Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Possible work developments, etc

One of the recruitment websites I am currently following has an interim position for a CFO at a hedge fund based in Mayfair. That could be just what I'd be best doing over the coming months and I have contacted the firm to make sure they consider me for it.

The current financial market chaos continues, as I suspect it will for some time - it is pretty much a perfect example of a Black Swan event. Taleb must be delighted in the sense of boosting sales of his books and boosting his standing as the leading intellectual of financial markets. I do feel pleased to be away from day to day market involvement. I suspect that were I to get a position back in the markets, it wouldn't feel as intense as it used to as it wouldn't be my own firm.

Linda and myself are doing ok at the moment, though mainly due to the steps we have taken over the years to immunise ourselves against recession and events like the current market conditions. We are cash positive at the moment and can manage afterall on very little income.

Over the last couple of days I have finished Howson's book on induction - it was very tough going in the second half as he sought to establish that Bayesianism was the logic of inductive reasoning. But not bad overall. A good thing to have read prior to my course starting (which is very soon now of course)

I have also been reading the first bit of Colin McGinn's The Making of a Philosopher - just enough to remind me why I am not that interested in what you would call mainstream Anglo-American analytical philosophy. I had hoped it would be more about the academic environment, maybe like the recent Daniel Dennett articles in Philosophy Now. Maybe Ted Honderich's book on this theme would be better.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Nicole Cooke & Mark Rothko

Highlight of Saturday was spending the afternoon reading and watching the women's cycling world championship road race. I have pretty much stopped cycling now - three or four years ago I managed to cycle over 2000 miles over the summer. But I got out of the habit - inevitably due to getting a cold or something, and haven't managed to get back "on the saddle".

But I have continued to follow some bits of professional cycling - like watching some of the Tour de France stage this summer. Today's race was superb. Nicole Cooke won the Olympic's road race in Beijing and so was a marked rider today, which usually doesn't help. And as the breaks started to come thick and fast towards the end, it looked like someone would manage a decisive break. But in the final few hundred metres Cooke was running well and managed a superbly-timed push for the line, taking the lead with only a couple of metres to go. It was grippingly exciting stuff I thought - a real highlight to watch.

Today's reading, by contrast, was more high brow - mainly the many reviews I have found of the Mark Rothko show that has just opened at the Tate Modern. I am trying to work out when a good time to see this might be - maybe during my first week of classes at LSE, when I am planning to be in London on perhaps three days a week. Can hardly wait to see this show.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

More thoughts on listening to music

When I was growing up in the late 1970s, music really started to play an important part in my life. The shock of discovering punk rock through the John Peel show was one of the major events of my life. I can remember the excitement with which we discussed at school whatever had stood out from the previous night's show - for instance the Siouxsie and the Banshees session that features "Overground" and early Cure.

Buying music was a really big issue. We had one small record shop in town and they were not especially keen on alternative music. There were several other shops in nearby Coventry that did have a greater variety. Tracks were taped off the radio and swapped between us. Whenever someone bought a new album, it was understood that they would tape it for each of us and that we'd all listen to it and talk about it for days afterwards.

My listening habits first changed as I discovered bootleg recordings in the early 1980s. Over the years I probably acquired around 1,000 recordings of live shows, demos etc. I loved the immediacy of the sound - the punk aspect of this - as opposed to the smoothness of studio albums. These together with my 250 edit tapes of old Peel shows and around 2,000 vinyl albums was the basis of my listening for years.

I often say to people that there has never been a better time to be fanatical about music than now. I used to spend hours trailing round shops trying to track down particular recordings - now anyone is virtually certain to be available somewhere. I discovered the huge online bootleg community six or seven years ago and have acquired loads of stuff that way - so much so that I probably have over 1,000 cds that I have never heard - all downloaded, burnt to disc and pilled up at one end of my study.

Then came sites like epitonic.com and emusic.com through which I discovered artists like Cat Power and Jason Molina (through Songs: Ohia and the Magnolia Electric Company) that have been a strong focus of my listening over the last few years.

