What if your brain could talk to you? ’That’s a silly question’, I hear you say, ‘My brain already talks to me.’
To the best of our current knowledge, the mind is the brain, and the mind is always talking. …
Creativity is the production of things that are novel and valuable (whether physical artefacts, actions, or ideas). Humans are unique in the extent of their creativity, which plays a central role in innovation and problem solving, as well as in the arts. But what are the cognitive sources of novelty? More particularly, what are the cognitive sources of stochasticity in creative production? I will argue that they belong to two broad categories. One is associative, enabling the selection of goal-relevant ideas that have become activated by happenstance in an unrelated context. The other relies on selection processes that leverage stochastic fluctuations in neural activity. While the components appealed to in these accounts are well established, the ways in which I combine them together are new.
The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in
legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual
actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case
that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason
to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the
four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the
four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the
first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls,
1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical
philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a
property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of
individuals and other institutions?
I argue that Emilie du Châtelet’s metaphysics of corporeal substance in the 1740s was a species of realism. This result challenges the ruling consensus, which takes her to have been decisively influenced by Leibniz, an idealist. In addition, I argue that du Châtelet’s ontology of body is a mixture of realism and idealism, likewise non-Leibnizian. This too questions the scholarly consensus; and opens the way for a long due and careful reassessment of her overall doctrine. I suggest that her view is best understood as dualism, a two-substance metaphysics that puts du Châtelet relatively close to Christian Wolff.
Jonathan Greig (LMU Munich) posted the picture above to Twitter the other day, crediting Laura Castelli with finding it. It’s from a 14th Century illuminated manuscript by Thomas Le Myésier, Breviculum ex artibus Raimundi Lulli electum, and depicts Aristotle, Averroes, and Ramon Llull leading an army charging the Tower of Falsehood. …
One of the key ideas in my new book The Philosophical Parent is that we see children as self-like because they "come from us"—in one of several senses. I can't state this as any kind of a universal truth, but it tends to be true, and I think it's with good reason that we see children this way. …
When deciding how ‘death’ should be defined, it is helpful to consider cases in which vital functions are restored to an organism long after those vital functions have ceased. Here I consider whether such restoration cases can be used to refute termination theses. Focusing largely on the termination thesis applied to human animals (the view that when human animals die they cease to exist), I develop a line of argument from the possibility of human restoration to the conclusion that in many actual cases, human animals continue to exist after they die. The line of reasoning developed here can be extended to show that other organisms survive death in many actual cases. This line of reasoning improves on other arguments that have been offered against termination theses. And if my argument regarding human animals surviving death is successful, then assuming that human persons are animals, we can also conclude that human persons in many actual cases continue to exist after death.
Until fairly recently secession has been a neglected topic among
philosophers. Two factors may explain why philosophers have now begun
to turn their attention to secession. First, in the past two decades
there has been a great increase not only in the number of attempted
secessions, but also in successful secessions, and philosophers may
simply be reacting to this new reality, attempting to make normative
sense of it. The reasons for the frequency of attempts to secede are
complex, but there are two recent developments that make the prospect
of state-breaking more promising: improvement in national security and
liberalization of trade.
Are you a liberal, socialist or conservative? Are you fiscally conservative but socially liberal? Or socially conservative and fiscally liberal? Are you a classical liberal or a neo-liberal? Are you a Marxist socialist or a neo-Marxist socialist? …
Although the proper definition of ‘rape’ is itself a
matter of some dispute, rape is generally understood to involve sexual
penetration of a person by force and/or without that person's consent. Rape is committed overwhelmingly by men and boys, usually against
women and girls, and sometimes against other men and boys. (For the
most part, this entry will assume male perpetrators and female
victims.) Virtually all feminists agree that rape is a grave wrong, one too
often ignored, mischaracterized, and legitimized. Feminists differ,
however, about how the crime of rape is best understood, and about how
rape should be combated both legally and socially.
In this paper I want to consider the implications of materialism about the human mind for a scientific understanding of consciousness. I shall argue that, while science can tell us many exciting things about human consciousness, it won’t be able to pinpoint any specific material property that constitutes seeing something red, say, or being in pain, or indeed that constitutes being conscious (that is, feeling like something rather than nothing). Not that this means there are definite facts about consciousness about which science must permanently remain silent. Rather the difficulty lies with our concepts of conscious properties, which are vague in certain crucial respects.
