Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust
": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it
. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious
on Feb 4, 2011 -
Ivan Illich was an Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest and critic of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects on the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, and economic development.
posted by Joe Beese
on Feb 3, 2011 -
Professional philosophers have long known that there are far fewer women in philosophy than there are men. (Some quick info.
) Recently, this issue has taken center-stage in the philosophy blogosphere. First, a new study
suggests that gender plays a role in what intuitions one has to philosophical thought experiments, such as the Gettier cases
about knowledge, and The Trolley Problem
related to ethics (via
). Second, a new blog, What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?
, has exploded
as it shows the good
, the bad
, and the downright ugly
involved in being a woman in the profession. [more inside]
posted by meese
on Oct 14, 2010 -
Ask the atheist
"Have a question for an atheist? Ever wonder what atheists think about morality, faith, science, etc.? How do atheists live their lives without a god? How do they know right from wrong? Are they just angry at god? Do they really NOT believe?" [more inside]
posted by Paragon
on Oct 13, 2010 -
"In the depth of winter I finally learned there was in me an eternal September. This definite, very real September I'm writing in, however, is the only place and time I want or need. Football season is over; football season has begun. The rest is life, and it can and will wait until February, the question that always answers itself by becoming March, and then April, and then back to September again, where we do not root for Tennessee, because that is simply not done here."
posted by ivey
on Sep 3, 2010 -
The Rehabilitation of Ernest Gellner
- It is easy to imagine why Ernest Gellner would be one of the universally known figures in Anglophone intellectual life. A polymath whose work ranged across anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology, his mind wrestled with an encyclopedia's worth of nagging questions about nationalism, modernity, civil society, imperialism, Islam, psychoanalysis, ethics and epistemology ... All of this, to repeat, should explain Gellner's monumental prominence – except for the fact that he has no such prominence.
) [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Jul 25, 2010 -
The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.
Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
posted by scalespace
on Jul 6, 2010 -
An attempt at a collaborative translation of Plato’s Protagoras
. Every day for a few months, Dhananjay Jagannathan will post roughly a page of the dialogue, side by side in Greek, in his own translation, and in Jowett’s classic 1871 translation. He's invited readers to comment and offer suggestions to improve the translation. Jagannathan's goal is to communicate Plato in English the way readers of his would have interpreted his Greek.
posted by unliteral
on Jun 30, 2010 -
How to be cool? How to stay calm? How to have better conversations? How to make love last? The School of Life
is a place to step back and think intelligently about these and other concerns. [more inside]
posted by jonesor
on May 18, 2010 -
"Why? Philosophical Discussions" about everyday life may be the world's first call-in philosophy show. Its mission is to create a large-scale conversation between philosophical professionals and the general public.
radio, from the University of North Dakota's Institute for Philosophy in Public Life
, is a monthly, call-in radio show hosted by philosophy professor Jack Russell Weinstein. "...the show was created to illustrate how day-to-day life is steeped in deep philosophical commitments and to provide a venue for exploration of those same commitments."
Shows feature notable guests such as Martha Nussbaum, Amelie Rorty
, and Amartya Sen.
posted by Lutoslawski
on May 17, 2010 -
Suppose ... that the right picture is that characters who take themselves to be deliberating and initiating various deeds come to look like somewhat pathetic figures frantically pulling various wires and pushing various buttons which are, unknown to them, not connected to some moving machine they are riding, on a course completely indifferent to anything such characters pretend to do (or much more indifferent than the riders believe) ... The first thing to say is that this is not an academic exercise. The problem I want to raise has become especially interesting in the last hundred and fifty years or so, because, under the influences, first, of the so-called “Masters of Suspicion” – Marx, Nietzsche and Freud – and in our own day under the influence of everything from structuralism and various “anti-humanisms” in European philosophy to evolutionary biology and the neurosciences (experimental results, brain imaging, Benjamin Libet’s famous experiment and so forth), many seem to have concluded that in an ever expanding range of cases, it only seems to us that we are “running any show” as conscious agents in any even metaphysically modest sense; it only seems that we could be actually leading our lives
posted by nasreddin
on Apr 20, 2010 -
Pandora, Prometheus, and Pessimism.
"Pessimism deserves serious consideration in today’s culture of Oprah-quick-fix happiness, Prozac induced euphoria, and unjustified optimism for our species. Unlike Oprah and Prozac, pessimism is not easy to swallow. It is time we consider this tradition in a culture steeped in farcical, puerile conceptions of happiness; an environment where every person who is able to grin on a book-cover can tell us how to achieve happiness now; where angels or god or some other fairy-tale character cares about our actions in this world. Life is not a grand, heroic narrative with a happy ending. It is not a place where we are overcoming obstacles in order to achieve a time in our lives of perfect serenity. In order to combat such serious obstructions to clear-thought, boundaries to reality and gateways to delusion, pessimism can help us shape our thoughts on matters which resonate with all us rational, bipedal apes."
posted by homunculus
on Apr 15, 2010 -
"You turned into a cat! A
SMALL cat! You violated Conservation of Energy! That's not just an arbitrary rule, it's implied by the form of the quantum Hamiltonian! Rejecting it destroys unitarity and then you get FTL signaling! And cats are
COMPLICATED! A human mind can't just visualize a whole cat's anatomy and, and all the cat biochemistry, and what about the
neurology? How can you go on thinking using a cat-sized brain?" McGonagall's lips were twitching harder now. "Magic."
Eliezer Yudkowsky — rationalist
, AI pontificator
— writes Harry Potter fan fiction
posted by teraflop
on Apr 6, 2010 -