Synaesthesia is a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces photisms, i.e. mental percepts of colours. R is a 20 year old colour blind subject who, in addition to the relatively common grapheme-colour synaesthesia, presents a rarely reported cross modal perception in which a variety of visual stimuli elicit aura-like percepts of colour. In R, photisms seem to be closely related to the affective valence of stimuli and (...) typically bring out a consistent pattern of emotional responses. The present case study suggests that colours might be an intrinsic category of the human brain. We developed an empirical methodology that allowed us to study the subject's otherwise inaccessible phenomenological experience. First, we found that R shows a Stroop effect (delayed response due to interference) elicited by photisms despite the fact that he does not show a regular Stroop with real colours. Secondly, by manipulating the colour context we confirmed that colours can alter R's emotional evaluation of the stimuli. Furthermore, we demonstrated that R's auras may actually lead to a partially inverted emotional spectrum where certain stimuli bring out emotional reactions opposite to the normal ones. These findings can only be accounted for by considering R's subjective colour experience or qualia. Therefore the present paper defends the view that qualia are a useful scientific concept that can be approached and studied by experimental methods. (shrink)
Evidence for instances of astrophysical 'fine tuning' (or 'coincidences') is thought by some to lend support to the design argument (i.e. the argument that our universe has been designed by some deity). We assess some of the relevant empirical and conceptual issues. We argue that astrophysical fine tuning calls for some explanation, but this explanation need not appeal to the design argument. A clear and strict separation of the issue of anthropic fine tuning on one hand and any form of (...) Eddingtonian numerology and teleology on the other, may help clarify arguably the most significant issue in the philosophy of cosmology. (shrink)
In a variety of synaesthesia, photisms result from affect-laden stimuli as emotional words, or faces of familiar people. For R, who participated in this study, the sight of a familiar person triggers a mental image of "a human silhouette filled with colour". Subjective descriptions of synaesthetic experiences induced by the visual perception of people's figures and faces show similarities with the reports of those who claim to possess the ability to see the aura. It has been proposed that the purported (...) auric perception may be easily explained by the presence of a specific subtype of cross-modal perception. We analyse the subjective reports of four synaesthetes who experience colours in response to human faces and figures. These reports are compared with descriptions of alleged auric phenomena found in the literature and with claims made by experts in esoteric spheres. The discrepancies found suggest that both phenomena are phenomenologically and behaviourally dissimilar. (shrink)
A modern assessment of the classical Boltzmann-Schuetz argument for large-scale entropy fluctuations as the origin of our observable cosmological domain is given.The emphasis is put on the central implication of this picture which flatly contradicts the weak anthropic principle as an epistemological statement about the universe. Therefore, to associate this picture with the anthropic principle as it is usually done is unwarranted. In particular, Feynman's criticism of theanthropic principle based on the entropy-fluctuation picture is a product of this semantic confusion.
An interesting consequence of the modern cosmological paradigm is the spatial infinity of the universe. When coupled with naturalistic understanding of the origin of life and intelligence, which follows the basic tenets of astrobiology, and with some fairly incontroversial assumptions in the theory of observation selection effects, this infinity leads, as Ken Olum has recently shown, to a paradoxical conclusion. Olum's paradox is related, to the famous Fermi's paradox in astrobiology and “SETI” studies. We, hereby, present an evolutionary argument countering (...) the apparent inconsistency, and show how, in the framework of a simplified model, deeper picture of the coupling between histories of intelligent/technological civilizations and astrophysical evolution of the Galaxy, can be achieved. This strategy has consequences of importance for both astrobiological studies and philosophy. (shrink)
The experimental setup of the self-referential quantum measurement, jovially known as the ‘quantum suicide’ or the ‘quantum Russian roulette’ is analyzed from the point of view of the Principal Principle of David Lewis. It is shown that the apparent violation of this principle – relating objective probabilities and subjective chance – in this type of thought experiment is just an illusion due to the usage of some terms and concepts ill-defined in the quantum context. We conclude that even in the (...) case that Everett’s (or some other ‘no-collapse’) theory is a correct description of reality, we can coherently believe in equating subjective credence with objective chance in quantum-mechanical experiments. This is in agreement with results of the research on personal identity in the quantum context by Parfit and Tappenden. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal, Ken Olum attempts to refute the Doomsday argument by appealing to the self-indication assumption (SIA), the idea that your very existence gives you reason to think that there are many observers. In contrast to earlier refutation attempts that use this strategy, Olum confronts and try to counter some of the objections that have been made against SIA. We argue that his defense of SIA is unsuccessful. This does not, however, mean that one has (...) to accept the Doomsday argument (or the other counterintuitive results that flow from related thought experiments). A developed theory of observation selection effects shows why the Doomsday argument is inconclusive and how one can consistently reject both it and SIA. (shrink)
Recent discussions of theorigins of the thermodynamical temporal asymmetry (thearrow of time) by Huw Price and others arecritically assessed. This serves as amotivation for consideration of relationshipbetween thermodynamical and cosmologicalcauses. Although the project of clarificationof the thermodynamical explanandum is certainlywelcome, Price excludes another interestingoption, at least as viable as the sort ofAcausal-Particular approach he favors, andarguably more in the spirit of Boltzmannhimself. Thus, the competition of explanatoryprojects includes three horses, not two. Inaddition, it is the Acausal-Particular approachthat could benefit enormously (...) from dissociationfrom fanciful ideas of low-entropy futureboundary conditions entertained by Price. Novelrevolutionary developments in observationalcosmology, as well as in the nascentastrophysical discipline of physicaleschatology, have obliterated such hypotheses.Also, the Acausal-Anthropic approach wepropose, offers another clear instance ofdisteleological nature of the anthropicprinciple. (shrink)