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