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This is a repeat of the event held on November 2. If you attended the original event, please do not RSVP until November 11 to give others a chance to participate. Scientists are beginning to unravel a mystery that has long vexed philosophers - the so-called “Hard Problem” of consciousness. For this Meetup, we will take a brief look at the history of consciousness science and then focus on some of the work of neuroscientists Anil Seth (a Brit) and Christof Koch (an American). They both have the rare ability to explain their work clearly to non-scientists. In a 2017 lecture in London at the Royal Society, Professor Seth presented some historic background on consciousness science and provided insights into the state-of-the-art research in the “new science of consciousness,” including some recent work from his own lab. The lecture is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRel1JKOEbI (runs 1 hour). Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. In this lecture Seth identifies three approaches to objective understanding of consciousness: conscious level, conscious content and conscious self. Seth describes how new experiments are shedding light on the underlying neural mechanisms in normal life as well as in neurological and psychiatric conditions. State-of-the art tools are being used, including high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Electroencephalography (EEG) sensor arrays for measuring location and timing of electrical brain waves, and specialized electromagnetic coils (outside the skull) for stimulating specific brain areas. For more about consciousness science and a brief summary of two competing theories of consciousness, read the Scientific American article, “What is Consciousness” by Christof Koch: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-consciousness/ (June 1, 2018). He is president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle; formerly neuroscience professor at California Institute of Technology. Koch writes, “Fierce debates have arisen around the two most popular theories of consciousness. One is the global neuronal workspace (GNW) by psychologist Bernard J. Baars and neuroscientists Stanislas Dehaene and Jean-Pierre Changeux. The theory begins with the observation that when you are conscious of something, many different parts of your brain have access to that information. If, on the other hand, you act unconsciously, that information is localized to the specific sensory motor system involved.” The other theory, developed by Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin with collaborators in Italy and Christof Koch, is called Integrated information theory (IIT). “It has a very different starting point: experience itself. Each experience has certain essential properties. It is intrinsic, existing only for the subject as its “owner”; it is structured (a yellow cab braking while a brown dog crosses the street); and it is specific—distinct from any other conscious experience, such as a particular frame in a movie. Furthermore, it is unified and definite. When you sit on a park bench on a warm, sunny day, watching children play, the different parts of the experience—the breeze playing in your hair or the joy of hearing your toddler laugh—cannot be separated into parts without the experience ceasing to be what it is.” Linked resources are recommended but optional. If you RSVP and later find you cannot attend, please cancel your reservation as early as possible (not later than 24 hours before the event) to give others a chance to take your place.
Shame can lead us to feel as if our whole self is flawed. It can cause us to hide or to compromise our character in order to save face. But shame can also be a positive force in that it can help one avoid wrongdoing and promote social cohesion. Researchers have equated the need for shame to the need to feel pain in that “the function of pain is to prevent us from damaging our own tissue whereas the function of shame is to prevent us from damaging our social relationships.” Our discussion will focus on Louise Chapman’s article “The Value of Shame” https://aeon.co/essays/on-immanuel-kants-hydraulic-model-of-moral-education For the purpose of our discussion it’s important to distinguish the difference between Guilt and Shame. Guilt is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for having wronged someone. We will define Shame as a painful feeling arising from one’s consciousness for having done something dishonorable or improper. Both shame and guilt has the potential to affect one’s pride. Like shame, pride can also have multiple functions. There is “authentic” pride which can have a positive impact on one's self-confidence. But there is also a “hubristic” pride that could lead to self-aggrandizement, arrogance and conceit. Champman believes that shame is an essential component that creates space for one’s moral education. This is raises the question whether virtue can be taught. Questions To Think About Do you believe that shame helps us regulate our self-interest and “strikes down our pathological character?” What do you think of Kant’s example of “experimental” moral education? How is Kant’s form “experimental” moral education different from psychologically manipulation? How does “moral confidence” promote social cohesion? How do technologies like social media impact one’s ability to channel our “inappropriate desires into higher pursuits?” Can someone have a “change of heart” without a moral example? How does “moral confidence” relate to self-respect/pride?
