Saturday, December 10, 2011

Understanding Consciousness?

The ideal philosophical proof is short, perfectly clear, in plain language, grammatically simple, logically sound, logically novel, minimizes assumptions, and addresses human-scale meaning and consequence. If you cannot explain your philosophy thusly, you do not understand it well.

So try this; consciousness != physical in one paragraph:

When you see a mountain, you can't be mistaken about perceiving a mountain, by sheer law of identity. If the perception of a mountain were objective, others would be able to verify it - and also be mistaken. If it were inherently objective, it would be objective to you, too. You cannot be mistaken, so it is not objective, so it is not physical.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Applied Anti-Politics with Dalrymple

What would I like to write about if my government wasn't the greatest obstacle at every turn?

Emphasis mine.

"It is vain to suppose, of course, that any human achievement, even the highest, could possibly be of a duration that would entitle it to the word “eternal.” No literary fame, for example, has so far lasted longer than 3,000 years—not even the blinking of the universe’s eyelid. But we humans must live on a human scale and measure things accordingly."

Isn't it nice of the universe to let us to live on human timescales? It can do its thing and we can do ours, and it doesn't try to prevent anything not universally 'significant' from happening.

Moreover, consider the kind of mathematical power laws that the social power of having a three kiloyear legacy creates. If you can do that, who else can? There's only so much time in a human life, and every moment you take up is one where someone else must be silent. The human scales of our accomplishments are imposed by the human scales of our resources. They're automatically balanced against each other.

It's not that we 'must' live on a human scale, it's that we can. We're allowed. The true alternative is not to be some eternal animus, the alternative is not to exist at all.

On the other hand, I think it worth contemplating chaos theory in this realm. Your efforts may have no obvious effects, but are you perhaps that one butterfly? While it makes a mockery of intention, even still...
"Significance and importance, however, are not natural qualities found inhering in objects or events. Only the appraising mind can impart such meaning."
Well...probably. It's something I'm working on. Look at the question from the other direction; how could natural qualities impose correct and incorrect appraisals? Is there really no way?

If there is indeed no such way, then consequently it means the limitation of human resources are significant to human accomplishment and the vastness of the universe is utterly insignificant. Rather, that vastness is opportunity. A place to go to, rather than an immensity to fight.

Looking from the other direction, rare things are valuable. The immensity of the universe just makes human consciousness that much rarer by comparison...if the comparison is at all legitimate.
"As far as we know, we are the only creatures to demand of their existence a transcendent meaning. This can be supplied by various means, most commonly religious belief."
This is something else I enjoy turning on its head. You want transcendent meaning. This object is in fact a feeling. This feeling can be caused by various means - so go get one. Worry about whether life in fact has a meaning after trying this.
"More than most, however, he has reason to know that politics can also give, or at any rate appear to give, transcendent meaning to life."
If you try politics and it works, why question it? I happen to think it doesn't work, but it is entirely possible that this whole 'meaning' question is little but an inarticulate way of expressing the urge to join a group, similar to the 'part of something bigger' rhetoric.
"The satisfaction of work is not, or at least should not be, proportional to the amount of notice it receives in the world."
It isn't. Fame can be validating but everyone knows about fads, and so that insecurity remains. Similarly, should you gain fame manipulatively or by a lie, then they aren't appreciating your work, they are appreciating an illusion, and that's not something you can hide from yourself.

Satisfaction comes when you can wholeheartedly get behind your own work, regardless of anyone else. With the one caveat of works directly upon the opinions of others.

Several things I want to quietly laud;
"Horowitz is unable to accept belief in a personal God, but wishes he could and, unlike many in his position, does not scorn those who do. He is decidedly not the village atheist."

"Horowitz tackles these problems in an indirect and gentle fashion. When he talks of the meaning that his work gives to his life, he is not saying to all his readers “Go and do likewise,”"

"Though he embraced a doctrine that had done untold evil in the world, he himself was a gentle soul. His son writes in sorrow, not anger."

"he can now write about it calmly and without rancor."
One day I hope to be able to explain why I applaud.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Applied Secular Anti-Consciousness

An example of what secular actually means, and how secular philosophy twists itself by rejecting consciousness in an effort to reject spirituality.

"can you have preferences fulfilled in parts of space where you don’t exist? Can I prefer for my fridge to contain milk even before I open the door?"
No, but yes.
As long as the milk cream is there when I open the door, I don't really care if it was there before or not. (Also note difficulty in separating space and time.) However, under ordinary circumstances, the only way for the cream to be there when I open the door is for it to be there before I opened the door. What causes it to be there is me having placed it there.
Moreover, any causal network that fulfills my desire to drink cream will be causally equivalent. If a leprechaun takes my cream but puts new cream back before I notice, it might as well have never taken it at all.

"If so, what’s the relevant difference between time and space?"
After I'm dead, if the leprechaun doesn't put it back, nobody cares. I've been annihilated, or reincarnated, or I'm in bliss/agony, and I don't interact further with the cream, regardless of its position.'

"You can bite the bullet and refuse to acknowledge preferences over anything other than a person’s own mental states."
A particularly obvious example of anti-consciousness contortions.

"You are still then committed to indifference about for instance what kinds of assault go on behind the closed doors of people you love, as long as you are never informed about them."
I want the people I love to be happy and healthy. They cannot be simultaneously healthy and assaulted.

The only way this ill health can escape causal impact on me is if I never see them again. Even then, I still want them to be happy and healthy, even if I have no idea if it's true and no ability to affect the situation.

Certainly I cannot feel satisfied with their health without proof of good health, and thus causal interaction. That is, even if my preference is fulfilled, I won't feel fulfilled and so it won't matter.

So, like, no and stuff.

"what you can or can’t value depends on what counts as ‘you’. And what counts as ‘you’ is pretty vaguely defined usually."
It is trivial to define precisely. If you cut it, do I feel bleeding? If so, it's me.
The same thing which causes future cream to exist causes future me to exist. Namely, its present existence.
Similarly, changes to present me cause differences in future me. If you make me bleed now, future me will feel a scab.
Consciousness is simple. The hard part is taking it seriously, acknowledging it for what it is.

"If you think of me as a series of person-moments, suddenly I can’t legitimately care about the milk in the fridge even if a later-Katja will learn about it later."
I can't 'legitimately' care? That's not how it works. Either I care or I don't. Either I feel bleeding, or I don't. Either I taste cream, or I don't.

"If you identify me with all past and future people who feel a lot like me, then I’m allowed preferences about what happens after the death of this body."
If you cut the body, do I feel bleeding? Or some post-biological analogue?

"Other people think there is more to ‘you’ than a set of physical processes, in which case there may be one clear line around what counts as ‘you’. On the other hand, you probably don’t have any good way to locate this non-physical line."

So, like, no and stuff.

"Strategic considerations

For the purpose of trading, the more of another person’s preferences you are willing to deal with, the better for you. But this is a different question to which of their values you want to care about outside of trading."

This section got me all hopeful, but was disappointing. Also, some serious abstraction intoxication going on here.

The reason you care about wills is so that people continue to write them, and don't try to dispose of their assets while they're still alive. It's just more efficient.

The reason you care about disposal of the body is because still-living people care whether you respect the wishes of the dead or not, because they'd like to think they will be respected after they themselves are gone.
This is perhaps a silly thing to care about, but they do care and if you don't respect that, you'll harm your relationship with them. It's a net win to just respect wills.
Presumably, treatment of bodies also predicts logically-irrelevant treatment of living people. Those who desecrate bodies generally aren't good neighbours.

Similarly, most will ask you to promise to deal with their bodies in a certain way. It doesn't matter why - the living can reasonably conclude how honourable your word is by observing how you deal with the body.

Finally, folk philosophy is dualist and assumes the existence of an eternal soul. It doesn't matter how many good reasons you have to doubt this, your trading partners believe it and you'll only harm yourself attempting to convince them otherwise, or to act contrary to the reasonable conclusions drawn from spiritual voyeurship.

The above are the actual strategic considerations.

In sum, even utterly 'rational,' atheistic logic gives us very good reason to respect the wishes of the dead...if executed for logic's sake, instead of for the sake of a culture war.

Here's another angle.
I personally dislike the idea of being desecrated after I'm dead. I have every reason to think that, at the time, I won't much care...but it doesn't matter, because I care now. It doesn't matter why I do, because I do. It is worthwhile for me to relieve present discomfort by changing my reasonable prediction of how you'll deal with my body, assuming low enough opportunity costs.

For reference, being unceremoniously tossed into a ditch in the wilderness is good enough for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hypothetical Precise Definition of City-Castes?

What would be the essence of these castes when they haven't suffered corruption?

I propose:

The Spartan caste hierarchy is topped by the healthiest individual.

The Genovesi hierarchy is topped by the friendliest individual.

The Athenian hierarchy is topped by the wisest individual.

