Sunday, December 30, 2012

Embodied Cognition

Excerpt from  Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning by Benjamin K. Bergen.
Starting as early as the 1970s, some cognitive psychologists, philosophers, and linguists began to wonder whether meaning wasn’t something totally different from a language of thought [Call it Mentalese, whichtranslates words into actual concepts: a polar bear or speed limit, for instance]. They suggested that—instead of abstract symbols—meaning might really be something much more closely intertwined with our real experiences in the world, with the bodies that we have. As a self-conscious movement started to take form, it took on a name, embodiment, which started to stand for the idea that meaning might be something that isn’t distilled away from our bodily experiences but is instead tightly bound by them. For you, the word dog might have a deep and rich meaning that involves the ways you physically interact with dogs—how they look and smell and feel. But the meaning of polar bear will be totally different, because you likely don’t have those same experiences of direct interaction.
See more of this excerpt in Scientific American, Embodied Cognition: Our Inner Imaginings of the World Around Us Make Us Who We Are [Excerpt]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

David Lewis on Philosophy

David Lewis
Our “intuitions” are simply opinions: our philosophical theories are the same. Some are commonsensical, some are sophisticated; some are particular; some general; some are more firmly held, some less. But they are all opinions, and a reasonable goal for a philosopher is to bring them into equilibrium. Our common task it to find out what equilibria there are that can withstand examination, but it remains for each of us to come to rest at one or another of them…
      Once the menu of well-worked out theories is before us, philosophy is a matter of opinion. Is that to say that there is no truth to be had? Or that the truth is of our own making, and different ones of us can make it differently? Not at all! If you say flatly that there is no god, and I say that there are countless gods but none of them are our worldmates, then it may be that neither of us is making any mistake of method. We may each be bringing our opinions to equilibrium in the most careful possible way, taking account of all the arguments, distinctions, and counterexamples. But one of us, at least, is making a mistake of fact. Which one is wrong depends on what there is (Collected Papers, Vol. 1, 1983: x-xi). 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fall Philosophy Reception

We want to invite all NKU philosophy majors and minors, and friends of the program, to a fall celebration of student achievement, when we we acknowledge our graduating seniors and inductees into Phi Sigma Tau, the philosophy honor society. Stop by LA 203 on Wednesday, December 5, between 3:00 and 5:00. Refreshments and great conversation.

Philosophers' Cafe

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Philosophers' Cafe yesterday. Great discussion.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Plantinga Reviews Nagel

Alvin Plantinga reviews Thomas Nagel's new bookMind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel criticizes Materialism, Naturalism and Neo-Darwinism, but doesn't--Plantinga sadly points outs--endorse Theism.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cafe: Moral Knowledge

Join us for the Philosophers' Cafe on Friday, November 30, from 3:00-4:00 in GH 316. Our topic will be moral knowledge. How do we know right from wrong? Is it learned or innate?

Sunday, November 04, 2012


The Friday, Nov. 9, Film and Philosophy series will present Steven Soderbergh's film Solaris. 3:00-6:00 in the Digitorium. Please join us for a great film and discussion.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Philosophy Schedule for Spring 2013

The class schedule for spring 2013 is available. Registration begins in November.

ERGO Tournament

Join the NKU Philosophy Club for an ERGO tournament Friday, October 26 starting at 3:00 in GH 316.

...a great game, highly recommended for scientists, philosophers and closet geeks.

A fun romp and definitely one for the gray matter in us all.

_Ergo is the logical card game for the geek in all of us. Each player plays a variable (A, B, C, or D) and uses familiar logical operators like Not, And, Or, If-Then to prove they exist, and that their opponents don't! Along the way, watch out for cards that will shift the equation like Wild Cards, Tabula Rosa or the dreaded Fallacy card.Each Player takes turns creating and changing the four premises of the proof to make true statements. Watch out though, when someone plays the Ergo card, whoever is true scores! _ -

Jean-Paul Sartre's Blog

What if Jean-Paul Sartre had a blog?

Sunday, 12 July, 1959: 9:55 A.M.An angry crow mocked me this morning. I couldn’t finish my croissant, and fled the cafĂ© in despair.
The crow descended on the croissant, squawking fiercely. Perhaps this was its plan.
Perhaps there is no plan.

