The Knesset Loses a Philosopher

Haim Watzman It’s a ritual that Israel observes before every election. One or more highly-qualified exemplars of what an Israeli parliamentarian lose out in their party primaries or decide, in disgust or exasperation, not to run again. This year’s latest victim is Isaac Ben-Israel, MK for the Kadima Party. In an interview with Ari Shavit … Read more

The Out There In Here–Rebecca Goldstein’s “Incompleteness” and John Searle’s “Mind, Language and Society”

Haim Watzman

A blog post about whether a world exists outside one’s mind, and if so, how and to what extent we can know about it? That’s a subject you can cover in a few hundred words!

But what’s a writer to do—this blog is the only semantic space in which I can discuss these issues, and I’ve been stimulated by two books I’ve just read—Rebecca Goldstein’s Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (Great Discoveries) and John Searle’s Mind, Language, and Society : Philosophy in the Real World. Both authors are philosophers who write for a larger public; Goldstein is also a novelist—evident in her vivid portrayal of Gödel as a person, and of his intellectual milieu.

Goldstein’s book stands out among treatments of Gödel’s ideas meant for broad audiences for two reasons. First, it doesn’t talk down to the intelligent layman and follows, step by step, the proofs of his theorems. The logical notation and equations she uses may look scary, but persist—it’s all explained very well. If you ever had a course in basic logic (which you probably had in high school math), you’ll be able to follow it.

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Computers on the Brain: Why We Need Philosophers

Everyone says that brains are like computers. Well, maybe not everyone, but neuroscientists and philosophers of mind use this analogy in their attempts to understand how brains work. This is important information regarding the knowledge behind how people are actually able to concentrate and focus on their work from time to time. This is the type of information that is needed when people want to get focus supplements to help their brain work at the best possible level. On the face of it, the comparison is clear. We know what computers are and we know what brains are, after all. Just like we know that a rock is a rock and an apple is an apple and a democracy is a democracy, right?

Actually, it’s not that simple, as Hebrew University philosopher Oron Shagrir explained yesterday in a talk he gave at Bar-Ilan University as part of its Science, Technology, and Society Colloquium.

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