Raymond Tallis: what is extended mind?

9 minutes

Acadiana

10 minutes

Dani

8 minutes

The physarum experiments

5 minutes

Kierkegaard’s horror of doubt

7 minutes

‘Minds have always been outside themselves’: Raymond Tallis on extended cognition

In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, the UK philosopher, writer and retired neuroscientist Raymond Tallis offers his nuanced view of the extended mind thesis, proposed by Andy Clark and David Chalmers in 1998. Their paper ‘The Extended Mind’ shifted the bedrock of modern philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, and eventually became the most cited philosophy paper of the decade. Its thesis was that our consciousnesses are constantly integrating and being moulded by outside objects, including other people, in ways that suggest that the mind extends far beyond the confines of the skull, or even the skin. Somewhat controversial upon its publication, the paper’s central idea gained greater popular traction as innovations in technologies such as medical implants and smart devices seemed to narrow the gap between human cognition and external objects. Two decades on from the paper’s publication, Tallis finds much to admire and to critique in its central contention, embracing the notion that our minds are in no way constrained to the brain, while rejecting the idea that devices such as smartphones open up novel pathways for understanding consciousness.

Video by Closer to Truth

The uncanny allure of the annual Cajun crawfish festival in Louisiana

Crawfish – small crustaceans also known as crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs – have long been a staple of Cajun cuisine, with the lobster-like creatures plentiful in the freshwaters of Louisiana. With an observational style and an experimental flair, Acadiana gathers scenes from a day at the state’s annual crawfish festival in Breaux Bridge. A crawfish eating competition, crawfish-inspired costumes and a float procession featuring the 2019 crowned Crawfish King and Queen are captured with a mix of anthropological curiosity and familial respect by the Québécois filmmakers Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau and Yannick Nolin. While its title references the French-Canadian roots of Cajun culture in the United States, there is something otherworldly about this short film, which went on to win several awards on the Canadian film-festival circuit.

Directors: Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, Yannick Nolin

Producer: Jean-Pierre Vézina

Website: Kinomada

‘I hate giving you bad news’: when a daughter with breast cancer calls her mother

Danielle Hernandez is 30 and has Stage 4 breast cancer. As she calls her mother Violeta in Florida to deliver an update on her treatment from her home in Los Angeles, she oscillates between medical jargon and silver livings, with the more difficult pieces of information hidden in the subtext, only occasionally bubbling to the surface. This intimate conversation is captured by her roommate, the US filmmaker Lizzy Hogenson, in the short film Dani. Using a stop-motion technique that combines felt figures and claymation, Hogenson places her own veneer on the discussion, which is pierced by intermittent cracks of raw emotion, hard truths and silence. The result is at once affecting and distressing, as small moments of love, courage and pain spark and fade into uncertainty.

Director: Lizzy Hogenson

Producer: Kyle McClary

Creeping through mazes, repelling adversaries – the slow-motion smarts of slime moulds

To the naked eye, the organism Physarum polycephalum – commonly referred to as ‘slime mould’ – might seem an unexceptional creature, despite its bright-yellow glow, as its acellular existence is dedicated to tracking nutrients at a speed of 1mm per hour. But this protist’s surprising computational cunning becomes apparent when viewed in time-lapse, revealing a life form that seems to possess intelligence despite lacking a nervous system. Between 2009 and 2018, the UK artist and researcher Heather Barnett conducted a series of clever experiments in which she probed slime moulds’ capacities for forming complex tube networks and adjusting to obstacles. For this short film, Aeon Video compiled Barnett’s ‘creative collaborations’ with P polycephalum into a montage that builds in complexity, emphasising the slime moulds’ surprisingly sophisticated capacities for problem-solving.

Director: Heather Barnett

Sound designer: Graham Barton

Editor: Tamur Qutab

Want to think for yourself? Start with an agonising state of doubt, says Kierkegaard

Influenced by Socrates’ sense of irony, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) came to believe that a state of doubt – disorienting and horrifying as it could sometimes be – was the cornerstone of a sound philosophical practice. This scepticism of objective truth and ardent belief in thinking for oneself is omnipresent in his pseudonymous works, in which his assumed names sometimes even spar with one another. While amusing, the peculiar literary device also undercuts any sense that the works were written by a voice of authority. In this video from the London Review of Books, the British philosopher and historian Jonathan Rée traces the theme of doubt in Kierkegaard’s life and work using his unfinished, posthumously published novel Johannes Climacus: Or a Life of Doubt as a starting point.

Video by the London Review of Books

Producer: Anthony Wilks

‘Minds have always been outside themselves’: Raymond Tallis on extended cognition

In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, the UK philosopher, writer and retired neuroscientist Raymond Tallis offers his nuanced view of the extended mind thesis, proposed by Andy Clark and David Chalmers in 1998. Their paper ‘The Extended Mind’ shifted the bedrock of modern philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, and eventually became the most cited philosophy paper of the decade. Its thesis was that our consciousnesses are constantly integrating and being moulded by outside objects, including other people, in ways that suggest that the mind extends far beyond the confines of the skull, or even the skin. Somewhat controversial upon its publication, the paper’s central idea gained greater popular traction as innovations in technologies such as medical implants and smart devices seemed to narrow the gap between human cognition and external objects. Two decades on from the paper’s publication, Tallis finds much to admire and to critique in its central contention, embracing the notion that our minds are in no way constrained to the brain, while rejecting the idea that devices such as smartphones open up novel pathways for understanding consciousness.

Video by Closer to Truth

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Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

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