Archive for February, 2013

February 28th – 365 Days Of Philosophy Podcast – An Interview With Nigel Warburton

nigel warburton

The interview for February is with Nigel Warburton.

Direct download mp3 here - iTunes here.

Nigel Warburton is best known for his introductory Philosophy books, which include Philosophy: The BasicsThinking from A to Z, Philosophy: The ClassicsPhilosophy: Basic ReadingsFreedom: An Introduction with ReadingsThe Art Question and A Little History of Philosophy, with reviews here (mp3) and here.

His main research area is the aesthetics of photography, which was the subject of his PhD thesis (Cambridge, 1989) and of a number of articles. Philosophy Bites - a series of over 200 interviews with contemporary philosophers – is now available as an iPhone App and his most recent book in the series, Philosophy Bites Back, was published at the end of 2012. In addition, he has created www.socialsciencebites.com and www.freespeechbites.com.

Nigel has given talks on his research in aesthetics, photography and architecture, to audiences in a wide range of institutions including Tate Modern (where he regularly teaches courses on aesthetics); he also regularly speaks to conferences of A level Philosophy and Religious students.

February 27th – The Books Of Bertrand Russell

There’s a number of Bertrand Russell books that have been influential in philosophy – his History of Western Philosophy is a great overview and has been mentioned by a few writers as an introductory text (such as Nigel Warburton, who mentions being influenced by it in his own writing – A Little History of Philosophy). You can even listen to the entire book via YouTube!

Recently the Brain Pickings site wrote about Bertrand Russell on Human Nature, Construction vs. Destruction, and Science as a Key to Democracy; you should also check out

Bertrand Russell – Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

The Bertrand Russell Gallery

Podcast – In Our Time – Bertrand Russell

Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell

The Bertrand Russell Society.

February 25th – The Philosophy Shop, Edited By Peter Worley

The Philosophy Shop

I’m returning to reviewing books and suggesting resources – and this one is with huge thanks to Embiggen Books in Melbourne, whose site is always beautifully appointed with the very latest and high quality resources when it comes to… erm, embiggening the mind.

For some time I’ve been involved in supporting the Philosophy for Children methodology (so, warning – I’m biased!) – and this book has a slightly different take on that, as demonstrated on pages 7-8:

There are a number of ways of doing philosophy with children but what they all share is the use of enquiry that is open-ended – extended discussion using questioning and reasoning – for engaging classes. Some recommend enlisting the children to formulate and select questions (Philosophy for Children or P4C) and others recommend the use of carefully constructed questions that are put to the children, such as the start and further questions in this book. The Philosophy Shop can, in some cases, be used either way, but it should be noticed that many of the examples have been carefully selected for their philosophical focus. By allowing the children to choose their own questions the focus may be lost. Having said that, many more interesting philosophical questions may be discovered by the children when they formulate their own questions based on their concerns and interests. many of the more fleshed-out stories… have a good deal more going on than is covered by the prepared questions. A balance between the two approaches is probably the best, so that the focus is perserved but the participants guide the discussion within the remit of the focus.

For my part, I think this misses the important element of democracy and class interactivity that comes with children debating and clarifying a question that they will discuss further by using the P4C methodology, but I do like the way this book has a huge range of topics in a rather hefty volume. The problem is that there isn’t much support in terms of further teachers’ notes, which is something that Lipman and Sharp’s P4C did provide with their manuals. It does, however, have some great advice as to creating your own exercises and I think that this should definitely provide some inspiration for teachers when it comes to creating philosophical adventures in the classroom.

Overall, an interesting and inspiring read that is clearly aimed at children, but would generally be very useful for all ages as a introduction to and expanding critical thinking in classes. The book does recommend that teachers learn how to conduct discussions effectively – such as time management, facilitation skills – by referring to another book ( The If Machine: Philosophical Inquiry in the Classroom) and I would have included more on that in this book, along with the included ‘quick guide to running a PhiE (Philosophical Enquiry)’. I think this is a good addition to my library and although it’s not as highly recommended as (say) Law’s Philosophy Gym for my high-school and older classes, it’s encouraging to have a book that suggests creating activities for discussions using my own experiences.

