Fermi Society of Philosophy

Danielle Johnson, Philosophy of Mind —Towards a Unified Theory

by alexeyburov

The central issue in Philosophy of Mind is the Mind-Body problem: How can something like the material brain produce something like the non-material mind? And how can they interact with each other? In this presentation we will survey some of the different positions people take in regards to the mind-body problem and discuss some objections to each.

Dr. Johnson received a MA and PhD in Social/Organizational-Industrial Psychology and a MA in Communication from Northern Illinois University. She received a B.S. in Communication from Northern Michigan University. Since completing her degrees, Dr. Johnson has been working on theoretical research in an attempt to unify the discipline of Psychology under one overarching framework. Dr. Johnson has been an adjunct faculty member at Waubonsee Community College since 2004.

Slides are here. 

A. Burov, What is good in Naturalism? Part II

by alexeyburov

Dear friends, I failed again with my attempts to make a good video presentation and give a talk at the same time. Being in a hurry, I almost inevitably do one or another stupid technical mistake. The only video I succeeded to make is one of the slides and my voice behind. Well, maybe it is just what really matters, let me take this as an excuse.

The slides of the entire talk are here.

Many, many thanks to all who came, listened, asked questions and made comments!

A. Burov, What Is Good in Naturalism? Part I

by alexeyburov

In this talk, I tried to cover the following issues:
What is Naturalism or Materialism? What is reasonable in it? What is inspirational in it? What is morally encouraging in it?

Part II is to be presented in two weeks, Jan 31, same place and time.

The slides of Part I are here.

Jim Hylen, Naturalism as worldview

by alexeyburov

Today Jim presented his vision of Naturalism as a worldview, describing the reason behind that.

The slides are here.

Dave Dykstra focused on the life origin problem as incompatible in Naturalism.

Although I prepared my 2 slides with criticism of Naturalism, I did not have a chance to present them, due to a good reason: the discussion was very vivid, and I did not want to cut it. Well, I will present my criticism at our next meeting; it will be next year already, Jan 17, same place and time.


Jim Hylen, “A Natural World-view”

by alexeyburov

For less than an hour, Jim gave a wonderful talk, devoted to a dense, very informative review of modern physics, where apparently all the most important issues were covered. Many thanks, Jim! At the very end, a few slides were devoted to metaphysical aspects, reflecting Jim’s naturalistic worldview. Next meeting, Dec. 6, we’ll hopefully concentrate on the metaphysical aspects of the naturalism, or scientism, criticized so much in the past by some of our speakers :)

The slides are here. 

What is Rationalism? Part II

by alexeyburov

Dear all,

Slides for this presentation are here.

Sorry to say that, but my efforts to combine giving a talk and videoing it failed that time; hopefully, they did not double-fail :) Something got wrong with the video at the midst of my talk, and it does not seem reasonable for me to suggest one half of the dish.

Please be encouraged to leave your questions and comments right here, at this blog.

Our next meeting will be Fri, Nov 22, same place and time. The talk will be given by Jim Hylen: “A Natural World-view”.


A dive into cosmology, encountering the vast amounts we do and do not know about the universe, and provoking some discussion of philosophy from a natural perspective.

The talk will be not more than an hour, but the following discussion may take like 30min more. You may come and go any time. Everybody is welcome, as always.

What is Rationalism? Part I

by alexeyburov

A special philosophical branch is defined, which gave birth and nourished cognition of the universe. I start the talk from a paradigmatic story, from a problem Plato suggested to his student Eudoxus, and then show that this question implied a whole worldview responsible for the main achievements of humanity.

Slides are here.

At the next meeting, in two weeks, we’ll discuss a relation between Rationalism and scientism.

Daniel Gruber, “Structuring Reality through Human Law”, June 7.

by alexeyburov

Dear friends,

our next meeting will be the last before the Fall, most likely, before the October. It will be devoted, first time for our society, to the philosophy of law.

Daniel Gruber has written 10 books, and has taught in numerous countries on 5 continents. His books have been translated into Polish, Russian, Hebrew, Dutch, Spanish, German, and French. In this talk, he focuses on the intersection of Government, Law, and Values in legal, political, and religious systems.


