In one of its most urgent folds, Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible juxtaposes negative theology with relational theology for the sake of thinking constructively about today's global climate of religious conflict and ecological upheaval. The tension between these two theological approaches reflects her desire to unsay past harmful theological speech but also to speak into the present silences about the possibility of a future that is not only to be feared. Suffusing Keller's Cloud is the related possibility of living (...) out one's life in conversation with a religious tradition having accepted the nonknowing character of its wisdom. Here, I develop the notion of “hypothetical faith” as an epistemic posture that commits itself to some particular religious tradition even as it acknowledges the unverifiability of that tradition's deepest truths. Understood as operating at the opposite end of the testability spectrum from science, religion-as-hypothesis provides a way of saying and unsaying one's tradition at the same time. (shrink)
By definition zombies would be physically and behaviourally just like us, but not conscious. This currently very influential idea is a threat to all forms of physicalism, and has led some philosophers to give up physicalism and become dualists. It has also beguiled many physicalists, who feel forced to defend increasingly convoluted explanations of why the conceivability of zombies is compatible with their impossibility. Robert Kirk argues that the zombie idea depends on an incoherent view of the nature of (...) phenomenal consciousness.His book has two main aims. One is to demolish the zombie idea once and for all. There are plenty of objections to it in the literature, but they lack intuitive appeal. He offers a striking new argument which reveals fundamental confusions in the implied conception of consciousness. His other main contribution is to develop a fresh and original approach to the true nature of phenomenal consciousness. Kirk argues that a necessary condition is a 'basic package' of capacities. An important component of his argument is that the necessary cognitive capacities are not as sophisticated as is often assumed. By focusing on humbler creatures than ourselves he avoids some of the distracting complications of our sophisticated forms of cognition.The basic package does not seem to be sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. What is also needed is 'direct activity' - a special feature of the way the events which constitute incoming perceptual information affect the system. This is an integrated process, to be conceived of holistically, and contrasts sharply with what is often called the 'availability' or 'poisedness' of perceptual information.This original, penetrating, and highly readable book will be of interest to all who have a serious concern with the nature of consciousness: not only professional philosophers and students, but also many psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
Kirk’s aim in this book is to bridge what he calls “the intelligibility gap,” expressed in the question, “How could complex patterns of neural firing amount to this?”. He defends a position that he describes as “broadly functionalist,” which consists of several theses. I will briefly review them.
How are truths about physical and mental states related? Robert Kirk articulates and defends 'redescriptive physicalism'--a fresh approach to the connection between the physical and the mental, which answers the problems that mental causation has traditionally raised for other non-reductive views.
Our thoughts about the world are clearly influenced by such things as point of view, temperament, past experience and culture. However, some thinkers go much further and argue that everything that exists depends on us, arguing that 'even reality is relative'. Can we accept such a claim in the face of events such as floods and other natural disasters or events seemingly beyond our control? 'Realists' argue that reality is independent of out thinking. 'Relativists' disagree, arguing that what there is (...) depends on our point of view. Which is right? Robert Kirk provides a crystal clear account of this debate from the Greek philosophers to Wittgenstein and Rorty. Along the way, he unpacks some of the more complicated issues surrounding ideas of objectivity, subjectivity, pragmatism and realism essential for those beginning any study of philosphy. (shrink)
In the philosophy of mind, zombies often make an appearance. It seems we can conceive of zombies — beings physically exactly like ourselves but lacking conscious experience. There may not actually be any zombies, of course. But the suggestion that they could exist does at least seem to make sense. Or does it? Robert Kirk investigates.
Is truth ultimately made, not discovered? Is reality something we construct, by thinking about it? In this article, Robert Kirk gets to grips with the popular idea that truth and reality are, in the last analysis, our own invention.
