Monday, November 28, 2011

Adventures in Thought

Here are several episodes of 60-Second Adventures in Thought. Is motion impossible? What about time travel? Can computers think? Could there be an infinite number of something? And then there is quantum mechanics....

Friday, November 25, 2011

The legacy of David Hume

Oxford philosopher Peter Kail discusses the legacy of David Hume in this podcast.
Hume’s work has had an enormous impact on contemporary thought about induction and moral psychology, to name just two. In our interview, Prof. Kail discusses the ways in which Hume’s influence in these areas rests on some significant misunderstandings of his own views.
Episode 29: Peter Kail discusses the legacy of David Hume

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Frans de Waal on the Natural Origins of Morality

Frans de Waal talks about the natural origins of morality and empathy.
Human morality is older than our current religions, and may go back to tendencies observable in other mammals. In a bottom-up view of morality, this talk is one man's road to discovering an array of positive tendencies in animals at a time when competition and aggression were the only themes.

Inception and Philosophy: Life Is But a Dream

If you've seen the movie Inception, you may have wondered whether the character Cobb is dreaming throughout the film. Can Cobb know whether he is dreaming? How do you know whether you are dreaming now? This is the famous question Descartes asks, suggesting we can never, at any given moment, be sure we are not dreaming.
You may feel certain that you are not dreaming right now, but you have been just as certain that you are not dreaming while you have been dreaming! (We've all had that dream that we were so certain was real.) Thus we can't use our own subjective feeling that we are not dreaming as evidence that we are not-but what else could settle it? Although many philosophers have tried to solve this problem, all have failed. One cannot be certain that one is not dreaming; in fact, it seems that one cannot even know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How we (should) decide

MIT philosophy professor Casper Hare talks about practical rationality and its role in real world decision-making.
Caspar Hare is interested in your choices. Not the ones you’ve already made, but the ones you will make, and how you’ll go about making them. The more important, the better.
“What people, and young people in particular, think about moral questions is powerfully influenced by emotional responses that they have — in particular, disgust-related emotional responses, which are acquired via socialization,” Hare says. “It’s good for people to be able to step back and think about how to respond to a moralized case not by just saying, ‘How do I immediately feel about this? Does it set off my ‘yuck response’?’ but knowing how to think carefully about it and really evaluate what’s going on.”
How we (should) decide

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are Corporations People?

Should we think of corporations as people? Maybe from a legal point of view, but what about from a philosophical oint of view? What is a person? Mike Labossiere discusses the issue in a recent Talking Philosophy blog post.
I am committed to trying to treat corporations as people. Perhaps they can be treated as people in terms of their moral status and moral obligations. Of course, if they are morally people, then this would seem to have some interesting implications for moral theories. Since corporations apparently cannot possess virtues, then virtue theory would be out as a moral theory. The same would also apply to many forms of utilitarianism. Since, for example, corporations do not feel pleasure or pain, they would not count morally, so these theories would need to be rejected. Kant’s theory would also be right out-his account of persons and the role they play in morality would be completely incompatible with the corporation-person. Of course, there is always the option of arguing that there are persons and there are corporation-people. They are both persons, but different sort of persons in fundamental ways. So different that one might suspect that corporations are not people.
Talking Philosophy | Corporations as People

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Science and Philosophy of Free Will

This is a very impressive panel of philosophers and scientists discussing free will and the relationship between philosophy and science.

NKU Philosophy on Facebook

The NKU Philosophy Program is now on Facebook and Google+.  Check us out.

NKU Philosophy
on Google+

Ethics Bowl Team

Congratulations to the NKU Ethics Bowl team, who competed admirably at the 2011 Regional Ethics Bowl Debating competition at Marian University in Indianapolis, November 12, 2011. Organized and coached by Dr. Yaw, the team included Amy Rector-Aranda, Thomas Weatherford, Jessica Whyte, and Andrew Witte. They won one debate and finished ahead of some very good schools. Very impressive.

IBM's Watson: Bettered By A Plant

Recently a computer has beaten humans at the challenging game of Jeopardy. According to Alva Noƫ IBM's remarkable computer Watson "has the mind of a plant," though even that is an exaggeration. Find out more....

IBM's Watson: Bettered By A Plant

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Could a Computer Think?

At Friday's Philosophy Cafe (Nov. 18, 3:00-4:00, Room SU 108) we'll be talking about whether a computer could think? We'll want to get a little clearer on what a computer is and, of course, on what thinking is. Neither is a simple task. The philosopher John Searle has written extensively on this, arguing that thinking is more than just running a computer program. It's got something to do with the special ways in which a biological brain works, but we still have a long way to go to understand all that. I recommend reading Searle's article "Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?" and then joining us in discussion Friday.

The controversial science of free will

Micheal Gazzaniga talks about neuroscience and free will.
...many neuroscientists have maintained a long-standing opinion that what we experience as free will is no more than mechanistic patterns of neurons firing in the brain. Although we feel like free agents contemplating and choosing, they would argue that these sensations are merely an emotional remnant that brain activity leaves in its wake. If these neuroscientists are right, then free will isn’t worth much discussion.
Michael S. Gazzaniga, professor and director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California at Santa Barbara, seriously disagrees. In his new book out this month, “Who’s In Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain,“ Gazzaniga uses a lifetime of experience in neuroscientific research to argue that free will is alive and well. Instead of reducing free will to the sum of its neurological parts, he argues that it’s time for neuroscience to consider free will as a scientific fact in its own right.
The controversial science of free will

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

John Rawls and Occupy Wall Street

What would John Rawls think about the Occupy Wall Street movement?  This interview with Stanford's  Prof. Cohen is interesting.
To celebrate Bank Transfer Day, I sat down with Stanford Professor of Political Science, Philosophy and Law Joshua Cohen to discuss how political philosopher John Rawls might view the Occupy Wall Street movement. The late Rawls, a Harvard professor and the author of A Theory of Justice, is widely recognized as the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. His theory about how to set up a just society, called ‘Justice as Fairness,’ could provide a legitimate philosophical framework for the Occupy the Wall Street movement. I talked with Cohen about what Rawls’ theory says, and what it means for the 99%.
A discussion of John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice, on Occupy Wall Street

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Martha Nussbaum at EKU

“Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities”
Thursday, November 10, 2011, 7:30 pm
O’Donnell Hall, Student Success Building, Eastern Kentucky University

7th Annual Distinguished Lecture in International Studies
Free and Open to the Public

Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?

From The Atlantic (online).
One of the many small surprises of the recession has been a significant growth in the number of philosophy majors, according the the Philadelphia Inquirer. It has slightly exceeded the growth of enrollments in the last ten years; many other humanities and social science fields have just kept up. At the University of California at Berkeley, despite or because of the state's economic turmoil, the number of majors has increased by 74 percent in the last decade.

What makes philosophy different? It can seem self-absorbed; philosophers themselves joke about Arthur Koestler's definition: "the systematic abuse of a terminology specially invented for that purpose." But it also is a tool (like history and religious studies) for thinking about everything else, and every profession from law and medicine to motorcycle maintenance.
Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major? - Edward Tenner

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bio-Ethics Bites

New series of podcasts on bio-ethics. Includes interviews with Tim Lewens, Jonathan Wolff, Onora O'Neill, Nick Bostrom, and Peter Singer.
This series of interviews, representing various ethical perspectives tackling controversial subjects arising out of recent scientific advances, is freely available.