MIND

Realism Is False

[1.27.20]

. . . I want to propose that realism is false, and what we're seeing is more like a user interface or a virtual reality headset. Think about a virtual reality game of tennis. You're playing VR tennis with a friend, you both have your headset and body suits on, you see your friend's avatar on a tennis court and you start playing. Your friend hits the tennis ball to you, and you hit the same tennis ball back to your friend, but is your friend seeing exactly the same tennis ball that you're seeing? Well, of course not. There's no public tennis ball. You have some photons being sprayed to your eye by your headset, and those photons are causing your visual system to create your own perception of what you would call a green tennis ball. Your friend has a headset on, which is spraying photons to his eye, and his visual system is creating his own green tennis ball perception.

It turns out that both of those perceptions are coordinated by something else, namely a supercomputer that's sending the photons to both headsets, causing both headsets to work in coordination. . . .

All the things that we would do to say that objects really exist even when they're not perceived hold here in virtual reality. . . . That doesn't mean that the tennis ball exists and has any physical properties when it's not perceived; it just means that there is some objective reality.

DONALD D. HOFFMAN is a full professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, most recently, of The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our EyesDonald D. Hoffman's Edge Bio Page

Realism Is False

Topic: 

  • MIND
https://vimeo.com/386342580

. . . I want to propose that realism is false, and what we're seeing is more like a user interface or a virtual reality headset. Think about a virtual reality game of tennis. You're playing VR tennis with a friend, you both have your headset and body suits on, you see your friend's avatar on a tennis court and you start playing. Your friend hits the tennis ball to you, and you hit the same tennis ball back to your friend, but is your friend seeing exactly the same tennis ball that you're seeing? Well, of course not. There's no public tennis ball.

The Paradox of Self-Consciousness

Topic: 

  • MIND
https://vimeo.com/371951262

I have been trying, under the banner of "new realism," to reconcile various philosophical and scientific traditions. I'm looking for a third way between various tensions. There's more to a human being than the fact that we are a bunch of cells that hang together in a certain way. Humans are not identical to any material energetic system, even though I also think that humans cannot exist without being, in part, grounded in a material energetic system.

The Paradox of Self-Consciousness

[11.11.19]

I have been trying, under the banner of "New Realism," to reconcile various philosophical and scientific traditions. I'm looking for a third way between various tensions. There's more to a human being than the fact that we are a bunch of cells that hang together in a certain way. Humans are not strictly identical to any material energetic system, even though I also think that humans cannot exist without being, in part, grounded in a material energetic system. So, I am rejecting both brutal materialism, according to which we are nothing but an arrangement of cells, and brutal idealism, according to which our minds are transcendent affairs that mysteriously peep into the universe. Both are false, so there has to be a third way.

Similarly, there must be a third way between postmodernism, which denies the objectivity of human knowledge claims and science altogether, and various trends in cognitive science, which also threaten objectivity without, of course, fully undermining it (for instance, research on cognitive biases better be immune to second-order biases). Similarly, I believe we urgently need to reconcile so-called continental philosophy—European traditions, broadly construed—and analytic philosophy, which means philosophy at its best when practiced in Anglophone context; there has to be something in between. That space in between is what I call New Realism

MARKUS GABRIEL, one of the founders of New Realism, holds the Chair for Epistemology, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy at the University of Bonn, where he is also Director of the International Center for Philosophy and the multidisciplinary Center for Science and Thought. He is the author of Why the World Does Not Exist. Markus Gabriel's Edge Bio Page

The Nature of Moral Motivation

[10.16.19]

Although we have made tremendous progress in understanding many details of the brain, there are huge gaps in our knowledge. What's relevant to me, as somebody who's interested in the nature of moral behavior, is how little we understand about the nature of reasoning, or if I may use a different expression, problem solving. I don't know what reasoning is. For a long time, people seemed to think it was completely separate from emotion, but we know that can't be true.