I have the most trouble formalizing the Genovesi - if the theory is somehow wrong, it's because I've misunderstood that part. Right now, I'm thinking of them as keeping score with money, rather than being about riches per se. The best Genovesi makes the most deals and wins concessions in negotiation. They're socially skilled, which cashes out to being able to befriend widely and easily. I invite you to try to change my mind on that, however.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Applied Human City-Castes

"In contrast, a world that disapproves of only some superiority displays while relishing others looks more like a world where folks with some types of excellence have won a battle to be seen as higher status than folks with other types of excellence."

Specifically, Athenians.

Most of the acceptable status displays, and the only one the original poster emphasized with 'finely graded status structure,' are scholarly.

In contrast, monetary status is suspicious. Networking is a dirty word. And actually settling conflicts with (ritualized) violence? Come now.

It's actually normal for men to occasionally settle disputes physically. (Is this well known, or is it just me?) Hence ye olde duelling laws.

But settling a point of debate cannot be done physically. If I'm right and you beat me up, I'm still right. Your bridge will fall down and mine won't. Therefore, nobody is allowed to duel anymore. Makes perfect sense.

Of course there are niches where sports, martial arts, marketing and so on are considered valid status ladders. But, they are exactly niches. Everyone knows they're supposed to espouse support for academics unconditionally.

"Jock inequality is unacceptable if your kid is an average performer on his or her youth soccer team. If your kid is a star, then his or her accomplishments validate your entire existence."

"Sports inequality is acceptable. It is normal to wear a Yankees jersey, an L.S.U. T-shirt or the emblem of any big budget team. The fact that your favorite sports franchise regularly grounds opponents into dust is a signal of your overall prowess."

And yet the jock isn't the hero in any movie. Even in sports movies the hero is a weedy underdog who tends to win by cleverness or giving the little guy a chance.

Similarly, the excessive suspicion of the military is entirely predictable. The elites must inculcate loathing and contempt for Juntas because even a low-grade military elite can defeat them. It doesn't matter how wrong you are when you can beat up the other guy. My bridge might stay up but it doesn't matter if I can't get it built.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Have All Governments Been Democratic?

(Thought via.)

The perceptions of governments divorces from reality because the reality of those governments cannot survive being perceived. Why bother lying when you could just tell the truth?

This drift into informality has been, as far as I know, a governmental universal. It's natural entropy.

Does this mean that we can be sure that all governments have been at least a little democratic? That the assent/resignation of the populace has always been necessary for the government to survive?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Because Falconry Is Cool


The ancient and noble art of falconry lives on. In living, it meets modern flight technology. Though I suspect it also meets modern sissy philosophy and they don't use the hawks to hunt. The hell is the point of a predator you don't use to kill things? How awesome would it be to hunt from a chair a thousand feet in the air?

It looks like La Wik's entry on falconry might be as satisfying as its entry on tea.

Check out the nifty etymology box at the bottom of falconry.

The tea one is especially good if you want to repeat Seth's Willat effect experiments.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Genovesi, Athenian, Spartan, Human Castes

Since we're naming natural human castes after cities, I nominate Genoa for the merchant caste, due to its numerous contributions to the joint-stock corporation. I'd also be down with a Dutch city, to honour their hard-money economy.

Remember that - as Moldbug notes - finding out what non-Athenians think is quite hard, as they aren't scholars. Athenians account for about 20% of the population, and Spartans perhaps less; the bulk of human beings lean Genovesi.

Thinking about this, I was at first surprised to discover that Athenians are excellent at dominating societies. In India, we have the Brahmins. In China, we have the bureaucracy and their aptitude exam. In Japan, they tried to go for warrior-poets, but this whole fashion of risking life and limb in battle tends not to remain fashionable for very long, any more than it did among the European princes. Speaking of medieval Europe, we've got the Catholics. Which reminds me of the Imams. Not to mention the Progressives of modern times and the Sophists of Athens herself.

The ideal rulership is probably a King, embodying all three value hierarchies, with three advisers, one from each caste. This has probably never happened. And not just because the arrangement cannot evolve and must be derived from theory. The three castes have a rock-paper-scissors relationship. When a merchant tries to wheedle a scholar, the scholar just looks up the right answer. When a scholar tries to reason with a warrior, they get whacked. When a warrior tries to whack a merchant, they get paid off...and occasionally the Genovesi will restructure society entirely so that it never occurs to the Spartan that they might be better off to whack the Genovesi. See also aristocratic debt.

The historical dominance of Athenians is not surprising at all, in retrospect, due to this RPS relationship and because the bulk of humans are Genovesi, weak to Athenian methods.

The three castes appear to be aware of their weakness. In Japan and European principalities, where Spartan virtues held strong, trade is suppressed. In modern times, Spartan virtues such as honour and loyalty are deprecated, and the army is subject to continuous smear campaigns. I wonder what a Genovesi King would do about scholarship?

"I observe lately that a lot of writing on the right side of internet uses the traditional tripartite caste system – Warriors, Priests and Traders."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hypothetical Spread, Consequences, and Alternatives to Secular Anti-Consciousness

I planned to write more, and apparently it's actually occurring.

Like my assessment of the Enlightenment, this isn't fully verified. The standard I'm using here is that I haven't run across any contradictory evidence.


The pre-flight problem for all potential coercive masters is that not only is it obvious that to a human when they're not pursuing their intrinsic goals, there's even a special "I'ma bein coerced" feeling. Both that special indicator, and the values from which goals are derived, arise directly from the consciousness. Humans who are being coerced will usually get fractious, often to the point of fighting to the death. In the limit, if you can fulfill none of your values, a fight to the death risks literally nothing - it's all upside.

Coercion is endemic in 'civilized' societies, so this problem has clearly been solved. (Though as I mentioned before, all previous societies retained at least some beliefs in spirits and anima, which amount to accepting the fundamental reality and significance of consciousness.) Which meant that when the materialists arrived, they inherited a suite of time-tested methods to suppress the individual's appreciation of their own consciousness, and faced a population whose resistance to such sophistry had already been substantially eroded.

Neither theist nor atheist understands consciousness, and a result is that they make incorrect associations. Both think not only that a soul is necessary for consciousness, but that a particularly Christian-like soul is necessary. When the materialists discovered that Christianity didn't make much sense, they thought they had proven that consciousness doesn't exist.

At the same time, science and religion were gearing up to hate each other.
(Science was not a revolution, but an evolution of epistemology. I haven't bothered to work out what 'science' precisely refers to, but it is either advanced epistemology in general or a particular subset of advanced epistemology.)

Science, or more specifically people calling themselves scientists, keep stepping on the toes of religions, because - shock and amazement! - religions did not get everything exactly right on the first try. When truth steps on your toes, the only non-self-destructive response is to move your toes. However, truth-seeking is a rare and frankly deviant habit. Religions, naturally and reasonably, react to scientists stepping on their toes like another religion stepping on their toes. "This is my territory and my believers. Get the hell out!" They assume it's a dominance ploy. They can't tell the difference and we shouldn't expect them to.

Additionally, science was learning to discount subjective reports, to rely only on objective evidence when forming theories. Due to these concurrent events, scientists habitually discount to infinity and beyond.

It is not a coincidence that materialism appeared to arise out of the Enlightenment. Both were the result of innovation-class IQs finding each other, through improving communication and higher population densities.

Unfortunately, the Enlightenment was, inevitably, reviving systematic sophistry at exactly the moment materialists were discovering that they didn't believe in consciousness.

The advanced sophism, the evidence, the misunderstanding, the tribal rejection, and the rich tradition of consciousness suppression methods came together in materialists, in whom evolved a virulent mind-virus, which the materialists joyfully unleashed upon a population already subject to several spirit-breaking institutions. (I should also write about how to tame a human, as well. Untamed humans are better. Though Greg Clark makes me wonder whether this wasn't always true, it's true now.)

This is secular society. Religions immediately noticed this was a new attack, and attacked back, putting up the defences of any materialist who hadn't already adopted the coercive side of their inherited philosophies. Even if any particular materialst wasn't making a dominance ploy to begin with, they were now.

But by putting the fight into the realm of evidence, religions lost before they even started. The evidence for god isn't supposed to be good. Widespread adoption of secularism became inevitable. Some resist, clinging to religion, but it appears no religion is strong enough to clean a mind entirely.


As I implied earlier, the materialists have evolved the most advanced consciousness-suppressing memeplex ever, and any materialist subculture that wasn't originally interested in coercion was pushed off the edge when the Catholics tried to annihilate them. The morbidity has several threads.

Secular societies are some of the most violence-accepting in history. As a result, they barely complain under the most bloated parasite classes in history.

Similarly, rule of law depends primarily on the average bloke's willingness and ability to punish the responsible. (Where 'punish' means 'action designed to prevent a consequence' and 'responsible' means 'correct target for effective punishments.') Secular societies have almost no rule of law. Voters just barely complain when corporations can effectively operate above the law; when court systems bog down, making it too expensive in both time and money to pursue anything less than the most grievous offences; when they are stripped of all meaningful legal capacity to defend themselves.

Poetry especially, and many other arts, are dying or are dead. Art explores consciousness by intentionally producing sensations that do not naturally appear. The deprecation of sensation both implies art is worthless, and requires art be worthless, as art aficionados develop rich consciousnesses.
"It showed four fruits and vegetables, two suspended by string, forming a parabola in a gray stone window.