The paper has a twofold aim. On the one hand, it provides what appears to be the first game-theoretic modeling of Napole´on’s last campaign, which ended dramatically on June 18, 1815, at Waterloo. It is specifically concerned with the decision Napole´on made on June 17, 1815, to detach part of his army and send it against the Prussians, whom he had defeated, though not destroyed, on June 16 at Ligny. Military strategists and historians agree that this decision was crucial but disagree about whether it was rational. Hypothesizing a zero-sum game between Napole´on and Blu¨cher, and computing its solution, we show that dividing his army could have been a cautious strategy on Napole´on’s part, a conclusion which runs counter to the charges of misjudgment commonly heard since Clausewitz. On the other hand, the paper addresses some methodological issues relative to ‘‘analytic narratives’’. Some political scientists and economists who are both formally and historically minded have proposed to explain historical events in terms of properly mathematical game-theoretic models. We liken the present study to this ‘‘analytic narrative’’ methodology, which we defend against some of objections that it has
This paper responds to a new objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures and pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations in only a weak sense, and this weak sort of unawareness of a sensation does not preclude its being an object of one’s attitudes.
Ugliness is a neglected topic in contemporary analytic aesthetics. This is regrettable given that this topic is not just genuinely fascinating, but could also illuminate other areas in the field, seeing as ugliness, albeit unexplored, does feature rather prominently in several debates in aesthetics. This paper articulates a ‘deformity-related’ conception of ugliness. Ultimately, I argue that deformity, understood in a certain way, and displeasure, jointly suffice for ugliness. First, I motivate my proposal, by locating a ‘deformity-related’ conception of ugliness in aesthetic tradition, offering examples in support, and rejecting related alternative suggestions. Second, I argue that the proposal boasts considerable merits. Not only does it capture much of what we ordinarily think of as ugly, but it also comprises an objective criterion for ugliness, offers unity and comprehensiveness, and is informative and explanatorily potent. Third, I discuss a number of objections, thereby demonstrating that the proposal withstands reflective scrutiny.
Does perceptual consciousness require cognitive access? Ned Block argues that it does not. Central to his case are visual memory experiments that employ post-stimulus cueing—in particular, Sperling’s classic partial report studies, change-detection work by Lamme and colleagues, and a recent paper by Bronfman and colleagues that exploits our perception of ‘gist’ properties. We argue contra Block that these experiments do not support his claim. Our reinterpretations differ from previous critics’ in challenging as well a longstanding and common view of visual memory as involving declining capacity across a series of stores. We conclude by discussing the relation of probabilistic perceptual representations and phenomenal consciousness.
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by Thomas Nickles replaces the
on this topic by the previous authors.] Many scientists, philosophers, and laypersons have regarded science as
the one human enterprise that successfully escapes the contingencies
of history to establish eternal truths about the universe, via a
special, rational method of inquiry. Historicists oppose this view. In
the 1960s several historically informed philosophers of science
challenged the then-dominant accounts of scientific method advanced by
the Popperians and the positivists (the logical positivists and
logical empiricists) for failing to fit historical scientific practice
and failing particularly to account for deep scientific change.
Kant is known for having said relatively little about truth in Critique of Pure Reason (1781/7), and most commentators have followed suit. Many (including Bennett 1966, Strawson 1966, Wolff 1973, Hossenfelder 1978, Allison 1983, Guyer 1987, Longueness 1993, Gardner 1999, and others) have no entry for “truth” in their index, and others have only few references for this term. Nevertheless, there are important lessons to be learned from Kant about truth, lessons
One way to look at the difference between the deaths of humans and brute animals is to say that the death of a human typically deprives the human of goods of rational life that the brute animal is not deprived of. …
Over at PhilPercs, J. Edward Hackett is documenting his reading of Whitehead's Process and Reality for the first time. Hackett is a Jamesian scholar, so a lot has to do on the overlap between Whiteheadian process philosophy, and Jamesian pragmatism and radical empiricism. …
Image courtesy of BagoGames via Flickr
Yuval Noah Harari wrote an article in the Guardian a couple of months back entitled ‘The meaning of life in a world without work’. I was intrigued. Harari has gained a great deal of notoriety for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. …
August W. Schlegel (Sept. 5, 1767, Hanover – May 12, 1845, Bonn)
was a German essayist, critic, translator, philosopher, and poet. Although the philosophical dimension and profundity of his writings
remain underrated, he is considered to be one of the founders of the
German Romantic Movement—which he conceived of as a European
movement—as well as one of the most prominent disseminators of
its philosophical foundational ideas, not only in Germany but also
abroad and, most notably, in Britain. Schlegel had an outstanding knowledge of art, history, literature,
architecture, anthropology, and foreign languages, which made him a
decisive figure in the early development of comparative literature
Lee Bonteçou’s striking and haunting piece, Untitled 1959/1960 is a three-dimensional piece of work rendered out of steel and canvas, framed and hung as if a normal painting. Taut, seemingly grimy canvas is fashioned, using steel armature and thin wire, into two volcanic cones, the centers of which are deep, black ovals. The ovals appear as limitless abysses piercing the space occupied by the artwork. When viewed in the white box of a gallery space, it feels as if Bonteçou has rent a hole in the surface of reality to reveal a lurking, violent deep darkness. This piece, like much of Bonteçou’s work in that era, embodied a startling mix of painting and sculpture. Viewed today, it remains surprising and aesthetically remarkable.
