New ‘Mind & Cognitive Science’ Editor for Philosophy Compass

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new editor of the Mind & Cognitive Science section of Philosophy Compass, Michelle Montague, taking over from Tim Bayne. A hearty welcome to Michelle and our thanks to Tim for his sterling work!

Michelle is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, UK.  Her primary interests are philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and metaphysics; recent publications include “The phenomenology of particularity” (2011) in T. Bayne and M. Montague (eds) Cognitive Phenomenology; “Recent work on Intentionality” (2011) in Analysis; “The Logic, Intentionality, and Phenomenology of Emotion” (2009) in Philosophical Studies; and“Against Propositionalism” (2007) in Nous. She is currently working on a book on mental content, with particular reference to the relationship between intentionality and phenomenology.

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New Naturalistic Philosophy Editor for Philosophy Compass

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new editor of the Naturalistic Philosophy section of Philosophy Compass, Edouard Machery.

Edouard is Associate Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, a Fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (Pittsburgh-CMU). His research focuses on the philosophical issues raised by psychology and cognitive neuroscience with a special interest in concepts, moral psychology, the relevance of evolutionary biology for understanding cognition, modularity, the nature, origins, and ethical significance of prejudiced cognition, and the methods of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. He has published more than 60 articles and chapters on these topics in venues such as Analysis, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Cognition, Mind & Language, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Philosophy of Science. He is the author of Doing without Concepts (OUP, 2009), and he has been an associate editor of The European Journal for Philosophy of Science since 2009. He is also involved in the development of experimental philosophy, having published several noted articles in this field.

Art for Love’s Sake

Recent neurobiological research has shown that viewing art stimulates the brain in a way that mirrors the experience of romantic love. The study, conducted by Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, scanned and mapped the brains of participants who had been asked to look at a variety of paintings from such artists as Botticelli, Turner, Monet and Cezanne. It was found that experiencing art releases into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain a significant quantity of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a biochemical associated with love, happiness and sociability, as well as drug use and certain psychological disorders.

The result comes at an ideal time for the art world in Britain, which has felt itself to be targeted by the extensive cuts in public spending. The correlation between aesthetic experience and happiness gives extra leverage in justifying the arts according to standards of public interest, a justification which normally consists in pointing out the economic benefits of the revenue which art institutions can generate. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Stephen Deuchar, director of the arts charity Art Fund, said:

I have always believed art matters profoundly so it is exciting to see some scientific evidence to support the view that life is enhanced by instantaneous contact with works of art

Professor Zeki’s work in neuroaesthetics also stands to be of high value to the philosophy of art. This latest link between art and love is just one of many discoveries made by Zeki which coincide almost seamlessly with what artists and theorist about art have said for centuries, perhaps even for thousands of years. Plato, in his dialogue The Symposium, recounts a speech in praise of Love (Eros) made by Socrates which describes a journey of ascent from sexual love, through aesthetic appreciation of the body, to a spiritual love of the soul, arriving finally at the contemplation of the Platonic Form of Beauty itself. Continue reading “Art for Love’s Sake”

Mind-altering Parasites and their Zombie Hosts

I have spent time, perhaps too much time, discussing with my girlfriend and closest friends (you don’t talk about this kind of thing with just anyone, after all) about what we would do to ensure our survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Ideally I would like to be holed up in Bamburgh Castle in my homeland of Northumberland only with people I completely trust, with plenty of food and weapons. Less Ideally,but more realistically, I would make for the top of my block of flats in Bethnal Green with a tent, a baseball bat and as many boxes of coco-pops I could carry and weld the door shut behind me.

This is my favourite thing about zombie movies; that they make you reflect about your own potential for survival in that situation.

Continue reading “Mind-altering Parasites and their Zombie Hosts”

A Conversation with one Self

Will Self

Author Will Self’s inaugural lecture of the 2008 Radio 3 Free Thinking festival is archived online here. Self traces the misguided portrayal of consciousness in fiction through history in his typically verbose way. Up for reconsideration are not just the naturalist approach of nineteenth-century literature but also the Joycean stream of consciousness approach. Self argues that the way writers have chosen to portray it does not fit in with the way we really experience our minds. Continue reading “A Conversation with one Self”

No “God spot” to be found in the brain

Phrenologychart(Cross posted in Religion Compass Exchanges)

Reuters have reported the recent publication of How God Changes Your Brain. This book takes a neurotheological – ‘the study of the brain’s role in religious belief’- approach to prayer and meditation in an effort to understand the biological processes involved. The writers, Andrew Newburg and Mark Robert Waldman have used brain scans on individuals who were either praying or meditating, to identify what they describe as “God circuits”. Continue reading “No “God spot” to be found in the brain”

(Failing) To See or To Remember

HippocampusA few seconds after being shown an image, an amnesiac is asked to find a match for it within a group of new images. She fails to do it. What is wrong with her? Is it just her memory? Does she also have a perceptual problem? How should we distinguish a purely mnemonic from a deficit that is also perceptual?

“Simple,” you might say. “Do a new experiment. Present the amnesiac simultaneously with the sample and the group of images, and ask her to find the match. If she finds it, the deficit is mnemonic. If she doesn’t, it might also be perceptual.”

Unfortunately, things are not as simple as this. Continue reading “(Failing) To See or To Remember”