Whether animals can experience romantic love is unknown. But there is some evidence that they are capable of experiencing the same range of emotions as we can. The brains of many mammals are surprisingly similar to the human brain. Take as an example the brain of a cat. A cat’s brain is small compared to ours, occupying only about one percent of their body mass compared to about two percent in an average human. But size doesn't always matter. Neanderthals, the hominids that went extinct more than twenty thousand years ago, had bigger brains than Homo sapiens, but they probably weren’t smarter than the Homo sapiens that beat them in the survival game. Surface folding and brain structure matter more than brain size. The brains of cats have an amazing surface folding and a structure that is about ninety percent similar to ours. This suggests that they could indeed be capable of experiencing romantic love. But we will probably never know for sure.
I would like to call attention to a problem that may not be salient to university administrators or senior philosophers: Junior philosophers tend to be rather poor and in debt. They may have been paying for tuition and living expenses for five years or more (sometimes they have also been paying for kids in addition to that). Why should that concern you? Because (to mention just one issue) every so often you invite a junior philosopher to give a talk at a department colloquium or a conference. That's really great. Keep doing that. However, you may want to reconsider the whole reimbursement business. When I am asked to give an invited talk, and you promise to reimburse me, that's super-nice of you. If the reimbursement doesn't arrive right away (or occasionally never arrives), my kid won't starve. But I am not a junior person.
Over the weekend I was talking to some people about how we might increase the number of women in philosophy. The sad truth is that there still are only around 20 percent women in philosophy jobs. But as has been pointed out numerous times, the problem starts at the undergraduate level. If we could get more women to major in philosophy, there would be a greater pool of female applicants for PhD programs to choose from and more women to hire in tenure-track positions.
Of course, there is a super-simple solution to this problem. Hire more women in TT positions to serve as role models for undergraduate students. Problem: Vicious circle. There aren't enough women to hire. The star programs snap up most of the women on the market. That makes it difficult for less well ranked programs to find women to hire. Or so I am told.
A headline story this morning, featured in several news outlets, reported on a new study published online in PNAS yesterday that allegedly confirms that there are major brain differences between men and women. In the study Ragini Verma, an associate professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues examined the neural connectivity across the whole brain in 949 individuals (521 females and 428 males) aged 8 to 22 years using diffuse tensor imaging (DTI).
The researchers found that in certain age groups, females had greater inter-hemispheric connectivity in the supratentorial region (the part of the brain above the cerebellum), whereas males exhibited greater intra-hemispheric connectivity as well as greater interhemispheric connectivity in the cerebellum. The cerebellum has been implicated in certain forms of knowledge of action and knowledge-how, interhemispheric connectivity seems crucial for many social skills, and intrahemispheric connectivity in local sensory regions may lead to richer perceptual experiences. So, on the basis of these findings, many news reports concluded that men have a greater perception to action potential, whereas women have a greater potential for communicating and connecting “the analytical and intuition.” Some concluded that gender differences in brain connectivity are hard-wired.
I have recently been working on a paper about some of the testable implications of DRT (discourse representation theory) and related dynamic semantic frameworks. One of the questions I am stuck on is that of how to put the semantics of proper names to the test. The general framework of DRT does not commit us to a special theory of proper names. However, Hans Kamp traditionally treated them as individual constants, which is consistent with the philosophical (and post-semantic) theory that non-empty names stand in causal-historical relations to their referents. In subsequent work Kamp has treated names as predicates but with an anchor to a particular individual satisfying the predicate. This, too, is consistent with a causal-historical constraint.
is a condition in which attributes, such as color, shape, sound, smell
and taste, bind together in unusual ways, giving rise to atypical
experiences, mental images or thoughts. For example, a synesthete may
experience numbers and letters printed in black as having their own
unique colors or spoken words as having specific tastes normally only
associated with food and drinks. People who have the condition usually
have had since early childhood, though there are also cases in which people acquire it after brain injury or disease later in life.
hypothesis about how synesthesia develops in early childhood suggests
that somtimes the brain fails to get rid of structural connections
between neural regions that do not normally project to each other. In
early childhood the brain develops many more neural connections than it
ends up using. During development, pruning processes eliminate a large
number of these structural connections. We don't know much about the
principles underlying neural pruning, though some of the connections
that the brain prunes away appear to be pathways that are not needed.
So, one possibility is that the pruning processes in synesthetes are
less effective compared to those in non-synesthetes, and that some
pathways that are pruned away in most people remain active in
[This post was inspired and encouraged by Sebastian Lutz; he should not be held responsible for the informal presentation of these matters.--ES]
Refereeing is a crucial professional obligation, especially now that most philosophers depend on (multiple) publication(s) for appointments and advancement. It also plays a non-trivial role in improving the quality of what is published. Yet, (a) refereeing is rarely taught. Even (b) experienced referees almost never get feedback on the quality of refereeing, so it is difficult to learn to calibrate one’s judgment. Moreover, (c) the relationship between the referee report and editorial decision-making is often opaque: (i) few journals tell referees of the decision; (ii) sometimes the referee report and the decision seem not well connected; (iii) sometimes the referee report and the final publication seem not well connected. This last feature also makes refereeing unsatisfying (and may well be connected with the difficulty finding referees reported by Brogaard). I continue to referee, perhaps out of a sense of duty, but primarily because it forces me to read, engage with and reflect on recent work beyond my circle of intellectual friends before publication.
