0675: "Revolutionary"

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drewster1829
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby drewster1829 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:16 am UTC

Makri wrote:Act utilitarianism looks at the effect of individual actions. Rule utilitarianism looks at the effects of a rule's being followed and tells you to follow a utility-maximizing rule set. I'm not sure whether that's what you meant to say.
The problem is that rule utilitarianism, on a closer look, comes at least very close to act utilitarianism: your rules can be stated disjunctively, and thus in effect have exceptions. And on what basis could one exclude such formulations? Also, it's not clear at which level of abstractions the rules have to be states (this, by the way, is also a serious problems with Kant's maxims).


Ahh, okay, thanks for the clarification. I'm a little rusty on my philosophy... :oops:

Makri wrote:
drewster1829 wrote:Don't worry, I find the non-existence concept of after death (in other words, assume there is no afterlife or soul or anything after death) equally incoherent.


How's that incoherent... ?


I was just using your language...in my sentence, it doesn't work. What I meant to say was unimaginable...rather, what is the experience of non-existence? I mean, ceasing to exist seems like a pretty simple idea, but what does that really mean for each of us an individuals? I just can't quite picture my consciousness not existing...

fractal wrote:It seems clear that as Science makes "progress", better engineering will be possible (faster computers, cleaner energy, etc - real tangible benefits for living humans, that couldn't be done without that improved Science). So, Philosophy-people, can Philosophy claim the same thing? Clearly our current Philosophy of Science is important for how Science operates, but is there room for Philosophy to progress, allowing for better Science in the future, that wouldn't be possible otherwise?


I think I mentioned this earlier, but without Philosophy, we wouldn't be striving for "progress." Philosophy is always evolving, and it's probably related to the mechanistic view people had of the world in the 1800s when the Scientific Revolution was firmly in place, believing that everything was deterministic (which is still a school of philosophical thought today, is it not?). Then, with uncertainty appearing with Einstein's theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and whatnot, suddenly reality began to look a lot less predictable. Along with Nietzsche, questioning the relevance of anything came about, and the questions being asked has changed.

So, in my opinion, without the changes in Philosophical viewpoints brought about by technology and industrialization, there would not be such a push for "progress" as we today know it. I think that they are intertwined deeply with each other.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:18 am UTC

fractal wrote:Anyway, here's a question for the Philosopher/Scientist/Engineer analogy. It seems clear that as Science makes "progress", better engineering will be possible (faster computers, cleaner energy, etc - real tangible benefits for living humans, that couldn't be done without that improved Science). So, Philosophy-people, can Philosophy claim the same thing? Clearly our current Philosophy of Science is important for how Science operates, but is there room for Philosophy to progress, allowing for better Science in the future, that wouldn't be possible otherwise?


Yes and no. Better Philosophy can lead to better Ethics, which may lead to a more productive society, faster scientific progress, increased satisfaction, and whatever else that can be defined as 'better'. A society based on Hedonism, for example, might have more overall happiness at first, but the lack of long-term investment (or proper childcare) is a severe problem. Bohemianism may result in artistic advancements, but not necessarily the most efficient production. The Free Culture movement and free flow of information might lead to faster scientific progress in some areas, although much of the economy would stagnate; would Pfizer spended tens or hundreds of millions on R&D if anyone could then produce the drugs developed?

Although unlike Science, philosophical 'discoveries' are much more transient; what may be the most popular belief system today could be replaced tommorow, only to be resurrected (spelling?) the day after. For example, Classic Liberalism (aka Libertarianism) was the philosophy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, only to be forgotten soon after, then brought back by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. The various forms of Fascism have been around for millenia (even if the name hasn't; for example, a Theocracy that bans opposing religions is by definition Fascist), and people welcome it with open arms in exchange for the protection it offers, only to rebel against it a few generations later. What is discovered in Science is not easy to 'undiscover'.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby schrodingasdawg » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:20 am UTC

Innocent wrote:Utilitarianism ... is Most philosophies are on the whole better defended than Objectivism.


Fix'd.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:00 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:A society based on Hedonism, for example, might have more overall happiness at first, but the lack of long-term investment (or proper childcare) is a severe problem.

Not all hedonists are epicureans.

...

As to the question of whether philosophy could develop a better science, whatever that would be, the two thoughts that occur to me are that if we knew what 'better science' was, we would already have it, and that we have been sufficiently close to a correct epistemological theory (IMO) for long enough now that I don't expect much more progress to be made. By that second bit, I mean... to use the analogy, imagine that physicists had a mostly-working grand unified theory already; there weren't many anomalous phenomena left to be explained. If at that point we asked "does science make progress?", I think the correct answer would be "yes in principle, but not much anymore within the subdomain of physics."

I consider the modern epistemological theories underlying science (and theories within philosophy of science by extension) to be sufficiently close to "correct" that I don't see much more progress being made, though progress certainly has been made in the past, and there are little niggles to sort out still. Of course, given that first bit (we won't know "better science" until we see it), I could be completely wrong, just as the hypothetical physicists with a nearly-perfected grand unified theory could always come across some phenomenon that completely demolishes it.

And there are still huge amounts of progress to be made in other areas of philosophy. I personally think coming up with the equivalent of natural philosophy's "science" for the domain of moral philosophy is the biggest project that we need to work on. We've got a lot of the rough ideas worked out in ethics and political philosophy already, but it's nowhere near as polished as the metaphysics and epistemology underlying science are (and even those are merely "no longer jagged", rather than properly "polished", but the "polishing" isn't really necessary for them to do the work they've already been doing for centuries).
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Innocent » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:58 am UTC

Makri wrote:
Consciousness and free will may well be illusions.


I just can't resist the urge to point out that consciousness being an illusion strikes me as a completely incoherent idea. ;)


I never said whose illusion it was... Dead C'thulu's, perhaps. :P

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:58 am UTC

As one of my Philosophy teachers once said, "If it only works 'in theory', then it doesn't work in theory".

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:11 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:As one of my Philosophy teachers once said, "If it only works 'in theory', then it doesn't work in theory".

I've always preferred "In theory, practice and theory are the same, but in practice they often differ."
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby prosfilaes » Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:23 am UTC

A very historical thing; note Augustus De Morgan's A Budget of Paradoxes, printed in 1872, about all sorts of new values for pi and disproofs of Newton's laws

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23100/23 ... 3100-h.htm

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Innocent » Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:37 am UTC

prosfilaes wrote:A very historical thing; note Augustus De Morgan's A Budget of Paradoxes, printed in 1872, about all sorts of new values for pi and disproofs of Newton's laws

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23100/23 ... 3100-h.htm


Hilarious 19th-century upperclass writing. Why should we note this exactly? De Morgan was a mathematician, not a scientist or a philosopher except in the sense of math being another sub-field of philosophy.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Amaroq » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:27 am UTC

I must apologize. I may have gotten a little zealous in my post. You guys responded to it calmly, and I respect you for that.

First, I'll say that I don't know much about physics. At all. I'd be a hypocrite to come into this thread and try to say that I can prove Many Worlds Interpretation to be false. However, it sounds really nonsensical to me. I haven't believed in alternate realities since I was a kid. :P

If there's any determinists out there who believe in Many Worlds, I have this interesting question to ask you. If the universe is deterministic, then at any one point, given a certain state of the universe, there can only be one outcome, correct? But if these alternate universes were ever the same at any point in time, how could there have possibly been different outcomes?

On the senses. Yes, it actually is a common position like you said. Our senses are of course fallible. But I don't think that that invalidates them. You can trust almost everything you perceive with them. If you're distrusting of your senses because a stick appears bent when partially submerged in water, you're distrusting them for a completely wrong reason. Something like this is an example of how trustworthy they are. The light from the stick really is moving differently through the water than through the air, and your eyes aren't biased in the least when they give you that. If you distrust your senses simply because there are things you can't see (such as infrared light), fear not. You're not getting a complete picture, but the picture you're getting is still true.

On consciousness/free will. My roommate's justification for his position on consciousness and free will is that the mind is centered in a physical brain, and that that brain is part of a deterministic universe. I'll agree that the universe is deterministic, what with causality and such. But that doesn't invalidate consciousness, and I don't think it even invalidates free will. Consciousness is, basically, the faculty of perception, and is one of the three Axioms of Objectivism. The other two being existence and identity. That you are able to perceive anything is proof that all three of those axioms, including consciousness, are true.

