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
This is the final post in a series about or inspired by Yuval Noah Harari's book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This final post is a brief summary of the overall book and some final comments. Harari's subject matter, as the title suggests, is the history of the Homo sapiens species. He breaks that … Continue reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
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
This is an interesting video from Big Think. It features discussion from a variety of thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, Susan Schneider, and others, including a lot of intelligent remarks from someone I wasn't familiar with until now, Joanna Bryson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETVr_lpIMO0 Consciousness lies in the eye of the beholder. There is no universally agreed … Continue reading Does conscious AI deserve rights?
A question that has come up in a couple of recent conversations: Is there any hope within a scientific or philosophical view of reality for immortality, something like an afterlife that is typically promised in the major religions? The most popular hope these days is the Technological Singularity, the idea that sometime soon we will … Continue reading Scientific and philosophical possibilities for immortality
James Wilson has an article up at Aeon, looking at the trolley problem and other ethical and philosophical thought experiments. One of the things he discusses is the notion that many philosophers have, along with many fans of particular thought experiments, that they're sort of like a scientific experiment. It's not that unusual for someone … Continue reading The problem with philosophical thought experiments
The Journal of Consciousness Studies has an issue out on the meta-problem of consciousness. (Unfortunately, it's paywalled, so you'll need a subscription, or access to a school network that has one.) As a reminder, there's the hard problem of consciousness, coined by David Chalmers in 1995, which is the question of why or how we … Continue reading Is consciousness really a problem?
Philosopher Wilfrid Sellars had a term for the world as it appears, the "manifest image." This is the world as we perceive it. In it, an apple is an apple, something red or green with a certain shape, a range of sizes, a thing that we can eat, or throw. The manifest image can be … Continue reading Is the ultimate nature of reality mental?
On occasion, I've been accused of being closed-minded. (Shocking, I know.) Frequently the reason is not seriously considering non-physical propositions, a perception of rigid physicalism. However, as I've noted before, I'm actually not entirely comfortable with the "physicalist" label (or "materialist", or other synonyms or near synonyms). While it's fairly accurate as to my working … Continue reading Platonism and the non-physical
Peter Flegel has an interesting article in Philosophy Now looking at possible connections between ancient Greek philosophy and conceptions explored in the Egyptian New Kingdom period. Ideas like the four elements and the theory of forms seem to have pretty clear antecedents in Egyptian thought. (There's also a brief suggestion that Akhenaten, known for a … Continue reading The antecedents of western philosophy