DALE, John

Author Tags: Physician Author

Born in 1943, John Dale graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians in Ireland. On arriving in Vancouver in 1970, he obtained his basic flying license, followed by his commercial, instructor, soaring and ultralight licenses. He served as a 'flying doctor' in the Burns Lake area prior to working in the Arctic. As a medical practitioner in Nelson, he self-published Snowshoes & Stethoscopes: Tales of Medicine and Flying in the Canadian North (Daedalus Publishing 1997), primarily about his 12-year association with the Arctic as a doctor.

Dale subsequently published Notes from a Sidecar, a fairly light-hearted yet detailed examination of 20th century philosophy. It concerns the vagueness in philosophy in relation to the the real world of everyday decisions and encourages being comfortable with inexactitude. It does not require a detailed prior knowledge of philosophy but the author suggests "it will tax your brain to read it." The Nelson-based Dale studied, early in his life, with Wittgensteinian philosophers. His dialogue simultaneously takes the the reader on a motorcycle/sidecar trip on a Vulcan 1500 Kawasaki, with Hannigan sidecar, around the Selkirk Loop in BC/Washington/Idaho as a way to offset the serious thinking. John Hayes, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Limerick, Eire, writes: "Notes from a Sidecar records the adventures of a keen life-long enquirer interested in ascertaining what is 'out there', what is real. John Dale uses the records of other philosophical explorers throughout the ages to guide his path. He argues that unlike the motorcycle trips he also records and that regularly draw the narrative back to the security of what we take to be everyday reality, philosophical journeys lack clarity. They do not yield certainty. The oblique view from the sidecar is, in principle, not available to the cyclist and is an apt metaphor for the philosopher who is involved in the contortion of trying to circumscribe the limits of human knowledge while himself inevitably circumscribed by his own limitations as a human knower."


Snowshoes & Stethoscopes: Tales of Medicine and Flying in the Canadian North (Daedalus Publishing 1997).

Notes from a Sidecar (Daedalus Publishing, 2005). $24.95 ISBN 1-4120-5910-0

[Daedalus Publishing Box 489, Nelson Bc V1L 5R3]

[BCBW 2005] "Medicine" "Philosophy"

Notes from a Sidecar
Press Release

Notes from a Sidecar is book about vagueness in philosophy, in the real world of everyday decisions and about becoming more comfortable with inexactitude. A fairly light-hearted yet detailed examination of 20th century philosophy. The subject matter is broad and covers almost every subject in modern philosophy. It does not require a detailed prior knowledge of philosophy but it will tax your brain to read it. The author, a Canadian doctor, was fortunate enough to have studied, early in life, with some very able Wittgensteinian philosophers. The dialogue is combined with a sidecar trip around some of the most beautiful British Columbia mountains. The author lives now in Nelson B.C.

Chapter 1: Where to go in philosophy and where to go on the motorbike?
Chapter II: Epistemology and Ontology
Chapter III: Aesthetics and Epistemology
Chapter IV: Ethics
Chapter V: Philosophy in General
Chapter VI: On the General Nature of Philosophy in the 21st Century.
Chapter VII: Philosophy and Language
Chapter VIII: Theories of Everything. Mind, Matter, the Universe, high-speed sidecar cornering.
Chapter IX: Brains, minds and neurology—sub-theme.
Chapter X: Anthropological Philosophy and Love and Beauty.

Available from http://www.flynorth.com/html/nfas.htm

Sample page:
At the International Congress of Philosophy held at Paris in 1900, Russell became aware of Peano’s monumental work and was encouraged to develop the ideas further. The 2nd International Congress of Mathematicians followed immediately after this first conference and interestingly enough Alfred North Whitehead also attended this conference. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), Cambridge philosopher and mathematician. Worked with Russell on “Principia Mathematica” but later diverged in his philosophy, from Russell, and went to Harvard at age 63 where he developed a philosophy which became popular in the U.

Whitehead had been Russell’s teacher at Cambridge. At Harvard he went on to develop a theory of “organic process” which was essentially his method of escape from having to define ultimate particles. The ultimate reality becomes events. These are not subject to an absolute point in time and space and are constantly in change; hence the sense of process. Process was an important principle in Whitehead’s later philosophy. By invoking process as opposed to structure one can evade certain problems associated with empirical analysis. It was a precursor of some of the holistic philosophies of much later in the 20th century, yet in spite of spending a most enjoyable afternoon, discussing Whitehead and Biology in the rooms of an old Cambridge professor, I was never able to feel that I could comprehend Whitehead.

Sadly, Peano went into a decline of productivity after the beginning of the 20th century. His creativity has probably been underestimated, as Russell and Whitehead overshadowed him. I wanted to get my hands on everything written by Russell and proceeded over the next few years largely to ignore my early medical studies whilst absorbing Russell. The aforementioned “History of Western Philosophy” was written by Russell, at the end of the 2nd World War, when he was broke and living in the United States. This book definitely reveals Russell’s bias but that is what also adds to its attraction. Russell is eminently readable. His small “Problems of Philosophy” was more of a money making introductory book on philosophy, yet it became, for many decades, mandatory reading for first-year students of the subject. In “Our Knowledge of the External World,” Russell outlined his theory of “Logical Atomism” and this was followed by “Analysis of Mind”. In this book he outlined his theory of neutral monism, with a detailed analysis of perception, instinct and consciousness. Later he wrote “An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth”, published in 1940. Following that he published “An Outline of Human Knowledge”, his last somewhat desperate attempt to save empirical and structured philosophy from the anarchism of linguistic analysis as he saw it. This does sound just like a reading list, but Russell’s development was so much a part of 20th century culture and intellectual history.

I was in awe of him and remain so. However I had personally evolved to Wittgenstein and did not accept the common criticism of linguistic nihilism thrown in the latter’s direction. In 1965, as I was finishing up reading Russell’s published works, I wrote to him for some advice, not expecting an answer. Imagine my thrill when I received the following letter:

[Trafford Publishing, 6E-2333 Government St., Victoria, BC V8T 4P4]