iai.tv news RSS feed https://iainews.iai.tv/articles-old/mind-and-reason Could fake news create fake memories? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/could-fake-news-create-fake-memories-auid-1051 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-fake-news.jpg" /><br />My wife was recently telling some mutual friends an amusing anecdote about the time she was changing our then-baby son’s nappy in the toilet of a busy café, only for him to urinate all over the groin region of her trousers, meaning she had to return to the crowded eating area displaying a deeply suspicious stain. Big laughs all round. It is a very amusing story, in fairness. There’s just one slight problem with it; it never happened. Not to her, at least. It happened to me. I pointed this out, and she was genuinely shocked, and baffled as to how one of my memories could end up in her head. I suggested that it may be because she has many memories of hearing me tell that story multiple times over the years, and also has many memories of changing that specific baby in public places, so it wouldn’t require much effort for her brain to merge the two and create something effectively new. A ‘false memory’, if you like. You marry a neuroscientist, and this is the sort of thing that’ll happen. ... Mon, 26 Mar 2018 12:34:48 +0000 Dean Burnett https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/could-fake-news-create-fake-memories-auid-1051 Philosophy vs. Psychology https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-science-should-butt-out-of-philosophy-auid-834 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-pollock-2.JPG" /><br />An article entitled ‘Psychology vs. philosophy: Beauty requires thought’ in Medical News Today reports that: 'In the 18th century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant laid out a couple of theories on beauty - in fact, he is still considered the preeminent authority on the topic. He theorized that beauty requires thought, but that sensuous pleasure can never be beautiful. Although the claims, at face value, appear challenging to approach scientifically, a study published in Current Biology goes some way toward testing them.' Given the framing of the issue as a confrontation, a response from the other side seems in order. In a culture where scientific claims of almost any kind can generate widespread, often uncritical attention, and where the humanities are under increasing attack, it is worth considering an exemplary case of what happens if you ignore the humanities. The history of the relationship between psychology and philosophy is illuminating but highly contentious. The reason is in one ... Wed, 31 May 2017 16:41:44 +0000 Andrew Bowie https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-science-should-butt-out-of-philosophy-auid-834 How to Read a Mind https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-read-a-mind-auid-852 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-How-To-Read-a-Mind-Keith-Frankish.jpg" /><br />In Julian Barnes’s novel Staring at the Sun, teenage Jean Serjeant is struck by the firmness of her parents’ moral views. Their opinions seem to her like ‘honking frogs’ compared with her own ‘twitching, vulnerable tadpoles’. How can people be so sure of what they think, Jean wonders: ‘How could you know your own mind without using your mind to discover your mind in the first place?’ It seems almost circular, putting Jean in mind of ‘a dog circling in pursuit of its own cropped tail’.[1] Jean’s questions provoke further questions. How do we discover what we think? If we must use our minds to discover our minds, then can we make mistakes about them? Can you be wrong about what you think, just as you can be wrong about what somebody else thinks? I express liberal views on most political and social issues, but can I be sure I really believe the things I say? Perhaps I just say them to fit in and get my friends’ approval? The suggestion that we might make mistakes about our own minds runs ... Mon, 31 Jul 2017 09:55:11 +0000 Keith Frankish https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-read-a-mind-auid-852 To Be, Or Not to Be: On Whether Animals Can Commit Suicide https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/to-be-or-not-to-be-on-whether-animals-can-commit-suicide-auid-1087 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-can-animals-commit-suicide-iaitv-philosophy.png" /><br />The philosopher Owen Flanagan has pointed out that when Hamlet poses the question that has become the single most powerful query of all English literature, “he is, of course, contemplating suicide.” For reasons too complex to enumerate, when modern-day researchers think of a suicidal agent, they imagine a Hamletian character who struggles with the question of whether it is best to be or not to be; and when they are called upon to define ‘suicide’ they often define it, perhaps inspired by Hamlet, in terms of a series of mental states—an inner mental monologue, really—that somehow express or represent the subject’s conscious intent to die. According to this contemporary understanding, people who commit suicide are all those who, like Hamlet, contemplate the meaning of the good life, consider their future prospects, realize that their current life is not worth living, and then consciously choose not to be—Hamlet’s unchosen path. This intentional conception of suicide seems reasonable enou... Thu, 07 Jun 2018 16:41:44 +0000 David M. Peña-Guzmán https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/to-be-or-not-to-be-on-whether-animals-can-commit-suicide-auid-1087 How Smart is Your Pet? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-smart-is-your-pet-auid-910 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-octopussmart.jpg" /><br />How smart is your pet? The book Test Your Cat: The Cat IQ Test claims to be able to tell you ‘how smart your cat really is’. He or she might be an ‘undiscovered genius’. Using the book, you score your cat on a variety of questions, perform a calculation, and this gives you the cat’s IQ. The first question is whether the cat eats on a regular schedule. The second is whether it eats a variety of foods. There are many other questions. Now, I have no idea how seriously this book is intended to be taken. But it strikes me that there is something very odd about the idea that eating on a regular schedule and enjoying a varied diet have anything to do with intelligence, as we usually understand that term. Similarly, you sometimes hear people say that a particular breed of dog is highly intelligent. But quite often, what people mean by this is that individuals of that breed are very obedient and can be trained to perform many tasks. This interest in ‘trainability’ is reflected in the British te... Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:32:41 +0000 Ali Boyle https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-smart-is-your-pet-auid-910 Who Is Rachael? Blade Runner and Personal Identity https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/who-is-rachael-the-philosophy-of-blade-runner-and-memory-auid-885 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-whoisrachelimage.png" /><br />It’s no coincidence that a lot of philosophers are big fans of science fiction. Philosophers like to think about far-fetched scenarios or ‘thought experiments’, explore how they play out, and think about what light they can shed on how we should think about our own situation. What if you could travel back in time? Would you be able to kill your own grandfather, thereby preventing him from meeting your grandmother, meaning that you would never have been born in the first place? What if we could somehow predict with certainty what people would do? Would that mean that nobody had free will? What if I was really just a brain wired up to a sophisticated computer running virtual reality software? Should it matter to me that the world around me – including other people – is real rather than a VR simulation? And how do I know that it’s not? Questions such as these routinely get posed in sci-fi books and films, and in a particularly vivid and thought-provoking way. In immersing yourself in an a... Mon, 18 Sep 2017 16:05:12 +0000 Helen Beebee https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/who-is-rachael-the-philosophy-of-blade-runner-and-memory-auid-885 Animal Pain and the New Mysticism About Consciousness https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/animal-pain-and-the-new-mysticism-about-consciousness-auid-981 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-bencenanny.png" /><br />On November 9, 2017, more than 500 people gathered at the Flat Earth International Conference in Cody, North Carolina. Attendees agreed that the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee, with the North Pole as its centre and Antarctica running around the edge. Shocking as all this may sound, this gathering was not stupidest collective act that occurred this month. In the noble competition for collective stupidity, it only took the silver medal. The clear winner is the recent decision by Tory MPs in the UK to remove any reference to animal sentience from the EU Withdrawal Bill. This decision has been often misreported for clickbait purposes, so the facts first. In 2009 all countries of the EU signed the Lisbon treaty, which recognized that animals are sentient beings: they feel pain and have emotions. If the UK is no longer part of the EU, there will be no legal recognition of animals as sentient beings. Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed an amendment that would rectify this. It was voted down 313 ... Thu, 30 Nov 2017 14:37:23 +0000 Bence Nanay https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/animal-pain-and-the-new-mysticism-about-consciousness-auid-981 Stupidity Is Part of Human Nature https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-stupidity-is-part-of-human-nature-auid-1072 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-carson-arias-197710-unsplash.jpg" /><br />“There is more to be said for stupidity than people imagine. Personally I have great admiration for stupidity” – the sentiment behind Oscar Wilde’s bonmot is strangely fashionable these days. For a good reason. The music we are listening to influences our opinion of the wine we drink, the weight of the spoon influences how creamy we find the yoghurt and our moral assessment of strangers depends on what movie we have just watched. I call this paradigm of empirical findings the ‘We’re All Stupid’ paradigm. Scientists and academics in general are in the business of giving rational and logical explanations. So they may feel threatened by this deluge of evidence of our irrationality. And they do. But the standard response is that while the reasoning abilities of the hoi poloi may be subject to these biases, scientists, and experts in general, are safe: the ‘We’re All Stupid’ paradigm becomes the ‘They’re All Stupid’ paradigm. A somewhat elitist move, no doubt, but it is also factually incor... Wed, 25 Apr 2018 17:29:59 +0000 Bence Nanay https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-stupidity-is-part-of-human-nature-auid-1072 Maeve’s Dilemma in Westworld: What Does It Mean to be Free? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/maeve-dilemma-in-westworld-what-does-it-mean-to-be-free-auid-1058 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-maeve-westworld.png" /><br />This article is an adapted excerpt from Westworld and Philosophy, ed. James B. South and Kimberly S. Engels from Wiley Blackwell, published in April 2018. Order your copy here.   Throughout Westworld's first season, Maeve journeys towards consciousness, learning that she is a programmed android, and yet desiring to make her own choices and “write my own…story.” In this sense, Maeve’s narrative raises classic philosophical questions concerning what it means to be free, the relationship of freedom to personhood, and the question of whether an artificial intelligence could ever be considered free in the sense that humans are. At first glance, Maeve seems to be a strong, determined, self-confident person. Despite her human appearance, however, her entire body is made from artificial tissue. Maeve’s mind is but a script, programmed by a software engineer. Her distinct character is no proof that she has personal autonomy. She did not go through a series of experiences and situations that ma... Thu, 05 Apr 2018 11:13:38 +0000 Marco Antonio Azevedo https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/maeve-dilemma-in-westworld-what-does-it-mean-to-be-free-auid-1058 Why Do We Need A Diagnosis to See Mental Disorders As Real? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-do-we-need-a-diagnosis-to-see-mental-disorders-as-real-auid-1067 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-pickard.png" /><br />If headlines are to be believed, we are facing a crisis in mental health of epidemic proportions. In the UK and the US, lifetime prevalence rates are estimated to be roughly 1 in 6 and rising. What explains these rates and what ought we to do about them?  An important, preliminary point is that the distribution across the population is not even. A disproportionate burden falls on women and those who suffer socio-economic disadvantage and other forms of adversity and hardship. Equally, the increase is not uniformly distributed across kinds of disorder. Rates of autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are relatively stable, with lifetime prevalence estimated to be roughly 1 in 100. The increase lies predominantly with anxiety disorders, depression, and addictions. There are three possible and related explanations for these rates. The first is that the social stigma surrounding these mental disorders is decreasing. Today’s patients are more able to be open about their problems and see... Thu, 12 Apr 2018 12:50:37 +0000 Hanna Pickard https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-do-we-need-a-diagnosis-to-see-mental-disorders-as-real-auid-1067 Should people be punished for crimes they can’t remember committing? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/should-people-be-punished-for-crimes-they-cant-remember-committing-what-john-locke-would-say-about-vernon-madison-auid-1050 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-lockememroyredux.png" /><br />In 1985, Vernon Madison murdered a police officer, Julius Schulte, in Mobile, Alabama. Madison was due to be executed by lethal injection in January this year, but was given a last-minute stay of execution. After several strokes, he suffers from dementia and memory impairment, and can no longer remember committing the crime. The Supreme Court will now hear his case. The legal issue hinges on the letter of the law. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that executing someone who cannot understand the reason for their execution violates the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, and in 2016 the Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that ‘according to his perception of reality he never committed murder’ and hence cannot ‘understand the reason’ for his execution. (That ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court, which now appears to be having second thoughts about that.) The legal question, then, seems to turn on whether someone who can’t remember committing... Tue, 20 Mar 2018 18:13:32 +0000 Helen Beebee https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/should-people-be-punished-for-crimes-they-cant-remember-committing-what-john-locke-would-say-about-vernon-madison-auid-1050 The Secrets of Experience https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-secrets-of-experience-auid-850 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-heilcorrectaspect.png" /><br />Could you ever hope to observe – visually or otherwise – the conscious experiences of others? Before venturing an answer to this question, it is important to understand what is being asked and why answers have proved so elusive. Philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists vigorously debate solutions to what David Chalmers calls the Hard Problem of consciousness: how are conscious experiences to be reconciled with our emerging understanding of the material world? Many who accept that consciousness has a neurological ‘substrate’ reject the reduction of the mental to the physical because this seems effectively to eliminate the mental. On the one hand, we seem intimately familiar with qualities of our conscious experiences, experiences that mediate our awareness of the physical universe. On the other hand, the qualitative nature of these experiences seem altogether to elude the physical sciences. From the scientific perspective, conscious phenomena seem alien and utterly mysterious. W... Mon, 31 Jul 2017 09:14:37 +0000 John Heil https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-secrets-of-experience-auid-850 Cyberspace and the Self https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/cyberspace-and-the-self-auid-851 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-cyberspacenewsredux.png" /><br />If you needed to date the point at which “cyberspace” ceased to exist and the internet simply became a part of our corporeal existence, you could do worse than pick the first, unrecorded moment when someone said ‘lol’ instead of actually laughing out loud. We might well think there’s something affected and just plain fake about swapping text speak for such a visceral, bodily reaction. Still, internet abbreviations wouldn’t jump the fence into spoken conversation if they didn’t have some utility – IMHO, anyway – so it’s worth taking them seriously. And like any other part of our language, they can be simultaneously useful and deeply confused. Consider ‘IRL,’ or ‘in real life.’ We’ve long used that expression for actors – “He always plays baddies, but in real life he’s a sweetheart” – which makes sense, insofar as actors portray characters in fictional worlds wholly discontinuous from ours. As Bernard Williams once put it [1], you may be sitting a few yards from Laurence Olivier, but you... Mon, 31 Jul 2017 09:34:42 +0000 Patrick Stokes https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/cyberspace-and-the-self-auid-851 The Riddle of the Self https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-riddle-of-the-self-auid-869 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Joanna-Kavenna-image-1.jpg" /><br />What is the self? How might we know it and how might we describe it? Is it wine in a bottle, to be drunk by the years (D H Lawrence, parodying philosophers)? Is it mind on one side and body on the other, discrete substances communicating somehow via the pineal gland (Descartes)? Is the mind like a computer, potentially fathomable by neuroscience? Is the self a delusion, fostered by Mother Nature in order that we survive and procreate? (Though this begs the question of who, therefore, is Mother Nature?) Furthermore, how might we understand the self from within the self? The quest for self-knowledge recurs throughout literature, philosophy, science, theology and myth. In the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, the eponymous hero leaves the city of Uruk and travels into the great wildness of life, in an attempt to understand the meaning of his life and to contend with the knowledge of death. In the Upanishads all creation originates with the emergence of the self - ‘I am!’  - and reality ... Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:03:57 +0000 Joanna Kavenna https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-riddle-of-the-self-auid-869 Smoke and Mirror Neurons https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/smoke-and-mirror-neurons-auid-853 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-pashkavnewsredux.png" /><br />The negligent student of biology will be forgiven for thinking individual survival is the only naturally prescribed goal. The anomaly of constitutionally communal species aside—ants, bees, and the like—the replicating unit is the single animal, compelled to interact with its kin only by the necessity of procreation and, for some, the expediency of collaborative hunting or defence. Even then, others seem merely instrumental, adopted and discarded as individual goals dictate. Examples of sacrifice, say, in the animal kingdom are seen as either aberrations or illusory anthropomorphizing. Our biological selfishness is inescapable, we are told, for it is itself the product of another: the selfishness of genes, competing in evolution's lawless market. What is it, then, that makes us “kind”, “considerate”, “sympathetic”, “humane”? The traditional view is that these characteristics develop in spite of biology not because of it, the outcome of social forces operating outside its domain. The res... Mon, 31 Jul 2017 10:11:05 +0000 Parashkev Nachev https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/smoke-and-mirror-neurons-auid-853 Intuition vs Reason https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/intuition-vs-reason-auid-790 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-intuitionvreason.jpg" /><br />Consider the following puzzle, borrowed from Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast And Slow:     A bat and ball cost $1.10.     