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Recent posts

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The Dissenter
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The Evolution of Cooperation, Punishment, Honesty, and Deterrence w/ Max Krasnow

Hello, everybody! This Friday, I have an interview with Dr. Max Krasnow for you. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His research interests include: evolutionary psychology, evolution of sociality, psychology of cooperation and punishment, ecological rationality, and psychology of foraging. Dr. Krasnow’s primary line of research focuses on the evolutionary origins and computational design of the mechanisms underlying human cooperation and social behavior. Why are we more generous, trusting and cooperative, but also vengeful and punitive than an otherwise rational analysis would predict? He has been exploring how the answers to these questions neatly fall out by considering reliable features of the ancestral ecology and simple cognitive mechanisms that could evolve to benefit from them.

In this episode, we talk about different aspects of human sociality. We first discuss how we evolved to be so generous, trusting and cooperative. We address the different types of natural selection, namely, sexual selection and social selection, and also if we need group selection to explain things like strong reciprocity. We then talk about uncertainty in human interactions, and why we cooperate in one-shot interactions. We refer to the social role of vengeance and punishment; the evolution of honesty; the importance of social reputation; and how deterrence works in human societies. 

https://youtu.be/6Vtfu9lM-bU

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2svS2qC
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The Dissenter
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The Evolution of Singlehood, Parental Mate Choice, and Sexual Orientation w/ Menelaos Apostolou

Hello, everybody! Today, I release an interview with Dr. Menelaos Apostolou. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. He was born in Athens, Greece and he completed his post-graduate and graduate studies in the United Kingdom. He has published several peer-reviewed papers, books and chapters in books in the area of evolutionary psychology.

In this episode, we focus on the evolutionary bases of singlehood, parent-offspring conflict and mating control, and the evolution of human sexuality. We start with singlehood, and discuss it as a contextual strategy, and also why so many people in modern societies are single and have difficulty getting and retaining a mate. We also refer to mating in traditional (hunter-gatherer) and historical societies, and the psychological costs of being single. We then move on to mating control by parents, how parents manipulate their offspring’s mate choices, and how societies developed mating control institutions. Finally, we address the complex issue of the evolution of homosexuality and bisexuality in humans.

https://youtu.be/BHuseaJ-b7Q

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2tgmsxI

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The Dissenter
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The Future of Human Reproduction w/ Henry Greely

Hello, everybody! I start the week with an interview with Dr. Henry Greely. He is currently the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and Professor by courtesy of Genetics at Stanford University, and also an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He specializes in the ethical, legal, and social implications of new biomedical technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience, genetics, or stem cell research. He is a founder and president of the International Neuroethics Society; a member of the Multi-Council Working Group of the NIH’s BRAIN Initiative, whose Neuroethics Working Group he co-chairs; a member of the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law of the National Academies; and chair of California’s Human Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee. He’s also the author of The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction.

In this episode, we focus on Dr. Greely’s book, The End of Sex. First, Dr. Greely gives us an overview of the different types of assisted reproductive technology that go into easy PDG ((Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis), and to what extent they are develop, and how long it would take for them to be cheaper, safer and better. Then we talk about questions surrounding access to easy PGD, and equity. We also tackle genetic engineering. We discuss some of the political and social reactions and consequences of easy PGD, including the possibility of some people becoming “uniparents”. Finally, we debate the extent to which parents should be held responsible for the decisions they make about how they modify their children, and Dr. Greely tells us if we can expect easy PGD to be, generally, a positive or a negative thing for human society.

https://youtu.be/cpIP03XaIXw

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2Nk9MML

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The Dissenter
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Free Will, Moral Responsibility, And Social Justice w/ Manuel Vargas

Hello, everybody! I finish this week with an interview with Dr. Manuel Vargas. He is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at UC San Diego, where he teaches classes on various topics, including ethics, the history of Mexican philosophy, and whatever it is he’s thinking about with respect to agency, moral psychology, and sociality.

