What we're about

The Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society is a Meetup group that brings together thoughtful people for stimulating and civically minded conversations.

We meet in a relaxed setting on almost every Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 AM and occasionally in the evening. Most of our events aim for a small group ambiance with about 10-12 participants. Sometimes we use larger spaces with different group dynamics and formats.

Almost all our events engage participants in a group conversation to explore a wide range of topics including society & culture, philosophy & religion, design, science & technology, psychology, politics, economics, and current events.

We organize a safe, facilitated forum of inquiry and exploration.

Our interactive format engages participants to speak up and be heard, to explore our assumptions, to listen and hear others, and to find and build meanings.

We value topics that matter, diverse points of view and ways of knowing, sensitive listening, and your contributions to our explorations.

In addition to ideas and resources posed by the event host(s), our conversations are informed by participants exchanging experiences, interpretations, understandings, beliefs, feelings, values, thoughts, and ways of thinking.

Through discourse and consideration these ideas can reveal a web of relationships which participants can form into meaningful insights and new possibilities.

We start the conversation so come participate and accept your own genius.

We are always looking for new discussion leaders and other volunteers to bring new and interesting topics and perspectives to our group. Please see https://www.meetup.com/thinkingsociety/pages/14433542/Discussion_Leader_Guidelines/ if you are interested.

For more information about our group including our list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit About the Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society (https://www.meetup.com/thinkingsociety/about).

Upcoming events (5)

Will the Coronavirus Crisis Bring Us Together or Tear Us Apart? (REPEAT)

Please do not RSVP if you attended on 4/27. The coronavirus does not attack on a level playing field. The poor are suffering more than the rich; racial and ethnic minorities, more than whites; the elderly, more than the young; cities and suburbs, more than rural communities. As fear of COVID-19 and its economic impact disrupt our lives, communities and nations, it may be hard to see beyond the current losses and suffering. But in this discussion event we will try to explore some possible lasting consequences – positive and negative. Are we and our leaders rationally assessing risks and making good choices? Or are we driven by fear and anger to attack scapegoats? Are we sharing scarce resources with outsiders – especially strangers who are not like us – but who may have even greater needs? Will the COVID-19 pandemic lead to more international cooperation, as we realize we are all in the same boat? Will our leaders put aside nationalistic and partisan differences? Some catastrophes have led to more compassion and mutual assistance; others, to more greed, isolation, hatred – even war. When this pandemic is over, do you think we are likely to be more selfish and divisive or more generous and compassionate? Consider how the pandemic might help us overlook our differences and come together as a neighborhood, a nation or a world community. Think of people helping strangers, cheering on health-care professionals, states and nations sharing of medical supplies and equipment, and international collaboration by scientists. What other news or personal experiences support a positive view? We’ll also look at the darker side - stories of individual, business or nationalistic greed, hoarding, bidding wars for scarce medical resources, quarantine breakers, fear mongers seeking partisan political advantage, violence against health care workers, and blaming scapegoats (the president, the media, China, the FDA, the CDC, mayors and governors. What other news or personal experiences support a pessimistic view? How can we explain the disproportionate share of deaths among African Americans? “The latest available COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is 2.4 times higher than the rate for Latinos, 2.5 times higher than the rate for Asians, and 2.7 times higher than the rate for Whites.” This data was compiled from 35 states by the APM Research Lab and updated April 28, 2020. For data see: https://www.apmresearchlab.org/covid/deaths-by-race . Are blacks at increased risk because more of them are poor? Do their “essential” jobs expose them to greater risks? Do they live in more densely populated communities? Do they have less access to medical care? What other difference might explain their increased vulnerability? New York City has more cases and more related deaths per capita than anywhere else in the world. For an interesting analysis see “Why are so many people dying of COVID-19 in New York City?” at https://www.livescience.com/why-covid19-coronavirus-deaths-high-new-york.html . Some possibly significant differences compared to Los Angeles and other large cities include: • More early cases and a “super-spreader” • Later social distancing, later lockdown • Higher population density • Race and poverty • Lowest in national hospital quality and safety ratings (see data about U.S. hospitals here: “Code Blue: New York Hospitals Poor Performance - 2019“ at https://www.nypirg.org/pubs/201912/Code_Blue_report.pdf). In times of crisis, many families and communities come to the aid of victims, but social distancing and lockdowns prevent most family members and neighbors from even being there. When this is over, will we start to appreciate each other more? Richard Davidson, research psychologist from the University of Wisconsin who studies stress reduction techniques, identifies some benefits to consider from social distancing. He prefers the term “physical distancing” because there are many ways to stay connected during lockdown. He reflects on how physical distancing and wearing a face mask are acts of generosity and compassion that toward others. Studies have shown that generosity reduces stress and anxiety for the giver. See this short article “COVID-19 and Our Common Humanity” at https://centerhealthyminds.org/news/covid-19-and-our-common-humanity . Democrats are blaming Republicans for negligence; Republicans are blaming Democrats for fear mongering. Have both parties contributed to the growing fear that no one knows what to do? With few exceptions, past political leaders put aside partisan interests to fight a common threat. Why not this time? Chuck Collins is a long-time activist against income inequality. He is now worried that higher rates of job losses, infections and deaths from COVID-19 are further disadvantaging the poor and working classes. In an opinion piece for CNN, he writes, “Columbia University researchers project that poverty rates in the United States could soon reach their highest levels in half a century. Yet as my colleagues and I track in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies, the wealth of America's billionaires actually increased by nearly 10% over just three weeks as the COVID-19 crisis took hold.” Read the full article here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/28/perspectives/inequality-coronavirus-billionaires/index.html . Do we need an excess-profits tax (as we did to stop profiteering during periods of war)? How much help will middle-income earners need after their life savings are wiped out by the pandemic? Should we need to raise taxes on the “one-percent” to repay the coronavirus debt? For a historic perspective on how crises change our culture, see this NY Times Op Ed by David Brooks, "The First Invasion on America" at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/21/opinion/us-coronavirus-history.html . As usual, linked resources are optional. The link to Zoom will not be visible until your RSVP is accepted, so come back to this page for the link if you are promoted from the waitlist.

