July 21, 2012

The Philosopher's Zone

ABC Radio National


Contents


The Philosophical Baby

Among the Dead Cities

Human Consciousness and Free Will

Divine Fine-tuning

Freedom (of Action) Without (Freedom of) Will

THE PHILOSOPHER'S ZONE


Joe Gelonesi

  • The Worst Argument in the World, 30 June 2013.
  • The Worst Argument in the World, 22 April 2012.
  • Extending the mind, 25 March 2012.
  • Global fairness, 18 March 2012.
    Thomas Pogge: Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University.
  • The Myth of Plato and Plato the Myth-maker, 11 March 2012.
    Rick Benitez: Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Sydney.
  • Group agents, 26 February 2012.
    Philip Pettit:Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University.
  • Philosophy and the Environment, 5 February 2012.
    Mark Colyvan: Professor of Philosophy, Director or the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney.
  • The inconsistency of Hannah Arendt, 29 January 2012.
    Danielle Celermajer:Associate Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney.
  • Human consciousness and free will, 26 November 2011.
    Daniel Dennett: Co-director Center for Cognitive Studies, Austin B Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University, Massachusetts.

    We have free will whether or not determinism is true.
    Determinism is just not the issue. …
    [There] are different concepts of free will.
    And some of them are really important, because if you don't have free will in these senses then you're not a moral agent. …

    [We] are only too happy to have past conditions and experiences inform us about the way the world is, and use that information to guide our behaviour.
    If only the world will tell us how it really is and give us a bunch of choices, and if only we can have the competence to look hard at the choices that the world reveals to us, and to assess accurately their likely consequences, and to choose the ones that have the best consequences, what more could you want?
    Then you can be the author of your acts.
    It's not as if you have to have this flying carpet of indeterminism so that your decision at the point, at the moment of decision, is completely cut off from all higher influences. …

    The intentional stance is the habit we have [of treating] unknown things, complicated things, as agents is the heart of the intentional stance.
    It is the strategy of supposing the thing that you're dealing with is rational, has beliefs, has desires. …
    It has the beliefs that it can get from its sensory equipment;
    And that makes it an agent that is highly predictable.

  • An atheist's God: the paradox of Spinoza, 4 June 2011.
    Beth Lord: Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Dundee.
    Principal Investigator, Spinoza Research Network.
  • Hume on cause, effect and doubt, 30 April 2011.
    Helen Beebee: Professor of Philosophy, School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham.
  • How do octopuses think?  9 April 2011.
    Peter Godfrey-Smith: Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York.
  • The Philosophical Baby, 29 January 2011.
    Alison Gopnik: Professor of Psychology, Affiliate Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley.
    Author, The Philosophical Baby — What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life.

    [Infants] have capacities to empathise with the emotions and internal states of other people, and by the time they're 18 months old, perhaps even a bit younger, children show signs of altruism.
    [They'll] actively act to help another person achieve their ends or achieve their goals. …

    [There] seems to be a link between this early empathic ability, this ability to read and identify with the internal emotions of another person, and [the] impulse to say …
    'Well if this is going to hurt someone else, you shouldn't do it.'
    It's a sort of fundamental [and underpins] versions of the Golden Rule:
    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you …
    [That piece] seems to be in place from the time that the children are very young. …

    [Newborn] babies actually imitate the facial expressions of other people.
    So if you stick your tongue out at a … baby, 30 minutes old, the newborn baby still stick his tongue out at you.
    Now that [seems] sort of weird … because there aren't mirrors in the womb [to allow babies] to map what it feels like inside of them to say smile or frown, and what you feel like when you smile or frown. …
    So this … fundamental link between the expressions on someone's face and how they feel [seems] to be in place from very, very early on. …

    Felix Warneke at Harvard [showed] 15-months-olds, a person either throwing a pencil to the ground, or dropping a pencil on the ground.
    And in both cases, the pencil was in a place that the person couldn't actually reach. [The] 15-month-olds would crawl over and get the pencil, give it back to the person, if they had dropped it [—] if they acted as if they really wanted it, but they wouldn't do that if the person intentionally threw it to the floor, [acting] as if they didn't want it. …

