I review at a non-technical level the use of the gauge-string duality to study aspects of heavy ion collisions, with special emphasis on the trailing string calculation of heavy quark energy loss. I include some brief speculations on how variants of the trailing string construction could provide a toy model of black hole formation and evaporation. This essay is an invited contribution to “Forty Years of String Theory” and is aimed at philosophers and historians of science as well as physicists.
This paper takes a philosophical look at how the views of Gilbert Ryle and Kwasi Wiredu can be used to resolving the mind-body problem located in Rene Descartes’ philosophy. The common sense account of the mind-body theory was first systematically carried out by Descartes. To him, mind and body do not only exist, they also interact. Through his notion of clear and distinct ideas, Descartes infers the existence of the mind as a thinking substance. Unlike the mind, whose character is (...) thought, the body for Descartes is an extended thing. He insists that the point of interaction is the pineal grand, which God has worked out from the point of creation. Today, the view that body and mind interact has generated some controversies. Ryle argues that Descartes has made a category mistake by interpreting mind as a distinct substance. For Wiredu, in Akan thought system, mind does not go to constitute a person. Thus Ryle and Wiredu tend toward materialism when they argue that the source of consciousness is the brain, rather than the mind. This paper explores the claims of these philosophers: Descartes, Ryle and Wiredu. I stress that Ryle and Wiredu’s views do not resolve the Cartesian problem. The paper concludes that unless the problem of the source of consciousness is tackled, the mind-body problem cannot be adequately resolved. (shrink)
This essay examines Czech philosopher Jan Patočka’s phenomenology as a philosophy of freedom. It shows how Patočka’s phenomenological conceptof worldliness, initially cast within a largely philosophical framework as the domain of human action and transcendence, turned toward a philosophical history of the modern age, viewed as increasingly post-European. Patočka hoped for the moral renewal of a fallen modernity, led first by non-Europeans after the era of decolonization and then by a “solidarity of the shaken” during the dark 1970s of Czechoslovak (...) normalization. The essay starts and concludes by considering the relation between his thought and his dissidence, a link that is more tenuous and indirect than some commentators suggest. (shrink)
The portrayal of novel neurotechnologies in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report serves to inoculate viewers from important moral considerations that are displaced by the film’s somewhat singular emphasis on the question of how to reintroduce freedom of choice into an otherwise technology driven world. This sets up a crisis mentality and presents a false dilemma regarding the appropriate use, and regulation, of neurotechnologies. On the one hand, it seems that centralized power is required to both control and effectively implement such (...) technologies and, on the other hand, individual heroic resistance is required to protect citizens from the invasions of personal privacy and state control made possible through neurotechnologies. While Minority Report, as a dystopic vision of emergent neurotechnologies, engages surface ethical issues it risks cheapening them through its rather simplistic, dichotomous analysis. Most conspicuously absent from this approach is a sense of the social matrices that work to circumscribe or augment expressions of human freedom, privacy, control and power that are all implicated in our engagement with novel neurotechnologies. Were Minority Report unique in this respect it would have little interest, but we think this type of cheapening of ethical discourse about novel technologies is common. Because science fiction film informs the social imaginary in which ethical considerations and ultimately policy decisions take place, such cheapening risks subverting pervasive and tangible ethical issues by focusing on the sensationalistic and simplistic. (shrink)
Steven Pinker's "Enlightenment NOW" is in many ways a terrific book, from which I have learnt much. But it is also deeply flawed. Science and reason are at the heart of the book, but the conceptions that Steven Pinker defends are damagingly irrational. And these defective conceptions of science and reason, as a result of being associated with the Enlightenment Programme for the past two or three centuries, have been responsible, in part, for the genesis of the global (...) problems we now suffer from, and our current inability to deal with them properly. There is not a glimmering of an awareness of any of this in Pinker’s book. This flaw in Enlightenment NOW is serious indeed. (shrink)
Review of: R. Steven Turner, In the Eye's Mind: Vision and the Helmholtz-Hering Controversy. xiv + 338 pp., frontis., illus., figs., tables, bibl., index. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.