Truth and Conciliation: Redressing America's White Supremacist Foundations

Do the legal foundations of The United States of America embed and embody white supremacist principles? Native American thinker Mark Charles argues strongly that The US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and more than 200 years of US Supreme Court decisions to the present day clearly show that the founding legal principles of our country include white supremacist and sexist doctrine. This group conversation will explore his evidence and his recommendation to redress American's white supremacist legacy with a conversation about truth and conciliation. The optional but highly recommended 18 minute TED talk by Mark Charles lays out his indictment of America's foundations and gives his proposed remediation. You can watch it at http://y2u.be/HOktqY5wY4A Detailed notes summarizing and partially verifying some of the claims of the video: Charles begins with a reference to Barack Obama's final state of the union address in 2016, Obama said "'We the People'. Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we've come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together." Source: https://www.npr.org/2016/01/12/462831088/president-obama-state-of-the-union-transcript Does "We the People" in our constitution refer to all the people as Obama asserted? Mark Charles suggests that Obama's idyllic hope for a government of all the people is not, in fact, corroborated by the legal foundations of The United States of America. Charles argues that the so-called "Doctrine of Discovery" is white supremacist and is an integral part of the US constitution. The "Doctrine of Discovery" was first articulated by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, one of our most influential justices. He wrote the unanimous decision in the landmark land title case Johnson v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823) (see Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson_v._M'Intosh with the full opinion at http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep021/usrep021543/usrep021543.pdf). "On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all; and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new, by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity, in exchange for unlimited independence. But, as they were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements, and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle, which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted, should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was, that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession. "The exclusion of all other Europeans, necessarily gave to the nation making the discovery the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives, and establishing settlements upon it. It was a right with which no Europeans could interfere. It was a right which all asserted for themselves, and to the assertion of which, by others, all assented. "Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives, were to be regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired being exclusive, no other power could interpose between them." Does this passage prove Mark Charles' claim that title law in the USA is based on the doctrine of discovery? Marshall does admit to aboriginal title (the idea that occupancy of the land confers some rights as well as "discovery"), but it is clearly subordinate: "In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the original fundamental principle, that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it. "While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives, as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession of the natives. These grants have been understood, by all, to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy." The "discovery" which Marshall writes about is called the principle of "Discovery" or the "doctrine of discovery". Wikipedia describes it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_doctrine Steve Newcomb describes the history of the age of religious persecution and prejudice known as the age of "discovery" (sometimes also euphemistically called "the enlightenment") in this essay http://ili.nativeweb.org/sdrm_art.html Marshall's 1823 decision did not explicitly explain the principle of "discovery". A clue is given in the following passage from the decision: "No one of the powers of Europe gave its full assent to this principle ["discovery"], more unequivocally than England. The documents upon this subject are ample and complete. So early as the year 1496, her monarch granted a commission to the Cabots [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cabot#Expeditions], to discover countries then unknown to Christian people, and to take possession of them in the name of the king of England. Two years afterwards, Cabot proceeded on this voyage, And discovered the continent of North America, along which he sailed as far south as Virginia, To this discovery the English trace their title. "In this first effort made by the English government to acquire territory on this continent, we perceive a complete recognition of the principle which has been mentioned. The right of discovery given by this commission, is confined, to countries "then unknown to all Christian people;" and of these countries Cabot was empowered to take possession in the name of the king of England. Thus asserting a right to take possession, not withstanding the occupancy of the natives, who were heathens, and, at the same time, admitting the prior title of any Christian people who may have made a previous discovery." Marshall then explains how this English principle of "discovery" passed to The United States: "By the treaty which concluded the war of our revolution [The Treaty of Paris: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Paris_(1783)], Great Britain relinquished all claim, not only to the government, but to the "propriety and territorial rights of the United States," whose boundaries were fixed in the second article. By this treaty, the powers of government, and the right to soil, which had previously been in Great Britain, passed definitively to these States. We had before taken possession of them, by declaring independence; but neither the declaration of independence, nor the treaty confirming it, could give us more than that which we before possessed, or to which Great Britain was before entitled, It has never been doubted, that either the United States, or the several States, had a clear title to all the lands within the boundary