"Consciousness is what allows us to be aware of both our surroundings and our own inner state." In the first of a three part video series, "Kruzgesagt - In a Nutshell" examines "how unaware things come aware." Stay tuned for theories of consciousness that of course may be as much about philosophy as they are neuroscience.
Read the rest “Where does consciousness come from?”
Retired Cambridge professor Peter Smith has distilled his experience in teaching philosophers and mathematicians about formal logic into a free, frequently updated (last updated: 2017) study guide to logic, constructed to be easily accessible, with quick-start guides for different kinds of learners, written on the assumption of very little education in either maths or philosophy.
Read the rest “Independent study guide to logic for philosophers and mathematicians”
Fantasy and science fiction author and political activist Steven Brust (previously) was this year's Guest of Honor at Philcon, an excellent Philadelphia-area science fiction (I have also had the privilege to be Philcon's GoH, and it's a great con); his guest of honor speech is entitled Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as a Vehicle for Discovering Truth, and he's posted a transcript to his blog.
Read the rest “On the role of truth and philosophy in fantastic fiction”
Umair Haque (previously) is on fire: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism? "You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic. These are different forms of freedom from capitalism. Maybe on Mars, we can build a better world. Maybe through ideas and philanthropy, we can solve the problems that corporations can’t. All the capitalists I see are trying to win freedom from capitalism, in one way or another. Aren’t they?" (via Kottke)
Read the rest “Capitalism is self-annihilating, not self-perpetuating”
Artificial intelligence has nearly unimaginable potential to shape the world, but it poses a number of significant ethical questions that need to be carefully examined at every step to reduce bias. Several experts give a rundown of the main concerns. Read the rest “Several experts explain key ethical issues about AI”
It's been nearly four years since the first crowdfunded collection
of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag's webcomic Strong Female Protagonist
was published; the second volume
, published this week, traces not just the evolution of its protagonist, the superhero Alison "Mega Girl" Green, but of its creators, who have found new and amazing depths to plumb and heights to soar to.
Quantum physics gets real weird real fast, and one idea gaining more currency of late is the concept of quantum retrocausality, where a decision made in our experience of the present may influence what we experience as the past.
These aren't a bunch of Time Cube type cranks, either. From a helpful overview by Lisa Zyga:
First, to clarify what retrocausality is and isn't: It does not mean that signals can be communicated from the future to the past—such signaling would be forbidden even in a retrocausal theory due to thermodynamic reasons. Instead, retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.
Huw Price has done some great introductory lectures like this on the concept:
• WTF is Quantum Retrocausality? (YouTube / Seeker) Read the rest “Can the future influence the past? The scientific case for quantum retrocausality”
Natalie Wynn, creator of the Contrapoints YouTube channel, is a lapsed academic well-versed in the lingo of both 4chan and Tumblr, making her the perfect person to construct an entertaining takedown of Jordan Peterson. Read the rest “Watch this hilarious dismantling of Jordan Peterson's philosophical woo”
When we think of democracy, we generally think of voting: the people are polled, the people decide. But voting is zero-sum: it has winners and losers. There are other models of governance that can make claim to democratic legitimacy that produce wins for everyone.
Read the rest “Governing a decentralized internet without votes”
In I Am Here , director Eoin Duffy addresses the strange sensation when we realize our entire lives have led up to one fleeting moment. Read the rest “This spare and clean animation asks some cosmic questions”
While the typical answer is 33 beats per minute, musician Adam Neely's answer morphs into a great primer on the "perceptual present," a concept widely discussed in both the philosophy of music and of consciousness. Read the rest “What is the slowest music humanly possible?”
With the rise of white nationalist groups whose allies in government extend all the way to the President of the United States, tech companies are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding where tolerance begins and ends -- where they have a duty to step in and silence certain kinds of speech.
Read the rest “The Paradox of Tolerance: should intolerance be tolerated?”
What is Life? collects some of the more interesting takes on whether we may be living in a computer simulation. Read the rest “Mind-bending supercut of computer simulation existence theories”
The most perfect lie in publishing, "This Page Intentionally Left Blank", is commonly to be found in books, manuals and tests. But also journals, curiously enough, a fact that is the subject of a paper published at Academia Obscura.
Read the rest “Review of pages intentionally left blank”
The US Code of Regulations (1984) actually mandates that blank pages in certain books and pamphlets must be marked as such.1 As such, they are especially common in technical works. This has lead to a large number of people attempting to solve the philosophical conundrum such non-blank blank pages create, often through online fora and crowdsourcing platforms. The Office of the General Counsel at the US General Accounting Office, acutely aware of the distress caused, purported in 2001 to have resolved the conundrum in its Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (Second Edition, Volume IV).2 Text on page ii, which is otherwise blank, reads “This page is intended to be blank. Please do not read it.” However, this appears to have only further entrenched the philosophical contradictions, and the subsequent Third Edition contained no such text on its blank page.
Philip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest, argues that the idea of panpsychism ("mind is everywhere") shouldn't be dismissed just because it sounds crazy. Read the rest “Everything, even a rock, has some degree of consciousness”
No expression of far-right idiocy is complete without a macho misreading of Nietzsche. So frequently miscast as the godfather of everything from the Master Race to Mens' Rights, his name alone is something of a shibboleth. Which is sad, because he wouldn't have thought much of them, writes Sean Illing.
Read the rest “The alt-right loves Nietzsche, but Nietzsche would not love them”
“Nietzsche's argument was that you had to move forward, not fall back onto ethnocentrism,” Hugo Drochon, author of Nietzsche’s Great Politics, told me. “So in many ways Spencer is stuck in the 'Shadows of God' — claiming Christianity is over but trying to find something that will replace it so that we can go on living as if it still existed, rather than trying something new.”
Nietzsche was a lot of things — iconoclast, recluse, misanthrope — but he wasn’t a racist or a fascist. He would have shunned the white identity politics of the Nazis and the alt-right. That he’s been hijacked by racists and fascists is partly his fault, though. His writings are riddled with contradictions and puzzles. And his fixation on the future of humankind is easily confused with a kind of social Darwinism.
Actor James Franco has a new YouTube channel in which he raps about philosophy with Eliot Michaelson, a philosophy lecturer at King's College London, and other experts on such heady matters as imagination (above), and metaphor (below). The special guest on these two episodes is Rutgers University philosophy professor Elisabeth Camp. Also below is an episode on the ethics of abortion with Princeton University philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman.
Read the rest “Learn philosophy from James Franco”