Monday, January 30, 2012

Neuroscience of Happiness guy defends computational theory of mind

from Salon
"One perhaps controversial claim your book makes early on is that the brain can literally, rather than metaphorically, be thought of as a computer – and following from this, that an identical, non-biological computational device could be created (as in artificial intelligence). Is this idea widely accepted in the field of philosophy of mind today? In philosophy of mind I would say, maybe 50/50. It used to be very popular when Hilary Putnam formalized the solution of functionalism with regard to minds: the idea that what the system does is what matters, not what it is made of. But then he repudiated his stance and it gets a bit complicated. I think as far as the -isms go in philosophy, there’s a blend between an old-fashioned school (mid-1950s), which says the mind is literally what this brain does, it’s this brain’s mind. But then you have to admit there are very simple philosophical arguments that when certain changes are made to the composition of the system, its function would not matter. For instance, right now you and I are interconnected cognitive mental states. So if I tell you, Look at your hand and count your fingers, while I’m looking at mine, we both see five fingers. We have the number five in our minds; what does it reside in? It’s definitely not your neurons because your neurons are yours and my neurons are mine. So it cannot be those neurons specifically; it’s what those neurons do. So if you accept that, the question then becomes, is it a slippery slope? Where does it stop, what can you do with or to a system without disrupting the mind that exists in it? And that’s a question that would take much longer than a couple of minutes to get into."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brain Recording Device in a Chick Tract

"Chick tracts are ammonium nitrate for the soul."
-Mark Dery, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big Flash Drive

My wife has to buy another one because I left ours on the top of the car and drove away. There's an esoteric allegory about spiritual meditation in there somewhere.

Clear2GO Water Bottle with Filter

replacement filters

nursing books


Monday, January 16, 2012

Burroughs on Magic, Jimmy Page

Since the word “magic” tends to cause confused thinking, I would like to say exactly what I mean by “magic” and the magical interpretation of so-called reality. The underlying assumption of magic is the assertion of ‘will’ as the primary moving force in this universe–the deep conviction that nothing happens unless somebody or some being wills it to happen. To me this has always seemed self-evident. A chair does not move unless someone moves it. Neither does your physical body, which is composed of much the same materials, move unless you will it to move. Walking across the room is a magical operation. From the viewpoint of magic, no death, no illness, no misfortune, accident, war or riot is accidental. There are no accidents in the world of magic. And will is another word for animate energy. Rock stars are juggling fissionable material that could blow up at any time… “The soccer scores are coming in from the Capital…one must pretend an interest,” drawled the dandified Commandante, safe in the pages of my book; and as another rock star said to me, “YOU sit on your ass writing–I could be torn to pieces by my fans, like Orpheus.”

I found Jimmy Page equally aware of the risks involved in handling the fissionable material of the mass unconscious.


I turned to Jimmy Page: “Of course we are dealing here with meditation– the deliberate induction of a trance state in a few people under the hands of an old master. This would seem on the surface to have a little in common with a rock concert, but the underlying force is the same: human energy and its potential concentration.” I pointed out that the moment when the stairway to heaven becomes something actually POSSIBLE for the audience, would also be the moment of greatest danger. Jimmy expressed himself as well aware of the power in mass concentration, aware of the dangers involved, and of the skill and balance needed to avoid them…rather like driving a load of nitroglycerine.

“There IS a responsibility to the audience,” he said. “We don’t want anything bad to happen to these kids–we don’t want to release anything we can’t handle.” We talked about magic and Aleister Crowley. Jimmy said that Crowley has been maligned as a black magician, whereas magic is neither white nor black, good nor bad–it is simply alive with what it is: the real thing, what people really feel and want and are. I pointed out that this “either/or” straitjacket had been imposed by Christianity when all magic became black magic; that scientists took over from the Church, and Western man has been stifled in a non-magical universe known as “the way things are.” Rock music can be seen as one attempt to break out of this dead soulless universe and reassert the universe of magic.

William Burroughs on Led Zeppelin at Arthur Magazine

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Peter Brown on the Christian adoption of the term "pagan"

The adoption of paganus by Latin Christians as an all-embracing, pejorative term for polytheists represents an unforeseen and singularly long-lasting victory, within a religious group, of a word of Latin slang originally devoid of religious meaning. The evolution occurred only in the Latin west, and in connection with the Latin church. Elsewhere, "Hellene " or "gentile" (ethnikos) remained the word for "pagan"; and paganos continued as a purely secular term, with overtones of the inferior and the commonplace.
Peter Brown, in Glen Warren Bowersock, Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Oleg Grabar, eds., Late Antiquity: a guide to the postclassical world, 1999, s.v. "Pagan".
via Wikipedia on Paganism