Years ago I remember Robert Fripp writing a series of articles for Musician magazine about the future of the music industry. This is such a strange industry - always bleating on about the damage done to it by its customers, locked totally in to a business model based on blockbusters. Totally unaware of how artists could regain control over substantial revenue streams to do with live performances. And so on.

Most recently I have stumbled across some file sharing sites that feature huge discographies of artists that people have put together. The other day I was thinking about listening to some Beatles and there on the site is a 38 cd download in MP3 format - so now I have basically every album they made. The same for Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Cypress Hill, Jonathan Richman, Wire, Jimi Hendrix, Porcupine Tree, and even less well known artists such as Bill Bruford, Obscure Cajun musicians, and so on. Last night saw a 14 cd box set of recordings of Bela Bartok download.

But the downside is that this huge supply downgrades the enjoyment I used to get from the records I saved up to buy after reading NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Zigzag, etc. I rarely listen to anything with the intensity that I used to when I was 14. Have I lost something from this? I suspect I have lost something, but the advantages of the huge availability of things far outways it I believe.

As I write this I am listening to a multi-cd collection of Japanese Koto music. Something I definitely would not have been able to hear 20 years ago.

A student again

Off to London on Friday for my registration day at LSE. I am now officially a student again - possibly the oldest post-graduate student at LSE from the look of the other people registering today.

I also wanted to try out the library today and had a number of books in mind. The library at LSE has been completely rebuilt since I was there, although 3A is still a recognisable area (where I did all my study previously and could admire the lovely Ruth Thompson who also used to work in that area - wonder whatever happened to her?). Nowadays the electronic resources are enormous and the self-issuance of books was remarkable smooth and easy. So I now have five books to have a look at over the next week - my last before term starts. The main ones will probably be Howson's Hume's Problem - Induction and the Justification of Belief and Cartwright's The Dappled World. It is only just over a week till teaching starts and I still have a bit of time to do enough to make a good start.

Another thing I had planned to do today was to have lunch at the Brunch Bowl on the fourth floor of the Old Building but this seems to be being refurbished at the moment. That will definitely be a priority when term does start properly

And of course one aspect of being a student again is that I am now entitled to student discounts! For instance, on the coach from Oxford to London. The journey down today was a bit of a test of the timings to London. Lots of possible ways in. What didn't work well today were my attempts to doze on the coach - I need one of those inflatable neck braces that I used to have when I travelled to Hanson. Now that takes me back a bit.

Linda and Emma have gone away for the weekend to Camber Sands for a three day aerobics course, so I have the house to myself and plan to study as many hours as I can. First task is to copy the bits I want from Rhonda Marten's Kepler's Philosophy and the New Astronomy - another book that I feel I could have written.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Reflections on life, the universe and everything . . .

For the last fews days I have been under rather a cloud. Much pondering on issues that might best be described as "philosophy of life". One recurrent theme is the issue of differing narratives. I have been reading some old philosophy magazines discussing various themes in postmodern philosophy and I have been strongly reminded of this particular issue.

For most of my life, I have believed in Spinoza's thesis that basically age brings wisdom and a better understanding of life. But various events over the last few years have highlighted instead just how much people's views of the same story differ. I might have a view on my life story (and that of my immediate family) while other members of the same family might have a completely different view.

Historically, I have always been suspicious of incommensurability theses, believing in a principle of Spinozist rationalist that would avoid this. But perhaps these narratives of life actually do involve such basic principles of philosophy of life, that any such accounts are incommensurable. And if they are, then the long term prognosis would not be good where such accounts do highlight major differences.

Outline of dissertation ideas

As a result of the last week of study, I have a rough outline of a possible dissertation. I know it is much too soon to be fixed on one idea, but this is in an area that I am so interested in that I can't see that I would want to pick another topic.