Jean-Paul Sartre's Blog : The New Yorker

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Euthyphro Dilemma

The Euthyphro dilemma--what have the gods got to do with morality? editorial in the Washington Post by Massimo Pigliucci.
Think about it: after all, science is by far the best approach human beings have devised to learn about how the world works — and surely that sort of knowledge is necessary to make good decisions about how to live. Philosophy, on its part, is a way to reflect about our choices, our priorities, and in general why we do what we do. It seems to follow, then, that the smart thing to do is to learn from the best of what science and philosophy can tell us in order to make the most informed decisions we can in our lives. Aristotle (and Plato, and Socrates) would have approved.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lucy Lawless (AKA Xena, the Warrior Princess) Studies Philosophy

How Political Commitment Led Lucy Lawless (AKA Xena, the Warrior Princess) to Study Philosophy
“I went to the UN summit on sustainable development after getting involved in the whole… big oil protest… and I saw all of these people working very hard but seemingly at cross-purposes about how do we create a just society.” On a full two-hour episode of The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast (which she claims was largely responsible for turning her on to philosophy), she describes how this political interest drove her to look at the foundations and histories of theories of justice, and eventually decide to go back to school to study philosophy, which she’s now doing in New Zealand between flights to the states to film TV spots such as her recent appearance on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
How Political Commitment Led Lucy Lawless (AKA Xena, the Warrior Princess) to Study Philosophy | Open Culture

Saturday, October 06, 2012

A Clockwork Orange

If you haven't seen A Clockwork Orange yet, it is a must-see and this is a don't-miss event. It's intense. It's thought-provoking. It's a masterpiece. We will screen it (and discuss it!) on Friday, Oct. 12 from 3:00-6:00 in the Digitorium, GH at NKU.
What makes a person good? Do we have free will? Can society take away our choices for the good of society? Join us as we watch this classic film and discuss these and other questions.

Babies Aren’t So Moral After All, Unless We Engineer Them That Way

Are babies born moral?
Sorry, baby lovers. The latest research on the “Do babies have an innate moral compass?” question indicates that no, they do not. Rather, like a puppy or young chimp, babies enjoy watching bright objects bounce up and down. Right and wrong, good and evil, do not seem to enter the picture.
Babies Aren’t So Moral After All, Unless We Engineer Them That Way

Political Philosophers and Elections

What political philosophers have to say about elections.
What I will do is identify and introduce half a dozen passages on elections in famous books on politics that every educated person, or serious citizen, would reasonably wish to be acquainted with.
Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? | Hoover Institution

Thinking fish & zombie caterpillars

Philosopher Michael Tye is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine.
Michael Tye is the jumpin’ jack flashman of philosophy of mind, always updating his zap mind with rigorous brooding on the nature of phenomenal consciousness. To do this he has to consider a whole bunch of things – including inverted earths, whether swamp things have eyes, how chinese sounds to the chinese, the beliefs of fish, one eyed zombie caterpillars, camouflaged moths, orgasms, the planet Vulcan and the difference between Keith Richards hallucinating a tomatoe and him hallucinating a unicorn. He writes his books to catch his thoughts as they shoot on by. All in all, he’s a funky swell.
Thinking fish & zombie caterpillars » 3:AM Magazine

Monday, September 17, 2012

On the benefits of a philosophy major

According to the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, the analytic writing section tests “critical thinking and analytical writing skills. It assesses [your] ability to articulate and support complex ideas, construct and evaluate arguments, and sustain a focused and coherent discussion.” Philosophy majors are also the best with regard to verbal ability, and the best of the liberal arts students at quantitative reasoning. Simply put, our students have the best all-around intellectual skills.
On the benefits of a philosophy major « Pleas and Excuses:

After Spinoza: wiser, freer, happier

An interview with Ursula Renz at 3:AM Magazine.
Ursula Renz does strenuous brooding on Spinoza’s ethics in Klagenfurt and Zurich. The results of this won a major prize. But she thinks philosophy is largely its own reward and sometimes you worry that you’ll never work it out. She sees Spinoza as more radical than Descartes but breaks less. She thinks after reading Spinoza’s Ethics we will be wiser, freer and happier but she has doubts about philosophy as therapy. She is the jive sister of Spinoza studies.
After Spinoza: wiser, freer, happier » 3:AM Magazine

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The rise in stock of philosophy graduates

I think, therefore, I earn. Good news from the UK. "Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly have to offer?"
The rise in stock of philosophy graduates

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Philosophers' Cafe

We now have topics for our Philosophers' Cafe series this semester.