The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.     How much does the ball cost? The puzzle naturally evokes an intuitive answer: 10 cents (the correct answer is 5 cents). The puzzle is a very simple math puzzle that is easily solved using careful reasoning. But when we are intellectually lazy, we tend to follow our gut instincts or intuitions, even when the task is not the kind of task that should be handled in this way. Mathematical and logical exercises typically cannot be solved using our gut instinct. Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky, however, have taken this insight one step further. They have argued that we do not reason rationally in everyday circumstances and regularly are subject to cognitive illusions, produced by heuristics, or rules of thumb, that we rely on when we reason fast. The mistake we make in these cases is to rel... Tue, 28 Feb 2017 13:32:53 +0000 Berit Brogaard https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/intuition-vs-reason-auid-790 Attending to Attentiveness: Why Teaching Philosophy Should Be at the Core of Education https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-teaching-philosophy-should-be-at-the-core-of-education-auid-872 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-worley-article.png" /><br />First of all, I will distinguish between doing philosophy and teaching philosophy. If I ask you a question like ‘Should you do or be good?’ or ‘Are you in control of your life?’ I am inviting you to think about a philosophical question. If you do so, in a suitably philosophical spirit, then you are doing philosophy, whether you know it or not. If I explain to you what philosophers have said about these questions over the years or even explain and attempt to transfer to you the methods philosophers have used to answer such questions, then I am teaching philosophy to you. In the former case, I am teaching philosophy as the history of ideas and in the second, philosophy as methodology. But, like singing, philosophy is something humans can begin doing without knowing any of the history or methods of philosophy. Philosophy emerges from humans being human, and some would say that it emerges from one of the features that, like cooking and storytelling, sets us apart from other animals: namely... Fri, 25 Aug 2017 16:36:13 +0000 Peter Worley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-teaching-philosophy-should-be-at-the-core-of-education-auid-872 Fine-tuning Passion: When is love not an emotion? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fine-tuning-passion-auid-837 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-pismennyheart.png" /><br />  My love is as a fever, longing still       For that which longer nurseth the disease,   Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,  The uncertain sickly appetite to please.             — William Shakespeare, Sonnet 147  Romantic love is a disease, a temporary madness. Obsessive, passionate, it makes us lose sleep and our appetite, it makes us crave another human being, sending us on a rollercoaster of violent feelings that range anywhere from elation to depression. It makes us do crazy things. Indeed, given its psychological profile, one might wonder why it hasn’t been classified as a mental disorder in the DSM-5. Of course, romantic love is so commonplace that few stop to think of its pathological aspects. But what sort of thing is romantic love? I am not talking about the love for one’s parents, country, pet turtle, or chocolate. I mean instead the kind of love one finds between Romeo and Juliet, Abelard and Heloise, Audre Lorde and Frances Clayton. Philosophers, such as Robert S... Tue, 13 Jun 2017 12:03:43 +0000 Arina Pismenny https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fine-tuning-passion-auid-837 In Search of Ourselves https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-search-of-ourselves-auid-666 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Joanna-Kavenna-49.jpg" /><br />If we are discussing the self, it might be appropriate to write as a self, from the position of myself. It might be appropriate?! I can do nothing else! I am trapped in the self, but this is an odd precept. I am not trapped – there is no preceding ‘I’ that has been contained within an inimical ‘self’ – at least I do not believe so, though some theologians might argue that the soul is trapped within the body, tested by mortal vicissitudes. Indeed this is a central precept of any dualistic spiritual system in which the soul is opposed to the body, with an accompanying suggestion that one day the soul will be released from the material realm. Yet, it is not my central precept. Thus, one might ask: what am I? This is an unnerving question, as the subject stares into the mirror, at herself, himself, as s/he sees the unknown eyes of the unknown staring back at her/him and wonders – who directs this gaze? And what lies behind it? The mirror image is an image, not the self. And yet it confound... Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:01:24 +0000 Joanna Kavenna https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-search-of-ourselves-auid-666 How Men and Women Think https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-men-and-women-think-auid-606 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Gina-Rippon-41.jpg" /><br />Londa Schiebinger’s book, The Mind Has No Sex?, is an excellent survey of women’s role in the origins of modern science and the reasons for its decline. The title is drawn from a statement by a 17th century philosopher, François Poullain de la Barre. Based on his studies of the ‘new’ science of anatomy, he claimed that there was no evidence that women’s undoubtedly inferior position was due to some biological deficit, or lack of natural ability, and that, given appropriate opportunities, women would be as capable as men of high achievements in all spheres. “L’esprit n’a point de sexe” he declared. It appears to have been downhill all the way since that optimistic statement. In parallel with the exclusion and disappearance of women from the realms of scientific enterprise and discovery, there is evidence of a powerful drive among (male) scientists towards applying the sexual differentiation associated with reproduction to all other aspects of the body, including the brain and hence the ... Sat, 05 Dec 2015 10:19:21 +0000 Gina Rippon https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-men-and-women-think-auid-606 Morality, Neuro-myths, and the Spurious Seduction of Evolutionary Ethics https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/morality-neuro-myths-and-the-spurious-seduction-of-evolutionary-ethics-auid-829 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-rose-1.jpg" /><br />Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose you are an aid agency providing food for children in a refugee camp. You have limited resources and could either feed all the hungry children inadequately, in which case they will soon starve, or feed a few adequately so they will survive but the others will all die. It’s a moral choice between equity and efficiency. What do you do – especially if your head is in an fMRI brain imager when you are confronted with the dilemma? According to the authors of this neuroscientific quandary, who claim to be measuring the brain correlates of distributive justice, one brain region, the insula, encodes inequity while the putamen region encodes efficiency.[i] This typifies the beliefs of the new discipline of neuroethics that absolute moral values are inscribed in the brain. But how did we get here? For as long as oral traditions or written records have been available, moral injunctions have been laid down as representing the word of God, the wisdom of philosoph... Thu, 18 May 2017 16:30:28 +0000 Steven Rose https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/morality-neuro-myths-and-the-spurious-seduction-of-evolutionary-ethics-auid-829 Can Prejudice Enhance Morality? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/can-prejudice-enhance-morality-auid-830 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Adam-4.jpg" /><br />We commonly consider an open mind essential to fair-minded moral, political and legal judgment. To have a closed mind is to resist the possibility of persuasion, to be dogmatic, recalcitrant, even bigoted. But what exactly is an open mind?  According to one familiar conception, an open mind is an impartial one – free of particular interests, loyalties and preconceptions, capable of adopting the perspective of anyone anywhere.  