As far as the free will part, I've actually come to accept a compatiblist theory that allows for both. If you could predict my actions, and your prediction was correct, your prediction did not compel me to take those actions. My actions made your prediction true.

The laws of physics, or any other laws we create, are not forces or entities that compel the universe to act as it does. They are descriptions to fit how the universe acts.

I'm actually not too familiar with utilitarianism. The impression my roommate has given me of it is that you basically choose your own utility function and then work to maximize that. His utility function is life. Especially human life. He views all human lives as of equal value. He thinks that this kind of thinking can result in nonviolence, but he won't accept the fact that thinking like that justifies the sacrifices of individuals to collectives. Yet... he already accepts that collectives are more valuable than individuals, and individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves to collectives. I think... His position is kind of weird and one-sided. It's perfectly fine for him to sacrifice his life, but he never considers whether he has more justification to live than the person trying to murder him. It's always just, be nonviolent. Let the violent man kill you. Which I think is kind of contradictory.

Also, I don't think it's necessary to kill in self defense. If they're just trying to steal property, do what you can to deter them. But if you have any reason to think they want to kill or harm you or your loved ones, I think you would be justified in killing them if you had to.

I'm not really familiar with Kant, beyond what Rand has written about him. Ayn Rand has actually done a lot of Kant bashing, so it's hard for me to view him neutrally. If I'm not mistaken, he believed in two different realities, correct? A phenomenal world of illusion, and a noumenal world as it actually is, but that we can never know about. We also apparently have a noumenal self separate from our phenomenal self, and doing your duty with no self-interest at all somehow benefits the noumenal self.

The accusation Rand levies at Kant is that he basically saved religion from destruction at the hands of reason. He removes ethics from reality and places them in a realm unknowable to us, so that the only way to justify our oughts is from faith, as opposed to deriving oughts from what is. And he was a big "our senses are invalid" guy.

I'd recommend taking what I say with a grain of salt though. I can't be sure I'm representing Objectivism properly. Just see me as someone who holds Objectivism as his philosophy and is applying what he knows of it.

And alas, Objectivist Ethics. (Yes, Innocent, I've been responding piece by piece to your post. I'll go over drewster's next.)

I think that believing in an objective reality does necessitate rational self-interest. Objective reality itself doesn't directly imply that, but your nature as a living being does.

Life is self-sustaining, self-generated action. Every life-form is acting to keep itself going, taking what it needs from the environment around it to sustain its own body. If you look at reality objectively and recognize this aspect of life, including your own, it's not a far stretch to recognize self-interest as a requirement for life, and therefore rational self-interest as a requirement of human life.

I think that the only way you could argue for altruism is to actually support it with egoism. To say that being altruistic benefits you. But then it comes down to the degree of "altruism" you're practicing. If you're helping your friends and loved ones, you have a self-interest in their benefit, since they are valuable to you. Arguably, that invalidates any notion of it being altruism. True altruism would be to sacrifice for someone who you don't know/care about/have any reason to want to help.

Drewster, I don't know much about utility, so I probably can't argue against it, other than to say that the best way (and only way really) to judge value is to take your life as the standard by which you judge value. Does being utilitarian benefit you? Or are you just out to benefit everyone, even at expense to yourself? Or does utilitarianism allow you to define your own utility?

And I don't think it's actually too hard to consider non-life after death. There's actually a poetic (and therefore non-philosophical, mind you) statement that Ayn Rand herself quoted once on TV. "I will not die; it's the world that will end."
Only a person completely convinced that there will be no life after death, could possibly utter such a statement.

Not only is it not difficult to imagine, I think, but it's also essential to a meaningful life. After all, if there is no heaven, then what the hell are you doing wasting your life away at church? Why aren't you making the most of this life?

JWalker wrote:
Shackleton wrote:Respect your elders and betters.


Respect the ones with the nuclear weapons.

Respect the ones who empowered you to split the atom in the first place. :P

As for better science, not only could better ethics indirectly benefit science, but better metaphysics and epistemology could directly benefit science.

If I'm not mistaken, the uncertainty principle states that we can't know both the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle, but only because you have to hit it with another particle to measure it. Somehow, a lot of people took it to have a primacy of consciousness implication. They thought the statement "Observing a subatomic particle changes it" meant that our consciousness could affect reality independent of action from our body. Better philosophy could have quickly fixed or even prevented this.

The Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment was actually originally created to challenge the crazy notion, that science was pushing at the time, that something we haven't observed yet exists in multiple states simultaneously until observing it collapses the possibilities into one state.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:12 pm UTC

fractal wrote:This comic motivated me to register and post, as well.

Anyway, here's a question for the Philosopher/Scientist/Engineer analogy. It seems clear that as Science makes "progress", better engineering will be possible (faster computers, cleaner energy, etc - real tangible benefits for living humans, that couldn't be done without that improved Science). So, Philosophy-people, can Philosophy claim the same thing? Clearly our current Philosophy of Science is important for how Science operates, but is there room for Philosophy to progress, allowing for better Science in the future, that wouldn't be possible otherwise?

I don't really know what better Science would look like, but we can certainly find worse Science (advancements shelved because the existing religion didn't like them, that sort of thing). So maybe better Science "progresses" more quickly for a given amount of effort/manpower. Maybe better Science could also allow us to apply scientific techniques to more fields of study (thus in turn allowing the engineers to get to work).

I'm a PhD student in Economics, btw.


If you accept that the allocation of scare resources in an optimal way is a good thing (which I'm given to understand is what economics is about) and that there can be such a thing as a conceptual mistake (there can be subtle contradictions, abiding confusions, biases and so on) then you can accept that the role of philosophy is to highlight persistent conceptual mistakes in order to prevent the misallocation of scare resources. It is characteristic of good philosophy that it probably doesn't need to be done by philosophers. But if there is a legitimate intersect between the theoretical aspects of psychology, the theoretical aspects of moral discourse and the theoretical aspects of politics, for example, it might be useful to have someone or some people who concern themselves with all three just in case the maintenance of divisions between disciplines leads to incoherent ideas establishing themselves in non-interacting disciplines. Take a concrete example; a lot of work which is being done on e.g. teaching children how to be good, bioethics, rehabilitation and legal responsibility is predicated about conceptual confusions about morality, according to me, as can be shown by a careful scrutiny of the empirical work being done on morality by psychologists (and evolutionary biologists, sociologists, neuroscientists, philosophers and so on). Let's suppose this is true. Conceptual confusions have serious negative repercussions. It isn't necessary that someone be a philosopher to notice this, just that someone be familiar with the psychology involved, familiar with the moral concepts in question, and familiar with their employment in other disciplines. These sorts of inquiry are probably facilitated by having people whose job is it just to deal with concepts. These would be philosophers.

I accept that there is a lot of bad philosophy out there. Some of it is the truth relativism, I'm disproving physics, what is being bad philosophy. But some of it is head-in-the-sand ignorance of other disciplines. If you can take the 'point' of the strip as being 'philosophers should accept the flow of information goes from science to philosophy and not the other way around' then I heartily accept it (absent the occasions when e.g. physicists are doing philosophy; scientific realism is true, induction is logically sound, which is the correct interpretation of quantum physics etc). But the be all and end all of the academy isn't science. The measure of the utility of philosophy should not be 'what is the relevance of philosophy to science' but rather 'what is the relevance of philosophy to human endeavor' and I would argue that philosophy at it's best, when it's working right and when it's being done the way it's supposed to be, eliminates mistakes in the interpretation and application of empirical discoveries and perhaps in areas of inquiry for which there is little or no empirical dimension (logic is logically prior to empirical inquiry, or so it seems).