Friday, September 28 from 3:00 to 4:00 in GH 316

Why do (should?) we vote in political elections? Is voting a civic virtue? A duty? Should I vote mor my interests or society's interests? If I vote for a losing candidate or proposition, am I obligated to follow the will of the majority?

Friday, October 27 from 3:00-4:00 in GH 316

ERGO Card Tournament. A card game the follows the rules of logic. Prizes! 

Friday, November 30 from 3:00-4:00 in GH 316

Is moral knowledge learned or innate? Meno asks the question of Socrates and we are still asking the question today. What do philosophers say? What do scientists say? What is moral knowledge anyway?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crimes and Misdemeanors

The NKU Film and Philosophy Series will present Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors on Friday, October 14, form 3:00-6:00 in the Digitoriun, GH. Join us for a great movie and discussion.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Whisperer of doubt: Interview with Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn is a groovy humanist philosopher who sticks it to the Pope and thinks respect can’t be taken for granted. He has written many books so that people are clear that the citadel of conservativism is prey to the whispers of doubt. So he’s a tough-minded whisperer out to topple injustices and remind people that we’re all in the grip of some ideas from somewhere and someone for some reason somehow. So we’d better make sure we’re ok with it all. He doesn’t dumb-down but brings people up to philosophy, which makes him a jive jewell radical.
Whisperer of doubt » 3:AM Magazine:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Best Majors for GRE Scores: Still Physics and Philosophy

Although the GRE made significant revisions to the test this academic year, one fact remains: Physics and philosophy students still rocked the test. Physics majors tied for first in the math section, and philosophy students topped the verbal and writing sections.
Buzz Blog

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Philosophy Club and Fall Events

Any NKU students interested in joining the Philosophy Club should contact Rudy Garns or Yaw Frimpong-Mansoh. Members of Phi Sigma Tau are especially encouraged to participate. We will gather names of interested students over the next week and then organize a meeting to elect officers and set an agenda.

We do have a schedule of philosophy-oriented fall events for all NKU students.

Fall 2012

Film and Philosophy Series

The second Friday of each month we will screen a particularly thought provoking film and follow it with a discussion. Open to everyone. Cookies and beverages will be available.
Friday, September 14, 3:00-6:00 Digitorium (GH) Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
Friday, October 12, 3:00-6:00 Digitorium (GH) A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Friday, November 9, 3:00-6:00 Digitorium (GH) Solaris (Andrey Tarkovskiy, 1972)

Philosophers' Cafe

The fourth Friday of each month we invite students, faculty, staff and community members to join us for an informal discussion of a pre-selected philosophical issue.
Friday, September 28, 3:00-4:00 GH 316 Topic: TBA
Friday, October 26(tentative), 3:00-4:00 GH 316 Topic: TBA
Friday, November 30, 3:00-4:00 GH 316 Topic: TBA

Please join us.

Socially Engaged Philosophy of Science

49th Annual Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium: Socially Engaged Philosophy of Science, 11-13 October 2012. This will be a good colloquium and a great opportunity for NKU faculty and students to interact with some good philosophers on some interesting issues.

49th Annual Colloquium at UC: Socially Engaged Philosophy of Science

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please

On Monday, Ben Bernanke wasn’t talking like a scientist. He was talking like a philosopher. “The ultimate purpose of economics, of course, is to understand and promote the enhancement of well-being,” he said. To a roomful of economists, he suggested that the measurements they were using, like gross domestic product and personal consumption expenditures, were inadequate to that understanding. “Aggregate statistics can sometimes mask important information,” he said. Translation: People are unhappy, and we don’t know exactly why. “We should see better and more direct measurements of economic well being,” he said, “the ultimate objective of our policy decision.” Translation: I know it’s hard to measure happiness. Start doing it, anyway.
Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Our first film in this fall's Film and Philosophy series is Woody Allen's 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors. Join us Friday, Sept. 14 from 3:00-6:00 in the NKU Digitorium (Griffin Hall) for a lively discussion on questions of justice and morality.