lines described in the treaty, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy, and that the exclusive power to extinguish that right, was vested in that government which might constitutionally exercise it." Mark Charles dates the "Doctrine of Discovery" to a series of papal bulls or public decrees from 1452 to 1493. He highlights the Dum Diversas (from 1452) where Pope Nicholas V wrote, "...invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all moveable and immoveable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit." These two Wikipedia pages partially corroborate the story that Mark Charles tells: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dum_diversas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_the_Age_of_Discovery Charles asserts "The fact that to this day we have a national holiday honoring Christopher Columbus as the discoverer of America reveals the implicit racial bias of the nation which is that indigenous peoples, people of color, are not fully human. The doctrine of discovery is a systemically white supremacist doctrine that assumes the dehumanization of indigenous peoples." Charles points out that in the letter of protest that the American colonists wrote to King George known as the Declaration of Independence, one of the grievances cited reads "He [King George] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions". This passage occurs some 30 lines from the more famous lines "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." See https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence_(engrossed_copy) Charles points out that the only way in which our Founding Fathers could have used the phrase "all men are created equal" and then talk about indigenous peoples as savages is because their notion of "human" was limited. Charles concludes, "The Declaration of Independence is a systemically white supremacist document" because it assumes the dehumanization of indigenous peoples. The preamble to the US Constitution (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_States_of_America) begins, "We the People of the United States". However Article I, Section 2 never mentions women and explicitly excludes native Americans from "we the people" and measures Africans as 3/5 of a person: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons." Charles points out that the only people left, after accounting for these exclusions, are white landowning men. He concludes, "This makes our constitution a systemically white supremacist and sexist document that assumes the white landowning male has the authority to decide who is and who is not human." Charles observes that the doctrine of discovery continues to be cited in supreme court cases. This shows that the white supremacists foundations of the US Constitution continue to the present day. Specifically, he cites 1954 Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tee-Hit-Ton_Indians_v._United_States) 1985 City of Oneida v. Oneida Indian Nation (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_of_Oneida_v._Oneida_Indian_Nation_of_New_York_State) 2005 City of Sherill v. Oneida Nation of N.Y. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Sherrill_v._Oneida_Indian_Nation_of_New_York) Charles concludes that that 2005 decision "is quite possibly the most white supremacist supreme court decision written in my lifetime. And it was written and delivered by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. White supremacy is a bipartisan value." You can read Ginsburg's opinion at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15926282018498825263 Mark Charles compares a quote from Marshall's 1823 opinion referenced above: "But the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness" with this quote from Ginsburg's opinion: "Moreover, the properties here involved have greatly increased in value since the Oneidas sold them 200 years ago. Notably, it was not until lately that the Oneidas sought to regain ancient sovereignty over land converted from wilderness to become part of cities like Sherrill." Charles claims the argument in the two quotes is almost the same. There is even a parallelism in use of the world "wilderness". The Ginsburg decision concludes, "We now reject the unification theory of OIN [Oneida Indian Nation] and the United States and hold that 'standards of federal Indian law and federal equity practice' preclude the Tribe from rekindling embers of sovereignty that long ago grew cold." Does this decision and its principle of land title justify Charles' claim that the US legal system continues to uphold white supremacist doctrine to the present day? Charles critiques the 2016 presidential election: "what we were actually deciding on as a nation was did we want Donald Trump to make America explicitly white supremacist, racist, and sexist again or did we want Hillary Clinton to work on our behalf to keep our white supremacy and racism implicit." Charles concludes, "We would like to believe that the United States of America is white supremacist, racist, and sexist in spite of our foundations. But the truth is that we are white supremacist, racist, and sexist as a nation because of our foundations." Does America need to deal with the doctrine of discovery and its dehumanizing basis for land title in order to redress America's white supremacist foundations? How should we redress our dehumanizing white supremacist legacy? Georges Erasmus said, "Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created." Charles thinks the problem with race in America is that we don't have a common memory as Erasmus' brilliant quote indicates. Our White and "integrated" populations falsely believe that America merely has small vestiges of its white supremacist legacy yet to deal with. Whereas our peoples of color realize everyday that our white supremacy is on-going and systematic. Charles concludes, "I am proposing that the United States of America needs a national dialogue on race, gender, and class. A conversation on par with the truth and reconciliation commissions that took place in South Africa, Rwanda, and in Canada. I would call ours 'Truth and Conciliation' because reconciliation implies there was a previous harmony. And I think we need it sooner rather than later. My goal is 2021." Charles advocates building "a legacy that for the first time, 'we the people' might actually mean all the people." Text of the US Constitution: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_States_of_America Text of the US Declaration of Independence: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence_(engrossed_copy)