Even if you did not know that Sánchez Cotán was a seventeenth-century Spanish priest, you could know that the painter was religious: for this picture is a visual testimony of gratitude for the beauty of those things that sustain us."

For both rule of law and art, the lack of respect for consciousness is the root of decay. Your feelings about art are just subjective. Your feelings about being robbed, just the same. They're not 'scientific,' and therefore supposedly not reasonable.

And thus, when the TSA gropes your eight-year old, you're used to discounting your outrage. It's just a habit, by now. You write a strongly worded letter, instead of instantly shooting the bastard.

Materialism, ironically, harms even science, especially psychology. Behaviourism was attacked by a joke. Taking a puff of a cigarette, he asked, "It was great for you, how was it for me?" Such a simple refutation should surely be incomplete, but in the case of behaviourism, it isn't. Psychology really is that broken. They felt the need to deny the existence of feelings to be truly scientific. Though behaviourism has been fundamentally discredited, psychology hasn't gotten any better since the 1800's. The fundamental error that lead to behaviourism is still there. (Noting also their statistical heresies, it's a wonder any useful psychology gets accomplished at all.)

Most perniciously, materialism attacks the idea that your values are valuable, leading me into the next section. Ennui is a major symptom of this, being the result of an aimless life. It doesn't much matter what you value in particular, materialists will tell you that it's not objectively well-founded and you shouldn't care deeply about it. While this certainly cuts down on suicide bombing, it also raises simple suicide; if there's nothing worth dying for, what can be worth living for?


Frankly this materialist stuff is like a radioactive bacteria that secretes acidic mucus. It'll burn you even at a distance, and if you get too close it'll stick to you, eat through your skin, and you'll get mottled with fever.

In some ways, mind-viruses are easier to deal with than physical viruses, but for the same reason, can be harder.
You get rid of a mind-virus by changing your mind. Which in principle you can do just by deciding to do so - you just need to know what to change your mind from, and you're set. However, anyone who doesn't want to so decide cannot be cured, and will act as reservoirs for the disease.

It may be possible to make hardcore materialists want to change their mind, but I doubt it.
It can even be a problem to make yourself want to change your mind. The cure, then, is the things which make you want to purge yourself of materialism.

I like to think the truth will do it, but this belief smacks of philosopher's idealism.

However, Accepting the Ignorance Hypothesis works just fine for me. What is consciousness? I don't know! For this to work, I had to realize that materialists think they do know, and denigrate consciousness as a result. They don't have anything like enough information to know, because they refuse to study it seriously, because they don't really believe in it, which means their theory is guaranteed to be incorrect, which means all their downstream conclusions are also false. However, I may also have had to realize a whole bunch of other things I can't articulate - I wouldn't know, because I can't articulate them. (I suspect so, because I could only became able to articulate the consciousness-materialist connection in the past couple months or so.)

What else? Well, there's a problem - I also don't know what kind of things actually convince people in practice. I only learned the term 'ethnoepistemology' a couple weeks ago. Any suggestions are welcome.

In any case, as a philosopher, it is perhaps impossible to completely evade philosopher's idealism, so here's a few more truths, for perspective.

Materialists find it reasonable to suppose consciousness is an illusion. Were consciousness illusory, what are the rational conclusions? How would materialists act differently than they did before? They shouldn't - logically, there's probably no consequences. However, if materialists manage to get it widely accepted, they'll use it for coercion. They'll say your dislike for policy X is illusory, and therefore not a reason to oppose it.

Consciousness is the fundamental quality of humanity. For example, if language or planning make us not like other animals, then we have those things because we first evolved full-blown consciousness. If humanity has a purpose, it involves consciousness somehow, both because of the above, and because passions precede reasons. Values require consciousness, and it is in service of values that reason is employed.

Primarily what humans care about, what humans value, are other consciousnesses. If there is a god instinct, then humans wish to find a superior consciousness and put themselves in service to it. If the god instinct is just another cultural mind-virus, then humans wish to serve their own consciousness, and those of their friends and family. This latter may be a contingent result of having evolved to be a social species, but also it may be a necessary result of having evolved consciousness. Materialism, like any philosophy, should serve its hosts. Having the hosts serve materialism is sublimely perverse. Of necessity, materialism denies that the host can be subjectively served.

Note that many powerful materialists use the philosophy cynically, for their own benefit, without truly believing. I happen to doubt the Pope is Christian either.

Consciousness is the tool through which you appreciate everything else. A thing with no conscious manifestation is a thing that doesn't exist. For example, we can't feel nuclear radiation directly. But, we can hear clicks on a Geiger counter, and we certainly feel it if we die of cancer. If consciousness is an illusion, existence is an illusion.

Materialism was born in the group of deviants that actually care about the truth. However, materialists clearly care no longer. Since they don't care about truth, they must care about something else, and at this point I suggest actions are honest about intentions. They retain their beliefs to win those contests. What other contests would you say materialists care about winning?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Euthyphro Answered by Analogy to Poetry

Like any arrogant SOB, at first I thought I'd come up with a unique solution to Euthyphro's dilemma. Turns out, I sort of have, but this is hardly rare. The trolley problem, Mary's room, Euthyphro, every philosopher has their own take on these things. I'm thinking I should collect all of mine into a diagnosis card, for the purpose of allowing rapid evaluations of me to be accurate. Find out the philosopher's intellectual lineage at a glance.

Initial version.

The strict logical answer is that gods like the pious because they're pious, as making them pious by liking them violates causation.
However, with actual liking in practice both come into play and feed into each other, as one can predict from general principle. It's weighted somewhat toward virtue, away from popularity.

If meter is good because people like it, then I suggest thinking about the generalized form of the following factor:

Things are sometimes liked because others like them. In this first fork, that makes the poem good. There is no such thing as a poem, that everyone likes, that sucks.

If people like meter because it is good, then they can fail to appreciate a good poem...but that poem is always appreciable.

This second fork implies that poems are good in ways that other things are not: poems are a unique form of wealth instead of yet another form of generalized wealth. Liking due to others liking it hardly stems from anything about poetry per se. Second, if the likeable trait is found also in, say, sand, it's probably not particularly poetic per se. Thus I can say that someone who likes bad poetry or music is not appreciating the art - I can only guess at what they're actually appreciating.

Moreover, no, in fact taste is not relative or subjective. Either poems offer unique wealth or they don't. Either a particular poem exemplifies that unique wealth or it doesn't. If they do and it does, and someone doesn't appreciate it, then they don't like and/or understand poetry, period.

Still, I do suspect this view uncharitably disparages the 'good because liked' view, and also makes untrue discriminations. I will think about it some more.


Using this framework, it becomes obvious that saying poetry is good because people like it violates locality.

I have a poem on Alpha Centauri. No one likes it. Then someone on Earth starts to like it. It instantly becomes good on Centauri. My evaluation goes from right to wrong but there's no possible way I could know.

If so, poems can be neither good, nor bad - rather a person's experience of the poem is good or bad. All you can say is some individuals like it, and perhaps predict based on similarity that other persons will like it. (The gods' experience of an individual is as pious or impious, and it is meaningless to claim that individuals are pious or impious.)

It has other problems with causation, too.

If it is predictable in principle when someone likes it, then it must be caused by the properties of the poem. If it isn't, then it violates causality. (Randomness does not solve this.) I believe this constitutes a reconstruction of a standard answer to Euthyphro: if the god changes their mind, but the individual doesn't change, for piousness to change means that piousness isn't a property of the individual.

More comprehensively, the prediction is based on the properties of the poem...and the rest of the observer's environment.

If there is any (unique-to-poems) contribution from the poem at all, then one can be mistaken about the poem and thus whether you like it, and thus whether it is good. And then taste is absolute.

At which point I suggest there are interesting implications for God. He can un-sin people by changing his mind. However, he's still bound by the laws of logic - he cannot make one person a sinner and another not due to the same action. This is very surprisingly restrictive because all the implications must also not contradict.

[Turns out Jesus isn't believed to be able to change the laws of logic.]

So I can just assume that it is impossible to make all free-willed agents non-sinners, no matter how the world is arranged.

Except...Jesus could use the null set, which has no contradictions. Now imagine what could make it impossible for Jesus to choose the null set.
A necessary antecedent: harm is bad by definition. The only question is whether harm can be said to meaningfully exist. I feel it's easy to show that it does: consciousness exists and doesn't like stuff. Anything which causes the not-liked stuff to happen matches the definition of 'harmful.'
I'm assuming Jesus can't use the null set, but if so, it can only be because the things not chosen would remain harmful. To be a sin and simultaneously not harm any consciousness is contradictory.
This means 'sin' reduces to 'unwise,' for Christians. Often just self-destructive, and definitively self-destructive for anyone who cares about not sinning against others. Which in turn implies morality is discoverable without God even if God exists. Even assuming the man is pious because God likes him implies that it's a property of the individual. The individual can then be investigated independently of religion. Which was Plato's point in the first place.