P.S. - I'm conscious that some of the more wider read of you, and the economist in particular, may notice that my description of philosophy as eliminating biases sounds dangerously similar to the work of those who work on the heuristics and biases literature. Yup; I see them as engaged in the same task. There might be a difference in the Kahneman tends to use scientific, a posteriori methods of inquiry whereas philosophy even under my understanding of it is principally done a priori but I see no real disciplinary distinction between the two feels and would count not only the heuristics and biases literature as being philosophy, but something it is essential for philosophers to be familiar with and a body of research which ought to inform philosophical claims and method. I am pleased to report there are a lot of philosophers working on philosophical methodology who feel the same way.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Esoto » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:12 pm UTC

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:25 pm UTC

Amaroq wrote:But that doesn't invalidate consciousness, and I don't think it even invalidates free will. Consciousness is, basically, the faculty of perception, and is one of the three Axioms of Objectivism.


It doesn't. You need to read Dan Dennett. And you need to throw out your Ayn Rand books (seriously. If you continue to study philosophy you will either become chairman of the Fed or you'll later be embarassed by the credence you places in her a rational natterings. 'Axioms of Objectivism'; tosh!). Try Freedom Evolves to start with. There are many brands of compatibilism who deny the tension between determinism and free will (of which Dennett's is the most plausible being revisionary and hence not dismissive of those who think their is a conflict (unlike Strawson) and being based on actual psychology and not idealised selves coordinating their higher order desires (unlike Frankfurt).

The laws of physics, or any other laws we create, are not forces or entities that compel the universe to act as it does. They are descriptions to fit how the universe acts.


That's a standard Humean account of the laws of nature; the so-called laws are just generalisations we happen to have observed. Let me put to you then the standard contrary thought experiment; to what degree would you be surprised if you found a part of the universe where the laws did not hold. If you are earnest in your Humeanism it shouldn't surprise you at al; you've never been there before so if the laws are just generalities which hold true elsewhere there is no reason for them to hold true in that part as well. On the other hand if you would be surprised by this it suggests that contra- what you say you feel the tug of the contrary, universalist interpretation of the laws where the (true?) laws are seperate, hold universally and perhaps are constitutive of the universe rather than the other way around. Alex Bird and James Ladyman's introductions to the Philosophy of Science both deal with this question, if you're interested.

I'm actually not too familiar with utilitarianism. The impression my roommate has given me of it is that you basically choose your own utility function and then work to maximize that.


No. Like most normative theories utilitarianism insists that its prescriptions hold universally. Vanilla utilitarianism (act-utilitarianism) states that you should act always such that you promote the greatest happiness. Rule-utilitarianism recognises that the heuristic calculations for the above are too complicated and you should instead establish rules which you are able to follow which in general promote the greatest happiness, even if these rules sometimes fail to promote happiness in some specific instances. Motive utilitarianism (which seems curiously uncommon these days) says that because 'rules' don't tend to govern our behaviour you should instead inculcate the right motives or dispositions which will promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. 'Utilitarianism with side constraints' recognises that you can throw into your calculus some things which must not be broken even if failure to break them means a failure to promote the greatest happiness; rights are the standard side constraints. 'Utilitarianism as a criterion of judgement' means that you don't actually use utilitarianism to inform your actions but only as a tool for evaluating after the event which actions were good or bad (so if you wanted to write a history book with the word 'bad' in it, you would interpret this in a utilitarian - usually act-utilitarian) manner. Utilitarianism is a specific instance of a wider normative approach termed 'consequentialism' which seeks to prescribe or evaluate actions based upon the consequences of them as far as promoting a particular account of 'The Good'. 'The Good' for utilitarianism is of course the greatest happiness of the greatest number. But in a consequentialist theory you can in principle establish any 'The Good' you want; ordinarily it tends to be something like the greatest happiness as well as individual happiness, or something based on the heriarchy of needs or suchlike. But all the time the basic restriction on consequentialist theories is maintained that they are supposed to be universal in scope and so if you declare yourself to be 'a pigeon on the moon consequentialist' (tip of the hat to Hallvard Lillehammer) you implicitly demand not just that your own actions be evaluated according to how far they promote the goal of putting pigeons on the moon but that anyone else's actions, and all actions in general, be evaluated according to their tendency to promote this. This is why the onus is normally on the consequentialist to tell us a story about how they have analysed 'good' or the structure of moral discourse or something and they have 'discovered' consequentialist. Three of the most interesting developments in the defense of consequentialism in recent years are: A: Joshua Greene's claim that because fMRI data shows that higher cognitive faculties are brought more to bear in forming consequentialist judgements than in forming 'deontological' judgments, this shows consequentialism to be superior. B: Tim Mulgan's The Demands of Consequentialism which argues that the counter-intuitively high demands (give all your money to the third world) which consequentialism appears to make, it doesn't after all and it's much less demanding when properly understood, C: Living High and Letting Die by Peter Unger; a fascinating book in which he purports to show that while consequentialism is counter-intuitive in it's high-demands, common sense moral alternatives are incoherent and so you have to opt for consequentialism because at least it's rationally coherent.

His utility function is life. He views all human lives as of equal value.


Gibberish. Unless he spends all day at the sperm bank. Unless he has an argument as to why either of these should be compelling to me as a third party to 'his' utilitarian, then he isn't a utilitarian he just follows a strange code.

He thinks that this kind of thinking can result in nonviolence


If that was true, and if nonviolence was my and everyone else's overarching concern then he has an argument. But I think I care about other things more than non-violence. In a world with people saying they are willing to die for arbitrary plots of lands supposedly given to their ancestors by personifications of the natural forces, I suspect other people care about things other than non-violence too.

I'm not really familiar with Kant, beyond what Rand has written about him.


Wow. "I'm not really familiar with Marx, apart from what McCarthy has to say about him", "I'm not really familiar with Ford, apart from what Aldous Huxley has to say about him", "I'm not really familiar with the Palestinians, apart from what the Israelis have to say about him". Seriously guy; Ayn Rand isn't a philosopher, isn't a rational interlocutor, isn't a credible addition to the philosophical canon and certainly isn't a realiable source for the history of philosophy.

Leiter et al saying the same thing: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2 ... -rand.html and http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2 ... mment.html
Rands view of Kant, in Cartoon form: http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian ... e_exp.html

If I'm not mistaken, he believed in two different realities, correct? A phenomenal world of illusion, and a noumenal world as it actually is, but that we can never know about. We also apparently have a noumenal self separate from our phenomenal self, and doing your duty with no self-interest at all somehow benefits the noumenal self.


Broadly speaking, yes. It might be more plausible if it's wrapped up in an (early) Wittgenstein Tortilla for you though; there is the phenomenal world which is the one which we directly apprehend with our mental faculties (the world is divided into objects, there is space-time, there are colours and so on) and this is the world to which we refer with our language, which we use to coordinate our actions. This is the phenomenal world. But our ability to make sense of the world, of the sensory input we take from the world, is contingent upon us being able to process and apprehend particular features in a logically arbitrary fashion; it is the interaction of our mental faculties with the world-as-it-is-in-itself which creates the phenomenal world which we are able to apprehend. The world-as-it-is-in-itself however, the noumenal world, has no need to conform to our methods of cognizing it; maybe things aren't split into discrete objects; maybe it's multi-dimensional strings, maybe there are causal forces which we don't recognise like neutrinos which don't interact with us at all. We don't necessarily know anything about the noumenal world (unlike the phenomenal world which is 'given' to us by our senses); it might be like the phenomenal world, it might be completely different, we have no way of knowing. Kant was, however, (this might be controversial, but I think it's pretty clear) a realist about the noumenal world. He doesn't doubt it exists, he just thinks we don't have access to it. In the second critique he speaks of the will as operating in this world which I take to mean he thinks that the noumenal world is the one we interact with, which would suggest a pragmatic argument for thinking that the noumenal world is either like the phenomenal world or structurally similar. I suspect much of the intuitive pull of Kant's picture has fallen away as we've come to accept the more sensible elements (colours aren't in the-world-as-it-is-in-itself and with more advanced physics we think we now have a handle on the stuff we cannot see. But I think his work is still relevant to questions of scientific realism. To compare Kant with Rand however is to do a disservice to him. They aren't in the same league, by a long shot. Kant is one of the most profound, more careful and most rigorous philosophers in the history of civilization. Rand is anything but.

The accusation Rand levies at Kant is that he basically saved religion from destruction at the hands of reason. He removes ethics from reality and places them in a realm unknowable to us, so that the only way to justify our oughts is from faith, as opposed to deriving oughts from what is. And he was a big "our senses are invalid" guy.