The Ethics of the Next Billion Years

Online event

This is a co-hosted meetup with the Philadelphia Effective Altruism group and the Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society. In the past few decades human beings have expanded their moral circle significantly - from caring about people outside of our race, nationality, gender, sexuality and species. Most of us also care not just about this generation, but also about preserving the planet for future generations. Because the future is so vast, the number of people who could exist in the future is probably many times greater than the number of people alive today. If we take this consideration seriously, it may be extremely important to ensure that life on earth continues, and that people in the future have positive lives. Of course, this idea might seem counterintuitive: we don't often think about the lives of our great-grandchildren, let alone their great-grandchildren. https://sentience-politics.org/philosophy/the-importance-of-the-future and if you’d like to listen to a podcast instead, you could listen to this one (especially the first 31 minutes): https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/nick-beckstead-giving-billions/ What are potential ways we might ensure the wellbeing of generations beyond ours? Unfortunately, there are many ways in which we might miss out on a very positive long-term future. Climate change and nuclear war are well-known threats to the long-term survival of our species. You can read more about other existential risks here: https://www.existential-risk.org/concept.html Many researchers believe that risks from emerging technologies, such as advanced artificial intelligence and designed pathogens, may be even more worrying. https://foundational-research.org/risks-of-astronomical-future-suffering/ Currently the Effective Altruism community is working on issues related to our long-term future and will explore these issues with the Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society. Questions To Think About: What do you consider the greatest existential risk to humanity? Do you think it will be important to expand our moral circle to include all sentient beings? If so why? Is there an ethical justification for the disregard of the well-being of sentient beings in the (far) future? Can we feed the planet without destroying it? How can we prevent an AI system from taking unforeseen actions that could completely wipe out humanity? What is the likelihood that a cyberattack will abolish personal data or destroy our electric grids? How can we inspire others to worry about future generations? What moral philosophy is best suited to ensuring the wellbeing of future generations? Recommended readings https://www.existential-risk.org/faq.html https://www.openphilanthropy.org/blog/moral-value-far-future https://nickbostrom.com/astronomical/waste.html