In this episode, we focus on free will, moral responsibility, and the legal system. We first discuss what free will is about, and how we can determine if it exists. We also consider the degree to which we should take folk intuitions about free will seriously. We talk about how we can move from knowledge about people’s blameworthiness to deciding how to punish them. We then discuss social justice, and much weight we should attribute to the environmental conditions people live in, when judging them. Finally, we talk about the concept of history, and its importance for moral responsibility, and the role of moral luck.

https://youtu.be/ZgNa4ZsP2Ho

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/37WzEpQ

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The Dissenter
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The Evolution of Bipedalism, and Modern Evolutionary Mismatch w/ Daniel Lieberman

Hello, everybody! I am releasing an interview with the distinguished Dr. Daniel Lieberman. He is Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He studies and teaches how and why the human body looks and functions the way it does. He started his career studying the evolution of the human head, but is now more focused on the evolution of human physical activity, and how evolutionary approaches to activities such as walking and running, as well as changes to our body’s environments (such as wearing shoes and being physically inactive) can help better prevent and treat musculoskeletal diseases.  He’s the author of the books The Evolution of the Human Head, and The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease.

In this episode, the focus of our conversation is the evolution of human bipedalism. We talk about the evolutionary pressures behind it, the advantages it conferred to humans, the new challenges that it posed, and endurance running. In the second part of the interview, we talk about evolutionary mismatch, and the types of problems that we exposed our bodies to since the agricultural revolution, and the solutions we can develop.

https://youtu.be/jXoQr7JVaXo

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/304gb3Y
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The Dissenter

Temperament, Feelings, Emot...

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Moral Realism, and Objective Morality w/ Aaron Rabinowitz 

Hello, everybody! Finally, this week I bring you an interview with Aaron Rabinowitz. He is an Adjunct Professor (PTL) in the Rutgers Philosophy department and the Rutgers Honors College. He specializes in ethics, metaethics, and AI. His work focuses on developing a secular moral realism that is compatible with the problem of moral luck. He also hosts two philosophy podcasts: Philosophers in Space and Embrace the Void. The goal of both shows is to make philosophy accessible for everyone, using science fiction and existential horror.

In this episode, we discuss metaethics, and moral realism. We first go through the definitions of moral realism and objective morality. Then we get into several different issues, like our conflicting moral intuitions, moral foundations, and the limitations of our evolved morality. We also talk about moral nihilism, and moral relativism. We discuss the differences between knowledge produced by science and moral truths (and value judgments). In the latter part of the conversation, we discuss to what extent moral axioms also apply to people’s decisions about their own wellbeing; the fact that we don’t have direct access to other people’s minds and its moral implications, when it comes to paternalism; and also to what extent we should care about how we treat other animals and, in the future, advanced AI systems.

https://youtu.be/SQ2KqzEA93Y

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2QHACQ6

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The Dissenter

The Evolution and Varieties...

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Evolutionary Psychopatholog...

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Innate, How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are w/ Kevin Mitchell

Hello, everybody! As a sort of late Christmas present, I give you an interview with Dr. Kevin Mitchell. He is Associate Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. He is interested in the development of connectivity in the brain, specifically in how this process is controlled by genes and how mutations in such genes affect the connectivity of neuronal circuits, influence behavior and perception and contribute to disease. His research group uses genetic approaches in the mouse to address these questions, and they are also involved in collaborative research looking at the genetics and phenotypic manifestations of synaesthesia and schizophrenia in humans. He’s the author of a book that came out last year, Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are. 

In this episode, we focus on Dr. Mitchell’s book, Innate. We first talk about how to square off human nature with individual variation, and how the genome does not encode a person, and is not the only source of innateness to psychological traits. We also discuss behavioral genetics, the “non-shared environment”, and the conclusions we can derive from polygenic scores. We then refer to how personality shapes the way we experience the world, neuroplasticity, and psychological epigenetics. Toward the end, we also talk about how difficult it is to study group differences, and where sex differences come from and if it makes sense to talk about a “male” and a “female” brain.

https://youtu.be/VBc9Ava4Dgg

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/37jbS79

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Sexual Dimorphism, Sexual Orientation, And Female Orgasm w/ David Puts

Hello, everybody! Today, I have an interview with Dr. David Puts for you. He is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Puts studies the neuroendocrine and evolutionary bases of human sexuality and sex differences, with special focus on behavior and psychology. His research topics include the influence of sex hormones on psychology, behavior, and anatomy; hormonal and genetic influences on sexual differentiation; sexual selection and the evolution of sex differences in voices, faces, bodies, brains, and behavior; the development and evolution of variation in sexual orientation; and the evolution of female orgasm. 

