Archive for June, 2013

June 30, 2013

DOMA ruled unconstitutional; therefore evolution is false

by Neil Rickert

Well, okay, Cornelius Hunter did not say what is in my title.  However, he did manage to find a way of connecting the DOMA decision with evolution.  I suggest you  take a look at his post.

I’m sure Hunter was quite serious.  However, I cannot help but laugh at it.

Posted as humor.


June 28, 2013

Consciousness 5: Emergence

by Neil Rickert

It should be evident from this series of posts, that I take consciousness as emergent from the way that the neural system works.  It is not enough to simple say “emergence” and treat it as if magical.  I do not consider it at all magical.  Rather, I see it as consistent with the principles that I outlined in an earlier post, “A semantic conception of mind.”

My view is that the way the brain works is simple in principle, but complex in detail.  So I see it as pretty much certain that consciousness would evolve, though the kind of consciousness that emerges might not be identical to human consciousness.  So I see all mammals as being conscious, with perhaps their consciousness being somewhat similar to ours, though lacking the enrichment that language gives us.  Other complex creatures such as an octopus or a bee are surely conscious in some way or another, but it is a little hard for us to imagine how they would experience that consciousness.

So why is there a “hard problem” of consciousness?  This is because people are looking at it in the wrong way.  They are trying to understand how to design consciousness, instead of trying to understand how it would evolve.  To me, it seems very unlikely that a designed robotic system could ever lead to consciousness.  I expect our designed robots to all be zombies.

This brief posts completes my series on consciousness.  I will continue to post on other topics, such as knowledge and perception, that are related to consciousness.  I realize that many will find my series unsatisfactory, in that it failed to explain to them what they wanted explained.  Philosophy seems to be dominated by a kind of design thinking, and an explanation of consciousness does not fit with design thinking.

June 26, 2013

On DOMA and Prop 8

by Neil Rickert

Today’s court decisions are about what I had expected.  While not as decisive as some would like, they are indicators of a change in direction.  I mostly want to offer my compliments to the LGBT folk who have been pushing these issues.  They have done it well and effectively.

I’ll compare this to the Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion.  I liked that decision, in that I supported the idea of choice.  But, at the time, I thought it was a bad court decision.  The trouble with Roe v. Wade, was that it broke with the public consensus, and brought about a desirable change before the public had sufficiently discussed it and thought it through.  That did not happen with DOMA and Prop 8.  This has been a grass roots campaign, extending over several decades, that has slowly won support with the public.  The supreme court was pretty much forced to make the decision that they did, because of this cultural sea change.  That the decision on the court was close, a 5-4 vote, only reminds us of how ideological the court has become.  The important change was the one that has occurred in the court of public opinion.  The supreme court has recognized that change, as the opinion written by Justice Kennedy made clear.

The opponents of this change won’t give up quickly.  They will continue the fight.  But the tide has turned against them, and they know it.

June 26, 2013

Back from vacation

by Neil Rickert

I didn’t actually go anywhere.  But there does seem to have been a hiatus in postings to this blog.  I needed a break.

June 2, 2013

Consciousness 4: Knowledge

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post in this series, I wrote:

In short, it is the problem of knowledge that needs to be explained, rather than the problem of experience.

So today I will begin discussing the question of knowledge.


My starting point is a kind of empiricism.  That is to say, I take the view that we acquire knowledge through experience.  Or, said differently, knowledge is not inherited.  The empiricism of John Locke seems in about the right direction, though of course Locke left much unexplained.  Locke talked about ideas, and I take that to be about the same as what we mean when we talk of concepts.  The question of knowledge, for Locke appears to be one of how we acquire our ideas or concepts.

By the time we get to Hume, the discussion has changed.  Empiricism, to Hume, seems to be a question of how we decide which statements are true.  Now that’s a huge change.  You cannot even have a statement until you have the necessary concepts.  So an account of how we decide which statements are true will fall far short of explaining how we acquire concepts.  My version of empiricism is closer to that of Locke than to that of Hume.

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