BRENT SILBY

Articles in Philosophy

I received my Masters Degree in Philosophy at the University of Canterbury and currently teach the subject at Unlimited (UPT) in Christchurch City, New Zealand. I have published papers on Philosophy of Mind in various journals and magazines, and have also self published a wide range of articles of Philosophical interest. My main research interests include: Philosophy of Mind, Evolution, Philosophy of Religion, Space and Time, and Philosophy of Music. My goal is to open Philosophy to a wide audience, hence much of my work can be described as Cafe Philosophy--interesting, highly accessible articles pitched at intelligent people with no specific background in Philosophy. I am on the executive committee of NZAPT (New Zealand Association for Philosophy Teachers), and am working with collegues to raise the status of Philosophy teaching in Secondary Schools.

This page contains a complete catalog of my articles as well as links to powerpoints I have produced for my own use in teaching

Trouble at Work? (A Socratic Dialogue)
Socratic dialogue in which some of the techniques of philosophical counselling and logic-based-therapy are used to help a young person deal with a problem at work.
on Socrates' Blog

The Problem of Evil (A Socratic Dialogue)
Epicurus asked: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” This Socratic dialogue explores a popular version of the Argument From Evil.
on Socrates' Blog

Road Rage (A Socratic Dialogue)
Socrates dialogues with an angry driver after an accident.
on Socrates' Blog

What is Knowledge? (A Socratic Dialogue)
A Socratic dialogue in which the timeless question "What is Knowledge?" is analyzed.
on Socrates' Blog

Technology: The Overstated Route to Happiness (A Socratic Dialogue)
Socrates examines the belief that technology brings happiness
on Socrates' Blog

Gun Ownership (A Socratic Dialogue)
Socrates examines gun ownership.
on Socrates' Blog

Punishment (A Socratic Dialogue)
In this modern Socratic dialogue, Socrates argues that punishment is unjust.
on Cafe Philosophy

Philosophy in Schools (A Socratic Dialogue)
In this modern Socratic dialogue, Socrates argues that Philosophy should be taught in schools.
on Cafe Philosophy

Self Driving Cars
Should we place our lives in the hands of autonomous cars? A philosophical discussion starter.
on Cafe Philosophy

The Purpose of Education (a modern Socratic dialogue)
An brief discussion on the purpose of education - a Socratic dialogue
on Cafe Philosophy

Computers in the Classroom (a modern Socratic dialogue)
An introductory analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of digital based learning - a Socratic dialogue
on Cafe Philosophy

The Atheist and The Agnostic (a modern Socratic dialogue)
Introduction to agnosticism through a Socratic dialogue
on Cafe Philosophy

Opinion or Truth (a modern Socratic dialogue)
Introduction to truth relativism through a Socratic dialogue
on Cafe Philosophy

Moral Relativism (a modern Socratic dialogue)
Introduction to the problem of moral relativism through a Socratic dialogue.
on Cafe Philosophy

Sugar and Children (a modern Socratic dialogue)
Introduction to the distinction between correlation and causation through a Socratic dialogue.
on Cafe Philosophy

Is Problem-Based Learning Superior to Direct Instruction?
In this essay I argue that theorists such as Kohn and Mitra have been too hasty in pronouncing the superiority of problem-based learning over direct instruction.
on The Journal of Education

Philosophy of Space and Time (Powerpoints series)
What is space? What is time? What does it mean to talk about a space/time continuum? This is where philosophy and cosmology converge.

Philosophy of Mind (Powerpoints series)
What is a mind? Is the mind identical to the brain? Does the color red look the same to you as it does to me? Each powerpoint should be accompanied with verbal explanation in teaching-based situations.

History of Philosophy (Powerpoints series)
This series of powerpoints forms the basis of the class I teach on the History of Philosophy. Each powerpoint should be accompanied with verbal explanation in teaching-based situations.

Rethinking Education - Should we replace old with new?
This article is a response to Sugata Mitra's claim that the Intellectual Traditionalist form of education should be replace with a Constructivist to prepare students for the 21st Century.
on The Journal of Education

DJ Mixing - Autosync: The Automation of an Art, The Loss of an Art
Article argues that use of autosync in DJ mixes reduces the artistic merit of the end product, i.e. the mixset.
on scribd | on blog

The Ghostly Illusion of Freewill
This is an introduction to the problem of freewill written for Cafe Philosophy magazine
on scribd | on blog

Astrology
Astrology is alive and well in our 21st Century society. But does it work? Can it work? In this article I offer a rational answer to these questions.
on scribd | on blog

The Grand Illusion
In the past, people only had access to a small snapshot of history. They concluded that the Earth was 7000 years old and that God created all life in its current form. But this is an illusion. The discovery of the geological age of Earth has given us access to the secrets behind the magic. The subsequent discovery of Evolution has revealed the mechanism behind the illusion of creative design.
on scribd

A Great Flood
Did the events depicted in the Noah's Ark story really happen? Let's look at the situation rationally.
on scribd

Starchild : Alien or Human?
A recent Television Interview programme included a segment on the so-called "Starchild" skull, an human skull which UFO supporters claim to be part alien. This essay demonstrates how unlikely this is.
on scribd