I believe those two lines of logic, about causality and about the null set, are independent, which means I've found a consistency. Which means it probably has integrity.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How I Know Politicians are Evil

Update: Valid logic, unsound argument.
Oops. I forgot -again- that politicians don't govern, to first order. Why would they feel responsible? And bureaucracies, among other things, are designed to psychologically insulate the responsible from feeling responsible. So...

I've lead people before. Only twice, but it was enough. Both times, they didn't like the results, and I was genuinely disappointed with myself.

If I'd lead a country into a banking crisis, I'd be crushed. I don't even think it's much of a crisis. But I'd have to resign, even if for no other reason that the constant self-recrimination would make it difficult for me to concentrate.

So one case, it's all one big party to politicians. They don't know what's going to happen next, just as long as it's interesting. That means they've elevated the art of lying to the level of war crime.
Second case, they think they are truly leading and have no conscience. Their banks all die a horrible death and they hardly bat an eye. They get up there and solemnly intone their unqualified bullshit, just like they always do.

Independently, do I think politicians have no conscience? If someone had asked me two days ago, what would I have answered? Well, duh. 'Course they don't. How does someone with a functioning conscience get through the skillfully concentrated lying and backstabbing that is the electoral process? Bit stupid of me not to have realized the relevance before, really.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Self-Analysis Via Memetic Framing

Because I can't link it, here's a post from yesterday on GoodShit, reproduced in full. (Link generally NSFW - it has 'shit' right in the name, this should be obvious.)

this is not a political stand! this is what is happening in the news using art for a growing but still
un-programmed movement. Can change ever be brought about in America unless it happens via the electoral process?

First, this is an excellent case study in journalistic 'framing,' which is a form of begging the question. Lapides is trying to say that it's just a post about art, not supporting or attacking the politics of the movement. But it's actually a vehicle for the idea that the movement is un-programmed.

First, you can tell because it's obvious. You can check because Lapides somehow never finds reason to report on republican social trends.

But because it's obvious, it's not worth discussing. What is worthwhile is discussing whether you can tell when you're doing it.

I have no idea how you tell. But I can tell, by analyzing how I feel about the post. What I usually do is start composing, notice it could be seen politically, then want to claim, as Lapides does, it isn't political. (s/political/any hot button/g) However, I feel a characteristic discomfort with the idea. I feel the need to be emphatic about disclaiming it, I feel like an imaginary opponent is grilling me on it. Of course it isn't imaginary - it's me. I think it's a political stand. I feel like I'm being grilled because I'm grilling myself.
Indeed, now that I think about it, the fact that it occurs to me at all to disclaim its political nature is a bad sign - almost conclusive by itself. Lapides is acting exactly as I do when I feel this feeling, in other words, from which I infer he's also feeling it. So, Lapides could have known it's a political stand, even if he can't logically figure out how. Indeed, he subconsciously does know, and thus I find him culpable.

As long as that discomfort persists, I know I'm still dishonestly framing things. Indeed I feel it right now, from implying that Lapides' partisanship is so obvious as to be unimportant. I actually think it is unimportant because I don't think any progressives read this blog, nor that many ever will, so I'm not begging any questions, nor, if I'm wrong, will I mislead anyone who isn't already mislead. (Getting that paragraph right took a few tries. I'm comfortable now. [It would appear I'm not good at doing it recursively yet. What's most important to me is that I don't mislead people. For example, that I don't mislead you into thinking I care much if I beg the question. I should care, but don't.])

I just realized, through this same kind of self-analysis, that support for an idea is to some extent involuntary. Those pictures in fact make me more sympathetic to the movement. Rationally, they should make me less sympathetic, precisely because at best they don't know how to avoid using those mechanisms, and at worst they find it necessary to appeal to them. Either the movement is itself likely pwned by involuntary mechanisms, or they're intentionally using sophistry.

[Update: Just in case there wasn't enough evidence for you, apparently I'm not the only one who thinks it's obviously partisan.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Secular as Anti-Consciousness

This idea seems obvious to me, but it shouldn't. This post is this one thought, put into words, and look how long it is. Inspired by a Joseph Fouche comment, that he himself noticed was especially good. (Also, object lesson on priming, from his use of the word 'notion.')

Secular is supposed to mean anti-spiritual but ends up being materialist and meaning anti-consciousness.

Assuming gods don't exist, where does the notion of them come from? Why is it so natural to suppose e.g. volcano gods?

Humans are conscious. You unavoidably and unmistakably observe your own consciousness. Humans are similar - you see other people are almost certainly conscious - but their consciousness is also quite mysterious. Before civilization, you don't know what goes on in it exactly, or how they're conscious, or often, even understand consciousness well enough to realize it needs a name. Instead, when volcanoes show human-like traits, such as capriciousness, it's reasonable to suppose they're also conscious.

Indeed, when the wind and sun give you the same kind of feeling that humans do - when they seem meaningful - it's reasonable to suppose just about everything is conscious.

As civilization develops, the idea of consciousness is refined, (specifically spirits and anima) and more things start being seen as inanimate. More interconnected people makes more information come in showing that previously-reasonable rituals in fact do nothing, and thus the ritual target cannot be conscious - it cannot understand what you're trying to tell it to do, nor appreciate your offers and sacrifices.

However, all historical societies preserved certain spirits. For example, dualism is usually attributed to Descartes but the suite of notions that make up Cartesian dualism are basically instinctual. It's totally normal to think you have a mind separate or at least essentially different from the body. If the arguments regarding the God Instinct are true, it's also quite normal to believe in an idea similar to the notion that concepts are conscious. That Death is not only well-defined, but has desires and can make decisions. Or that Love can run around trying to promote the creation of mortal love. Or that Good, for that matter, wants more of itself around. ("Good likes us. We like Good - by definition. Perhaps we should cooperate, yeah?")

Eventually, though, materialists arose - people who were so well-networked they had all the information to realize that gods don't make much sense, if any. So, desiring to serve Reason, they rejected gods. Unfortunately, at this point their human natures doomed them, as Fouche noted.

Humans are tribal. When you reject a notion, it's perfectly natural to reject socially associated notions along with logically associated notions.

Humans naturally respect consciousness.
When materialists rejected respect for gods, they also rejected this respect for consciousness. Consciousness is associated with gods precisely because it's reasonable for the epistemically innocent to conclude that gods, given consciousness. Materialists were less innocent, they were better informed and networked, but not by enough. It seemed necessary for them to reject not only all spirits, but all spirit-like things, to avoid falling into logical traps that lead to belief in gods.

As a result, all 'secular' societies are consciousness-denigrating societies. This wasn't helped by the fact that consciousness is associated with freedom, (specifically free will) and so coercive hierarchies have routinely found ways to disparage consciousness - materialists inherit a long and respectable tradition.

I plan to also write on how badly mistaken this is, how broad the infection is, and how to work alternatives. We'll see what in fact happens.


P.S, presented without comment: (via)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

VPPZMM Debate Notes 3

What horrors shall we witness this week? Perhaps that's unfair...let's just say my honest prediction is not good things to come. It's times like these I like surprises.


And thusly, I am surprised. DS has already made it quite far without misstep.

-"That what we think or later interpret to be gods could very well be something else, something that isn't a god."

One of the things the debate should have done is to determine how to discriminate betwen god and not-god, which is why I get my panties in a twist when they screw up the definition. Without a discriminator, the nominal debate is impossible. None of the evidence can truly be said to support or deny gods. Since Vox and DS can't possibly be debating in any meaningful sense, what are they doing?

-"Is that we really are just like the fish of the analogy, and when we try to explain something using less than all of the necessary details, we get it wrong. We are consistently and reliably wrong."

Ah, something to test against my formalization of the heuristic.
The theory is wrong as a positive function of how many of the details you must imagine/infer from the existing evidence, (though don't give up; there are ways to solve the problem) because the imagination and inference are either in error or based on nothing at all.
It appears DS has alighted upon a similar understanding.

(Does a concrete example of, e.g. fisherman, help you understand what someone means to the extreme extent it helps me? If so, notice that understanding yourself is something you can fail at, and need all the help you can get.)

-"The concept of gods are what we first postulated to explain the inexplicable. Consequently, the concept itself, is wrong. Reality is something else entirely."

Not quite correct. Approximations are not wrong, they are approximately true. As Dominic himself strongly implied, reality is probably not something else entirely; something that we perceive as awesome and inspiring is probably far more awesome and inspiring than anything our puny human imaginations can come up with.

We might just be hallucinating; that can't be ruled out. (Vox needs to rule it out.) It's just not likely.

(Actually human imagination isn't intrinsically puny; it is itself awesome and inspiring. However it is usually used in service to base subconscious goals and lowers itself to that standard. As far as I can tell, the idea of Jesus is such that priests can get power and wealth without having to deserve it. Ditto Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, etc.)

-"(disclaimer: this is not a statement of hard fact but a statement of belief based on the weight of evidence)

[...]Not much else to say on the matter other than to scour history books and populate an absurdly long list of theories and explanations that ended up being wrong."

