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Ep. 218: The Hard Problem of Consciousness (Chalmers, et al) (Part One)

On “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature” by David Chalmers (2003), with special guest Gregory Miller from the Panpsycast Philosophy Podcast.

Can we explain human experience using the terms of brain physiology? Chalmers thinks not, and lays out the arguments against this and the range of positions philosophers have taken in response to these objections. 

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Ep. 218: The Hard Problem of Consciousness (Chalmers, et al) (Part Two)

Continuing on “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature” by David Chalmers (2003).

We finish Chalmers’s account of the types of physicialism, then move on to dualism (including epiphenomenalism), and finally dally with panpsychism, the specialty of our guest, Gregory Miller from the Panpsycast.

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End song: “Georgia Hard” by Robbie Fulks, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #36.

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Ep. 219: The Harder Problem of Consciousness (Block & Papineau)

On Ned Block’s “The Harder Problem of Consciousness” (2002) and David Papineau’s “Could There Be a Science of Consciousness?” (2003).

What would give us sufficient reason to believe that a non-human was conscious? Block thinks this is a harder problem that we might suspect. We can’t know for sure exactly what consciousness in us is, so we can’t know for sure what such a being might require (a brain? certain patterns of behavior?) for them to be enough like us that we could safely apply our own experience of our own conscious states to them. Papineau diagnoses this as a fundamental vagueness in the concepts we use to describe our conscious states.

This conversation continues from ep. 218, with guest Gregory Miller from the Panpsycast still with us.

End song: “Mindreader” by Phil Judd as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #98.

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Ep. 220: 10-Year Retrospective of The Partially Examined Life

Mark, Seth, Dylan, and Wes reflect on the changing state of podcasting and public philosophy over the last decade, how our goals and interests have changed since we started we started. Why don’t colleges pay their faculty to educate the public through regular, broadcasted conversations like ours? If you think we’re snarky, take a look at actual philosophy faculty! Should we continue to do more literature, poetry, and other topics that are not strictly philosophy? Also, the stalled state of the PEL book. Thanks so much to each and every Partially Examined Life listener for making it worth our time to do this!

End song: “High Rollin’ Cult” by Mark Lint with Erica Spyres, celebrating a new attempt to capture the fun of the beginning of PEL: Pretty Much Pop, which you get to hear a teaser of. Listen now to the latest episodes in advance of the masses, including our interview with Yakov Smirnoff, at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

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Ep. 221: Functionalist Theories of Mind (Putnam, Armstrong) (Part One)

On Hilary Putnam’s “The Nature of Mental States” (1973).

What is the mind? Functionalist theories identify the mental not with the brain exactly, but with something the brain does. So some other creature without a brain (maybe a computer) might be able to do that same thing if it could duplicate the structure of what our brains do. Is this a satisfying account of the mind?

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Sponsors: Visit omnifocus.com for a free trial of a great to-do list manager. Visit the St. John’s College Graduate Institute: partiallyexaminedlife.com/sjcgi. Check out our new culture/entertainment podcast, Pretty Much Pop, at prettymuchpop.com.

Ep. 221: Functionalist Theories of Mind (Putnam, Armstrong) (Part Two)

Continuing on functionalism with David M. Armstrong’s “The Causal Theory of the Mind” (1981).

We delve into this version of functionalism that is supposed to clear the way for the scientific identification of mental states with brain states. Mental states are defined by their causal relations with other states and with behavior, and the content of a mental state is exhausted by its intentional object, e.g., the content of a perception is the thing you’re perceiving that (normally) causes the perception. So what about things like colors and sounds that aren’t really out in the world? Can functionalism explain how these seem to us?

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End song: “Pain Makes You Beautiful” by Jeff Heiskell’s JudyBats, as featured on Nakedly Examined Music #5.

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Subscribe to Mark’s new podcast at prettymuchpop.com.

Ep. 222: Debating Functionalism (Block, Chalmers) (Part One)

On Ned Block’s “Troubles with Functionalism” (1978) and David Chalmers’s “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia” (1995).

If mental states are functional states, there couldn’t be zombies. Yet Block claims that there could be zombies: for example, a functional duplicate of you whose components are actually citizens of China obeying algorithmic rules. Even if the resulting system acts like you, it obviously isn’t conscious. Chalmers argues that you’d then need to explain the experiences of a creature half way between you and the zombie, but you can’t, so Block’s argument doesn’t work and functionalism is left standing. What do you think? Do you hate weird thought experiments like these?

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Subscribe to Mark’s new podcast at prettymuchpop.com.

Ep. 222: Debating Functionalism (Block, Chalmers) (Part Two)

Continuing on Ned Block’s “Troubles with Functionalism” (1978) and David Chalmers’s “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia” (1995).

What would it be like to be halfway between person and machine? If you think the machine can’t have consciousness, then Chalmers thinks that there’s no sensible way to describe such an experience, ergo the machine (if functionally equivalent to the person) must have consciousness after all.

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End song: “Machine” by Helen Money as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #101.

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Subscribe to Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast at prettymuchpop.com.