    [Even] 7-month-olds [show some] understanding … that people have goals and intentions and are trying to make things happen in the world. …

    [Piaget thought] young infants didn't have any kinds of representations, abstract representations of the world and that even 2 and 3 year olds only were able to reason in very, very limited ways. …

    [Babies start out in] the world with certain kinds of assumptions [or hypotheses] about what the world is like, what objects are like, what people are like.
    But they [are also born with] with very powerful capacities for revising, changing, altering what they think on the basis of new experience. …
    We're not blank slates, we start out knowing a lot but we're not stuck, we're not constrained by what we start out knowing, that's just the jumping-off point for our ability to revise and learn and understand new things about the world. …

    … 8-month-olds already understand probabilistic notions like the idea about the relationship between a sample and a population, and 3 and 4 year olds can use quite complicated patterns of correlation and dependence to make causal inferences about the world.

    [Babies] are like the research and development division of the human species and [adults are] production and marketing.
    [They] are just exploring in a blue-sky way figuring out the way the world works, and we're the ones who actually take all those things that we learned as babies and put them to use …
    [Babies] have more neural connections when they're a year-and-a-half, than they ever will in the rest of their lives. …
    [They] have this tremendous capacity for flexibility, for learning new things.
    What they don't have is the capacity to do any one thing very well and swiftly and quickly and efficiently …
    [That's] the capacity that we … have as adults.
    [After] 5 babies start to become more like adults …
    [There's] a lot of pressure now to make … preschools look more and more like school, to try to get children to [exercise] executive function earlier and earlier …
    [There's] good reason to believe that [this may be a] good idea for 8 and 9 year olds [but] a terrible idea for 2 and 3 and 4 year olds. …

    [Babies] and young children are extremely good at imagining counter-factual alternatives, other ways that the world could be, other than they way that they are now.
    That's what children do when they are involved in pretend play, which is one of the most characteristic things for 3 and 4 year olds to do.
    3 and 4 year olds will spend 24/7 often as crazed world princesses and ninjas and who knows what else. …
    [It may be that what they] are doing is figuring out the causal structure of the world …
    [Through] their pretend way, children [are] exploring all the different ways the world could be. …
    [They're] mucking about, exploring all the different possibilities, not seeing them in terms of a path at they travel from the past to the future. …

    [The] advice that comes out of this is [that we] should pay attention to them, we should let them explore [and] give them rich, safe, stable environments in which they can explore. …

    [As adults] we need to strike a balance between our ability to actually focus, get things done, do things in an organised way, and our ability to let go of that, explore, brainstorm, be creative. …

    [We] put tremendous amounts of public money into educating people between the ages of 18 and 24 … but we don't put anything like that investment into educating people between the ages of 0 and 5, and we know that that's the time when really the most dramatic learning is actually … taking place.

  • The philosophy of mathematics, 15 May 2010.
    James Franklin: Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales.
  • A Very Public Philosopher, 20 March 2010.
    AC Grayling.
    There comes to seem very little difference in principle between the RAF's operation Gomorrah or the US AAF's atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York by terrorists on 11th September 2001.
    (Among the Dead Cities)
    … I wanted to draw a very precise analogy between the use of an indiscriminate attack on civilians as a way of coercing or terrorising a population in general.
    And if you concentrate just … on that tactic, then you see that the night bombing of German cities or the atom bombing of Japanese cities, and the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 have that one thing in common …

    [The] United Nations [only] agreed to treat indiscriminate attacks on civilians as a war crime [in 1977 in] the annexes [to the fourth Geneva Protocol.]
    [An] effort was made to outlaw attacks on civilians, whether by non-state [or] state parties, as early as 1949, but the British and American governments who'd just been doing it, turned it down …
    So it took another 30 years.

  • A Conversation with Isaiah Berlin, 13 June 2009.
  • Utilitarianism, 27 January 2007.
    Peter Singer.

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