Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Saturday, August 21, 2010

VIRTUAL REALITY

As I think I mentioned, I am at work [hard at work would be a bit of an exaggeration] on the eleventh edition of the textbook, ABOUT PHILOSOPHY, that I wrote in the 70s so that my first wife could spend an additional semester completing her scholarly book on Edith Wharton. For this edition, I an completely redoing the end-of-chapter Contemporary Applications, sections in which I try to make a connection between some urgent problem of today and the eternal philosophical issues discussed in the text. For the chapter on Metaphysics, I decided to use the question of the ontological status of virtual reality, as it crops up in the on-line fantasy games that are now all the rage. I am leaning heavily on the skills of a research assistant, Megan Kelly Mitchell, who in real life is a bright doctoral student in Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill.

Yesterday, Megan and I had a meeting in the Carolina Cafe, and she gave me a set of articles on virtual reality that she had found on the web. In one of these articles, I was introduced to Ric Hoogestraat, a fiftyish former college computer graphics teacher with a long gray ponytail and a mustache who has become totally invested in something called Second Life. In 2007, when the article was written, Second Life had eight million registered users, of whom about 450,000 were serious players. Ric's character in the on-line game, or avatar, as it is referred to, is Dutch Hoorenbeck, described in the article as a "six-foot-nine, muscular, motorcycle-riding cyberself."

Ric's wife put up with his obsessive involvement in the fantasy game until she discovered that in cyberspace, Dutch had met, wooed, married, and set up housekeeping with Tanej ["Janet" backwards], the avatar of a Canadian woman named Janet Spielman.

Now look, Ric has one vote in any local, state, or national election, just as I do. When a telephone survey is conducted on the advisability of the war in Afghanistan, Ric's voice weighs as heavily as mine [assuming he can be torn away from the computer screen to take a phonecall in real time and space.] Is there something wrong with this picture?

7 comments:

imcdpe said...

You've got to see this, then:

http://sites.google.com/site/peterjludlow/

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I took a look. I am soooo old! I think I have outlived my sell-by date.

David Pilavin said...

That's Democracy. As opposed to a reign of a "Philosopher King". What can you do?

Scott said...

Conversely, a 13-year-old news junkie who in all likelihood is much more informed than 90% of the population on such matters is given no say at all.

I honestly don't see anything wrong with giving all citizens, regardless of age, a basic constitutional literacy test which if passed grants the right to vote. Yes I'm fully aware that you'd have to change the Constitution to do this.

ADG said...

Professor Wolff,

Check this out if you are writing something on VR. It takes a bit of time to load, but it is pretty neat. One of my students sent this to me last semester. He was in my methods seminar. He were discussing Rashomon and the "Rashomon effect" when he sent me this. FYI: There is some violence in the beginning (just a warning to some).

http://futurestates.tv/episodes/play

Best, Andy

ADG said...

Opps should have proof read that...well you get the gist. "We" [the class] were discussing Rashomon and then my student sent me the clip on "future worlds." AG

GTChristie said...

I'd say you're keeping up pretty well if you're interested in VR and advanced enough to deal with losing emails! Anyway a sell-by date is just a number, right? Consume-by, now, that's a different story. So I guess we'd better consume you while we can. Keep ticking.