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A Virtual Seminar


Ways of Knowing I've Known

I described several ways of knowing that I have seen categorized in classical Western and Indian epistemology, as well as the relevant differences in emphasis between Nyaya epistemology (which focuses on induction and emphasizes a reliabilist knowing) and Aristotelian epistemology (which focuses on deduction and emphasizes an absolutist form of truth/knowing). I then talked about a case study in astrophysics that I'm familiar with - how we have studied isolated quiescently evolving spiral galaxies and how we understand their structure, dynamics, and evolution. I believe these are open questions and I mentioned several possibilities (one of which is continued accretion of gas from the intergalactic medium) which would allow two competing theories to be (partially) correct. Certainly, science does not ascribe to an absolutist version of truth as has been emphasized in some epistomelogies. It may be useful to discuss further the reliabilist methods in our new explorations, although they also have their restrictions.

It was my first time giving a talk in such a venue. I'm glad to have the opportunity as I believe this medium has enormous potential. I was getting over a bad case of the flu, and there was absolutely no way that I could have given this talk if I had to travel to give this talk. It was possible for me to do it from the convenience of my own home however! I got quite a few good questions afterwards. Some people did have technical problems, but overall it wasn't too bad. I myself had a lot of problems navigating my ppt presentation, i.e., going from slide to slide. One thing that I do find to be an useful aid when I give talks at university colloquia etc. is the visual response of the audience - i.e., do people look interested, do they look confused, etc. Based on these cues, I do try and respond to people, particularly if it's a small group (\la 20 people). Of course, eventually if web cams can be incorported into qwaq - that would be fantastic, and would be incredibly useful in virtual collaborations/meeting/talks, etc.

Sukanya Chakrabarti

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