Guest blogs for The Splintered Mind

I’ve recently been doing some guest blogging for Eric Schwitzgebel’s fantastic blog The Splintered Mind. Here are links to the six posts I wrote this summer.

(1) Why was sci-fi so slow to discover time travel? Most themes in contemporary science fiction have precursors in earlier mythology and folklore, but time travel doesn’t appear in fiction until the 18th century. Why might this be? Is time travel an especially bizarre idea?

(2) The ethical significance of toddler tantrums. Toddlers get upset really easily, and often about bizarre things. We’re inclined to regard this as just a part of growing up – but could we be missing something ethically significant in these outbursts?

(3) What would (or should) you do with Administrator Access to your own mind? We don’t have the ability to change our beliefs and desires at will. But what if we did? How would you change your personality, drives, and outlook if you could tamper with your mind as easily as a computer’s file system?

(4) Am I a type or a token? In most debates about personal identity, it’s assume that our identity is closely connected with a particular human being or set of mental events in a unique place in space and time. But could it be that we are, in fact, a type of connected experiences, rather than the token experience themselves? More poetically, could we be the melody rather than the song?

(5) The Gamer’s Dilemma. Simulated violence is ubiquitous in computer games, and most people don’t consider it a particularly weighty moral issue. We’re far queasier, however, about simulations of some more disturbing scenarios, like cannibalism or animal abuse. Is this a difference worth drawing, and can we use it to make broader distinctions about disturbing tastes?

(6) What would it take for humanity to survive? We usually assume that the survival of humanity is a good thing. But what is it about humanity that makes our survival valuable? What does survival mean in this ethically loaded sense – would it be enough if our culture survives, even if we don’t?

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