The Philosophy Program at A&M University - Corpus Christi offers the Minor (18 hrs.) and the Major (30 hrs.) in Philosophy. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions about studying philosophy.

A Portrait of the Philosopher as a Young Man

It seems that Monty Python hit the mark awfully closely: The young Kant would have been a spectacularly fun friend, according to three new biographies cited in this Guardian (UK) article.

A Venn Diagram of Evidence-Free Beliefs

Courtesy Boing Boing, Crispian Jago has put together a Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense. Perhaps someone can explain 'Ear Candles'. On second thought, please don't.

On the Point of Logic

In a delightful and accessible essay, computer science student Seth Kurtenbach (Missouri) explains why he loves logic and, along the way, why logic is important. 

Law School (The Music Video)

Courtesy our own Suzzette Chopin:

Are We Living in a Fly-Bottle?

In a pair of Times' Stone essays, Paul Horwich (NYU) and Michael Lynch (Connecticut) take stock of Wittgenstein's views on philosophy, developing penetrating yet divergent positions.

From Horwich's essay,

...It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on — and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein. For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking. So it should be entirely unsurprising that the “philosophy” aiming to solve them has been marked by perennial controversy and lack of decisive progress — by an embarrassing failure, after over 2000 years, to settle any of its central issues. Therefore traditional philosophical theorizing must give way to a painstaking identification of its tempting but misguided presuppositions and an understanding of how we ever came to regard them as legitimate.

From Lynch's essay,

“To show the fly the way out of the fly bottle ”— that, Wittgenstein once said, was the aim of his philosophy. While it is perhaps unclear whether anyone — philosopher or fly — should be flattered by this comparison, his overall point is clear enough, as Paul Horwich notes in his recent piece, “Was Wittgenstein Right?” When we get curious about philosophical problems we are drawn into puzzles by the promise of sweet enlightenment, only to find ourselves caught in frustration (and banging our heads against the same wall over and over again). What we need, Wittgenstein thinks, is liberation — liberation from the prison of pseudo-problems we have brought upon ourselves; liberation from traditional philosophy.

Horwich’s analysis is penetrating and important. Doubtless some will quarrel with it as a reading of Wittgenstein; but I will not — not only because I think it is largely right, but because I’m more interested in whether it is true. Not surprisingly, I have my doubts.

Does Physicalism Suffice?

Gary Gutting (Notre Dame) discusses the challenge phenomenal consciousness appears to pose for physicalism in light of Jackson's Knowledge Argument and the Modal Gap--aka, the Problem of Philosophical Zombies--in a recent essay in the Times' Stone series.

The Mob Reads Kant

(courtesy Prisilla Hernandez)

Homunculi! Homunculi Everywhere!

In the "smart philosopher gets annoyed" category, Colin McGinn (Miami) thoroughly dismantles Ray Kurzweil's How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. From the review (published in the New York Review of Books and valuable reading for students in Minds and Machines),

So he is a computer engineer specializing in word recognition technology, with a side interest in bold predictions about future machines. He is not a professional neuroscientist or psychologist or philosopher. Yet here we have a book purporting to reveal—no less—“the secret of human thought.” Kurzweil is going to tell us, in no uncertain terms, “how to create a mind”: that is to say, he has a grand theory of the human mind, in which its secrets will be finally revealed.

These are strong claims indeed, and one looks forward eagerly to learning what this new theory will look like. Perhaps at first one feels a little skeptical that Kurzweil has succeeded where so many have failed, but one tries to keep an open mind—hoping the book will justify the hype so blatantly brandished in its title. After all, Kurzweil has honors from three US presidents (so says Wikipedia) and was the “principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner” and other useful devices, as well as receiving many other entrepreneurial awards. He is clearly a man of many parts—but is ultimate theoretician of the mind one of them?

Answer: A resounding 'no', but do read on to appreciate just how badly Kurzweil bungles it.

The Peril of Folk Neuroscience

The Guardian (UK) has an essay by King's College research fellow Vaughn Bell on the effect neuroscience is having on popular discourse and imagination. From the essay,

Scientific concepts have always washed in and out of popular consciousness but like never before, the brain has become part of contemporary culture. With the recent announcement of two billion-dollar science projects, the Human Brain Project in Europe and the Brain Activity Map in the US, it would be hard to ignore the impact on public spending. Meanwhile, the Barbican has just kicked off an unprecedented month-long festival of neuroscience called Wonder, suggesting even the traditionally science-shy art world has raised an eyebrow.

But it's the sheer penetration of neuroscience into everyday life that makes it remarkable. We talk about left- and right-brain thinking, brainstorming and brain disorders. Differences between the male and female brain are the subject of regular press speculation and newspapers publish stories on brain scans that claim to explain everything from love to memory. Young people are increasingly warned that everything from video games to sexual activity could "damage their brains" while old people are encouraged to "train their brain" lest they lose its functions later in life.

Big(Bad)Dog

 Courtesy Boing Boing, Boston Dynamics continues their revolutionary robotics work, this time in dramatic fashion:

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