Constitutivism about reasons begins with the idea what we have reason to believe or do is grounded in facts about our nature as acting, believing, and reasoning beings. Thus, constitutivism claims that our nature as rational agents takes explanatory priority over facts about our reasons. We have the reasons we do because we are rational agents of a certain sort.
Arguably the most important German thinker of fifteenth century,
Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) was also an ecclesiastical
reformer, administrator and cardinal. His life-long effort was to
reform and unite the universal and Roman Church, whether as canon law
expert at the Council of Basel and after, as legate to Constantinople
and later to German dioceses and houses of religion, as bishop in his
own diocese of Brixen, and as advisor in the papal curia. His active
life as a Church administrator and bishop found written expression in
several hundred Latin sermons and more theoretical background in his
writings on ecclesiology, ecumenism, mathematics, philosophy and
Depiction or pictorial representation was studied less intensively by
philosophers than linguistic meaning until the 1960s. The traditional
doctrine that pictures represent objects by copying their appearance
had been challenged by art theorists since the first quarter of the
twentieth century, when what were thought of as illusionistic styles
of painting lost favour, due to the growing prestige of so-called
“primitive” artistic styles, and the fauvist and cubist
experiments of artists at that time. But it took several decades
before philosophers became interested in these debates. When they did
so, it was largely due to the impact of two books: Ernst
Gombrich’s Art and Illusion (1960), and Nelson
Goodman’s Languages of Art (1968).
My topic is, well, conceptual analysis and its limits. I will start by sketching what I mean by ‘conceptual analysis’, and saying a bit about how it is used in contemporary philosophy. Then I will point out two limitations of the method, and illustrate these limits with examples: some from the philosophical literature, and some from biology.
Jason Brennan says:
June 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this further. Christiano leads mostly with an empirical critique, but that’s frankly not a promising route for him to take, and I don’t find any of the purported empirical criticisms troubling. …
“Panentheism” is a constructed word composed of the
English equivalents of the Greek terms “pan”, meaning all,
“en”, meaning in, and “theism”, meaning God. Panentheism considers God and the world to be inter-related with the
world being in God and God being in the world. It offers an
increasingly popular alternative to both traditional theism and
pantheism. Panentheism seeks to avoid either isolating God from the
world as traditional theism often does or identifying God with the
world as pantheism does. Traditional theistic systems emphasize the
difference between God and the world while panentheism stresses
God’s active presence in the world and the world’s
influence upon God.
In this essay I consider three case studies of Aristotle’s use of matter, drawn from three different scientific contexts: menstrual fluid as the matter of animal generation in the Generation of Animals, the living body as matter of an organism in Aristotle’s On the Soul (De Anima), and the matter of elemental transformation in Generation and Corruption. I argue that Aristotle conceives of matter differently in these treatises (1) because of the different sorts of changes under consideration, and (2) because sometimes he is considering the matter for one specific change, and sometimes the matter for all of a thing’s natural changes. My account allows me to explain some of the strange features that Aristotle ascribes to the matter for elemental transformation in Generation and Corruption II. These features were interpreted by later commentators as general features of all matter. I argue that they are a result of the specific way that Aristotle thinks about the transmutation of the elements.
:: One of the newest research areas in moral philosophy is moral phenomenology: the dedicated study of the experiential dimension of moral mental life. The idea has been to bring phenomenological evidence to bear on some central issues in metaethics and moral psychology, such as cognitivism and noncognitivism about moral judgment, motivational internalism and externalism, and so on. However, moral phenomenology faces certain foundational challenges, pertaining especially to the existence, describability, and importance of its subject matter. This paper addresses these foundational challenges, arguing that moral experiences – in the phenomenal, what-is-like sense of the term – exist, are informatively describable, and are central for the concerns of moral philosophy at large.