We could call it the “prejudice-free” mind. It has stood as a prominent ideal ever since Immanuel Kant defined enlightenment as “the emancipation from prejudices generally.” But I want to suggest that an “open mind” wholly unoccupied by preconceptions is a mistaken ideal. Not only is it unrealistic. It also overlooks the possibility that certain preconceptions can enable good judgment rather than hinder it. Consider two examples: Take grading student papers. Some teachers and professors prefer to grade papers without knowing the names of the students who wrote th... Thu, 18 May 2017 16:43:24 +0000 Adam Sandel https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/can-prejudice-enhance-morality-auid-830 The Future of Moral Enhancement https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-future-of-moral-enhancement-auid-831 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Savulescu-1.jpg" /><br />Humans are prejudiced. Some more than others, but it would be difficult to find an individual who shows no biases at all. Prejudice is a positive or negative attitude towards a social group, typically based on judgments about race, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion. Prejudice can also be based on diverging ideologies or political perspectives, on different accents, different body shapes, sexual orientation, nationality, location, income, etc. Both in the past and today, we find prejudice all over the world. Most importantly, much prejudice and bias is unconscious or implicit - we don't know just how prejudiced we all are. So why are people prejudiced? There are many contributing factors, but one key factor is that humans tend to form groups: in-groups and out-groups. Indeed, one could argue that prejudice only exists because of categorisation. If we didn't form groups or see differences, there would be no prejudice. Prejudice may also have had evolutionary advantages. Being distrustf... Fri, 19 May 2017 08:48:02 +0000 Julian Savulescu https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-future-of-moral-enhancement-auid-831 Solitary Confinement https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/solitary-confinement-auid-554 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Sam-Roddick-35.jpg" /><br />On 9th September 2007 my world turned upside down. It was early evening after a sunny day, when I received the phone call from my father telling me that my mother was in hospital. I could hear the tremble of fear in his voice. I jumped in a cab and an hour and half later arrived at the hospital to find my mother had suffered a massive haemorrhage. She was pronounced brain-dead fifteen minutes after it occurred. A few weeks after the death of my mother I received a letter from Albert Woodfox, the longest surviving solitary confinement prisoner in the world. He has been locked in solitary confinement in Loisiana State Penitentiary since April 1972. He wrote to ask if I would like to take my mother’s place on his prison visitors list. I had always been fascinated with the friendship between my mother and Woodfox, so I agreed and travelled to Louisiana, USA, to meet him. I believe that Albert is innocent. As a member of the Black Panthers, he is a political prisoner. As I see it, there is ... Sat, 15 Aug 2015 08:04:37 +0000 Samantha Roddick https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/solitary-confinement-auid-554 Fantasy and Reality https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fantasy-and-reality-auid-579 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-fantasy-anad-reality.jpg" /><br />One morning in 1981, while I was living among the Pirahãs, near the mouth of the Maici River, in the center of the Amazonian rain forest, I was awakened by the sounds of people yelling and crying. I had been researching the Pirahã language and culture now for some four years, so I spoke the language reasonably well. The yells tore me from my pleasant liminal state between sleep and alertness. I rose, slipped on my gym shorts and flip-flops and ventured outside to see what was going on. Some twenty Pirahã men, women, and children, their numbers growing by the second, were gesticulating and yelling, some crying in fear, at a spot on the bank across the river. I asked what they were pointing at. A man looked at me incredulously, demanding &quot;Don't you see it? It is a kaoáíbogi ('fastmouth' – a jungle entity separate from humans but like them in many ways). I looked again. And again. I asked again. The response was &quot;The fast-mouth is there right now!&quot; In the thirty-five years that have ensue... Sat, 26 Sep 2015 15:38:11 +0000 Daniel Everett https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fantasy-and-reality-auid-579 Authenticity, Reality and Being https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/authenticity-reality-and-being-auid-615 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Steve-Fuller-43.jpg" /><br />‘Authenticity’ is a quality that has drawn a polarised response in the history of philosophy, especially in discussions of the self. Is there something that captures who I really am? And if so, should I try to find out what that is? And if not, then what’s all the fuss about? At the outset, it’s useful to distinguish two senses in which there might be an ‘authentic self’: a naturalistic sense and a more strictly normative one. The naturalistic sense of authenticity appears in the idea that each person possesses an ‘essential nature’, which may or may not be expressed adequately in the conduct of life. This is a familiar idea in both Greek and Christian culture, though explained somewhat differently. The Greeks had a much stronger sense that in the fullness of time your authentic self is always revealed – often to tragic effect. In contrast, Christian culture admits the possibility that your authentic self may remain hidden indefinitely, especially if you are never offered an opportunit... Tue, 12 Jan 2016 13:48:46 +0000 Steve Fuller https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/authenticity-reality-and-being-auid-615 Spotting the Killers On Our Streets https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/spotting-the-killers-on-our-streets-auid-854 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-killerstreetredux.png" /><br />‘I can’t believe it was him.’ ‘He seemed like such a normal person.’ ‘Everyone on this street liked him so much.’ ‘He was always so polite and nice to everyone.’ Those were just some of the comments made by friends and neighbors of infamous serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer). And the reasons behind such remarks are simple. Psychopaths, viewed by many psychiatrists as “society’s most dangerous individuals”, don’t act or look crazy. They’re not mentally ill. They don’t suffer seizures, blackouts, or lose track of reality due to their condition. In fact, they’re not only masters at appearing normal to everyone around them, they’re also experts at gaining people’s trust. Now allow me explain why that is. A Psychopath’s main characteristic is what psychologists call “severe emotional detachment”, or SED for short. SED is one of the hardest “mental abnormalities” to diagnose - harder than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psych... Mon, 31 Jul 2017 10:23:52 +0000 Chris Carter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/spotting-the-killers-on-our-streets-auid-854 Hidden Desires and Secret Thoughts https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hidden-desires-and-secret-thoughts-auid-672 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Richard-Bentall-50.jpeg" /><br />Many have been sceptical of Freud's claim that unconscious desires control our lives. Yet studies show the conscious brain processes only a tiny fraction of the brain as a whole. Are hidden desires and secret thoughts driving our actions, or is our conscious brain in full control? Richard Bentall is a clinical psychologist and author of Doctoring the Mind and Madness Explained. He is a leading critic of biological explanations of mental illness and the pharmaceutical industry. He teaches at the University of Liverpool. Here he speaks to the IAI about fantasy, disgust, cognitive behavioural therapy, and the “two brains” of every human being.   In the Hidden Desires and Secret Thoughts debate, you argued that there is such a thing as the unconscious realm. How can we know that? The unconscious is a loaded concept because it means different things to different people. Freudians, for example, will talk about a dynamic unconscious where the subconscious has motivational properties. The Freu... Sun, 15 May 2016 12:51:07 +0000 Richard Bentall https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hidden-desires-and-secret-thoughts-auid-672 Friston vs Brogaard: Down the Rabbit Hole - part 2 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/friston-vs-brogaard-down-the-rabbit-hole-part-2-auid-655 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Brogaard-48.jpg" /><br />Read part 1: Karl Friston asks, is our experience real, or simply a construct of the brain?Experience is a construct of the brain. I think all the discussants in the Down the Rabbit Hole debate agreed with this position. I would like to add to this that we furthermore have no control over how our brain constructs our experiences. Experiences are not the result of rationally controlled conscious processes. It takes place at a level Daniel Dennett once referred to as “the sub-personal level”. According to Dennett in Content and Consciousness, the distinction between personal level and sub-personal level explanations is the distinction between “the explanatory level of people and their sensations and activities and the sub-personal level of brains and events in the nervous system”. Personal level explanations are distinctive kinds of explanation for persons. Dennett continues: When we've said that a person is in pain, that she knows which bit of her hurts and that this is what's made her ... Sun, 27 Mar 2016 10:47:32 +0000 Berit Brogaard https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/friston-vs-brogaard-down-the-rabbit-hole-part-2-auid-655 Friston vs Brogaard: Down the Rabbit Hole - part 1 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/friston-vs-brogaard-down-the-rabbit-hole-part-1-auid-654 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Friston-48.jpg" /><br />Read part 2: Berit Brogaard asks, if we cannot trust our senses, where does this leave our beliefs?All experience is the product of inference. All experience is a highly sophisticated, hierarchically interwoven story that is fabricated to explain our sensory impressions. In this view, experiences – from qualia to convictions – are basically hypotheses that are tested against sensory evidence. This ‘perception as hypothesis testing’ allows us to identify the most plausible explanation for our sensations. In this sense, experience, beliefs and hypotheses are all the same thing and only exist in our mind’s