Now, recently I refereed a paper for a journal that asked me to also referee the revised paper (after resubmission). I was amazed to discover a whole package that included the original paper, all the original referee reports (including my own), and the revised paper. I found it fascinating to read the two other original referee reports. (It was also amusing because one of them suggested that the author should engage with Schliesser!) It turned out that the three of us all saw what mattered about the paper, while also raising interesting (I think) objections that were subtly different. I was really impressed by the professionalism and thorough refereeing of the other two referees. But this got me thinking, Why can’t referees see each other’s anonymous (!) reports after submitting their reports?* I write 'after' because the reports ought to be independent. It’s seems feasible with manuscript-central software. Can anybody offer an argument against this proposal?
As a submissions editor for a journal I am in charge of sending out
requests to review submitted manuscripts to suitable reviewers.
Fortunately, this is often a relatively painless process. But every so
often the potential reviewer is completely unresponsive. Each time I am
baffled. The requests to review contain the manuscript's title, an
abstract and two links: one for accepting the invitation and one for
declining. If potential reviewers are busy and can't take on the
assignment, then all they need to do is click "decline invitation." Of course, it would be ideal if they also listed some alternative reviewers but in principle they only need to click on a link. It
should take them no more than one minute to complete this task.
Apparently, some folks are unwilling to spare one minute of their time
to help the profession. Perhaps they are unaware of how much it hurts
the profession when they fail to respond.
In this episode of Radiolab
Columbia physicist Brian Greene presents an argument for skepticism
that runs as follows. What we once thought of as a universe is better
thought of as a multiverse consisting of many universes. The reason for
this is that the cosmos is expanding at an accelerating rate owing to
the growth of space between galaxies. The rate at which space grows is
greater than the speed of light. Hence, there are galaxies we could not
reach even in principle. Given that we don't have access, even in
principle, to all regions of cosmic space, it is better to talk about
multiple universes rather than just one. There are, of course, multiple
ways to divide the cosmos into universes. This question shall not
concern us here.
When I wrote this post mentioning some differences between reviewing and citation practices in
philosophy and the sciences, I was asked to substitute 'anonymous
reviewing' for 'blind reviewing', as some regard the expressions 'blind
reviewing' and 'blind refereeing' as able-ist. This topic has already
been the subject of a post and a follow-up
here on New APPS a couple of years ago. I am not sure how many journals
have omitted this kind of talk from their websites yet but it certainly
has not been eradicated from the publishing world yet.
Being one of the philosophers who have published in and
reviewed for both philosophy and science journals, I thought I would say
a bit about how I think citation and reviewing conventions differ
in philosophy and the sciences and where I think philosophy and the
sciences could learn from each other in this regard. I must warn the
reader that this is based on my own personal experiences and that I am
making a lot generalizations that may not be justified. Also, I will be
speaking of reviewing as opposed to refereeing, as the term 'reviewing'
is used across the disciplines, whereas 'refereeing' is not. Scientists
think 'refereeing' refers to the actions of a judge of a soccer match.
over sixty years it has been widely accepted that twinning, the process
that results in identical or conjoined twins, normally occurs about two
weeks after fertilization, or conception. This assumption has been used
as a premise in what philosophers call the "twinning argument." The
idea behind the twinning argument is that since one thing cannot be
identical to two things, a twin cannot be identical to a zygote, or
fertilized egg. Arguing from that
to the general conclusion that none of us is identical to a zygote is
more complicated and involves the further premise that it is not fully
determined at the time of fertilization whether a zygote will undergo
“I invited every woman working in the field. They all turned
This is the typical “excuse” editors and organizers of all-
or almost-all-male conferences and volumes present in lieu of a defense. On
previous occasions some of us have argued that this is a bad excuse. That the
excuse itself could be a lie never occurred to me.
Aarøe Nissen is a 22-year-old math student at Aarhus University,
Denmark, with extraordinary memory abilities. He has competed in memory
sports for several years. He can recite the number Pi to more than
20,000 decimal points, recall thousands of names, faces and historical
dates and remember the order of a pack of cards.
In 1973 Mary Rowe,
while working for the President and Chancellor at MIT, coined the
notion of micro-inequities, which she defined as “apparently small
events which are often ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are
covert, often unintentional, frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator,
which occur wherever people are perceived to be ‘different.’ " Examples
of micro-inequities include:
checking emails or texting during a face-to-face conversation
consistently mispronouncing a person's name
interrupting a person mid-sentence
making eye-contact only with males while talking to a group containing both males and females
taking more questions from men than women
confusing a person of a certain ethnicity with another person of the same ethnicity
Our perception of time varies greatly
depending on our age, mood, stress level and psychological health and
stability. Psychological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia, can mess
with the brain's time keeping mechanism and warp our estimation of time.
Patients suffering from these disorders are unable to properly
coordinate events in time. Patients over- or underestimate time
intervals ranging from several seconds to minutes.
