Wednesday, February 25, 2015

why do black and latino males lag behind in math (and reading)? (poor study habits)

an interesting article from from psychology central. professor catherine riegle-crumb (University of Texas, Austin) explores how black and latino males fare in high school math classes compared to their female counterparts, finding that a tendency to ignore institutional cues can lead to both positive and negative outcomes:
 While Black males are not encouraged by high grades in freshman math classes, Black females are able to overcome potentially demoralizing scores. Compared with white males, African American and Latino males receive lower returns from taking Algebra I during their freshman year, reaching lower levels of the math course sequence when they begin in the same position, Riegle-Crumb writes. Riegle-Crumb tracked the progression of more than 8,000 students who enrolled in Algebra 1 as freshmen in high school. Black and Latino groups have lower enrollment rates in math courses than Whites and Asian Americans, but attrition was unexpectedly high even among those who began in comparable positions. Black males seem to have little response to positive feedback or good grades, Riegle-Crumb finds, while Black females seem undeterred by low grades, despite their original disadvantage. Her findings support the idea that minority students may be less responsive to institutional feedback whether positive or negative. Researchers have argued that minority students may reject the educational system. Black students may feel uncomfortable and unsupported in academically intense environments dominated by white students. Furthermore they may experience a phenomenon called stereotype threat, that is, buying into negative academic stereotypes about their race-ethnicity. 

ok, so you buy into the stereotype threat? 

what stereotype? this is a fact. what must be done is bite the bullet. there is nothing intrinsic about this problem other than social conditioning. whatever the factors: poor schooling, mediocre teachers, late start, lack of self-esteem. all that is understood. but that's not the end of the story.

what needs to be done now is fix the problem: acquire the right study habits!

and how do i acquire the right study habits, you may say? i have a good idea and will share it with you.

we have a philosophy club!

we have the results of the elections! 

pedro sabarots: president.
anthony prats: vice president
diana munoz: secretary
elismel hernandez: treasurer

the future is yours. make it work!

Monday, February 23, 2015

aristotle's de interpretatione 9

think for a moment of aristotle's argument in de interpretatione 9:
. . . if a thing is white now, it was true before to say that it would be white, so that of anything that has taken place, it was always true to say ‘it is’ or ‘it will be’. But if it was always true to say that a thing is or will be, it is not possible that it should not be or not come to be, and when a thing cannot not come to be, it is impossible that it should not come to be, and when it is impossible that it should not come to be, it must come to be. All then, that is about to be must of necessity take place. It results from this that nothing is uncertain or fortuitous, for if it were fortuitous it would not be necessary.
if you find this compelling you're into modal logic. here's a cool "playground" for modal logic enthusiasts.

here, a nice link to modal logic for beginners.  check it out.

wouldn't you like to be able to do something like this? if so, get your ass off the comfy zone and work!

perchlorate & life in mars

thi is not the ahaggar desert in algeria, but mount sharp, in planet mars  

we've discussed the possibility of life outside planet earth. but the recent series of earth-like exoplanets are just too far to elaborate more than distant hypothesis.

so, how about mars?

it has the three main ingredients: ■ Standing water and an energy source. ■ Five basic elements: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus and nitrogen. ■ And time, lots of time.

the hypothesis here is not that there is life, presently, but that "at least some of the planet must have been habitable long ago." and perchlorate leads the way.

anything in the glass of evidence is worth preserving!    

searle on consciousness on ted talk (don't miss it)

click here. 
"... all our conscious state without exception are caused by lower level neurobiological in the brain and they are realized in the brain as higher level or systems features."
(thanks to alice teodoro for the suggestion)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

the iffity of reducibility

lately, i've been stressing irreducibility. what does it mean?

p is irreducible in system S when one cannot fully explain p from the set of principles given in S.

there are several examples of this:

1- in mathematics, gödel's famous incompleteness theorem.

2- in computer science, stephen wolfram's computational irreducibility principle.

