Monday, 19 March 2012 07:37

George Berkeley: Men of Ideas

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George Berkeley (1685-1753) was an Irish physicist, philosopher and Bishop. Along with Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and David Hume he established the English empiricist school, the basis of modern science. As an empiricist, a scientist, Berkeley studied mathematics and light and made seminal contributions to optics and perception. However, despite his insistence on empiricism, Berkeley has come to represent immaterialist approach to phenomena. In his earlier writings, like the empiricist, he attempted to demonstrate that perception of the world is done through our five senses and that there is no other way of understanding the world. As it were, we…
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:36

Immanuel Kant: Men of Ideas

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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher. Perhaps, no German philosopher has had more influence on Western philosophical thinking than Kant. Though he denied calling himself an idealist he is actually the father of German idealistic philosophy. Reading him is reading idealism at work. His philosophy is purely a mental construct and has nothing to do with the empirical world we live in. Though he tried to differentiate between nature (phenomena) and spirit (what he called Noumenon) he was really a mentalistic philosopher who used his mind to construct reality as he imagines that it is. He and Hegel used…
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:35

Baruch Spinoza: Men of Ideas

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Baruch Spinoza (1732-1677 was a Dutch Jewish mathematician and philosopher. Baruch’s ancestors were kicked out of Portugal and eventually settled in Holland. They were kicked out because of their Judaism and they held fast to that religion. Baruch was offered the usual Jewish education but at some point declared himself not a believer in the Judeo-Christian personal God. Fearing that the Christians, among whom they lived, would not take kindly to this rejection of their personal God, the Jewish community of Amsterdam excommunicated Baruch and sent him packing from their community. Apparently, the Jews were grateful to the Dutch Christian…
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:34

Gottfried Leibniz : Men of Ideas

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Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) was a German Mathematician and Philosopher. He independently discovered Calculus (Isaac Newton also did, over in England; there was debate as to who did it first). Leibniz’s notational version is the one generally used today. He also discovered the binary system, a system that underlies computer language. However, we are interested in Leibniz the philosopher, not the mathematician. He wrote few books on philosophy and the most notable ones are his Discourse on Metaphysics and Theodicee. Leibniz was a fervent Christian and was motivated to find a rational basis for his belief in Christianity and its god.…
Monday, 19 March 2012 07:31

Blaise Pascal : Men of Ideas

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Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist and theologian (religious philosopher). He made several contributions to mathematics (statistics and probability theory) and physics (he invented the first known calculator, a prelude to modern computers), but in as much as we are reviewing philosophers we shall concentrate on his philosophy rather than his mathematics and physics. Pascal wrote several books but his philosophical musing was contained in his Pensees (thoughts). Pascal apparently had an experience (in 1654), which he described as ‘fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosopher and the scholars.” This experience…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 08:07

Rene Descartes - Men of Ideas

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Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a French Enlightenment philosopher and mathematician. Descartes made contributions in Geometry; indeed, he is considered the father of analytic geometry, the interface of geometry and calculus. He also made some seminal contributions to optics (light), such as the understanding of the nature of reflection and refraction (named after him). For his role in geometry alone his place in history is assured. However, it is his contributions in philosophy that interests me and that I will briefly review. Descartes wrote at the beginning of the French enlightenment, at a time folk were trying to approach phenomena from…
Sunday, 05 February 2012 08:01

Francis Bacon - Men of Ideas

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English aristocrat who dabbled in many things but is remembered for his insistence on inductive, as opposed to deductive, reasoning. His one claim to fame is his reminding folk to embrace the Aristotelian approach to phenomena rather than the Platonic approach. He is therefore considered the father of science in the British world. It is not for been a great scientist that he is remembered but for his philosophy of robust empiricism. Bacon insisted that if you want to talk to him that you talk to him about facts and facts only. He was not…