How does this
happen? How does the brain manage to keep track of time and what goes
wrong in psychological disorders? Our senses (sight, hearing, smell,
taste and touch) use specialized sensory systems with task-specific
neurons to process sensory input. Yet there is no specific sensory
system for time. So how does our sense of time come about?
Kukla had an excellent post over at Leiter Reports a few days ago about
whether the tendency to pursue an MA before your PhD is a good thing or a
bad thing for philosophy as a profession. I think this is an important
question but I must admit that I found many of the comments (or
unintended implications of the comments) enormously puzzling (if not
straightforwardly offensive). At some point during the debate there
seemed to be somewhat of a consensus that if you pursue an MA after your
bachelor's degree before pursuing a PhD, then your chances of becoming a
great philosopher (as opposed to a good philosopher) are greatly
diminished. Some commentators did offer reasons for thinking this
(whereas others didn't), but I must admit that I didn't quite understand
I regret to inform you that Awesome Bigname Philosophy Journal cannot accept your paper for publication. After having googled the title of your paper, and failing that, lines from your abstract and paper, our referee discovered your identity. He found that you are a nobody from an lackluster university, without a tenured or tenure track position but only a lowly [adjunct teacher, grad student, postdoc etc], and [a woman, black, non-English speaker etc] to boot. Therefore, after a perfunctory glance at your paper, the referee has decided that your paper is not of high enough quality to be published in ABPJ.
We pass on referees' comments in the hope that they may prove useful. We receive over n submissions each year, and must reject many very competent papers, especially those written by people on the bottom of the academic ladder. We hope that your work will find a home in another journal, though obviously one not as highly regarded as ABPJ.
In the supernatural thriller Memory,
written by Bennett Joshua Davlin, Dr. Taylor Briggs, who is the leading
expert on memory, examines a patient found nearly dead in the Amazon.
While checking on the patient, Taylor is accidentally exposed to a
psychedelic drug that unlocks memories of a killer that committed
murders many years before Taylor was born. The killer turns out to be
his ancestor. Taylor’s memories, despite being of events Taylor never
experienced, are very detailed. They contain the point-of-view of his
ancestor and the full visual scenario experienced by the killer.
the movie is supernatural, it brings up an interesting question. Is it
possible to inherit our ancestors’ memories? The answer is not black and
white. It depends on what we mean by ‘memory’. The story of the movie is
farfetched: there is no evidence or credible scientific theory
suggesting that we can inherit specific episodic memories of events that
our ancestors experienced. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that
you will suddenly remember your great-great-grandfather’s wedding day or
your great-great-grandmother’s struggle in childbirth.
We are conducting a study of color
discrimination and short-term color memory. I would be grateful if you
would participate in the study. You'll need to use the left and right
arrow keys to adjust the color of a square to fit the color of a second
image. It will only
take about 5-10 minutes. Click on the link below to begin. www.synesthesiaresearch.com/study
more important, we would really like to encourage people - including
WHITE MEN - to apply for the site visit training. It is important that
we have allies involved because having mixed teams will be more
effective than just a group of women....who are feminists, besides!
Not long ago, the Times of London published an article examining "why everyone wants to be Danish." It covered Danish society (according to scientists, Danes are the world's happiest people), Danish fashion ("a leather trim here, a matelot stripe and an edgy trilby there") . . . Danish sperm donation (last year, more than five hundred British women were artificially inseminated in Denmark—an ad for one clinic read, "Congratulations, it's a Viking!"). A "How Danish Are You?" quiz asked, "You like your skies a) Blue b) slate grey c) slate grey with vultures circling the carrion of slaughtered youth."
have worked on your paper on this extraordinarily complicated and remarkably
interesting solution to the knowability paradox for four years. You finally got
it right. After polishing the piece, vetting the ideas at department colloquium
talks and workshops and incorporating feedback from cohorts, you submit to a
top-ten mainstream journal. Then you patiently, very patiently, wait a year and
a half and get a rejection. Hostile referee reports! They HATE the paper.
witnessed his son Charlie, who had childhood epilepsy, undergo
frightening seizures. The boy would convulse and loose consciousness.
Medications didn't help. As his seizures continued, his cognitive
abilities slowly deteriorated. Jim, who wasn't a medical doctor, decided
to start investigating alternative treatments. After days in the
library looking through books and medical journals, he found a book on childhood epilepsy written by Dr. John Freeman, the director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center
at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The book described that a diet that mimics
the metabolism of starvation by cutting most dietary sources of
carbohydrates and proteins could in some cases cure drug-resistant
who once set several major league baseball records, suddenly could
barely keep his body upright during practice. He would fall while
running bases, stumble over curbs and mishandle fielding plays. His
wife, Eleanor, was concerned. Her husband held records for most
consecutive games played, 2131 to be exact, and most career grand slams.
Though Lou said it was just a phase, Eleanor got on the phone with the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Charles William Mayo wanted them to
come right away. They arrived on June 13, 1939 and six days later on
Lou’s thirty-sixth birthday the doctors told Eleanor that her husband
suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Lou Gehrig died less
than two years later.