So his brain’s just squished (rather than only 10% there): A Bonsai Brain

I occasionally run into the story of a French civil servant with non-communicating hydrocephalus whose brain’s been 90% eaten away by cerebrospinal fluid over a period of 30 years. The idea is that, because it happened slowly, his brain’s plasticity… Continue Reading

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Laplace’s Demon Defeated by Human Consciousness

In his A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), Pierre-Simon Laplace describes a perfectly deterministic universe: We ought to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and as the cause of the state that… Continue Reading

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Uploading Minds to a Computer Need Not Imply Substance Dualism

I’ve recently stumbled across several dismissals of mind uploading (i.e., the installation of a person’s consciousness onto a computer) on the grounds that it implies substance dualism (i.e., the existence of a soul or disembodied mind or some such, as… Continue Reading

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Three Strange Results in Probability: Cognitive States and the Principle of Indifference (Monty Hall, Flipping Coins, and Factory Boxes)

Probability is known for its power to embarrass our intuitions. In most cases, math and careful observation bear out counterintuitive results. After many such experiences, one’s intuition improves (sometimes perhaps crossing into a kind of overcorrection—see the Optional Endnote for… Continue Reading

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Two-Child Problem (when one is a girl named Florida born on a Tuesday)

A classic probability riddle goes: A couple has two children, one of whom is a girl. What is the probability both children are girls? It’s usually credited to Martin Gardner who, in a 1959 issue of Scientific American, posed essentially this… Continue Reading

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Aesthetic Experience as Response to Stimuli (and Meaning) Rather Than to Mental Representations

I would like to briefly explore the question of whether our aesthetic experience is in response to mental representations per se or, rather, to the physical stimuli correlated with those mental representations (in which case, the stimuli are responsible—or are… Continue Reading

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Utilitarianism and Conscious Computers: An Unsettling Utopia?

Broadly speaking, utilitarianism is the view that right action is that which promotes the greater good. It has been revised, developed, and adapted into varying systems of thought over the last three hundred years or so. (For more on that,… Continue Reading

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The Magic of Meaning – (Words, Mental Causation, Experience, Mind-Brain, Behavior)

Several years ago, on a winter weekend afternoon, I received a call telling me that my mother had just been hit by a car. The details are hazy. I think the voice was that of a stranger using my mom’s… Continue Reading

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Nassim Taleb’s Fat Tony Example / And: Is it possible to flip 100 Heads in a row?

In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a fellow urban slow-walker, describes a scenario in which he poses the following question to two characters, the rational & educated Dr. John and the intuitive & streetwise Fat Tony: Assume that… Continue Reading

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Free Will Is (Mostly) Irrelevant

In this essay, I argue that the question of whether humans have free will need not be viewed as important, as it is largely irrelevant to whether one is living a good life, and is even mostly irrelevant to questions surrounding punishment and… Continue Reading

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