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The confused conceptions of consciousness

The emergence of the vocabulary of consciousnessThe term ‘consciousness’ and its cognates are surprisingly late arrivals in the English vocabulary. No occurrence is to be found in Shakespeare. The first recorded case according to the Oxford English Dictionary is in the early seventeenth century. Initially ‘to be conscious’, like its Latin prototype ‘conscius’, meant: to be privy to something or some secret. So one might be said to be conscious to a murder or to an assignation. Applied to a person, it meant sharing a secret with another, and its common form was ‘to be conscious of such-and-such [information] to A [a person]’ from which it rapidly mutated into ‘to be conscious of such-and-such to oneself’ when the secret was not shared. What one was said to be conscious to oneself could be facts in general, facts about other people, and facts about oneself. By mid-century ‘to another’ and ‘to oneself’ had become dispensable, and ‘consciousness to something’ was transformed into [More]

Republicans assert party loyalty by ignoring medical advice on COVID-19

We all know that more thoroughly and frequently washing our hands is among the most effective measures we can take to curb the spread of COVID-19.Hand-washing also happens to be relatively costless and generally beneficial. Yet polling from Reuters/Ipsos in the first week of March showed that in the US, more than half of Republicans had not altered their hygienic routines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, most Democrats had altered their habits and were twice as likely as Republicans to regard the virus as a threat.In the US, more than half of Republicans had not altered their hygienic routines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.I hope that reactions among Republicans have since shifted, though follow-up polling by Ipsos and USA Today and by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, both in the second week of March, show similar trends. There is some comfort in the fact that President Trump has recently pivoted from suggesting the pandemic is “the new hoax” driven by a [More]

An etymological ax(e) to grind, followed by the story of the English word “adz(e)”

Wherever we look for the history of the names of instruments and tools, we confront a similar problem: the available material is either too copious or too scanty. Last week (March 11, 2020), we followed a hectic but inefficient hunt for the etymology of the word awl, and I promised a continuation: a post on adz (spelled as adze in British English). The post An etymological ax(e) to grind, followed by the story of the English word “adz(e)” appeared first on [More]

The Knowledge Argument

2020.03.16 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Sam Coleman (ed.), The Knowledge Argument, Cambridge University Press, 2019, 303pp., $32.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781316506981. Reviewed by Donnchadh O'Conaill, Université de Fribourg If one had all the scientific information about a given subject matter, would one thereby know everything there is to know about it? Frank Jackson's tale of Mary is a vivid illustration of this question: she has an exhaustive scientific understanding of colour vision, but lives in a black-and-white room and has never had a colour experience. On leaving the room and having her first colour experience, would she learn anything new? The knowledge argument depends on an affirmative answer: since she would learn something new, her scientific knowledge would not exhaust everything there was to know about colour vision. In particular, Mary would learn what it would be like to see, e.g., a red object; that is, she would learn about the... Read [More]