In response to students’ questions about whether time is real and time travel is possible, I’ve been reading what physicists and biologists have to say. My conclusions are that time (as a system of relations among events) is real, and that time travel is implausible.
Resilience is important in many spheres of life, from personal psychology to ecology and economics. It’s important to be resilient and bounce back from life’s difficulties, but it’s even better to bounce forward and be “prosilient”.
Bertrand Russell devised a word game he called “irregular verbs” with examples like: I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pigheaded fool. These constructions provide excellent illustrations of the varying emotional associations of words.
Memes are bad ideas because of the substantial differences between biological and cultural evolution. The lumping of all cultural entities together as memes neglects the variety and complexity of mental representations. The processes by which mental representations are generated and selected are very different from the ones that operate in biological evolution.
People succumb to motivated ignorance when their goals lead them to avoid learning potentially valuable information. Such avoidance of knowledge naturally happens with respect to important personal topics such as relationships and health. It is also common at the social and political level with respect to issues such as climate change.
Philosophy attempts to answer fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and morals. In contrast to the dominant approach that uses the study of language and logic to analyze existing concepts, I prefer an approach that is closely tied to scientific investigations and aims to improve concepts.
Being ethical requires good reasoning about rights, consequences, and principles; but it also requires caring about the people affected by actions. Ethical thought needs to be both cognitive and emotional.
There are good theoretical and practical reasons to
collaborate with people from other disciplines on projects
such as trying to understand how the mind works. Here is
some advice about how to collaborate productively.
Some critics of U.S. President Obama’s healthcare plan have argued that requiring people to buy health insurance is as illegitimate as requiring them to eat broccoli. A psychological theory of analogy clarifies where this reasoning goes wrong.
Making decisions about social issues, including scientific ones such as climate change and bioengineering, requires values as well as facts. One good way to make such values explicit is to diagram them using cognitive-affective maps, which display emotional attitudes as well as conceptual structure.
Intuitions in everyday life and especially in philosophy are often unreliable. Intuition should only be trusted when a thinker has had ample opportunity to acquire knowledge about stable regularities in an environment.