Archive for the ‘blogosphere’ Category

Hiding up at the top left of the blog are a set of tabs. I’ve edited them now to include some extras.

One will take you to a set of links which now includes several old friends. Among other things, a crusty Townie Bastard has posts on creationist museums and hollow earthers; Expatriate Games assays The Feminist Mistake and Korean husbands (no connection); while Dups’ photoblog chronicles his adventures around the world.

The other provides a long but incomplete bibliography covering literature related to moral psychology, neuroethics, neurolaw and experimental philosophy. It needs better organization as well as more content (feel free to add a reference). Both projects are underway, but I wanted to make it available for those who might find it useful at this time, because those topics now seems to be gaining attention.


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Quick question: Is colour in your head or on the computer screen?

If you aren’t a philosopher, your first response might be, ‘Does it really matter?’ In this case, it does. A class action lawsuit depends on it.

In the suit the question becomes: is Apple misrepresenting their MacBook and MacBook Pro if they advertise displays capable of millions of colours, when they are really just selling displays that allow the perception of millions of colours?

The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit, Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley, complain in their filing:

The reality is that notwithstanding Apple’s misrepresentations and suggestions that its MacBook and MacBook Pro display “millions of colors,” the displays are only capable of displaying the illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique referred to as “dithering,” which causes nearby pixels on the display to use slightly varying shades of colors that trick the human eye into perceiving the desired color even though it is not truly that color.

There is a rich literature on the philosophy of colour. Somehow, I doubt any of it will be used in court.

The blogosphere’s Cult of Mac is ripe with commentary. Hat-tip to Ars Technica via Apple 2.0 via Slashdot. See also Engadget and Apple Insider.

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My post about the effects of ceiling height on thinking finds a good companion in Chris’ post at Mixing Memory. It has a good description of the experiment, with some discussion of the concept of priming.

See a post on Priming the Mind for discussion and links to examples of priming in action, and a story about a neuroscientist who used priming to win money on a popular game show.

The ceiling height story is novel enough that it is now making the rounds of the blogosphere. Unlike Chris’ exegesis, most posts just say ‘hey, look at this, I need higher ceilings’ – Lifehacker’s pointer to this ‘mind hack‘ is representative.

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In a post a few days ago, I mentioned a recent paper which dates a mutation in human evolution. That mutation expresses a neurochemical involved in earning and memory – in mice. You can find the article here:

the Women’s Bioethics Blog, now writes about this under the headline: The gene/neurochemical that may separate human/ape brains: Neuropsin II.

Be cautious about oversimplifying this, however. Their research does not identify a ‘magic gene’ which separated humans from apes. It does show a neurochemical is present in human brains and not in the brains of other primates, but the mutation may have happened sometime after humans diverged from chimpanzees 5 million years ago.

Update:  NewScientist reports this as Gene variant may be responsible for human learning.

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Joshua Knobe has an interesting post today at the group blog Philosophy Ethics and Academia (PEA) Soup about research done by David Shoemaker.

Test subjects reacting to stories gave intuitive evaluations of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. His results suggest moral ignorance attracts blame while moral knowledge does not attract praise.

  • A character who does something morally wrong, believing it to be morally right, is more blameworthy than a character who does something morally wrong even though they believe it is morally wrong. Conclusion: moral ignorance increases blameworthiness.
  • A character who does something morally right, but believes it to be morally wrong, is just as praiseworthy as a character who does something morally right, believing it to be morally right. Conclusion: moral knowledge does not increase praiseworthiness.

These results leave us with two puzzles:

  1. Why do we penalize moral ignorance contributing to bad acts?
  2. When we assess the motivations for good acts, are we failing to reward moral knowledge, or are we discounting moral ignorance (i.e. giving moral ignorance a pass)?

My explanation: we are more willing to assign blame than praise, and we are unwilling to assign praise for something we would have done.

This might have something to do with the way we see our own ideas of right action as presenting the ‘obvious choice’. Satisfying expectations is nothing special, but failing to meet our expectations creates blame.

In a mix of deontological and consequentialist thinking, we have expectations pertains to the action and the motivation for the action. Bad outcomes from incorrect action fails one expectation; two expectations are violated when the wrong action is compounded by a second, underlying mistake about ethical norms.

Might there be a way to empirically test this hypothesis?

One last thing: the results do not accord with my own intuitions. I tend to think moral ignorance decreases blameworthiness.

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