eye. They are internally consistent fantasies, generated by a fantastic organ; namely the brain. If true, there is no experience ‘out there’ and I could be a brain in vat. The problem with this sceptical take on ‘experience as inference’ is that it presupposes the existence of a sensorium. In other words, if I am making inferences, there must be something out there to infer. More techni... Sun, 27 Mar 2016 10:37:49 +0000 Karl Friston https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/friston-vs-brogaard-down-the-rabbit-hole-part-1-auid-654 Truth, Lies and Self-Deception https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/truth-lies-and-self-deception-auid-663 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Parashkev-Nachev-49.jpg" /><br />It pleases the editors of the OED to release, at increasingly frequent intervals, lists of words newly added to the dictionary. They mostly divide between those you would expect to find there already, such as ‘Armagnac’, ‘anxiolytic’, ‘char sui’, and those no-one would care to look up anyway, such as ‘vlogger’, ‘VJing’, and ‘side dressing’, for they rain upon us daily from the all-enveloping digital sky. In any event, if language were a tree then this would be minor trimming and grafting around the terminal shoots, noticeable only by the obsessive, the tree-for-the-wooded. The main branches never change; they merely lignify into greater inflexibility. Perhaps, as with trees, this is necessary to keep the structure erect. But there are cardinal aspects of language that I cannot be alone in wishing we could change, and of those perhaps the most important is the language of assertion and denial. The two principal words we have here – true and false – leave out the case that can be neither... Sun, 10 Apr 2016 09:52:52 +0000 Parashkev Nachev https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/truth-lies-and-self-deception-auid-663 Wilful Blindness https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/wilful-blindness-auid-638 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Margaret-Heffernan-46.jpg" /><br />Are you the sum total of your experiences – or a sum total of your memories? The fact that the two are so wildly different isn’t only because, over time, memories fade. It is also because we may not fully experience what we see in front of us at the time. In my book, Wilful Blindness, I was intrigued by the common human experience in which we ignore crucial information, people or events that stare us in the face. Albert Speer, Hitler’s favourite architect and, later on, the man responsible for supplying the army with manpower, weapons and material, famously could not remember what he had known of Hitler’s final solution. He wasn’t sure whether he’d been at the Wannsee conference or, if he had, how long he had stayed. And this was not because he believed himself innocent – he pleaded guilty at Nuremberg – but because, even under intense and sustained interrogation by Gitta Sereny, he simply could not remember. Many people believed Speer lied. But Sereny considered Speer’s experience. He... Sun, 28 Feb 2016 11:55:43 +0000 Margaret Heffernan https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/wilful-blindness-auid-638 The End of Psychology? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-end-of-psychology-auid-406 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-The-End-of-Psychology-2.jpg" /><br />The end of psychology? Perhaps not quite yet, but there is a serious message behind The Onion’s fantasy about the American Psychology Association (APA). Over the past decades, psychology has been increasingly overtaken by neuroscience. Two multi-billion euro/dollar initiatives – one European, one American – were launched in 2012 with the avowed objectives of “solving the brain” and, in the EU’s case, incorporating the solution into novel “neuromorphic” computers. Hard-line reductionists speak of “molecular and cellular cognition” and dismiss the mind as an epiphenomenal product of neural processes, a “user illusion,” or, as zoologist Thomas Huxley put it a century and a half ago, merely the whistle to the steam train. Most neuroscientists concur; as Francis Crick put it: “You are nothing but a bunch of neurons.” Neurophilosophers, a world away from Descartes famous Cogito ergo sum speak contemptuously of “folk psychology”, to be replaced as neuroscience progresses by an objective, rigo... Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:17:32 +0000 Steven Rose https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-end-of-psychology-auid-406 Why Do We Make So Much of Consciousness? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/secret-thoughts-hidden-desires-auid-636 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Barry-Smith-46.jpg" /><br />We like to think of ourselves as being in control of our own thoughts, decisions and actions – what we say and what we do. But how much do our conscious thoughts and intentions guide our actions?  How far does the writ of the conscious mind reach? And just how much of our behaviour comes under its control? Contemporary neuroscience has been responsible for de-throning consciousness from its central place in the workings of the mind. It is no longer thought of as exercising constant vigilance and guidance over our actions. Instead, many of the things we set out to do happen because of fast and automatic processes in the brain that ensure the fluency of our actions. We anticipate a great deal based on past patterns of perception and action, and this takes the strain off the conscious mind; though the conscious mind still assumes that it is involved in and orchestrating even the simplest actions. We imagine that when we reach for a cup in front of us that we are guiding our hand on the ba... Sun, 28 Feb 2016 11:22:28 +0000 Barry C. Smith https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/secret-thoughts-hidden-desires-auid-636 Plato Not Prozac https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/plato-not-prozac-auid-283 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-brain.jpg" /><br />Professor Lou Marinoff is a Commonwealth Scholar originally from Canada, Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at The City College of New York, and founding President of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association (APPA). He is also Editor of Philosophical Practice: Journal of the APPA. Lou has authored two international bestsellers: Plato Not Prozac, translated into 27 languages since 1999, and Therapy for the Sane, into 12 languages since 2003. Both books apply Asian and Western philosophy to the resolution of everyday problems. Lou is also a three-time Canadian Open Table Hockey champion. Beatrice Popescu: Where does your love for counselling stem from? Who was your first inspiration? Lou Marinoff: My first inspiration was my talkative extended family, most of whom were capable of dispensing advice almost continuously, and on any topic. In such a climate, one must think for oneself, dispense advice in self-defence, and ultimately take one's own counsel. Beatrice ... Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:56:58 +0000 Lou Marinoff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/plato-not-prozac-auid-283 Enlightenment’s Wake https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/enlightenments-wake-auid-567 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-5.jpg" /><br /> There is little doubt that one of the legacies to us of the Enlightenment is the idea of thinking for oneself. The rallying cry of the era’s great philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was: “Have the courage to think for yourself!” It is pleasant, because so much easier, he noted, to let others do our thinking for us: priests, politicians, social commentators and the like. It is much more difficult to think for oneself. Kant insisted that the necessary condition for such free thought was freedom – freedom to argue, to disagree, to refuse. Yes, it is easy to point out that there is no such one intellectual movement as ‘the Enlightenment’: those thinkers, writers, poets, essayists and so on whom we think of as making up the Enlightenment actually argued for many very different views: liberal, conservative, religious, atheist and so on. Nonetheless, out of the confusion of intellectual currents that we call the Enlightenment, we can perhaps isolate some the key ideas that have remained ... Mon, 14 Sep 2015 05:52:38 +0000 Christopher Hamilton https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/enlightenments-wake-auid-567 Psychiatry After Postmodernism https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/psychiatry-after-postmodernism-auid-600 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Editorial-40.jpg" /><br />Language separates humans from all the other animals on this planet. Birds may have their songs, bees may wobble their bottoms, but none of them can match us when it comes to describing the difference between a coffee cup, a runny nose and the theory of relativity. We have evolved language, a wonderfully complex system for manipulating, storing, retrieving and sharing meaningful symbols. Human language has given birth to human civilisation and all that we have achieved as a species, for better or for worse, over the past 50,000 years.   