Consciousness, Dennett and Phil Collins

“Now I see Mikhail approaching me, he looks angry, that makes me fearful, I want to run away, I’m going to run away, but he might chase me, so maybe I shouldn’t run, perhaps I’ll ask him if we can chit chat over some coffee.”

Now, I know very little about Dennett,  but really, this seems to be the gist of his take on consciousness.   The conscious self is nothing more than an objectification or reification of the thing /being/entity behind the act of monitoring by the brain of a human’s chosen course through the world.  Or, since I mentioned Mikhail, I’ll translate into Kantian language: a logical construct that supports the unity of thought.  Consciousness then, is not, at least not just some sort of epiphenomenon excreted by warring factions of a disorderly neuro-cognitive system/psyche.  Rather, in this scheme consciousness would be that which unleashes the lavishness of our world.   I can’t help but think of that Phil Collins song: Continue reading

Mary, the brilliant color scientist…

I was teaching Hume last week and mentioned Frank Jackson’s well-known thought experiment about Mary, the brilliant color scientist from his paper, “Epiphenomenal Qualia.”  David Lodge, in Thinks…, makes mention of Mary as well:

It is a picture of another windowless, cell-like room, but crowded with furniture and equipment — a desk, filing cabinets, bookshelves, computers, and a TV set. Everything is painted in black and white or shades of grey, including the young woman who sits at the desk. She wears black gloves, black shoes, opaque black stockings, and a white lab coat. The image on the TV screen is monochrome. But the room is built underground; above the surface, shown in cross-section, is a smiling pastoral landscape, full of brilliant colour. Continue reading

British Library Digitizes Manuscripts

Great story, I think, since this is where online resources and digitization should really head – manuscripts to the people:

The British Library said Monday that it was making more than a quarter of its 1,000 volume-strong collection of handwritten Greek texts available online free of charge, something curators there hope will be a boon to historians, biblical scholars and students of classical Greece alike.

Although the manuscripts — highlights of which include a famous collection of Aesopic fables discovered on Mount Athos in 1842 — have long been available to scholars who made the trip to the British Library’s reading rooms, curator Scot McKendrick said their posting to the web was opening antiquity to the entire world.

You can see the examples here – and a list of all 248 already digitized manuscripts is here – and the quality is superb too (here’s zoomed-in all the way picture): Continue reading

How Many “Indicators of Esteem” Do You Have?

Ah, wonderful academic life and its values – apparently at Durham University, in addition to all the other crap they put on the faculty page to indicate awesomeness, some genius came up with “Indicators of Esteem”:

Maybe it’s just a medical thing, but it would be a good practice to spread I think. Imagine all the things you can then put on your CV:

2008: The Most Good Things Happened To Me in a Single Week Award
1995: Profound Appreciator of Film and Music of the Year (awarded by Friends of Emelianov Group)
1989: Artek Pioneer Camp Scout of the Week
1985: Table Tennis Champion

Handel Will Be Back (Soon)

Yes, I know about the umlaut but Handel was, after all, a British composer by geographical fate. I have listened to more Handel lately than anything else and I think my rediscovered enthusiasm for his operas is shared by others:

Since this is promo for Alcina, his my favorite Alcina aria (“Tornami a vagheggiar”) is included on Patricia Petibon’s new CD, a must-have for all the snobs.

And here’s the making of Petibon’s CD video (in French): Continue reading

Job Interviews in the Bedroom (Awkward, at best)

Good discussion at The Philosopher Smoker about conducting interviews in hotel bedrooms/suites and sexism:

Over at Leiter, there’s been some interesting discussion about interviewing in bedrooms. Robert Allen says,

I should have thought that we philosophers were a little more relaxed in our dealings with each other than to fuss over interview settings (or even “stares and worse,” i.e., boys being boys). Whatever happened to being of good cheer and leaving the professionalism to the attorneys and politicians?

It has been my experience that “boys will be boys” is shorthand for “men are assholes, and you should put up with it, because they’re men and they like having fun at your expense.” This is one of the things I hate about being a man.

And I hate this “good cheer” argument more than anything. Why does everyone else have to have good cheer in the face of what an asshole you are? What happened to “good cheer yourself, and don’t be an asshole”? You can start by conducting your interviews sitting up, with shoes on like a civilized person, and not in a room dedicated to sleeping and/or fucking.

There’s much to agree with here. By the way, why is it every time I turn around somebody is complaining about Brian Leiter? Just saying.  Read the rest if the post and ensuing discussion over here

The Two Great Movement Founders Meet Again!

Wait, they don’t. What is going on? Graham Harman, the great wizard of speculative realism, is in Beirut, but there’s no mention of him meeting his fellow speculative realist Ray Brassier. What gives? Harman would never pass up an opportunity to build up the movement by describing a fateful reunion. Is it possible none of the other “founders” care for him anymore? Aren’t they thankful for all the promotion and hoopla? Sadness.

New Agamben translation (and annoying ploys to sell books)

I noticed the other week that Stanford UP is publishing a translation of some of Giorgio Agamben’s essays, entitled Nudities, next month. Here’s the blurb:

Encompassing a wide range of subjects, the ten masterful essays gathered here may at first appear unrelated to one another. In truth, Giorgio Agamben’s latest book is a mosaic of his most pressing concerns. Take a step backward after reading it from cover to cover, and a world of secret affinities between the chapters slowly comes into focus. Take another step back, and it becomes another indispensable piece of the finely nuanced philosophy that Agamben has been patiently constructing over four decades of sustained research.

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but this seems like a mere ploy to sell books, and frankly, it’s annoying.  That is to say, I think the text in bold needs to be translated: “The essays are admittedly loosely related non-sequiters, in fact, the only connection is that they are written by the same personThat said, suckers like Ozeri and Emelianov will purchase the book, nonetheless due to the cult of personality, or popularity of Agamben.  Readers will have to make all the connections on their own, we basically threw together these essays.”

Maybe that’s too harsh, but really, what’s wrong with saying we liked these essays and we’re publishing them all together?  Read the rest of the blurb here