Monday, September 30, 2013

Extract from my book The Philosophy Gym - "The Consciousness Conundrum"

13. The Consciousness Conundrum

Philosophy Gym category:

Warm up

More challenging

Scientists are grappling with “the problem of consciousness”: the problem of explaining how that walnut-shaped lump of grey matter between your ears is capable of producing a rich inner world of conscious experiences. Will they ever solve this mystery? Some think it’s only a matter of time. Yet there are arguments that appear to show that consciousness is something that it is in principle impossible for science to explain.

The private realm of consciousness

Take a look at something red: a ripe tomato, for example. As you look at this object, you are conscious of having a certain experience – a colour experience. As the philosopher Thomas Nagel[i] (xx) explains, there’s something it is like to have this experience, something for you, the subject.
            We spend our lives immersed in a vibrant flow of such experiences: the smell of a flower, the taste of an orange, the rough sensation of wood under ones fingertips, a zinging pain, a melancholic moment. An interesting feature of this rich inner life we lead is that it seems peculiarly hidden from others. Others can observe my body and outward behaviour. But my experiences are hidden inside. Indeed, they would appear to be “hidden inside” in very strong sense. For they are not physically hidden, as, say, my brain is physically hidden inside my skull. Things that are physically hidden can in principle be revealed. Surgeons might one day be able to open up my skull and observe what physically goes on inside me when I have a colour experience. But they can never enter my mind and observe what the experience is like for me, from my point of view.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book now for Halloween special event CFI UK

Centre for Inquiry UK, The Skeptic magazine and Conway Hall present

Halloween Special: Ghosts, Zombies and Vampires!

Chaired and organized by Stephen Law, Heythrop College University of London.


Saturday October 26th, 2013

Conway Hall (Main Hall)
25 Red Lion Square

£10 (£5 students and BHA Ethical Soc members; free to friends of CFI UK). Tickets here or on the door.
10.30am registration. 11am-3.30pm

10.30 Registration
11.00 Deborah Hyde on vampires
12.00 Chris French on ghosts
1.30 Frank Swain on zombies
2.30 Scott Wood on London ghosts
3.30 END

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Skeptical theism and divine lies: The McBrayer/Swenson response to Wielenberg

Here's a draft (to be deleted shortly) for comments...

Skeptical Theism and Divine Lies: The McBrayer/Swenson response to Wielenberg

1. Skeptical Theism

Evidential arguments from evil often[i] take something like the following form:

If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
Gratuitous evil exists.
Therefore, God does not exist

Gratuitous evil is evil for which there is no God-justifying reason. Why suppose gratuitous evil exists? Well, we observe great evils for which we can identify no God-justifying reason. Thus, it is suggested, it’s reasonable to believe gratuitous evil exists.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My complaint to CISAS about huge Virgin mobile phone bills


Dear Mr Law
Case No: 212133585 - Law v Virgin Mobile
Further to our recent correspondence we have received confirmation from the company that they are settling this claim in full.
The adjudicator has no power to award any more than what the customer claims on the application form. Accordingly, the Company has 28 days to comply with the settlement. Should the Company not comply with the settlement please contact CISAS.
However, please be advised that we will not be able to investigate against the Company before the 28 day period has passed, ie on or before 01/11/2013.
Should we not hear from you after this period, we will assume you are happy with the resolution and will close our files accordingly.

For anyone interested...

I wish to complain about my daughter’s Virgin mobile account: account number FAxxxxx

I am a longstanding Virgin media customer. Some time ago was called by Virgin and offered a £5pm sim card for use in the mobile of a family member. I accepted the offer telling them my daughter needed a sim. At no point during this sales call was I informed that more than £5 per month could be spent on this mobile account, not even when I asked them to confirm £5 was all I would pay.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

George Ross - memorial lecture tomorrow

I am giving the George Ross Memorial lecture tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm, Conway Hall, London, part of the Philosophy Now Festival. I'll be talking about stuff from my book The War For Children's Minds, which George liked, I'm told. I didn't meet him but I have discovered a lot about him and clearly I missed out.

Here are George's Ten Commandments. Discuss...!


Published in Humanism Scotland Winter 2001, p. 11

1.          Sapere aude - Dare to know. Take the risk of discovery, exercise the right of unfettered criticism, accept the loneliness of autonomy. Have the courage to use independently your own understanding, without recourse to anyone else's guidance. Always question, always examine critically your thoughts and deeds. Always ask 'why?' Try also to ask 'why not?' Be creative. 

2.          Know thyself. To thine own self be true. Remember that an unexamined life is not worth living. 

3.          Universalize your actions: never do anything which you would not want to say that anybody and everybody should be able to do in a similar situation. Treat your fellow human beings as you want them to treat you. Do not have double standards: apply to yourself the principles and laws that you yourself formulate. Never treat people as a means to an end: only as an end in itself. 

4.          Be kind and compassionate, and be involved: remember that the hottest place in hell is destined to those who adopt a neutral attitude in a moral conflict. 

5.          Take very seriously your duty towards others, but do not take yourself seriously. Always aim for the best result possible, not for the best possible result. 

6.          Remember that all human opinions, values, tenets and beliefs are of necessity subjective and relative. Always treat them as hypotheses or premises. Never bestow upon an opinion, doctrine, dogma or belief of any sort an absolute character: this is the cause of most heinous crimes against humanity. Beware of peddlers of absolutes, for people have been – and are – exterminated in the name of absolutes. Nobody has ever been killed for a hypothesis, so far at least. 

7.          Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Do not make a virtue of banality, by calling it 'common sense'. Remember that the surest defence against evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality. 

8.          Tolerate any stance, except intolerance itself. To detest another man's opinions is one thing. To suppress them is quite another. This distinction is the essence of liberalism. Plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure. 

9.          Treat with respect the planet on which we live. It is the only one we've got at present and we must bequeath it to our children – and our children's children. 

10.        Strive to live in such a way that the world you leave behind you is a better place, freer, wiser, more tolerant, than the world you found when you were born. Try to make a difference – however small. 

                                                                                  ©George Ross 2000

[With due acknowledgements to the ancient (pre-Socratic) Greeks, Socrates, Plato, Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, Flaubert, G. B. Shaw, Popper, Joseph Brodsky and … S. J. Simon (Why You Lose at Bridge)