Blogging today is a dime a dozen, each with an arsenal of snappy, digestible, tips and tricks for everything from career advice to trimming off excess fat. In a world full of click-holes, we often find ourselves falling social media voyeurs; readers of content stopping just short of posting a comment. We’re all guilty at one point or another of this.
We’re about half-way through our month long LGBT takeover here on the blog and we’ve had a variety of guest bloggers write in and share with us their thoughts on the philosophy, ethics, and social situation surrounding the LGBT community but we’re missing something; input from our readers.
Comment on any blog post on LGBT studies from today until July 10th to be automatically entered for a chance to win a free paperback book! Winners will be contacted about their prize individually.
We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new editor of theNaturalistic Philosophysection 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.
In the 10 years since the events of September 2001 a vast amount of scholarly research has been written on the impact of 9/11. Wiley-Blackwell is pleased to share with you this collection of free book and journal content, featuring over 20 book chapters and 185 journal articles from over 200 publications, spanning subjects across the social sciences and humanities.
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The Radiolab Blog has a fascinating podcast about American Bob Milne. Bob is predominantly known for his piano concerts of Ragtime and Bogie-Woogie music – and was given the moniker of ‘National Treasure’ by the United States Library of Congress. It was at one of these concerts that drew the attention of Penn State neuroscientist Kerstin Bettermann. At his concerts, Bob often carries on conversations, telling stories and jokes, while simultaneously modulating key signatures over the polyrhythmic Ragtime music. In their broadcast, Radiolab discusses with Dr. Bettermann why this is so surprising.
Language use and musical competency often use the same neural resources: the prototypical language areas in the left hemisphere of the brain, and the working memory circuit that keeps information available and rapidly accessible for a short-period of time. Our ability to use language and engage with music should, on most models of the brain, be competing for these neural resources and interfere with one another. Not so with Bob – he appears to be able to tackle both tasks with ease. Further, while most people can approach this kind of competency in multi-tasking, it usually involves many learning trials, a process of sedimenting the learning into what psychologists call procedural memory, which may have its roots in a different brain region, the cerebellum. But Bob can hear a tune just once, and play it back with commentary.
In a series of posts, entitled ‘Gender Is Dead, Long Live Gender’, ‘Social by Nature’, and ‘Girl Power’, philosopher Alva Nöe makes some contentious claims about the sexes. Never one to shy away from controversy, Nöe argues that almost all behavioural or cognitive differences between males and females will not and cannot be explained in terms of underlying psychological or neurobiological processes. Instead, what will do all the heavy lifting in explaining any such divide is society and the way in which our concepts assume certain differences between the genders. Such deeply held assumptions in turn structure our lives and our expectations of ourselves, and these expectations turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, boys aren’t really better at math and science, our social concepts just assume boys to be better, boys in turn expect themselves to be better, and this leads them in fact to be better.
It’s a long chain of reasoning, one that Nöe never really defends or argues for in a particularly illuminating way. Indeed, across the three articles, he can’t decide whether or not to include the category of the psychological as something underpinning differences seen in the use of gendered concepts (psychology understood as the place where social concepts do their work), or indeed as something that is part of and explained in terms of sex-differences (psychology as understood as structures and processes like memory and reasoning). And this vacillation might be one of the reasons that lead him to conclude that most behavioural or cognitive difference between the sexes is explainable only at the level of wide-spread social concepts.
Violent computer games desensitise people to violence. This is normally considered a bad thing, but perhaps this is not necessarily so. Soldiers in a warzone face a situation in which they must encounter extreme violence routinely, and a survey has revealed that playing violent computer games might well help soldiers cope with this prolonged exposure to the extreme violence of war. To be more precise, the survey revealed that soldiers who frequently played computer games that involved war and combat experienced fewer violent dreams, and when these dreams did occur they reported feeling lower levels of fear and aggression compared to their non-gaming colleagues. The gaming soldiers reported feeling more able to “fight back against whatever forces were threatening them” in their nightmares.
It’s not difficult to formulate a plausible theory that would go some way towards explaining this data. Certainly, it seems clear that the desensitising effect of playing computer games could be a contributory factor. It’s quite unremarkable that soldiers who frequently encounter war as a game – albeit in the artificial context of a computer game – subsequently find the actual reality of war less threatening when they encounter it in their dreams. They learn to associate war with a game, perhaps as a game, and as a result their natural inclinations of fear and abhorrence are suppressed. But as a philosopher who possesses a passing, though not-insignificant, level of interest in psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud, I wonder if a more interesting explanation and investigation might be available to us… Continue reading “Xbox: The Guardian of Sleep”
It is more than strange that while dismantling Cartesian divides between mind and body has been at the forefront of philosophy for over a century, philosophy of mind is overwhelmed with literature that presumes a mind / world relationship, in which the role of the body is often up for grabs.
However, recent breakthroughs in studies of the experience of pain will hopefully inspire philosophers to bring the body back into the philosophical picture. As the BBC reports, the experience of pain is never as simple as a signal running from body to brain that results in a qualitative experience of a certain magnitude. Psychologist Flavia Mancini has demonstrated that the experience of pain is shaped by our own body-monitoring. For instance, concealing the left hand with a convex mirror that reflects the right, a patient’s threshold for pain in the left hand dramatically increases; likewise, a mirror that appears to shrink the left hand decreases the pain treshold. The larger the painful body part appears to us, the more the pain lessens in intensity.
This shows that the body image is not merely a representational space wherein pains are located like darts on a board; but rather that our own awareness of our bodies shapes the content of our experience. Perhaps even more compellingly, it shows that the body takes into account certain aspects of itself (apparent size) in determining the magnitude of a feeling or sensation. Yet all of this pales in significance compared to the fact that one finally has the excuse to keep a convex mirror in every room of the house.