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The Constitution: Who Needs It? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Constitution: Who Needs It? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Louis Michael Seidman wants to scrap America's foundational document, and he has anticipated your objections.
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Philosophy everywhere everywhen
The First Law of Philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher. The Second Law of Philosophy: They're bo
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Study: There Are Instructions for Teaching Critical Thinking | Big Think

Study: There Are Instructions for Teaching Critical Thinking | Big Think | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Whether or not you can teach something as subjective as critical thinking has been up for debate, but a fascinating new study shows that it’s actually quite possible. Experiments performed by Stanford's Department of Physics and Graduate School of Education demonstrate that students can be instructed to think more critically.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of critical-thinking skills in modern society. The ability to decipher information and interpret it, offering creative solutions, is in direct relation to our intellect.
The study took two groups of students in an introductory physics laboratory course, with one group (known as the experimental group) given the instruction to use quantitative comparisons between datasets and the other group given no instruction (the control group). Comparing data in a scientific manner; that is, being able to measure one’s observations in a statistical or mathematical way, led to interesting results for the experimental group.Even after these instructions were removed, they were 12 times more likely to offer creative solutions to improve the experimental methods being used in the class, four times more likely to explain the limitations of the methods, and better at explaining their reasoning than the control group. The results remained consistent even in the next year, with students in a different class. So what does this imply about critical thinking, and how can we utilize these findings to improve ourselves and our society?

We live in an age with unprecedented access to information. Whether you are contributing to an entry on Wikipedia or reading a meme that has no sources cited (do they ever?), your ability to comprehend what you are reading and weigh it is a constant and consistent need. That is why it is so imperative that we have sharp critical-thinking skills. Also, if you don’t use them, you will have nothing to argue with your family about at Thanksgiving. More importantly, it keeps your brain from nomming on junk food and on more of a kale-based diet. Look at any trending topic, and test yourself. Is this true/accurate? How do I know either way? Is there a way I can use data (provable, factual information) to figure this out?

Certainly, we can train ourselves to become better critical thinkers, but it’s also important that we teach these skills to kids. Studies have shown how important this ability is to our success, and yet many feel that we’re doing a terrible job of teaching it. This study, however, may lead to educators and parents realizing that these skills are teachable. The implications of a better thinking society are not quantitative, but I do believe they would be extraordinary.
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The pronoun 'I' is becoming obsolete

The pronoun 'I' is becoming obsolete | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Don't look now, but the pronoun "I" is becoming obsolete.

Recent microbiological research has shown that thinking of plants and animals, including humans, as autonomous individuals is a serious over-simplification.

A series of groundbreaking studies have revealed that what we have always thought of as individuals are actually "biomolecular networks" that consist of visible hosts plus millions of invisible microbes that have a significant effect on how the host develops, the diseases it catches, how it behaves and possibly even its social interactions.

"It's a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts," said Seth Bordenstein, associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, who has contributed to the body of scientific knowledge that is pointing to the conclusion that symbiotic microbes play a fundamental role in virtually all aspects of plant and animal biology, including the origin of new species.

In this case, the parts are the host and its genome plus the thousands of different species of bacteria living in or on the host, along with all their genomes, collectively known as the microbiome.

(The host is something like the tip of the iceberg while the bacteria are like the part of the iceberg that is underwater: Nine out of every 10 cells in plant and animal bodies are bacterial. But bacterial cells are so much smaller than host cells that they have generally gone unnoticed.)
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Will Artificial Intelligence Surpass Our Own?

Will Artificial Intelligence Surpass Our Own? | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Famed science-fiction writer Fredric Brown (1906–1972) delighted in creating the shortest of short stories. “Answer,” published in 1954, encapsulated a prescient meditation on the future of human-machine relations within a single double-spaced, typewritten page.

The foreboding of the story echoes current apprehensions of scientists, policy makers and ethicists over the rapid evolution of machine intelligence.

