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.

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11:14am

Fri February 20, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Taking A Good Look At Touch

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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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3:38pm

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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1:13pm

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

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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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11:29am

Fri January 23, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Ethics Of The 'Singularity'

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 9:31 am

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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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5:28am

Fri January 16, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Making A Brain Map That We Can Use

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It is now conventional wisdom that the brain is the seat of the mind; it is alone through the brain's workings that we think and feel and know.

But what is a brain, anyway?

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9:14am

Fri January 9, 2015
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Biased Eye

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Recent events give us occasion to think hard about racial stereotypes and the way they may bias even the unprejudiced mind.

Studies have shown that prejudice can operate in us covertly. Even people who openly reject racial prejudice, for example, may express prejudice in the way they react to situations. Prejudice can operate, in the language of social science, implicitly (or unconsciously).

Remarkably, this sort of implicit bias can affect even the way we see.

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8:17am

Tue December 30, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

In Search Of A Science Of Consciousness

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 1:43 pm

Any color you choose can be matched by a mixture of short, medium and long wavelength light (i.e., blue, green and red light). This perceptual observation led to the formulation, early in the 19th century, of a neurophysiological hypothesis: The eye contains three kinds of distinct color-sensitive receptors (cones); just as colors themselves can be composed of lights of different spectral character, so we can see the vast range of visible color thanks to the joint operation of only three distinct kinds of receptors.

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6:34am

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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3:54pm

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

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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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11:50am

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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