Basically I am thinking of basing my dissertation on the idea of updating, to some degree, E.A.Burtt's book from 1932, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science. This was one of the books I most enjoyed 25 years ago and I feel that the thesis from this book is well worth developing further in the light of recent History of Science scholarship - especially via journals such as the Journal for the History of Astronomy (of which they have a full set at the Radcliffe Science Library within the Bodleian) My dissertation will focus on the increased knowledge of the Pythagoreans, disputes in the later Middle Ages (Buridan and Oresme) and recent views on the development of Kepler's ideas (by Voelkel and Martins, especially)

My main difficulty at the moment is the question of whether this is original enough

Friday, 19 September 2008

Approaching the end of a study week

Emma has been away in Croatia and Slovenia for the last week on an outward bounds holiday and so I have had a week where I could focus almost completely on study - eight or ten hours a day for the past five days. It is still a few weeks before my course starts but the uncertainty about my work situation is driving me on to do as much study now as possible. On the one hand, that has lead to me being able to do about 200 hours of study over the past month or so. But on the other hand, is it being directed well?

I have recently switched my focus off History of Science and onto Philosophy of Science due to the timetable for the next year. My main focus has been getting back up to date with an outline of the main issues from the LSE syllabus. So I now have a better outline of the main themes and am beginning to look at some of the detail.

But I have also ended up with some doubts. I am clearly able to organise and work through large amounts of material in a reasonably quick and efficient manner. But my memory is definitely not what it was. I will read something, then a week later I will see a similar point made elsewhere and will really struggle to connect it back to the previous week's work. I have even had cases where I will read a reference to other material without realising that this was the actual thing I was reading a few week's earlier - this happened with a reference to Feyerabend's paper Realism and Instrumentalism.

I am also not really developing my own thoughts much - I am still at the stage of digesting material. What I perhaps need to do is to start focusing on some essay or seminar paper topics and to start organising and marshalling material into these structures. All this is extremely relevant to the dissertation part of my MSc - though this is far in the future, it seems like a good idea to be thinking about it now.

Much to think about on these issues!

The last few days have been a bit brighter and I went for a walk around the village this afternoon, taking the photo below of our village church, lit up by the sun, in a nice contrast to the cloud that was building up.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Grant on Natural Philosophy

I have just about finished taking notes on Grant's History of Natural Philosophy. Overall, I have found this a rather eye-opening book, confirming the work of Duhem that I had only a slight knowledge of, that the pre-Scientific Revolution period was, itself, a period of extensive philosophical discussion.

The discussion of Islamic philosophy raised the question of why Natural Philosophy failed to develop there when they had most of the necessary resources. The account of the West during the twelve and thirteenth centuries was full of interesting material. As a result, I have started reading a biography of Peter Abelard - now there was a colourful character who had a colourful life!

The tomb of Abelard and Heloise in Paris

And I have been also struck by the discussion of Nicole Oresme - a thinker that I had barely heard of before. Lots of interesting material there (but few English translations of the originals it would seem) All this points to a strong tradition of criticism prior to the Scientific Revolution. Oresme, Buridan, etc are well worthy of further detailed studied it seems to me.

As I was finishing Grant's book, the two other books of his that I recently bought secondhand have appeared - God and Reason in the Middle Ages and The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages. First glance suggests that they are remarkably similar to the book I have just read - though they do vary considerably in length. Not sure yet what extra material I will get from these two additional books.

Difficulties with Philosophy of Science

As part of my dedicated week of study, I have felt that I need to really grasp the nettle and dig deep into the Philosophy of Science course. So I have been working through various substantial themes this week. For instance, "scientific explanation", "causation", "realism", etc. One way to assess if I am on the right track would then be to select a recent exam paper and have a look at how I would do. And the result after a few days hard work is that I seem little closer to being able to do the papers than I was before!

It is not that I don't know what the papers are about as much as it seems that I haven't gone into the subject in anything like the critical depth that I need to have done. So when I see a question, I can tell what area is is concerned with, but I don't have anything like the critical concepts necessary to construct a decent answer.

So today's work was focused a bit more on more technical and specific issues and I was soon very bogged down in detail. So I read two papers today by Nancy Cartwright on causation - both downloaded from the LSE website. These offer perhaps a little more idea of the level I need to go down to.

