Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ned Block on consciousness

Daniel Tippens interviews philosopher Ned Block about his work on the relationship between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness.
So the one that I’m most interested in is what I call phenomenal consciousness, which some people cash out as the redness of red, what it’s like to see or smell or hear, that internal experience that you get when you have a sensation or images in your mind. That’s what I call phenomenal consciousness. Now, I think that’s something we share with animals — certainly other mammals. And you know I believe that it does not require language or much in the way of cognition — maybe nothing in the way of cognition.

Another sense of conscious and consciousness is the one in which we are conscious of things. We are conscious of our own thoughts. We can be conscious of our pains, of our perceptions. That involves some notion of monitoring, some feedback and maybe some awareness of yourself. So that is another notion. That’s called monitoring consciousness or self-consciousness.

Another idea is what I call access consciousness. And that’s when you have an episode of phenomenal consciousness and it is available to your cognitive systems. So you can think about it. You can reason about it. So you smell a certain smell — smoke. And that fact of your smelling smoke can be used by you to think about calling the fire department, or to think about investigating the source of the smoke. That’s what I call access consciousness.
Ned Block on phenomenal consciousness, part I | Scientia Salon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reviving the Female Canon

Émilie Du Châtelet is just one of many important historically important female philosophers.
In his first work, published in 1747, Immanuel Kant cites the ideas of another philosopher: a scholar of Newton, religion, science, and mathematics. The philosopher, whose work had been translated into several languages, is Émilie Du Châtelet. Yet despite her powerhouse accomplishments—and the shout-out from no less a luminary than Kant—her work won’t be found in the 1,000-plus pages of the new edition of The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. In the anthology, which claims to trace 2,400 years of philosophy, the first female philosopher doesn’t appear until the section on writing from the mid-20th century. Or in any of the other leading anthologies used in university classrooms, scholars say.
Reviving the Female Canon - The Atlantic

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Congratulations 2015 SAP Student Award Winners!

SAP Departmental Student Awards


Brittany High


Helena Sizemore


Helena Sizemore


Aaron Jacobson


Nicholas Thaxton


Kaitlyn Ragland


Lauren James        Caitlin Harrah


David Perez


Rachel Ellison


Caitlin Harrah


Mark Kennedy


Jim Fletcher


Jenni Cattran        Nicollette Carmack


Jonathan Cordova


Cory Clark        Ashley Poe

Student Award Winners for 2015 SAP Photo Essay Contest:

Zachary Nothstine
Kaitlyn Ragland
Lindsey Meador
Jack Lowe
Andrea Carter

Student Award Winners for 2015 SAP Undergraduate Photo Essay Project:

Tara Pennington
Stefan Kienzle
Kaitlyn Ragland
Nicole Crawford

Congratulations to all of the winners and to all graduates this year!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Congratulations Graduates!

Congratulations to all our philosophy and religious studies students who are graduating this semester.

  • Nicollette Carmack, Philosophy Major, Academic Excellence in Philosophy Award, Phi Sigma Tau
  • Jonathan Cordova, Philosophy Major, Accomplished Student In Philosophy Award
  • Jim Fletcher, Philosophy Major, Religious Studies Minor, Outstanding Student in Religious Studies Award
  • Jared Laughlin, Philosophy Major
  • Maxwell Spangler, Philosophy Major
  • Samuel McMillin, Philosophy Minor
  • Alex Deters, Religious Studies Minor

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nigel Warburton –Cosmopolitanism

It’s not just me, you and everyone we know. Citizens of the world have moral obligations to a wider circle of humanity.
Nigel Warburton –Cosmopolitanism

You can read more about Cosmopolitanism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. See also this interview with Kwame Anthony Appiah at Mother Jones.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations.

Test your moral intuitions against these variations of the famous Trolley Problem. Here's one:
There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards Immanuel Kant. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits Jeremy Bentham instead. Jeremy Bentham clutches the only existing copy of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Kant holds the only existing copy of Bentham’s The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Both of them are shouting at you that they have recently started to reconsider their ethical stances.
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations.

You can find yet another variation here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Philosophy of Markets

3:AM Magazine interviews Liza Herzog, whose research focuses on the relation between economics and philosophy.
Economic models make simplifying assumptions about human agency and about social interaction. If one only used these models to answer the questions they are supposed to answer, taking into account their methodological limitations, there wouldn’t be any problem. But often they are used to make much wider claims. For example, predications are based on a theoretical model, but with insufficient discussion of whether the assumptions of the model also hold in reality. Along the way, one often finds that normative judgments sneak in, but without being made explicit. Thus, one cannot even ask critical questions, for example whether certain theories serve the interests of certain social groups – whether they are ideologies in the classical sense.
Philosophy of Markets » 3:AM Magazine

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Philosophers' Cafe Topic: Nothing!

