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'Escaping from tyranny of here and now'

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By Dr. Myint Zan

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics for 2019 was awarded to three scientists for their focus on the cosmos and the discovery of a new planet outside the solar system.

The prize was given to James Peebles for his theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology and Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

It is heartening to learn that cosmologists for that matter the lead winner (that is professor Peebles who has been described as a "physical cosmologist") have won the world's most coveted and prestigious prize. This dilettante offers his sincere congratulations to the trio of Nobel physics laureates whose specialty is cosmology.

A few days before the announcement this writer was pondering about a certain passage in one of British philosopher Bertrand Russell's essays perhaps written in the 1940s or 1950s. One of the aims or ideals of philosophy, wrote Russell, is to "escape from the tyranny of the here and the now."

By that Russell probably meant that (most) human beings are mainly if not almost entirely immersed in their own mundane affairs concerning their selves, their immediate families, their interests and strivings, and that they are, if not entrapped in, are entangled with the "tyranny of the here and the now."

One of the tasks of philosophy Russell inferred is to assist those who would or who could, to a certain extent, escape from these mundane or mainly self-directed concerns. In his book "Portraits from Memory and other Essays" (Simon and Shuster, 1956) Russell wrote that one of tasks of philosophy (perhaps at least to some people) is to help (us) escape from the "tyranny of the here and the now."

Russell indeed writes (adopting the historic present tense) that "history and geology takes us away from the now, astronomy takes us away from the here" (Portraits from Memory, page 179). Russell continues: "The man whose mind has been filled with these studies gets a feeling that that there is something accidental, and almost trivial, about........

© The Korea Times