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Sam Harris


We are preparing to run another fMRI study of belief and disbelief, and we need volunteers to help us refine our experimental stimuli. This promises to be the first study of religious faith at the level of the brain. By responding to the four surveys I have posted online, you can make an enormous contribution to this work.

You’ll find links to these surveys on my home page.

Please answer as many of the surveys as you can. If you only have time to answer one, please choose at random (otherwise, we will have many more responses to the first than to the others).

Feel free to post this message to your blog or to forward the relevant links to your friends. I especially need Christians to respond, as one of the goals of these surveys is to design stimuli that a majority of Christians will find doctrinally sound.

I will, of course, pass along the results of this work the moment I have something to report.

Many thanks for your help.

All the best,



HyperWittgenstein is a project and a website providing open access to substantial and important parts of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass, with the objective to build a virtual scholarly community for collaborative Wittgenstein research and learning on the Internet. The project is carried out in cooperation with the international Groupement de Recherche Européen plus “Hyper-Learning” (GDRE+ Hyper-Learning) and in the frame of COST action A32 “Open Scholarly Communities on the Web” (COST Action A32) and the “Digital Semantic Corpora for Virtual Research in Philosophy” project (DISCOVERY).

The parts of the Wittgenstein Nachlass planned for publication on HyperWittgenstein comprise in total approximately 5000 pages and include selections from:

  • Notes on Logic complex (1913-14): TS 201a1, TS 201a2
  • Lecture on Ethics complex (1929): MS 139a, MS 139b, TS 207
  • Big Typescript complex (1929-34): MSS 153a-156a, MSS 145-152, MSS 105-115, MS 140, TS 212, TS 213
  • Brown Book complex (1934-36): Second part of MS 115, last page of MS 140, MS 141, Ms152, Ts310

These Nachlass materials shall be made available both as facsimile and edited text versions. In addition, HyperWittgenstein will include secondary sources, such as commentaries, translations, articles, etc. While primary materials will for the most part be prepared by WAB, it is hoped that external users will contribute substantially with secondary materials.

To read the entire article, go here.

New site – currently under construction – where Wittgenstein scholars and others can share information about conferences, new books, useful websites, or other information and materials relevant for the Wittgenstein research community. In order to post information, visitors must first register as a user.

For questions or comments write to Alois Pichler <> at WAB.

Wittgentein News

Visual and Face Recognition Test online offer tests assessing memory, visual and face recognition: 

– Face Memory Profile

– Online Cambridge Memory Test

– Famous Faces Test

Go here.


From the Chronicle of Higher Education, January 14, 2008

Put down the pen, turn off the computer: Writing a book is only the first part of becoming an academic author. Today, more than ever, you also have to become your publisher’s partner.

It’s easy to imagine what that might mean while the book is still cooking. But the real work of promotion begins when the book is done. This isn’t the moment to be tired of your subject — you’re the only one to whom your book is old news. Here are a few things authors can do. Some require plane flights and hotel stays, others you can do from home.

Talk to Your Publisher’s Publicity Department.

Get its take on your book’s potential. If it’s a trade book, can you get a breakfast appearance or an autograph session at BookExpo, the massive booksellers’ jamboree? Can you get on “Fresh Air?” Cable? Network TV? For most academic authors, those aren’t likely prospects, but it’s always worth asking politely. If you’re not big media fodder, there are plenty of other ways in which to take part in your book’s career. Be sure you’ve filled out the author’s questionnaire that the publisher sent you to guide its promotion efforts. Fill it out completely. Which means all the parts.

Make the Net Work for You.

If you’re a blogger, you already have a platform. If not, maybe you’ve been a lurker on a forum or an e-mail discussion group. Now is the moment to step into the cyberspotlight and say something about your exciting new project. Don’t be afraid to e-mail friends and acquaintances. Spam filters and institutional protocols may set limits on what you can do, but an e-blast is a good way for you, or you and your publisher, to reach carefully selected lists.

If you have a Web site, use it to reward the curious. Offer more information (for example, visuals) about your project. Make the URL part of your e-signature. If you don’t want to mix holiday snaps with your professional writing life, consider creating a separate Web site dedicated to your subject.

Watch Amazon. Be sure your publisher has put up the cover of your book with the correct copy, advance blurbs, and good reviews as they come in.

Entire article is here.

From, January 11, 2008 

A few years ago a psychologist and a philosopher got into an argument over whether we can accurately describe our thoughts. “Yes,” said the psychologist; with training and the help of my special technique, we can accurately describe our thoughts. The philosopher doubted it. To resolve their argument, they recruited a young woman who agreed tell them her thoughts, so that they could argue over whether she was credible.

This is not an episode from a Preston Sturgis comedy, but the actual procedure through which Russell T. Hurlburt and Eric Schwitzgebel produced their remarkable book, “Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic.” The premise is so ludicrous that it might seem impossible for anything to come of it, but this underestimates the skill of the authors, particularly Schwitzgebel, the philosopher, whose talent for straight-faced mischief has been displayed in his some of his other writing. For instance, his Web site contains a draft of a recent paper titled “Do Ethicists Steal More Books?” which examines data from leading academic libraries to show that professional ethicists are more likely than other people to behave badly. As Schwitzgebel sums up his research, he found that “contemporary (post-1959) ethics books were actually about 25% more likely to be missing than non-ethics books. When the list was reduced to the relatively obscure books most likely to be borrowed exclusively by professional ethicists and advanced students of ethics, ethics books were almost 50% more likely to be missing.”