Having alighted on a theory similar to mine, DS could profit by, you know, actually fleshing it out, like I did. (Always be suspicious of proposals like, 'be like me,' this case...seriously...)

Either the heuristic can be objectively defined, or it can't. If it can't, it's not a real heuristic. If it's difficult, that just makes it interesting.

-"Presenting a hypothetical situation where someone somewhere gets it right the first time is ignorant and cowardly."

I do so enjoy it when reality does as I wish, apparently without me having to do more than wish. Go on, DS, hit him again!

As a bonus, this is pretty well correct. While Vox is correct that nothing in particular stops someone from getting it right the first time, it's still incumbent upon him to show that it is indeed the case.

Though as a counter-example, I've noticed that sociology seems to be epistemically easy. Shockingly so. For example, Soviet propaganda apparently passed directly from theory to practice without going through glitchy prototype. Lenin didn't manage Leninism on the first try, but getting it on the third try, considering the complexity of society, is like compiling and running a million-line program on the third debug pass, and moreover just by thinking about it. Imagine an engineer getting their car prototype working as intended on the third try just by sitting at a desk and wondering how it went wrong.

-"It also does not fall under the domain of the hypothesis my argument rests on. [...] it is not a new phenomenon that requires him to extrapolate on what he knows to fill in any details."

DS is indeed using the heuristic correctly. Starbucks is a combination of elements which you separately have pre-existing evidence for. Gods, especially in their true definition, suppose things which you cannot have evidence for.

I should make explicit that I think the two are arguing about their intuitive definitions, not the formal definitions they think/pretend they're arguing about.

In this case, my lack of criticism should not be taken as broad agreement with DS but rather as result of lack of content, combined with the fact I don't remember details of what he's supposed to be rebutting, which means I often won't catch it when he misses the point. (Another reason I'm glad I'm not formally judging.)


-"Dominic has committed a category error in attempting to appeal to this principle of Initial Error."

For example, this is exactly the kind of rebuttal you'd predict if Vox were arguing for the existence of Jesus, as opposed to gods. It may also apply to gods, but Vox consistently picks ones that apply to Jesus, and fairly consistently avoids ones that apply only to gods.

This is a real rebuttal! I am surprised once more. Yay. Please, Vox, surprise me more.

I'm enjoying that I brought up category errors first.

-"although I note Dominic did not actually provide any support for his assertion that gods are a first attempt at understanding anything, natural or supernatural"

Because it shouldn't be necessary? Like, do I have to start by explaining what an 'understanding' is? I note that Vox doesn't claim it's a second, third, or nth?

-"First, it is a matter of easily establishable fact that the concept of gods are not an attempt at explaining most supernatural experiences, either initial or subsequent."

Apparently so.
An explanation or understanding - interchangeable in this context - is simply a set of data describing an event. Vox's explicit words mean that no supernatural experience has ever been described, which directly contradicts the idea that there is any evidence for such, whatsoever.

Obvious but pathetic sophistry. Vox has been pushed into a corner and he's showing his fear, and now I feel sorry for him. He clings to his faith in Jesus, but also his faith in Reason, and he's just realized they don't get along.

Moral: the Buddhists are correct. Don't cling to Reason. Adopt it if you feel like it.

I'm not entirely convinced that Jesus and Reason are incompatible. However, Vox's Reasons for believing in Jesus are false.

Indeed, I just realized it means he's been infected with materialist sophistries, as well as Christian sophistries.

My understanding of theology is that there should be no definitive evidence about Jesus - for or against - because it would undermine the free will of being able to choose faith.

-"Astrology, ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, telepathy, ghosts, reincarnation, necroparlance and demon-possession have nothing to do with the existence or nonexistence of gods."

Irrelevant. Vox is grasping.

-"Gods may be one of many aspects of the supernatural, but they are largely unrelated to any means of explaining the majority of supernatural experiences."

Desperate attempt to deflect.

-"The connection is tangential; for example, one European survey reported that 60 percent of those who do not believe in gods nevertheless believe in the existence of the supernatural."

See? Vox is now relying on voters to be logically consistent.

Is Vox hung over? This is terrible.

-"More importantly, gods could not have originally been conceived as an explanation for supernatural experiences because the concept of gods long predates Man's distinction between the natural and the supernatural."

Now this is a category error. When we recognized the difference, we correctly evaluated gods as the latter. As a result, gods are descriptions of the latter. The the originators were ignorant of the distinction is irrelevant; moreover DS is mainly using it as a convenient tag.

-"Dominic's assumption that gods are an attempt at explaining supernatural experiences is incorrect and therefore his conclusion based on that assumption is also incorrect."

Vox really is breaking down. I mentioned DS's original post was flat and Vox's was sophisticated - now we can see Vox taking refuge in the simple. Unfortunately, that just makes the error obvious.

It just occurred to me that Vox might be intentionally throwing the match. I seriously doubt it, but it shouldn't even have occurred to me.

So: what category error?

-"Based on the sheer number of creator gods identified throughout the course of human history, it is much more reasonable to conclude that the primary reason the god concept exists is to explain the phenomenon and purpose of material existence."

They are supernatural explanations of those things, yes. Also, really should have chosen a definition that was about creator gods, not the humanist-leaning Oxford crap.

-"And throughout the 50,000 years of modern Man's existence, divine creation still remains the first and foremost hypothesis explaining it, with one brief and partial exception during the 17 years in which Fred Hoyle's Steady State theory was formulated, embraced, and rejected by the cosmological community."

That's a bit better.

However, that its the only explanation just means that our only explanation sucks. It means that ignorance dominates our thinking on the subject. Why do I have to explain for a Christian that humans are bedevilled by ignorance?

-"While Ockham's Razor is a heuristic, not a proof, it is at least as reliable as Dominic's principle of First Error."

In fact both can be characterized and their reliability measured.

-"And since Ockham's Razor recommends the selection of the hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, it dictates the selection of the only serious and lasting hypothesis that Man has ever produced in preference to the others."

Quite so! And that hypothesis is the Ignorance Hypothesis; "Fucked If I Know."

-"This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that the only two concepts that could loosely be considered as competing hypotheses at this point in time, the multiverse concept and Nick Bostrom's simulation hypothesis"

Failing to consider the Ignorance Hypothesis is one symptom of the Ignorance Hypothesis. You don't know that you don't know.

-"As I have previously pointed out, from Man's perspective there is no meaningful distinction between a) a conventional creator god, b) a technologically advanced creator being from another dimension, and c) a programmer of Man's virtual world."

Which, as I have previously pointed out, means all the evidence is at best ambiguous.

-"In conclusion, I note the irony of Dominic's appeal to the historical record in an attack on a significant aspect of it."

What? How? When? Etc?

-"This alone should be sufficient to invalidate the aspects of his argument that depend upon the Initial Error hypothesis."

Should it be? Is that so. Pray explain. Oh wait, this was after an 'in conclusion.'

In reality, DS attacked a significant aspect of Vox's interpretation of the historical record, exactly as one is supposed to in debate. Vox, you're supposed to show that your interpretation was correct, not assume it's correct. That's an error called 'begging the question.'

Or: this alone should be sufficient to validate aspects of my argument that Vox is a sophist.

I shouldn't be, but I'm seriously disappointed that Vox never defended his interpretation. I never really expected him to, which is why this exercise was mostly in checking whether Vox is a sophist in detail, not just in intuitive impression.

Nevertheless, I'd hoped to discover why Christians believe in Christ. I'm afraid I must still hold to the Ignorance Hypothesis on that one. Like, I know how they justify it ex post facto, (and indeed those justifications are often impressive) but I cannot see any Reason to adopt Jesus.

-"Dominic commits a logical error when he concludes that Man's present failure to understand consciousness necessarily places the moral sense on par with our other urges and desires. There is simply no basis for this leap of logic."

DS's point is that there's no basis for the reverse leap, either. And presenting it as a leap is suspicious.

-"He also fails to understand that in referring to the moral sense as a third aspect of consciousness I was not limiting its existence to the human consciousness."

Is that so? Pray explain.

-"This should have been obvious since I made an explicit distinction between the internal and external models."

Right. Of course.
When you(personally) think your opponent is missing something obvious do you A: tell them it's obvious or do you B: explain it? If you choose only A, do you expect them to understand?

-"So, not only did I not defeat my own argument, but the assertion that I did makes it clear that Dominic did not understand it."

Haha, no.

-"While the moral sense is integrated into human consciousness and at least partially accessible to it, my entire argument is based upon the observable fact that it is often opposed to human desires and therefore cannot be dismissed as just another competing one."

Apparently, to Vox, desires cannot oppose each other.
I want ice cream. I don't want to spend money. I can't get ice cream without paying for it.

Compare: I want ice cream. I want to be moral. Eating ice cream is immoral.

Vox is either a sophist or an idiot. He writes complicated (though fallacious) logic.

-"I did not, as Dominic asserts, ignore 'this inconvenient fact', since I stated that examining the nature of consciousness is presently 'beyond the current ability of the science-based materialist consensus'"

Well, that certainly makes it appear as if you didn't. DS did not strongly demonstrate that Vox did ignore the fact, so I'm not entirely sure what DS meant; I'm willing to give Vox the benefit of doubt.

