90 episodes

This is a podcast primarily about the work of philosopher and physicist David Deutsch and related matters (such as Popperian epistemology). I read from and comment upon the books "The Beginning of Infinity" and "The Fabric of Reality".

ToKCast brettroberthall

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 48 Ratings

This is a podcast primarily about the work of philosopher and physicist David Deutsch and related matters (such as Popperian epistemology). I read from and comment upon the books "The Beginning of Infinity" and "The Fabric of Reality".

    Ep 90: Fallibilism

    Ep 90: Fallibilism

    This is the audio only version of the video found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxeXbTv1dug and is one of my occasional episodes backed by some music.


    Inspired largely by the work of David Deutsch with underlying themes of Popperian critical rationalism: this is my exploration of fallibilism. The three music tracks were composed by Ketsa https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/ and are, in order:

    1. "Mixed Up"

    2. "Start of Something Beautiful"

    3."Hear me out"

    and are used under a Creative Commons license.


    All videos are purchased from and used under license from "Storyblocks" https://www.storyblocks.com/

    • 10 min
    Ep: 89 ”Quantum Information” Chiara Marletto‘s ”The Science of Can & Can‘t” Ch 4 readings and discussion

    Ep: 89 ”Quantum Information” Chiara Marletto‘s ”The Science of Can & Can‘t” Ch 4 readings and discussion

    As the title suggests: this is about Quantum Information. It is “Quantum Information Theory” to be more precise. Now physics is sometimes regarded as strange by people who know little about it. And even for people who know a little more about it - well they might regard quantum physics as strange. And even those who know a little about quantum physics - they can regard quantum information theory as rather esoteric. This episode, following Chapter 4 of Chiara Marletto’s excellent book, begins from the ground up to explore how quantum systems can do more with information than classical systems (which is what all present day computers use). There is an excellent talk by David Wallace about the Mach Zehnder interferometer that I mention. It’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRJT9... Coupled with my own remarks about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu4HH... Anyone should come away with a good understanding of what is actually going on.

    • 1 hr 15 min
    Ep: 88 Critically Creative (Critical and Creative Thinking 2.0).

    Ep: 88 Critically Creative (Critical and Creative Thinking 2.0).

    There is an article associated with this podcast episode here: https://www.bretthall.org/critically-creative-1.html


    I mention this article from the University of Sydney, Australia: https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/critical-thinking.html


    While recording this podcast, I had in mind teachers: they are my primary “target audience” so to speak. But this will, I hope be useful for anyone with a “stake” in the education system: so of course students, their parents, university lecturers, administrators - people in a position to make decisions about schools and curriculum. The topic is essentially “Critical Thinking” and what I think it is, in the Popperian tradition. As I will mention, unlike even just 15 years ago, “Critical Thinking” is now a fashionable term thrown around in schools, universities and among those charged with deciding what students are taught and how. Often “Creative Thinking” is thrown into the mix as well. All sorts of activities are devised for students to improve these “skills”: sometimes entire new subjects are created for students to take that are supposed to be about improving “critical thinking”. It’s all - from the education system’s point of view - very new. And because it’s new *there* they are, largely speaking, inventing things on the fly or designating certain techniques or rules or activities “critical and creative thinking”. It really is all the buzz in many places.

    The time stamps below will give you some better idea of the full content.

    Time Stamps


    00:00:00 Introduction - and what should be in a school curriculum.

    00:04:00 Educational buzz words and “lock in”.

    00:07:55 Some initial thoughts about +the practical* uses of epistemology

    00:10:30 Teaching vs Learning Strategies and “Student Engagement”

    14:30 Criticisms - what are they?

    15:30 What it takes to pass exams.

    16:40 To be creative should you obey no rules?

    18:30 A second pass on the practical applications of critical thinking

    22:25 The Grass Eating cure for the 100th time ;)

    25:20 “The Explanation Criteria”

    28:30 Peer review (& double blind placebo controlled trials in medicine) and *when* it is we can say we know what we know.

    32:45 Critical Thinking everywhere

    33:00 Explanationless science, mathematics 35:30 What is “criticism” exactly?

