New issue of Philosophy Compass out now! Vol. 5, Iss. 8

Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art

Videogames and Aesthetics (pages 624–634)
Grant Tavinor

Chinese Comparative Philosophy

Ideal Womanhood in Chinese Thought and Culture (pages 635–644)
Robin R. Wang

Continental

Hans-Georg Gadamer and the Philosophy of Religion (pages 645–655)
David Vessey

Ethics

Constitutive Arguments (pages 656–666)
Ariela Tubert

History of Philosophy

Recent Work on the Philosophy of Duns Scotus (pages 667–675)
Richard Cross

Legal & Political

Psychopathy and Responsibility Theory (pages 676–688)
Paul Litton

Logic & Language

Mathematical Structuralism Today (pages 689–699)
Julian C. Cole

Naturalistic Philosophy

Folk Psychology and Phenomenal Consciousness (pages 700–711)
Justin Sytsma

Philosophy of Religion

Religious Belief and the Epistemology of Disagreement (pages 712–724)
Michael Thune

Why Some People Will Never Forget a Face

AT&T Laboratories Cambridge

How does the brain process information? In particular, is the cognitive portion of the brain divided up into a number of task-specific ‘modules’, each of which are devoted to a specific task, or is the brain constituted by (one or many) processing units which are flexible in their operation? Modularists, as those in the former camp are called, often appeal to a form of argument which makes use of the idea that certain cognitive characteristics appear to be dissociable from others, such that certain individuals can excel, or struggle, in distinct tasks in ways not necessarily related to the complexity of the task, or proportional to their general intelligence. To this end, Williams Syndrome and – at the other end of the spectrum – SLI are invoked to support a modular conception of language faculties, and autism is sometimes (questionably) invoked in support of the view that the capacity to deploy a theory of mind is modular.

Face-recognition is another commonly-cited, and perhaps less-controversial, candidate for being a modular system. Continue reading “Why Some People Will Never Forget a Face”

Sticks and Stones …

Philosophers have long since begun to question the possibility of ‘neutral’ speech acts.  More recently, thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Rene Girard have each offered diverse analyses of the many ways in which discourse is marked by violence.  Is language necessarily connected to acts of oppression?  Can we speak without limiting the world, reducing the ‘other’?

Recent headlines suggest the beginning of a kind of bare minimum assent to such theories.  According to the BBC, the French government is deliberating over the possibility of legally banning ‘psychological violence’ (i.e., verbal abuse) within couples.  While practical questions of ‘proof’ remain, the consideration itself is encouraging.  Contrary to the old adage, words can hurt.  And, if the law passes, ‘violent’ verbal exchanges will yield real penalties.

Continue reading “Sticks and Stones …”

There’s no success quite like failure

In this week’s Wired magazine there’s an article on the way scientists think. “We’ve heard this all before,” I hear you savvy-with-the-philosophy-of-science readers say. Right. And the results reported are similar to what we’ve heard before too: scientists interpret anomalies as methodologically generated, and so removable from their data, until that is no longer an option, and a change of how one goes about interpreting the data is required (cf. Kuhn on anomalies). If Popper ever meant to describe what scientists actually do, he would have been quite wrong.

The supposed novelty of the work reported by Wired is Continue reading “There’s no success quite like failure”

In Defence of Babel

Recently, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme asked the question: What is lost when a language dies? This question is prompted by the prediction of an (un-named) US linguist that by the year 2100 90% of the world’s 7,000 currently spoken languages will be dead. The progressive march of dominant languages such as English is held to account for such changes in the world’s linguistic geography. Languages, like species, can now be listed as ‘endangered’: US organisation Ethnologue suggests that there are 473 such languages in the present day. Furthermore, it is suggested that 133 of the world’s languages now have less than 10 speakers.

The question, however, is should we care, and if so, why? Continue reading “In Defence of Babel”

FREE syllabus: Locke on Language

FREE PDFTeaching & Learning Guide for: Locke on Language
By Walter Ott, Virginia Tech

Keywords

Section: History of Philosophy
Subjects:
Philosophy, History of Philosophy, Modern (C17th – C19th), Logic and Language, Philosophy of Language
People:
Locke, John
Key Topics:
meaning, empiricism

(See all Philosophy Compass Teaching & Learning Guides‘)

Virtual Conference Report: Day Two (20 Oct, 2009)

by paulabowles

Conference_clappingThe second day of the conference has been filled with three more interesting and innovative papers. David Crystal’s (University of Bangor) keynote lecture entitled ‘Language Death: A Problem for All’ highlights the troubling statistics that ‘96% of the world’s languages are spoken by just 4% of the people’. Given the interdisciplinary nature, and the methodology of this virtual conference, Crystal’s paper draws attention to the use of language as a way to ‘break down barriers’.

The two other papers presented today relate to disability, albeit with very different approaches. The first was given by Wendy Turner (Augusta State University) and is entitled:  ‘Human Rights, Royal Rights and the Mentally Disabled in Late Medieval England.’ In her paper Turner suggests that modern preconceptions of medieval disability are not generally supported by the empirical evidence. The second paper ‘The Status of the Learning Disabled in Philosophy of Mind and Disability Studies’ by Maeve M. O’Donovan (College of Notre Dame of Maryland), approaches the subject of learning disability through personal and academic experience and research.

As well, as the ongoing ‘battle of the bands’ competition – plenty of time still to vote! – today also saw the first ‘winning comment’ prize awarded to Rebecca Wheeler.

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