About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Greg’s Picks

by Greg Linster

* Talk to your kids about it: One in five teenagers will experiment with philosophy.

* Why do women engage in ring wars? What could women stand to gain by advertising their wealth through conspicuous consumption? Jamie Cloud writes about “The Curious Case of Women’s Conspicuous Consumption.”

* For Dr. Harold R. Wilde, being a college president was the best job he could ever imagine.

* I think Gad Saad is correct when it comes to religion and public life. He argues that “Criticism of ALL Religions Is a Fundamental Right.”

* Michael Shermer writes about immortality and the Mortality Paradox in a short post called “Climbing Mount Immortality.”


  1. Am I the only one who found the Shermer piece rather shallow? Especially in how it just stakes a claim in philosophy of personal identity with absolutely no argument except assertion.

    1. Which assertion in particular didn't you like?

    2. Sure Greg, here's the full quote:

      >"Both religious and scientific forms of resurrecting your body succumb to the Transformation Problem (how could you be reassembled just as you were and yet this time be invulnerable to disease and death?) and the Duplication Problem (how would duplicates be different from twins?). “Even if DigiGod made a perfect copy of you at the end of time,” Case conjectures, “it would be exactly that: a copy, an entirely new person who just happened to have the same memories and beliefs as you.” The soul hypothesis has been slain by neuroscience showing that the mind (consciousness, memory and personality patterns representing “you”) cannot exist without the brain."

      Bolded the two parts I dislike.

      It is NOT uncontroversial that a perfect copy of me is 'not me,' and I strongly suspect the opposite. As a starting point for thought, consider what empirical tests you could run *now* to determine whether your stream of consciousness is "the same person" as 5 minutes ago. Then consider how the situation of a putative copy differs.

      The second bolded portion is probably true, but sloppily stated, because it is also not uncontroversial that the only thing a mind can run on is a biological brain. Once again, I strongly suspect the opposite. But at least with that one I am probably just nitpicking his phrasing.

    3. Arg, my bolding didn't work. Oh well, you'll suss it out. :)

    4. My problem is that I don't understand what consciousness is :) Accordingly, I'm in no place to think about running experiments on it.

      To your points though, I guess I think there is more going on than meets the eye. In other words, I'm not a reductionist.

    5. Well, I'm sort of arguing from ignorance about the nature of consciousness as well. Shermer merely asserts that a perfect copy of you is not you. You may or may not agree with Shermer, but given the difficulty of understanding the phenomenon of consciousness, he needs to give *reasons* for staking that position in philosophy of personal identity, beyond mere assertions backed up by untutored intuition.

      Not a reductionist you say? In the metaphysical or epistemic sense?

  2. In an epistemic sense. I suspect that there are building blocks of reality that I don't know I don't know about :)

    Are you a reductionist?


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