“Answer” begins under the watchful eyes of a dozen television cameras that are recording the ceremonial soldering of the final connection to tie together all the “monster” computers in the universe.

The machines are about to link 96 billion planets into a single “supercircuit” that combines “all the knowledge of all the galaxies.”

Two witnesses on the scene are identified only as Dwar Ev and Dwar Reyn. After throwing the switch that connects the galactic circuit, Dwar Ev suggests to his companion that he ask the machine the first question:

“Thank you,” said Dwar Reyn. “It shall be a question which no single cyber netics machine has been able to answer.”

He turned to face the machine. “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

We are in the midst of a revolution in machine intelligence, the art and engineering practices that let computers perform tasks that, until recently, could be done only by people. There is now software that identifies faces at border crossings and matches them against passports or that labels people and objects in photographs posted to social media. Algorithms can teach themselves to play Atari video games. A camera and chip embedded in top-of-the-line sedans let the vehicles drive autonomously on the open road.
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MIT claims to have found a “language universal” that ties all languages together

MIT claims to have found a “language universal” that ties all languages together | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Language takes an astonishing variety of forms across the world—to such a huge extent that a long-standing debate rages around the question of whether all languages have even a single property in common. Well, there’s a new candidate for the elusive title of “language universal” according to a paper in this week’s issue of PNAS. All languages, the authors say, self-organise in such a way that related concepts stay as close together as possible within a sentence, making it easier to piece together the overall meaning.

Language universals are a big deal because they shed light on heavy questions about human cognition. The most famous proponent of the idea of language universals is Noam Chomsky, who suggested a “universal grammar” that underlies all languages. Finding a property that occurs in every single language would suggest that some element of language is genetically predetermined and perhaps that there is specific brain architecture dedicated to language.

However, other researchers argue that there are vanishingly few candidates for a true language universal. They say that there is enormous diversity at every possible level of linguistic structure from the sentence right down to the individual sounds we make with our mouths (that’s without including sign languages).

There are widespread tendencies across languages, they concede, but they argue that these patterns are just a signal that languages find common solutions to common problems. Without finding a true universal, it’s difficult to make the case that language is a specific cognitive package rather than a more general result of the remarkable capabilities of the human brain.
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The false dichotomy of nature-nurture, with notes on feminism, transgenderism, and the construction of races

The false dichotomy of nature-nurture, with notes on feminism, transgenderism, and the construction of races | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
This is my third essay on what has become an informal series on socially relevant false dichotomies (the first one was on “trigger warnings,” the second one on Islamophobia). On this occasion I’m going to focus again on nature-nurture, perhaps the motherlode of false dichotomies (as well as my area of technical expertise as a practicing biologist).

The occasion is provided by recent controversies concerning the delicate concepts of gender and race, where once again — as in both the cases of trigger warnings and of Islamophobia — I see well intentioned progressives needlessly (in my mind) and harshly attacking fellow progressives, or at the least, people who ought to be their natural political allies. (As in the other two cases, I will ignore contributions from the right and from libertarians, on the ground that I find them both less constructive and less surprising than those from the sources I will be discussing here.)

Let me start with gender. I read with fascination a New York Times op-ed piece by feminist Elinor Burkett entitled “What makes a woman?,” explaining why a number of feminists have issues with certain aspects of the transgender movement, and in particular why Burkett had mixed feelings about the very public coming out of Caitlyn Jenner.

First, Jenner: Burkett says that of course she supports a member of an often vilified gender minority when that person makes the sort of courageous statement that Jenner did by appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. But, asks Burkett, did Jenner really have to embrace what from a feminist point of view (and yes, I’m perfectly aware that there are different types of feminists, with different points of view) is the stereotype of the babe with big breasts, revealing cleavage, and an unhealthy degree of concern with getting her nails done?
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Even educated fleas do it ... but is animal sex spicier than we thought?

Even educated fleas do it ... but is animal sex spicier than we thought? | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
There’s an idea circulating that humans are the only animal to experience sexual pleasure; that we approach sex in a way that is distinct from others. As with many questions about sex, this exposes some interesting facts about the way we discuss the subject.