The Emergence of Objectivity in the History of Science (Repeat)

Note: to prevent Meetup from announcing this event on Mon Jun 1st, it will be deleted around 10PM on Sun May 31st. An essentially identical event will be posted sometime early in the morning on Tuesday June 2nd with a new event URL (new event ID). RSVPs will open at 5AM on Tue Jun 2nd. The historians of science Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison argue in their 2007 book "Objectivity" that a new practice, approach, or attitude in science developed roughly around the middle of the nineteenth century. They found this change in their historical study of scientific atlases which document the working objects of a science (that is, the most appropriate materials and processes to infer correct beliefs from experience). Scientists need such working objects to develop their understandings, review each other's work, and to teach students. In short, the book argues that objectivity is characterized by the scientific will to let Nature speak for itself. More exactly, their book claims, "Objectivity preserves the artifact or variation that would have been erased in the name of truth …. To be objective is to aspire to knowledge that bears no trace of the knower—knowledge unmarked by prejudice or skill, fantasy or judgment, wishing or striving. Objectivity is blind sight, seeing without inference, interpretation, or intelligence. Only in the mid-nineteenth century did scientists begin to yearn for this blind sight, the 'objective view' that embraces accidents and asymmetries". The book strongly distinguishes this objectivity as a concrete attitude and practice of working scientists from praiseworthy exaggerations such as "the soul of scientific integrity" or the much pilloried notions of objectivity as "the view from nowhere" or "soulless detachment from all that is human". These and other conceptual and sometimes ideologically charged versions of objectivity overlook the actual practices that scientists beginning in the nineteenth century articulated in preparing images for publication in their atlases. This group exploration will consider the origins and development of objectivity in the history of scientific atlases, the sometimes large and lavish books that scientists use to train each other and their students about the working objects of their studies. Our aim will be to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise as it actually developed during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Our primary guide will be the Prologue and chapters 1–3 in the book "Objectivity" by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/objectivity . If you do not have access to the book, this Peter Galison video http://y2u.be/QPnJ8ENDNwg and his (much older) paper "Objectivity is Romantic" https://galison.scholar.harvard.edu/files/andrewhsmith/files/objectivityisromantic.pdf will indicate some of the ideas and evidence that we will consider. Reading the resources, watching the video, and following links are optional at all Thinking Society events. We value having a few participants at each meeting helping us keep the discussion accessible to all by insisting that we summarize outside ideas brought to our group conversations. However, it is recommended that participants read this event description to get an overview of the topic so they will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and questions: we value everyone participating. We repeat events to accommodate those who could not attend or got waitlisted for the original (9 May event on this topic). If you attended on May 9th, please do not RSVP unless you were so intrigued that you got a copy of the book "Objectivity" and read the Prologue and Chapters 1-3 before the event (that's about 180 pages but there are dozens of images which makes the reading lighter). The book is well enough written that its main ideas will be clear to even a casual reader, but it is deep enough that it rewards careful study. Our exploration will follow the five part outline below which is significantly informed by the 2007 book (the Prologue and Chapters 1-3 only). 1. Introducing the history of objectivity in science In chapter 1 of the book "Objectivity", the sections "Blind Sight", and "Objectivity in Shirtsleeves" introduce the idea of our subject. Chapter 2 explores the kind of science that preceded objectivity and which the authors call truth-to-nature. In chapter 3, the emergence of the new practice of objectivity in science is explored in depth. A key idea in the book is to separate the concepts and meanings of objectivity (which are endlessly and sometimes confusingly discussed in sociology, politics, and philosophy) from the actions and practices of scientists themselves. In reading various historical resources including scientific atlases, their prefaces, notes, footnotes, and other documents such as autobiographies and biographies, history can teach us the ways in which images were prepared for publication. This, in turn, can provide insight to see how actual concrete scientific practice developed. In particular, we can learn how objectivity was actually practiced. 2. The history of the intimately linked terms subjectivity and objectivity In the section "Objectivity Is New" of chapter 1, we learn about the complex history of the always connected terms subjectivity and objectivity. During the medieval period, scholastic philosophers like Duns Scotus and William of Ockham used the Latin terms objectīvus and subjectīvus as documented in the epic 10 volume dictionary "A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society" which became the "Oxford English Dictionary" (OED). These medieval meanings are preserved in the second entries for objective and subjective in the OED: objective: "Used of the existence or nature of a thing as an object of consciousness (as distinguished from an existence or nature termed subjective)." (https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.207496/page/n27/mode/2up); subjective: "Pertaining to the subject as to that in which attributes inhere; inherent; hence, pertaining to the essence or reality of a thing; real, essential." (https://archive.org/details/oed9barch/page/n35/mode/2up). "Objectivity" further explains, "Kant's 'objective validity' (objektive Gültigkeit) referred not to external objects (Gegenstände) but to the 'forms of sensibility' (time, space, causality) that are the preconditions of experience. And his habit of using 'subjective' as a rough synonym for 'merely empirical sensations' shares with later usage only the sneer with which the word is intoned. For Kant, the line between the objective and the subjective generally runs between universal and particular, not between world and mind." At the end of 2018, we explored how Kant's idea of subjectivity is connected to Aristotle's "Categories" (https://www.meetup.com/thinkingsociety/events/256100012/) which may be the origin of the pre-nineteenth century meaning for objectivity and subjectivity. By 1817, in the Romantic poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria", the modern notions of objectivity and subjectivity are already extant: "Now the sum of all that is merely OBJECTIVE, we will henceforth call NATURE, confining the term to its passive and material sense, as comprising all the phenomena by which its existence is made known to us. On the other hand the sum of all that is SUBJECTIVE, we may comprehend in the name of the SELF or INTELLIGENCE. Both conceptions are in necessary antithesis." (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6081/6081-h/6081-h.htm#link2HCH0012). Our modern notions of subjectivity and objectivity spring from this romantic re-interpretation of Kant's use of the terms. 3. Science before objectivity There was truth (knowledge) before epistemology, epistemology before science, and science before objectivity. Do you agree? The nature of science before the emergence of objectivity in the nineteenth century is explored in the book "Objectivity" in the section "Objectivity Is New" in chapter 1 and in all but the end of chapter 2. The book generally starts in the sixteenth century when publishing atlases became increasingly popular (the book explains, "Atlases are systematic compilations of working objects. They are dictionaries of the sciences of the eye.") To constrain the scope and length of our exploration, we will also restrict ourselves to the history of science between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Francis Bacon's "Novum Organum" (1620), he appreciated "strange and monstrous objects, in which nature deviates and turns from her ordinary course" (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/45988/45988-h/45988-h.htm). "Objectivity" reports, "Bacon has called for a collection of such oddities of nature ... as a corrective to the ingrained tendency of scholastic natural philosophers to generalize rashly from a handful of commonplace examples." Many of the collections and atlases of science in the eighteenth century heeded this call to collect and emphasize the singular. "Objectivity reports, "These collections of anomalies and singularities, which were meant to hinder premature generalizations and promote exact observation of particulars". In sum, during at least the period before 1620, natural philosophy (what we now call science) had a tendency to rash generalization. In the seventeenth century there was a trend to emphasizing the exceptional with exact observations. But these observations were often so muddled with the distractions of details that during the seventeenth century a new movement in science emerged which "Objectivity" calls "truth-to-nature". "Objectivity" explains, "The English phrase 'true to nature' means 'conformable to nature,' but the word 'true' here also retains the older connotation of 'faithful' (as in 'a true friend')". In chapter 2, "Objectivity" begins its exposition of truth-to-nature with the great naturalist and taxonomist Carolus Linnæus who oversaw the production of several important atlases in the eighteenth century. "Objectivity" explains that truth-to-nature believed that "sharp and sustained observation was a necessary prerequisite for discerning the true genera of plants and other organisms. The eyes of both body and mind converged to discover a reality otherwise