However, stating that you didn't ignore it because you mentioned a thing doesn't demonstrate the converse, either. It demonstrates you think you did, not that you actually did.

-"And while it would be a false dichotomy to note that either Freud's theory represents the possibility that the signal is internally generated or the moral impulse must come from a source that is genuinely separate from our conciousness, I never proposed any such dichotomy."

This made me look more closely at DS's argument, and I found they're both wrong. Again.

It isn't a false dichotomy. Either the moral impulse's causation is internally contained, or it isn't.

If it were external, you'd have a decent case for some kind of moral transmitter. This is an empirical question, though as before you'd be able to intercept the signal and thereby teach morality to computers.

-"I cited its legacy of failure to demonstrate b) the materialist internal model cannot be assumed to be correct."

It's a good think DS didn't assume that, then, isn't it?

-"In support of the likelihood that the external generation for the impulse was more likely than the internal, I also cited the external model's greater success in modifying human behavior, the divergence between the rates of moral evolution when viewed from societal and historical perspectives, and the observed spatio-temporal range of the relatively static moral impulse."

Indeed you did, and I bet if DS hadn't had space limits he could have demolished those just like I did.

-"I was thinking of the moral sense as being wholly accessible to the human consciousness, but this is not the case."

Should be...interesting.

And indeed, sophistication is returning. Vox's apparent hangover is dissipating. He's getting into it.

-"As it happens, Dominic contradicted both the current scientific consensus as well as his own statement that no one has 'a complete model of what constitutes conciousness' when he declares the moral impulse 'is just another desire, a consequence of biology, and accepted as an internally generated part of us.' If this were true, Freud and his successors would not have had to construct their tripartite model in the first place and various moral researchers such as Lewis Petroninovich, John Mikhail, and Marc Hauser would not concur that 'much of our knowledge of morality is... based on unconscious and inaccessible principles for guiding judgments of permissibility'. Emphasis mine. Were the moral sense nothing more than one of many biologically driven desires as accessible to the human consciousness as any other, there would be no need for wide-ranging efforts across several scientific and philosophic fields to explain the experiential and observable divergences from the simple two-level materialist model."

It looks like a straight-up non-sequitur to me. But it's awfully tangled, so let's untangle it.

So Vox states that declaring that morality is a kind of impulse implies a complete model of consciousness. (I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. How does it imply? What is a 'complete' model supposed to entail?)

Either one of:
Vox claims that if morality was just another desire, Freud etc. would have not had to construct a tripartite model.
Vox claims that if nobody had a complete model, Freud would not have had to construct his model.

Vox claims that science claims that morality is based on consciously inaccessible principles. Which would mean principles, embodied in brain architecture, that lead to conscious sensations. Or else drive decisions without leading to conscious sensations.

Vox claims that if morality were accessible, there would be no need to explain the diverges from some unknown model. (This statement is patently meaningless, as he does not explain what model.)

Interpreting charitably as I can, I discard the second of the 'either one of.'

Vox failed to demonstrate that DS assumed a complete model of consciousness.
Vox failed to explain how morality forced Freud to construct a tripartite model.
Vox failed to communicate what he means by 'explain [...] divergences from the simple [...] materialist model.'

The Ilk think this is a good rebuttal. This phenomenon is familiar from the political campaign trail.

-"The scientifically established fact that parts of our moral sense are not even accessible by our conscious mind is further support for the external model, even if it falls well short of providing proof of it."

How does Vox think this non-conscious moral sense drives behaviour? How can it conflict with conscious desires without a conscious manifestation?

It doesn't matter whether the principles are largely unconscious. To drive behaviour it has to have conscious consequences at some point.

-"they simply assume it is an artifact of biological evolution even though their attempts to locate either a moral organ or an area of the brain devoted to moral reasoning have thus far proven fruitless."

Vox is apparently unaware of the experiments involving trans-cranial magnetic fields.

Also this is a God of the Gaps argument. If it turns out Jesus isn't necessary to explain the workings of the brain, Vox won't stop being Christian. He'll just retreat further.

-"But the present consensus shows it cannot be reasonably said that [X] is in any way tantamount to an admission that B3 is false."

Amusingly, DS failed to support his point and Vox failed to show why he wasn't supporting it. DS, because he failed to properly understand what internal/external mean in context, Vox because...the same.

-"Later in the book, he also underlines one of my earlier points about the speed of moral evolution when he refers to the famous silver fox breeding experiment of Dmitry Belyaev and notes how the observed speed of intense selection 'sets up a significant challenge' to the conventional materialist perspective on the evolution of the human mind."

The silver foxes suffered artificial selection. Humans don't.
Further, as Vox himself would note in another context, evolution of this kind only brings out latent genetic potential; it is far too fast for beneficial mutations to arise and propagate. If the silver fox experiment had proceeded, they would have hit a wall.

-"Since the conclusions of the various scientific researchers into morality show that Dominic's statement about the dynamic nature of man's moral sense was false, this, combined with his previous concession concerning the existence of objective evil, is sufficient to support the conclusion that since Man's moral sense has not greatly changed over time, the existence of evil logically indicates the existence of a definitive moral law that is as constant and as arbitrary as most, if not all, of the physical laws of the universe."

No, combined with the correct interpretation of the silver foxes, it indicates that morality is indeed slow to change, as any competent geneticist would expect out of a naturally-selected sexually-reproducing species. Complex features are conclusions relying on several assumptions, and during sexual recombination all those assumptions have to match not only in detail but in location on the genome, or the conclusion won't be sound...and you get a psychopath. Or more often the foetus just self-aborts due to organ failure.

-"the difference is that Dominic fails to understand that the theistic concept of gods, and even the Christian concept of God, is much broader than he imagines."

Then Vox, perhaps you should have used that definition to begin with.

-"The Christian cannot reasonably insist that he knows much about the specific nature and character of God in light of how the Apostle Paul, who actually claimed to have encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, subsequently wrote in 1st Corinthians, 'For now we see through a glass, darkly.'"

In case you were still worried that you might be wrong in your impression that Vox is arguing not for gods but for Jesus.

Of course this is precisely why DS's heuristic applies. Christians don't even know enough about Jesus to know what constitutes evidence for or against Him. He has no falsification condition.

-"'Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.'"

See previous statement. Don't worry, it hasn't stopped being self-defeating for Vox in the intervening seconds.

-"he is not so much arguing for the nonexistence of gods as he is revealing a failure to understand what a god is and why any being would be considered worthy of worship."

Sensing an incoming question-begging on 'worship.'

-"First, because the god merits worship due to being the lord and maker of the worshipper,"

I guess I really should justify this.
You don't get to impose obligations. This isn't a matter of quantity of desire, but quality.
No god gets to be my lord without my consent, because no consciousness whatsoever can rightly do so without my consent.
Even if they made me, I cannot agree they deserve worship when I don't exist. After I exist, if they can impose an obligation to worship upon me, by symmetry I can impose such an obligation upon them.

So why is there a category difference between animal and human, but not human and god? Simple. If you try to grant animals legitimate moral duties, they cannot carry them out. Everyone has an obligation not to impose obligations; colloqially, to leave alone those who wish to leave you alone. Animals cannot understand this well enough to carry it out. (And may not have the will if they did.) Humans can. Gods also can, and thus are equally bound by it.

-"second, for the material benefits that the god can grant to the worshipper,"

Awfully venal. That's not worship, that cupboard love. Should I worship my supermarket because it provides delicious food, demanding only those tithes necessary to support itself?

-"third, because the exceptional power of the god is feared."

That's not worship, that's intimidation. Bullying, in English.

Question duly begged.

I guess in addition to 'deity' I should start working on defining 'worship.' Indeed the latter may assist the former.

-"it is the definitive elements of godhood that are the significant aspect of the existential argument here, not the assumed supernatural element,"

And now the debate can begin!
Round one, fight!

/facepalm. /headdesk.

More precisely, now Vox thinks he has laid the groundwork that would be required, though unfortunately he doesn't know - as doesn't anyone - what 'worship' actually is.

-"much less the peripheral paranormal phenomena that the supernatural is said to involve, since our understanding of the supernatural is a limited and dynamic one involving 'that which is presently believed to be beyond natural limits'."

Really? You know, that sounds plausible. I guess I have something to teach, kids. Siddown and have a listen.

I don't like the term 'supernatural' because 'natural' implies existing and having evidence, and so super-natural implies not existing and not having evidence. I prefer the term 'spiritual.'
If spirits exist, it is entirely natural that they do so, and are super-natural only in that we misunderstood what was natural.
In the end, spiritualists are adopting a materialist term of abuse when they refer to these things as supernatural.

Spirits can be defined exactly without reference to what is natural, and evaluated against natural categories subsequently, so that spirits themselves lose the ambiguity-causing dynamism.

As it turns out, all spirits proposed to date are supernatural.

-"Gods are not synonymous with the supernatural"

It would be great that Vox said that except he thinks Jesus is supernatural.