On one level, the question of whether humans and nonhumans experience sex in the same way is fairly simply dismissed: how would we know? We cannot know how a nonhuman experiences anything – they can’t be asked. Sex as an experiential phenomenon for nonhumans is, quite simply, inaccessible. Science is obliged to propose questions that are answerable, and “how does a leopard slug experience sex?” is, at time of writing, about as unanswerable as they get.

Having said that, we can make educated guesses about whether sex is pleasurable for other species. Sex would be a very strange thing to seek if it didn’t bring some form of pleasure. It increases risk of disease, it wastes energy, it can seriously increase the likelihood of something bigger coming along and eating you (seriously, check out leopard-slug reproduction).
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Virginia Woolf on Why the Best Mind Is the Androgynous Mind

Virginia Woolf on Why the Best Mind Is the Androgynous Mind | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
“In each of us two powers preside, one male, one female… The androgynous mind is resonant and porous… naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”

In addition to being one of the greatest writers and most expansive minds humanity ever produced, Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882–March 28, 1941) was also a woman of exceptional wisdom on such complexities of living as consciousness and creativity, the consolations of aging, how one should read a book, and the artist’s eternal dance with self-doubt.

So incisive was her insight into the human experience that, many decades before scientists demonstrated why “psychological androgyny” is essential to creativity, Woolf articulated this idea in a beautiful passage from her classic 1929 book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (public library).
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Marc Williams DEBONO (Plasticities Sciences Arts)'s comment, August 7, 4:06 AM
Excellent vision of the androgynous mind of Woolf
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The Cowboy, the Lesbian, and the Humanist

The Cowboy, the Lesbian, and the Humanist | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
A cowboy walks into a saloon. He removes his dusty hat, orders a whiskey, and sinks wearily onto a stool. He downs the whiskey, looks around, and notices that an attractive woman has joined him at the bar. She looks him over and asks, “Are you a real cowboy?” The cowboy pauses to consider the question. He orders another whiskey. “Well,” he says, “I wake at dawn, climb into a saddle, and herd cattle all day. I eat by a campfire and pitch my bedroll under the stars. Yep, I reckon I am a cowboy.” He tosses back the second whiskey and reciprocates: “You a cowgirl?”

“Oh, no,” the woman replies, “I’m a lesbian.” The cowboy looks puzzled. “How d’ya reckon?” he asks. “Well, I wake up in the morning thinking about girls. I think about ‘em all day long. Then at night, I dream about girls.” The cowboy ponders this revelation in silence. The situation grows awkward. He pays for his drinks, mumbles a goodbye, and heads for the door. Unhitching his horse outside, the cowboy is approached by a tourist. “You really a cowboy?” the tourist asks. “I thought I was,” replies the cowboy, “Turns out I’m a lesbian.”

Our cowboy’s grasp of the concept “lesbian” is a bit shaky. If we set that aside, though, we have a story about someone learning a new concept, realizing that it applies to him, and in the process, discovering something important about himself.

Such discoveries happen, and they can be transformational. The right concept can connect a person to a group, project or cause larger than himself — and thereby afford him (or her) a sense of purpose, belonging, and identity. Did our cowboy find his true self in the community of lesbians? Probably not. A similar epiphany, though, could have resulted in a profoundly meaningful discovery. “The secret to happiness,” writes philosopher Daniel Dennett, “is to find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”
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Free Will Does Not Exist - Should it be a Transhumanist Enhancement?

Free Will Does Not Exist - Should it be a Transhumanist Enhancement? | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Humans Do Not Have Free Will.

I agree with that statement. So do the vast majority of today’s scientists; neurology and psychology journals increasingly define free will as “an illusion… a figment of our imagination.”