Naming things, abstract or concrete, is a form of categorisation, but it is important to remember that our categories say more about the categoriser than the categorised. This need not be problematic if the difference is trivial. The philosopher Wittgenstein showed how words are fundamentally and necessarily imprecise; every effort to use a word to describe something and communicate it to another, is in some senses doomed to failure, because it can only... Sat, 21 Nov 2015 22:26:42 +0000 Mark Salter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/psychiatry-after-postmodernism-auid-600 Know Thyself https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/know-thyself-auid-568 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-49-true-to-myself-1.jpg" /><br /> What does it mean to be true to yourself? Each one of us has a unique sense of self, but to arrive at that realisation is a lifetime project. This is especially true today. We live in a world surrounded by technological innovation, and sometimes it feels as if we’re not sophisticated enough to cope. We have become overwhelmed by our surroundings and retreated into a world of technology. You walk down the street and everyone’s face is to their phones – they’re either looking at them or speaking into them or listening to them. Why are we all suddenly doing this? It is part of a process of homogenisation that masks important aspects of our uniqueness as individuals. Each of us have our own particular abilities – whether that’s the ability to perceive shapes or patterns or to get lost in a particular physical activity, or have a real instinct about taste or smell. As a result, we all have different interests too – whether this is at the level of brain activity or more spiritually. The imp... Mon, 14 Sep 2015 05:58:19 +0000 Adjoa Andoh https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/know-thyself-auid-568 Dethroning Consciousness https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/dethroning-consciousness-auid-390 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Neuroscience-and-mind.jpg" /><br />Barry C Smith is a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck and Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. His interests range from the philosophy of wine to Chomskyan theory of mind and language. Here, he discusses free will, philosophy of mind, and our changing conception of consciousness thanks to recent advances in neuroscience.   Do you think that neuroscience can tell us what the mind is? I think neuroscience can give us a bigger and more precise account of the many things that go on in the mind. For a long time we've relied on what we consciously have access to, or the use of mind in language and in thought and in all the things that we’re aware of. But there are many aspects of mind that are slightly hidden from our own view and I think that neuroscience has done a good job of opening up and casting light on that and showing us some of the inner workings, the hidden workings, of the mind. What are these things that we can’t find ou... Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:11:12 +0000 Barry C. Smith https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/dethroning-consciousness-auid-390 Lying to Survive https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/lying-to-survive-auid-540 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Sophie-van-der-Zee-33.jpg" /><br />Humans have been lying for as long as we have been writing – probably longer. Deception is a recurring theme in Greek mythology, with many stories about Dolos (the spirit of trickery and guile) and Apate (the goddess of fraud and deceit). The most famous example may be the trickery and deception involved in invading Troy, when the Greeks pretended to give up on war, leaving a large wooden horse behind on shore that was presented as a peace offering. When the Trojans were fast asleep, the Greek men that were hidden in the Trojan horse snuck out and conquered Troy. Lying is not just something of the past; people still lie. Although we like to think of ourselves as honest people, and although we usually judge lying negatively, experimental research has demonstrated that the majority of people lie on a daily basis. For example, in two one-week diary studies by DePaulo et al (1996), people lied on average once or twice a day during their everyday interactions. In total, participants lied to... Thu, 09 Jul 2015 09:58:11 +0000 Sophie Van Der Zee https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/lying-to-survive-auid-540 Desire, Dreams, and Happiness https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/desire-dreams-and-happiness-auid-537 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Dinesh-Bhugra-33.jpg" /><br /> Human beings are desirous of many things – both material and emotional. We like to live comfortably and we need emotional relationships with others to fulfill our desires for intimacy and emotional support. Human beings have aspirations – not only for ourselves but for others too. It has been demonstrated that a discrepancy between aspiration and achievement leads to a sense of frustration and affects self-image – resulting in low self-esteem and probable depression too. The discrepancy between achievement and aspiration may well apply more in cases of migrants who may feel that they are being stopped from achieving their full potential. Studies from various parts of the world have shown that the rates of mental illnesses are greater in migrants when compared with local populations. This also illustrates the possibility that reasons for migration are important and it is very likely that those who migrate for economic or educational betterment have a much higher predisposition to deve... Thu, 09 Jul 2015 09:41:19 +0000 Dinesh Bhugra https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/desire-dreams-and-happiness-auid-537 Are You an Illusion? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/are-you-an-illusion-auid-400 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-identity-illusion.jpg" /><br />Mary Midgley, a moral philosopher and author, has been described as “the UK’s foremost scourge of scientific pretension”. At the venerable age of 94, she has published a new book, Are You an Illusion?, which examines contemporary approaches to the question of consciousness. As in previous books, such as Science as Salvation and The Solitary Self, Midgley seeks to challenge what she sees as the materialist dogmatism that dominates much of modern scientific thinking.Here, Midgley explains the popularity of Richard Dawkins, why genes aren't selfish after all, and how today's scientists could do with a little more philosophical training.   What does it mean to say that science is a form of metaphysics? I take it that `science’ here means `physical science’, not just systematic thinking in general? If so, then saying that it is a &quot;a form of metaphysics&quot; seems to be just a mistake. The speaker’s idea is probably that `science’ on its own can supply its own conceptual background – the set of... Mon, 11 Aug 2014 17:04:04 +0000 Mary Midgley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/are-you-an-illusion-auid-400 Beyond Reality https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-reality-auid-518 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-day-and-night.jpg" /><br />I opened the Beyond Reality debate with a quotation from Ambrose Bierce: “Reality is the dream of a mad philosopher.” Bierce’s words seemed apposite because to me the notion of a single overarching ‘reality’ which might apply equally and objectively to all humans, now and forever, is a wild fantasy. A standard dictionary definition of reality runs thus: “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.” This sounds, at first, quite reassuring. Someone, somewhere, has carefully divided ‘things’ into two fixed categories: (a)   ‘Things’ which actually exist. These are objectively Real (b)   ‘Things’ which exist only as ideals or notions. These are not objectively Real. ‘Things’ can apparently only be one or the other – (a) or (b), real or unreal. Therefore, we might speak about someone refusing to face up to reality (meaning category a), or refusing to accept reality, and by this we would apparently suggest that there is somethi... Sun, 19 Apr 2015 10:06:06 +0000 Joanna Kavenna https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-reality-auid-518 A Material World? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-material-world-auid-511 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-John-Heil.jpg" /><br />More than 50 years ago Wilfrid Sellars challenged philosophers to explain how to reconcile the universe as we ordinarily experience it with what issues from the sciences, especially physics. In 1963’s Science, Perception, and Reality, he wrote: The philosopher is confronted not by one complex many-dimensional picture, the unity of which, such as it is, he must come to appreciate; but by two pictures of essentially the same order of complexity, each of which purports to be a complete picture of man-in-the-world, and which, after separate scrutiny, he must fuse into one vision. Let me refer to these two perspectives, respectively, as the manifest and the scientific images of man-in-the-world. Sellars’ exhortation echoes the physicist A. S. Eddington who, in his 1927 Gifford Lectures (subsequently published as The Nature of the Physical World, 1928) had spoken of setting out to write his lectures by drawing up two chairs to two tables. Two tables! Yes; there are duplicates of every object... Sun, 08 Mar 2015 13:43:35 +0000 John Heil https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-material-world-auid-511 Why Study Philosophy? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-study-philosophy-auid-289 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-our.philosophy.top-.jpg" /><br />Physicists study matter, motion, and energy. Chemists study substances and their forms of combination, interaction and decomposition. Biologists study living things. And so forth. But what is it that philosophers study? One answer common throughout the ages is that as physicists study physics, philosophers study meta-physics. Philosophers, or at any rate the deepest of philosophers, we are told, are meta-physicists. Physicists study the contingencies of the world – things that happen to be so. Meta-physicists study the essential, necessary features of all possible worlds.This reply is unconvincing for a number of reasons. For one thing, if it were the case, it would need a great deal of explaining to vindicate philosophy. For while physics has produced libraries of well established results (and chemistry and biology yet more libraries), we can look in vain for trustworthy books entitled Established Truths of Metaphysics or A Handbook of Philosophical Facts. Moreover, there is more than... Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:23:23 +0000 admin https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-study-philosophy-auid-289 The Reality Instinct https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-reality-instinct-auid-528 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-453-The-Reality-of-Feeling-ISD-3.jpg" /><br />“Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality.” -- Alexis Carrel Intuition, or what is also known as instinct or gut feeling, can indeed phenomenally appear like it’s a kind of extrasensory perception of reality. Your boss is collecting donations for a Christmas present for the intern. As you are about to hand over your $50, you suddenly instinctively know that he is going to fail to convey that the joint gift is from everyone in the office. You are not sure how you came to that conclusion. You simply had a gut feeling, and you were right. Although our gut feelings sometimes turn out to be right, it is not immediately clear whether they do in fact track reality. Lucky guesses also turn out to be right but there is no interesting causal connection between a guess and the external world. Our gut feelings, however, are different from guesswork. They are the product of reliable heuristics and smart strategies the brain is already using... Thu, 07 May 2015 12:26:14 +0000 Berit Brogaard https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-reality-instinct-auid-528 A New Model of Consciousness https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-new-model-of-consciousness-auid-510 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Daniel-Stoljar.jpg" /><br />Do we need a radically new model to explain the place of consciousness in the material world? The answer is yes, because both old models are failing. Old model #1 is materialism – also known as physicalism – which says that consciousness is a function of organised matter. The problem with materialism is that on any known view of what matter is, consciousness is palpably not a function of it. This is the lesson of the famous set of arguments about matter and consciousness in philosophy: the superscientist Mary, philosophical zombies, the inverted spectrum, etc. Old model #2 is dualism, which says (negatively) that consciousness is not a function of organised matter, and (positively) that consciousness is a basic element of nature something like time, space, gravity, or indeed matter itself. The problem with dualism is that it can’t explain how consciousness is integrated into the rest of nature in the way it palpably is. That is the lesson of another set of arguments in philosophy that ... Sun, 08 Mar 2015 13:37:39 +0000 Daniel Stoljar https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-new-model-of-consciousness-auid-510 The Call of Silence https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-call-of-silence-auid-503 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Mark-Vernon-II.jpg" /><br />We live in a society with a powerful aversion to silence; with an anxiety of not having something said, or anything to say. Silence is feared and equated with emptiness, meaninglessness, nothing. Muzak is, of course, omnipresent. Phones and iPods create a bubble of noise around every individual, keeping the outside world out and starving the inner world of space. If the radio or TV falls silent, it suggests a fault, at best, and possibly global disaster. Twenty-four hour news, too, cannot tolerate any gaps. You see it particularly during election campaigns, as we are suffering in the UK at the moment. For our wannabe leaders, to be caught off-guard in front of a camera is career-threatening. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's spin doctor, famously filled the political day and night with “the grid”. That's become the norm. It's noise as a means of control. &quot;Silence is regarded as a sort of sin now, and it has to be filled with a lot of gossip and sound bites,&quot; Douglas Hurd, the politician ... Sun, 22 Feb 2015 13:24:42 +0000 Mark Vernon https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-call-of-silence-auid-503 Dark Matter of the Mind https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/dark-matter-of-the-mind-auid-479 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Daniel-Everett.jpg" /><br /> Who are we? How did we get to be this way? These are two of the greatest questions facing our species. The answers are still emerging after decades of field research in linguistics and anthropology, evolutionary theory, psychology, and neuroscience. But one thing is clear. Humans act, think, and exist according to the parameters of the dark matter of their minds – the things that they do not know that they know – their &quot;unknown knowns&quot; to shamelessly appropriate the words of Donald Rumsfeld. All scientists believe that at some level evolution is responsible for how we humans got to be the way we are. But evolutionary theory alone is not enough. While superficially, humans are alike in many ways, at the same time, we are a varied species, with enormous differences separating individuals even within the same cultures, shaped in profound ways by our life experiences. The question that most interests me is whether evolution structured humans to be flexible or rigid in their behavioural co... Wed, 07 Jan 2015 09:57:29 +0000 Daniel Everett https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/dark-matter-of-the-mind-auid-479 Consciousness, Actually https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/consciousness-actually-auid-460 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-consciousness.jpg" /><br /> The problem of consciousness is one of the hardest facing science and philosophy today. But in order to inquire fruitfully into this great problem, we first need to make sure we are asking the same question, and have an adequate initial clarification of what we are talking about. There are perhaps five leading ideas in the existing philosophy and science of consciousness: qualia; what it is like for something to be that thing; subjectivity; intentionality; and phenomenality. Each of these five ideas has advanced inquiry in different directions, but they have all failed to provide an initial clarification of the subject. They demonstrate the unfortunate fact that minds are not meeting – we seem concerned with different subjects. As a result of this disagreement about definitions of consciousness, we have seen the emergence of a number of competing theories. There is a clear confrontation between functionalism and mentalism, for example, and, most obviously, a confrontation between the... Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:23:25 +0000 Ted Honderich https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/consciousness-actually-auid-460 Mental Health: Visions of the Future https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/mental-health-ideas-for-a-better-future-auid-452 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-mental-health-ideas.jpg" /><br />Mental health is everyone’s business, and as the world continues to change at an accelerating rate, we must already be working on the treatments of tomorrow. In spite of our best desires we are not likely to get rid of mental illness altogether but we can work towards better mental health for everyone. Working with patients in a collaborative way is the first key step. In addition, as social demographics change, we must embrace new technologies. Putting more power into the hands of patients may well hold the answer.  A recent report by the Mental Health Foundation suggested that effective mental health care in the next three decades should focus on new ideas and fresh ways of working with new technology. One idea may be to give patients their own records on a USB stick. This enables patients to take control of their own information, potentially leading to improved and more efficient information sharing, better awareness, and more effective outcomes. With rapid expansion in social media... Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:38:53 +0000 Dinesh Bhugra https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/mental-health-ideas-for-a-better-future-auid-452 Thinking Without Limits https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/thinking-without-limits-auid-338 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Simon-Saunders2.jpg" /><br />Simon Saunders is currently Professor of Philosophy of Physics at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Linacre College. He is noted for his work on quantum mechanics (particularly the many-worlds interpretation), on identity and indiscernibility in physics, and on structural realism.   What do you think the idea of thinking the unthinkable actually amounts to? When we discuss “thought”, what do we actually mean? I think it’s about limits to thought vis-a-vis something like states of affairs. To set it up, one might ask, “are there extraordinary facts about the universe that somehow are going to be forever beyond our comprehension?” So the important question is whether or not we can have knowledge of every state of affairs?  Right. I think there are other aspects to the question which are also interesting – issues of experiential knowledge etc. It comes up in the philosophy of mind: for example, qualitative experience called qualia. Is redness a property that we can have access to th... Sat, 22 Mar 2014 22:48:14 +0000 Simon Saunders https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/thinking-without-limits-auid-338 An (Extra)Ordinary Life https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-extraordinary-life-auid-348 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Extraordinary.jpg" /><br />Does your life, which was supposed to be a journey on the Orient Express to glamour, adventure and excitement, feel more like a trip on an English branch line with long stops at Hankering, Frittering, Fretting, East and West Dithering, towards the terrible terminus of Slavering? Does your everyday routine seem dreary, trivial, meaningless, burdensome and unfulfilling? Do you wake in the small hours assailed by this terrifying thought: “Nothing is happening, I am gaining no experience, I will die without ever having really lived.” If the answer to these questions is yes, you are not alone. I have lived a conventional, circumscribed life (not intentionally, it just turned out that way), and on many occasions felt that it was pitifully limited. On other occasions, much less frequent, I have understood that my life has been as rich and strange as any other. This alternative attitude is much more helpful – and to try to make it the default I wrote Embracing the Ordinary: Lessons from the Ch... Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:59:11 +0000 Michael Foley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-extraordinary-life-auid-348 The Bipolar Construct https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-bipolar-construct-auid-373 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Bipolar-mood2.jpg" /><br />Mark Salter is a consultant psychiatrist based in London’s East End, specialising in risk, untowardness and media portrayals of mental distress. Here, he outlines the five key systems for human emotion and explains why bipolar disorder is but a construct that helps us make sense of Stephen Fry television programmes.   Does bipolar disorder exist? An interesting thing happened to me six or seven years ago. I made a television programme with Stephen Fry called The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. I invited him to my psychiatric hospital and showed him around, and over the two or three days we were filming I got to know him. I was struck that this man was making a programme about his own experiences of suffering from a mood disorder, and while he was using the term bipolar disorder to describe himself, I was using it to describe my patients who have lives so unimaginably different from Stephen Fry’s it was hard to believe they’ve got the same thing. It's interesting, though, the idea ... Wed, 18 Jun 2014 20:58:53 +0000 Mark Salter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-bipolar-construct-auid-373 Entering the Soul Niche https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/entering-the-soul-niche-auid-362 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Emotional-Intelligence.jpg" /><br />Nicholas Humphrey is a theoretical psychologist whose books include Soul Dust. His study of primate psychology led him to a radical new theory of human consciousness. We spoke to him about why the concept of the soul is one of such longevity, and importance. The term ‘soul’ carries a lot of religious baggage. Why is it important to revisit this concept?Sure, the term ‘soul’ carries a lot of  human – not necessarily religious – baggage. But that’s precisely why we need to treat the concept seriously, rather than abjure it. Thanks to the peculiarities of consciousness, human beings have evolved to be spiritual beings. This began to happen perhaps 200,000 years ago, long before institutional religions got a foothold. Religions, just in the last 10,000 years, have found fertile ground in human spirituality and become parasitic on it. Today, religions tend to constrain humans’ native spirituality rather than enhance it. But the idea of the soul is bigger than religions pretend. What’s the ... Sat, 03 May 2014 21:52:18 +0000 Nicholas Humphrey https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/entering-the-soul-niche-auid-362 Play: A Serious Business https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/play-a-serious-business-auid-324 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Mike-BrearleyPlayful1.jpg" /><br />Here are two quotes: &quot;Nothing in cricket has the slightest importance when set against a single death from violence in Northern Ireland.&quot; And, second: ''Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.&quot; The first was said by iconic cricket commentator, John Arlott; the second, by Bill Shankley, the charismatic manager of Liverpool Football Club. What are we to make of this apparent conflict? Play is part of living; death is the interruption of living. Of course we stop things for death, crisis, tragedy, disaster or loss. But play is central, not only to living from moment to moment, but to our sense of life, creativity and the development of skills. Play is equally related to work – it’s often serious and usually relates to how we interact with others, as well as to our inner sense of being. There is much overlap in organised sport and creative play, though, of course, spor... Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:44:53 +0000 Mike Brearley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/play-a-serious-business-auid-324 Running with Ghosts https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/running-with-ghosts-auid-316 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Polly-Morland.jpg" /><br />One Sunday morning in 2011, I found myself garbed in comical spandex clothing, clutching a doughnut-hole drinking bottle, as I limbered up among the crowd to run a provincial half marathon. I am still not entirely sure what I was doing there, other than pursuing a fantasy of the lissom youth I had never actually gone in for first time around. I was a long way off from the elite athletes, wedged in instead at the rear of the crowd with the fat people, the runners dressed up as bananas, gorillas and, on this occasion, a duo of large, white Styrofoam lavatories. Before the gun, the atmosphere was skittish, nervous, with much unnecessary stretching and jogging on the spot; people saying things like, ‘well, this is it,’ or ‘there’s no going back now.’ All of which might sound a bit silly were it not for the fact that when the starting gun fired, the race began and everyone did their utmost to run the allotted thirteen miles, whether nature or training had equipped them adequately to do so o... Sun, 09 Feb 2014 12:15:09 +0000 Polly Morland https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/running-with-ghosts-auid-316 Neuro-Everything? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/neuro-everything-auid-276 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-brain-image2.jpg" /><br /> Are we on the verge of unlocking the secrets of the human brain? Colin Blakemore reveals neuroscience's profound new insights into human behaviour, with seismic consequences for everything from economics and warfare to our justice system. Click on the image to watch the video! Tue, 03 Dec 2013 16:55:59 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/neuro-everything-auid-276 How to be Brave https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-be-brave-auid-301 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-03whippits1.jpg" /><br />Disquiet creeps in everywhere these days. Apprehension has gradually become the norm and our ability to distinguish what is and what is not scary has been skewed. Sensing and regretting our communal timidity, we grow hungry for its opposite, this rare delicacy: bravery. Our media and politicians feed the appetite, dishing up accounts of Courage and Heroism so seasoned with drama and cliché that they may be mouth-watering and easy to digest, but hardly nourishing. And so the cycle of timidity continues, a vicious (as opposed to a virtuous) circle.  All the same, what we talk about when we talk about courage is not, thankfully, the same thing as courage itself. What Michel de Montaigne called “the strangest, most generous and proudest of all virtues”, courage does exist and it always has. It was there in the Torah, the Bible, the Qu-ran, the Vedas, the scrolls of Confucius, the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Nor has it ever passed out of fashion, which cannot be said for all of the car... Sun, 12 Jan 2014 11:07:04 +0000 Polly Morland https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-be-brave-auid-301 Neuroscience vs Free Will https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/neuroscience-vs-free-will-auid-287 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-brain-image3.jpg" /><br />Professor V. S. Ramachandran's wonderful Reith Lectures – like his equally wonderful book Phantoms in the Brain, co-authored with Sandra Blakeslee – gave many telling examples, from clinical and experimental neuroscience, showing how the brain functions as a `committee' of multifarious parts. Then, in the final lecture broadcast on 30 April 2003, Ramachandran returned to the problem of why, despite that multifariousness, every normal human being seems to have a strong sense of his or her unique “self” – an entity, as he put it, that 1.    has continuity in time, 2.    has unity and coherence (not a committee but a single entity), 3.    is (a) embodied, and (b), I would add, well-oriented in its surroundings (e.g., we are normally clear whether we are inside a room or on a mountaintop) and 4.    is an agent with free will. Ramachandran then pointed out that these properties of “self” are amenable to experimental investigation. Thus for instance property 3a, embodiment, can be switched o... Thu, 05 Dec 2013 15:04:57 +0000 Michael McIntyre https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/neuroscience-vs-free-will-auid-287 An Irreconcilable Conflict https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-irreconcilable-conflict-auid-310 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Chess-bw4.jpg" /><br />The internet is, like the printing press and papyrus before it, “a good thing”. Yet, it seems that this quantum leap in our ability to access information comes at a cost that we have yet to value fully. The reasons for this are interesting. We in the West are only slowly beginning to grasp that our love of rationality and factual knowledge, and the remarkable comforts it seems to have brought, is happening at the expense of other equally vital aspects of our nature such as ethics, memory and common sense. Thinkers from fields as diverse as art, politics, psychology and neuroscience are beginning to realise that all information – useful or otherwise – is processed and understood in an emotionally charged context. Human beings are inherently social creatures and so one of the most vital sources of emotional charge lies in the way we relate to other people. Emotions are, after all, social events.  The way in which our emotions modulate and even control the conclusions that we draw from fu... Sat, 25 Jan 2014 16:19:03 +0000 Mark Salter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-irreconcilable-conflict-auid-310