Which is a surefire way to get a FAIL if I'm grading your papers. The only part of his ethics which are unknowable is what maxim you are actually acting upon (for reasons deeply obscure to me; in his discussion of friendship which he takes to be tied to maxims he remarks "you can never know if you have ever had a true friend" because you can never know they were truly acting on the maxim of friendship. I suppose the idea is a counterfactual one; you could only know if you have access to ways the world might have gone other than it did which you presumably don't. Actually Kant believed (perhaps mistakenly) in the validity of our senses for delivering the phenomenal world. And that's the world which counts as far as describing it is concerned. Kant's views on god are tricky and deeply complicated. Fair to say he was probably a deist. I've heard it claimed that he was secretly an atheist of sorts but I don't find that very plausible. His ethics have a religious flavour to them but are thoroughly secular, in so far as they are based upon what it is and what it is not contradictory to will.

I think that believing in an objective reality does necessitate rational self-interest.


Perhaps. But this doesn't entail selfish behaviour. I see the old lady wanting to cross the street and I feel bad for her. I help her across and I feel good about myself. I acted in a sensible manner to promote my own happiness by helping the old lady. There are many people much more naturally selfless than I am, and it makes sense that I encourage these tendencies in them, being as I might be the beneficiary. Go read Hume. This is all in Hume.

Life is self-sustaining, self-generated action. Every life-form is acting to keep itself going, taking what it needs from the environment around it to sustain its own body. If you look at reality objectively and recognize this aspect of life, including your own, it's not a far stretch to recognize self-interest as a requirement for life, and therefore rational self-interest as a requirement of human life.


This is prescription based on metaphor. Your horse provides locomotion and eats hay. Your car similarly provides locomotion. Therefore it similarly must eat hay. That 'life is self-sustaining' and 'takes what it needs' does not mean that you, as a conscious being, need to do so. That the promotion of the selfish interests of your genes have resulted in a creature which has unselfish motives and a capability to act unselfishly is perhaps interesting, but here your 'objectivism' is just making the move critics accuse Dawkins of making which he never does. That the evolutionary process is 'selfish' does not mean it's products are. Maybe some are, naturally, (psychopaths) but they have gone wrong and we can lock them up until we find out what. Most people would be made miserable if they behaved like psychopaths all the time because most people aren't. As to whether your interests are served by encouraging other people to be selfish, I suspect the answer is obviously not.

I think that the only way you could argue for altruism is to actually support it with egoism. To say that being altruistic benefits you. But then it comes down to the degree of "altruism" you're practicing. If you're helping your friends and loved ones, you have a self-interest in their benefit, since they are valuable to you. Arguably, that invalidates any notion of it being altruism. True altruism would be to sacrifice for someone who you don't know/care about/have any reason to want to help.


No, I'm afraid you've confused yourself with technical terms here. If I jump on the grenade to save my comrades, I have acted altruistically. If I did so because my emotional evaluator was a bit wonky and decided I had to because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't does not make it not altruistic. That it might be a byproduct of natural selection favouring those who are willing to die for those they recognise as kin does not make it not altruistic. That it was done to, in the abstract sense, 'promote my own happiness' does not make it non altruistic, because 'happiness' is being used in a strange sense here simply to denote positive affect. That people might get positive affect from promoting the material interests of others rather than their own, and actions are governed by affect rather than material interests, does not mean this person is nonetheless an egoist. An egoist is someone promoting their material interests. Any definition of the antithesis of egoist as someone not moves by positive affect (or happiness) is incoherent; there couldn't be such a creature, anymore than there might be martians who enjoy being unhappy (in the trivial sense of 'unhappy' sure there could. In the negative affect sense, there trivially couldn't). If your definition of 'egoist' or anything else ('agnostic' comes to mind as a similar offender) does not meaningfully bifurcate the space of options because it only eliminates the impossible or the absurd then you have a lousy definition.

And I don't think it's actually too hard to consider non-life after death.


It's probably impossible, for the Berkleyan reason that you're imagining yourself viewing nothingness or something similar. Viewing the world without you in it from a perspective which is implicitly yours, as though watching on a video camera. That said, that it is impossible to imagine something happening does not mean it cannot, and certainly does not mean you should think it won't if there is compelling evidence to the contrary.

There's actually a poetic (and therefore non-philosophical, mind you) statement that Ayn Rand herself quoted once on TV. "I will not die; it's the world that will end."


A rare Randian aphorism subjectible to empirical testing and duly falsified. Ding dong, the witch is dead.

If I'm not mistaken, the uncertainty principle states that we can't know both the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle, but only because you have to hit it with another particle to measure it. Somehow, a lot of people took it to have a primacy of consciousness implication. They thought the statement "Observing a subatomic particle changes it" meant that our consciousness could affect reality independent of action from our body. Better philosophy could have quickly fixed or even prevented this.

The Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment was actually originally created to challenge the crazy notion, that science was pushing at the time, that something we haven't observed yet exists in multiple states simultaneously until observing it collapses the possibilities into one state.


As ever the overwhelming contribution of Feynman to philosophy of Science, despite publicly declaring to despise philosophy, comes to the fore: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics" often rendered as it's corollary: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." The only safe generalization about the various 'theories' is that they're all bollocks. A more interesting thought was put to me by an Oxford philosopher of science recently; quantum entanglement is only a problem if you're unwilling to accept action at a distance. Wouldn't it feel better to accept action at a distance than to accept e.g. the many worlds or the Copenhagen interpretations with their branching universes or 'objective probability'?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:30 pm UTC

Esoto wrote:I find the concept of time travel incoherent! :mrgreen:


Time travel into the past, you mean. There's nothing incoherent about time travel into the future. It amazes me that people happy to accept that the Grandfather paradox is a logical paradox can't see that it generalises to my presence in any past timeframe which is causally 'upstream' of my past (e.g.; there would be nothing in principle wrong with me traveling a year ago to a spot a light-year-and-a-day away, assuming light speed is the 'speed' of causation).

And the concept of infinity, also.


I don't, other people do. AW Moore's book is really excellent. Failing that 'worries about infinity' form much of the backdrop of Wittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. He claims that accepting his views won't alter mathematical practice, but then he has a big rant about Cantor's proof of multiple incommensurate infinities.

Just a question though: Do you think the notion that there was a point of time (in the past, before we were born) when you didn't have a consciousness yet equally incoherent?


If he's being consistent he probably does. I suspect he's mistaken 'unimaginable' for 'incoherent'.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby enjoyeverysandwich42 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:43 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:
enjoyeverysandwich42 wrote:There's no such thing as free will.

Objective reality is a myth.

The problem of induction has not been solved to any acceptable degree. All empirical observations are fundamentally unsound.


Some things that wouldn't be clear without having studied philosophy - and some things that in no way affect the day to day operations of anything. :)

By god, man, publish the arguments you used to support these conclusions, because you are the greatest philosopher ever! To have settled these matters is a truly momentous achievement. Alas, if only lesser intellects like Plato, Locke, Descartes, Kant, and Hume had possessed your formidable skill and discerning eye, we could have been freed from philosophical uncertainty far sooner! Try not to look down on them too much, though, because this stuff is confusing for such simpletons.


Just having some fun amigo - not my own arguments - the third one is Hume's.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby JWalker » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:05 pm UTC

Amaroq wrote:If I'm not mistaken, the uncertainty principle states that we can't know both the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle, but only because you have to hit it with another particle to measure it. Somehow, a lot of people took it to have a primacy of consciousness implication. They thought the statement "Observing a subatomic particle changes it" meant that our consciousness could affect reality independent of action from our body. Better philosophy could have quickly fixed or even prevented this.

The Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment was actually originally created to challenge the crazy notion, that science was pushing at the time, that something we haven't observed yet exists in multiple states simultaneously until observing it collapses the possibilities into one state.


I'm sorry, but you are mistaken about this. The " the uncertainty principle states that we can't know both the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle, but only because you have to hit it with another particle to measure it" that you usually hear is just a pop-science explanation of quantum uncertainties. These sorts of uncertainties are far more sinister than merely things that we can't measure, they allow us to do things like counterfactual measurements (measuring things without interacting with them), and various other strange things.