Steven French and Décio Krause have written what bids fair to be, for years to come, the definitive philosophical treatment of the problem of the individuality of elementary particles in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. The book begins with a long and dense argument for the view that elementary particles are most helpfully regarded as non-individuals, and it concludes with an earnest attempt to develop a formal apparatus for describing such non-individual entities better suited to the task than (...) our customary set theory. Along the way one is treated to a compendious philosophical history of quantum statistics and a well-nigh exhaustive (I’m tempted to say, “exhausting”) analytical history of philosophical responses to the quantum theory’s prima facie challenge to classical notions of particle individuality. The book is also a salvo from the headquarters artillery company of the “pro” side in the contemporary structuralism wars, and an essay in metaphysical naturalism. Whew! There are too many places where the friendly critic wants to engage the argument, and few where the authors have not already anticipated such engagement. I take this as my excuse, then, for offering not any systematic response to the whole project, but just some questions and observations about several points that caught my attention. (shrink)
The significance of historical advances in human development has been widely debated within cognitive science. Steven Mithen's recent book, The prehistory of mind (London: Thames & Hudson, 1996), presents an archeologist's attempt to explain the details of cognitive development within the framework of modern anthropology and cognitive psychology. We argue that Mithen's attempt fails for a number of different reasons. The relationship between the archeological evidence he considers and his conclusions is problematic. We maintain that it is difficult to (...) draw biological conclusions from strictly behavioral artifactual evidence. To buttress his claims, Mithen borrows heavily from the very cognitive science literature to which he hopes to contribute. As a consequence, his analysis of the archeological evidence cannot promote a particular cognitive theory, since his interpretation is only as strong as those theories from which he borrows. We are also concerned that the specific details of Mithen's program are equally problematic. Mithen's claim that modular intelligences did not exist outside of hominid evolution is likely false and unwarranted. As a consequence, we argue that the central component of his claim that the uniquely human feature of our development, the move from modular to fluid minds, depends on poorly defined distinctions between a wide range of mental processes. Whether we can accept Mithen's characterization of these claims will depend, we argue, on how he chooses to clarify these terms. We suggest that the various choices will be difficult to reconcile with his theory. Moreover, we suggest that the phenomena that Mithen hopes to explain in human development cannot be explained strictly in terms of analogical reasoning. We nevertheless find Mithen's attempt at answering these questions to be both a constructive and fascinating foray into what is an under-explored topic. (shrink)
The paper analyzes the ways in which Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising and Steven Spielberg’s Duel draw on and challenge selected road movie conventions by adhering to the genre’s traditional reliance on cultural critique revolving around the themes of rebellion, transgression and roguery. In particular, the films seem to confront the classic road movie format through their adoption of nomadic narrative structure and engagement in a mockery of subversion where the focus on social critique is intertwined with a deep sense (...) of alienation and existential loss “laden with psychological confusion and wayward angst”. Following this trend, Spielberg’s film simultaneously depoliticizes the genre and maintains the tension between rebellion and tradition where the former shifts away from the conflict with conformist society to masculine anxiety, represented by middle class, bourgeois and capitalist values, the protagonist’s loss of innocence in the film’s finale, and the act of roguery itself. Meanwhile, Anger’s poetic take on the outlaw biker culture, burgeoning homosexuality, myth and ritual, and violence and death culture approaches the question of roguery by undermining the image of a dominant hypermasculinity with an ironic commentary on sacrilegious and sadomasochistic practices and initiation rites in the gay community. Moreover, both Duel’s demonization of the truck, seen as “an indictment of machines” or the mechanization of life, and Scorpio Rising’s eroticization of a motorcycle posit elements of social critique, disobedience and nonconformity within a cynical and existential framework, hence merging the road movie’s traditional discourse with auteurism and modernism. (shrink)
Pragmatism’s star in the field of rhetorical studies continues to rise, with more and more scholars mining the depths of figures such as Dewey, James, Addams, and beyond for rhetorically useful material. Part of the challenge comes from the complex historical context that such thinkers are embedded in; another challenge stems from pragmatism’s own commitment to praxis over the production of abstract—and all too often academic—theories divorced from the historical-material conditions of their emergence. Often, its best thinkers are those who (...) both engage in political practice and guide criticism instead of those who exclusively write scholarly books removed from the world of praxis. Steven Mailloux is one of the... (shrink)
Steven Pinker's How the mind works (HTMW) marks in my opinion an historic point in the history of humankind's attempt to understand itself. Socrates delivered his "know thyself" imperative rather long ago, and now, finally, in this behemoth of a book, published at the dawn of a new millennium, Pinker steps up to have psychology tell us what we are: computers crafted by evolution - end of story; mystery solved; and the poor philosophers, having never managed to obey Socrates' (...) command, are left alone to wander in the labyrinth of their benighted speculation forever. Unfortunately, though HTMW is to this point the crowning attempt of psychology to make systematic sense of persons by integrating everything relevant science knows, the book fails - and it fails so fundamentally and irremediably that we would do well to wonder anew whether we should supplant the basic view it promotes with what I call the super-mind hypothesis: the view that though mere animals are evolved computers, persons are more. (shrink)
Aspects of an example of simulated shared subjectivity can be used both to support Steven Lehar's remarks on embodied percipients and to triangulate in a novel way the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness which Lehar wishes to “sidestep,” but which, given his other contentions regarding emergent holism, raises questions about whether he has been able or willing to do so.