Each course in my MSc requires about 350-400 hours work and I reckon I have done well over 100 hours on Philosophy of Science in the past 4 weeks. So I should be on track. Of course it would seem too early to be worrying about this as the course hasn't even started yet! None the less, I had expected to be better set after the work I have done.

So easy to get distracted and focus on something I prefer such as something from the History of Science.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Current work & more music

Emma is away for a week on a watersports holiday in Croatia and Slovenia and Linda has her busiest week of work ever this week. So I have a relatively clear week and have plans to get huge amounts of work done.

In respect of Philosophy of Science work, I have been studying "Interpretations of Probability", "Bayes' theorem" and various models of "Scientific Explanation". But I am finding the "logical empiricist" background to so much of this rather hard going. I am thinking hard about my actual approach to this course and am pondering on whether to adopt a somewhat maverick approach based, say, on a combination of Taleb's anti-inductivism (per Black Swan) and Feyerabend's epistemological anarchism.

Now I have just about finished going through all the boxes in the garage, I have been unable to find lots of philosophy of science books from my distant past e.g. books by Hempel and Salmon - have I given away in past? Seems a bit unlikely. Maybe they are at mums?

But I am frequently distracted off philosophy of science by other topics that suddenly strike me as far more interesting. So I am also well through Grant's History of Natural Philosophy, various pieces related to Aristotle e.g. articles about the various commentators, a biography of Abelard that I can read without feeling I should be highlighting passages and taking notes and other articles on things like Pythagoreanism.

Some of this is connected with my continuing thoughts on a possible dissertation topic. I am developing some ideas to do with the metaphysical background to Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo which will take in ideas about dissent against religion from other periods (hence the reading of Grant and Abelard). But I have noticed that if I don't write things down as soon as I have a thought, I can't remember it later - a clear sign of aging! So I have begun a detailed time line diagram of my dissertation noting the key areas it might cover. And I am finding loads of really interesting material at the moment

As part of this process I have started selling books again on Amazon. And unlike previous times, each time I sell one, I then immediately buy others with the net proceeds. All these new books are relevant to my course and promise to be really great reads e.g. The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, Gingerich's book from the 500th anniversary of Copernicus's birth, other books by Edward Grant. And so on

And I am finally getting round to some LSE admin. Everything is based around the internet of course and I needed to create an "LSE for You" account and sort out an email account. I have three days at LSE in the next few weeks including the registration day, and two days when there are departmental events to go to - lunch one day, drinks the next. And I need to pay some fees!

On other things, my current listening has mostly been Calexico, various recordings associated with the Buena Vista Social Club movie, the collected works of Loudon Wainwright III, and some amazing recordings I came across of John Peel shows from the late 1960s. These include a complete recording of Peel's last "Perfumed Garden" show for Radio London and six complete "Top Gear" shows from 1969. What a hippy he was!

Over the last week and at the start of this week, the stock market has suffered large falls - once upon a time, this would be all I thought about this week. Now I feel very much the outsider and am very pleased not to be affected.

Calexico show

Linda and I rarely go to concerts together as our musical tastes differ too much. But back in July I spotted that Calexico were playing a show at the Carling Academy in Oxford - the old Zodiac and a tiny venue for a band like them. I thought I was somewhat lucky to have been able to get a couple of tickets for it. Towards the end of last week I discovered that this show might be a warm up for their performance at an outdoor festival the next day - "the end of the road" I think it was, not one I have heard of.

Calexico's new album came out last week and is widely seen as a return to form after the disappointing Garden Ruin. I have only managed to hear it a couple of times before the show but it does sound better to me. On the way to Oxford we listened to a bootleg of one of their shows from a few years ago with the full mariachi band. Excellent stuff!

We had dinner at the "Organic Burger Company" restaurant at the bottom of the Cowley Road. We were surrounded by a large group of US people who I thought were exactly the sort of people who would be going to see someone like Calexico. Later we discovered that it was actually the band having their pre show meal! I would only have recognised Joey Burns and he was apparently behind me where I wouldn't have been able to see him

Support were a band called "Wood Pigeon" who were ok but who had really poor sound throughout their set.