3- intentionalität in the philosophy of mind.

i'm no physicist, but i'd like to advance a general idea about irreducibility in physics.

is theoretical physics incomplete? i'd say yes.

we have different systems to explain different physical phenomena: newtonian mechanics to explain macrophenomena in general, einstein (general) relativity being a definite refinement to newton's classical mechanics, and then quantum mechanics a refinement to einstein's theory and then the various string theories to reconcile einstein's theories with quantum mechanics theories, etc.
let's suppose in some future we have S the set of all systems (S1, S2, Si...Sn), to explain physical phenomena.

will S explain all of physical phenomena? 

if it did there would be nothing new to explain, nothing deeper or different. 

if so, what vouchsafes such possibility could not be merely theoretical, since "theoretical" is precisely defined as a realm within S!

(hint: we can conceive of a new Sj being added as a revision of a previously thought complete set S.  why? because theories are necessarily falsifiable!

all the brains in solvay

this is a remarkable photo. each individual here is responsible for a discovery in physics!

how can you get all these minds in one place? the solvay conference! (this is the most important one).

can you tell their names? scroll down to the fifth conference.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

what's downward causation?

Downward causation can be defined as a converse of the reductionist principle above: the behavior of the parts (down) is determined by the behavior of the whole (up), so determination moves downward instead of upward. The difference is that determination is not complete. This makes it possible to formulate a clear systemic stance, without lapsing into either the extremes of reductionism or of holism: the whole is to some degree constrained by the parts (upward causation), but at the same time the parts are to some degree constrained by the whole (downward causation). 
Snow crystals have a strict 6-fold symmetry, but at the same time that each crystal has a unique symmetric shape, the symmetry of the crystal (whole) is clearly determined by the physico-chemical properties of the water molecules which constitute it. But on the other hand, the shape of the complete crystal is not determined by the molecules. Once a shape has been formed, though, the molecules in the crystal are constrained: they can only be present at particular places allowed in the symmetric crystalline shape. The whole (crystal) constrain or "causes" the positions of the parts (molecules).

let's review it:

(1) the symmetry of the crystal six-fold (whole) IS determined by physico/chemical properties of water molecules.
(2) the shape of each crystal (part) IS NOT determined by the molecules, they can only be present at particular places allowed in the symmetric crystalline shape.

so, (1) downward causes (2), but (1) is constrained by (2) (the constrain means upward causation).

why should our early 21st century conception of computation fully encompass natural intelligence, which took communities of cells four billion years?

professor lee smolin (a theoretical physicist) makes a very interesting point regarding A.I.: 
 If we can't explain why our universe has the laws or initial conditions it does, we can invent a story in which a universe like ours arises randomly in a vast enough collection. Similarly, if we can't yet understand how natural intelligence is produced by a human brain, take the short cut of imagining that the mechanisms which must somehow be present in neuronal circuitry will arise by chance in a large enough network of computers. Neuroscience is advancing quickly; so sometime in this century we may understand how the several aspects of human intelligence arise. But why couldn't such progress require us to come to a detailed understanding of how natural intelligence differs qualitatively from any behavior that a present day computer could exhibit. Why should our early 21st century conception of computation fully encompass natural intelligence, which took communities of cells four billion years?
i've said in class: a thinking computer is like an invisible brick rapidly approaching the face of the a.i. skeptic.  

a lesson in downward causation? wolves changing rivers!