February 23rd – The Self Illusion: How Your Brain Creates You

Most of us believe that we are an independent, coherent self–an individual inside our head who thinks, watches, wonders, dreams, and makes plans for the future. This sense of our self may seem incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that it is not what it seems – it is all an illusion. In The Self IllusionProfessor Bruce M Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other.

Podcast interview: Episode One Hundred And Eighteen – On The Self Illusion – Interview With Bruce M Hood

Amazing Meeting presentation by Professor Bruce M. Hood:

February 22nd – More On The Mind

From the Cambridge Centre for Behavioural Studies, What Muler’s Law of Specific Nerve Energies Says About The Mind by Howard Rachlin (pdf link) - it points out problems with “mind” being equated with particular brain states (to wit—there are no reliable brain states that correlate with claimed mental states; Rachlin finds the commonality with of mental state not with neural state, but with behavioral state):

How do the nerves impose anything but their own characteristics on the mind? That is, how do the nerves tell us anything about the world?

The Skeptic “Mind, Brain, and Consciousness” talks - Susan Blackmore:

February 21st – Mind Body Dualism

mind and body

Here’s some useful reading to help with Mind Body Dualism:

Mind and Body Cartesian Dualism at www.blutner.de – a useful summary in slides (Google View here, PDF version here).

Descartes and the Mind Body Problem - New York University (Google View here, PDF version here).
Cartesian Dualism: Cases For & Against – CalPoly, (Google View here, PDF version here).

From Philosophy Now - Consciousness Resurrected - Güven Güzeldere asks where we are now with the mind-body problem.

While the mind-body problem has been around for a long time, it is no less compelling for philosophers today. This is not to say that we are in the same place with regard to understanding it as the philosophers of bygone ages. On the contrary, there has been impressive progress. This progress has been due to great advances in the scientific understanding of the workings of the brain, and to the continual refinement of our philosophical concepts and of the questions we ask about the mind. For these reasons, can we now say that the mind-body problem is nearing a (re)solution, and probably won’t be among the open-ended puzzles of 21st century philosophy?

Psychology TodayIs Your Mind Separate From Your Body?

February 20th – David Chalmers On Consciousness

David John Chalmers is an Australian philosopher specializing in the area of philosophy of mind.

In “The Conscious Mind” (1996), “Chalmers argues that all forms of physicalism (whether reductive or non-reductive) that have dominated modern philosophy and science fail to account for the existence (that is, presence in reality) of consciousness itself. He proposes an alternative dualistic view he calls naturalistic dualism (but which might also be characterized by more traditional formulations such as property dualism, neutral monism, or double-aspect theory).”

February 19th – What Is The Mind-Body Problem?

Some useful links to investigate further:

John G. Taylor, Scholarpedia – Mind-body problem: New approaches:

The Mind-Body problem has been in existence for several thousand years – going back to Plato, Aristotle, The Buddha and many other ancient Greek and Eastern thinkers. The problem is simple to state, even if the ideas of physics and physiology were not as well developed several thousand years ago as they are today: the mind and the body seem to be entities of very different kinds, so how do they interact so as to produce in a person a mind able to have effects on their body (as when the person wills the body to perform some act), whilst also their body can affect their mind (as in the experience of pain)?

Podcast – All In The Mind – The Mind-Body Problem Down Under.

Paul Newall – Philosophy of Mind - Galliean Library:

The philosophy of mind has been a hot topic for several thousand years and over that time almost every philosopher has had something to say about it, for better or worse. The central issues it is concerned with are ones that most of us think about from time to time, even if we don’t always use the same terminology. In this article we’ll try to see why the subject has had held such a fascination for thinkers over the years and what we can learn from their efforts.

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