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Showing posts from May, 2011

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Philosophy of Mind and Neuroscience

Scientists, when they investigate any question as science, are limited by the scientific method. They have to concern themselves with theories which make empirical claims and predictions which can be verified or falsified, or at the very least, they have to consider hypotheses that are potentially verifiable, even though they may not be so at the moment. Philosophers, on the other hand, are not limited by these concerns. For the same reason, there is hardly anything that philosophers can say with definite certainty which would leave little room for legitimate disagreement.
Here is a list of the major philosophical positions on the mind-body problem. Perhaps none of these can be refuted beyond doubt; some of the positions do seem unlikely to us given our present state of knowledge (such as Philosophical Behaviorism and Popular Dualism) but most of the positions listed are still philosophically tenable, and we can find philosophers supporting respective positions all over the spectrum. …

Rethinking Reasoning

Philosophers like to believe that reasoning helps us arrive at truth, ridding us of false beliefs and helping us make better decisions; that reasoning is the best way of being rational. Psychologists, however, are now undermining this assumption. While reasoning in a certain context may indeed help us be rational, reasoning in general is ill-equipped for truth.
So claims the Argumentative Theory of Reasoning, which is garnering a lot of attention, and deservedly so.
Here you can read the abstract of the paper:
"Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and…

Matrix and Cartesian Dualism

Trust David Chalmers to come up with (tormentingly) intriguing thought-experiments!
From wikipedia entry on Dualism: "David Chalmers recently developed a thought experiment inspired by the movie The Matrix in which substance dualism could be true: Consider a computer simulation in which the bodies of the creatures are controlled by their minds and the minds remain strictly external to the simulation. The creatures can do all the science they want in the world, but they will never be able to figure out where their minds are, for they do not exist in their observable universe. This is a case of substance dualism with respect to computer simulation."
For Chalmer's original formulation of it, see Note 6 of his paper The Matrix as Metaphysics: "It is interesting to note that the Matrix Hypothesis shows a concrete way in which Cartesian substance dualism might have turned out to be true. It is sometimes held that the idea of physical processes interacting with a nonphysical…

Physics, Soul and Consciousness

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Sean M. Carroll at Scientific American argues that agnosticism about an immaterial soul and life after death is no longer justified in the light of modern science:
"Even if you don't believe that human beings are "simply" collections of atoms evolving and interacting according to rules laid down in the Standard Model of particle physics, most people would grudgingly admit that atoms are part of who we are. If it's really nothing but atoms and the known forces, there is clearly no way for the soul to survive death. Believing in life after death, to put it mildly, requires physics beyond the Standard Model. Most importantly, we need some way for that "new physics" to interact with the atoms that we do have.

Very roughly speaking, when most people think about an immaterial soul that persists after death, they have in mind some sort of blob of spirit energy that takes up residence near our brain, and drives around our body like a soccer mom driving an SUV. T…

Manufactured Offence

Dealing with manufactured offence: Alfonzo Fyfe's guest post at Common Sense Atheism.

Mindful of Fallibility

Kierkegaard presents a contrast between a Christian who prays to God 'in a false spirit' and an idolater who prays to an idol 'with the passion of the infinite', and concludes that 'The one prays in truth to God though he worships an idol; the other prays falsely to the true God, and hence worships in fact an idol.' Kierkegaard is an advocate of passionate faith and 'subjective truth' which he describes as a being determined by the nature of the relationship of the individual to conception of God rather than what may objectively be true: 'if only the mode of this relationship is in the truth, the individual is in the truth even if he should happen to be thus related to what is not true.' [Concluding Unscientific Postscript]
Walter Kaufman comments on this: "the contrast of the passionate idolater with the Christian who 'prays in false spirit' is attractive. But is Kierkegaard's knowledge of what constitutes a false spirit objecti…

The Infinite Tenderness of Being

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Sweet Embrace by echosum1 © on deviantART

Depths

"Do not be bewildered by the surfaces; in the depths all becomes law."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Rep

"Today I had the shock of my life." She made a smack with her lips. "What happened?" "I met this new girl, Tara Tanvir. She's got a rep." I said, "Wow." She screwed on the cap to the lipstick and returned it to the self, watching herself perform this neutral function. I said, "What's your rep?" And she said, "I don't have a rep." She altered her expression in the mirror to one of piety and innocence, then changed it abruptly to one of trauma and shock. "What's mine?" "Boys don't get reps. Only girls get reps. Like only girls get boobs."
Ali Sethi, The Wish Maker

Want

X: I want my love to be more than my desire to not hurt you.

The Runaway Bride

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Finally, Awais-and-Aati combo has its first appearance in Pakistani print media through Us magazine.

Hypothesis and Belief

Believing with a measure of doubt; belief with the spirit of hypothesis:
"If a member of the so-called intellectual class joins any religious group or openly subscribes to its teaching, he will have to prepare himself for a good deal of criticism from his unconverted and more skeptical friends. Some of these may be sympathetic and genuinely interested; others will be covertly satirical, suspicious, or quite frankly hostile and dismayed.... One question, especially, he must learn to expect. It will be asked by the most candid, by those who really want to know: "Yes, of course, I can quite understand why you did it, in a way . . . but tell me, do you actually believe all that?" This question is particularly distressing to the convert, because, if he is to be honest, he will have to answer: "No. I don't yet."
The "all that" to which the questioner refers will vary in detail and mode of formulation, according to the religious group the convert happens …

xkcd: Experimentalist Monotheism

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from xkcd: Religions
Mouse-over text: But to us there is but one God, plus or minus one. -- 1 Corintheans 8:6 ± 2

Obedience

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From the urdu short story Maan Jee by Qudrat-U-Allah Shahab.

Split-brain Theology

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Neurologist VS Ramachandran talks about the case of split-brain patient whose one hemisphere believes in a God and the other one doesn't!

Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou

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'You have an interesting face. I would like to do your portrait. I have a feeling we will do great things together.'--Pablo Picasso
This is a slide-show of some paintings by Pablo Picasso from an on-going art exhibition at Gagosian, titled Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou. It "brings together the paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints inspired by one of Picasso’s most ideal models and enduring passions"; his mistress and love Marie-Thérèse, who made Picasso the painter he was after cubism.

Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists

Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists, edited by Ken Wilber is a refreshing book to read. It is a collection of writings of the founding fathers of modern physics. Eight great scientists: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Einstein, de Broglie, Jeans, Plank, Pauli, and Eddington. In these essays they have elaborated their philosophical thoughts on the nature of reality. And this is what would surprise most people: All of the physicists in this collection were not the narrow materialists that modern scientists are imagined to be. All of them were sympathetic to a mystical worldview. This is not to say that they believed modern physics proved mysticism but they realized that there was a transcendent reality that could not be captured by the symbols and equations of physics. None of them was religious in the conventional sense either. To use Pauli's words, he considered the relation between him and theologians to be that of a 'hostile brother'.
All of…

Meaningful

"To put it romantically, blogging is a vehicle for the relentless quotidian sifting, seeking, and questing for sense and truth and reality without which some of us would find life meaningless."
Maverick Philosopher, on the blog's 7th Blogiversary
So beautifully expresses the sentiment that I feel myself!

One Man's Perfection

"Even if the struggling world is left outside One man's perfection still can save the world."
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri.