Archive for March 6th, 2013

March 6, 2013

How we confuse ourselves with words

by Neil Rickert

Quoting from a recent Yahoo groups post:

There is some phenom, X, that gets called “consciousness.”

Is there such a phenomenon?

A rainbow is a phenomenon.  The aurora borealis is a phenomenon.  A waterfall is a phenomenon.  But is consciousness a phenomenon?

Typically, we use the word “phenomenon” for something that we can observe.  A doctor observes his patient, and reports that the patient is conscious.  So, yes, there’s something that can be observed.  And if that’s what we mean by “consciousness”, then it is fair to call that a phenomenon.

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March 6, 2013

Turning philosophy upside down

by Neil Rickert

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, but it is a hard one to address.  As luck would have it, there’s a recent post at the New York Times site by Paul Horwich, which might help (h/t Sean Wilson):

As part of that post, Horwich gives the following as an account of what philosophy is about:

Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on — and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

That seems about right, in the sense that it fits much of what is published by academic philosophers.

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