Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

The Last Idealist? by Leemon McHenry

In Europe, humanities, nature, philosophy, science, theory on February 10, 2013 at 18:12

From: Timothy L. S. Sprigge – The Last Idealist? by Leemon McHenry, The Philosopher,

Idealism is much less an option today than it was in the nineteenth century because of its association with universal, absolute religious principles and totalitarian, imperialistic political ideas. The decline of such thinking, especially in England, was also marked by the skepticism generated after the senseless carnage of World War I. For Sprigge, all of this was irrelevant to his quest for a satisfactory metaphysics.

Today, the idealistic doctrines are generally regarded as historically interesting but philosophically inconsequential. Idealism is largely viewed as implausible because of its disregard for the physical and biological sciences. Sprigge could rightly be accused of sidestepping science in his attempt to arrive at first principles, and he was well aware that his ignorance of science was a shortcoming of his philosophy. How far metaphysical thinking could get at first principles without the aid of detailed empirical studies was a great source of concern. He admired Spinoza and Whitehead for their scientifically informed metaphysics.

Moreover, while Sprigge followed Bradley and Royce in defending the sharp distinction between appearance and reality, or between the investigations of structural phenomena undertaken by physical science and those of introspective psychology, it is unlikely that physicists, chemists and biologists see themselves as engaged in anything less than a quest to know reality. Scientists do not see themselves as investigating what is merely abstract or phenomenal but rather an underlying reality. As far as the critiques of Russell, Moore and Ayer are concerned, the charge that metaphysical construction is a sort of Hegelian megalomania has not quite the force it had in the first half of the 1900s. The anti-metaphysical, linguistic methodologies ran their course and eventually faced fatigue, but the idea that idealism could serve as a metaphysical foundation for any system adequate for the sciences is upheld by relatively few.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: The Philosopher


How Do We Judge Nonhuman Beings’ Personhood? by Jønathan Lyons

In animals, biology, ethics, nature, science on January 8, 2013 at 00:35

From: How Do We Judge Nonhuman Beings’ Personhood?  by Jønathan Lyons, Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies,

“Various debates have focused on questions about the personhood of different classes of entities. Historically, the personhood of animals, women, and slaves has been a catalyst of social upheaval. In most societies today, living adult humans are usually considered persons, but depending on the context, theory or definition, the category of ‘person’ may be taken to include such non-human entities as animals, artificial intelligences, or extraterrestrial life, as well as legal entities such as corporations, sovereign states and other polities, or estates in probate. The category may exclude some human entities in prenatal development, and those with extreme mental impairment.”

Because this definition has built-in limits that impede our purposes – which is to say, for the purpose of eliminating the far too limited definition of person that includes only members of our species, homo sapiens sapiens (HSS) –  it is necessary to evolve that definition, adapt it into a more inclusive form. A “natural person,” legally speaking, means a human being. Other entities, such as corporations, ships at sea, and states, also have legal personhood – a bone of some contention here in the U.S. For our purposes, legal recognition of corporations and states and ships serves little purpose. For that reason, I hope to focus on the a notion of personhood that includes natural persons, but also extends to include not only nonhuman biological species who meet certain criteria, but also abandons substrate chauvinism by embracing the possibility of technological beings meeting those same criteria, and therefore qualifying as persons.


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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan

In art, education, philosophy, poetry, religion, society, writers on December 21, 2012 at 18:06

From: Wine and Spirits: Baudelaire’s Orgy and Attention by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader,

Weil’s description of efforts of attention is an attempt to silence the future by turning us away from the objects of attention and toward attention as such. No time is wasted so long as it is spent attentively; to the question “what should I attend to?” Weil answers that the question itself is always a mistake, that it is sufficient simply to attend. The suspicion that one may be attending to the wrong thing is precisely what will prevent you from ever attending; let the question go, let your moments go, find your way out of time for a while.

In Baudelaire’s formalized conception of drunkenness, one can get drunk on almost anything: wine, poetry or virtue, it doesn’t matter at all. Drunkenness is defined by its opposite, and its opposite is consciousness of time as a ticking clock. We are temporary, temporal beings, and all the clocks tick us away; we have only so much time to spend. How shall we spend it? By forgetting that. If Weil tells us: always attend, because there’s only one thing to attend to, Baudelaire tells us: always get drunk, because there’s only one thing to forget.

Baudelaire’s endless fascination with the figure of the poet can be read as an inquiry into the question: What does it take to “marry the crowd”? Baudelaire’s poet is “accursed,” loathed by his family, misunderstood by his readers, absolutely alone; all this is not evidence of despair but a prerequisite for intoxication. The proud bourgeois cannot marry the crowd because he is too full of himself, too busy; he has too much to lose. He does not have a free and arbitrary will, only petty interests. The poet, to plunge at every movement, must have nothing to lose in the fall. Even Baudelaire’s famous irony, most vicious when turned against himself, reflects not world-weary bitterness but the pleasure of crowds. Irony serves the poet as self-flagellation serves the monk: it humbles the flesh to free the spirit. The poet lacerates his ego because his ego is what holds him back from the crowd.