And so to Calexico's show. Basically they seemed to play about half the new cd, and the rest from Feast of Wire and before. I wasn't sure I heard anything from Garden Ruin at all! The sound was excellent, Joey was pretty excitable for the first few songs - no idea why - and they did some fine versions. Highlights for me included Minas de Cobre, Crystal Frontier and a stonkingly great version of Guero Canelo.

Very impressive indeed I thought.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Current music, films and books

Time for one of my occasional updates on what I am currently listening to, watching and reading.

The other day I stumbled across Jeffrey Fayman and Robert Fripp's "A Temple in the Clouds" - allegedly recorded years ago at a Buddhist Temple. This is a dense ambient work that reminds me of "An Index of Metals" from Fripp and Eno's "Evening Star". I have played it several times over the past few days - a recording that I expect to really grow to love more and more.

Also a new live recording of Blonde Redhead - a concert from the USA in 2004. This has very upfront vocals, which does make one or two tracks sound a little odd. But the version of "Melody" and the last track (with its strange time signature and out-of-tune guitars) are extraordinary.

Then there is, as so often, something by Dead Can Dance - in this case a selection of the best tracks from the 2005 North American tour. Again, very clear vocals and new perspectives on a number of tracks - highlights from this tour included Lisa's "The Love that Cannot Be" and Brendan's "Crescent"

Slightly odder is a stack of recordings of a jam band going under the name of Crack Sabbath. This features Sherik, the saxophonist from Les Claypool's Fancy Band. 5 cds of jamming - some of it really excellent

Then odder still is something I found while digging about on the internet - 53 cds of John Zorn in various incarnations. I have a few of these already - some live Masada, Naked City's Torture Garden, the Circle Maker, a couple of Filmworks cds and the extraordinary New Traditions in East Asian Bar Music. But most of the cds are new to me and will take months to plough through.

In the garage the other day I came across a single 90 minute cassette of Phillip Glass & Doris Lessing's "The Making of the Representative of Planet 8". This was an ENO production from 1988 broadcast on Radio 3 - just Act One unfortunately but very worthwhile. I am considering reading the book again soon

Another book I came across in the garage was Elias Canetti's "Auto da fe". This is a very powerful book - his only fiction - but very bleak. It holds a deeply personal message for me and I am also considering reading this again soon

I saw the book "The New Astronomer" in Borders the other day and nearly bought it for £16.99, only to find it for £0.49 secondhand. This is as good an introductory guide to Astronomical observation that I have seen for a long time. It was enough to encourage me to make a few little repairs to my telescope and to consider going out for some observing at some point. Remarkably enough, since I got back from Italy, there hasn't been a single clear night. Whatever enthusiasm I had left from reading about Galileo's observations has somewhat dissapated in the gloom of the UK.

Recent movies have included "Untraceable", "Wanted", "Curse of the Golden Dragon", "The Painted Veil" and "Atonement". We are trying to boost the quality of what we watch a little! Mainstream TV shows have been mainly "Dexter" and "House Series 3" from boxsets.

I have noticed that this Blog has few recent pictures on it as well, so time I started taking a few.

Documentaries off the internet

Earlier in the year I spent some time with an Australian woman who seemed to me to be at the "cutting edge" of modern approaches to media. She owned no cds, DVDs, etc and took everything she wanted off the internet to watch on her laptop (or via her flat screen tv at home). While in Spain, we watched "Juno" and "300" this way - the latter looking very odd on a tiny screen.

Back home I have been having a look at what interesting stuff is easily available. I was particularly keen on finding one or two documentary series that I remember from my youth but which I haven't seen for years. I have one or two episodes of some of them on video - but Fiona had convinced me that the modern way would be to download them all and have them on the laptop. So in the past week I have located Carl Sagan's "Cosmos", Clarke's "Civilisation", Hughes's "The Shock of the New" and "The World at War". These are big downloads and as I write this now, the last of these has been running for 10 days and is 90% done.

So far I have only watched one episode of any of these - the Kepler episode from Cosmos - but I am hugely excited about seeing the others eventually. These were all series of exceptional quality.

