Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Biological Individuals

[Revised entry by Robert A. Wilson and Matthew Barker on June 21, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, figdesc.html] The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a [More]

War with Iran?

During the Obama administration, it looked like the United States and Iran were making progress towards more normal relations. The culmination of this was the historic nuclear deal. When Trump was elected president, he quickly backed out of the deal—although he presumably neither understood the deal nor cared what was in it. While it would [More]

Sartre's Anarchist Philosophy

Every philosopher must run the gauntlet of time. Philosophical ideas fall in and out of favor, but the acid test is whether we continue to debate a philosopher’s ideas long after they have left the scene. The anniversary of Jean-Paul Sartre’s birthday, almost forty years since his death, is an appropriate moment to look back on the legacy of a philosopher whose work helped to define an era, and whose ideas continue to resonate with the political climate today. Professor Richard Falk places Sartre alongside Noam Chomsky and Edward Said as one of the few individuals worthy of the title ‘public intellectual’. Yet towards the end of his life, even as Sartre moved further in the direction of political engagement, he lamented that his politics were not radical enough; perhaps that is why Sartre’s political philosophy is so highly disputed.Since the publication of Critique of Dialectical Reason in 1960, scholars have largely interpreted Sartre’s political philosophy as ‘existential Marxism’: [More]

Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind,

2019.06.19 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Manuel Dries (ed.), Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind, De Gruyter, 2018, 350pp., $114.99 (hbk), ISBN 9783110246520. Reviewed by Jonathan Mitchell, University of Manchester In recent years, the gold-standard for edited collections on Nietzsche's work has been the Oxford University Press volumes.[1] One feature of those is thematic unity -- the essays make sense and reward being read together. Further, there is a broad philosophical style and background the authors share. The present volume, unfortunately, falls short of that standard. The title -- Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind -- is slightly misleading since a number of the sixteen papers do not primarily engage with Nietzsche's views on consciousness, the embodied mind, or contemporary debates on these matters. Moreover, the volume includes contributors whose style and philosophical background markedly differ. This would not be a problem if... Read [More]

#61 - Yampolskiy on Machine Consciousness and AI Welfare

In this episode I talk Roman Yampolskiy. Roman is a Tenured Associate Professor in the department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at the Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville. He is the founding and current director of the Cyber Security Lab and an author of many books and papers on AI security and ethics, including Artificial Superintelligence: a Futuristic Approach. We talk about how you might test for machine consciousness and the first steps towards a science of AI welfare.You can listen below or download here. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction2:30 - Artificial minds versus Artificial Intelligence6:35 - Why talk about machine consciousness now when it seems far-fetched?8:55 - What is phenomenal consciousness?11:04 - Illusions as an insight into phenomenal consciousness18:22 - How to create an illusion-based test for machine consciousness23:58 - Challenges with operationalising the test31:42 - Does AI already have a minimal form of consciousness?34:08 - Objections to the proposed test and next steps37:12 - Towards a science of AI welfare40:30 - How do we currently test for animal and human welfare44:10 - Dealing with the problem of deception47:00 - How could we test for welfare in AI?52:39 - If an AI can suffer, do we have a duty not to create it?56:48 - Do people take these ideas seriously in computer science?58:08 - What [More]

I—Memory from Plato to Damascius

AbstractTaking its cue from a passage in which the late pagan Neoplatonist Damascius criticizes his predecessor Proclus, this paper explores the way that ancient philosophers understood the soul’s access to its own tacit contents through the power of memory. Late ancient discussions of this issue respond to a range of passages in Plato and to Aristotle’s On Memory. After a survey of this material it is shown that for Damascius, but not Proclus, memory requires a distinction between the subject and object of remembering. This means that there can be no memory involved in self-thought, such as occurs in intellect, but only in soul. In conclusion, the paper draws attention to a parallel discussion in Augustine, who, like Proclus, thinks that self-thinking can be understood as a function of [More]

The Politics of Pleasure

Pleasures delivered by reason – from the frissons provoked by a beautiful mathematical equation to the joys inspired by paintings or poetry – are not the majority. It is chiefly for this reason that the media in modernity have proliferated to such a degree as to occupy more time than any activity other than work and sleep. The bulk of popular culture inserts disposable pleasures throughout everyday life. For the most part, the pleasures of our emotions and sensations are momentary respites from the life of calculation that capitalism renders indispensable throughout daily life. (Inspired by Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money, I elaborated this argument in my Media Unlimited.) The sheer immensity of media experience is the product of an endless search for the next sensation or feeling. Contra Max Weber, modernity does not drive away enchantment, but pulverises it and sprinkles it around. Thanks to a culture industry that is never more than a click away, the longing for transcendent [More]