    36:00 As applied to history & music.

    36:50 How to come up with good criticisms and some discussion of the possibility of heuristics for better critical thinking.

    39:10 Constructive vs Destructive criticism. (& the distinction between ideas and people).

    44:00 Popper - an introduction for those involved in education

    45:30 The anti-rational hangup ballast.

    48:35 A very general two-step process for framing any analysis that requires the use of “critical thinking”.

    50:13 Some more specific explicit unpacking of some critical thinking “techniques” or heuristics.

    52:09 A “fundamental” theorem of criticism or the chief principle of critical thinking. :)

    56:27 Creative thinking: the little we know.

    59:00 Remarks about economics and free vs regulated markets

    01:01:27 How can we improve creative thinking?

    01:01:03 Creativity and criticism in evolution by natural selection

    01:04:07 How does human creativity work? Remarks on AGI.

    01:09:09 How a child teaches us

    01:14:38 Final “critically creative” thoughts.

    01:18:00 Typical “critical thinking” as it is taught at university: https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/critical-thinking.html

    01:20:00 The purpose of critical and creative thinking as taught at schools/universities.

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Ep 87: David Deutsch‘s ”The Fabric of Reality” Chapter 3 “Problem Solving” Part 1

    Ep 87: David Deutsch‘s ”The Fabric of Reality” Chapter 3 “Problem Solving” Part 1

    This is the first part of a discussion about chapter 3 of "The Fabric of Reality". It is about...problem solving with a significant focus on science and how scientific theories are generated. It contains criticism of the prevailing "justificationist" and "inductivist" notions. I see it as a good companion to (perhaps an introduction to) my episode "The Aim of Science" which I would consider a little more "heavy". This was wide ranging and a lot of fun to produce!

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Ep 86: The Aim of Science

    Ep 86: The Aim of Science

    This is an "irregular" ToKCast which is all about a short essay by Popper titled "The Aim of Science". I read parts of the essay and comment on it and compare it to some more recent developments in the philosophy of science. Readings for this - like the paper itself - can be found here: http://www.bretthall.org/the-aim-of-s... The thing about the essay that is amazing is how certain paragraphs are as clear as anything one might say on this topic today: and yet he is breaking the ground in many ways with what he is saying. People struggled until Popper to even make a coherent case for what science was all about let alone how it managed to do it. There are only a few images in this "video" so you can easily get away with listening to the audio only version of this.

    Ep 85: ToKCast Do Explain Part 2

    Ep 85: ToKCast Do Explain Part 2

    The original link for this (without the introduction I provide here) can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEcHS... “Do Explain” is a podcast interview series created by Christofer Lövgren (Chris as I call him because I can’t pronounce his surname). Find “Do Explain” anywhere podcasts can be found - for example Apple here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j... or “Tune In” here https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j... The main website and host for Do Explain for now is here: https://doexplain.buzzsprout.com In this episode I cover all my "big hits" - consciousness, free will, Bayesianism and as the original title says "The nature of knowledge".

    • 1 hr 6 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
48 Ratings

48 Ratings

RKMoreira ,

Extraordinarily useful.

I’m a non-physicist (a busy physician, with only very basic knowledge of physics) who is very much interested in understanding the reality of our universe. I have found David Deutsch to be one of the most fascinating writers I have ever come across, and his ideas have inspired me and changed some of my most basic conceptions of objective reality. His theories (and books), however, are so dense with revolutionary thoughts that they require time and commitment to understand and digest. That’s where Brett Hall’s podcast comes in. To me, it has been an indispensable companion to the chapters in DD’s books. My strategy has been to listen to Brett’s corresponding episode before and after reading each book chapter. Brett is himself an amazing intellect who really excels at explaining and putting into context the various concepts in DD’s work. Very helpful, I’m a big fan of both of you.

pakerparker ,

Fantastic companion

I’m only a few chapters in, but so far this has been an incredible companion to reading Beginning of Infinity.

snchou0 ,

Good in-packing of Deutsch-Popper ideas

Done in a clear and engaging way.

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