Certain readers may turn, for general solace, to the novels of John Steinbeck. But how many, in particular need of romantic advice, open up Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, or The Grapes of Wrath?
"There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you. "
Algorithms have become a hot topic of political lament in the last few years. The literature is expansive; Christopher Steiner's upcoming book Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World attempts to lift the lid on how human agency is largely helpless in the face of precise algorithmic bots that automate the majority of daily life and business.
FQXi catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to be supported by conventional...
American philosopher Daniel Dennett talks to Carole Jahme about faith, science, empathy – and Short Circuit
This week American philosopher Daniel Dennett, a long-time stalwart of Darwin@LSE, shared his wisdom with a lunchtime crowd in the London School of Economics' Old Theatre. Since fellow philosopher Helena Cronin's 1995 launch of the LSE hub (which is devoted to evolution's maxims) Dennett has been a regular guest. His mission this week to persuade the public that cultural evolution exists and is facilitated due to our hierarchical nature, where those at the top tell others what to think and do. Dennett rhetorically asked, "Does culture make us smart enough to have minds?"
From studying the human ability to become good at things without understanding, which then leads to our acquisition of the cognisance to comprehend, via our competence, Dennett favours the theory (first suggested by Richard Dawkins) that our social learning has given us a second information highway (in addition to the genetic highway) where the transmission of variant cultural information (memes) takes place via differential replication. Software viruses, for example, can be understood as memes, and as memes evolve in complexity, so does human cognition: "The mind is the effect, not the cause."
Not all philosophers, including Cronin, agree that natural selection shapes culture. But Dennett goes even further, describing a spectrum where, at one end, memes are authorless and free floating and at the opposite end they are guided by forethought, are less Darwinian and more purposeful, such as statistics, computer software and poetry. "Natural selection is not gene centrist and nor is biology all about genes, our comprehending minds are a result of our fast evolving culture. Words are memes that can be spoken and words are the best example of memes. Words have a genealogy and it's easier to trace the evolution of a single word than the evolution of a language."
Because Dennett is an approachable, kind man, once his lecture finished I proposed accompanying him to his lunch appointment and asking a few questions en route. Luckily, he agreed.
“There is no such thing as a complete consciousness,” he writes.
Julian Jaynes, a psychologist at Princeton, had little patience for his colleagues, who spent hours in the lab doing “petty, petty humdrum things.” He dismissed their “objective aridity,” “cunning lingo,” and “valiant nonsense.” The field of psychology, he wrote, was little more than “bad poetry disguised as science.”
Jaynes published only one book, in 1976, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which tells the story of how mankind learned to think. Critics described it as a bizarre and reckless masterpiece—the American Journal of Psychiatry called Jaynes “as startling as Freud in the Interpretation of Dreams.” Drawing on evidence from neurology, archaeology, art history, theology, and Greek poetry, Jaynes captured the experience of modern consciousness—“a whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can”—as sensitively and tragically as any great novelist.
Name the three figures, living or dead, with whom you would most like to sit down to dinner. Though perhaps a little tired, the challenge still reveals something worth knowing about the respondent's personality.
Rolf Fobelli: News is to the mind what sugar is to the body “ “We humans seem to be natural-born signal hunters, we’re terrible at regulating our intake of information. We’ll consume a ton of noise if...
Many philosophers consider the era of “modern” philosophy to begin with René Descartes’s Discourse on Method (1637) and Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). In these works, Descartes aims to ground human knowledge of the external, material world.
I argue; we err systematically and pervasively about even the most basic facts of the stream of experience, and even when we set our minds to it carefully and conscientiously. Our knowledge of our immediate physical environment is much better than our knowledge of our stream of experience, and in fact to a large extent our knowledge of our physical environment is the ground of whatever knowledge we do manage to cobble together about our stream of experience.
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