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 September 12, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Originally published on Sat September 13, 2014 3:06 am

Actors in the TV series Star Trek (from left) Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy and James Doohan as Commander Scott.

"European society is very advanced, very civilized. Between holocausts."

The painter Barnett Newman is said to have replied along these lines to a friend who was bemoaning the sorry state of American political life and praising European social democracy.

It's a good joke. It casts light on the whole religion versus science controversy as well.

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Sat September 6, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Civilization In The Time Of Selfies


According to a paper just published in the PNAS, our Neanderthal cousins made pictures.

Or at least they found reason to use stone implements to carve shapes onto the surfaces of cave walls. This was hard work requiring hundreds of scrapes. Whether compositions of lines of this sort should be thought of as images, or pictures, or as proto-pictures, of this we can be sure — making them was a deliberate act and it was important to someone.

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Fri August 29, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

In Praise Of Being Bored

Originally published on Sat August 30, 2014 11:55 am


When Bud Selig, baseball's long-serving commissioner, visited Oakland recently, he took the opportunity to bemoan the A's inadequate stadium and also to worry aloud about a topic that seems to loom large in the minds of many baseball people these days, namely, the increasingly slow pace of the game.

Indeed, the game has gotten slower over time.

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Fri August 22, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

An Attempt To Explain The Magic Of The Ballpark

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 1:44 pm


No doubt some of the autograph seekers leaning across the fence straining for the baseball players' attention were in it for the money.

I suppose a baseball signed by the right person is worth something. Others were collectors working to complete their sets.

But most of us clumped up along the side of the dugout were fans — and our motives were of an entirely different nature.

Well, to be accurate, I wasn't begging for autographs. My kids were. I was there as a chaperone.

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Fri August 8, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Is Wine-Tasting Junk Science?

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 1:15 pm


In Don Quixote, Cervantes tells the story of two brothers who claim to be excellent judges of wine.

They are given a wine to taste and each pronounces it excellent. One brother notes, however, that its perfection is marred by a vague taste of leather. The other disagrees, observing that the only flaw is a faint but distinct trace of iron. These criticisms are dismissed, but the brothers are later vindicated, for when the keg is finished, it is discovered that there is a key on a leather string resting at the bottom.

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