Barbara Maria Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In _Echo Objects,_ she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought. As a result, _Echo Objects_ (...) is a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. In contrast, she shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums such as the human urge to imitate and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. “Heroic.... The larger message of Stafford’s intense, propulsive prose is unassailable. If we are to get much further in the great puzzle of ‘binding’—how the perception of an image, the will to act on intention, or the forging of consciousness is assembled from the tens of thousands of neurons firing at any one moment in time—then there needs to be action on all fronts.”—_Science_. (shrink)
Barbara Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought. This, then, is a book for (...) both sides of the aisle, a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. On the other hand, she compellingly shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums as old and deep-seated as the human urge to imitate, the mapping of inner space, and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation. As precise in her discussions of firing neurons as she is about the coordinating dynamics of image making, Stafford locates these major transdisciplinary issues at the intersection of art, science, philosophy, and technology. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation. (shrink)
Barbara Stafford is a pioneering art historian whose research has long helped to bridge the divide between the humanities and cognitive sciences. In _A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field_, she marshals a distinguished group of thinkers to forge a ground-breaking dialogue between the emerging brain sciences, the liberal arts, and social sciences. Stafford’s book examines meaning and mental function from this dual experimental perspective. The wide-ranging essays included here—from Frank Echenhofer’s foray into shamanist hallucinogenic visions to David (...) Bashwiner’s analysis of emotion and danceability—develop a common language for implementing programmatic and institutional change. Demonstrating how formerly divided fields are converging around shared issues, _A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field _maps a high-level, crossdisciplinary adventure from one of our leading figures in visual studies. (shrink)
In this panel six IS researchers from varying backgrounds will discuss whether epistemological anarchy, as proposed by the controversial philosopher Paul Feyerabend, has the potential to foster research progress and can help to create new insights in the IS field. Feyerabend is well known for his notion that "anything goes" in terms of methodology, and many scholars are concerned that this seemingly anarchistic sentiment can undermine efforts to systematically build and structure an epistemological and methodological foundation for an academic discipline. (...) This panel, which will be moderated by Horst Treiblmaier, includes as panelists Andrew Burton-Jones, Shirley Gregor, Rudy Hirschheim, Michael Myers, and Tom Stafford. The outcome of this discussion will be incorporated into a paper published in the DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems. (shrink)
Piéron's Law describes the relationship between stimulus intensity and reaction time. Previously (Stafford & Gurney, 2004), we have shown that Piéron's Law is a necessary consequence of rise-to-threshold decision making and thus will arise from optimal simple decision-making algorithms (e.g., Bogacz, Brown, Moehlis, Holmes, & Cohen, 2006). Here, we manipulate the color saturation of a Stroop stimulus. Our results show that Piéron's Law holds for color intensity and color-naming reaction time, extending the domain of this law, in line with (...) our suggestion of the generality of the processes that can give rise to Piéron's Law. In addition, we find that Stroop condition does not interact with the effect of color saturation; Stroop interference and facilitation remain constant at all levels of color saturation. An analysis demonstrates that this result cannot be accounted for by single-stage decision-making algorithms which combine all the evidence pertaining to a decision into a common metric. This shows that human decision making is not information-optimal and suggests that the generalization of current models of simple perceptual decision making to more complex decisions is not straightforward. (shrink)
Clear, concise and authoritative, Professor Stafford summarises and discusses five key works of one of England's greatest nineteenth-century thinkers: Mill's autobiography, Considerations on representative government, On liberty, The subjection of women and utilitarianism. Every year students of a variety of disciplines, political thought, history, literature, must rapidly acquire a basic understanding of some of Mill's principal ideas, their historical importance and continuing significance. This original work will be an invaluable companion.
Intellectual virtues are an integral part of adequate environmental virtue ethics; these virtues are distinct from moral virtues. Including intellectual virtues in environmental virtue ethics produces a more fine-grained account of the forces involved in environmental exploration, appreciation, and decision making than has been given to date. Intellectual virtues are character traits that regulate cognitive activity in support of the acquisition and application of knowledge. They are virtues because they further the human quest for knowledge and true belief; possessing these (...) traits improves us epistemically. Five intellectual virtues illustrate the nature and relevance of intellectual virtues to environmental ethics: thoroughness, temporal/structural sensitivity, flexibility, intellectual trust, and humility. While these virtues share many features of the moral virtues, there are differences between them that have practical implications and give sound reasons for considering these two types as distinct kinds. Intellectual virtues bear a structural relation to knowledge that moral virtues do not, and it is this epistemological stamp that sets them apart. Additionally, the two types of virtue can be possessed independently of one another. Ideally, intellectual virtues will combine with moral virtues such as respect, compassion, and humility to facilitate environmentally respectful behavior. The moral and intellectual virtues are thus importantly distinct and mutually reinforcing. Both should be present in a truly excellent human being, and both have a role to play in fully developed environmental virtue ethics. (shrink)
This paper argues that Heidegger's phenomenology of boredom in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (1983) could be a promising addition to the ‘toolbox’ of scientists investigating conscious experience. We describe Heidegger's methodological principles and show how he applies these in describing three forms of boredom. Each form is shown to have two structural moments – being held in limbo and being left empty – as well as a characteristic relation to passing the time. In our conclusion, we (...) suggest specific ways in which Heidegger's phenomenological description can be used in scientific investigations of boredom. (shrink)