-"But theists readily admit our understanding of the nature of the divine is far from perfect. And not only is that understanding imperfect, it is quite reasonably capable of encompassing a significant portion of the alternatives Dominic has posited. [...] Not all natural aliens could be gods, but natural aliens that created the human race would at the very least bear a strong claim to legitimate status as creator gods."

The debate would have been fine if it had been about what Vox wanted to debate from the start. However, this is just sophistry.

The technique is to move the goalposts so that the opponents falls into them. DS thought it was in a debate about whether Jesus might exist. (He was right.) Now Vox is claiming he was in a debate about whether Creator Greys deserve worship.

If we grant Vox's profoundly flawed definition of 'worship,' DS has more or less admitted that Greys may exist and if so deserve worship. Therefore gods are scientific, Vox wins! Yay!

When I said that sophistry spread because nobody had a defence, I meant in part that Vox and similar ilk can get away with this without anyone noticing it's being blatantly, blatantly sophistry. Also sophistry is addictive.

-"The difficulty, and what in some cases may be the impossibility, of distinguishing between gods, natural aliens, transdimensional aliens, and computer programmers isn't a valid argument against the existence of gods."

Yes it is.

If you can't tell the difference between a world created by Jesus and a world created by not-Jesus, then Jesus is literally meaningless.

Well...that said, beliefs are tools, there to serve you. As believing in Jesus has no logical consequences, it cannot harm you. If believing makes you happy, then the meaning of the belief is that it makes you happy, so you might as well believe.

The reason I believe theology thinks that belief in Jesus should be a choice is things like, "in some cases the impossibility of distinguishing between gods and aliens." Thus, there is no reason to believe in Jesus over Creator Greys...aside from faith. (Or the aforementioned affective bonus.) Jesus doesn't want your belief, he wants, specifically, your faith.

-"It is merely an object lesson in the importance of not leaping to conclusions or placing inordinate confidence in a tool that is inadequate for the task at hand."

Such tools; cf. Vox's logical skill. Also worth noting, debates.

-"Dominic is correct to say that Man is consistently and reliably wrong with regards to his various explanations for various phenomena, but he is incorrect to say this in defense of strict scientific materialism for the obvious reason that science itself is subject to precisely the same problem!"

Hence my need to specify the heuristic. Science is not for the exact same reason Starbucks is not; it is a combination of familiar elements. It could be said that science is the process of getting familiar with the unfamiliar, precisely because the unfamiliar is roughly unfathomable.

-"Dominic is somewhat unfortunate in this regard because [...] two weeks ago, before the physicists at CERN announced the overturning of what scientists had long assumed was one of the fundamental laws of the universe, the cosmic constant."

The term 'overturned' is sophistry. Many predictions have been made and confirmed based on the speed of light. Do you expect all those predictions to jump out a window, like stock brokers during a crash? "Oh yeah guys, uhhh...GPS never actually worked. It was all an illusion! Like consciousness!"
Newtonian physics isn't wrong. It is approximately true. Einstein's theory reduces to it; it includes it; Einstein expanded upon Newton. Similarly, even if those 60ns are real, it will expand SR and GR, not suddenly prove that the speed of light isn't remotely fundamental.

-"the unexpected announcement that the speed of light limit has been broken underlines the fact that a dynamic, technology-based temporal snapshot simply cannot serve as a reliable arbiter of what is possible and what is not possible, or even what exists and does not exist."

True, but does not follow.
That's what philosophy is for. If Jesus has no meaning or directly contradicts confirmed predictions...

-"Science, and the materialist consensus based upon it, are clearly incapable of providing a valid means of assessing historical evidence in general"

Vox. Leaps tall proofs in a single bound.
Vox thinks the speed of light has something to do with historians. I know when I'm talking about Athenian Democracy, I always take the speed of light into account, to eight significant digits.
Sorry, that was sophistry too.

-"and the testimonial evidence for the existence of gods in particular."

The opposite, actually, as no 'overturning' actually occurred. In fact, GPS still works. If there was a thing based on historical theories and testimony using physics-based epistemology, it would be similarly robust in the face of new findings.

-"The concept of gods are not what Man first postulated to explain the inexplicable, but rather to explain the observable."

Ah, indeed calling it 'inexplicable' is itself a piece of materialist sophistry, begging the question. However, Vox simultaneously flip-flops, putting gods back into the heuristic's domain.

-"the significant body of historical evidence is more than sufficient to support the conclusion that gods exist."

Uh...did Vox ever counter DS's point that the evidence is suspect? Yes, totting up the points is going to be very surprising.

I'm measuring whether their arguments have anything to do with one another by whether they remind me of each other, and they generally don't.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alarmism is Intellectual Mugging

I just learned an enormously powerful heuristic. If someone feels that to survive they need to imply threats my safety, they're all but certainly corrupt. Meteorite bombardment. AGW. All revolutions. Peak oil. Population bomb. Global cooling. Islamic terrorism. Religious/ideological war. Nuclear/bio/chemical holocaust. Racism. Ignorance. Biodiversity depletion. Dysgenics. Unfriendly AI. Pandemics. Immigration. Supervolcanoes.

Nearly everyone who promises disaster proves themselves corrupt - they're intellectual muggers. Essentially mugging at one remove. See, they're not responsible for the threat, so they have plausible deniability. However, the logic goes, "Fork over your wallet because you should believe that otherwise the disaster, X, will occur." And they are responsible for trying to make you believe in the threat.

But...'nearly?' How does one tell the difference? In reality, these threats would also threaten the proselytizer. Remember that compassion is usually fake. They don't care about my well-being, but they do care about their own. What steps are they taking to safeguard themselves? Al Gore is trying to safeguard his future by nagging me. Like...that's obviously self-defeating, right? I don't really have to explain?

Protecting yourself is under your personal control - you can guarantee success. Someone who really believed in peak oil would simply short oil futures. They may tell others about it - but first, they'd set up the short sales. Someone who thought meteors were going to kill us all would build a shelter, and then maybe try to convince someone to launch a mission so they don't have to use it.

No, someone who immediately jumps to the non-guaranteed solution must either be a raving madman - and thus epistemically broken regardless - or must not really believe in the threat they're peddling - and thus epistemically broken.

I just realized I almost stumbled into this myself. I do believe sophism is a plague, and I nearly implied it would doom us all. I want to be clear: it won't. Athenian democracy was pretty bad for Athens, but there's a lot of ruin in a nation. Humans have been often wrong about stuff since the beginning of time. Apparently, trial and error is usually sufficient for civilization.

Moreover, my reaction to 'most people are wrong' is not 'make them Less Wrong' but rather to personally learn better epistemology. I think it's pretty awesome on this side and I heartily endorse it, but if you don't want to join me, then it is probably not cost-effective for you or something.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

To Appreciate the Limits of Knowledge

Eight questions where the correct answer is "I don't know." (Via.)

But don't stop there. Understand the current limits of knowledge so you can learn to hack them, and ultimately transcend them.

I suspect we have the tools to answer the ice question. Photograph it under an electon microscope, and compare it to the best image you can get without a vacuum. That, plus a solid background in solid state physics, should be sufficient.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Democracy Contradicts Freedom

Discussing an interesting post with the host, I just figured out specifically why I hate politics and want it to die. Freedom antecedently requires security, and democracy contradicts political security.

That's one thing I mean by, 'solved problem.' It should be a constant background I can rely on; individual political facts should not be rugs that could be yanked out from under me at any moment. Further, it should not be solved to my obvious detriment; political facts should not be hazards I need to avoid. My supermarket manages to survive without threatening me. Why can't politicians?

(Insight! Spoiler: found a heuristic. Nearly everyone who promises disaster proves themselves corrupt - they're essentially an intellectual mugger. Will post more Monday.)

Freedom, ultimately, is a subjective state, where you feel free. This does not mean, however, that arbitrary conditions can lead to this feeling - on the contrary, freedom requires very specific and intuitive conditions, assuming only your brain is functioning nominally. You can't simultaneously worry you might be mugged if you go outside and feel free. You can't simultaneously worry about a new tax crippling your business and feel free.

Being specific, freedom imply powers over objects, and the lack of power of other humans over you. These are the conditions that lead to the feeling of freedom. But without security, objects will decay from weather, animals, and thieves. Without security, someone will try to conquer you, and since you have no security, they'll succeed. (Indeed they try because they expect success.) Without security, you end up with as a slave with no objects. You can measure your security to the extent you're not a slave and can expect your e.g. wallet to be where you think you left it.

Democracy contradicts freedom because it repudiates security.
Democracy repudiates security because democracy is constituted by the totalitarian ability of the People/Majority to change the law.
There is no reason to expect they won't change most things, and empirically, democracies have constantly fluctuating 'laws.'
This is predictable because democracies, like all kratocracies, are based on legitimizing forms of coercion.

All extant democracies are totalitarian. Formally speaking, the people are allowed to vote for whatever they want. They can repeal the constitution, and they can 'amend' any 'human rights' declarations, arbitrarily.

