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On the Freedom to Do What We (Truly) Want [Guest-post]

A guest post by Dom from Mindcoolness

When I studied cognitive science in Vienna I met Dom. A bodybuilder, power lifter, fighter, philosopher, a blogger and now a cognitive scientist (a cool combination, huh?) he has been an inspiration for me ever since. I am truly happy we became friends. In his blog and podcast at www.mindcoolness.com he explores discipline and will power. Ever had troubles keeping a routine? Losing weight? Can’t control impulsive behaviour? Or don’t know what you truly want? Then Dom’s blog is definitely worth checking out. I also sincerely recommend reading his book Will Power Condenced which I had the honour to proof read before publishing. If you like his stuff, also follow him on twitter (@mindcoolnessTHIS is a guest post by Dom. I asked him to explain the paradox: Why does freedom sometimes involve doing things we do not want to do? Read more

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Ozora lecture submission

I submitted a proposal for a lecture to the Ozora festival. The lecture is supposed to cover the ways in which the contemporary cognitive science is able to tackle age old questions in the philosophy of mind. The exact content of the lecture is not yet fixed, but the range of topics includes:

  • What does cognitive science have to say about the Platonism/non-Platonism debate, i.e. do abstract concepts, such as mathematical ones, posses existence independent of humans or cognitive systems in general?
  • What can neuroscience tell us about the nature of experience, meaning and consciousness? Is having a powerful enough fMRI brain scanning techniques enough to understand the relationship between the mind and the body? Even if not, how can it help?
  • What is the enactivist-representationalist debate in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, and how is it related to meditation, embodiment, even Buddhism and spirituality?
  • How can artificial intelligence, in particular artificial neural networks illuminate our understanding of meaning, emergence and consciousness? What are the limitations and the possibilities of the present day AI systems? What is the moral and ethical side of developing thinking (and feeling?) machines?

An inspirational animation with text from Rosch, E., Varela, F., & Thompson, E. (1991). The embodied mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience:

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More on my Algebra teaching

What tricks do you use in your teaching or have found useful while studying? Comment below!

A couple of months ago I wrote about my eccentric first algebra lecture. I am lecturing Algebra I in this semester which is in fact split into two parts. The teaching methodology this course is being taught in (and has been taught a couple years before me) is already of interest to people outside of our department. I have additionally experimented with some extra stuff such as magic tricks and YouTube videos and below I summarise all that.

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Cognitive Science of Philosophy of Mathematics – workshop

Short motivation

What is mathematics? How is mathematics produced, understood and learned by the human brain? Do infinities exist or are they a product of our minds? Whether or not they exist, mathematicians’ minds can conceptualise infinity. What does this mean and how is this possible? Is mathematics limited and shaped by human brain and body or is it completely independent of the agent doing it? Would extraterrestrial aliens have the same mathematics as we do?

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The Kick-ass Value of Expert Advice

New: Don’t have time to read? Scroll down to watch a 1-minute summarising video instead.

Last Tuesday I was, as regularly, practising acrobatics in Sirkus Huima’s free exercise shift. Osmo Tammisalo who is, among other things, an expert acrobat happened to be there and he came to watch my back flip. He started giving me some advice and in the first ten minutes my back flip improved more than in the previous two months. After these ten minutes he said “perhaps it will help if you learn flic-flac first”. I was horrified. Flic-flac? I always thought it was extremely difficult, and considered it much more difficult and scarier than the back flip. But he insisted that I try to jump backwards… even if landing on my head (don’t worry, into a sea of pillows). And so I did. After 15 minutes of practice under his supervision, this was the result (video):

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Work as if there is no tomorrow

When I remember the projects which I got done relatively quickly and in which I succeeded “no matter what” one thing in common is that I constantly had the feeling that “I am almost there”. For example, it was December 2014 when I came up with the idea for the proof in my knot classification TAMSpaper. It felt as if the proof was complete in my head and the only thing I had to do was just to sit and write it down. So that’s what I did. I sat. And three months later it was done. Three months? Yes, three months. But every single day it felt like I am going to be done this evening. Read more

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Representation and Enactivism

Think of a place that you visit often but where you are not located right now. Maybe it’s your kitchen or your bedroom.  Imagine that you are walking around that place. For simplicity I  will assume that it is your kitchen. You can ‘see’ where the stove and the fridge are, where the window is and so on, can’t you? Maybe you can even navigate in your imaginary kitchen and you can add things to your imaginary experience that are not normally there: A lion in your kitchen? A monster under the table? A gazelle in your fridge? Or who knows, maybe you have one.  Does this ability of yours mean that you have a representation of your kitchen in your brain?

In this blog post I will explore a philosophical debate between philosophers of mind who claim you have and those who say that no, you haven’t. There are two partial solutions that I will present. One is based on resolving some apparent contradictions showing that many things are actually either compatible with both views or just results of misconceptions. The other is based on the distinction between the two notions of information: semantic and non-semantic.

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On Lord’s and Other Prayers

My friend Sam recently asked me what do I think of Lord’s Prayer and I decided to publish my response here. Since I didn’t grow up religious and was never particularly keen on praying, this was the first time I was actually exposed to the content of this prayer. This makes me somewhat unbiased compared to someone who had to repeat it multiple times in childhood.

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