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.

Attitudes toward animals are a delicate and complicated matter.

We can group animals into vertebrates and invertebrates, into the wild and the domestic — or into those we keep as pets, those we eat and those we regard with disgust as vermin.

It's OK to love them — but only so much.

It is a remarkable fact that we treat men and women, boys and girls, differently.

I'm not talking about wage disparities and implicit bias. No, I mean that we openly and freely treat males and females as if they were simply different kinds of people.

A few examples of what I have in mind:

  • Boys and girls, men and women, are typically separated for sporting activities regardless of size, strength or ability
  • Commonly, it is expected that men and women go to the toilet in different rooms

According to Oscar Wilde, life imitates art. In his The Decay of Lying — An Observation (1891), he wrote:

"Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas-lamps and changing the houses into monstrous shadows? To whom, if not to them and their master, do we owe the lovely silver mists that brood over our river, and turn to faint forms of fading grace curved bridge and swaying barge?"

In a post a few weeks back, Tania Lombrozo drew attention to research showing that students using laptops and other digital devices in the college classroom are less likely to perform as well as students not using them.

There sure has been a lot of sports in the news these days. NBA Finals, UEFA Cup, Wimbledon, the ongoing endurance test which is Major League Baseball. Sports is a lens on what we can and cannot do.

It's a celebration of ability and disability.

Today, I'm going to introduce you to a sport I just learned about: beep baseball.

In the last 400 years or so, since the time of the scientific revolution, we have come to find it natural to suppose that the world is comprehensible.

Nature and its laws, operating in things most small as well as in the cosmos as a whole, are understandable.

It's a common thought that you need to see a person's face to tell whether he or she is telling the truth or not.

This is why courts in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada prohibit witnesses from wearing the niqab, a traditional Muslim headdress that covers up the whole head and face except for the eyes. How can a jury evaluate the words and state of mind of a person hidden behind a veil?

It used to be that if you were a pitcher and you blew out your ulnar collateral ligament — the ligament that holds your elbow together — you were done.

Goodbye, playing days.

Sometimes the mind wanders. Thoughts pop into consciousness. Ideas or images are present when just a moment before they were not. Scientists recently have been turning their attention to making sense of this.

According to a new hypothesis put forward by an international team of geneticists and archeologists, dogs may have been domesticated in two different places from genetically distinct wolf populations in Europe and in East Asia.

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