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.

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. This is the default view and it asserts that there is conscious experience in sleep only when we dream. Since it is also widely believed that dreams occur only in REM sleep, it is generally assumed that...

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.' " The word has been around for a few decades or so, but according to the Oxford Dictionary, there has been a spike in frequency of usage since Brexit and an even...

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." Someone afraid of closed places may find it unbearable to take the train during rush hour, or to undergo an examination in the narrow and constraining tube of an MRI. For some, the very thought of being inserted into the magnet would induce panic...

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. It is true that the new recommendations appreciate that even children younger than two can benefit from video chat, FaceTime and other such screen-based means of communicating with family or others. (13...

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...

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. They appreciate, as do we, that what others do flows from what they know or believe about what is going around around them, as well as from what they want. (See Barbara J. King's piece Thursday for more exploration of our mental kinship with...

Suppose I take the candy from the cabinet where you left it and put it someplace else. Where will you look for it when you get home? Children younger than 5 will rarely get this right. When questioned, they will say, mistakenly, that you will look for the candy at its new location. They don't understand that your actions will be controlled by your false belief that the candy is where you left it. The "false belief" test suggests kids haven't yet come to appreciate that people are distinct...

Have you ever noticed that time seems to speed up as you get older? An afternoon could stretch on without end, in childhood, and a summer could be almost a lifetime. In childhood, so it seemed, and so it seems now, time was a slow, steady, tick tock.
But not so in adult time. We are racing forward into the future so fast that it sometimes seems as if our days are over before they have really begun. If only we could slow time down! To do so would be to extend our lives. Not by making...

A couple years ago, I was at a party with developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik. We got to talking about being parents. Why do parents sweat the small stuff, we wondered? Boy do we ever! A pal of mine made me promise not to tell any of our mutual friends that his newborn sleeps in bed with them. Co-sleeping is only one of the many quandaries we face as parents. Do you hold her until she's out, or let her cry herself to sleep? What age is right for day care? And what about the whole issue...

When I was a boy, I had a book about a father who sends his child to bed without dinner because he won't remove his tall hat at the table. The boy goes to sleep hungry and dreams that he is in a forest where the trees are threatened by an evil lumberjack. One of the endangered trees turns out to be the boy's father. In the illustrations, you can see the father's tears in the gnarly bark of the tree. I can't remember the title and I haven't been able to track this book down. I've asked book...

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