Topic: Philosophy/Metaphysics

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Bertrand Russell

Biography Mathematics Philosophy Philosophy/Logic Philosophy/Social and political philosophy Biography/science and academia Philosophy/Philosophy of science Linguistics Linguistics/Theoretical Linguistics Philosophy/Philosophers Philosophy/Epistemology Sociology Politics of the United Kingdom Philosophy/Philosophy of language Chicago Philosophy/Metaphysics Linguistics/Philosophy of language Philosophy/Analytic philosophy Atheism Biography/Peerage and Baronetage

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his sceptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.

In the early 20th century, Russell led the British "revolt against idealism". He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege, colleague G. E. Moore and protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein. He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. With A. N. Whitehead he wrote Principia Mathematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics, the quintessential work of classical logic. His philosophical essay "On Denoting" has been considered a "paradigm of philosophy". His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science (see type theory and type system) and philosophy, especially the philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist and he championed anti-imperialism. Occasionally, he advocated preventive nuclear war, before the opportunity provided by the atomic monopoly had passed and he decided he would "welcome with enthusiasm" world government. He went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, Russell concluded that war against Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany was a necessary "lesser of two evils" and criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought".

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Unintended consequences

Philosophy Systems Philosophy/Social and political philosophy Sociology Philosophy/Ethics Philosophy/Metaphysics

In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes of a purposeful action that are not intended or foreseen. The term was popularised in the twentieth century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton.

Unintended consequences can be grouped into three types:

  • Unexpected benefit: A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
  • Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
  • Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse).

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Religious Views of Isaac Newton

Biography Mathematics Religion Physics London Philosophy England Biography/science and academia Astronomy Philosophy/Philosophy of science History of Science Philosophy/Philosophers Biography/politics and government Philosophy/Metaphysics Physics/Biographies Christianity Christianity/theology Lincolnshire Anglicanism

Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) was considered an insightful and erudite theologian by his Protestant contemporaries. He wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies, and he wrote religious tracts that dealt with the literal interpretation of the Bible. He kept his heretical beliefs private.

Newton's conception of the physical world provided a model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world. Newton saw a monotheistic God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. Although born into an Anglican family, and a devout but unorthodox Christian, by his thirties Newton held a Christian faith that, had it been made public, would not have been considered orthodox by mainstream Christians. Scholars now consider him a Nontrinitarian Arian.

He may have been influenced by Socinian christology.

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Ship of Theseus

Philosophy Philosophy/Logic Philosophy/Contemporary philosophy Philosophy/Ancient philosophy Philosophy/Philosophy of mind Philosophy/Modern philosophy Philosophy/Metaphysics Philosophy/Analytic philosophy Folklore

In the metaphysics of identity, the ship of Theseus is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The concept is one of the oldest in Western philosophy, having been discussed by the likes of Heraclitus and Plato by ca. 500-400 BC.

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Boltzmann Brain

Physics Philosophy Philosophy/Metaphysics

The Boltzmann brain argument suggests that it is more likely for a single brain to spontaneously and briefly form in a void (complete with a false memory of having existed in our universe) than it is for our universe to have come about in the way modern science thinks it actually did. It was first proposed as a reductio ad absurdum response to Ludwig Boltzmann's early explanation for the low-entropy state of our universe.

In this physics thought experiment, a Boltzmann brain is a fully formed brain, complete with memories of a full human life in our universe, that arises due to extremely rare random fluctuations out of a state of thermodynamic equilibrium. Theoretically over a period of time on the order of hundreds of billions of years, by sheer chance atoms in a void could spontaneously come together in such a way as to assemble a functioning human brain. Like any brain in such circumstances, it would almost immediately stop functioning and begin to deteriorate.

The idea is ironically named after the Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906), who in 1896 published a theory that tried to account for the fact that we find ourselves in a universe that is not as chaotic as the budding field of thermodynamics seemed to predict. He offered several explanations, one of them being that the universe, even one that is fully random (or at thermal equilibrium), would spontaneously fluctuate to a more ordered (or low-entropy) state. One criticism of this "Boltzmann universe" hypothesis is that the most common thermal fluctuations are as close to equilibrium overall as possible; thus, by any reasonable criterion, actual humans in the actual universe would be vastly less likely than "Boltzmann brains" existing alone in an empty universe.

Boltzmann brains gained new relevance around 2002, when some cosmologists started to become concerned that, in many existing theories about the Universe, human brains in the current Universe appear to be vastly outnumbered by Boltzmann brains in the future Universe who, by chance, have exactly the same perceptions that we do; this leads to the conclusion that statistically we ourselves are likely to be Boltzmann brains. Such a reductio ad absurdum argument is sometimes used to argue against certain theories of the Universe. When applied to more recent theories about the multiverse, Boltzmann brain arguments are part of the unsolved measure problem of cosmology. Boltzmann brains remain a thought experiment; physicists do not believe that we are actually Boltzmann brains, but rather use the thought experiment as a tool for evaluating competing scientific theories.

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