Whatever the universe is doing is very strange indeed, and it certainly appears very much to be non-deterministic. This is a problem that goes far beyond just an incomplete knowledge of it on our part. I doubt very much you will find any determinists that believe in quantum mechanics (let alone Many Worlds), since quantum mechanics is inherently non-deterministic.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby jakovasaur » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:05 pm UTC

fractal wrote:This comic motivated me to register and post, as well.

Anyway, here's a question for the Philosopher/Scientist/Engineer analogy. It seems clear that as Science makes "progress", better engineering will be possible (faster computers, cleaner energy, etc - real tangible benefits for living humans, that couldn't be done without that improved Science). So, Philosophy-people, can Philosophy claim the same thing? Clearly our current Philosophy of Science is important for how Science operates, but is there room for Philosophy to progress, allowing for better Science in the future, that wouldn't be possible otherwise?

I don't really know what better Science would look like, but we can certainly find worse Science (advancements shelved because the existing religion didn't like them, that sort of thing). So maybe better Science "progresses" more quickly for a given amount of effort/manpower. Maybe better Science could also allow us to apply scientific techniques to more fields of study (thus in turn allowing the engineers to get to work).

I'm a PhD student in Economics, btw.

Again, this is doing philosophy. The very idea of "better", whether it is possible, what it could mean, etc. are all matters of philosophical inquiry. Just as your definition of "better engineering" relies on the truths that science reveals, so too does the notion of "better science" requires philosophical development for science to move toward. Philosophy frames the question, and science attempts to answer it. For example, the determinism vs. free will quagmire has been around for far longer than any real science into how the brain works, and now there is a plenitude of scientific inquiry into the role of the brain in decision-making processes.

So, given that there remains a question of whether there is a "better" for society to move toward, and what that might entail, to question whether philosophy can allow for better science is a little like asking whether science can help engineers build a better time machine. Either time travel is within our capabilities, in which case science is obviously necessary, or it isn't, and we'll never know. Either way, science is the best way to try to find out.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:29 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:As one of my Philosophy teachers once said, "If it only works 'in theory', then it doesn't work in theory".

I've always preferred "In theory, practice and theory are the same, but in practice they often differ."


Yes but the point my teacher was trying to make was that if it doesn't work in practice, it doesn't work in theory. Both Lassez-Faire and Marxism fail to work on a large scale, so they don't work in theory.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby JWalker » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:
fractal wrote:This comic motivated me to register and post, as well.

Anyway, here's a question for the Philosopher/Scientist/Engineer analogy. It seems clear that as Science makes "progress", better engineering will be possible (faster computers, cleaner energy, etc - real tangible benefits for living humans, that couldn't be done without that improved Science). So, Philosophy-people, can Philosophy claim the same thing? Clearly our current Philosophy of Science is important for how Science operates, but is there room for Philosophy to progress, allowing for better Science in the future, that wouldn't be possible otherwise?

I don't really know what better Science would look like, but we can certainly find worse Science (advancements shelved because the existing religion didn't like them, that sort of thing). So maybe better Science "progresses" more quickly for a given amount of effort/manpower. Maybe better Science could also allow us to apply scientific techniques to more fields of study (thus in turn allowing the engineers to get to work).

I'm a PhD student in Economics, btw.

Again, this is doing philosophy. The very idea of "better", whether it is possible, what it could mean, etc. are all matters of philosophical inquiry. Just as your definition of "better engineering" relies on the truths that science reveals, so too does the notion of "better science" requires philosophical development for science to move toward. Philosophy frames the question, and science attempts to answer it. For example, the determinism vs. free will quagmire has been around for far longer than any real science into how the brain works, and now there is a plenitude of scientific inquiry into the role of the brain in decision-making processes.

So, given that there remains a question of whether there is a "better" for society to move toward, and what that might entail, to question whether philosophy can allow for better science is a little like asking whether science can help engineers build a better time machine. Either time travel is within our capabilities, in which case science is obviously necessary, or it isn't, and we'll never know. Either way, science is the best way to try to find out.


Philosophy: The art of asking questions that can't be answered, claiming that it is somehow worthwhile and relevant to other people, then questioning what the nature of 'other' is.

Alternatively, a bunch of smug people with goatees that don't have the brainpower for logical discussions beyond the debate of semantics.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:37 pm UTC

Duncan_ wrote:But I think his work is still relevant to questions of scientific realism.


Why do you think that? And if anyone else thinks that, too, can you give me a reference? I'm curious.

Wouldn't it feel better to accept action at a distance than to accept e.g. the many worlds or the Copenhagen interpretations with their branching universes or 'objective probability'?


Is this really an alternative? Is action at a distance all that is needed? If so, I'd expect that many people would embrace it without hesitation. I certainly would.
¬□(∀♀(∃♂(♀❤♂)⟷∃♂(♂❤♀)))

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

Makri wrote:
Duncan_ wrote:But I think his work is still relevant to questions of scientific realism.


Why do you think that? And if anyone else thinks that, too, can you give me a reference? I'm curious.


I see an analogy, though I don't know whether many other people do, between the work being done on anti-object ontology by the likes of Annie Thomasson (Ordinary Objects), Horgan (Austere Realism) and Ross and Ladyman (Every Thing Must Go) and the noumenal/phenomenal division. Whether you consider the analog to be based on scientific realism might depend on where you see the action as lying in the scientific realism. Myself, I've been troubled by the thoroughly non-Quinean move Quine pulls when saying 'there could be two mutually incompatible but equally well motivated (by the evidence) descriptions of the world... but one of them is really really true'. That is the non-Quinean scientific realist move in Quine. Similarly Van Frassen style worries about the ontology of physics, unaccompanied by Van Frassen's confidence in 'medium sized dry objects' would lead you to a similar kind of ontological nihilism/fictionalim. If you believe that there can be well structured, well motivated discourse about a realm of objects (a language) which even when it is based upon the best physical account of the world you nonetheless accept that in principle we can never know either if the world itself matches up with this ontological framework or which of the logically possibly alternate ontological frameworks might be equally well motivated by the evidence, then you have conceded a position not unlike the distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal world (assuming you nevertheless remain a realist about the external world). I'm told, though I've yet to read it, that Rae Langton's reading of the first critique in Kantian Humility isn't a million miles away (but then I'm also told that it's not a very plausible exegesis of Kant).

Is action at a distance all that is needed? If so, I'd expect that many people would embrace it without hesitation. I certainly would.


It's all that would be needed to solve the problem of quantum entanglement. Whether it would solve all the problematic phenomena (double slit experiments with a single photon, for example) I'm unclear. I don't do philosophy of science. He seemed to think so. I think the point was that there might be other things you could drop from the scientific worldview to resolve the problem without positing many worlds or objective probability.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:06 pm UTC

JWalker wrote:
Philosophy: The art of asking questions that can't be answered, claiming that it is somehow worthwhile and relevant to other people, then questioning what the nature of 'other' is.

Alternatively, a bunch of smug people with goatees that don't have the brainpower for logical discussions beyond the debate of semantics.


Yes, because your entirely ignorant prejudices uninformed by anything other than a stereotype of French philosophers from the 50s are fine examples of 'logical' thinking in action, aren't they?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Amaroq » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:11 pm UTC

JWalker wrote:Philosophy: The art of asking questions that can't be answered, claiming that it is somehow worthwhile and relevant to other people, then questioning what the nature of 'other' is.

Alternatively, a bunch of smug people with goatees that don't have the brainpower for logical discussions beyond the debate of semantics.


I think you should email the President of Philosophy and let him know about the discovery you just made.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:For example, Classic Liberalism (aka Libertarianism) was the philosophy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, only to be forgotten soon after, then brought back by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.


My mind! She explodes!

