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.

Art and science can seem so different. Scientists work in teams, in the laboratory; their progress is piecemeal and, by-and-large, they know how to measure its occurrence. Art, so often at least, in contrast, is personal; it's about the signature achievement of the individual artist. And as for progress, well, that question doesn't really come up.

Philosophy isn't natural science, that much is certain. But its relation to the sciences has been fraught — at least since science broke off from philosophy and became its own family of disciplines back in the 17th century.

A few years ago, my son, who was 11, showed me a little captioned photo that he had found online; he referred to it as a meme.

The standard definition of drug or alcohol addiction is that it's a chronic, incurable disease of the brain.

In a comprehensive report on the topic, published last month, the surgeon general gives this familiar definition a more positive spin. He eschews the "cure" word and focuses instead on the fact that, as with other chronic diseases such as diabetes, there are effective treatments. There are methods for managing and reducing symptoms.

Are we conscious during dreamless sleep?

According to an opinion piece in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences published last month, scientists interested in the topic have tended to assume that the answer is no. We lose consciousness when we fall asleep, at least until we start to dream.

The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that "post-truth" is its 2016 word of the year.

According to the dictionary's website, the word is "an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.' "

Nearly 20 million Americans, more women than men, have or have had a specific phobia.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), "a specific phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger."

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines last week on kids' media use. According to headlines across the country, the new guidelines downward revise the medical group's previous call that parents prohibit their kids from using screens until they are at least two years of age.

When I was young, there were basically two little-boy schools of thought about girls.

According to one saying, girls were made of greasy grimy gophers' guts, little birdies' dirty feet, all wrapped up in poison ivy leaves.

The other, associated with Mother Goose, offered a different picture. Girls, so it was recited, were made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

I was with Mother Goose.

I thought of these pre-pubescent gender skirmishes the other day when I noticed how the tables have turned — at least as far as our views of sugar are concerned.

Last week, in this space, we looked at fascinating evidence of deep and far-reaching sameness when it comes to humans and our great ape cousins. They, like us, are attuned not only to what those around them are doing but to why they are doing it.

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