A Christmas Question: Should Children Believe in Santa Claus?
With reference to Santa Claus, this essay raises the ethical question of whether it is okay to implant false beliefs in children. The essay also draws a comparison between Santa Claus and religious mythology.
on scribd

Who Really Owns Music?
Essay argues that people should be free to make copies of music, so long as original composer and musicians continue to get credit for their work. This essay also suggests that a new revenue model is needed for music.
on scribd

Should Parents Smack Children?
A law was passed in 2007 making it illegal to smack children. People are now protesting, wanting a repeal of this law. Arguments on both sides of the debate are emotive and unconvincing. In this essay, I examine the issue in a methodical fashion.
on scribd

Radio interview with Brent Silby on The Simulated Universe
"To the Best of our Knowledge" from Wisconsin Public Radio is syndicated across the United States and Canada. It is also podcast world-wide. In January 2010, the show featured a segment on the "Simulated Universe" argument. Brent Silby teaches philosophy in Christchurch, New Zealand and is the author of an article in Philosophy Now magazine called "The Simulated Universe." He talks with Anne Strainchamps about the argument it makes.

The Simulated Universe
This article explores the Simulated Universe argument with particular reference to Nick Bostrom's formulation. After providing an exposition of the argument, I address two problems and conclude that we reject the possibility that we exist in a simulation.
on scribd

The Immediate Solution to the Climate Crisis
Here I outline the cause and history of global warming. I then suggest that a quirk of human psychology means we will do very little in the present to help the future. I finish by offering some commonsense solutions to the problem, such as removing old forests to replace them with young high CO2 absorbing trees.
on scribd

Climate Change
A brief comment to follow up from my 2001 article about the state of the climate and what, if anything, we can do to save Earth.
html format

Is a DJ an Artist?
In this short article I argue that the DJ is an artist, and the DJ's product (a mixset) is a form of art

Nanomachines: A big promise in a small package
Nanomachines are devices built from the atom up. In the future, nanomachines will be able to enter living cells to cure diseases. In this article I outline the benefits and risks of nanotechnology.
on scribd

Of course we went to the Moon: A defense of the Lunar Landings
This article is a reply to conspiracy theorists, who believe that the Lunar Landings were nothing more than elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by NASA and the U.S government. In this article I show that the evidence used by the conspiracy theorist is not convincing. I conclude that we are justified in believing that people went to the moon.
on scribd

Correcting the Creationist
Creationists claim that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory, and should therefore be taught in schools alongside other scientific theories. In this short article I show that the creationist is mistaken. Creation mythology repackaged as "Intelligent Design" is not science. It is religion.
on scribd

The Human Modification of Earth: Earth's survival is our survival
The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, I intend to ask the question: Is the human species worth preserving? Or, in other words, does it matter if something threatens our existence? After answering this question in the affirmative, I will move on to the next section of the paper in which I assess the damage that we are doing to the environment. I will show that our Carbon Dioxide emissions are contributing to Global Warming and, furthermore, that the effects are already being observed. By referring to scientific predictions, I will show that our planet faces some dramatic environmental changes. After exploring the implications of this data, I will conclude that Global Warming is a possible threat to all life on Earth.
on scribd

Memecosystems: Are Animal Minds Suitable Habitats for Memes?
Milk-bottle opening behavior in a species of bird known as the British tit has been put forward as an example of a meme in a non-human animal. In this e-paper I argue that milk-bottle opening behavior in the British tit is not memetic and is better explained by appealing to its innate behavioral repertoire.
on scribd

Evolution of Technology: Exposing the Myth of Creative Design
In this e-paper, I use the evolutionary algorithm to account for the existence of technology. In doing so, I call into question the idea of human creativity and claim that it is an illusion.
on scribd

What is a Meme?
Meme talk is becoming common, but many people do not really know what a meme is. This short article offers a tangible definition, and predicts where future research might take us.
on scribd

New Worlds, New Hope
A comment on the continuing discovery of new planets.

Revealing The Language of Thought
A 5 chapter e-book that examines the Language of Thought. This takes the form of an extended debate between 'mentalese' and natural language theorists.
on scribd

On The Conceivability of Zombies
An analysis of the logical possibilty of zombies
on scribd

On A Distinction Between Access and Phenomenal Consciousness?
An overview and discussion of the distinction put forward by Ned Block
on scribd

Dretske's Alternative to HOT Theories of Consciousness
The alternative to Higher Order Thought theories.
iPaper format | html format

Wittgenstein: Meaning and Representation
An attempt to understand some of Wittgenstein's ideas and relate him to my area of interest
on scribd

The Problem of Qualia
A look at the problem of qualia
on scribd

Dennett's Reduction of Intentionality
An exposition of Brentano and a look at Dennett's "Intentional Systems Theory"
on scribd

Non Philosophical Articles

The Release of Youth Conference Report
I was invited to speak at the 2008 release of a Youth Conference Report. Here is a transcript of my short talk
iPaper format | html format

The Theory of Mixset
Non-philosophical article in which I attempt to formalize the structure of a DJ mixset

(c) BRENT SILBY 1998-2011