The implication appears to be that Classic Liberalism is an invention of Jefferson's (if you think Adams was a liberal... wow) which is insane. Liberalism plausibly owes it's birth to John Locke more than anyone else, though the Wealth of Nations was published in 1776 and many of the economic ideas implicit within it would have been familiar to the founding fathers through Voltaire, Hume and other philosophers of the Enlightenment, as well as Thomas Paine. Kant, writing not long after the foundation, also has a more plausible claim as a founder of classical liberalism than Jefferson, as the liberal concepts of autonomy and obligation used today are largely Kantian. To say that it was forgotten, post Kant, say, is a claim of staggering ignorance. I'm not entirely sure what you think 'classical liberalism' is if you think Friedman is a liberal (which if he is, he is so only vaguely), but if you are thinking in Economic terms then you apparently seem to imagine there was no economics done between Adams and Friedman which, needless to say, is mistaken as it misses out Ricardo and Malthus amongst others. Most staggering of all those is you've left out John Stuart Mill (not to mention James Mill and Bentham); Mill is classical liberalism. Mill is the paradigm, the epitome, the archetype of classical liberalism. You are or are not a classical liberal depending on your intellectual distance from Mill. Skipping past all post-Millian political philosophers - and I might forgive you for omitting Keynes, though worth baring in mind he was politically a liberal - most staggering of all is your omission of both Von Mises and Hayek. In so far as Freidman has claim to any political ideas at all, as I'm sure he'd happily accept, he takes them from Von Mises or from FA Hayek. And then we have the inclusion of Ayn Rand, to which I have three things to say. First, Ayn Rand is not a philosophy, except in the general sense that any idiot can hang a shingle out side their door saying 'philosopher within'. Second, Ayn Rand is not a classical liberal. In so far as she has consistent political views, and the scholarly opinion (see Chandran Kukathas on this, an authority on Hayek) it is best to regard her as an anarchist her official opposition to anarchism notwithstanding. Third, even if she were, if we were to accept her as a libertarian say, then she is a shockingly poor example of the political position much more coherently and plausibly defended by Hayek and Nozick.

Edit - I've missed out Montesquieu and de Tocqueville for which I've little excuse. I apologize.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby drewster1829 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:48 pm UTC

Duncan_ wrote: Just a question though: Do you think the notion that there was a point of time (in the past, before we were born) when you didn't have a consciousness yet equally incoherent?



If he's being consistent he probably does. I suspect he's mistaken 'unimaginable' for 'incoherent'.


drewster1829 wrote:
Makri wrote:
drewster1829 wrote:Don't worry, I find the non-existence concept of after death (in other words, assume there is no afterlife or soul or anything after death) equally incoherent.


How's that incoherent... ?


*snip* What I meant to say was unimaginable... *snip*


Correct. :P

And the answer is yes, I do find the notion of a point in time (lots of points, really) before I was born equally unimaginable.

Amaroq wrote:Drewster, I don't know much about utility, so I probably can't argue against it, other than to say that the best way (and only way really) to judge value is to take your life as the standard by which you judge value. Does being utilitarian benefit you? Or are you just out to benefit everyone, even at expense to yourself? Or does utilitarianism allow you to define your own utility?


I said I found it easier to swallow. I don't call myself utilitarian. I don't prescribe to any one philosophy at the moment (let's say I'm still shopping around 8) ).

Amaroq wrote:And I don't think it's actually too hard to consider non-life after death. There's actually a poetic (and therefore non-philosophical, mind you) statement that Ayn Rand herself quoted once on TV. "I will not die; it's the world that will end."
Only a person completely convinced that there will be no life after death, could possibly utter such a statement.


This might be a bit hard to clarify, but I didn't meant that it was difficult to consider it..I just can't imagine it from my point-of-view. It's easy for me to imagine a world or universe or whatever without me in it, it's just difficult to think about what such a world would be like from my point-of-view...i.e., my point of view wouldn't exist.

Amaroq wrote:Not only is it not difficult to imagine, I think, but it's also essential to a meaningful life. After all, if there is no heaven, then what the hell are you doing wasting your life away at church? Why aren't you making the most of this life?


I partially agree. There are many people who go to church (I'm not one of them) who do so to the benefit of their own lives today, but there are many others who spend their life on works for "the next life" or whatever. If it benefits them now, then what are we to judge their decision? Sure, one can say "You're wasting your life! Do something more relevant to now," but if it makes them happy, then who cares? As long as they're not hurting others.

But anyway, I think you misunderstand...I didn't meant it as a reason to believe in an afterlife:

Duncan_ wrote:
Amaroq wrote: And I don't think it's actually too hard to consider non-life after death.


It's probably impossible, for the Berkleyan reason that you're imagining yourself viewing nothingness or something similar. Viewing the world without you in it from a perspective which is implicitly yours, as though watching on a video camera. That said, that it is impossible to imagine something happening does not mean it cannot, and certainly does not mean you should think it won't if there is compelling evidence to the contrary.


This is what I meant. The last sentence I completely agree with: I never meant that I couldn't imagine a universe where I didn't exist in some form, I just meant I couldn't imagine the experience of non-existence (because it's obviously a paradox, as Duncan pointed out).

Edit:
Duncan_ wrote:Perhaps. But this doesn't entail selfish behaviour. I see the old lady wanting to cross the street and I feel bad for her. I help her across and I feel good about myself. I acted in a sensible manner to promote my own happiness by helping the old lady. There are many people much more naturally selfless than I am, and it makes sense that I encourage these tendencies in them, being as I might be the beneficiary. Go read Hume. This is all in Hume.


This. This is why I disagree with Kant...there's no such thing (in my mind) as duty for duty's sake because there is always a benefit to the person doing the "selfless" act.
Last edited by drewster1829 on Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:38 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Win » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:55 pm UTC

Pesto wrote:
Carteeg_Struve wrote:Sorry folks, but Al Gore is as much a champion of science as L. Ron Hubbard is a religious prophet.

L. Ron Hubbard is as much a religious prophet as any other. ;-)



And Al Gore is irrelevant to the climate debate. Climate change skeptics should stop attacking him and instead spend their time and energy refuting the claims of climate scientists. You know, with science.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Win » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:59 pm UTC

thesophist wrote:Every good scientist is a good philosopher, but not every good philosopher is a good scientist.


Because science is a proper subset of philosophy?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Dec 17, 2009 7:20 pm UTC

Duncan_ wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:For example, Classic Liberalism (aka Libertarianism) was the philosophy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, only to be forgotten soon after, then brought back by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.


My mind! She explodes!

The implication appears to be that Classic Liberalism is an invention of Jefferson's (if you think Adams was a liberal... wow) which is insane.


I never claimed that Jefferson invented Liberalism, just that it was his philosphy; I used him, as he was a Liberal with significant influence outside of Acadamia. For example, my philosophy could be Confucianism, but that doesn't mean I invented it.

Duncan_ wrote:First, Ayn Rand is not a philosophy, except in the general sense that any idiot can hang a shingle out side their door saying 'philosopher within'. Second, Ayn Rand is not a classical liberal. In so far as she has consistent political views, and the scholarly opinion (see Chandran Kukathas on this, an authority on Hayek) it is best to regard her as an anarchist her official opposition to anarchism notwithstanding.


1) Ayn Rand was instrumental in the revival and/or popularization of Libertarianism, even though she was an 'Objectivist'. This one is probably my fault, as I didn't make that clear.
2) I didn't claim she was a Libertarian, only that she made it popular. Again, probably my fault.
3) She was definitely not an Anarchist; she strongly supported having a Police Force, Military, and Court Systems, but nothing else. If anything, that makes her a Minimalist, which is very different from Anarcho-Capitalism.

I guess the main difference between Objectivism and Libertarianism is that Libertarianism is that Lib- is about maximizing personal freedom, while Obj- is about self interest. It's subtle, but for example, Objectivism demands Lassez-Faire, while most Libertarians support the idea of Government regulating Common goods and creating Public goods.

Personally, I'm somewhere between Libertarianism and I guess 'Pragmatism'. I don't believe in strict Libertarian principles for children; for example, I believe that children should be removed from abusive households, and I strongly support a public school system. I support goverment run infrastructure, such as roads, highways, sewer systems, power lines, etc. I support emergency response, whether it's police, fire department, EMT, or even FEMA. I lukewarmly support the return of Insane Asylums, but I am suspicious about anything that happens inside. I support Antitrust legislation, but believe unions are often in violation of said legislation. I could go on, but I don't know how flame-resistant these forums are.