Philosophical teaching will get students thinking for themselves again

Teachers need to stop teaching to the test and adopt a more philosophical teaching style across the curriculum....
Philosophical teaching will get students thinking for themselves again

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How the Internet Could Learn to Feel

An interview with Christof Koch.
Consciousness is the central factor of our lives. The only way I know I exist is because I'm conscious. I might be mistaken about who exactly I am -- for example, how attractive I am to the opposite sex -- but there's no doubt I have feelings of pain, pleasure, anger, of being a man, of waking up. Until recently, science has neglected to incorporate the fact of consciousness into its theories. If science wants a complete understanding of everything in the universe, it has to include consciousness.

The Nature of Consciousness: How the Internet Could Learn to Feel - Steve Paulson - The Atlantic

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Martha Nussbaum: the new religious intolerance

Martha Nussbaum talks about the new religious intolerance.
In her new book, The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (Harvard University Press, 2012), the internationally celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that in the past decade there has been an upsurge in 'Islamophobia'. It culminated in the initial—but wrong—assumption that Muslims were responsible for the massacre of 77 people in Norway in July 2011. When the killer turned out to be an anti-Muslim zealot, Nussbaum argued that people needed to re-examine their attitudes based on fear. But in this extended interview, she also discusses the challenge that the radical fringe of Islam poses for traditional western views of tolerance.
Martha Nussbaum: the new religious intolerance - Religion and Ethics Report - ABC Radio National

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with philosopher Richard Brown

Shombies v. Zombies
Richard Brown is a funkybodacious philosopher of consciousness and leader of the Shombie universe. He’s asked why 1+1 has to equal 2, presented a short argument proving that there is no God, shown what’s wrong with eating meat, discussed both the delayed choice quantum eraser and pain asymbolia whils’t he flies his freak flag to Alan Turing. He denies Skynet forced him to co-write Terminator and Philosophy: I’ll Be Back Therefore I Am but has never been known to sleep. He’s another renegade philosophical musical doo bee doo from the legendary NYC bands who brought you 8-bit fusion higher-order thoughts about vegan unicorn meat with experimental breakbeats. Jammin’.
Read the interview.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Quit Your Technology Job and Get a Humanities Ph.D.

Dr. Damon Horowitz is a philosopher and entrepreneur, exploring what is possible at the intersection of technology and the humanities. He discusses the value of a humanities Ph.D. in a world that is being continuously inundated with new technology, and how to apply the degree toward a successful career. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Socrates narrowly acquitted 2,400 years after death

The vote was close again. And this time the death penalty was not on the line.
Socrates’ sentencing to death has modern-day implications, as the issues of freedom of speech are as resonant today, as they were 2,400 years ago, say the organizers of the mock re-trial.
Not guilty: Socrates narrowly acquitted 2,400 years after death

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What Physics Learns From Philosophy

...what about the oft-heard claim that philosophy, unlike science, makes no progress? As Bertrand Russell (himself no slouch at physics and mathematics) observed, philosophy aims at knowledge, and as soon as it obtains definite knowledge in a specific area, that area ceases to be called “philosophy.” And scientific progress gives philosophers more and more to do. Allow me to quote Nietzsche (although I know that will be considered by some to be in bad taste): “As the circle of science grows larger, it touches paradox at more places.” Physicists expand the circle, and philosophers help clear up the paradoxes. May both camps flourish. 
What Physics Learns From Philosophy -

Do Not Listen to Peter Cohan and Cut the Humanities Departments

"...Matthew Goldstein, the CUNY chancellor, who majored in mathematics and statistics: 'If I were to start again as an undergraduate, I would major in philosophy…I think that subject is really at the core of just about everything we do. If you study humanities or political systems or sciences in general, philosophy is really the mother ship from which all of these disciplines grow.'"

