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 December 12, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Do People Like To Think?

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

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

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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Fri November 21, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Artificial Intelligence, Really, Is Pseudo-Intelligence

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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Fri November 7, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

What Is That Guy Doing, Anyway?

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 8:09 am

Can you tell language from non-language? Meaning from noise? Words from random movement or sound?

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Fri October 31, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Three Cheers For The Instant Replay

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 4:25 pm

Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants celebrate winning Game 7 of baseball's World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
David J. Phillip AP

The Giants challenged a call in Game 7 of the World Series Wednesday night. It took the umpiring crew — in conference with the umpires holed up in the video monitoring station in New York City's Chelsea district — almost three minutes to overturn the on-field decision. They called the runner out at first, giving the Giants a potentially game-changing double play.

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Fri October 17, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

What Art, And The Game Telephone, Teach Us About Copying

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 7:21 pm


In the game of Telephone, a message gets repeated from person to person in a chain. By the time it comes around again, it's been transformed.

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Fri October 10, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Why Can't Dutee Run?

Dragan Trifunovic iStockphoto

The case of Dutee Chand — the Indian sprinter who has been banned from competing as a woman because she has naturally high levels of androgen — casts international sport in a bad light.

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Sat October 4, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Is A Picture Always Worth A Thousand Words?


The beheadings of journalists, aid workers, tourists and countless soldiers by the group calling itself the Islamic State (or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are noteworthy for their terrifying depravity, but also for the fact that they are staged as acts of political theater or, more accurately, video.

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Sat September 27, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

A Reflection On Random Acts of Kindness

James G. Brey iStockphoto

Not so long ago, I was driving with a friend from Berkeley to Marin County. I waited patiently to pay my toll; I'd let my FasTrak account expire, so I needed to pay cash, the old fashioned way.

As I pulled up at the booth and handed over the money, the toll taker waved my cash away. You don't need to pay, he said. Those people, in front of you, they paid for you.

Surely there was some mistake, I remonstrated. I wasn't driving in a caravan. There wasn't anybody up ahead of me who might have paid for me.

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Sun September 21, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Finding Answers In Our Stories


In a fascinating interview on the topic of atheism versus theism over at The Stone in The New York Times, Yale University philosopher Keith DeRose, in email conversation with Gary Gutting, makes the claim that theists don't know that God exists and that atheists don't know that there isn't a God. It's a stand off.

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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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