The nature of problem solving is something that is still very much in the pioneering stages in neuroscience. It's a place where neuroscience and psychology can cooperate to get interesting experimental paradigms so that we can attack the question: How is it that, out of all these constraints and factors, a reasonable decision can be made? That's a tough one. It will require us to find good experimental paradigms and new techniques.

PATRICIA S. CHURCHLAND is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. Her research has centered on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy, with a current focus on the association of morality and the social brain. She is the author of Conscience: The Origins of Moral IntuitionPatricia S. Churchland's Edge Bio Page

A Post-Galilean Paradigm

Topic: 

  • MIND
https://vimeo.com/358084832

We're now going through a phase of history where people are so blown away at the success of physical science and the wonderful technology it's produced that they've forgotten its philosophical underpinnings. They've forgotten its inherent limitations. If we want a science of consciousness, we need to move beyond Galileo. We need to move to what I call a post-Galilean paradigm. We need to rethink what science is. That doesn't mean we stop doing physical science or we do physical science differently—I'm not here to tell physical scientists how to do their jobs.

A Post-Galilean Paradigm

[9.24.19]

We're now going through a phase of history where people are so blown away at the success of physical science and the wonderful technology it's produced that they've forgotten its philosophical underpinnings. They've forgotten its inherent limitations. If we want a science of consciousness, we need to move beyond Galileo. We need to move to what I call a post-Galilean paradigm. We need to rethink what science is. That doesn't mean we stop doing physical science or we do physical science differently—I'm not here to tell physical scientists how to do their jobs. It does, however, mean that it's not the full story. We need physical science to encompass a more expansive conception of the scientific method. We need to adopt a worldview that can accommodate both the quantitative data of physical science and the qualitative reality of consciousness. That's essentially the problem.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. There is a framework that could allow us to make progress on this. It's inspired by certain writings from the 1920s of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the scientist Arthur Eddington, who is incidentally the first scientist to confirm general relativity after the First World War. I'm inclined to think that these guys did in the 1920s for the science of consciousness what Darwin did in the 19th century for the science of life. It's a tragedy of history that this was completely forgotten about for a long time for various historical reasons we could talk about. But, it's recently been rediscovered in the last five or ten years in academic philosophy, and it's causing a lot of excitement and interest.

PHILIP GOFF is a philosopher and consciousness researcher at Durham University, UK, and author of Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness (forthcoming, 2019). Philip Goff's Edge Bio Page

The Geometry of Thought

[6.25.19]

Slowly, the significance of spatial thinking is being recognized, of reasoning with the body acting in space, of reasoning with the world as given, but even more with the things that we create in the world. Babies and other animals have amazing feats of thought, without explicit language. So do we chatterers. Still, spatial thinking is often marginalized, a special interest, like music or smell, not a central one. Yet change seems to be in the zeitgeist, not just in cognitive science, but in philosophy and neuroscience and biology and computer science and mathematics and history and more, boosted by the 2014 Nobel prize awarded to John O’Keefe and Eduard and Britt-May Moser for the remarkable discoveries of place cells, single cells in the hippocampus that code places in the world, and grid cells next door one synapse away in the entorhinal cortex that map the place cells topographically on a neural grid. If it’s in the brain, it must be real. Even more remarkably, it turns out that place cells code events and ideas and that temporal and social and conceptual relations are mapped onto grid cells. Voila: spatial thinking is the foundation of thought. Not the entire edifice, but the foundation.

The mind simplifies and abstracts. We move from place to place along paths just as our thoughts move from idea to idea along relations. We talk about actions on thoughts the way we talk about actions on objects: we place them on the table, turn them upside down, tear them apart, and pull them together. Our gestures convey those actions on thought directly. We build structures to organize ideas in our minds and things in the world, the categories and hierarchies and one-to-one correspondences and symmetries and recursions.

BARBARA TVERSKY is Professor Emerita of Psychology, Stanford University, and Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia Teachers College. She is the author of Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought. Barbara Tversky's Edge Bio Page

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