I have noticed that I am more focused on more academic subjects, presumably as a result of doing my prep work for the MSc. So far I haven't managed to persuade Linda to watch any of these shows with me - she reckons they are perfect ones for when she is out on the evening working. That could well be right, but it would be nice to see some together.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A day of study

Daughter is away for the weekend and Linda had a whole stack of things she wanted to do today, so I have a chance to do a full day's study. Despite being a Sunday, I am working by 6:15am. Today's main topic is "The Problem of Induction", a core question for Philosophy of Science and one that I really need to think through in a different way to my previous efforts. Back in the early 1980s at LSE, much of this problem was deemed to have been solved by Popper. However, this just covers one of the formulations of the problem and I need to sort out some sort of framework for understanding the wider problems.

My starting point for this was an article off the Stanford philosophy Encyclopedia. This turned out to be a very obscure article, highly confused between the various problems of induction and spending most of the article discussing probability theories as part of inductive inference. The original problem of induction was simply brushed over.

One of the most pronounced changes between studying again now and in the early 1980s is, of course, the use of the internet. Not just online encyclopedias, but things like having the Bodleian and LSE library catalogues online and being able to look up books as I come across them. I currently have a list of about a dozen books that I hope to be able to get out of LSE Library as soon as I am registered. And some of them are possibly so good that I am thinking of getting them at the Bodeleian - unfortunatley some of them are stack books that have to be ordered. Maybe if I have a study day in Oxford later this week?

I was particularly keen to read a book on Paul Feyerabend called Enemy of Science?. That and Howson's Hume's Problem are my two main priorities.

So today's note taking focused on induction, while today's reading was mainly on Aristotle's system of logic, plus a quick skim through this weekend's only book in the post - Grant's A History of Natural Philosophy. I am also reading My LSE, a book of memoirs of attending LSE that was published just before I went there.

And I managed to do about 500 pages of printing of various other articles I have found. My reading pile is now somewhat unmanageable!

Another small dip

While sorting through some papers the other day, I stumbled across an advert that I'd clipped from a newspaper a few years ago for a "Lecturer in Philosophy" at the LSE. Paid about £40k, and you had to have a Phd (of course) and a collection of published work (of course). Much has been written over the past few years about the high pressure that now applies to an academic career but it has always been there, in the back of my mind, as something that I wish I had pursued. If my MSc goes ok, I might carry on and do a Phd, but I suspect that it would be wholly unrealistic to think that this might not be as far as I could go. And yet, people like Nassim Taleb have managed to link themselves to academic institutions "later in life"

So anyway, one of the things I did today was work my way through the LSE philosophy department website to have a look at the detail about each member of the department. This reveals that there is a good chance that I will be older than most of the staff when I am there! It is going to be very curious attending seminars, etc, where the person taking the seminar is younger than me!

And a brief visit this afternoon from Virginia - the daughter of our neighbours. She has just finished a Phd at Oxford and is now looking for a job. Not sure if this will be academic or not. She says that the MSc will really speed by. That is perhaps not what I wanted to hear as I hope to savour it slowly.

So overall, the effects of these has been to leave me feeling a bit down. I need to think of my MSc as being just for me and having not additional motivations. And stop thinking that there is any chance that one day, I might be employed as an academic. I am 20 years off the pace for this to have been a possibility!

Loads of sources of new reading

The last few days I have been working my way through the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - an online resource that was mentioned in a couple of introductory philosophy books I was reading a few weeks ago. On the one hand, there are quite a few articles that are directly relevant to my studies - especially linked to the Philosophy of Science module that I will be taking in my first year. So there are overviews of "The Problem of Induction", "Realism", "Interpretations of Probability", "Scientific explanation" etc.

But on the other hand, and perhaps more interestingly, there are loads of articles that aren't as directly relevant but are in areas that I feel it would be interesting to know more about. Aristotle's Logic, articles on many medieval philosophers, articles on some modern philosophers about which I know virtually nothing. And many aspects of philosophy that I know a little about but would like a refresh.