First, I briefly recapitulate the main points of Rosen’s article, namely, that the word “Being” does not adequately signify the paradoxical unification of subject and object and that the Klein bottle can serve as a more appropriate sign -vehicle than the word. I then propose to apply his insight more widely; however, in order to do that, it is first necessary to identify infra- and exostructures of language, including culture, category structure, logic, metaphor, semantics, syntax, concept, and sign vehicles, that (...) preserve the status quo and keep subject and object disjunct. After analyzing those infra/exostructures, I engage a complementary process of integrating them, coagula, in order to spark ideas for innovating ways in which more of those facets of language can embrace paradox. (shrink)
The prisoner 's dilemma game has acquired large literatures in several disciplines. It is surprising, therefore, that a good definition of the game is hard to find. Typically an author relates a story about captured criminals or military rivals, provides a particular payoff matrix and asserts that the PD is characterized, or illustrated, by that matrix. In the few cases in which characterizing conditions are given, the conditions, and the motivations for them, do not always agree with each other or (...) with the paradigm examples elsewhere. In this paper we describe several varieties of PD's. In particular, we suggest there are two distinctions among PD's with philosophical significance, the pure/impure and the utilitarian/nonutilitarian distinctions. In the first section, we explain and characterize the two distinctions. In the second, we discuss an issue of moral philosophy that illustrates the significance of the former. (shrink)
After more than a decade of reflection on obedience experiments based on a laboratory model of his own design, the social psychologist Stanley Milgram is clearly confident that the experimental results make a substantial and striking contribution towards understanding human nature: Something … dangerous is revealed: the capacity for man to abandon his humanity, indeed, the inevitability that he does so, as he merges his unique personality into larger institutional structures.
Steven Cahn posed a puzzle in this issue of the APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, asking whether philosophy professors are morally obliged to reason students out of presumably irrational religious beliefs, by analogy with a hypothetical case in which a young person has been led to believe she has a magnanimous uncle who she never met but who has the wherewithal to watch over her life from afar and protect her. I responded in a nuanced manner, but basically emphasizing (...) that we have an obligation to teach students to reason, not what particular premises or conclusions to accept. (shrink)
In order to fully understand the ethical, cultural, and political debate that moves around the papillomavirus vaccine, a bit of attention has to be paid to its history.In 2006 the first advertisements for Gardasil, the commercial name of the vaccine, started to appear in the United States. Merck pharmaceutical was the main dealer. Their “One Less” campaign was characterized by adolescent girls staring into the camera and saying, “I’m one less,” declaring their intention to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, (...) and to be one less victim of cervical cancer; all it would take was three injections over six months. A few months after the appearance of the advertisement, the HPV matter took another turn when Texas Governor Rick Perry decided to issue an executive order mandating vaccination of all sixth-grade girls in the state. Texas, a state with a conservative political culture and well-organized anti-vaccination movement, bypassed the legislature, overturned Perry’s order .. (shrink)
Stephen Rose's formulation of evolutionary theory is too scattered and impressionistic to serve as a genuine alternative to ultra- Darwinism. In addition, he has muddied a distinction that is crucial to our understanding of evolutionary phenomenona – the distinction between homologies and homoplasies.
This is a collection of 13 essays honoring Steven Cahn, presented to him on the occasion of his 25th year as Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York. The essays address issues concerning the teaching of philosophy, the responsibilities of professors, and the good life.
Whilst the ‘local culture’ of experimental natural philosophy in seventeenth-century England drew on ‘resources’ supplied by the gentlemanly identity of men like Robert Boyle, this culture found much of its distinctiveness in a series of exclusions having to do with faith, gender and class. My concern in this essay is less with these exclusions, and the distinctions they enabled, than with their surreptitious returns. Following from this, as a heuristic strategy, I will try to understand how Boyle and Co. used (...) and reacted to, repressed and cathected, that which they sought to exclude. By charting the movements of exile and return across the contested frontiers of class, gender and faith, truth and lies, authenticity and performance, we can, I believe, fruitfully complicate our understandings of both the social history of truth, and the social history of our ‘post-truth’ predicament. (shrink)