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Showing posts from May, 2011

Schizophrenic idealism

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The philosophy of idealism, defended through the ages by great minds like those of George Berkeley, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, Gottfried Leibniz, and John McTaggart, entails that all reality is ultimately just a conscious experience. In other words, unlike realism – which postulates an external, objective world 'out there' triggering our perceptions – idealism postulates the existence of nothing but our conscious perceptions themselves. As such, idealism is a much more parsimonious and cautious worldview. Yet, somehow, realism has come to completely dominate the worldview of our culture. Most of us hardly question the assumption that there is a reality 'out there' independent of our minds; that is, that nature would still go merrily on even if nobody were looking. Leaving aside the scientific evidence to the contrary, one wonders why realism has come to be synonymous with our culture’s collective intuition of reality.

The problem is that most people, when considering t…

Computers, Brains, and the End of Logic

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The online video of my TEDxBrainport talk titled "Computers, Brains, and the End of Logic" is now out. See below. I wanted to complement the information on the video with two things: a PDF file of the original slides I used during the talk (since the slides were distorted in the video due probably to version differences in Power Point), and specific references to books, articles, and people I mention during the talk.


The original slides, in PDF format, can be downloaded from this page. I am sincerely grateful to the M. C. Escher company, The Netherlands, http://www.mcescher.com/, for the kind permission to use M. C. Escher's work in my slides. Now, the detailed references:

At ~2:15 minutes I refer to Daniel Dennett's concept of 'Maximally Bland Computationalism.' Dennett elaborates on this concept in his lecture 'Magic of Consciousness,' available on DVD; At ~3:40 minutes I begin a brief discussion on the Correspondence Theory of Truth, which is at the…

Life after TED

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It’s been over a week since I gave a talk at the TEDxBrainport event. Here is how the organizing committee is now describing my talk:
How real is reality? Are we all collectively cheating ourselves that the world that surrounds us is real? A bit like the movie ‘The Matrix’ but without machines at the steering wheel. It's this mind-boggling thought that Kastrup leaves the audience with. Starting with the bivalent operation of computers – the instrument we use to investigate the working of our own brain – via the definition of logic, Kastrup holds up a mirror that will keep a lot of us reflecting on reality and gives a new direction to what ‘thinking out of the box’ might mean.
When I read this, my involuntary and completely sincere thought was: “Wow, I’d like to watch this talk and meet this guy!” Somehow the contents of our own thoughts seem to sound a lot more inspiring (and inspired) when they are reflected back to us through the words of others. Having read books and watched…

Some thoughts on education

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Education is universally recognized as a key prerequisite for a healthy, vibrant, viable society. Hardly anyone would dispute that. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a clear, unanimous view on what one should be educated for. Although there certainly are many more nuances to this question, I will limit myself to contrasting only two of them, which I consider most relevant to our present time: I will call them utilitarian education and philosophical education.

A utilitarian education aims at equipping one for the performance of practical tasks that have a direct and relatively short-term utility in a society. Electricians fix power distribution networks; engineers build dams, computers, and all kinds of handy apparatuses; physicians fix our bodies; diplomats avoid wars by resolving conflicts. The value and importance of these practical tasks to our society is unquestionable: through them, we can live longer, more healthily, and perform our own tasks more effectively. But they ignore a bigg…

Living in a world of inductive inferences

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It occurred to me a few years ago, while watching the evening news, how much the world we live in is one of inductive inferences, that is, largely subjective extrapolations and generalizations. I’ve held this intellectual position for a long time but it was only then that it struck me as a deeply felt experience, not just a mere abstraction.

Regardless of our intellectual, religious, or philosophical positions, perhaps most of us assume many more notions about how reality is put together than the empirical facts of experience could justify. In science, this inductively inferred web of notions and beliefs takes the form of models, which are mathematical mock-ups that are to reality much like a map is to the streets of a city. Empirically, only very few positions in the map are actually tested against the actual configurations of the myriad streets it purports to represent. But since the map is generated by a coherent mental procedure – that is, a coherent set of axioms and derivations…

TEDxBrainport talk on the limits of logic

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On Friday, May 13th, I’ll be giving a talk at the TEDxBrainport event in Eindhoven, a locally organized part of the famous TED series. In there, I will be discussing some of my latest thoughts on logic and ontology – that is, on the nature of our thoughts, truth, and reality – as elaborated upon in my third, upcoming book Meaning in Absurdity(to be published by IFF towards the end of 2011 or early in 2012). The key idea I will explore in my talk is the scope of logic in our ongoing efforts to make sense of nature and of ourselves. We tend to think that, through logical and rational inquiry, we can and will eventually uncover all the mysteries of nature and of being. But that thought rests on an unjustified assumption – namely, that the limits of logic and rationality are at least coextensive with the boundaries of reality. In other words, we must assume that all reality is amenable to logic, as if logic were a somewhat omnipotent intellectual tool.

Yet we know since the time of Agripp…