Do Not Listen to Peter Cohan and Cut the Humanities Departments - Forbes

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ruth Barcan Marcus: Philosopher

Ruth Barcan Marcus was a highly respected Yale logician and philosopher who died this past year at the age of 90.
Marcus scaled the heights of a field utterly dominated by men, at a time when sexism was rife in academia and the “old boys’ network” was still in its prime. She would tell of having to fend off the unwelcome advances of a male professor (thankfully not a philosopher!) with a coat hanger, of being barred from all undergraduate classrooms at Yale while studying there for her Ph.D., and of being forced to publish her landmark papers under her married name — just a few of the indignities she would endure. In her 2010 Dewey Lecture to the American Philosophical Association, Marcus recalled, “Yale had a philosophy club open to undergraduate and graduate students. I was elected president but then received a letter from the chair of the department suggesting that I decline. The reasons given were that Yale was predominantly and historically a male institution and that my election may have been a courtesy. Also, the club’s executive committee met at Mory’s, which was closed to women. I did not respond to the letter and did not decline. It was, to me, obviously unreasonable.”
Ruth Barcan Marcus: Philosopher -

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shift Happens

David Weinberger writes about Thomas Kuhn's famous work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Kuhn wanted to free us from the illusion that knowledge is independent of history and of the sociality that marks us as humans, but he did not think that all beliefs that our history and sociality put before us are equally worthy. Indeed, he quickly moved away from the "shift happens" conception of paradigms as bundles of beliefs, emphasizing instead that they're examples of good scientific practice that researchers apply in their daily work.
Read more

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pat Churchland on Brains as Causal Machines

Pat Churchland is interviewed at 3:AM Magazine. She talks about philosophy, morality, brains and much more.
I discovered that Quine understood the problem with the claims about a priori truths and necessary truths more generally. Analyzing a concept can (perhaps) tell you what the concept means (at least means to some philosophers), but it does not tell you anything about whether the concept is true of anything in the world. But many philosophers in the second half of the 20th century really seemed to think that they were laying the foundations for science by laying down the conceptual (necessary) truths. I asked one: show me one example where 20th century conceptual analysis laid a foundational plank for any empirical science — any empirical science. No answer.
Read more of the interview "Causal Machines"

Monday, April 09, 2012

What is Philosophy?

A few examples:
Most simply put it’s about making sense of all this… We find ourselves in a world that we haven’t chosen. There are all sorts of possible ways of interpreting it and finding meaning in the world and in the lives that we live. So philosophy is about making sense of that situation that we find ourselves in.” ~Clare Carlisle

I think it’s thinking fundamentally clearly and well about the nature of reality and our place in it, so as to understand better what goes on around us, and what our contribution is to that reality, and its effect on us.” ~ Barry Smith

[Philosophy is] a process of reflection on the deepest concepts, that is structures of thought, that make up the way in which we think about the world. So it’s concepts like reason, causation, matter, space, time, mind, consciousness, free will, all those big abstract words and they make up topics, and people have been thinking about them for two and a half thousand years and I expect they’ll think about them for another two and a half thousand years if there are any of us left.” ~ Simon Blackburn
 What is Philosophy? An Omnibus of Definitions from Prominent Philosophers

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Business Majors and Philosophy

A business major isn't enough. Companies want well rounded students: "...a 22-year-old who can think creatively and has good problem solving skills and can write." Not everyone in business programs is getting this education. A philosophy major would have an advantage.

Read more at WSJ: Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Utilitarianism explained

NKU Soc, Ant, Phi Student Awards Reception

Attention NKU Philosophy Majors:

You are invited to the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Philosophy Student Awards Reception. Wednesday, April 25 from 5:00-7:00 in SU 104. Send RSVP to Jessica at Food. Awards. Friends.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is Free Will an Illusion?

There is an interesting series of articles on free will in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The contributors, both scientists and philosophers, include Jerry Coyne, Alfred Mele, Michael Gazzaniga, Hilary Bok, Owen Jones and Paul Bloom.
For centuries, the idea that we are the authors of our own actions, beliefs, and desires has remained central to our sense of self. We choose whom to love, what thoughts to think, which impulses to resist. Or do we? 
Neuroscience suggests something else. We are biochemical puppets, swayed by forces beyond our conscious control. So says Sam Harris, author of the new book, Free Will (Simon & Schuster), a broadside against the notion that we are in control of our own thoughts and actions. Harris's polemic arrives on the heels of Michael S. Gazzaniga's Who's In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain (HarperCollins), and David Eagleman's Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (Pantheon), both provocative forays into a debate that has in recent months spilled out onto op-ed and magazine pages, and countless blogs. 
What's at stake? Just about everything: morality, law, religion, our understanding of accountability and personal accomplishment, even what it means to be human. Harris predicts that a declaration by the scientific community that free will is an illusion would set off "a culture war far more belligerent than the one that has been waged on the subject of evolution."
Is Free Will an Illusion? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Prestige