Hans Kelsen was considered by many in the 20th century to be “the formative jurist of our time,” influencing many who now teach and legislate. His “Pure Theory of Law” takes a multi-discipline approach that dispenses with the need for observation or correspondence to any objective reality. He based it on a Basic Norm which he said “not only contradicts reality, …but is also self-contradictory, …a fiction. …accompanied by the awareness that reality does not agree with it.” Rather than conforming his theory to reality, he conformed reality to his theory. In this way, he made the State free to forbid or command anything it chooses. His philosophy received “unqualified admiration” in much of the world. This talk examines Kelsen’s claim that an approach such as his, which measures everything by human cognition, must reject the existence of any objective reality. It argues that this claim is well-founded.

The time and place are same, 12:00, Req Room (WH4NW).

See you then and all the best.

Donna Adler on Plato’s Cosmology, Apr 26

by alexeyburov

Friday, Apr 26 we’ll have our regular meeting, usual place and time: Req Room (WH4NW), 12:00. Our speaker will be Donna Adler Altimari, PhD in philosophy. In her own words:

Introduction to Plato’s Cosmology: Presuppositions, Aims, Ends, Method.

In this presentation, Dr. Donna Adler will introduce members of the Fermi Philosophical Society to a classic text of the Western tradition, Plato’s Timaeus, focusing on the aims and ends of the text’s cosmological speculations, as well as the dialogue’s importance for the history of Western music theory. She will talk about Plato’s basic epistemological approach; the mathematical riddles in his work and the reasons for them; his fascination with number as a primary vehicle available to human beings in the effort to come to truth; the important role that symmetry played for him as a criterion for determining correctness in human judgments; and his effort to suggest a governmental order on the level of human community incorporating what he took to be a set of natural harmonic laws applicable to the cosmos. The scientific community, although it has come a long way from Plato’s cosmology, may recognize, in Plato, a kindred spirit in his love for mathematics and his use of it in physical speculation. The presentation should also touch upon issues of recent interest to the group, particularly the questions how the quest for mathematical beauty might lead a theorist astray and how a cosmos governed by mathematical laws can avoid determinism on a human plane. Dr. Adler will draw on her book, currently in production at Brill, entitled Plato’s Timaeus and the Missing Fourth Guest, for much of the substance of the presentation. The Timaeus is the touchstone, in Western tradition, for the basic faith persisting to this day, in physics, in the efficacy of mathematics to reveal the secrets of nature.

Everybody is welcome.

“Lost in Math”, part 2 and discussion

by alexeyburov

Dear society friends,

First, many thanks to those of you who came today, and my special thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion.

Second, the slides of my full talk are here. Hopefully, Lev will make the video soon.

Third, I’ll try to summarize below the questions and objections to my talk with my answers. Feel free to correct possible inaccuracies in my address.

  1. Donna expressed her disagreement with Bergson’s statement “As a matter of fact, the mystics unanimously bear witness that God needs us, just as we need God. Why should He need us unless it be to love us?” According to her, this statement is wrong. God does not need anything or anybody, and mystics do not bear this witness. The objection to Bergson was noted, but I tried my best to minimize the purely theological debates, trying to stay closer to the book.  
  2. Mike, in addressing to my last slide, asked a question, on what ground do I assign to God happiness or unhappiness. My answer was that I suggest this question for contemplation. Since the only reasonable explanation of the very special laws of nature is theistic, there is a reason to suppose that the discoverability is conditioned on something.
  3. Mike pointed to the multiverse as a reasonable answer to the question of why the laws of nature are what they are. On that, I’d like to remind him of our refutation of this hypothesis: https://pythagoreanuniverse.com/ ; also, note slide #3.
  4. Jim described his favorite Darwinian answer to the discoverability problem, why the fundamental laws are discoverable. His answer consists of two parts. First, he noted our Darwinian ability to recognize patterns, and, second, to answer the question why nature has had patterns available to be recognized, he stated that our knowledge of the laws of nature is approximate and contains misconceptions. In my answer, complemented by Lev, I stressed, first, the huge span of parameters  where the discovered laws are valid with tremendous accuracy, which is counter to the idea that the laws are simply convenient approximate formulas, fittings, etc. Second, the old laws are exact limit cases of new ones: the Newtonian physics is a limit case of the relativistic mechanics with c->infinity, etc. The old theories are asymptotically correct cases of the more general new theories. If the old laws were but approximations, they would be simple misconceptions, but in fact they are different ways of looking at the same logic structure of the universe.