In his 1932 “My Credo” Albert Einstein wrote “I do not believe in free will.” In the best-seller Free Will, Sam Harris declares the notion “incoherent.” Neuro-philosopher Garrett Merriam opines in an IEET interview “the notion of ‘free will’.. [is a] useless concept… I have high hopes that neuroscience will…eliminate [it]…”

We don’t have free will because human physiology isn’t wired that way. In 1983 Benjamin LIbet published research in Brain proving our motor cortex initiates action before the “I” is informed about it. Gary Weber PhD., agrees: “The research is conclusive; the brain determines what you will do, well before you are aware that you will do it. What does your “free will” mean? We no more initiate events “consciously”, than we cause our hearts to beat, or our stomach to digest our lunch.
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You can trick yourself into being happy ... if you make life worse first | Oliver Burkeman

You can trick yourself into being happy ... if you make life worse first | Oliver Burkeman | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
A couple of years ago, I got to fly in the ultra-luxurious business class of an especially high-end airline; and now all lesser air travel – which means all other air travel, basically – is ruined for me forever. I’m not expecting an outpouring of sympathy for my plight. But I did feel a flicker of vindication when I read, via Scientific American, about a new study on the psychology of restaurant diners: serve them a really delicious appetizer followed by a mediocre main course, it seems, and they’ll rate the main course much more negatively than if had been preceded by something equally mediocre.

The researchers – whose results were published in the appropriately titled journal Food Quality and Preference – gave participants a boring pasta dish, preceded by an appetizer of bruschetta, made either with excellent fresh ingredients, or uninspiring dried ones. The resulting difference in their assessments of the pasta illustrates a phenomenon known as “hedonic contrast”, and it’s a familiar one to food psychologists and restaurateurs alike: what counts as tasty depends on what came before. If you’re planning to dine at Olive Garden, don’t pop into Nobu for a quick amuse-bouche first.
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We Are Not Human Individuals

We Are Not Human Individuals | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Unbeknownst to many people, our emotions, cognition, behavior, and mental health are influenced by a large number of entities that reside in our bodies while pursuing their own interests, which need not coincide with ours. Such selfish entities include microbes, viruses, foreign human cells, and imprinted genes regulated by viruslike elements. This article provides a broad overview, aimed at a wide readership, of the consequences of our coexistence with these entities. Its aim is to show that we are not unitary individuals in control of ourselves but rather “holobionts” or superorganisms—meant here as collections of human and nonhuman elements that are to varying degrees integrated and, in an incessant struggle, jointly define who we are.
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The Library of Babel as Seen from Within

The Library of Babel as Seen from Within | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Since I first read it in a high school Spanish class, I’ve been fascinated by the theory of language implicit in Borges’s “The Library of Babel.” The story describes a universal library containing, in 410-page volumes, every possible permutation of twenty-two letters, spaces, commas, and periods—every book that’s ever been written and every book that ever could be, drowned out by endless pages of gibberish. Its librarians are addicted to the search for certain master texts, the complete catalog of the library, or the future history of one’s own life, but their quest inevitably ends in failure, despair, even suicide.

Perhaps I was obsessed by the same desire for revelation, or haunted by the same subversion of all rational pursuit. In either case, fifteen years later the idea came to me one night of using the vast calculative capacities of a computer to re-create the Library of Babel as a Web site. For those interested in experiencing the futile hope of Borges’s bibliotecarios, I’ve made libraryofbabel.info, which now contains anything we ever have written or ever will write, including these sentences I struggle to compose now.
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Making Sense of Life — Evelyn Fox Keller | Harvard University Press

Making Sense of Life — Evelyn Fox Keller | Harvard University Press | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
What do biologists want? If, unlike their counterparts in physics, biologists are generally wary of a grand, overarching theory, at what kinds of explanation do biologists aim? How will we know when we have “made sense” of life? Such questions, Evelyn Fox Keller suggests, offer no simple answers. Explanations in the biological sciences are typically provisional and partial, judged by criteria as heterogeneous as their subject matter. It is Keller’s aim in this bold and challenging book to account for this epistemological diversity—particularly in the discipline of developmental biology.