This work provides a text and an extended study of those fragments of Heraclitus' philosophical utterances whose subject is the world as a whole rather than man and his part in it. Professor Kirk discusses fully the fragments which he finds genuine and treats in passing others that were generally accepted as genuine but here considered paraphrased or spurious. In securing his text, Professor Kirk has taken into account all the ancient testimonies, and in his critical work he (...) attached particular importance to the context in which each fragment is set. To each he gives a selective apparatus, a literal translation and and an extended commentary in which problems of textual and philosophical criticism are discussed. Ancient accounts of Heraclitus were inadequate and misleading, and as Kirk wrote, understanding was often hindered by excessive dogmatism and a selective use of the fragments. Professor Kirk's method is critical and objective, and his 1954 work marks a significant advance in the study of Presocratic thought. (shrink)
This succinct but illuminating book defends the free market, while criticizing a narrowly economistic understanding of man and society. Baldacchino argues that a sound economy has ethical and cultural prerequisites that are integral to its survival. Includes an introduction by Russell Kirk. _From the Introduction: _ “Any society’s moral order develops from its religion, its philosophy, its humane literature. The discipline of political economy, little understood until the latter half of the eighteenth century, is no independent creation: what economic (...) views one holds must depend upon one’s apprehension of human nature. An economic system indifferent to morality will not long endure. For proof of these theses, read with attention Baldacchino’s succinct study, the work of a sound scholar endowed with a philosophical habit of mind.”–_Russell Kirk_. (shrink)
Education, by B. H. Streeter.--Marriage, by K. E. Kirk.-- Patriotism, by J. P. R. Maud.--Social inequalities, by C. R. Morris.--Earning and spending, by R. L. Hall.--Gambling, by R. C. Mortimer.--Ethics and religion, by J. S. Bezzant.
Being well together, an inaugural Research Forum, will critically examine the myriad ways humans have formed partnerships with non-human species to improve health across time and place. Across the humanities and social sciences, a growing body of scholarship has begun to rethink the prominence of the ‘human’ in our accounts of the world by exploring the category less as an individualised essence and more as a temporal process of becoming. From this perspective, being human becomes a process of ‘becoming with’, (...) performed through interactions with non-human others. This paper introduces a diverse collection of studies, originally presented at a workshop held at the University of Manchester in 2018, which explored how emergent approaches within animal studies might productively and playfully engage with the medical humanities. In each case, human health and well-being is shown to rest on the cultivation of relationships with other species. Being well is rethought and remapped as a more than human process of being well together. Collectively, this research forum invites reflection on what the medical humanities might look like from a more than human perspective. (shrink)
How should we conceive of physicalism? Does it have to involve more than some kind of supervenience, or must it be reductionist or even eliminativist? Does it commit you to the psychophysical identity theory? Does it entail that all events are explicable in terms of physics? And what is to count as the physical—indeed, what is to count as physics? Jeffrey Poland offers well-argued answers to several of these questions, and a solidly constructed framework in terms of which we may (...) reasonably aim to answer the rest. His book is impressively systematic. He acknowledges debts to Post and to Hellman and Thompson, among others, but his conception of what physicalism should be is distinctive. I find it compelling. Anyone with an interest in physicalism, for or against, should read the book. (shrink)
Seeking a scientific basis for understanding and treating mental illness, and inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, American physiologists, psychiatrists and psychologists in the 1920s turned to nonhuman animals. This paper examines how new constructs such as “experimental neurosis” emerged as tools to enable psychiatric comparison across species. From 1923 to 1962, the Cornell “Behavior Farm” was a leading interdisciplinary research center pioneering novel techniques to experimentally study nonhuman psychopathology. Led by the psychobiologist Howard Liddell, work at the Behavior (...) Farm formed part of an ambitious program to develop new preventative and therapeutic techniques and bring psychiatry into closer relations with physiology and medicine. At the heart of Liddell’s activities were a range of nonhuman animals, including pigs, sheep, goats and dogs, each serving as a proxy for human patients. We examine how Pavlov’s conceptualization of ‘experimental neurosis’ was used by Liddell to facilitate comparison across species and communication between researchers and clinicians. Our close reading of his experimental system demonstrates how unexpected animal behaviors and emotions were transformed into experimental virtues. However, to successfully translate such behaviors from the animal laboratory into the field of human psychopathology, Liddell increasingly reached beyond, and, in effect, redefined, the Pavlovian method to make it compatible and compliant with an ethological approach to the animal laboratory. We show how the resultant Behavior Farm served as a productive “hybrid” place, containing elements of experiment and observation, laboratory and field. It was through the building of close and more naturalistic relationships with animals over extended periods of time, both normal and pathological, and within and outside of the experimental space, that Liddell could understand, manage, and make useful the myriad behavioral complexities that emerged from the life histories of experimental animals, the researchers who worked with them, and their shared relationships to the wider physical and social environments. (shrink)
