Author Archives: Taimur Khan

About Taimur Khan

Philosophy, Poetry, Music, Medicine, Qualia, Rain.

Graphing The History of Ideas

Some people do really nice work sometime. Got these graphs from here and here. Visit the aforementioned pages for details and closeups, and click the following images to download larger views.

Influential Thinkers

Influential Thinkers

A History of Philosophy

A History of Philosophy

Also take a look at The History of Western Philosophy.

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The Shrinking World of Ideas – Arthur Krystal >>

Purkinje Cells: Drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1899) of neurons in the pigeon cerebellum

Purkinje Cells: Drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1899) of neurons in the pigeon cerebellum

In probing our brains, we’ve lost our minds.

All this emphasis on the biological basis of human behavior is not to everyone’s liking. The British philosopher Roger Scruton, for one, takes exception to the notion that neuroscience can explain us to ourselves. He rejects the thought that the structure of the brain also structures the person, since an important distinction exists between an event in the brain and the behavior that follows. And, by the same token, the firing of neurons does not in a strictly causal sense account for identity, since a “person” is not identical to his or her physiological components. Even more damning are the accusations in Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld’s Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, which argues that the insights gathered from neurotechnologies have less to them than meets the eye. The authors seem particularly put out by the real-world applications of neuroscience as doctors, psychologists, and lawyers increasingly rely on its tenuous and unprovable conclusions. Brain scans evidently are “often ambiguous representations of a highly complex system … so seeing one area light up on an MRI in response to a stimulus doesn’t automatically indicate a particular sensation or capture the higher cognitive functions that come from those interactions.”

What makes these arguments, as well as those swirling around evolution, different from the ideas that agitated Trilling can be summed up in a single word: perspective. Where once the philosophical, political, and aesthetic nature of ideas was the sole source of their appeal, that appeal now seems to derive from something far more tangible and local. We have shifted our focus from the meaning of ideas to the means by which they’re produced. The same questions that always intrigued us—What is justice? What is the good life? What is morally valid? What is free will?—take a back seat to the biases embedded in our neural circuitry. Instead of grappling with the gods, we seem to be more interested in the topography of Mt. Olympus.

Portrait of Shāh Ṭahmasp, Walters Manuscript W.668, fol.4b | Click image for larger view.

Portrait of Shāh Ṭahmasp, Walters Manuscript W.668, fol.4b | Click image for larger view.

Album of Persian and Indian calligraphy and paintings
This is an album (muraqqaʿ) of Persian and Indian calligraphy and paintings, most probably compiled in the thirteenth century AH / nineteenth CE. The album contains thirty-four illustrations, three of which are attributed to the Mughal painter Abū al-Ḥasan (Nādir al-al-Zamān), two to Manūhar, and one each to Dawlat and Ṣādiqī. There are several portraits of rulers and courtiers, as well as scenes from historical manuscripts, such as Bāburnāmah and Gulistān by Saʿdī. This album is also significant for the number of works by the artist Shayk Abbāsī, who worked in the eleventh century AH / seventeenth CE. The signed calligraphic pieces bear the names of ʿImād al-Ḥasanī (d. 1024 AH / 1615 CE), ʿAlī Riz̤ā-ʾi ʿAbbāsī, Mīr ʿAlī, and ʿAbd al-Rashīd al-Daylamī (d. 1081 AH / 1670-1 CE). The album was initially in an accordion format and was later made into a codex. The lacquer binding with central ovals and pendants decorated with flowers dates to the thirteenth century AH / nineteenth CE. — Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts

Saint Petersburg Mosque

Saint Petersburg Mosque

In 1882, Selim-Girei Tevkelev who in 1865 was appointed the Mufti of Orenburg turned to and obtained agreement from minister Count Tolstoy with the requirement for a mosque in St. Petersburg. In 1906, the Minister formed a special committee headed by Ahun Ataulla Bayazitov to collect 750,000 rubles within 10 years for the construction of the mosque. They organised collections in towns and providences of Russia and received donations from many sponsors. In addition the committee input securities in total amount of 142,000 rubles and also stamps for mosque’s project. The biggest donor was Said Abdoul Ahad, Emir of Bochara who undertook all expenses for the building. –Wikipedia

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Grasshopper (Acrididae), Barbilla National Park, Costa Rica. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki/Minden Pictures/Corbis

Grasshopper (Acrididae), Barbilla National Park, Costa Rica. Photo by Piotr Naskrecki/Minden Pictures/Corbis

Die, selfish gene, die >>
For decades, the selfish gene metaphor let us view evolution with new clarity. Is it now blinding us?

Perhaps better then to speak not of genes but the genome — all your genes together. And not the genome as a unitary actor, but the genome in conversation with itself, with other genomes, and with the outside environment. If grasshoppers becoming locusts, sweet bees becoming killers, and genetic assimilation are to be believed it’s those conversations that define the organism and drive the evolution of new traits and species. It’s not a selfish gene or a solitary genome. It’s a social genome.

Locust and Chameleon | Photo by Nik Taylor/Getty

Locust and Chameleon | Photo by Nik Taylor/Getty

Dead or Alive? >>
Is it time to kill off the idea of the ‘Selfish Gene’? We asked four experts to respond to our most controversial essay

I can vividly remember reading The Selfish Gene in my local library as a teenager: it was both a page-turner and something of a conversion experience. Richard Dawkins’s explanation of the unsparing reality of evolution blew like a cold, refreshing wind through everything I thought I knew about human nature, and is one of the great pieces of scientific writing from the last century. I was hardly surprised then, that David Dobbs’s essay ‘Die Selfish Gene’ provoked a fierce and prolonged debate when we published it in Aeon last December. But now it’s time to take stock: is the ‘selfish gene’ idea still a useful way to explain evolution? We invited four experts, and the writer himself, to respond to this question. And we invite you to join the conversation by taking our quick survey at the bottom of the page. What do you think: is it time to get rid of the ‘selfish gene’ or is it here to stay?

Brigid Hains, Editor

Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? >>