In particular, Keller asks, what counts as an “explanation” of biological development in individual organisms? Her inquiry ranges from physical and mathematical models to more familiar explanatory metaphors to the dramatic contributions of recent technological developments, especially in imaging, recombinant DNA, and computer modeling and simulations.

A history of the diverse and changing nature of biological explanation in a particularly charged field, Making Sense of Life draws our attention to the temporal, disciplinary, and cultural components of what biologists mean, and what they understand, when they propose to explain life.
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How new brain implants can boost free will – Walter Glannon – Aeon

How new brain implants can boost free will – Walter Glannon – Aeon | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Some philosophers maintain that free will is incompatible with causal determinism, which by definition allows only one possibility – in essence, it assigns our life trajectories in advance. Others argue that we don’t need alternative possibilities for free will but only the desires and intentions that actually guide what we decide to do.

Yet my student made me think that the debate could be reframed. Free will might have nothing to do with the universe outside and everything to do with how the brain enables or disables our behaviour and thoughts. What if free will relies on the internal, on how successfully the brain generates and sustains the physiological, cognitive and emotional dimensions of our bodies and minds – and has nothing to do with the external at all?

The best way to study free will, I posited, might be through neurological and psychiatric disorders resulting from dysfunction in neural circuits regulating movement, cognition and mood. Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience uncontrollable tremors or equally debilitating rigidity. For those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviour seem impossible to suppress. Major depression can dull motivation and destroy the capacity for pleasure. Damage to the region of the brain regulating memory formation can limit the capacity to recall experiences and project oneself into the future. Other traumatic brain injuries undermine free will by causing extensive paralysis and the inability to communicate. If we think of free will as the ability to plan and act without mental or physical compulsion or constraint, then these brain disorders represent a spectrum in which free will is mildly to completely impaired.
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Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else

Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
A new paper on teaching critical thinking skills in science has pointed out, yet again, the value of giving students experiences that go beyond simple recall or learned procedures.

It is a common lamentation that students are not taught to think, but there is usually an accompanying lack of clarity about exactly what that might mean.

There is a way of understanding this idea that is conceptually easy and delivers a sharp educational focus – a way that focuses on the explicit teaching of thinking skills through an inquiry process, and allows students to effectively evaluate their thinking.
What are thinking skills?

Let’s first understand what we might mean by thinking skills. Thinking skills, or cognitive skills, are, in large part, things you do with knowledge. Things like analysing, evaluating, synthesising, inferring, conjecturing, justifying, categorising and many other terms describe your cognitive events at a particular functional level.

Analysis, for example, involves identifying the constituent elements of something and examining their relationships with each other and to the whole. One can analyse a painting, a piece of text, a set of data or a graph.

Analysis is a widely valued cognitive skill and is not unique to any discipline context. It is a general thinking skill.

Most syllabuses from primary to tertiary level are organised by content only, with little mention of such cognitive skills. Usually, even if they are mentioned, little is said about how to teach them. The hope is they will be caught, not taught.

Rigour in course design is too often understood as equating to large amounts of recall of content and specific training in algorithms or set procedures. It is far less common, but far more valuable, to have courses in which rigour is found in the demand for high-level cognitive skill formation.

This is not to say that knowledge is not important in the curriculum. Our knowledge is hard won; we should value what we have learned for how it makes our lives more productive or meaningful.

But there is nothing mutually exclusive about developing high levels of cognitive skills with content knowledge in a discipline context. It just demands attention to these skills, using the content as an opportunity to explore them.

It is knowing how to provide students with these skill-building opportunities in context that is the mark of an outstanding teacher of effective thinking.

After all, we do not expect the scientific, cultural and political leaders of tomorrow simply to know stuff. They must also know what to do with it.
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Does the Atheist have a Theory of Mind?

