Philosophy & Ethics

I am not a metaphysician (or a metaphysicist, as some call themselves), but I've been fascinated for a while by what I've come to think of as the metaphysics wars. Let me explain. Metaphysics is, of course, one of the classic branches of philosophy, tracing back at least to the pre-Socratic Thales of Miletus (the guy who thought that all is made of water), and of course getting its name from Aristotle's treatise (though that wasn't the original title, it was named so afterwards, because it came after Aristotle's Physics).
You can tell I've had philosophy of mind on my mind lately. I've written about the Computational Theory of Mind (albeit within the broadest context of a post on the difference between scientific theories and philosophical accounts), about computation and the Church-Turing thesis, and of course about why David Chalmers is wrong about the Singularity and mind uploading (in press in a new volume edited by Russell Blackford and Damien Broderick).

Doctors who abuse prescription drugs often "self-medicate" for physical or emotional pain or stress relief, according to a new paper.

Based on focus groups with physicians in treatment for substance abuse, the findings lend insight into the reasons why doctors abuse prescription medications—as well as important implications for prevention and recognition. The lead author was Lisa J. Merlo, PhD, MPE, of the University of Florida, Gainesville.


The beggar's cup is empty. Hardly anybody cares about him. Despising side glances hurt, still hurt every time. A squirrel runs up the tree and goes for the best nut. Suddenly a calm understanding replaces the beggar’s bitterness. He walks into the mall where he usually steals, but today, he does not steal. He eats. Today, they care again, care about him, even give him respect. Today, he rejoined society.
There is almost no way I’m not going to get in trouble with this one, and my name isn’t even Carlos Danger! But I’ve been asked several times by readers to comment on accusations of “Islamophobia” aimed at prominent New Atheists (henceforth, NA) — particularly Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — and it seems time to get down to work.
Jennifer Saul, a philosopher at the University of Sheffield, published an article in Salon entitled  “Philosophy has a sexual harassment problem.” While there is much substance and nuance in the body of the article, I sincerely hope that Prof. Saul did not actually choose the title herself (editors often do that sort of thing), because the message it sends is anything but nuanced, and if taken at face value also not particularly constructive.
A common technique of activists and people who generally distrust science and want to undermine it is to clog up the discourse with sophistry, like "it depends on how you define X", or they claim that their personal belief means science is not science, but rather morality. 
Time to take a break from philosophy of mind and get back to evolutionary psychology.
I recently examined (and found wanting) the so-called computational theory of mind, albeit in the context of a broader post about the difference between scientific theories and what I think are best referred to as philosophical accounts (such as the above mentioned computational “theory”). Defenders of strong versions of computationalism (which amounts to pretty much the same thing as strong AI) often invoke the twin concepts of computation itself and of the Church-Turing thesis to imply that computationalism is not only obviously true, but has been shown to be so by way of mathematical proof.