I found this Existential Comic interesting for its insight on what things might be like for J.R.R. Tolkien's version of elves. The author, on Twitter, shared a short video on Tolkien's thoughts on death. If you're familiar with the mythology behind The Lord of the Rings, as revealed in The Silmarillion and other works, the … Continue reading The Elflord and the Mayfly
A preprint came up a few times in my feeds, titled: Falsification and consciousness. The paper argues that all the major scientific theories of consciousness are either already falsified or unfalsifiable. One neuroscientist, Ryota Kanai, calls it a mathematical proof of the hard problem. Based on that description, it was hard to resist looking at … Continue reading The substitution argument
I'm not a moral realist. But I think we definitely have personal morals, the moral norms of the culture we live in, and the moral rules we encode in law. These all interact and influence each other in an ongoing feedback process. They can be studied with psychology, sociology, anthropology, law, history, and probably some … Continue reading The forlorn search for moral realism
Related to some of our recent discussions, Scientific American has an interesting article on the spread of farming during the neolithic. From the article: Roughly 9,000 years ago farmers from the Middle East headed toward Europe, seeking new land to cultivate. The farmers traveled either along the Mediterranean coast or the Danube River, encountering hunter-gatherers who lived … Continue reading Invasion of the farmers
This is part of an ongoing series inspired by my reading of Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. A while back, I discussed the discovery of discovery, the historical development of the idea that there were things to discover in the world, things the ancients didn't already know. Harari flips this around, … Continue reading The crucial knowledge of ignorance
This is an ongoing series of posts on topics that catch my interest as I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Religion is one of those concepts, like life, beauty, or consciousness, that are difficult to define. I used to think it was just worship of God, or gods. But many … Continue reading The superhuman order definition of religion
In an ongoing series, I'm covering topics that catch my interest as I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. One topic that Harari returns to often is the idea of imagined worlds. Homo sapiens acquired the ability to create imagined worlds in what he called "the cognitive revolution". Most anthropologists see … Continue reading The maturity of fiction awareness
I'm continuing to work my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and have just finished his section on the agricultural revolution. This is the transition from a hunter-gatherer foraging lifestyle, which humanity had followed for hundreds of thousands of years, to a settled farming one about 12,000 years ago. Harari describes … Continue reading Was the agricultural revolution a mistake?
(Warning: consciousness theory weeds.) A new paper in the journal Cognitive Neuroscience: Hard criteria for empirical theories of consciousness, takes a shot at proposing criteria for assessing scientific theories of consciousness. The authors make clear at the beginning that they're aiming their criteria at empirical theories, rather than metaphysical ones. So they make no attempt … Continue reading Hard criteria for theories of consciousness?
I'm finally heeding all the recommendations and reading Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harari is an excellent writer, and though at times he seems to present some unproven hypotheses as proven fact, and nine years after initial publication some of the information feels a bit dated, he makes up for it … Continue reading The ecological disaster of Homo sapiens