Does the Atheist have a Theory of Mind? | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Planet earth appears to be filled with unseen forces that control the behavior of its inhabitants. No, this isn’t the beginning to a cheesy B-movie science fiction film script. This is reality and even the staunchest of skeptics act as if they believe in these invisible forces. That is, we live in a material world ruled by minds with no physical locality and it is here that we think beliefs, desires, intentions, and other mental states are both responsible for, and explain our behavior [1]. There is nothing particularly magical or surprising about this fact, at least not until we consider particular theories in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) that, for example, suggest atheists may be “socially disabled” [2], have a “malfunction” in their ability to reason about these mental states, or perhaps that there is no such thing as atheism at the level of cognition [3]. Thus, and I ask jokingly, does the atheist have a theory of mind? But, more on this in a moment.

Attributing mental states is something we do to others and ourselves on a daily basis, such that it appears to be commonsense — and it is! In fact, this ability has even been called “commonsense psychology,” among various others terms: social cognition, folk psychology, mind reading, and mentalizing [4]. Our folk psychology may not deliver adequate scientific causal descriptions, but we are nonetheless bound to it in everyday reasoning. While some of these terms have very specific technical meanings within a given discipline or theory, for the purposes of the present essay I will primarily use the term theory of mind (ToM). This essay will present a brief overview of ToM, its relationship to autism spectrum disorders, how this relationship is utilized in CSR, and critically evaluate the suggested links between poor ToM skills and atheism.
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Yes, Other Animals Do Have Sex For Fun - The Crux

Yes, Other Animals Do Have Sex For Fun - The Crux | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
There’s an idea circulating that humans are the only animal to experience sexual pleasure; that we approach sex in a way that is distinct from others. As with many questions about sex, this exposes some interesting facts about the way we discuss the subject.

On one level, the question of whether humans and nonhumans experience sex in the same way is fairly simply dismissed: how would we know? We cannot know how a nonhuman experiences anything – they can’t be asked. Sex as an experiential phenomenon for nonhumans is, quite simply, inaccessible. Science is obliged to propose questions that are answerable, and “how does a leopard slug experience sex?” is, at time of writing, about as unanswerable as they get.

Having said that, we can make educated guesses about whether sex is pleasurable for other species. Sex would be a very strange thing to seek if it didn’t bring some form of pleasure. It increases risk of disease, it wastes energy, it can seriously increase the likelihood of something bigger coming along and eating you (seriously, check out leopard-slug reproduction, below).
There’s no reason why an animal should seek sex unless they enjoy it. It is often proposed that an inherent “drive to reproduce” explains nonhuman sexual activity, but that is not an alternative here: if animals possess an instinct to reproduce, it needs to function somehow – and pleasure is a fairly basic motivator. The hypothesis that all sexually reproducing species experience sexual pleasure is, in itself, quite reasonable – as would be the hypothesis that animals find eating pleasurable.
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Think Your Conscious Brain Directs Your Actions? Think Again - Singularity HUB

Think Your Conscious Brain Directs Your Actions? Think Again - Singularity HUB | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Think your deliberate, guiding, conscious thoughts are in charge of your actions?

Think again.

In a provocative new paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a team led by Dr. Ezequiel Morsella at San Francisco State University came to a startling conclusion: consciousness is no more than a passive machine running one simple algorithm — to serve up what’s already been decided, and take credit for the decision.

Rather than a sage conductor, it’s just a tiny part of what happens in the brain that makes us “aware.” All the real work goes on under the hood — in our unconscious minds.

The Passive Frame Theory, as Morsella calls it, is based on decades of experimental data observing how people perceive and generate motor responses to odors. It’s not about perception (“I smell a skunk”), but about response (running from a skunk). The key to cracking what consciousness does in the brain is to work backwards from an observable physical action, explains Morsella in his paper.

If this isn’t your idea of “consciousness,” you’re not alone.
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Metrosophy: Philosophy and the City

Metrosophy: Philosophy and the City | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Where is philosophy? This is not a typo. What is philosophy is a common question. But rarely do we wonder where it is, physically speaking. Imagine a philosopher at work. Where does this scene take place?