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

Animals and the Human Imagination By Linda Simon

In biology, nature, philosophy, science, social sciences on October 31, 2012 at 18:57

From: Animals and the Human Imagination By Linda Simon, The Montreal Review,

In his introduction, Aaron Gross points to a “danger” in a scholarly study of animals whose contributors come from the humanities and social sciences, rather than the natural sciences: that animals themselves might become “absent referents,” as he puts it; when “animals themselves seem beside the point. . . .when there is no one looking in the horse’s mouth or even in the direction of the horse.” Certainly animals as specific references are not often found in this collection. There are passing mentions of pets, but the only animals given extended discussion are wolves (as they represent wildness), dogs (as they are imagined in children’s stories), hogs (as they are treated by industrial farmers), and, notably, bacteria (as imagined in a science fiction novel). Nevertheless, the essays-erudite, engagingly written, and accessible to general readers-serve admirably to call attention, as Gross puts it, “to how a certain understanding of animality is implicit in our self understanding (and thus our understandings of language, symbol, myth, subjectivity, religion, etc.)” and can possibly “expose the naturalness of the category animal as illusory.” Once the human/animal binary is no longer useful, we will be able to see both terms as “strange” and may move toward new conceptions and definitions.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

The Technological Elimination of Pain by Ben Goertzel

In ethics, medicine, philosophy, psychology, science on October 24, 2012 at 22:42

From: The Technological Elimination of Pain is Both Feasible and Possible by Ben Goertzel, Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies,

The English word “pain” refers, primarily, to a subjective experience — the experience of something hurting.   But this experience isn’t a simple, indecomposable thing — it’s actually a complex experience with multiple layers.  Understanding the prospect of abolishing pain, involves carefully distinguishing these layers.

To abolish, or drastically reduce, our experience of pain, we will need to deal with pain in terms of its neural and cognitive correlates.  Subjective experiences — qualia — are different from neural or cognitive structures or dynamics.  But there are correlations.   For instance, deep thought correlates with the neocortex — if you remove it, the person doesn’t think deeply anymore.  The feeling of reminiscence correlates with cognitive structures related to emotion and episodic memory, and with neural regions such as the limbic system and the neocortex. And so forth.

What are the neural and cognitive correlates of the experience of pain?

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Are you immune to received images?

In culture, media, politics, society on October 24, 2012 at 22:22

From: Are you immune to received images?, berfrois,

Most people, especially if they are well educated, still believe that advertising (or television, for that matter) has no effect on them or on their beliefs. Their intelligence protects them against invasive imposed imagery, even when an image is repeated a hundred times in their heads. People believe in their immunity even though the imagery does not actually communicate through the language of logic or contemplation. Images ride a freeway into your brain and remain there permanently. No thought is involved. Every advertiser knows this. As a viewer, you may sometimes say, “I don’t believe this,” but the image remains anyway.

My late partner in the advertising business, Howard Gossage, spoke frequently to audiences about “the dirty little secret” among advertisers: that their silly superficial meaningless trivial imagery nonetheless goes into your brain and doesn’t come back out. “It doesn’t matter how observant or intelligent you are,” he said. If you are watching television, you will absorb the images. Once the image is embedded, it is permanently embedded. You cannot get rid of it.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois

Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill

In Europe, humanities, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theory, writers on October 7, 2012 at 04:14

From: Žižek: silence and the real desert by Rob Weatherill, International Journal of Žižek Studies,

… For Žižek, opposing the Law via direct action, what he calls ‘the rumspringa of resistance’ only reinforces the System through our robust participation within it. Rumspringa refers to the “running around” of Amish youth, permitted experimentation and transgression for a brief time before they either, re-enter their strict community as evermore committed members, or leave altogether. Žižek is also against humanitarian aid, giving to charities to support orphans in Africa, opposing oil drilling in a wide-life area, presumably buying fair trade coffee, ethical products, or supporting feminists in Muslim countries, and so on. All the things that make well educated middle class people feel that they are doing “their bit” with their little rumspringa, before they revert to their normal lives. He is also against the by now standard response of dis-identifying with the system – I know it’s all a game – while participating fully within it. Or, more radically, going to California or Thailand to meditate, Zen-style, for a week or for a year – maybe the ultimate self-absorption in the guise of pan-spiritual withdrawal. What Žižek wants to explore is a “new space” outside the hegemonic position and its mirroring negation – the Heideggerian sense of a clearing, the opening up of a place, ‘through a gesture which is thoroughly violent in its impassive refusal…to quote Mallarmé – nothing will have taken place but the place itself’ (Ibid: 381). This gesture is no-thing. It is the ‘immanent difference, gap, between this [everyday] reality and its own void; that is to discern the void that separates material reality from itself , that makes it “non-all”’(Ibid: 383).

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Reposted with permission from: International Journal of Žižek Studies


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