Consciousness Isn’t What Makes Humans Special | An Octopus Research

[Octopuses can squirt water at an annoyingly bright bulb until it short-circuits. They can tell humans apart (even those who are wearing the same uniform). And, according to Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosophy professor at University of Sydney and City University of New York, they are the closest creature to an alien here on earth.

There’s no clear way of evaluating consciousness in other animals (or in other humans, for that matter—it’s quite possible that you’re the only conscious being alive and everyone you know is merely displaying signs of consciousness rather than truly experiencing it). But we can certainly make educated guesses. Broadly speaking, consciousness is often defined as there being an experience of what it’s like to be said creature.

Octopuses display signs of curiosity, and Godfrey-Smith believes it’s extremely likely that they’re conscious beings. “I think the exploratory behaviors, the fact that they attend to things, they have good eyes, they evaluate, are little bits of good evidence that there’s something it’s like to be an octopus.”]

Octopus research shows that consciousness isn’t what makes humans special


Free Will | Daniel Dennett and the Predicament of Philosophers

[Dennett has consistently resisted the crude extension of scientific thinking into areas where it does not belong. Nowhere is this more evident than in the issue of free will, which he describes in the book as “the most difficult and the most important philosophical problem confronting us today”.

“It’s important because of the longstanding tradition that free will is a prerequisite for moral responsibility,” he says. “Our system of law and order, of punishment, and praise and blame, promise keeping, promise making, the law of contracts, criminal law – all of this depends on one notion or another of free will. And then you have neuroscientists, physicists and philosophers saying that ‘science has shown us that free will is an illusion’ and then not shrinking from the implication that our systems of law are built on foundations of sand.”

Dennett argues: “There is nothing we have learned from neuroscience that undercuts the foundation for both the law of contract and criminal law.” It is true that we do not have “ultimate responsibility” because our choices are always in some ways the result of things we didn’t choose, such as our core personalities and the values we have absorbed from our society and families. But we have enough self-control to make sense of the difference between the psychopath and the criminal murder, the person who murders unwittingly in a sleepwalk and the cold-blooded killer….

… He may not be crudely scientific, but it is true that these days Dennett spends more time around scientists than other philosophers. “I find the discoveries in those fields mind candy, just delicious,” he says. “If I go to a scientific conference I come away with a bunch of new things to think about. If I go to a philosophy conference I may come away just having learned four more wrinkles in the debate about something philosophers have been thinking about for all my life.”

But Dennett also maintains that we need philosophy to protect us from scientific overreach. “The history of philosophy is the history of very tempting mistakes made by very smart people, and if you don’t learn that history you’ll make those mistakes again and again and again. One of the ignoble joys of my life is watching very smart scientists just reinvent all the second-rate philosophical ideas because they’re very tempting until you pause, take a deep breath and take them apart.”

Ridicule and misrepresentation are in some sense an occupational hazard for the philosopher. “The best philosophers are always walking a tightrope where one misstep either side is just nonsense,” he says. “That’s why caricatures are too easy to be worth doing. You can make any philosopher – any, Aristotle, Kant, you name it – look like a complete flaming idiot with just a slightest little tweak…”]

Read the full article here | THE GUARDIAN

The Telegraph Hay Festival

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On Demand Economy; Access More Desired than Ownership; Transformation of Subjectivity | Shots of Awe

When Racism is Condemned Only When it is Blatant and Impossible to Defend | The Case of Sigma Alpha Epsilon

[Racist songs about lynching are shameful, and it’s disheartening that people alive in 2015 think they’re fun and appear to be thrilled with their underlying sentiments.

But it’s important to remember that things like this don’t represent the kinds of racism that make life hard for African-Americans on a daily basis. The much more common issues faced by colleges students and people of color all throughout America have to do with structural inequality — which is maintained through deeply held prejudices against black people. Hateful tunes sung on buses by probably drunken frat boys reflect this prejudice, but they certainly don’t cause it. And although the SAE members deserved the discipline they got, individual punishments certainly don’t fix America’s racism problem.]

Read the full article | VOX


The Rise And Fall of Ken Wilber

[Ken Wilber is the smartest man you’ve never heard of. He’s a philosopher and mystic whose work attempts to integrate all fields of study into one single model or framework of understanding.

As humans, we have a tendency to cling to ideologies. Any positive set of beliefs can quickly turn malevolent once treated as ideology and not an honest intellectual or experiential pursuit of greater truth. Ideology does in entire economic systems and countries, causes religions to massacre thousands, turns human rights movements into authoritarian sects and makes fools out of humanity’s most brilliant minds. Einstein famously wasted the second half of his career trying to calculate a cosmological constant that didn’t exist because “God doesn’t play dice.”]       Read the full article | MARK MANSON blog


Language as Ideological, Political Tool, and Agent of Omission

[The New York Times’ coverage of a new report on lynchings in American history in a piece published today failed to mention the race of the people who were responsible for these acts.

The report, released by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, chronicles in painstaking detail, the “racial terror lynchings” of black people by white people that took place the South between 1877 and 1950.

But when it comes to those details, the Times’ coverage leaves out one key word: “white”  — and readers have noticed.

It is no secret that black Americans were the victims and white Americans were the perpetrators and supporters of lynchings, and most people reading this most likely understands this context. After all, it’s not as if these were random crimes. Rather, they played a central role in maintaining white supremacy. The report itself says, “some ‘public spectacle lynchings ‘were attended by the entire white community and conducted as celebratory acts of racial control and domination.”

Yet, as critics have pointed out, the only time “white” was used in the article was to describe the women and girls the black men who were lynched were accused of killing or assaulting.

The mainstream media has become comfortable — especially during Black History Month —  talking about the various ways black people have been oppressed throughout America’s history. But if we don’t become more comfortable being explicit about the racial identity of the people doing the oppressing, we’re failing to tell the whole story.]  Read the full article | VOX


African American women were lynched too. As little known to people as it is, over 200 Black women and girls were lynched in the USA. Photo source:


Michael Donald (July 24, 1961 – March 20, 1981) was a young African American man who was murdered by two KKK members in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981. The murder is sometimes referred to as the last recorded lynching in the United States. Photo source:

The Self is Moral

[So we’ve been thinking about the problem precisely backwards. It’s not that identity is centered around morality. It’s that morality necessitates the concept of identity, breathes life into it, provides its raison d’être…….

The lesson of the identity detector is this: when we dig deep, beneath our memory traces and career ambitions and favourite authors and small talk, we find a constellation of moral capacities.]

Read the full article here: The Self is Moral | Nina Strohminger for AEON