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.



Fri April 17, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Reflections On The 'Boys' Of Summer

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

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

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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Sun April 12, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Power Of The Screen


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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Fri April 3, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Why Does The War On Drugs Persist?

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

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

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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Fri March 27, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Fight Against Addiction: Is Love All You Need?

Ben Goode iStockphoto

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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Sun March 8, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Who Was Mr. Spock?

Actor Leonard Nimoy in 2006.

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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Fri March 6, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Evolution And Airplane Security

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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Fri February 20, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Taking A Good Look At Touch


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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Fri February 6, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Getting Caught Up In Telling Stories

NBC News anchor Brian Williams with his daughter, actress Allison Williams, and his wife Jane Williams at HBO's "Girls" fourth season premiere party in New York.
Evan Agostini AP

A lot of folks are trying to make sense of what would drive Brian Williams, a reporter, the face of NBC news, to make up easily fact-checkable stories about his experiences as a reporter embedded with troops during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. His apology has only made things worse.

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Sun February 1, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

A Case Against The Phrase 'No Problem'

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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Fri January 23, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Ethics Of The 'Singularity'

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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