In this episode, we talk about some of the major topics of Dr. Puts’ research. First, we discuss sexual selection and how it is essential to learn more about the evolution of human sexual dimorphism. We then talk about sex differences, focusing on the brain and cognition. We also refer to some of the main lines of evidence that point toward a biological basis for these differences. We also go through the biological foundations of sexual orientation, as well as current hypotheses for the evolution of female orgasm.

https://youtu.be/d8SGOFP6QoA

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2sqwJXB
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The Dissenter
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The Evolution Of Teeth, And Our Diet w/ Peter Ungar

Hello, everybody! This Monday, I bring you an interview with Dr. Peter S. Ungar. He is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Director of Environmental Dynamics at the University of Arkansas. His research focuses on paleoecology and teeth. He’s the author of books like Mammal Teeth, Evolution’s Bite, and of textbooks like Human Diet: Its Origin and Evolution.

In this episode, we focus on the evolution of teeth. We discuss how anthropologists study teeth and how they are used. We address the important distinction between what an animal can eat and the types of foods it has available. We talk a little bit about the evolutionary origins of teeth. Dr. Ungar refers to the study of tartar, that began very recently. We also talk about how we can reconstruct diets and environments from teeth. We then refer to the evolutionary mismatch posed by our modern human diets, and the kinds of oral health problems that derive from that. In the end, we also talk about the problems with arguments coming from veganism and the paleo diet about our diets.

https://youtu.be/Mg5Ff_7gTLw

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2Mo9gx7
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The Dissenter

The Psychology Of Gender, A...

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The Past And Future Of Human Evolution w/ Christopher Stringer

Hello, everybody! This time, I bring you an interview with Dr. Christopher Stringer. He is a British physical anthropologist noted for his work on human evolution. He is a Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum. His early research was on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, but through his work on the Recent African Origin model for modern human origins, he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists, and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally. He has excavated at sites in Britain and abroad, and he directed the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project from 2001 until it finished in 2013. Now he’s co-director of the follow-up Pathways to Ancient Britain project, as part of their funding from the Calleva Foundation, which has also contributed to the foundation of their new Centre for Human Evolution Research. As well as many scientific papers, he’s also written a number of books, most recently, Britain: one million years of the human story (2014, with Rob Dinnis) and Our Human Story (2018, with Louise Humphrey).

In this episode, we go through some topics about our evolutionary history. We discuss what is the best account of our origins as H. sapiens; how hard it is to distinguish between different hominin species; Out of Africa migrations, particularly by H. erectus, and how we got from H. erectus to H. sapiens and Neanderthals. We also talk about the limitations of modern dating techniques, and what we can learn from them and from genetic analysis. We address the questions of how old are modern humans, and what would have been our most important selective pressures. We then get into the issue with the term “race”, and distinguishing it from “population”. Finally, we talk a bit about how we are still evolving, and some of the major known unknowns of human evolution.

https://youtu.be/GlvbKXrGo34

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2Q1I3kz

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Minds, Cognition, And Cogni...

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Gender Roles, Marriage, And...

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Cultural Analytics, Literary Studies, And Race w/ Richard Jean So

Hello, everybody! This Thursday, I am releasing an interview with Dr. Richard Jean So. He is Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Analytics at McGill University in Montreal. Previously, he served as an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago, where he co-founded the university's first digital humanities lab ("Textual Optics Lab"). He earned his BA at Brown University in English and Economics, and PhD in English at Columbia University. More recently, he has retrained in Computer Science at the University of Washington, and Statistics at the University of Michigan. Broadly, he works in the fields of cultural analytics and American culture, with a particular focus on race and inequality. Increasingly, he also works on the Internet and social media. His first book was Transpacific Community: America, China and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network.