It has also occured to me that reading articles like this would be the best way to get something out of the long periods of commuting that I expect to have in the near future. As I know from previous years of doing it, the life of the long-distance commuter is pretty tough. If I can spend half the trip asleep and the other half reading philosophy articles and listening to music, that might make it bearable again.

So over 50 articles were printed off today (over 1,000 pages!) and they are neatly piled behind me ready to be picked up at short notice.

My main reading recently has been Paul Feyerabend's autobiography "Killing Time". I read this a few years ago and have really enjoyed it the second time. Are there any academic epistemological anarchists out there any more? From what I see of recent issues of academic journals, the short answer would seem to be "no"! In fact, logical empiricism would seem to have an even tighter grip that it has in the past - presumably because it is so suitable for people to keep churning articles out. I am not a great fan of this approach, prefering the more historical approach to P of S. Perhaps I should adopt the anarchist position during my course?

I read one article from my pile of printouts today - "The Problem of Induction". This seemed to rather get bogged down in discussions of various logical probability systems (Carnap and Reichenbach) and was not the clearest article I've ever read, but there was useful stuff in it. And it gave me one or two more books to add to my list of books to get out of LSE library as soon as I'm issued with a card that works (Sept 26th)

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Outcome of the last week . . .

I had considered the apparent timetabling for 2008/09 at LSE to be a negative when I first came across it, but now I have reversed my view and think of it as pretty good.

Over the last week or so, I have been looking at future work alternatives and some of these have thrown up some interesting features. One possible scenario relates to working short-term contracts for various periods. My current plan is to do this for around six months hopefully as soon as possible. This should not create too much difficulty in respect of my first year but could generate enough to allow me to now have to work through my second year. So doing History of Science in year two will actually be better than my year one plan as I may have considerably more time to give to it.

So in the last week I have started to switch my reading focus slightly away from History of Science towards Philosophy and Science. But since I don't know at what point a job might come up (short term contracts are often at very short notice) I have to use the current period to do as much MSc related work as possible.

Day at the Bodleian

In the current gap from work - a gap of indeterminate size which could finish at any time - I feel I have to really push on with MSc-related work. I am trying to do six hours a day on this at the moment, usually from about 5:30am till lunchtime. But with Linda and Emma away today in London, I could have a different sort of study day. So it was off to Oxford and visits to several of the libraries within the Bodleian complex, starting at the Radcliffe Science Library.

I was armed with my laptop and several pages of notes related to books that I might like to use on my course. First search was for copies of the Journal for the History of Astronomy, which I found really quickly. I spent a couple of hours reviewing the issues from the last six years and picking out all the articles that might be of some use. Some of the book reviews and review type articles look especially interesting. There is nearly 40 years of this journal at the Radcliffe which should give me hours of interesting reading.

Among the book reviews was one for Voelkel's The Composition of Kepler's Astronomia Nova. I had found this book earlier in the day and was very keen to have a look through it in detail. It is almost exactly the sort of book that I could have written. I can't remember if this was available from Amazon cheaply or not. But after some pondering, it occured to me that even if it was, I should copy a chapter or two to give a flavour of it. And learning how to copy things at the Bodleian was one of today's tasks - turns out you have to buy cards at one of the other libraries - 7p a sheet compared to 4p at LSE!

After 3 hours at the Radcliffe, I paused for lunch at Noodle Bar in Gloucester Green and then resumed study at the Bodleian Old Library - clearly the nicest bit - looking at various philosophy books - mainly Cambridge Companions to . . . Hume, Descartes, Bacon, Mill, etc. Each of these have some interesting articles on philosophy of science. I am intending to adopt a historical perspective to P of S at LSE if at all possible.

Back to the Radcliffe to copy the first chapter of Voelkel's book and then home. A very profitable day overall. At home I discovered that Voelkel costs £25 on Amazon secondhand, and that the LSE doesn't have a copy of it. But LSE does have most of the other books I am interested in at the moment and does lend them out. So that will probably be the way I do things rather than using the Bodleian as much. But it is really nice studying there though