Suppose P is the conjunction of all truths statable in the austere vocabulary of an ideal physics. Then phsicalists are likely to accept that any truths not included in P are different ways of talking about the reality specified by P. This ‘redescription thesis’ can be made clearer by means of the ‘strict implication thesis’, according to which inconsistency or incoherence are involved in denying the implication from P to interesting truths not included in it, such as truths about phenomenal (...) consciousness. Commitment to the strict implication thesis cannot be escaped by appeal to a posteriori necessary identities or entailments. A minimal physicalism formulated in terms of strict implication is preferable to one based on a priori entailment. (shrink)
It has been proposed that performance in the think – no think task represents a laboratory analogue of the voluntary form of memory repression. The central prediction of this repression hypothesis is that performance in the TNT task will be influenced by emotional characteristics of the material to be remembered. This prediction was tested in two experiments by asking participants to learn paired associates in which the first item was either emotionally positive or emotionally negative . The second word was (...) always emotionally neutral . Consistent with the repression hypothesis, significant memory suppression was observed in both experiments following ‘no think’ instructions for memories associated with emotionally negative material. No suppression was observed for memories associated with emotionally positive information. Implications of these findings for the relationship between performance in the TNT task and the controversial notion of memory repression are considered. (shrink)
In 1942 a coalition of twenty scientific societies formed the Conference on the Supply of Experimental Animals in an attempt to pressure the Medical Research Council to accept responsibility for the provision of standardised experimental animals in Britain. The practice of animal experimentation was subject to State regulation under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, but no provision existed for the provision of animals for experimental use. Consequently, day-to-day laboratory work was reliant on a commercial small animal market which (...) had emerged to sustain the hobby of animal fancying. This paper explores how difficulties encountered in experimental practice within the laboratory led to the problematisation of biomedical science’s reliance upon a commercial market for animals during the inter-war period. This is shown to have produced a crisis within animal reliant experimental science in the early 1940s which enabled the left-wing Association of Scientific Workers to cast science’s reliance on a free market as economically inefficient and a threat to the reliability of British research. It is argued that the development of standard experimental animals in Britain was, therefore, embedded within the wider cultural, societal, political and economic national context of the time. (shrink)
Increasing behavioural evidence suggests that expert video game players (VGPs) show enhanced visual attention and visuospatial abilities, but what underlies these enhancements remains unclear. We administered the Poffenberger paradigm with concurrent electroencephalogram (EEG) recording to assess occipital N1 latencies and interhemispheric transfer time (IHTT) in expert VGPs. Participants comprised 15 right-handed male expert VGPs and 16 non-VGP controls matched for age, handedness, IQ and years of education. Expert VGPs began playing before age 10, had a minimum 8 years experience, and (...) maintained playtime of at least 20 hours per week over the last 6 months. Non-VGPs had little-to-no game play experience (maximum 1.5 years). Participants responded to checkerboard stimuli presented to the left and right visual fields while 128-channel EEG was recorded. Expert VGPs responded significantly more quickly than non-VGPs. Expert VGPs also had significantly earlier occipital N1s in direct visual pathways (the hemisphere contralateral to the visual field in which the stimulus was presented). IHTT was calculated by comparing the latencies of occipital N1 components between hemispheres. No significant between-group differences in electrophysiological estimates of IHTT were found. Shorter N1 latencies may enable expert VGPs to discriminate attended visual stimuli significantly earlier than non-VGPs and contribute to faster responding in visual tasks. As successful video-game play requires precise, time pressured, bimanual motor movements in response to complex visual stimuli, which in this sample began during early childhood, these differences may reflect the experience and training involved during the development of video-game expertise, but training studies are needed to test this prediction. (shrink)
Beginning with a long and extensively rewritten introduction surveying the predecessors of the Presocratics, this book traces the intellectual revolution initiated by Thales in the sixth century BC to its culmination in the metaphysics of Parmenides and the complex physical theories of Anaxagoras and the Atomists in the fifth century it is based on a selection of some six hundred texts, in Greek and a close English translation which in this edition is given more prominence. These provide the basis for (...) a detailed critical study of the principal individual thinkers of the time. Besides serving as an essential text for undergraduate and graduate courses in Greek philosophy and in the history of science, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers with interests in philosophy, theology, the history of ideas and of the ancient world, and indeed to anyone who wants an authoritative account of the Presocratics. (shrink)
If zombies were conceivable in the sense relevant to the ‘conceivability argument’ against physicalism, a certain epiphenomenalistic conception of consciousness—the ‘e-qualia story’—would also be conceivable. But the e-qualia story is not conceivable because it involves a contradiction. The non-physical ‘e-qualia’ supposedly involved could not perform cognitive processing, which would therefore have to be performed by physical processes; and these could not put anyone into ‘epistemic contact’ with e-qualia, contrary to the e-qualia story. Interactionism does not enable zombists to escape these (...) conclusions. (shrink)