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)
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)
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)
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)
Context: Meeting Ernst von Glasersfeld for the first time in 1985, when about 70% of his work had still to be conceived, written and published, was a great stroke of fortune for me; it was based on my collaboration with Silvio Ceccato that had started in 1981 and it profoundly influenced my contributions to radical constructivism in the following 25 years of our friendship. Problem: Presenting the details of how it all began can shed a light on the development of (...) constructivist ideas. Method: Anecdotes from 1979 to 1985 about how I came to meet Silvio Ceccato in Milan in 1981 and the influence of these events on preparing the 1985 meeting with Ernst von Glasersfeld, also in Milan. Results: The article describes the timeline of 50 years of publications by von Glasersfeld, an anecdote about a connection between Ceccato and the University of Zurich in the 60s, the attempt to present Ceccato’s ideas as compatible and complementary with the neuroscience discourse in 1985, von Glasersfeld’s opinion about this attempt, and this attempt’s potential influence on the emergence of a new concept in neuroscience, “EEG microstates.” Implications: The events and facts reported in the article help us to understand some aspects of an early phase in the development of radical constructivism, especially the relationship between Ceccato, von Glasersfeld and other members of the Italian Operational School such as Bruna Zonta, Felice Accame, and the author himself. (shrink)