Philosophy is typically depicted as a solitary activity conducted in remote natural settings — a hut next to a fjord, a clearing in the middle of a forest, a cave on the slope of a mountain, or, these days, a rocking chair on a porch in a quaint college town. Certainly, some great thinkers (Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Nietzsche among them) were responsible for promoting this bucolic ethos. But even a superficial familiarity with the history of Western philosophy reveals that the city is virtually a necessary condition for the possibility of doing theoretical work, which may then be carried on in other, less hectic places.
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After 20 years, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy thrives on the web

After 20 years, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy thrives on the web | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
Quite a few people in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are looking online for information about Kantian morality. And the relationship between education and philosophy is piquing the interest of web surfers worldwide.

How do we know this? The data comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the web's oldest and arguably most credible open-access source of philosophical information.

Launched two decades ago, years before Wikipedia existed, the site led the way in academic information sharing. It now includes 1,478 authoritative and vetted entries about all manner of philosophical topics. It is updated almost daily, thanks to about 2,000 contributors.

The encyclopedia averages more than a million Internet hits per week. Users include students, scholars, librarians and even military officials.

Due to its alternative scholarly publishing model – the encyclopedia is free and edited by experts – the SEP is one of the few of its kind.
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Why We Need “Philosophy Communication” — Medium

Why We Need “Philosophy Communication” — Medium | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
When was the last time you read a snappy op ed by another philosopher surgically dismantling a topical issue or slamming a public figure for shoddy reasoning?

Yeah, I can’t remember either.

This is not to say you aren’t writing occasional missives about the “real world”. But you’re largely doing so in specialist journals or on personal blogs. You’re effectively writing to each other and a tiny self-selected choir rather than to the public at large.

Yet, if philosophy has a practical value (and I feel strongly it has many), it is as a force for clarity. Philosophy can carve the world into thinkable chunks, it can clarify concepts, highlight assumptions and presuppositions that lurk beneath our notice, and tease out sloppy thinking where it taints our reasoning.

In a world informed by popular media brimming with partisan pundits and professional opinionators, philosophy can offer a breath of reason that can bring genuine progress to stalled debates.

Yet philosophers are largely absent from the great popular debates of our times. Issues such as inequality, the future of work, our relationship to nature or religion or technology, understanding cultural identity and ideological conflict, or even just understanding our values and ensuring they actually direct our behaviour, all these are fundamentally philosophical issues.
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That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket

That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
In less than two years Slack Technologies has become one of the most glistening of tech’s ten-digit “unicorn” startups, boasting 1.1 million users and a private market valuation of $2.8 billion. If you’ve used Slack’s team-based messaging software, you know that one of its catchiest innovations is Slackbot, a helpful little avatar that pops up periodically to provide tips so jaunty that it seems human.

Such creativity can’t be programmed. Instead, much of it is minted by one of Slack’s 180 employees, Anna Pickard, the 38-year-old editorial director. She earned a theater degree from Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University before discovering that she hated the constant snubs of auditions that didn’t work out. After dabbling in blogging, videogame writing and cat impersonations, she found her way into tech, where she cooks up zany replies to users who type in “I love you, Slackbot.” It’s her mission, Pickard explains, “to provide users with extra bits of surprise and delight.” The pay is good; the stock options, even better.

What kind of boss hires a thwarted actress for a business-to-business software startup? Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s 42-year-old cofounder and CEO, whose estimated double-digit stake in the company could be worth $300 million or more. He’s the proud holder of an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Canada’s University of Victoria and a master’s degree from Cambridge in philosophy and the history of science.

“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”
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Do We Cheapen Philosophy When We Use It as Therapy?

Do We Cheapen Philosophy When We Use It as Therapy? | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
I teach an undergraduate class on Nietzsche, a philosopher who has a reputation for captivating young minds. After one class, a student came to see me. There was something bothering her. "Is it OK to be changed by reading a philosopher?" she asked. "I mean, do you get inspired by Nietzsche? Do you use him in your life?"