Friday, February 13, 2015

martin pistorius was trapped in his body for 12 years! (& finally broke free)

what would you do if you were locked in your body, your brain intact but with no way to communicate? how do you survive emotionally when you are invisible to everyone you know and love?

this is the podcast i promised regarding a young man in coma for 12 years. the discussion is important for the philosophy of mind.

martin pistorius, has published a memoir, Ghost Boy, (now a nytimes bestseller) of what it was like to be invisible for over a decade.

two cheers for falsificationism (by UM psychology professor michael mccullough)

i find UM psychology professor michael mccullough's a courageous advice for science and critical thinking in general.
The thing is, science has done pretty good with basic induction. Most scientists feel this way anyway. Taking observations about the world that are true and then making inferences about hypotheses has been a pretty decent way to do science. For most practicing scientists, affirming the consequent looks like a reasonable way to approach our jobs. What I want to do today is raise one cheer for falsification, maybe two cheers for falsification. Maybe it’s not philosophical falsificationism I’m calling for, but maybe something more like methodological falsificationism. It has an important role to play in theory development that maybe we have turned our backs on in some areas of this racket we’re in, particularly the part of it that I do—Ev Psych—more than we should have.
do you agree? if so, be prepared to assume a mode of kritik.  

how metaphysics can increase your friends a millionfold

don't you want to have more friends?

if you watch this video, you realize how metaphysical reasoning works by a slow process of decantation. one has to be patient with arguments' development. see how at every step of the way one is presenting possible defeaters (counters are the potential energy of discovery!).  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

mathematicians vs. physicists

this is a cool video. dr. richard feynman, one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, was a great speaker. as a professor, he communicated a passion for physics that it's difficult to emulate. here he improvises (to an audience of freshmen at cornell university) the difference between mathematics and physics.

i take issue with feynman's presentation of mathematics:
... the mathematicians only are dealing with the structure of the reasoning and they don't care what they're talking of (0.23) ... they don't even need to know what they're talking about... 

if a mathematician works within a given a system S (already proven), one would generally accept that S is true. mathematicians don't believe that mathematical hypotheses are beyond falsification. i have no idea of what dr. feynman means when he explains:
... if you state the axioms ... if you say such and such are so, and such and such are so, what then? (0.38) then the logic can be carried out without knowing what the words such and such mean... (0:45)
what words is he referring to? 

first, axioms can be, 1) logical and 2) non-logical.
1) x→y, x, therefore y, (logical, modus ponens).
2) (xy)z=x(yz) = xyz (for any x, y, z), (non-logical, say in arithmetic).

second, mathematicians deal with symbols, not words (unless feynman means words=symbols). now, that doesn't mean they don't have an "idea" of what they're doing. what's an "idea" in mathematics? i don't know exactly (i think that's a deep discussion), but for sure, an idea doesn't have to have a string of words in it. here are some examples: 1- a music phrase, 2- an image (not an idea?), 3- a potential ingredient for my soup (i intend it as flavor), 4- a strategy of reductio for a particular logical problem.

then dr. feynman adds: "... if the statements about the axiom a carefully formulated and complete enough... it's not necessary to known the meaning of these words."

is dr. feynman protesting the truth-preserving qualities of deduction?

all men are immortal
socrates is a man
therefore, socrates is immortal.

granted, the internal structure of deduction is what makes the unsound argument above valid. it isn't a problem of mathematics that deduction is isolated from physical laws. feynman should applaud that deduction is protected from the ebb & flow of reality!

i take issue with this characterization of mathematicians:
... mathematicians prepare abstract reasoning that's ready to be used if you only had a set of axioms about the real world... (1:26)
without axiomatics you would not have mathematics. are we not in agreement that math is deductive? is so, where do you expect math to mine from?

it is as if feynman resents mathematics's deductive exceptionality, a sort of independence from the "real world" (it's not true that all math is strictly insulated from reality. math begins as a practical science):
... you have to have a sense of the connection of the words (he definitely means symbols) with the real world (1:51) ... into english??
what about quantum mechanics? i don't believe one needs to translate schröedinger's equation into into --never mind english-- any language. math's symbolic language is universal. 

at some point feynman realizes that he's bending the discussion too much towards physics (by 3:37):
... and later on always turns out that the poor physicist has to come by, excuse me, when you wanted to tell me about the four dimensions ... (audience laughs).
i love feynman.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the neuroscience of decision making ("psychologists and neuroscientists need to be talking to philosophers about this")