In this episode, we talk about the new and emerging field of cultural analytics, and how it applies to literary studies. We discuss what we can gain from computer analysis approaches in the humanities. We also talk about integrating the humanities with the sciences; race and racism; and the cultural transmission through the internet and social media.

https://youtu.be/kaaNQBH-Xzg

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2YHemt2

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Archaeology, And The Evolution of Human Cognition w/ Lyn Wadley

Hello, everybody! Today, I bring you an interview with the great Dr. Lyn Wadley. She is jointly Honorary Professor of Archaeology in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, and the Evolutionary Studies Institute, at University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She directs a Wits-recognized programme called ACACIA (Ancient Cognition and Culture in Africa). Her specialty is the African Stone Age: Middle Stone Age (which lasted from approximately 300,000 to 25,000 years ago) and Later Stone Age (the last 25,000 years). She began her career researching social and ecological issues during the past 25,000 years of the Later Stone Age in southern Africa. Data for her interpretations were obtained from sites in Namibia and South Africa. Dr. Wadley’s current research is dedicated to the cognition of people who lived in the Middle Stone Age.

In this episode, we talk about how we can learn more about the evolution of human cognition through Archaeology. We discuss how we can make inferences about human cognitive abilities from artifacts, and also their limitations. We got through specific abilities, like imagination, planning, analogical reasoning, multitasking, and symbolism, and how a big part of them have a social ingredient. We address the question of what is a modern human. We also talk about the interplay between technology and cognition. Dr. Wadley tells us what she learned by studying the production of compound adhesives. Finally, we address topics like the respect we should have for the cognitive capacity of people who lived in traditional societies; the potential impact of modern culture in the evolution of our cognition; and our shared human nature.

https://youtu.be/AQpkmNLs7ls

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2LCXwGi

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The Dissenter
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Personality, The HEXACO, And Communication Styles w/ Reinout de Vries

Hello, everybody! Today, I have an interview with Dr. Reinout E. de Vries for you. He is Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam and Full Professor at the University of Twente. Together with researchers like Michael Ashton and Kibeom Lee, he has worked on the HEXACO model of personality, showing that it provides a more optimal description of personality than the Big Five model and showing that it is, through its addition of Honesty-Humility, better able to predict a number of counterproductive behaviors than the Big Five model. His main research interests are in the areas of personality, communication styles, and leadership. Recent work has focused on the construction of a six-dimensional Communication Styles Inventory (CSI), a Brief HEXACO personality Inventory (BHI), the relation between Impression Management and Overclaiming and HEXACO personality, and on the relation between self- and other-rated HEXACO personality on the one hand and leadership, proactivity, impression management, and overclaiming on the other. He is currently working on lexical studies on sport personality and leadership and followership styles.

In this episode, we talk about personality inventories, with particular focus on the HEXACO and its applications. We also talk about communication styles and the CSI, and the communication styles and personality traits that work the best in the workplace and for leaders.

https://youtu.be/2C6XhahzztU

Link to podasct version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2DPixtk

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The Dissenter
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Game Theory, Evolutionary Biology, And Social Dynamics w/ Kevin Zollman

Hello, everybody! This Thursday, I bring you an interview with Dr. Kevin Zollman. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to his primary appointment at Carnegie Mellon, he is an associate fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, a visiting professor at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (part of Ludwig-Maximilians Universität), and an associate editor of the journal Philosophy of Science. With Paul Raeburn, he is the author of The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting.

In this episode, we talk about game theory applied to biological phenomena and social dynamics. We go through several topics, including evolutionary stable strategies; signaling theory; honest communication and language; behavioral plasticity, and the evolution of culture; social norms; and epistemic communities, and how to improve science production.

https://youtu.be/f_JjVtsaTiw

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2RlAsj4
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The Dissenter
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Virtue Ethics, And Moral Psychology w/ Mark Alfano

Hello, everybody! We start the week with an interview with Dr. Mark Alfano. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Delft University of Technology and the Australian Catholic University. Dr. Alfano uses tools and methods from philosophy and the sciences to explore topics in moral psychology, epistemology, and digital humanities. He studies how people become and remain virtuous, how values become integrated into people's lives, and how these virtues and values are (or fail to be) manifested in their perception, thoughts, feelings, deliberations, and behavior. One of the guiding themes of his work is that moral philosophy without psychological content is empty, but psychological investigation without philosophical insight is blind. He’s the author of books like Character as Moral Fiction, and Nietzsche's Moral Psychology.