Schwitzgebel, who is generous as well as rigorous, specifically warns against taking his study as evidence that studying ethics necessarily means you are a bad person. He only means to suggest that we look into it.

Of course, for a great mischief maker to really shine, he must have a foil, and in “Describing Inner Experience?” the role is taken by Russell T. Hurlburt. Hurlburt is not only a psychologist, he is also an inventor, and he has developed a tool to allow us to capture our thoughts in their most raw and immediate form; fresh off the brain, so to speak. The device is a beeper that goes off at random intervals. At every beep, the subject of the experiment makes a note of whatever was passing through the mind at the moment just before being startled into self-awareness. As soon as possible — preferably within 24 hours — Hurlburt conducts a gentle but thorough interview, drawing out the details of these reports.

Entire article here.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, January 8, 2008

Many of the steps you must take before submitting an article to a scholarly journal are self-evident and can objectively increase your chances of acceptance. It’s what happens afterward — when the journal’s editor sends you reviews that may be mixed or even negative, and asks you to revise the article — that requires a far more nuanced reaction.

Helping tenure-track professors get past the “revise and resubmit” stage, or even overcome a not-so-categorical rejection, is the subject of this column.

The rise in the number of journals has made the publication game ever more complex. In just the past few years, I have seen almost a dozen new research periodicals in my own field. With profusion comes confusion. Which one should I submit my work to? Which one will “count” more, come tenure time? Which one is more, or less, likely to accept my work? What are the guidelines? What are the editors’ and reviewers’ predilections?

Entire article is here.

From Common Ground, December 30, 2007

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” an intriguing proposition, begging the question: “Do our words shape the way we think about things?”

It’s a question at the centre of a 50-year-old, controversial hypothesis, initiated when the concept of “linguistic determinism” hit the scientific world. You can’t deny that words shape our experiences and that there are some situations, such as our health, where precision in how we use words is indescribably important. Does the carelessness with which we sometimes speak affect how we think and what we expect from our physicians and our healthcare system?

I was reminded of this burning question by Dr. Ralph Fagotter, a friend and family physician in South Australia. He runs a busy general practice but finds time to tend several acres of ginkgo biloba trees and philosophize on his little plantation north of Adelaide. He takes the time to think deeply about medicine and his own place in it. Writing in a late-night email last month, he asked, “Imagine what it would be like if the word kilometre meant 100 metres when used in one context and 1,000 metres when used in another context?”

Ralph continued: “Well, there would be public outrage at the stupidity and disastrous imprecision of it all wouldn’t there? An expert committee would quickly be appointed to redefine and clarify the meaning of the word kilometre and everyone would have to accept the standard meaning.” What is implied, of course, is that confusion would reign and we simply couldn’t live in the resulting chaos of double meanings. Yet Ralph’s late-night monologue invoked the fact that we do this in the medical world all the time, changing the meaning assigned to the same word. If I were to stand on a street corner in Victoria and ask a sample of people walking by to tell me what an “effective” drug is, they might say, “Oh, it’s something that works” or that “It works much of the time.” If I were to go further and ask them to quantify what this means, I expect most people would say, “Well, it works between 80 to 90 percent of the time.” In other words, effective to them means most of the time. 

Entire article is here

Selected abstracts:

Has the Later Wittgenstein Accounted For Necessity?

Javier Kalhat, University of Reading

In this paper, I argue against the later Wittgenstein’s conventionalist account of necessity. I first show that necessary propositions and grammatical rules differ in ways that make an explanation of the former in terms of the latter inadequate. I then argue that even if Wittgenstein’s account were adequate, the explanation of necessity it offers would still fail to be genuinely reductive of the modal notion.

Necessity and Language: In Defence of Conventionalism

Hans-Johann Glock, University of Zurich

Kalhat has forcefully criticised Wittgenstein’s linguistic or conventionalist account of logical necessity, drawing partly on Waismann and Quine. I defend conventionalism against the charge that it cannot do justice to the truth of necessary propositions, renders them unacceptably arbitrary or reduces them to metalingustic statements. At the same time, I try to reconcile Wittgenstein’s claim that necessary propositions are constitutive of meaning with the logical positivists’ claim that they are true by virtue of meaning. Explaining necessary propositions by reference to linguistic conventions does not reduce modal to non-modal notions, but it avoids metaphysical accounts, which are incapable of explaining how we can have a priori knowledge of necessity.

Three Wise Men, 2007 


We investigated whether the pairing of facial expressions of emotion with colours is consistent among different cultures, in particular between Australian and European people. Two groups, one consisting mainly of younger and the other of older people, participated in two experiments. For each of six faces, which expressed the basic emotions anger, surprise, disgust, sadness, happiness and fear, single colours and combinations of three colours were selected for the best visual ‘fit’ with the faces. The performance by the two groups was essentially identical. The different emotions appear well characterised by the paired colours. Two approaches were used for analysing the results of the experiments: one using techniques from the discipline of psychology, the other from the discipline of design. The six emotions were compared with regard to the position of each colour in the CIELAB colour space, the warm/cold characteristics, and the contrast between the three colours of the triplets. The process whereby facial expressions were ‘translated’ into colours and colours into faces could also be demonstrated. From an examination of the successes and failures in communication it is possible to propose single colours and colour combinations for each face that could be described as ‘correct’ and which can serve as a guide for designers.

Entire paper here at Colour: Design and Creativity

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