You have to be careful about questions like that, and not only because the number of murderers claiming Nietzsche as their inspiration is higher than I would like. What the student usually means is: "Nietzsche mocks careful scholarship: Can I, in his spirit, write my paper however the hell I want and still get a good grade?" In this case, though, the student knew perfectly well how to write a scholarly paper. She wanted to do something else too: Be Nietzschean!

Here’s my line, for what it’s worth: You can do whatever you want in life — take inspiration from The Smurfs, for all I care — but I’m here to teach you how to read a philosopher, slowly and carefully, which is not an easy thing to do. If you want to be inspired by Nietzsche, you have to read him precisely, to make sure that it is Nietzsche who inspires you, not a preconception or a misappropriation or a scholarly reading, mine or anybody else’s, which is vulnerable to the interpreter’s peculiar agenda or the fashions of the hour. And what if, when you read him carefully, you find that he actually wrote things you think are false, wrong-headed, racist or sexist? Don’t choose between inspiration and careful scholarship, I say: Choose both.
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Envy of the Future

Envy of the Future | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
It can be strangely appealing to be very down about the future of humanity. When we think of the future, apocalyptic scenarios come so naturally: flooded cities, energy crises, civil wars. We’re afraid of being naive. After all, we were promised jetpacks and won’t be so easily taken in again.

We like to tell ourselves we’re too intelligent to be excited by the future. But there’s another possible explanation. We’re oddly a bit resentful: it can be painful to imagine all the things we’re going to miss out on.

Imagine going back in time to 14th-century Europe and confronting people with the solutions which – a few centuries later – became readily available.

One might meet a woman whose six-year-old daughter has just died of scarlet fever. She’d be hysterical with grief. One would then explain that in 744 years time, there would be (on the very spot where she was standing) a chemist where – for £2.50 – she could have got the antibiotics that would have saved her beloved child.

Or imagine describing Heathrow Airport and the Boeing Dreamliner to a man who had starved, suffered seasickness and been taken prisoner on a three-year-round pilgrimage from Berkshire to Jerusalem.

Or telling a guy with toothache about the anesthetics which he wouldn’t be able to get for another 623 years.

Or confronting Jamshīd al-Kāshī – a 15th-century mathematician who spent years of his life doing vastly complicated calculations to work out the ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle – with the fact that his sums would one day be do-able with a small plastic box picked up next to the express checkout at the supermarket.

We could imagine such people coming to deeply resent news about the future. Instead of seeming inevitable, our miseries can come to appear like cruel, temporary accidents. We stand to realise that in the broad span of history, people don’t have to suffer many of the things we’re going through – we just happen to be condemned to them because we’ve been born at the wrong time.
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Biosemiotics - Books

Biosemiotics - Books | Philosophy everywhere everywhen | Scoop.it
I’m pleased to be able to welcome readers to this Living Book titled Biosemiotics: Nature/Culture/Science/Semiosis. Biosemiotics – as its name suggests – is committed to science-humanities interdisciplinarity. As readers of these Living Books will doubtless know, this kind of interdisciplinarity is no mean task, but we have come a long way since C. P. Snow complained that humanities scholars knew nothing of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Snow, 1998: 15). The sciences of modernity developed their methodological strengths and practical successes on the basis of ‘objective’1 observation and measurement, drawing on forms of description (preferentially mathematical models) as far removed as possible (which may not be that far (Pimm, 1981: 47-50; Manin, 2007; Lakoff & Núñez, 2000)) from the poetic, metaphor-rich and intersubjective language and the hermeneutical assumptions of the humanities. Although natural and cultural evolution (and, in the latter, the arts and humanities and the sciences) equally depend on continuities as well as what Thomas Kuhn called ‘revolutionary’ alterations,2 in the end both the practice of science and judgments concerning radical revisions of theory belong (as Kuhn noted in his 1969 ‘Postscript’) to the relevant scientific community (Kuhn, 1996). (more...)
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Marc Williams DEBONO (Plasticities Sciences Arts)'s curator insight, August 7, 3:52 AM

An excellent approach to new paradigms