Scientific Materialism I

Antiquity to the 18th Century
Alex Steinberg
Six Sessions
(No session November 24)

This series will introduce seminal moments in the search by humans for understanding the natural world. If there is interest, we will continue in the winter and spring of 2019 considering developments from the Enlightenment to the present day.

Weeks one and two: Science begins. Ancient speculation on the nature of reality in Greek. Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus. We will also discuss some non-Western traditions in early speculation about the nature of reality

Weeks three and four: The first scientists and ancient astronomy. Egyptian and Babylonian contributions. The first Greek scientists: Anaximander, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Euclid, Ptolemy.

Weeks five and six:
Scientific Revolution – Copernicus to Newton, Descartes, Diderot and the materialism of the Enlightenment.

Alex Steinberg has previously taught Engels and the Dialectics of Nature at the Brecht Forum. At the Marxist Education Project he has taught Spectres of the Dialectic, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Fascism and the Left Nietzscheans and Dialectics 101, along with organizing a discussion of recent events in Greece and special events on The Radicalism of James Joyce.

The Universe: Past, Present, Future

Alex Steinberg

10 WEEK SERIES: NO CLASS ON FEBRUARY 19
This class is for all who desire to explore together the mysteries and fascinations of our universe. No prior knowledge of astrophysics or mathematics is required. We will have two books from which we will read selected essays: Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott and Now: The Physics of Time by Richard A. Muller

Note: There is also a problem book supplement to Welcome to the Universe. We will be using the initial Welcome to the Universe book and not the supplement in this class series. Of course some students may wish to get the problem book on their own.

Together we will get to the bottom of a number of concepts that are widely discussed but poorly understood.

We will ask and look for answers to such questions as:

1. Is our universe finite or infinite?
2. Is it heading for a final state of entropy known as heat death
3. What exactly is meant by entropy?
4. What do we mean when we say two events happen at the same time?
5. Can you go backwards in time?
6. What was before the Big Bang?
7. How does understanding our galaxy, other galaxies, this broad universe, inform our living on our planet Earth?

The facilitator of this class, Alex Steinberg, has previously taught widely including on the philosophy of Hegel and Marx, the dialectics of nature, the implications of dialectics for contemporary science, and contemporary philosophical trends on the left and right inspired by Nietzsche. He recently conducted a walking tour centered on what Leon Trotsky did in his few months living in New York City prior to the Russian Revolution.

Life, the Universe and Everything

Life, the Universe and Everything: A Dialectical Guide to the Galaxy
7 more sessions
Tuesday, February 7 through March 21, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Facilitated by Alex Steinberg

In this series we will be placing the dialectics of Marx and Engels within a broader philosophical tradition.

We will look at Engels discussion of the fundamental forces of nature: matter, time, space and motion in the context of the philosophical conflict between a relational view of the world and a mechanical one. We will also look at the conflict between Newton and Leibniz and the subsequent vindication of the relational view with Mach and Einstein.

Also examined will be the contemporary “crisis in physics” — the conclusion to which mechanical reductionism has led both in philosophy and in recent attempts to develop a cosmology that incorporates both relativity theory and quantum theory. Contributions of Hegel, Engels, C.S.Peirce, Einstein, and contemporary physicist such as Lee Smolin will form the basis for this discussion.

The sessions will conclude by tying the idea of the cosmos as a living system of dynamic evolving complexity to the Notion in Hegel’s Logic and from there to an interpretation of Marx’s Capital that places it firmly within the same Hegelian dialectic that is being developed in contemporary cosmology.

Alex Steinberg has previously taught a number of courses on Hegel at the New Space. He taught Engels and the Dialectics of Nature at the Brecht Forum. At the Marxist Education Project he has taught Spectres of the Dialectic, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Fascism and the Left Nietzscheans and Dialectics 101 previously, along with organizing a discussion of recent events in Greece and special events on The Radicalism of James Joyce. He has presented papers at the Left Forum and Historical Materialism Conferences.He has also lectured in Athens Greece on the subjects ranging from dialectics and the American political landscape. Alex has also served on the local and national boards of radio station WBAI.