Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Self-Consciousness and 'Split' Brains: The Minds' I

2020.01.06 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Elizabeth Schechter, Self-Consciousness and 'Split' Brains: The Minds' I, Oxford University Press, 2018, 295pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198809654. Reviewed by Peter Godfrey-Smith, University of Sydney The "split-brain" phenomenon has engaged philosophical interest from around the late 1960s. In some cases of severe epilepsy, a cut is made in the tissue that connects the two hemispheres of the upper part of the brain, the cerebral cortex. This affords relief as it stops seizures spreading easily from one side to the other. (The operation is done far less often now, but is still performed occasionally, more often in children.) Initially, this appeared to be a procedure with few other effects on the patient. But in some experimental circumstances, it can appear that the operation has produced a situation where two minds are present in one body. Could that be true? Though the literature is now large and sophisticated,... Read [More]

Jacobson from Michigan to Colorado

Daniel Jacobson, currently professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, will be moving to the University of Colorado, Boulder. At Colorado, Dr. Jacobson will be a tenured professor in the Department of Philosophy and the holder of the Benson Chair, a position endowed through the Bruce Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization. He will also serve as the director of the Benson Center. Dr. Jacobson is known for his work in ethics, moral psychology, aesthetics, and the moral and political philosophy of John Stuart Mill. He starts at Colorado in Fall, 2020. The post Jacobson from Michigan to Colorado appeared first on Daily [More]

A Philosopher Takes on Evolutionary Psychology

“Evolutionary psychological inferences commonly fail to satisfy reasonable epistemic criteria.” The failures are so significant that good evolutionary psychology may not be possible.  So argues Subrena Smith, a philosopher at the University of New Hampshire. Her paper, “Is Evolutionary Psychology Possible?“, was recently published in Biological Theory. In it, she argues that the popular research program of evolutionary psychology is methodologically unsound. Dr. Smith also wrote a shorter version of the argument that was published at The Evolution Institute. In it, she first presents a description of the aims of evolutionary psychology: The mandate of evolutionary psychology is to give true evolutionary explanations for contemporary human behavior. Evolutionary psychologists believe that many of our behaviors in the present are caused by psychological mechanisms that operate today as they did in the past. Each mechanism was selected for its specific fitness-enhancing effects, and each of them is responsive only to the kinds of inputs for which it is an adaptation. To achieve the aims of evolutionary psychology, researchers “need to show that particular kinds of behavior are underwritten by particular mechanisms.” More specifically, evolutionary psychology confronts what Dr. Smith calls “the matching problem”: For a present-day psychological trait to be related to an ancestral psychological trait in the way that evolutionary [More]

Philosophers Win NEH Grants

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced the winners of its most recent round of grants, and several philosophy faculty  are among them. They are: Dorit Bar-On (University of Connecticut) Expression, Communication, and Origins of Meaning Project Description: Completion of a book on the origins of language. $60,000 Fellowship Michael Jacovides (Purdue University) Springs and Principles of the Universe: David Hume on Laws and Causes Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the development of philosopher David Hume’s (1711–1776) theories of laws and causation. $60,000 Fellowship Allison Kuklok (St. Michael’s College) The Status of Man in John Locke’s Natural Philosophy Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on John Locke’s (1632– 1704) natural philosophy. $60,000 Fellowship Gabriel Mendlow (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) Thought Crime in Anglo-American Law and Legal Philosophy Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on the criminalization of thought in Anglo-American law. $60,000 Fellowship Nathanael Stein (Florida State University) Causation and Explanation in Aristotle Project Description: Research and writing leading to a book on Aristotle’s view on causation and his natural philosophy. $60,000 Fellowship David Stern (University of Iowa) The First Complete Translation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Project Description: Research and translation leading to publication of a complete [More]

Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion

2020.01.05 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Simon May, Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion, Oxford University Press, 2019, 285pp., $29.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190884833. Reviewed by Eric J. Silverman, Christopher Newport University Simon May's new book on love is truly ambitious. He hopes to offer a genuinely new answer to a question that's been around at least since Phaedrus asked his friends to offer speeches defining and praising love in Plato's Symposium. In Part I, May examines the question 'What is love?', identifying the current understanding of love's aim, motivation, and ground. He takes love to be an unconditional, disinterested, enduring affirmation of the beloved. In contemporary culture, he sees this kind of love as a 'secularized agape,' which is now sought within human relationships in an effort to replace the role that faith in God and divine love have filled in the past. Thus, the phenomenon he seeks to explain is no... Read [More]

Paul-Henri Thiry (Baron) d’Holbach

[Revised entry by Michael LeBuffe on January 16, 2020. Changes to: Bibliography] Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a philosopher, translator, and prominent social figure of the French Enlightenment. In his philosophical writings Holbach developed a deterministic and materialistic metaphysics, which grounded his polemics against organized religion as well as his utilitarian ethical and political theory. As a translator, Holbach made significant contributions to the European Enlightenment in science and religion. He translated [More]

The Mysterious Disappearance of Consciousness

Phenomenal consciousness is seen as one of the top unsolved problems in science. Nothing we can—or, arguably, even could—observe about the arrangement of atoms constituting the brain allows us to deduce what it feels like to smell an orange, fall in love, or have a belly ache. Remarkably, the intractability of the problem has led some to even claim that consciousness doesn’t exist at all: Daniel Dennett and his followers famously argue that it is an illusion, whereas neuroscientist Michael Graziano proclaims that “consciousness doesn’t happen. It is a mistaken construct.” Really?The denial of phenomenal consciousness is called—depending on its particular formulation—‘eliminativism’ or ‘illusionism.’ Its sheer absurdity has recently been chronicled by Galen Strawson, David Bentley Hart and yours truly, so I won’t repeat that argumentation here. My interest now is different: I want to understand what makes the consciousness of an intelligent human being deny its own existence with a [More]