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A BIT of In Praise of Reason

Why does rationality matter for democracy? In this BIT, Michael Lynch offers a spirited defense of reason and rationality in an era of widespread skepticism. Lynch investigates how our reason is affected by emotion and intuition, discussing, among other things, fMRIs of the brains of George Bush supporters, the Platonist ideal of reason, and Huck Finn’s moral dilemma.

A BIT of Radical Embodied Cognitive Science

While philosophers of mind have been arguing over the status of mental representations in cognitive science, cognitive scientists have been quietly engaged in studying perception, action, and cognition without explaining them in terms of mental representation. In this BIT, Anthony Chemero maps the evolution of a nonrepresentational, dynamical, ecological cognitive science and introduces radical embodied cognition.

A BIT of Science in Democracy

Political controversies over scientific issues ranging from global warming to biotechnology demonstrate how closely politics today is intertwined with science. This BIT offers insights into how to democratize science without undermining its potential contribution to society, considering the flaws of representative democracy and politicization of science.

A BIT of Advice for a Young Investigator

Santiago Ramón y Cajal is a towering figure in the history of science. Hailed today as the father of modern anatomy and neurobiology, he was largely responsible for the modern conception of the brain. Advice for a Young Investigator, first published in 1897, offers a witty and anecdotal guide for scientists that can be enjoyed by both novice and veteran researchers. In this BIT, Ramón y Cajal considers what it takes to be a successful scientific investigator.

A BIT of The Digital Rights Movement

What began as an assertion of consumer rights to digital content has become something broader: a movement concerned not just with consumers and gadgets but with cultural ownership. In this BIT, Hector Postigo examines the evolution of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, showing that citizens’ concerns were largely ignored in the policy process.

A BIT of Artificial Love

In his writing, the architect Paul Shepheard examines old assumptions about architecture and replaces the critical theory of the academic with the active theory of the architect-citizen enamored of the world around him. In this BIT, he takes Thanksgiving Day as an opportunity to reflect on the diaspora of his family and the evolution of human emotional bonds; and, conducting a seminar, he wonders how philosophy became part of architecture.

A BIT of Laws, Mind, and Free Will

If the mind and the world are entirely governed by natural laws, there seems to be no room left for free will to operate. In this BIT, Steven Horst offers an account of laws that is compatible with claims for libertarian free will. He argues that one can embrace the truth of individual laws, or indeed any set of such laws, without any implication of determinism, because the idealization conditions of each law are essentially open-ended.

A BIT of Interface Fantasy

In this BIT, André Nusselder uses the core psychoanalytic notion of fantasy to examine our relationship to computers and digital technology. Lacanian psychoanalysis considers fantasy to be an indispensable “screen” for our interaction with the outside world; Nusselder argues that, at the mental level, computer screens and other human-computer interfaces incorporate this function of fantasy: they mediate the real and the virtual.

A BIT of Matter and Consciousness, third edition

This selection from a recently updated edition of a classic work by Paul Churchland considers such questions as the nature of mental states and processes, in what medium they take place, how they are related to the physical world, whether consciousness survives the disintegration of the physical body, and if a purely physical system such as a computer could enjoy real conscious experience.

A BIT of Thought and Language, revised and expanded

This BIT offers an excerpt from a foundational work of cognitive science—considered one of the most important and influential books ever published by the MIT Press—that outlines a theory of the development of specifically human higher mental functions.

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