Guest contribution at Grasped in Thought

You may have realized that I did not write much here lately. Other than that I am working for the planning of my PhD thesis I was writing an article for the Grasped in Thought blog. There I try to draw some connections between the american pragmatist tradition and the form of liberal naturalism that I have in mind.

Check out my article here: Pragmatism and Two Forms of Naturalism

Check also the blog in general and other contributions to it and the podcast.

Philosophy Chunks #4

Here is some crazy philosophy and science stuff for you to read, yeah:

If you want to know what it is all about that Westworld is so philosophical and stuff, check out this article about the philosophical ideas in the series:

Westworld and the Meaning of Life

There is a saying that we are actually all made of starstuff. You know the Big Bang and stuff. Jennifer Johnson now has made a periodic table that shows where all the stuff in the universe comes from.

This awesome periodic table shows the origins of every atom in your body

If you are interested in logic and where it comes from, this is for you. Kant thought the logic he knew and learned from Aristotle is all there is to know. But actually logic has a significant history of changes nowadays.

What is logic?

There is a debate if serious science can do without evidence. Mostly, because there are some physicists who say that there is no evidence for String Theory to have and that is not a problem for physics. Here is a debate between Massimo Pigliucci, Tara Shears and Rupert Sheldrake.

Missing Evidence – Does physics still need experiment?

By the way, Sheldrake is complaining about, that researchers who do investigate telepathy do not get any funding anymore. Maybe that is not because the scientific community is dogmatic and ignorant about the subject, but because research that was done in that field was showing that telepathy is not a thing?! Just guessing so…

Google Translate Now Features a Neural Network Technology.

Since September Google uses a new engine for their translation tool. It is running a neural network instead of a classical translation table. Here I have a test for you. I got a German part of Popper and Eccles’ The Self and its Brain. One of the following English quotes is the English original and one is the Google translation. Guess which is which!

Here is the German original:

“Menschliche Wesen sind unersetzlich; und dadurch unterscheiden sie sich deutlich von Maschinen. Menschen können das Leben genießen; sie können leiden und sie können dem Tod bewusst ins Auge sehen. Sie haben Bewusstsein, sie haben ein Ich, eine Seele. Eine Person ist Zweck, nicht Mittel zum Zweck, wie Kant betont.”

Here are the translations. First:

“Human beings are irreplaceable; And thus they differ significantly from machines.
People can enjoy life; They can suffer and they can consciously face death. They have consciousness, they have an ego, a soul. A person is purpose, not means to the purpose, as Kant emphasizes.”


“Human beings are irreplaceable; and in being irreplaceable they are clearly very different from machines. They are capable of enjoying life, and they are capable of  suffering, and of facing death consciously. They are selves; they are ends in themselves, as Kant said.”


Displaying a neural network of the new engine. Taken from the article of the Google research blog.


And did you get which one is which? Actually the first one is the Google translation. The second one the English original. I did some more tests, where I translated English passages into German. And Google Translate is doing very well. Even getting some points in style. Try it for yourself and have some fun with the new engine. I think it is really astonishing how well it works.

For some technical details check out this article at the Google research blog.

Zero-Shot Translation with Google’s Multilingual Neural Machine Translation System

The Edge 20th Anniversary Annual Question: Introduction

Every year Edge poses a question to some of the most important scientists in the world. The question and the answers should help to popularise scientific concepts. This years question is: What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?

I really like the introduction of John Brockman. He emphasis, that often sciences is only understood as the hard natural sciences, like physics, chemistry and molecular biology. This happens because people think science is only where experiments are made. But you cannot do experiments in every branch of science.

He, therefore, tries to sketch a broader view of science. As Massimo Pigliucci he mentions the latin word “scientia” which means knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is different for different sciences. In physics you can do experiments and mathematical modelling. In the social sciences often you cannot do any experiments that are similar in reliability to these of physics.

So we should adopt a broader view of science. A view that endorses all reliable ways of knowledge acquisition. That includes psychology, social sciences, history and maybe even philosophy. By the way, that is also the reason why I think naturalists should abandon epistemological naturalism. First, that sounds paradoxical but if you have to adopt such a broad view of science, including other sciences than only the natural sciences, where is the “natural” in “naturalism” gone, when it does not refer to the natural sciences? So I propose: As a naturalist. we should be liberal scientists, not epistemological naturalists.

I will read the contributions to the question and maybe make some further posts about the answers.


Christmas Philosopyh Chunks #3

As a philosopher it is always hard to make people understand what this business is all about. Why are we doing philosophy? What is it good for? If you can at least convince someone that it is not a total waste of time, it is hard to suggest a reading that is understandable and introduces into philosophy the right way. Here are some tips for first readings by Patrick Stokes:

Where to start reading philosophy?

Steven Weinberg has put together some of his favorite science books for the general reader:

Steven Weinberg: the 13 best science books for the general reader

As talking of physics: Should physicists abandon the hope for first principles that explain everything? The author of this post suggest physicists should take seriously that they cannot explain why the physics in our universe is exactly as it is.

Physics and the search for fundamental laws: Is physics turning into biology?

Thcmb_timeline300_no_wmapere is a theory of gravity that does not take gravity as a fundamental force but as a emerging epiphenomenon. Verlinde’s new theory passed now the first test. The advantage of the theory: no crazy Dark Matter needed to explain gravity.

Verlinde’s new theory of gravity passes first test

Philosophy Chunks #2

We are about to round up the year 2016. Oxford University Press just published a timeline with all the big philosophy events this year.

OUP philosophy 2016 timeline

The often discussed paper of Nick Bostrom “Are you living in a computer simulation?” has now its own website:

Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?

Pretty interesting article in the New York Times about the development of AI at Google and co. Shit becomes real.

The Great A.I. Awakening

Everybody knows the liar paradox or Russell’s Paradox but do you know the Incompatible Food Triad problem?

The Incompatible Food Triad Is The Most Delicious Philosophical Problem Of Our Time

Philosophy chunks #1

Here we have one of these debates over the worth of philosophy. Lawrence Krauss argues that philosophical questions have no impact on physics whatsoever. That depends on what you understand as physics. Collecting data and constructing theories may not be influenced by philosophy but I think the interpreting of this data is. Angie Hobbs says that science is discussing beings (with a small b) and philosophy is discussing Being (with a capital B) and I think such talk is responsible for scientists not taking philosophy serious. On the other side, Mary Midgley is point on when she says, that connecting different ways of thinking is one job for philosophy and  that Krauss’ metaphilosophical theses are still philosophical.

Philosophy bites back

Many people interested in philosophy know Existential Comics. They are hilarious but also promoting philosophy. Here is an interview with the man behind the scenes Corey Mohler:

Existential Comics: Interview with Corey Mohler

Ray Monk writing about the very interesting Frank Ramsey:

‘One of the Great Intellects of His Time’