Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Road - and That Fall Feeling

With Fall (or is it Autumn?) about to equinox down upon us, it gives that feeling of going to the store for some cider, and perhaps a seed-cake or two, and maybe some beer. Start a fire - oops, no fireplace here, I'll have to use a Maxwell equivalent to make some toast and tea. (You know, that thing that sings the music of the -OH bond. For the toast I have to use something else, it's Ohm's law you know.) Then I'll get out The Hobbit and follow Bilbo out onto the Road...

What a thrill, to be on the Road - with dwarves.

Yes, it is a good time to do this, for it was 31 years ago that I did it for the first time, and I think of my trip to the West and recall gratefully my friend "CJ" who gave me the three volumes of LotR.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seven years from today

September 14, 2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Pierre Duhem.

By that date, perhaps more people know who Pierre Duhem is, and perhaps some brilliant and enthusiastic scholar will have translated the French of ten volumes of his Système du monde, and the three of his Etudes sur Léonard de Vinci, if not all of his works... And perhaps there will be an international conference to discuss the history of science.

Obviously there's a lot to do. If you want to help, you might think about forming your own chapter of the Duhem Society - or at least get copies of some of his books, or books about him.

Meanwhile we shall pray for the repose of his soul, and also that God will enlighten more scientists and more philosophers to maintain the unity of faith and science as Duhem did.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Nine Nine

Nine letters hath September - the longest month.

Nine letters hath Wednesday - the longest day.

Except that SEPTEM means "seven" in Latin - which is a bit annoying.

Speaking of Latin, has anyone figured out why there isn't any sixth declension? Or are we missing something?

(Maybe that's what they keep in those secret archives in the Vatican. Hee hee.)

The Liberal WHATS?

Yeah, that's what I said. The Liberal WHATs? Everyone talks about the liberal Arts. They mean history or literature, or what some call "fine arts" (painting, sculpture, drama, dance). I wonder what books they read. They must have missed the Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor, written around 1120 where he wrote this:
Book Three.
Chapter Three: Which Arts Are Principally to Be Read

Out of all the sciences above named, however, the ancients, in their studies, especially selected seven to be mastered by those who were to be educated. These seven they considered so to excel all the rest in usefulness that anyone who had been thoroughly schooled in them might afterward come to a knowledge of the others by his own inquiry and effort rather than by listening to a teacher. For these, one might say, constitute the best instruments, the best rudiments, by which the way is prepared for the mind's complete knowledge of philosophic truth. Therefore they are called by the name trivium and quadrivium, because by them, as by certain ways (viae), a quick mind enters into the secret places of wisdom.
No that is not a typo - it really does say "Which Arts" and "all the sciences". In fact the translator was so amazed he adds this footnote:
That Hugh uses the terms "art" and "science" interchangeably is evident from a comparison of the title and opening sentence of this chapter.
[Jerome Taylor, translator and annotator, The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor: A Medieval Guide to the Arts]
Ah, indeed.

What are these Arts - or Sciences?

The Trivium were the three tools of eloquence: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic.

The Quadrivium were the four tools of knowledge: Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy: the measure of Quantity, the measure of Ratio, (or quantity in time) the measure of Extension (or quantity in space), the measure of Motion (or quantity in both time and space).

Very interesting. We need to think about this some more. Maybe that chasm is a lot less impassable than has been thought.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Under the Big Dish

Well, we weren't quite under it, but fairly close. Yes, me and two of the old gang which used to use this big dish got together for lunch to compare notes, and laugh, and discuss certain complexities, and the use of Subsidiarity.

They agreed that they would like to see it more widely used, and since they were buying, I scribbled an equation from the appendix of my book on Subsidiarity on a clean placemat, and said, the part you need is this. It's called Set Difference... but since you might not know about that, I will write it out longhand.

For two sets X and Y, we define the Set Difference X – Y in the following way:

X – Y = { z such that z is in X but z is NOT in Y }

Very simple.

Another way of doing it is to think of "subtraction" where there aren't any negative numbers, but just THINGS. Like this.

I have two boxes. One contains A, B, C, D.
The other contains A, B, D, E.
When I subtract the second from the first, I get C, which is in the first box but not the second box. Very nice. Lots of fun. Computers like doing this sort of Boolean thing, it makes them feel wanted and useful.

Now, in order to do Subsidiarity, you need a little more than that, but until the book comes out, you can see the introduction here.

I strongly advise that you get the book. No, all the set theory is in an appendix. The rest has Chesterton and interesting stories and stuff about Aquinas and cable TV and lines from the Bible... lots of fun.

And yes, I rather expect that my friends will want several copies for their co-workers... it will do them so much good.