Ep. 223: Guest Ned Block on Consciousness (Part One)

The climax and denouement of our summer philosophy of mind series: Ned Block visits to fill in the gaps about functionalism and attributing consciousness to machines and discuss essays from Blockheads (2019), focusing here on Brian McLaughlin’s “Could an Android be Sentient?”

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Please go check out Modern Day Philosophers at moderndayphilosophers.net and See You on the Other Side at othersidepodcast.com. Also, subscribe to Mark’s Pretty Much Pop at prettymuchpop.com.

Ep. 223: Guest Ned Block on Consciousness (Part Two)

We talk with Ned about a second Blockheads (2019) article, Michael Tyle’s “Homunculi Heads and Silicon Chips: The Importance of History to Phenomenology,” which provides a variation off of the David Chalmers fading qualia argument, and then Mark, Seth, Dylan, and Wes continue exploring the details uncovered by our interview after Ned leaves.

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End song: “Your So Dark Sleep/Goodbye” by The Black Watch, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #102.

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Ep. 224: Kierkegaard Critiques the Present Age (Part One)

On Soren Kierkegaard’s essay “The Present Age” (1846) and Hubert Dreyfus’s “Nihilism on the Information Highway: Anonymity vs. Commitment in the Present Age” (2004).

What’s wrong with our society? Kierkegaard saw the advent of the press and gossip culture as engendering a systematic passivity and shallowness in his fellows, and Dreyfus thinks this is an even more apt description of the Internet Age. With guest John Ganz.

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Ep. 224: Kierkegaard Critiques the Present Age (Part Two)

Continuing on “The Present Age” (1846), plus Hubert Dreyfus’s “Nihilism on the Information Highway: Anonymity vs. Commitment in the Present Age” (2004) with guest John Ganz.

Does K’s critique actually apply to our present age? We address K’s view of humor, romance, authenticity, actual community vs. “the public,” the leveling that occurs without anyone specific actually doing it, and the virtue of silence.

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End song: “Wry Observer” by Aaron David Gleason, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #71.

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Ep. 225: Simone Weil on War and Oppression (Part One)

On Simone Weil’s essays “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force” (1939) and “Analysis of Oppression” (1934).

How do circumstances oppress and dehumanize us? Weil describes the mechanisms that keep people at war and maintain oppression even through revolutions as inherent to the logic of power. With guest Corey Mohler.

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Ep. 225: Simone Weil on War and Oppression (Part Two)

Continuing on Simone Weil’s essays “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force” (1939) and “Analysis of Oppression” (1934) with guest Corey Mohler.

We talk about the self-contradictions of power, why oppression and war are so intractable, and her positive solution (what there is of it here). Weil cuts through our left-right political dichotomy in a way that might interest you. Plus, why the Iliad is so great.

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End song: “Throw Down the Sword” from Wishbone Ash; hear Andy Powell on Nakedly Examined Music #51.

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Ep. 226: Francis Bacon Invents Science (Part One)

On Sir Francis Bacon’s New Organon (1620).

Bacon claims to have developed a new toolset that will open up nature to inquiry in a way that wasn’t possible for ancient and modern natural philosophy.

Mark, Wes, and Dylan consider how much what Bacon describes resembles modern scientific method, talk through Bacon’s “four idols” that interfere with impartial inquiry, and consider how Bacon’s method fits in with his larger political-ethical-religious views.

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Ep. 226: Francis Bacon Invents Science (Part Two)

Continuing on Sir Francis Bacon’s New Organon (1620).

We cover more of Bacon’s “idols” and how Bacon divides religion from science (and what this means politically). We then move on to book 2, including Bacon’s novel update of the term “form,” and take a look at Bacon’s method of doing science by filling out tables before actually doing experiments.

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End song: “Stuck in a Cave” by Chrome Cranks; hear Mark talk to singer/songwriter Peter Aaron on Nakedly Examined Music #93.

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Ep. 227: What Is Social Construction? (Hacking, Berger) (Part One)

On Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What (1999) and Peter Berger’s “Religion and World Construction” (1967).

Guest Coleman Hughes from Dilemma joins us to survey the types of social construction arguments: the “culture wars” (e.g., race, gender) and the “science wars” (scientific findings are not read off the world but emerge from history). Something can be constructed, yet still be an objective truth we have to deal with.

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Ep. 227: What Is Social Construction? (Hacking, Berger) (Part Two)

Continuing Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What (1999) and Peter Berger’s “Religion and World Construction” (1967).

We break down Hacking’s typology of construction arguments: Are they exploring where our ideas came from or trying to change things? Are they trying to state facts about nature vs. nurture or essentially political solicitations for us to reconceptualize in healthier ways? Plus, more about the supposed divide between science wars and the culture wars and Berger’s picture of the nomos (custom) defining what it is for us to live a meaningful life.

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End song: “The ConstruKction of Light, Part 1” by King Crimson; listen to Mark with Trey Gunn on Nakedly Examined Music #21.

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Ep. 228: Social Construction of Race (Appiah, Mills) (Part One)

On Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections” (1994), Charles Mills’s “But What Are You Really?, The Metaphysics of Race” (1998), and Neven Sesardic’s “Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept” (2010). With guest Coleman Hughes.

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