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