Is it magic or science? Can a person be copied? Do we prefer mystery over understanding? Join us as we watch and discuss Christopher Nolan's amazing film The Prestige. Friday, April 13, from 3:00 to 6:00 in the GH Digitorium.
I think that The Prestige is the Nolans' reflection on film as an illusion: filmmaking is art because it has a certain structure that the filmmaker uses in order to guide the audience through an illusion. In the same way as the magician, the filmmaker sacrifices himself in order to create a cathartic world that the audience will believe in for the time of the film’s projection. The theme of magic and its various aspects (the nature and life of the magician, the performance of tricks, the meaning of magic for the audience) is thus a metaphor for the real subject-matter of the film: filmmaking as a form of art. (Ophelie Wolf)
The key to the film is the discussion of the role of magic and illusion. The film cannot help making one reflect on how awe and wonder work when humans think about the fact that reality does not always conform to the way we think it should work. The question you have to ask yourself: Is it part of the human condition to want to be fooled? Once we know the secret, it looses its power; maybe it is better to remain a mystery. Avoid the shallow, and listen closely for the deeper truth. (Greg Veltman)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Problem of Evil

The Philosophers' Cafe will discussion the Problem of Evil on Friday, March 30, from 3:00 to 4:00 in SU 105 at NKU. Please come out and join the discussion.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bertrand Russell

A very short but interesting biography of philosopher Bertrand Russell.
As an undergraduate Russell had become increasingly disenchanted with the way in which his lecturers and tutors had presented mathematics. Their lack of logical rigour seemed to reduce it to no more than a bag of tricks designed for the puzzle-solving requirements of the Mathematical Tripos [exams]. His interests shifted to the need to put mathematics on a secure logical basis, and so from maths to philosophy. But the need for a foundation for mathematics was more than a philosophical challenge. Russell craved an absolute certainty which he felt he could only find in this way. For over a decade he laboured mightily with Whitehead on the monumental undertaking to provide mathematics with a secure logical basis. Their work transformed mathematical logic, but it foundered on what has become known as ‘Russell’s Set Paradox’.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) | Philosophy Now:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blade Runner

Join us on Friday, March 16 in the Digitorium (GH) for the next movie discussion in our Film and Philosophy series.  We'll screen Blade Runner starting at 3:00, followed with discussion.

Here are some links to interesting discussion of the movie

Monday, February 20, 2012

Free John Searle Classes Online

Berkeley has posted three of John Searle's philosophy classes online for free.
You can’t dabble in the world of philosophy very long without encountering John Searle. One of America’s most respected philosophers, Searle did important work on “speech act” theory during the 1960s, then later turned to consciousness and artificial intelligence, out of which came his famous “Chinese room” thought experiment. Searle has taught philosophy at UC-Berkeley since 1959, and, until recently, his courses were only available to matriculated students. But this fall semester, the good folks at Berkeley recorded three courses taught by Searle, and made them available online.
Free John Searle classes (Open Culture)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Philosophers' Cafe - Cosmopolitanism

Join us at the Philosophers' Cafe as we discuss Cosmopolitanism. Are we all citizens of the world? Do we bear special responsibilities to others around the world? How should we balance our obligations to our countries and to citizens of other countries around the world?

Friday, February 24 from 3:00-4:00 in SU 105.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spinoza's vision of freedom, and ours

Spinoza's vision of freedom...
Well before John Stuart Mill, Spinoza had the acuity to recognize that the unfettered freedom of expression is in the state’s own best interest. In this post-9/11 world, there is a temptation to believe that “homeland security” is better secured by the suppression of certain liberties than their free exercise. This includes a tendency by justices to interpret existing laws in restrictive ways and efforts by lawmakers to create new limitations, as well as a willingness among the populace, “for the sake of peace and security,” to acquiesce in this. We seem ready not only to engage in a higher degree of self-censorship, but also to accept a loosening of legal protections against prior restraint (whether in print publications or the dissemination of information via the Internet), unwarranted surveillance, unreasonable search and seizure, and other intrusive measures. Spinoza, long ago, recognized the danger in such thinking, both for individuals and for the polity at large. He saw that there was no need to make a trade-off between political and social well-being and the freedom of expression; on the contrary, the former depends on the latter.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Homepage for Philosophy

If you haven't done so yet, you should checkout the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It's a wonderful resource for philosophers, with a large number of various entries written by credible authors. With each entry you'll also find a solid reference list and links to online resources.
The SEP’s approach seems to have worked. The resource’s credibility and accuracy are unquestioned..., and it attracts an abundant audience, with between 600,000 and 700,000 accesses per week during the academic year.
A Home page for Philosophy 

Monday, February 06, 2012

Eternal Sunshine...