hidden to each alone." In the famous "Encyclopédie" of Jean Le Rond d'Alembert and Denis Diderot, "Objectivity" translates "the ideal Enlightenment naturalist" as "'a genius of observation' ... endowed with an 'expansive mind, master of itself, which never receives a perception without comparing it with a perception'". According to "Objectivity", Johann Wolfgang von Goethe "described the quest for the 'pure phenomenon'" which was steeped in "the concrete practices of ... selecting, comparing, judging, generalizing". Goethe is translated by the book as saying, "To depict it, the human mind must fix the empirically variable, exclude the accidental, eliminate the impure, unravel the tangled, discover the unknown." "Objectivity" classifies this truth-to-nature approach as a collection of "methods of discovering the idea in the observation". They highlight the key words "typical, ideal, characteristic, and average", "Typus or 'archetype'", and Goethe's word "Urpflanze", a kind of ur-prototype where "ur-" is the prefix meaning original or primitive. These practices for seeing the idea in the observation, for seeing truth-to-nature are emphatically not objective, but they were the aim of many of the eighteenth century atlases as documented at length in "Objectivity". The book "Objectivity" references this image of the Canary Island bellflower in "Hortus Cliffortianus" (1737) by Carolus Linnæus as the exemplar of image presentation in the truth-to-nature tradition https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/13838#page/112/mode/2up Do you see why this image is not objective? Why it represents truth-to-nature? Note that Linnæus named this plant Campanula foliis hastatis dentatis in the caption to the image. The modern scientific name for it is Canarina canariensis see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canarina_canariensis . Here is an image of Gladiolus linearifolius from Linnæus's book: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/13838#page/66/mode/2up 4. The Emergence of objectivity in nineteenth century science To highlight the significantly novel approach of objectivity in scientific practice in the nineteenth century, "Objectivity" includes a dramatic Prologue featuring Arthur Worthington's work. "Objectivity" reports, "Bit by bit, beginning in 1875, the British physicist Arthur Worthington succeeded in juxtaposing key moments, untangling the complex process of fluid flow into a systematic, visual classification. ... For Worthington himself, the subject had always been, as he endlessly repeated, a physical system marked by the beauty of its perfect symmetry. ... Then in spring 1894, he finally succeeded in stopping the droplet's splash with a photograph. Symmetry shattered. Worthington said, 'The first comment that any one would make is that the photographs, while they bear out the drawings in many details, show greater irregularity than the drawings would have led one to expect.'" The case of Worthington is one of an individual scientist making the transition from truth-to-nature to objectivity. He "discovered" the value of "the objective view": seeing the irregularity and asymmetry of Nature without the prejudice of archetypes. "Objectivity" assesses the impact of Worthington's realizations, "What had been a supremely admirable aspiration for so long, the stripping away of the accidental to find the essential, became a scientific vice." Many, but not all, scientists practicing in the mid- to late-nineteenth century became enamored of a new objective approach which the book calls a "new form of unprejudiced, unthinking, blind sight" that attempts to reveal what Nature is saying without interpretation or judgment. In his 1895 report "The Splash of a Drop", Worthington prepared 30 images of drawings (the First Series on pp. 20-24) which are in the truth-to-nature approach to representation (drawings that highlight the symmetric truth of the phenomenon of dropping a drop of mercury onto a smooth plate of glass): https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/20/mode/2up In Series XIV on pp. 70-72, Worthington prepared 18 images in the objectivity approach to representation (instantaneous photographs that display all the randomness of the phenomenon of dropping a drop of water into milk): https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/70/mode/2up In chapter 3, among many other examples revealing the emergence of objectivity, the dispute between the two joint winners of the 1906 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramón y Cajal, is considered at length. Golgi discovered a way to image neurons with silver chromate. Cajal further developed Golgi's methods and developed "the neuron doctrine": "that each neuron was functionally, developmentally, and structurally independent" as "Objectivity" explains it. By contrast, Golgi had, according to the book, a "holistic view of the brain—that its elements formed a 'diffuse nervous network'". Golgi wrote an atlas in 1885 in which "his pictures were 'exactly prepared according to nature' (meaning … drawn as he was examining the microscopic specimen)—but then went on to modify the figures so they were … 'less complicated than in nature.'" That is, Golgi was a scientist in the truth-to-nature tradition. "Objectivity" reports, "All his life, Cajal wrote of his struggle to find a way to 'see clearly'". Cajal, like other scientists who practiced objectivity, believed that science should "Let nature speak for itself" meaning without the theorizing, interpretation, or judgment of the scientist imposing itself. "Objectivity" explains, "By mechanical objectivity we mean the insistent drive to repress the willful intervention of the artist-author, and to put in its stead a set of procedures that would, as it were, move nature to the page through a strict protocol, if not automatically." The book further explains, "Was mechanical objectivity ever completely realized? Of course not, and its advocates knew they faced a regulative ideal. That is, they saw objective depiction in their sciences as a guide point. If they could replace speculation with close observation of an individual, that was good. If they could find a procedure that would hem in freehand drawing, even better. And if they found a way to minimize interpretation in the process of image reproduction—better still. It is easy to assume that objective depiction was either an ideal or consequential—but it was, in fact, both." "Objectivity" concludes, "By the late nineteenth century, mechanical objectivity was firmly installed as a guiding if not the guiding ideal of scientific representation across a wide range of disciplines." And, "Objectivity was a desire, a passionate commitment to suppress the will, a drive to let the visible world emerge on the page without intervention." The book "Objectivity" references this image of a snowflake in "Schneekrystalle: Beobachtungen und Studien" (1893) by Gustav Hellmann with photomicrographs by Richard Neuhauss as the exemplar of image presentation in the objectivity tradition: https://gdz.sub.uni-goettingen.de/id/PPN560722176?tify={%22pages%22:[73],%22view%22:%22info%22} Do you see why this image is not truth-to-nature? Why it is an objective representation? 5. Discussion / Conclusion What is science as a practical, working, historically evolving human endeavor? Does the complex way in which science developed historically suggest that it is always fuzzy in its distinctions and practices? Did the evolving use of the words "objectivity" and "subjectivity" in philosophy and in the Romantic movement influence the development of science? Can we understand the development of science without considering these broader cultural trends that affect society? How would you explain the nature, meaning, and practice of science as truth-to-nature? Do you agree with the book "Objectivity" that truth-to-nature emerged in the eighteenth century? Do you agree that truth-to-nature is a valid and viable way to represent Nature scientifically? Why? Why not? How would you explain the nature, meaning, and practice of science as mechanical objectivity? Do you agree with the book "Objectivity" that mechanical objectivity emerged in the nineteenth century? Do you agree that mechanical objectivity is a valid and viable way to represent Nature scientifically? Why? Why not? Why did objectivity emerge in science during the nineteenth century? How does science navigate the divides between universal and particular and between world and mind? Does the fact that all science must navigate these philosophically charged divides mean that science is necessarily part of philosophy? How should we think of the enterprise of science with its many practices including the scholastic philosophers readiness to generalize from a few commonplace examples, Bacon's emphasis on the singular or monstrous, the emphasis of Linnæus, Goethe, and Golgi on archetypes, the emphasis of Worthington and Cajal on objectivity? What are your takeaways from considering this topic? How has your understanding of science changed? How has your thinking about objectivity and its mirror-image mate, subjectivity, changed in considering these ideas? Representative Atlases of Science Discussed in the book "Objectivity" "Hortus Cliffortianus" (1737) by Carolus Linnæus https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/13838#page/4/mode/1up . "The Birds of America" (1827–1838) by John James Audubon http://audubon.library.pitt.edu/plates.html . See this image of what "Objectivity" calls a "Posed Tufted Titmouse" https://digital.library.pitt.edu/islandora/object/pitt%3Aaud0039 "Schneekrystalle: Beobachtungen und Studien" (1893) by Gustav Hellmann with photomicrographs by Richard Neuhauss https://gdz.sub.uni-goettingen.de/id/PPN560722176 . See Table 3, no. 4 https://gdz.sub.uni-goettingen.de/id/PPN560722176?tify={%22pages%22:[75],%22view%22:%22info%22} "The Splash of a Drop" (1895) by A. M. Worthington https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/ . See in particular, the machine Worthington used in his experiments on pages 13 and 15 https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/12/mode/2up other photographs are on pages 40–41,44–45, and 61 https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/40/mode/2up .

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