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The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a…

The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist (original 1998; edition 2005)

by Richard P. Feynman (Author)

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Title:The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
Authors:Richard P. Feynman (Author)
Info:Basic Books (2005), 144 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist by Richard P. Feynman (1998)

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This is the unedited transcript of 3 lectures given in Washington in 1963, at the height of the Cold War, and in part he lets the Soviets have it, with both barrels.

But the main theme is that uncertainty is good. Uncertainty is the only thing that allows for questioning, and without any questioning, as was the case in medieval Europe, and the then contemporary Soviet Union, science stagnates. Freedom of thought is essential to good science (topic of the first lecture, "The Uncertainty of Science"), as well as good societies (second lecture, "The Uncertainty of Values"). ( )
  br77rino | Aug 18, 2016 |
Review: The Meaning Of It All by Richard P. Feynman.

The book is well written but sometimes confusing with all his Citizen-Scientist ideas and opinions in his lectures applied to religion, the cold war, politics and everything in between. Some of his statements were open and controversial but it didn’t seem to bother him that others thought his mind was somewhat twisted. His thoughts made sense but on the other hand they made no sense. Feynman states he will not offer anything in his lectures that could not have been said by any other philosopher’s centuries earlier. His lectures and discussions of uncertainty on different issues makes some of his thoughts ridiculous but interesting enough to brew in your own thoughts.

As Feynman admits at the beginning, he is out of his depth here when pertaining to religions. His perception of religion has three fundamental aspects, the metaphysical, ethical, and the inspirational. He undermines the metaphysical aspect as simplistic and apprehensive with internal contradictions of the main question, does God exist or not?
His response too many things is, “I don’t know”….In his lectures he relates so much uncertainty in his own thoughts.

The book also reflexes on the atmosphere of the cold war, society, and politics. In his lectures he goes after the Soviets, faith healers, mind readers, and politicians in a relaxed way and in a modest style. Feynman is not clear most of the time but I guess that’s to do with his point of uncertainty. This is a hard book to review because he is wrote about almost anything puzzling under the son as best he could, being the candid and uncertain nature person he is. I consider he was a man full of ideas, full of humanity, and honesty. His dense thoughts in believing everything is uncertain, that even people who are oppressed and discourage in their restrained society can look up and say, I don’t know”. Feynman places his own finger on the real dilemma, which isn’t how to censor our discoveries but how to put them to good use without hurting people.
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1 vote Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
I adore Feynman and his touch on any and all ideas, however this book didn't do it for me. These lectures no doubt would have been excellent to attend when you've got the man himself animating it all, but that excellence can't be captured in the medium of the book by simply transliterating what he said. I would say skip this one - there is plenty of footage on youtube to see directly the character himself excitedly beam his ideas, and there is the great book [b:Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character|5544|Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character|Richard Feynman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348445281s/5544.jpg|321174] if you want to read about his antics. ( )
  jculkin | Feb 1, 2016 |
Although this book is probably the more socially significant of the two, I prefer the light heartedness of Surely You're Joking. This book is a series of collected lectures, so the Feynman that is presented here is the public Feynman, not private, enthusiast, who comes through so brilliantly in the almost stream of consciousness style of writing in Surely You're Joking. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 4, 2014 |
Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman’s contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him—how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now, a wonderful book—based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963—shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, people’s distrust of politicians, and our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy. Here we see Feynman in top form: nearly bursting into a Navajo war chant, then pressing for an overhaul of the English language (if you want to know why Johnny can’t read, just look at the spelling of “friend”); and, finally, ruminating on the death of his first wife from tuberculosis. This is quintessential Feynman—reflective, amusing, and ever enlightening. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Jan 7, 2014 |
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I want to address myself directly to the impact of science on man's ideas in other fields, a subject Mr. John Danz particularly wanted to be discussed. In the first of these lectures I will talk about the nature of science and emphasize particularly the existence of doubt and uncertainty. In the second lecture I will discuss the impact of scientific views on political questions, in particular the question of national enemies, and on religious questions. And in the third lecture I will describe how society looks to me -- I could say how society looks to a scientific man, but it is only how it looks to me -- and what future scientific discoveries may produce in terms of social problems.
This freedom to doubt is an important matter in the sciences, and, I believe, in other fields. It was born of a struggle... I want to demand this freedom for future generations.
Russia is backward because it has not learned that there is a limit to government power.
No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expression.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465023940, Paperback)

In this series of lectures originally given in 1963, which remained unpublished during Richard Feynman's lifetime, the Nobel-winning physicist thinks aloud on several "meta"--questions of science. What is the nature of the tension between science and religious faith? Why does uncertainty play such a crucial role in the scientific imagination? Is this really a scientific age?

Marked by Feynman's characteristic combination of rationality and humor, these lectures provide an intimate glimpse at the man behind the legend. "In case you are beginning to believe," he says at the start of his final lecture, "that some of the things I said before are true because I am a scientist and according to the brochure that you get I won some awards and so forth, instead of your looking at the ideas themselves and judging them directly...I will get rid of that tonight. I dedicate this lecture to showing what ridiculous conclusions and rare statements such a man as myself can make." Rare, perhaps. Irreverent, sure. But ridiculous? Not even close.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:17 -0400)

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"In April 1963, Richard P. Feynman gave a series of remarkable lectures at the University of Washington in Seattle. These three consecutive talks were classic Feynman - full of wit and wisdom - but their subject matter was wholly unexpected: Feynman spoke not as a physicist but as a concerned fellow citizen, revealing his uncommon insights into the religious, political, and social issues of the day." "Now, at last, these lectures have been published under the collective title The Meaning of It All. Here is Feynman on mind reading and the laws of probability and statistics; on Christian Science and the dubious effect of prayer on healing; and on human interpersonal relationships. Here is the citizen-scientist on the dramatic effect simple engineering projects could have on the plague of poverty; the vital role creativity plays in science; the conflict between science and religion; the efficacy of doubt and uncertainty in arriving at scientific truths; and why honest politicians can never be successful."--Jacket.… (more)

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