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Amaroq
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Amaroq » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:12 pm UTC

Basically, the Libertarians begrudgingly took a lot of ideas from Rand. Her ideas fed and gave much strength to their movement, but they still hated her, and she hated them. But they hate each other as well.

If the only defining characteristic is really that they are in favor of absolute personal freedom, it sounds like they only really have an ethics, so there's probably a hodgepodge of metaphysical, epistemological, and political beliefs amongst its members. Hence their constant bickering with each other all the time. You can have anything from a socialist libertarian to an anarchist libertarian.

Objectivism, on the other hand, has a metaphysics, which proceeds logically to an epistemology, to an ethics, to a politics, to an aesthetics. An integrated system where each piece could not stand without the one before it. That's why it's important to take the whole philosophy as the context for any of its ideas you discuss. Like a speaker's quotes can be taken out of context, philosophical ideas can be taken out of context as well. Remove any one of the parts of Objectivism from its context, and of course it won't be able to stand up.

Anyway, I'm curious why some of you are so quick to dismiss Objectivism as not a real philosophy and Rand as not a competent philosopher. Is not thinking philosophically most of your life, and creating an entire philosophy from the ground up that is actually coherent and makes sense, not good enough to be taken seriously? Where is the threshold between good philosopher and bad philosopher that Ayn Rand did not cross?

Seriously. "Rand isn't a REAL philosopher/Rand's is an immature philosophy" amounts to an ad hominem attack and argument from authority.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:50 pm UTC

Duncan_ wrote:If you believe that there can be well structured, well motivated discourse about a realm of objects (a language) which even when it is based upon the best physical account of the world you nonetheless accept that in principle we can never know either if the world itself matches up with this ontological framework or which of the logically possibly alternate ontological frameworks might be equally well motivated by the evidence, then you have conceded a position not unlike the distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal world (assuming you nevertheless remain a realist about the external world)


I find this problematic, because I think that our language is never even intended to refer to the noumenal world in the Kantian sense. But it is intended to refer even to unobservable objects.

He seemed to think so.


Who is he, if you can disclose that?
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schrodingasdawg
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby schrodingasdawg » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:25 pm UTC

JWalker wrote:Philosophy: The art of asking questions that can't be answered, claiming that it is somehow worthwhile and relevant to other people, then questioning what the nature of 'other' is.


While I don't necessarily agree with this generalization: even if it were true, what would be wrong with this? I think it's quite useful to make oneself aware of the questions that they can't answer. Understanding the limits of knowledge is an important part of knowing.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby jakovasaur » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:48 pm UTC

Amaroq wrote:Basically, the Libertarians begrudgingly took a lot of ideas from Rand. Her ideas fed and gave much strength to their movement, but they still hated her, and she hated them. But they hate each other as well.

If the only defining characteristic is really that they are in favor of absolute personal freedom, it sounds like they only really have an ethics, so there's probably a hodgepodge of metaphysical, epistemological, and political beliefs amongst its members. Hence their constant bickering with each other all the time. You can have anything from a socialist libertarian to an anarchist libertarian.

Objectivism, on the other hand, has a metaphysics, which proceeds logically to an epistemology, to an ethics, to a politics, to an aesthetics. An integrated system where each piece could not stand without the one before it. That's why it's important to take the whole philosophy as the context for any of its ideas you discuss. Like a speaker's quotes can be taken out of context, philosophical ideas can be taken out of context as well. Remove any one of the parts of Objectivism from its context, and of course it won't be able to stand up.

Anyway, I'm curious why some of you are so quick to dismiss Objectivism as not a real philosophy and Rand as not a competent philosopher. Is not thinking philosophically most of your life, and creating an entire philosophy from the ground up that is actually coherent and makes sense, not good enough to be taken seriously? Where is the threshold between good philosopher and bad philosopher that Ayn Rand did not cross?

Seriously. "Rand isn't a REAL philosopher/Rand's is an immature philosophy" amounts to an ad hominem attack and argument from authority.

When people say that Ayn Rand doesn't do real philosophy, it's like when people say that Dane Cook doesn't tell real jokes. They both are certainly trying to do a certain task, and they both have a lot of followers, but most people are unimpressed by their approach, style, content. Of course, this then leads people to underrate both of them simply because other people overrate them. Dane Cook can make me laugh with his wacky antics every once in a while, and Ayn Rand presents a few ideas in a unique way, but ultimately both of them leave you feeling pretty unfulfilled. Also, Ayn Rand's prose is about as aesthetically pleasing as Dane Cook's singing.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby aterimperator » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:14 am UTC

ReinSeiun wrote:Scientists don't do that. Scientists are not so interested in causes as in prediction. You could take causation out of science entirely and it would still work. A scientists finds out "if x, then y" by repeating experiments, and building tools of prediction, not gathering data about "x causes y". Y always following X could be simple correlation - science doesn't care as long as it's repeatable and reliable. You could call that causation, you could call it truth, you could call it any number of things, but doing so would lead to misunderstandings like this.

Engineers, Scientists and Philosophers are speaking different languages when they talk about truth, causes and results, because the nature of their disciplines are so different, and the English language as a whole is not complex enough to avoid these misunderstandings. Engineers care about results, scientists care about prediction, and philosophers care about meaning. Any one of those things could be called truth, but they are different natures of truth. And all three sides tend to assume that the other two are talking about the same thing, when they're not.
Thank you for that.
JWalker wrote:The point I am trying to make here is that for something to be scientifically sound it does not need to be philosophically sound (if there is even such a thing as being philosophically sound).
...
no matter how much a philosopher wants it to, science will do its own thing. So please, philosophers, don't tell scientists how to do science; when you level objections towards it, you are objecting to it on grounds that are only relevant to other philosophers.
And thank you for that.

Pfhorrest wrote:I would generally tend to agree, being of a similar mindset myself, but there is nothing too incredible (in the literal sense of 'not credible') for someone out there to believe it, and so we get kooks like young-earth creationists and intelligent design fans and insert-your-favorite-antiscientific-camp-here, who do disagree with the philosophical principles underlying science. If you want to convince them that science is better in whatever way than whatever their flavor of anti-science, then you've got to do philosophy.

Good, then there's a practical use for philosophers after all: convincing people that science has value. You'd think pointing to LCD monitors, internal combustion engines, the internet, microwaves, satellite, etc. would be enough, but somehow it's not, I mean maybe science just got lucky right? So there we go, a *practical* use for philosophers. On the other hand, I think marketers are more effective, and there's none of this messy business with "logic" and "truth" if I just hire one of them...


But anyway, things have gotten all Summer Glau in here, so I think I'll bow out (read: run away) now...

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:42 am UTC

JWalker wrote:Philosophy: The art of asking questions that can't be answered...

Still beats religion: unquestionable answers to unanswerable questions.

Seriously though, I think a better characterization along the lines of your quote there would be "the art of asking and answering questions about how to ask and answer questions." And in response to the question of how to answer questions about factual/descriptive matters (as opposed e.g. to normative/prescriptive matters), I think most of us xkcd readers are happy to answer in chorus: SCIENCE! (though exactly what we each mean by 'science' might vary between us)
Last edited by Pfhorrest on Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:51 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:34 am UTC

aterimperator wrote:Good, then there's a practical use for philosophers after all: convincing people that science has value.


Richard Dawkins wrote:I gratefully accept the rebuke. Just to tell an anecdote to show I'm not the worst in this regard. A former and highly successful editor of the New Scientist Magazine, who actually built up New Scientist to new heights, was once asked "what is your philosophy at New Scientist?" He replied "Our philosophy at New Scientist is this; Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can fuck off'".


Amaroq wrote:Anyway, I'm curious why some of you are so quick to dismiss Objectivism as not a real philosophy and Rand as not a competent philosopher. Is not thinking philosophically most of your life, and creating an entire philosophy from the ground up that is actually coherent and makes sense, not good enough to be taken seriously? Where is the threshold between good philosopher and bad philosopher that Ayn Rand did not cross?


