The Grand Hotel Bulgaria is no place for a confidential meeting. Windowed with vast, paneless sheets of glass, the long, shallow interior of its ground floor cafe is an architectural homage to lapidoptery cases. Immediately outside lies the mouth of a ceremonial square, paved in shiny artificial stone some pre-revolutionary wit chose in ideologically suspect […] Read more – ‘Lessons in obversity: Wittgenstein, architecture, and the Cold War’.
Every generation needs an object of revolutionary fervour. For medicine at the end of the last century, it was the idea that all treatment should be founded on evidence. The revolutionaries demanded data behind each and every medical decision; the reactionaries argued that the void of data is precisely what a doctor’s expertise is supposed to […] Read more – ‘The death and rebirth of evidence-based medicine’.
The negligent student of biology will be forgiven for thinking individual survival is the only naturally prescribed goal. The anomaly of constitutionally communal species aside—ants, bees, and the like—the replicating unit is the single animal, compelled to interact with its kin only by the necessity of procreation and, for some, the expediency of collaborative hunting […] Read more – ‘Smoke and mirror neurons’.
It pleases the editors of the OED to release, at increasingly frequent intervals, lists of words newly added to the dictionary. They mostly divide between those you would expect to find there already, such as—to pick from the latest—Armagnac, anxiolytic, char sui, and those no-one would care to look up anyway, such as vlogger, VJing, […] Read more – ‘Of the sense addicted’.
Automated financial trading machines can make complex decisions in a thousandth of a second. A human being making a choice – however simple – can never be faster than about one-fifth of a second. Our reaction times are not only slow but also remarkably variable, ranging over hundreds of milliseconds. Is this because our brains […] Read more – ‘Making haste in the brain, slowly’.
As published in The Oxford Magazine: Readers of the recent exchange between Ray Guillery and Peter Hacker may be left with the impression of a straightforward conflict between two disciplines: philosophy and neuroscience. But there is a third discipline here―medicine―that gives more substance to scientific enterprise than mere curiosity, and so ought not to be […] Read more – ‘Conceptual analysis in neuroscience’.
…There is a pervasive misunderstanding about the nature of the man and his thought that the architecture at first sight reinforces. The conventional caricature is of a übernerd: loveless, narrow, isolated, endlessly obsessing over minutiae of logic that have little bearing on real philosophy and certainly none on creative life in general. His thought is […] Read more – ‘Wittgenstein’s architecture’.
A neglected argument against the existence of God is that he could not last long. For if omnipotence requires omniscience, and omniscience implies an absolute incapacity for surprise, God’s life must be absolutely boring, an immediate summons to death. Even if to kill himself is the one power he cedes to man his perfect knowledge […] Read more – ‘Blind to the darkness’.