two topics. The length is immaterial. After all, four pages is barely a note to myself.

The first assignment is to choose one of the following people: Aristotle, Berkeley, Descartes, Donders, Ferrier, Galileo, Gall, Locke, Munsterberg, Von Helmholtz. Then answer these questions:

  1. When did the person live? Who else, relevant to our history, was alive at that time? What other important events were happening in the world, in general?
  2. What important contributions to the forwarding of physiology, philosophy, or psychology did this person make? What mistakes or false steps did the person make? How did these mistakes affect their own thinking and the thinking of others?
  3. Where does the person fall in the timeline of the topic? Whose ideas influenced his thinking, and whom did his ideas influence?
  4. Discuss any modern ideas that may be descendants of this person’s thinking.
Now this paper doesn't exactly rock my world, but I don't want to tie myself to the last two choices. Easier to get half the beast out of the way now. So I've been sitting here for five hours looking for information on Descartes. Why Descartes? Well...we spent a fair amount of time in the Nature and Origins of Consciousness seminar talking about Cartesian dualism. And I have trouble connecting Galileo (my personal favorite) to psychology.

Oh well, I'm off to write the paper. Anyone want to volunteer to read the first draft? LOL


Teresa said...

Oh I don't know - didn't Galileo rock some deeply held psychological beliefs with his science? But Descartes would be interesting too. I don't know much about him - because I'm pretty lazy about that stuff. Unless he came up prominently in a class - I wouldn't go searching for info on him... so... I'd love to read your paper. *grin*

MathCogIdiocy said...

Galileo's contribution, as far as this course is concerned, is his belief that you didn't accept something just because authority said it was true and his use of empirical methods to study natural phenomena.

In Galileo's case the church was the authority of the day. Although Copernicus was the first to define the actual nature of our solar system, Galileo did a good job of proving it. Then he got in big trouble and only missed dead basically because he had powerful friends. There was a great show on PBS about Galileo. Info at

I may stick you with the paper, but I'm not sure how interesting it's going to be. *grin*

vw bug said...

I wouldn't mind reading it if I didn't have to give feedback. I seem to be too far behind in writing stuff... I haven't even given my nephew feedback on his resume...sigh.

MathCogIdiocy said...

vw - it's the feedback that kills us all. LOL But if you have a less than natural inclination to bore yourself to death, I'll send the paper over to you. I really want this paper off my list of to-do's by Sunday evening. (Not including necessary edits.)

Ga Mongrel said...

How about Galileo proving that we are not the center of the Universe. Big step Psychologically and theologically?
God, it's been so long since I've studied these guys. I remember Descartes, but that's it. Time to google away.

MathCogIdiocy said...

Hi GA Mongrel. Galileo's proof of the Copernican system and his proofs of a number of other religious ideas surrounding the make up of the cosmos did contribute to a psychological shift - Newton's mechanical universe when added to this is often argued as the original source of our modern "problems." Not only are we no longer the center of the universe, but we're also just cogs in a mechanical and uncaring universe. Since I find the universe endlessly fascinating and have never wanted to be the center of anything, well.... :-)

After finishing the readings I found, both Descartes and Galileo were doubters and questioners of authority and both were proponents of experimental/scientific methods. Since they were contemporaries (more or less), I guess this makes sense.

vw bug said...

Sure, send it to me. I watch/read all sorts of weird stuff. As long as I can take my time to do it. Many years ago I read on Chaos theory before it was the 'thing'. Why not your document?

MathCogIdiocy said...

vw - I love chaos theory. Have ever since the first book for the general public came out and I discovered that all those neat graphics of Julia and Mandelbrot sets were examples.

I tried posting the paper to a yahoo page and tried setting it up so that it was "public." If yahoo insists on yahoo membership, let me know and I'll email the so not exciting stuff to you.

Rave said...

Um, correct me if I am wrong here, but didn't ALL of your 'prospects' have a problem with authoritarianism? And in some lesser ways, truth and/or idealism?

Just sayin...

MathCogIdiocy said...

rave - in terms of what we had to know for the course, most of the choices were people who somehow furthered either philosophy or physiology, or were instrumental in the development of the modern scientific method. Questioning authority only really came up in class for a few - Galileo and Descartes from the choices he gave us for the paper. OTOH, any time a scientist or philosopher starts to try to learn or explain something new, the prevailing beliefs and authority are questioned. It's all how you want to look at it.

I'm just happy to say that the paper is done including all the citations.