Zero and infinity. Dangerous ideas? Some thought so. We'll have a great discussion. You can count on it.

Philosophers' Cafe
April 23 from 3:00-4:30
GH 316

Philosophers' Cafe

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd, Why We Conform, and the Power of the Minority

Truth always rests with the minority … because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion.
Kierkegaard on the Individual vs. the Crowd, Why We Conform, and the Power of the Minority | Brain Pickings

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Philosophy from the Zettabyte

The best philosophy (the one you find on the crests of the sine wave) has always combined a high degree of control with very powerful ideas. And this is what I hope a post-analytic-continental divide perspective may regain. It is certainly what we need today. As for the philosophy of information, I can only hope that it will mature into a first philosophy. Anything less and it will have failed in its task of providing us with the powerful and controlled ideas that we need to shape and make sense of the human project in the twenty-first century.

Philosophy from the Zettabyte » 3:AM Magazine

Thursday, April 02, 2015


All students of Sociology, Anthropology, or Philosophy (majors, minors, and focus) are invited to submit a paper for the 2015 Departmental Essay Contest. The authors of the selected papers will each be awarded a $200 prize; the winning authors will be expected to submit their papers to one of the Kentucky professional societies for the discipline (e.g., KPA, KAS, or ASK, see descriptions below). Students who attend professional meetings may receive up to an additional $100 to support conference attendance and fees for the 2015-2016 meetings.

Paper Guidelines:
Submissions on any philosophical, sociological or anthropological topic are welcome.  Students can submit up to two papers for consideration. Papers should be written for a multi-disciplinary audience and will be evaluated by faculty in all three disciplines in the Department. Papers should not exceed 3,000 words, they should be formatted according to discipline standards (e.g., ASA, MLA, AAA), and should be prepared for blind review. Include the following information as a cover page in a file separate from the paper.  Name the cover file as “Cover_LastName_Discipline.” Name the paper the same as the title:

1) Title of paper
2) 150-word abstract
3) Author’s name
4) Author’s major
5) Author’s email address and a phone contact

Papers should be emailed as two attachments—cover page and paper—in Word to Dr. Sharyn Jones (joness33@nku.edu) on or before April 15th  with Departmental Essay Contest in the subject line.

Examples of specifics for different KY professional societies, see the following websites:          

**If you find another conference you would like to present at (that is not listed below), please have it approved by the Department Chair or the Program Coordinator.

Kentucky Philosophical Association (KPA): http://kentuckyphilosophy.blogspot.com/

--Papers for the annual meeting are generally due mid-February 2016.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

John Rawls

What Rawls was therefore after was a simple, economical and polemical way to show people how their societies were unfair and what they might do about it – in ways that could cut through the debate and touch people’s hearts as well as minds (for he knew that emotion mattered a lot in politics).
The Great Philosophers: John Rawls  | Philosophers' Mail

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Criticize with Kindness

“In disputes upon moral or scientific points,” Arthur Martine counseled in his magnificent 1866 guide to the art of conversation, “let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” Of course, this isn’t what happens most of the time when we argue, both online and off, but especially when we deploy the artillery of our righteousness from behind the comfortable shield of the keyboard. That form of “criticism” — which is really a menace of reacting rather than responding — is worthy of Mark Twain’s memorable remark that “the critic’s symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else’s dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.” But it needn’t be this way — there are ways to be critical while remaining charitable, of aiming not to “conquer” but to “come at truth,” not to be right at all costs but to understand and advance the collective understanding.
Dan Dennett talks about how to construct healthy criticism, based on his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently | Brain Pickings

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The social contract theory according to Socrates

This essay aims to trace the idea of the social contract in the western tradition as far back as possible, in which we turn back looking at Socrates’ trial. Of course, the major works on ‘social contract theory’ were written in closer proximity to our age, initiated by Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” Locke’s “Two Treatises on Government,” Rousseau’s “The Social Contract,” and Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws.” However, there is a great deal of understanding found in Plato’s dialogues, particularly in Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito. Plato also writes extensively related to this topic in the “Republic” (especially, Book II) and the “Laws.”
The social contract theory according to Socrates » 3:AM Magazine

Friday, March 06, 2015

Constructive Thinking

Critical thinking is actually just the first step in a larger process that we might want to call constructive thinking. Rest assured, this is not just wordplay. Critical thinking represents the highly valuable inquiry and interrogation prerequisite to problem identification; it involves the analysis of an argument's merits and faults. It is the process of judging, approving or disapproving. Liberal arts colleges encourage students to ask lots of questions. Through questions, students unravel or deconstruct an argument in order to access its utility. While none of this is inherently negative, it too often becomes routinely condemnatory. It can also breed intellectual laziness; the job of taking something apart is far easier than the job of putting it back together again. The identification of problems made possible by critical thinking is useful only if it gives rise to the problem solving of constructive thinking. The desired endgame is problem solving, not critical thinking for its own sake.
Liberal arts colleges should focus on how they help students learn 'constructive thinking'

Top 10 Living Philosophers to Read Today

Philosophy "is today alive and kicking and produces output admirable for its sharpness, profundity, and richness. From fields as obscure as modal epistemology, to more common ones such as feminism and ethics, here are 10 leaders of today’s best achievements of the human mind."