If you voted in PA on 05Nov2019, you saw the option to vote “yes” or “no” to Marsy’s Law, a law that would amend our state constitution. Voting “yes” on the ballot question would approve adding a list of 15 victims’ rights to the constitution, including the right to be notified of legal proceedings involving the alleged perpetrator, to speak during trials and parole hearings, to demand speedy trials, to refuse requests for pretrial evidence, and to receive restitution.This law was passed in 12 states, but then declared unconstitutional and overturned in Kentucky and Montana. While this law was on the ballot, it will not be acted upon until after the Supreme Court lawsuit has decided upon whether or not it is constitutional. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. They make the argument that the amendment would undermine judges’ abilities to weigh the rights of victims and defendants. They also point to the existing PA Crime Victims Law to state that Marsy’s Law is unnecessary. Other opponents argue that our federal rights to the “presumption of innocence” and our rights to “due diligence” are being hurt and crippled with Marsy’s law. In today’s hyper connected, social media-centric, quick-to-judge society, the concept of a defendant being presumed innocent until declared guilty is arguably already at risk. This core principle of ‘due process’ is what prevents the government from arresting and incarcerating an individual just by declaring them guilty. A defendant has a constitutional right to view all evidence that could prove their innocence (or cement their fate). Marsy’s Law would allow a victim to refuse access to that evidence. Where are the boundaries of this refusal? How do we address this issue? Do most even see the issue that this presents? Marsy’s Law is widely favored by the public. But are we failing to see the big picture? Is this perceived good actually a willing run towards the breakdown of a currently accepted rights we’d need should we find ourselves to be accused of a crime? Here is a description of the Crime Victims’ Act in PA, the exact wording that will be added to the constitution, and the current lawsuits filed against this proposed act: https://ballotpedia.org/Pennsylvania_Marsy%27s_Law_Crime_Victims_Rights_Amendment_(2019) This is the League of Women Voters’ detailed reasons why they oppose the amendment: https://www.palwv.org/marsys-law The ACLU’s view of Marsy’s Law and ‘due process’: https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/major-threat-due-process-marsys-law-gains-ground-nationwide PA Bill of Rights 1998 Crime Victims Act: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/uconsCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&yr=1998&sessInd=0&smthLwInd=0&act=111&chpt=2 This website provides the actual rules by line that are added to each state’s constitution: https://ballotpedia.org/Marsy%27s_Law_crime_victim_rights
In R. Buckminster Fuller's compact, accessible book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth", published 50 years ago in 1969, we are invited to reimagine humanity's role in Universe from a cosmic perspective. Our group conversation will focus on the main line of argument in the book. Namely, the importance of comprehensivism, the realization that our Spaceship did not come with an operating manual, the realization that general systems theory, cybernetics, and synergetics provide insights into global industrialization and the vast wealth it has produced, and the realization that we and our Spaceship are part of a regenerative landscape, an evolutionary process. "We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally-designed machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total." — R. Buckminster Fuller in "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" I will add more detailed questions closer to this event. I am posting the event early so that prospective participants will have a chance to read the book at least once before our November 30th event. Notes on reading the book: Many of Bucky's assertions will seem wrong at first. Indeed, there are interpretations of some passages which are, in fact, not true. However, I would submit that when seen from the right perspective, each of his statements is at least partially true (modulo a few factual errors such as "Reiman" which should be Riemann and who was German not Hindu). Bucky's writing has a poetic quality: the full meaning cannot be grasped by looking just at what is said, but it evokes, if you work at it by thinking through many possible interpretations, a deeper integrated meaning that is worth considering. It is a visionary account attempting to evoke a new way of perceiving and conceiving of our relationship with Universe, not a collection of assertions subject to a mere factual analysis. So I invite you to exercise your imaginative faculties to see each idea from a perspective in which you can recognize at least a hint of truth. Strive to identify the perspective the author is inviting you to consider. For a first reading, I recommend trying to glimpse Bucky's world view, to see if and how his big picture approach has some intriguing insights temporarily setting aside those places where you think he is off base. If you are interested in a deeper dive, read it multiple times using the methods of a hermaneutic circle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutic_circle). This copy of "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" is a 44 page PDF: http://designsciencelab.com/resources/OperatingManual_BF.pdf Here is a web-based copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20041028062223/http://www.futurehi.net/docs/OperatingManual.html Another web-based copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20100717141812/http://bfi.org/about-bucky/resources/books/operating-manual-spaceship-earth Wikipedia has a summary of the book at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_Manual_for_Spaceship_Earth