The ant colony as a test for scientific theories of consciousness

This in Synthese freely available here.

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We introduce the Ant Colony Test (ACT) as a rigorous reverse test for consciousness. We show that social insect colonies, though disaggregated collectives, fulfill many of the prerequisites for conscious awareness met by humans and honey bee workers.

However only a small fraction of neurons in the brain might be involved in processing visual impulses amplified by sensory cells. Yet all cells of the human are affected by the activity of just these few. It would not make sense to say that any skin cell or single neuron “fell for an illusion”. Similarly it does not make sense to say that any single worker was fooled, the illusion occurred via a colony-level process. Thus we cannot explain away the susceptibility of the colony to illusion by reductionistically appealing to individual worker behavior. The outcome of being fooled arises as a system property, in both humans and ant colonies (Baluška and Levin 2016). The spatially-organizing activity of colonies occurs as a consequence of interactions among individuals, most of which might not be directly involved in the organizational task.

Art and Salvation: Review of Hooten Wilson’s Walker Percy

Here is my review in the Southern Literary Review of Jessica Hooten Wilson’s excellent two books (the original and my preferred version is here):

  • Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence. The Ohio State University Press, 2017
  • Reading Walker Percy’s Novels. Louisiana State University Press, 2018

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David Wiggins

Born on this day — a true gentleman in every sense. If ever Wiggins was miffed that I preferred to talk to him about his metaphysics rather than his ethics, he never let on. Sameness and Substance Renewed (2001) and its two precursors, 1967’s Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity and 1980’s Sameness and Substance, jointly remain one of my favourite reads. See discussion of Wiggins’ sortal identity at the Information Philosopher.

de Jonge, Eccy; David Wiggins, Professor of Philosophy (1989-1994)

Clips Released from Islam & The Future Of Tolerance

The producers have released some clips via their Kickstarter page also published here on YouTube.


The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance

In “The Victim of Thought: The Idealist Inheritance,” David Boucher examines the relationship of this theory of knowledge or experience to philosophical—and especially British—idealism. He makes two fundamental points about this relationship. First, he argues that although idealism was on the wane in Britain the 1920s and 1930s, Oakeshott’s brand of idealism was hardly as unfashionable as many suppose. Second, he rejects the contention that Oakeshott jettisoned or severely attenuated his idealist commitments over the course of his career, arguing instead that Oakeshott’s philosophical outlook exhibits remarkable consistency over the course of fifty years. In particular, he claims that Oakeshott never abandoned his early commitment to absolute idealism or monism and that the introduction of the analogy of conversation in “The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind” did not alter his view of philosophy. Boucher rounds off his analysis by teasing out what he takes to be the distinctive features of Oakeshott’s idealism.

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Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words

Just published. Hopefully this will be a cracking and informative read. Surprisingly, it’s published by a university press.

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Using Stigmergy to Distinguish Event-Specific Topics in Social Discussions

Open access article.