The Philosophy Program at A&M University - Corpus Christi offers the Minor (18 hrs.) and the Major (30 hrs.) in Philosophy. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions about studying philosophy.

Increasingly Grim Prospects for Graduating Lawyers

The Philosophy Major is often cited as an outstanding choice of major in preparation for Law School, a claim born out by the LSAT results.

If your plans do include Law School, however, you are strongly encouraged to read this eye-opening and somewhat discouraging article in the NY Times..  Quoting from the article,

Instead of overhauling the rankings, some professors say, the solution may be to get law schools and the bar association out of the stat-collection business. Steven Greenberger of DePaul recommends a mandatory warning — a bit like the labels on cigarette packs — that every student taking the LSAT, the prelaw standardized test, must read.

“Something like ‘Law school tuition is expensive and here is what the actual cost will be, the job market is uncertain and you should carefully consider whether you want to pursue this degree,’ ” he says. “And it should be made absolutely clear to students, that if they sign up for X amount of debt, their monthly nut will be X in three years.”

Another approach would be to limit class sizes or the number of new law schools. But the bar association, which is granted accrediting authority by the Department of Education, says that it would run afoul of antitrust law if it imposed such limits.

Today, American law schools are like factories that no force has the power to slow down — not even the timeless dictates of supply and demand.

Solving the J.D. overabundance problem, according to Professor Henderson, will have to involve one very drastic measure: a bunch of lower-tier law schools will need to close. But nobody inside of the legal establishment, he predicts, has the stomach for that. “Ultimately,” he says, “some public authority will have to step in because law schools and lawyers are incapable of policing themselves.”

Saturday Segue: "Every Word We Speak Is Rhythm"

Courtesy Boing Boing we have this fascinating, wonderful, and insightful video of life in the Malinke village of Baro, Guinea.  Be sure to catch the celebration at the end.

Friday Funny: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc


From the ever astute XKCD.  But see the Fallacy Files for more on this.

Dennett on Freedom of Will

In this lecture at Edinburgh Dan Dennett explores what science can tell us about the problem of freedom of will. Below the fold we have a slightly different take on the question from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Website Facelift

One of the advantages to using the CMS Drupal for (and associated websites) is that it separates the look-and-feel of the website (called the "theme") from the content, making theme changes ridiculously easy.  Our new theme, tweaked a bit by yours truly, is courtesy Mohd. Sakib at Worthapost.  I hope you enjoy the results!  (For those who can't stand the change, login, select "my account" above, click on "edit", scroll down to select the old theme "philosophy_1", and hit "save" at the bottom of the page.)
Best Wishes,
Don Berkich

So, What Are You Going to Do With That Degree?

Today we celebrate graduation.  It will be with special pride that we see our students receive their diplomas after years of hard work--ours, and, especially, theirs.

To be sure, those pursuing a degree in philosophy have traditionally had to bear the brunt of jokes about what they planned to do with the degree.  Now, with unemployment at what appear to be sustained highs not seen since the Great Depression, students graduating with degrees in a far wider range of disciplines are facing the same troubling jokes.  No degree choice is sacrosanct when it comes to having a career path, it seems.

The NY Times has a relevant article pointing out what philosophy grads have long known: You have to be creative.  From the article,

..the entrepreneurial life is notoriously filled with risks, stresses and sacrifices.

But then again, unemployment is 9.8 percent; Mr. Gerber’s in-box is flooded with e-mails from young people who have sent out hundreds of résumés for corporate jobs and come up empty. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 24.4 percent of 2010 graduates who applied for a job had one waiting for them after graduation (up from 19.7 percent in 2009). What do some people have to lose?

THE lesson may be that entrepreneurship can be a viable career path, not a renegade choice — especially since the promise of “Go to college, get good grades and then get a job,” isn’t working the way it once did. The new reality has forced a whole generation to redefine what a stable job is.

“I’ve seen all these people go to Wall Street, and those were supposed to be the good jobs. Now they are out of work,” says Windsor Hanger, 22, who turned down a marketing position at Bloomingdale’s to work on, an online magazine. “It’s not a pure dichotomy anymore that entrepreneurship is risky and other jobs are safe, so why not do what I love?”

Friday Funny: The Assassination of Yogi the Bear by the Coward Booboo Bear

Courtesy Reddit, we have this brilliant 2 minute 53 second parody.  Viewer discretion advised: Not for those dearly innocent few who lack at least a slightly twisted sense of humor.  Also, don't tell these people about this (or this!), but do read this.

On the Fuzzy Boundaries of Mind

Andy Clark, author of "Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension", makes the case for the extended mind hypothesis in a contribution to the NY Times' Stone Series.  As Clark frames the hypothesis in his Stone article, "Out of Our Brains",

There is no limit, it seems, to the different tasks that elicit subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, different patterns of neural activation. Surely then, all the thinking must be going on in the brain? That, after all, is where the lights are.

But then again, maybe not. We’ve all heard the story of the drunk searching for his dropped keys under the lone streetlamp at night. When asked why he is looking there, when they could surely be anywhere on the street, he replies, “Because that’s where the light is.” Could it be the same with the blobs?

Is it possible that, sometimes at least, some of the activity that enables us to be the thinking, knowing, agents that we are occurs outside the brain?

Shameless self-promotion: Among many other topics, we take up the extended mind hypothesis in my Spring, 2011 PHIL/PSYC 4390.002: Minds and Machines course (TR 2:00 - 3:15) and read the original Chalmers & Clark paper, "The Extended Mind".

See, however, Jerry Fodor's London Review of Books review of "Supersizing the Mind" for some interesting counterarguments, along with Clark's letter in response.

Updated: Clark has written an excellent discussion piece responding to the many questions from his initial post.

The Neuroscience of Problem Solving

The NY Times has an interesting article on recent research into creative problem-solving which lends curious support to our Friday Funny series:

...creative problem-solving usually requires both analysis and sudden out-of-the-box insight.

“You really end up toggling between the two, but I think that they are truly different brain states,” said Adam Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto.

At least, that is what brain-imaging studies are beginning to show. At first, such studies did little more than confirm that the process was happening as expected: brain areas that register reward spiked in activity when people came up with a solution, for instance..

Yet the “Aha!” moment of seeing a solution is only one step along a pathway. In a series of recent studies, Dr. Beeman at Northwestern and John Kounios, a psychologist at Drexel University, have imaged people’s brains as they prepare to tackle a puzzle but before they’ve seen it. Those whose brains show a particular signature of preparatory activity, one that is strongly correlated with positive moods, turn out to be more likely to solve the puzzles with sudden insight than with trial and error (the clues can be solved either way).

This signature includes strong activation in a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex. Previous research has found that cells in this area are active when people widen or narrow their attention — say, when they filter out distractions to concentrate on a difficult task, like listening for a voice in a noisy room. In this case of insight puzzle-solving, the brain seems to widen its attention, in effect making itself more open to distraction, to weaker connections..

“At this point we have strong circumstantial evidence that this resting state predicts how you solve problems later on,” Dr. Kounios said, “and that it may in fact vary by individual.”

The punch line is that a good joke can move the brain toward just this kind of state. In their humor study, Dr. Beeman and Dr. Subramaniam had college students solve word-association puzzles after watching a short video of a stand-up routine by Robin Williams. The students solved more of the puzzles over all, and significantly more by sudden insight, compared with when they’d seen a scary or boring video beforehand.

Take a Break, Part III

Take three minutes to build a virtual tower and smash it down.  There's something richly satisfying in watching it crumble.  Enjoy!

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