In this episode, we focus mostly of Dr. Alfano’s work on virtue ethics and moral character. We first get into issues regarding modern accounts of virtue ethics, the objectivity (or lack thereof) of morality, and what moral character is. We also refer to moral psychology, and the replication crisis in Psychology, with particular emphasis on the literature from social psychology. We talk about thick concepts of virtue ethics, and the is-ought dichotomy. Finally, we address the situationist critique of virtue ethics, what we know about the effects of labelling, and how personality might play a role in different people being differentially susceptible to change. 

https://youtu.be/uJ_iDgD9xGY

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2Rc41Ud
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The Dissenter
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The Psychology of Music w/ Indre Viskontas

Hello, everybody! This Friday, I have an interview with Dr. Indre Viskontas for you. She is a Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco, and serves on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is also the Creative Director of Pasadena Opera. Dr. Viskontas is a neuroscientist and operatic soprano. She holds a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience and a M.M. in opera. She’s the author of How Music Can Make You Better.

In this episode, we talk about the psychology of music. We first go through how music is a construct of our brains and its evolutionary bases. Then we discuss if music is a human universal, and if anyone can learn music. We talk a bit about the neuroscience of music, and catchy tunes and earworms. Finally, we cover some aspects of music appreciation and the acquisition of musical tastes.

https://youtu.be/d2UfQK2oHtM

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2R2SGpv

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The Dissenter
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Cognitive Revolution, Piaget, Foucault, And Evolutionary Psychology w/ Noam Chomsky

Hello, everybody! It’s with the utmost pleasure that I bring you today an interview with Dr. Noam Chomsky. He is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist, and social critic. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics", Dr. Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University of Arizona, and is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media.

In this episode, we go through some of the major highlights in Dr. Chomsky’s intellectual career. We talk about the importance of the cognitive revolution in the 50s/60s, and how behaviorism was dominating back then. We refer to what came to be known as the Chomsky-Piaget debate in 1975, and also address the issue of the modularity of mind. We also discuss evolutionary psychology. Finally, we refer to some of the main points addressed in the debate between Dr. Chomsky and Michel Foucault in 1971, namely human nature from an epistemological perspective and the importance of creativity.

https://youtu.be/HD7Fz0m51eg

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2pYV5X8
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The Dissenter
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Fiction, And Transgenderism w/ Kathleen Stock

Hello, everybody! Today, I release an interview with Dr. Kathleen Stock. She is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex. She has published on aesthetics, fiction, imagination, and sexual objectification. She is currently the vice-president of the British Society of Aesthetics. In her monograph Only Imagine: Fiction, Interpretation and Imagination (2017) she examines the nature of fictional content. She has expressed critical views on the UK Gender Recognition Act and trans self-identification.

In this episode, we start by talking a little bit about the philosophy of fiction, and the sorts of topics that are explored there. Then, we establish a bridge with the topics of sex, gender and transgenderism, and go through issues about how the topic of transgenderism is being dealt with at a political level in Western society.

https://youtu.be/kL-cDT5FRk4

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2OgPcxU
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The Dissenter
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The Experience Machine, Simulation, And Videogames w/ Mark Silcox

Hello, everybody! Today, I am releasing an interview with Dr. Mark Silcox. He is a Professor and Chair of de Department of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is the co-author (with Jon Cogburn) of Philosophy Through Video Games (Taylor & Francis, 2008) and their co-edited Open Court Volume Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy: Raiding the Temple of Wisdom came out in late 2012. He is mainly interested in metaethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of games.

In this episode, we go through a number of topics in the philosophy of videogames and simulated reality. We first discuss the Robert Nozick’s experience machine thought experiment, and several of its philosophical implications, including the nature of reality, our experience of reality, hedonism, and reducing suffering in the world. We also talk about fearmongering surrounding advanced forms of AI, and fearing “black boxes”, and also how we constantly delegate decisions to other people whose decision-making processes we do not understand. We talk about social media, and what it means to have “fake relationships”. We then get into the philosophy of videogames, and we go through the ethics of worldbuilding; how people explore their personal identities through avatars and archetypes; and role-playing in videogames and real life.

https://youtu.be/AWP4mHAx9UA

Link to podcast version (Anchor): http://bit.ly/2OwT9xf

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