And there are lots of younger philosophers doing great work worth reading. Many of them--more than 1-in-10--are women.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on Moral Psychology

Check out this podcast on moral psychology.
Nigel Warburton interviews Walter Sinnott-Armstrong about moral psychology for this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Is recent psychological research relevant to moral philosophy? If so, what exactly can it provide?"
philosophy bites: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on Moral Psychology

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.
Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts - NYTimes.com

Sunday, February 15, 2015

History from the Early Modern Philosophers

An interview with the philosopher Dan Garber.
Daniel Garber knows philosophy makes some parents go silent and it’s broad enough to encompass everything worth while. He thinks about the history of seventeenth century philosophy, about what makes the early moderns modern, about the giants of the time and what we learn from studying the lesser known ones too, about the importance of Kant to our conception of the early moderns, about Leibniz, about contrasts between Leibniz and Descartes and Spinoza, about the metaphysical schemes of the time, about Descartes and Galileo, about Hobbes and Spinoza, Pascal’s wager, and about x-phi and comparing our present context with the early mods. This one wakes us up to the long years we’ve been travelling…
History from the Early Modern Philosophers » 3:AM Magazine

Friday, February 06, 2015

Luciano Floridi on the Philosophy of Information

The Oxford Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information says methods for discussing the ethics of information technology have been latent in philosophy from its origins.
Luciano Floridi on the Philosophy of Information | Five Books 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Stuart Kauffman on Free Will, God, ESP and Other Mysteries

Few living scientists are as ambitious in their choice of problems as Stuart Kauffman. He is a polymath, with a degree in medicine and training in biochemistry, genetics, physics, philosophy and other fields. He roams across disciplinary boundaries seeking answers to the riddles that obsess him. Why is reality so beautifully structured rather than being a chaotic mess? How probable was life? Is evolution enough to explain life’s origin and diversity? How does a brain make a mind? How do minds choose?
Scientific Seeker Stuart Kauffman on Free Will, God, ESP and Other Mysteries

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

William Molyneux’s thought experiment

Optical connections: William Molyneux’s thought experiment A person, blind from birth, has learned to distinguish between a cube and a sphere by touch. On recovering their sight, would they then be able to distinguish between these objects without first touching them? David Baker investigates.

Optical connections: William Molyneux’s thought experiment

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Philosophy Pays

Don't underestimate the humanities major. A philosophy degree earns more than an accounting degree.

I think, therefore I … make money! Graduates with philosophy degrees have "higher earnings potential than many other arts and humanities-related fields," said TheRichest. Payscale reports midcareer median salaries are $84,000 for your modern day Kant or Descartes. Why? Well, let's be logical. Which is exactly what philosophy programs require of students … logic. Thinking is hard, it requires analysis, and those who can do it well can get a good job … which is a good philosophy to have.

A philosophy degree earns more than an accounting degree | Top/Best/Most - Yahoo Finance

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Who Studies Philosophy?

Studying philosophy is valuable no matter what career path one pursues, from academia to business to entertainment to politics. The following are just a few examples of people in a wide variety of fields who have studied philosophy.

Who Studies Philosophy? - The American Philosophical Association

Monday, January 05, 2015

Alan Turing & The Cartesian Challenge

The movie might be flawed (so I hear; haven't seen it yet) but the legacy is important. A number of interesting articles are associated with this post.
At a time when more people than ever are getting to know about Alan Turing through “The Imitation Game”, it seems fitting to contribute to this growing public interest in his scientific and political legacy, by exploring his ground-breaking ideas, and the tumultuous happenings of his life, through the unique lens of academic philosophy. Although Turing never described himself as aphilosopher, his three major contributions to the history of ideas: The Turing Test, The Turing Machine and The Church-Turing Thesis, have been of great interest to scholars working in the philosophy of mind and computing. His 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, which was published in the prestigious philosophical journal Mind, was especially successful in capturing the fascination of analytic philosophers.
The Computational Theory of Mind: Alan Turing & The Cartesian Challenge : The Critique