Imagine we could develop a precise drug that amplifies people's aversion to harming others; on this drug you won't hurt a fly, everyone taking it becomes like Buddhist monks. Who should take this drug? Only convicted criminals—people who have committed violent crimes? Should we put it in the water supply? These are normative questions. These are questions about what should be done. I feel grossly unprepared to answer these questions with the training that I have, but these are important conversations to have between disciplines. Psychologists and neuroscientists need to be talking to philosophers about this. These are conversations that we need to have because we don't want to get to the point where we have the technology but haven't had this conversation, because then terrible things could happen.
professor molly crockett, oxford university (check the video of professor crockett discussing her research).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

phi 2010 list of student/assistants!

phi 2010 honors (interamerican campus) m,w 1pm campus

rene esusy
stephanie galdeano
adrian gonzalez
beatriz vega

phi 2010 honors (wolfson) m,w,f 10am

cassandra doll
miles bryant
juan villabona
sarah joseph-alexandre
lorena cabral-nuñez

phi 2010 honors (wolfson) m,w,f 11am

yasmin arias
orlando ferrer
vivian ferro
irma miyar
daniela rangel
juan valdes

phi 2010 (wolfson) t,r 11:15am

angel martelo
derlin martinez
taga turnier

phi 2010 (wolfson) t,r 9:50am

cristopher acevedo
jacob grohoski
jeronimo martinez
marcus rodriguez

phi 2010 (wolfson) t, 5:40pm

julex saint-vil
juan padilla
julia wirmola
anthony prats


what's a student assistant (SA)? someone able to communicate and interact positively and effectively with you. SA possess sound judgment and strong organizational skills. they speak, read and write english fluently. SA are benevolent, hard working and altruistic. i'm proud to have them.

Monday, February 9, 2015

homosexuality is as "inherently evil" as earth's rotation

alabama's chief justice roy moore declared homosexuality an "inherent evil" in a 2002 custody ruling against a lesbian mother.

what sort of argument will moore put forward when he declares homosexuality an inherently evil? 

he cannot come from a sound biological argument. if biology is the science of living organisms, including their function, growth, origin, evolution, etc, then homosexuality is as biological as heterosexuality. moore cannot come from a sound sociological premise: homosexuals are socially integrated individuals: they are successful as citizens, as members of families as workers, scientists, artists, etc. moore has no philosophical argument either: "evil" and "homosexuality" are as close as amomongo and the chupacabra

yeah, homosexuality is as "inherently evil" as the earth's rotation.

Friday, February 6, 2015

what's in your burger?

1- carnitine? a compound found in red meat (and even used as an additive in some energy drinks) has been found to cause atherosclerosis, the hardening or clogging of the arteries, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
2- are you up for LFTB? "lean finely textured beef", or better, pink slime. i.e, fatty bits of leftover meat that's heated, spun to remove the fat, and then treated with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. then shipped off to grocery stores and meat packers, where the slime is added to ground beef (70% of supermarket ground beef contains the additive).
3- meat/impact on the environment? more than any other food we eat, mainly because livestock require much more land, food, water, and energ
y than plants to raise and transport. producing a four-ounce (quarter pound) hamburger requires 7 pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and irrigating feed crops, 75 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops, and 1,036 BTUs! for feed production and transport.
5- "the number of cows", i.e., number of cows making up your ground beef. did you know that your burger may contain meat from fewer than 10 cows or more than 1,000? the greater the number of cows in the hamburger, the greater the chance of contracting something that wasn't intended to be in the meat such as e. coli (which can cause dehydration, abdominal cramps, and kidney failure).
6- meatiabetes? specifically, 3.5 ounces of red meat or 1.8 ounces of processed meat (e.g. a hot dog or 2 slices of bacon) daily may lead to a 19% and 51% increase in diabetes risk, respectively.
7- are you a meat brain? meat contains lots of iron which, when eaten in excess, can raise levels of iron in the brain and may increase the risk of developing alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study from UCLA. when iron accumulates in the brain, myelin—a fatty tissue that coats nerve fibers—is destroyed, which disrupts brain communication, and signs of alzheimer’s may appear.
8- clogged or failing colorectals? eating red and processed meats increases the risk of colorectal cancer in people with a genetic predisposition. affecting one in three individuals, the gene plays a role in the immune system, according to researchers. if you have this gene, eating and digesting meat may trigger an immune or inflammatory response.

do u like bacon?

Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2014.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

T,R classes should hand the proposal next thursday feb. 12

my grade system

1. 100 < A ≥ 79 (A-)
2. 73  ≥ B+ ≤ 78
3. 64 ≥ B ≤ 71
4. 45 > C ≤ 63
5. 40 ≥ C- ≤ 45
6. less than 40 = D 
1, excellent
2, very good
3, good
4, average
5, less than average
6, failed

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chapter 3 Midterm Exam


Causal Determinism (every event has a cause that makes it happen + laws of nature) and Hard determinism (the doctrine that there are no free actions). Hard determinism assumes that if CD is true, then there are no free actions because as our bodies made up of matter, we must be subjects to the same laws of causation.

If Hard determinism is true, then there is no human responsibility: i.e., if we are not free, we cannot be responsible for our actions (since one is responsible if and only if one can make choices). 


Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive.
Soft determinism: Determined actions can nevertheless be free. One "soft" theory is Traditional Compatibilism (Free actions are 1- caused by one's will and 2- not externally constrained). The reasoning is this:

Principle of alternative possibilities:  one can be held responsible for doing something only if one could have done otherwise. "could have done otherwise" means "if you had chosen otherwise, then you would have done otherwise." Think of our "fork-example" of a student being late for class. He chooses ( A) "having coffee with lots of traffic," instead of (B) "not having coffee and no traffic." For Traditional Compatibilism the student is responsible for being late since "if he had choosen (B) instead of (A), he would have been on time for class.  

C/E "Taylor's Ingenious Physiologist. In class we discussed how TV can "plant" desires. So in a way is a kind of ingenious physiologist.

"Hierarchical Compatibilism: First and Second Order Desires; Second Order Volitions. Remember: A first order desire is directed to an object or state of affairs, a second order desire is a desire about a desire, a second order volition is a second order desire one decisely acts upon. Harry Frankfurt's three drug addicts: 
(Let's call a first order desire: FOD, a second order desire: SOD, a second order volition: SOV) So we get the following:  

Wanton addict: FOD, not SOD, not SOV, not free.
Happy Addict: FOD, SOD, SOV, free.
Unwilling Addict: FOD, SOD (only this desire is against his taking the drug, not SOV, not free). 

Punishment: How do compatibilists see punishment? p. 203. Punishment cannot be  retributive (eye-for-an-eye). The only legitimate way of punishment is rehabilitation and deterrence. Criminal actions are dictated by genes and habits (nature and nurture). Retributive punishment makes sense if it's deserved. But nothing people do is up to them. 


Event and Agent Causation. Event---> event or Agent---> event. 

Libertarianism holds that agents can cause events, or that free actions are caused by selves. How? remember we talked about the possibility that the mind causes the brain. Also Libertarians don't believe an action is free if it's caused by someone else's desires. An example would be a person being brain-washed into committing a crime. The Libertarian definitely would consider that a minimizing factor in the individual¡'s responsibility.

There are two arguments:

Argument from Experience. Argument from deliberation. 

Libet's Neurophysiological challenge: it seems to show that consciousness of a decision arises only after the decision has already been made (the 300 millisecond gap between the decision to press the button and the brain signal). Rebuttal by libertarians: There's a difference between making a "conscious decision" and a "meta-conscious decision" (meta-conscious awareness is second order). For the libertarian, the subject in Libet's report is not having a "conscious" but a "meta-conscious" decision. So it's no surprise that it happens "after" the conscious decision was made.