Insofar as the extant entities called 'democracies' are democratic, the people have the power to pull that rug out from under me at any time. People are fickle so they habitually do exactly that. This is simply empirical fact.

But - to pursue deductive support - why would I expect that majorities won't shift? The majority is defined by who votes. Who votes changes, what voters think changes. Not only is it empirically true that democratic 'laws' will be in constant flux, but there is no deductive reason to think they'll be constrained. Heck, they'll change just because the people realize they screwed up the first time and try again.

However, as should be obvious, I should not pursue theory to the detriment of reality. The things called 'democracies' are not particularly sensitive to what their populations want. Perhaps in practice they're better?

Well, empirically the laws still change all the time. 'Lawmaker' is a synonym for 'politician' and that in itself is epistemically sufficient. Economic health does not need a thriving lawmaking industry. Indeed the opposite - wealth is created when laws are simplified. Every time security of property can be maintained but the legal overhead decreased, everyone wins. Except democratic governments, apparently.

To see this from another angle, analyze it as an argument for freedom and against Acton's 'power corrupts.' Our ancestors gave the people ultimate power and they outlawed slavery, they didn't expand it. They didn't try to repeal the constitution, and grant themselves unlimited formal power - it took a couple individuals, Hoover and FDR, to repeal it, and even still presidents have to pretend the constitution hasn't been repealed: the repealation was informal. (Actually...not 'gave.' The people took power because the previous holders essentially decided not to resist.) You find out what someone is really like if you give them power and make them unaccountable. Turns out people are pretty much as they seem...they like morality, but dislike change, are a bit lame, are shortsighted, make lots of mistakes...but ultimately, try to do better each time. In fact there are deductive constraints on how democratic law changes...but also, deductive constraints on it staying the same. Shockingly, human behaviour is usually intuitive. Gee, how did that happen. Who expected humans to know what a human is like? How could they possibly know that?

Democracy repudiates security ultimately because it does not respect property, and instead considers coercion legitimate. Security creates property - if you can't secure a thing, you can't expect to control it, and you don't own it in any sense. Conversely, securing a thing means nobody else can expect to control it. This should be obviously true now I've pointed it out. Democracy is constituted by the 'right' of the People to take that property from you at any time. Democracy is constituted purely by a direct threat to property.

There is an unpatchable hole in your security to the extent you actually live in a democracy, which means you and thus insofar as you live in a democracy, which means you cannot be free to the extent you live in a democracy.

Freedom requires security. Security requires stable laws. Democracy is constituted by the ability of the People to change the law.

Quod erat demonstrandum, motherfuckers.

Democracy is the opposite of freedom and yet people wonder why I accuse them of sophistry. Why did I have to figure this out myself? Surely someone noticed before I did? Why haven't I ever heard of them? Why isn't refuting them a central pillar of every demotist? Why isn't there a noticeable minority of demo-skeptics, like atheists or IDists or racists or post-modernists or monarchists or dualists or flat-earthers? Heck, people doubt everything under the sun, except, apparently, that democracy is freedom.

I guess believing things are their opposites is trendy these days.

Update: Looks like it's not just me. (HT) Though, with philosophy you can discover this result is likely before it has become a disaster, rather than having to wait till after. Still, more data is always great.

Up 2: (HT, emphasis mine.) "Many non-libertarians are convinced democracy needs fixing but find no problem with the fundamental democratic principles themselves. Our book refutes those notions. Democracy is the opposite of freedom" Same deal. Without philosophy, proof is book length. With philosophy, proof isn't. Confirmation is still super cool and awesome and stuff.

I should mention the drawbacks. Getting the logic complete and correct is highly non-trivial. The number one cause of bad philosophy is failure to think in straight lines, and the almost indistinguishable second is failing to include all relevant lines. If you want your philosophy to actually predict and therefore replace books length proofs, you have to do it like you really, really mean it.

This particular proof was the result of literally years of desultory searching, and follows multiple failed attempts.

Notes Vox and Ilk vs. cl of Mental warfare

I tried to find out what Vox thinks about intuition, as it is relevant to whether his beliefs are accurate. (He of course didn't answer, despite requiring everyone to answer his questions. [Primarily enforced against people he doesn't like.] He felt the need to provide an excuse once, but naturally it was lame and self-refuting. Didn't have time or some such. Plausible deniability ahoy.)

Instead, I found that cl and Vox are arguing about each other's character. Hey, new debate to fisk!
I very much doubt either Vox nor DS will ever take my notes into account, hence calling them 'notes' - they're for my own benefit. "Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts." Frankly, neither of them would believe me even if I were exactly right. This implies neither cl nor Vox will believe me about this, either, and as such I am going to take some non-habitual steps.

Usually, when someone objects, I first assume I don't understand the objection and it is true, then when I must I assume I'm being unclear and they've misunderstood which means others will misunderstand, then I assume they have a plausible objection which I should dispel, and only at last do I assume they simply can't understand. However, this is for my own use and I will abide by my own standards and only my own standards. This basically means I'll answer an objection if it addresses something I've missed and otherwise I'll be ignoring it.

If you happen to like it, great. If not, close the tab.

Their insults are all right and their defences are all wrong. Vox's scoring is inconsequential and cl is slinging all sorts of personal insults while claiming that Vox should take the high road. Vox is assuming he should condescend, and as a result misunderstanding cl's comments. Vox is indeed sneaky; he's got a pretty heavy duty sophism infection. Vox is saying he doesn't care but sure as hell not acting like he doesn't care...and slinging personal insults. Yes, the ilk can be pretty echoy, but A) that's mainly a vocal minority and B) Vox encourages dissent, unlike Myers. Of course neither ever change their mind due to dissent.

-All four of these various scores would be perfectly valid and are supported by the evidence. However, only (d) tells you exactly what happened so far, which was my entire purpose in mentioning it. I'm not the scorekeeper. I don't declare the winner.

It seems like I need a sophistry theme song. I get tired of simply saying 'sophistry' each time, and songs are entertaining.

So, I already knew this, which is why I noticed that cl's complaint about the score didn't hold water. However...Vox didn't say it. Until he did. He laid a trap and cl sprung it.
This - as should now be obvious - isn't valid. It only proves that Vox is dishonest, or at best incapable of meaningful honesty, and that cl was too honest to be familiar with the trap. It's looking like this is all predictable from the AWCA label, actually. If you think contempt is a good strategy, you're probably unable to understand your opponents, and hence epistemically broken. (I can explain how this operationally works, but don't feel like it at present.)

That aside...
Vox is rejoicing that he chose the judge wrong, as measured by his own metrics. "I failed, woo." "I was totally blindsided, yeah, wow." Not that I really expect due diligence in an internet debate - not really worthwhile - but I do expect voters not to celebrate when it turns out their failure of responsibility has its natural negative consequences.

As for the other side, I confronted cl about his insults and he denied he was slinging them. "And you wonder why people find you off-putting," indeed.

Being sexist is not good strategy.

-"So I ask my readers: did any of you get the impression that I entered into the debate as opposed to judging it?"

Yes, it is easy to confuse the two. Indeed, this is why I didn't want to judge unless I had to - my actual judgments are about the quality of the arguments, which everyone would confuse with entering the debate. I would have had to refrain from justifying myself and other unsavoury things to avoid this impression.

(I am elitist - I think only those competent to recognize the difference should have the right to have their opinion respected on debates. Yes, this does imply the sticky problem of determining who is competent.)

-"Did alexamenos “enter into the debate” for doing the same damned thing? Scott Scheule? I don’t think so."

They did, in the sense they would be confused as doing so. And indeed if they'd insulted Spacebunny they'd have been accused of it too - nobody notices because they weren't out-grouped.

-I’ve washed my hands and my soul of this poisonous chimera.

Speaking of due diligence, I could have told you in advance that detailed judging was a waste of time, if you intended your judgments to be read honestly. How did you miss that? For example, I entitled these 'notes' because they're for my own benefit. I can guarantee that not a single Ilk will find an iota of value in them.

-"I disagree, and counter that you are blazingly, glaringly, unequivocably in the wrong on the issue of when and how a scoring system should be instantiated, and by whom."

Everyone else realizes the score is inconsequential precisely because he's a contestant. So by his scoring system, DS can't win anymore. Yes, and when that happens, you say, "Well, that is a contestant's scoring system - I'm not surprised it makes himself the winner. As you can see (ref: my judgment) I disagree." At this point Vox looks bad and you don't.

In reality, you both look bad. Indeed worse because you're bad and fighting each other.
Intriguingly, cl is intuitively correct. Vox is a sophist and introduced the scoring system precisely to bias his readership towards a no-win situation for DS. However, cl's actual arguments barely touch on this.

Moreover, anyone who was paying attention knew that DS was in a no-win situation from minute 0. How do we predict that Vox will win? Because the Ilk are involved. The arguments have no causal power at all in the matter. (Falsification, put statistically; Vox can't win every debate. The Ilk thinks he does. Well, I suppose he can if he ensures he never debates anyone competent, but that would - as should be obvious - prove absolutely nothing.)

The point is that, as usual, both sides deserve to lose.