Alva Noë

Alva Noë is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture. He is writer and a philosopher who works on the nature of mind and human experience.

Noë received his PhD from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has recently begun a performative-lecture collaboration with Deborah Hay. Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.

He is the author of Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004); Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009); and most recently, Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012). He is now at work on a book about art and human nature.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:42 am
Fri June 26, 2015

How Trauma Shapes The World We Know

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Soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — a trauma-induced condition in which individuals experience heightened emotional arousal and anxiety — see a world full of threat.

A new study by Rebecca Todd, and colleagues at the University of British Columbia and the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, shows that that they really do. That is, they experience the presence of real threats the rest of us cannot see.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:25 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Should We Trust Science?

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Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 4:54 pm

Cheating in science has been in the news lately. The Office of Research Integrity — which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — punishes on the order of a dozen scientists a year for different sorts of misconduct, such as plagiarism and making up results, according to the founders of one watchdog group.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:06 am
Fri May 29, 2015

An Intersection Of Science And Art In Rembrandt's 'Anatomy Lesson'

Rembrant's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.
Fine Art Images Heritage Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 30, 2015 1:02 am

A couple of years back, my neurosurgeon showed me some snaps she'd made on her flip phone of my open forearm during a surgery she had performed on me.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:26 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Peering Into Rembrandt's Eyes

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The Late Rembrandt show that closed this past weekend at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the first exhibition ever to focus on the adventurous and experimental painting of the last 18 years of Rembrandt's life.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:49 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Silencing Science

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Nikos Logothetis, a director at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and leading neuroscientist working on perception, has announced that he is ceasing research on primates.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:11 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

What Else Might We Term 'God'?

NASA/ESA

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 6:24 pm

In her contributions last week to 13.7, guest blogger and author Nancy Ellen Abrams proposed what she calls a new way to define the word "God." You can read the posts here and here.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:58 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Reflections On The 'Boys' Of Summer

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis has the ball but the New York Mets' David Wright is safe on an eighth-inning stolen base in New York on Tuesday.
Kathy Willens AP

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 3:23 pm

The baseball season is well underway now. In the past, I've managed to resist posting to 13.7 about the thrill, the hopes, the excitement, the shamefully partisan delight that I feel with the start of the new season.

This year is different for me, though. For the first time, I'm an assistant coach for my son's Little League squad — and I'm even more steeped in baseball, and its sheer difficulty, than ever before.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:20 pm
Sun April 12, 2015

The Power Of The Screen

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In Kammer Kammer, a choreographic work of William Forsythe and his dancers in the Forsythe Company, some performers wear or carry cameras that send a live feed from the stage to monitors placed in view of the audience around the hall.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:39 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Why Does The War On Drugs Persist?

U.S. Coast Guard members stand near bags containing approximately 719 kilograms of cocaine in Miami Beach.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 3, 2015 5:17 pm

I was chatting with a friend who works as a physician at a large California state prison. He mentioned, in passing, that drug use is pretty widespread at the prison. If you can't prohibit the sale and use of drugs in a maximum security prison, he asked, what are the chances you can prohibit drugs on our streets?

A good argument, it seems to me.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:01 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

The Fight Against Addiction: Is Love All You Need?

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If anything deserves to be called "the establishment view," it is what Johann Hari — in his new book on addiction and the war on drugs, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugscalls the pharmaceutical model of addiction.

The pharmaceutical model says that addiction is about chemicals. Addiction is a chronic incurable disease of the brain. The brain's pleasure centers are hijacked.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:12 pm
Sun March 8, 2015

Who Was Mr. Spock?

Actor Leonard Nimoy in 2006.
RIC FRANCIS AP

Leonard Nimoy, who died on Feb. 27 at age 83, wrote two memoirs. One was called I Am Not Spock and the other was called I Am Spock.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:49 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Evolution And Airplane Security

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Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 4:29 pm

On my way to Vancouver by air recently, I found myself wondering about the practice of using service trolleys to block access to the cockpit when the pilots need to unlock their secured doors to come aft.

The problem is a real one; opening the door to the flight deck gives would-be maniacs a chance to rush the cockpit. The question is: What's the fix?

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:14 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Taking A Good Look At Touch

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Vision comes first in our society. The study of perception has tended to be dominated by the study of vision. Vision, said Aristotle, is the queen of the senses.

There's something to it: I may hear you in the kitchen — but there's a sense that when I see you, only then do I really know exactly what you are doing.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:13 pm
Sun February 1, 2015

A Case Against The Phrase 'No Problem'

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Originally published on Mon February 2, 2015 3:22 pm

The phrase "no problem" has always struck me as a fine way to respond to an apology. It is friendly to say to a person who has interrupted you, or cut you off, or woken you up, or missed an appointment, that the problem they caused you is no problem. By minimizing the wrong done — by saying that it was no problem — you both acknowledge the apology and express forgiveness. Perfect.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:29 am
Fri January 23, 2015

The Ethics Of The 'Singularity'

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Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 9:31 am

Some people argue that we will one day reach a point when our machines, which will have become smarter than us, will be able themselves to make machines that are smarter than them. Superintelligence — an intelligence far-outreaching what we are in a position even to imagine — will come on the scene. We will have attained what is known, in futurist circles, as the "singularity." The singularity is coming. So some people say.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:28 am
Fri January 16, 2015

Making A Brain Map That We Can Use

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It is now conventional wisdom that the brain is the seat of the mind; it is alone through the brain's workings that we think and feel and know.

But what is a brain, anyway?

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:14 am
Fri January 9, 2015

The Biased Eye

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Recent events give us occasion to think hard about racial stereotypes and the way they may bias even the unprejudiced mind.

Studies have shown that prejudice can operate in us covertly. Even people who openly reject racial prejudice, for example, may express prejudice in the way they react to situations. Prejudice can operate, in the language of social science, implicitly (or unconsciously).

Remarkably, this sort of implicit bias can affect even the way we see.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:45 am
Tue December 30, 2014

In Search Of A Science Of Consciousness

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 1:43 pm

Any color you choose can be matched by a mixture of short, medium and long wavelength light (i.e., blue, green and red light). This perceptual observation led to the formulation, early in the 19th century, of a neurophysiological hypothesis: The eye contains three kinds of distinct color-sensitive receptors (cones); just as colors themselves can be composed of lights of different spectral character, so we can see the vast range of visible color thanks to the joint operation of only three distinct kinds of receptors.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:34 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Do People Like To Think?

Visitors look at the restored statue The Thinker by Auguste Rodin at the Singer Laren museum in 2011.
Toussaint Kluiters AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 5:37 pm

When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed at night listening to Mets games on the transistor radio, or to the top 40. Sunday evenings were hard because there was no baseball and most of the music stations went to talk.

As I got older, I came to take comfort in the talk. I learned to love Father Bill Ayers' call-in show late on New York's WPLJ.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:51 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Artificial Intelligence, Really, Is Pseudo-Intelligence

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Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 5:14 pm

One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence.

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