We screen the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Friday at 3:00 in Budig Theater. For those not familiar with the movie, here is a summary from the film's web site:
From acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman and visionary director Michel Gondry comes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. An all-star ensemble cast shines in this comical and poignant look at breakups, breakdowns and breakthroughs. Joel (Jim Carrey) is stunned to discover that his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had their tumultuous relationship erased from her mind. Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to get the same treatment. But as his memories of Clementine begin to fade, Joel suddenly realizes how much he still loves her. Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood co-star in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - a memorable film that The Wall Street Journal calls "a romantic comedy unlike any other!"
You can read a nice paper by Christopher Grau on the "Morality of Memory" at As Grau points out, the film introduces the inverse of Nozick's Experience Machine and has us asking questions about the erasure of accurate memories. Grau explores the moral dimensions of this. There is also a nice reference in the movie to Nietzsche's idea of eternal reoccurrence.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Philosophy and the Science of Happiness

Students are encouraged to submit papers to a conference entitled, “Philosophy and the Science of Happiness.” It will be held Saturday, April 14th, 2012, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Dr. Erik Angner is the main speaker and will be speaking on the conference theme. College students may present on any topic relating to philosophy, including economics topics; students must submit essays for approval by March 1st, 2012 in order to present at the conference. Included as part of the conference is an essay contest for undergraduate students. Students may use papers that they have already written for class.

Registration is FREE and is now open.

The specifications for the essays along with other details of the conference may be found at: . One can e-mail for more information. Check out the Facebook event page:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The spring Film and Philosopher series begins Friday, February 10, from 3:00 to 6:00 in Budig Theater in the NKU University Center. We'll screen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and follow with a discussion of some of the interesting philosophical ideas in this film. Bring your friends.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gillian Russell to speak at UC on Relativism


Gillian Russell
Washington University in St. Louis

Relativism without the Fancy Intensions

Friday, February 3
3:00pm, 354 McMicken Hall

Friday, January 27, 2012

20 Brain-Bending TED Talks for Philosophy Students

20 Brain-Bending TED Talks for Philosophy Students.
Philosophy may get a bad rap for being an unmarketable college major, but in actuality, the lessons taught in philosophy classes can be applied to just about everything we do, day in and day out. From morality and ethics to free will and aesthetics, philosophical questions surround us in the creative, business, and scientific fields. Whether you need a reminder of the awesomeness of all things philosophy-related or just want to stretch your brain, check out these amazing TED talks. You’ll hear from a range of scientists, researchers, academics, and yes, even philosophers on issues that have been troubling the human mind for centuries.

Philosophy and Everyday Lives

How can philosophy be useful for our everyday lives? Gary Gutting discusses the matter in his NY Times Opinionator piece.
Even though basic beliefs on ethics, politics and religion do not require prior philosophical justification, they do need what we might call “intellectual maintenance,” which itself typically involves philosophical thinking. Religious believers, for example, are frequently t...roubled by the existence of horrendous evils in a world they hold was created by an all-good God. Some of their trouble may be emotional, requiring pastoral guidance. But religious commitment need not exclude a commitment to coherent thought. For instance, often enough believers want to know if their belief in God makes sense given the reality of evil. The philosophy of religion is full of discussions relevant to this question. Similarly, you may be an atheist because you think all arguments for God’s existence are obviously fallacious. But if you encounter, say, a sophisticated version of the cosmological argument, or the design argument from fine-tuning, you may well need a clever philosopher to see if there’s anything wrong with it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy

 Good news for those majoring in the liberal arts.
Recent college graduates who as seniors scored highest on a standardized test to measure how well they think, reason and write — skills most associated with a liberal arts education — were far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest, says the survey, released today by the Social Science Research Council, an independent organization.
Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy

Friday, January 20, 2012

Philosophy Cafe: Personal Identity

The Philosophy Cafe!