There are now many important contributions to the scientific study of the brain-mind continuum. These results come both from research into non-ordinary states of consciousness and into the brain's intrinsic, largely unconscious mechanisms. The larger potential of such investigations consists precisely in making the parameters of our cognitive system apparent. But they also reveal the socio-cultural uses to which these parameters are currently, or in the foreseeable future, being applied. This article wrestles with that fact. Specifically, it examines the implications (...) for those of us interested in the dynamics of visual awareness and the structural and phenomenological aspects of noticing. Because some of the key characteristics of consciousness are so ingrained that we are usually blind to them, it is all the more important to understand how and why we pay attention to certain features of our environment. Subjective consciousness pertains to the realm of inner experience as well as focusing on the external world. What Daniel Dennett terms `intentionality' or directedness towards an object is a sign of our connectedness to the outside world. Beyond connection, I am interested in how complex works of art help us cognize, confer reality, or have knowledge of what lies before our eyes. I will argue that this calibration of the agent's experience and her perception of the world is under threat today. (shrink)
In his book SEXUAL DESIRE, Roger Scruton wrongly maintains that human sexual experience is essential intentional. His thesis depends on his highly revisionary definition of 'sexual desire', the artificial nature of which I expose and criticise. He admits that homosexual desire is capable of the same kind of intentionality as heterosexual desire, and is therefore not intrinsically obscene or perverted, but he advances reasons why homosexuality is morally different from heterosexuality and is therefore an object of disapproval. His arguments presuppose (...) 'an impassable moral divide' between the sexes, and are, on his own admission, not very cogent. Since he allows that homosexual desire is a natural and spontaneous phenomenon and also proposes that moral education should guide us towards a state in which our sexuality is entirely integrated within a life of personal affection and responsibility, consistency requires that he adopt a sexual ideology which does not discriminate against homosexuality. For homosexuals are unlikely to achieve the 'sexual integrity' which Scruton advocates (and which I endorse) if they are constantly encouraged to disparage their own sexual nature and if social institutions make no positive provision for them. (shrink)
Another striking deviation with regard to philosophical tradition consists in the fact that contemporary schools in the philosophy of mathematics, with the exception again of Brouwer's intuitionism, hardly ever refer to mathematical thought.
Hume's essay ‘Of Luxury’ criticizes two extreme and contrasting doctrines: that luxury is always beneficial to society and that it is always baneful. Hume identifies the exponent of the first proposition as Bernard Mandeville in his book The Fable of the Bees, but does not name the second target of his essay. It is most probably John Dennis, one of Mandeville's contemporary critics. The evidence for this is that Hume challenges and contradicts three clearly defined theses advanced in Dennis's book (...) Vice and Luxury Publick Mischiefs. (shrink)
La recherche récente autour du culte d’Héraclès tend à rejeter l’idée que les ambiguïtés mythiques du personnage se reflétaient dans le rituel. Cet article reprend la question, à la lumière d’études plus larges sur la prétendue opposition « ouranien/chthonien » dans la pratique religieuse des Grecs. Des éléments inhabituels apparaissent à coup sûr dans certains rituels pour Héraklès. En particulier, certains cas de sacrifices mixtes, impliquant la destruction partielle d’une victime, ou l’holocauste de petites victimes à côté d’un sacrifice régulier (...) sont attestés à Sicyone, à Thasos, à Milet et à Cos. À Athènes, la particularité tient plutôt à la forme des sanctuaires d’Héraklès, avec l’édifice à quatre colonnes, très discuté. Un autel primitif est également attesté parfois, ce qui n’a pas reçu beaucoup d’attention. La figure d’Héraklès comme heros theos livre au moins une possibilité d’explication pour tous ces éléments, et il ne faut pas en évacuer trop vite la portée.Herakles: the problem of the heros-theos yet again. Recent scholarship on the cult of Herakles has tended to argue against the idea that the ambiguities of his mythological character were reflected in ritual. This paper re-examines the case, in the light of broader studies of the supposed Olympian-chthonian opposition in Greek religious practice. Unusual elements can certainly be seen in Herakles’ ritual in a number of locations: in particular, various kinds of mixed sacrifice, involving partial destruction of a victim, or holocaust of a small victim alongside a regular sacrifice, are attested at Sicyon, Thasos, Miletos and Kos. At Athens the unusual feature is rather the form of Herakles’ sanctuaries, with their much-discussed four-column shrines; a primitive altar is also occasionally attested, which has not previously received much scholarly notice. Herakles’ character as heros theos provides at least a possible explanation for all of these elements, and we should not be too hasty to dismiss its significance. (shrink)
Unrecognized presuppositions about patient appearance have become increasingly important in medicine, medical ethics and medical law. Symptoms of these historically conditioned assumptions include common ageism, aesthetic surgery, and litigation about ‘wrongful life’. These phenomena suggest a societal intolerance for what is considered an ‘abnormal’ appearance. Among others, eighteenth-century artists and anatomists helped to set these twentieth-century precedents, actually measuring deviations of external traits to analogous deformations of the soul, and drawing moral conclusions from physiognomic measurements. Other eighteenth-century artists countered with (...) pathognomy, recognizing that uneven physical features may indicate humanity, instead of character flaws. We suggest that there is an important and as yet unrecognized role played by visual and perceptual preferences in our judgments concerning normalcy and anomaly. We further suggest a shift away from our current fashion-magazine, youth-oriented aesthetic, and towards an aesthetic of imperfection. Physicians and medical students can be made aware of their historically conditioned reactions to ‘abnormal’ appearing patients by studying the understandings and methods with which artists have portrayed those who are considered deformed in appearance. (shrink)