Topic: Personal Identity
When/Where: Jan 27, 2012 3:00 PM in SU 108

Suppose your brain was transplanted into another body. Would that be you with a new body, or would it be the other person with a new brain? Would you rather be a brain donor or a recipient?

Suppose you walk into a teletransportation machine. A map is made of all the atoms that make up your body and brain. The information that is mapped is sent to another place where different local atoms are rearranged to make an exact duplicate of your body and brain. The original body is destroyed. The new body has all your memories, beliefs, plans and attitudes. Is that you?

For more information contact Professor Yaw:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Study in Greece

Religious studies or philosophy students might be interested in this study abroad opportunity in Greece. Steve Watkins will be teaching two religious studies courses.

NKU and KIIS (Kentucky Institute for International Studies) is offering two religious studies courses in GREECE this summer. NKU Professor Steve Watkins is teaching two courses: REL 301 Paul's Influence on Early Christianity and REL 399 Greek Orthodox Contributions to Christianity. This program will spend two weeks in Athens and will also travel to six islands (including an optional trip to Santorini) as well as travel to Delphi, Olympia, Corinth, Nauplion, Mycenae and other ancient historical sites. You may find out more information at the following websites:  and at our Greece website 
Contact Steve Watkins at if you have any questions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King: Gadfly

Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
-- MLK, Jr. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Minds of Machines

Namit Arora considers the complexity of consciousness and its implications for artificial intelligence.
A conceptual advance for AI came when some researchers recognized that a computer’s model of the world was not real. By comparison, the human ‘model’ of the world was the world itself, not a static description of it. What if a robot too used the world as its model, “continually referring to its sensors rather than to an internal world model”? (Hubert L. Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do). However, this approach worked only in micro-environments with a limited set of features which could be recognized by its sensors. The robots did nothing more sophisticated than ants. As in the past, no one knew how to make the robots learn, or respond to a change in context or significance. This was the backdrop against which AI researchers began turning away from symbolic AI to simulated neural networks, with their promise of self-learning and establishing relevance. Slowly but surely, the AI community began embracing Heideggerean insights about consciousness.
The Minds of Machines | Philosophy Now

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Darwinian Approach to Moral Philosophy

Michael Ruse talks about his Darwinian approach to moral philosophy.
I am a philosophical naturalist. By this I mean (or at least my meaning includes) being eager to accept the findings of science and to use them in my philosophizing as far as possible. So, I start my thinking about ethics by looking to Darwinian biology on human social behavior and I come away with the belief that ethics – meaning by this substantive or normative ethics (“What should I do?”) – is a product of natural selection (on individuals) to further reproductive success. Substantive ethics is an adaptation like eyes and noses and penises and vaginas. I should say that (and I am still at the level of science) I don’t think there is any need of external ethical principles (Mind of God, non-natural properties, Platonic Forms) to get this result. So ethics in a sense is different from say our knowledge about railway engines. Without existing independent railway engines, I don’t see that you could have a science of railway-engine-ology. I don’t think you need these external referents to get ethics. Ethics in this sense is not so much about the real world as it is about social relationships between fellow species members.
A Darwinian Approach to Moral Philosophy

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Philosophy: The Most Useful College Major?

Philosophy teaches students to think; to examine, articulate and analyze arguments and patterns of thinking and to demonstrate their ability to do so by writing papers and in class discussions (and, if you’re up to it, one-on-one interlocutions with your philosophy professor). Thinking and the ability to parse and offer thoughtfully reasoned arguments are not quantifiable skills. But a brief look at, for instance, some of the statements put forth by various US political figures..., can lead one to conclude that a lot of people could benefit from a good dosing in philosophical instruction to firm up their thinking mechanism.
Philosophy: The Most Useful College Major?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Kit Fine on Metaphysics

Philosopher Kit Fine is interviewed on Philosophy Bites about the nature of metaphysics. Metaphysics is the philosophical study of reality. Fine explains how metaphysics differs from science and by way of example discusses different views about causation, about the nature of a person, and about numbers.

Listen to Kit Fine on What is Metaphysics.