Well, 'thinking philosophically most of your life' certainly doesn't cut it. It's the claim of coherence that is the problem. Most authorities seem to agree, and I'm relying on them because I'm not an authority, and I trust their judgment, feel that her work is incoherent and the formulation of her arguments, in so far as she tries to give any formulation, is deeply unclear. I mean, you have to remember there are a lot of people who feel the same way about Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hegel and Derrida to name but a few. An easy way to get dubbed 'not a real philosopher' is to be inconsistent and apparently not care, be slapdash in your arguments or appear to be being unclear not because of genuine difficulty but simply from a love of needless obfuscation. I mean, 'objectivism' what the hell is that? It has almost nothing to do with 'objectivity' other than the Randian claim that a belief in the objectivity of reality (does she mean physicalism or materialism? One would assume so, but who knows) commits one to being selfish for which the argument is either (a) missing most of the time when she makes this claim or (b) bad; effectively just restating it as an article of faith. That's not good philosophy. It might be compelling; the claims she makes or the ways in which she makes them, but that's not good philosophy; good philosophy ought to be at a minimum rigorous. I mean, if you look at the referenced articles (and the wider discussion which was evoked by the cartoons when originally published; a bit of goggling gets you the rest. The comments thread on one post, I believe it might have been on Sullivan's blog, is particularly excellent) for commentary on her 'criticism' of Kant, that's a fair measure of how good a philosopher someone is, or it's at least a measure ((it would be a mistake to judge Russell's total output on the shortcomings of History of Western Philosophy)). Her views on Kant portray a total misunderstanding of his work. Either she doesn't understand it, she is deliberately misrepresenting it or she never bothered to read it in the first place none of which are particularly good signs.

Seriously. "Rand isn't a REAL philosopher/Rand's is an immature philosophy" amounts to an ad hominem attack and argument from authority.


Well, certainly saying 'I think she's a bad philosopher because here is Brain Leiter saying so - http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2 ... ended.html , http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2 ... -rand.html , http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2 ... mment.html - and here's Kukathas saying so (Blackwell don't appear to have put their dictionary online, more's the pity. I'd link to Stanford but it doesn't have an article) and so on' is an appeal to authority but not all appeals to authority are illegitimate. I rely upon authority all the time. But the opinion of academic philosophers isn't an irrelevant opinion. I agree with the right which the Cambridge department attempted to assert when the University (or rather the English department) wanted to give Derrida an honorary doctorate in philosophy; academic philosophers do get to say who is and who is not a philosopher. Rand's is an immature philosophy is like saying 'it's something you'd get in an undergraduate essay; it's not necessarily wrong but the argument for the position is deficient'. If we let anyone go around calling themselves a philosopher then views of the profession like Randall's will start to be justifiable.

Basically, the Libertarians begrudgingly took a lot of ideas from Rand.


Yup, that's a serious point. Fair to say she certainly didn't 'invent' opposition to the state or egoism. Admittedly not many philosophers tend to promote egoism, not even libertarians, but it's reasonable to claim she was a causal precursor to later libertarians such as, perhaps, Nozick. Well, Ireneus is an important pre-cursor to the later church doctors who are counted as philosophers. But he tends not to be. Aquinas and Augustine are accepted as philosophers, Anselm curiously tends not to be (other than a discussion of the ontological argument he tends not to be taken very seriously in people looking to provide, say, an overview of the history of philosophy (though I fear John Marenbon may strike me down if I say definitively that he isn't a philosopher)). Jesus, contra-George W Bush, certainly wasn't a philosopher but if he's the causal antecedent of Christianity (which we'll accept for the sake of argument) then he's influenced much of the Western philosophical tradition particularly philosophers like Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and Leibniz who were heavily influenced by Christianity. So I don't see anything unreasonable about me saying that a person is not a philosopher yet may have influenced subsequent people who were.

If the only defining characteristic is really that they are in favor of absolute personal freedom, it sounds like they only really have an ethics, so there's probably a hodgepodge of metaphysical, epistemological, and political beliefs amongst its members.


I guess I see that more as a problem with Rand than I do with libertarians I mean look; Hayek was... plausibly a libertarian and Nozick was certainly a libertarian. I believe Hayek was an empiricist. Nozick certainly has views on epistemology, they are many and varied and detailed and involve me discussing counterfactual analysis which I don't want to have to do if I'm going to explain them but are well documented in Philosophical Explanations. But libertarianism is a political, and not a metaphysical view. I'm sure Nozick's political and metaphysical views aren't in conflict, but to say he doesn't have 'a libertarian account of metaphysics' is like complaining that, for example, Rawls doesn't have a liberal account of the philosophy of language. No, of course he doesn't. But that's not a criticism; that just shows that he's concerned with being clear about particular problems and not trying to slapdashedly throw paint into all areas of philosophy at once. Part of what is wrong with 'objectivism' is precisely this point; that it attempts to give an 'objectivist' account of this and an objectivist account of that and making the most absurd claims about it's rivals: that Kant is evil and so on.

Rand doesn't meet the standards of rigor or scholarship to be adjudged a good philosopher. Or so says current opinion. It might be wrong. As I said many people feel that way about Derrida (myself amongst them), about Wittgenstein (myself most definately not amongst them), about Hegel (again, not amongst them), about Neitzsche, about Sartre, about Bentham and so on; people felt that way about Hume for ages. What is required is an excavation where you salvage from the wreckage of what these people wrote the ideas they meant to write down and translate it into terms which are comprehensible to those who haven't bought into the cult already. In cases (such as with Neitzsche, and to a lesser extent with Hume) where they are blatantly self-contradictory in places you need to find a plausible excuse for it. Ayn Rand might be salvaged but, speaking on behalf of 'the academy' in some weird, abstract and frankly entirely illegitimate way, I declare: Brian Leiter has spoken and Rand is not a philosopher.

Drewster wrote:This. This is why I disagree with Kant...there's no such thing (in my mind) as duty for duty's sake because there is always a benefit to the person doing the "selfless" act.


But Kant doesn't care about that. It's a mistake (IMHO) to read the Groundwork as arguing in a linear fashion. It makes more sense if you read the book as running backwards with the basic argument being found in the 2nd Critique in his remarks about rationality. The claim is that you are guilty of incoherence if you act in a way which negates the commitment you make to the value of rationality by acting from rational will in the first place. This entails the 3rd formulation of the CI, which entails the 2nd, which entails the 1st which is then followed by his remarks about how we ordinarily recognise people as being admirable when they act from a sense of duty. One problem with hedonistic theories in general is that they can be rather vague. I'm not sure my talking about 'affect' solves this; but the point is simply that Kant can concede that you might well get a certain sort of happiness from acting in accordance with (what you perceive to be) your moral duty, but if we insist on having a hedonistic account of motivation, this is the only sort of happiness which ought to motivate you to act because if you violate the CI you act in a manner which is internally inconsistent with your commitment to the value of rational action. You might get a certain 'buzz' from acting in a way which makes you miserable if it is consistent with your moral duty (if you're a Prussian) but that doesn't mean you're doing it for the buzz, rather you get the buzz because you're a well trained Kantian. This would be the response, I guess. I'm sympathetic to the point you're making though.

Makri wrote:Who is he, if you can disclose that?


I'd rather not. He's a BPhil moving on to his DPhil at the moment, so there's no reason you'd have heard of him and I don't as a rule use either my own or other people's names on internet forums. For all I know I'm woefully misrepresenting him; it was just a remark he made in passing that he thought action at a distance was a much better bullet to bite in the circumstance.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Duncan_ » Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:41 am UTC

I'm aware of the fact I may be accused of ducking a burden if I speak about people being bad philosophers without pointing to what a good philosopher looks like. I could direct you to Dennett, Quine, Hume, Steve Stich or Jesse Prinz all of whom strike me as acceptable examples, but for a more 'multimedia' submission I offer: Arif. Arif Ahmed is what all philosophers should be like, mutatis mutandis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHXwCe89js

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:59 am UTC

If anything, "Atlas Shrugged" is a horror novel; while Rand seems to view people as almost 1-dimensional (according to her you are either Objectivist or Parasite), it is horrifying to see so many people that fit Rand's view of the Looter or the Moocher. If only we could trim out about 600 pages from the book. I'll be honest, I skimmed through John Galt's 70 page monologue. I had enough of that when I read Terry Goodkind, who was what happens when Rand gets knocked up by Raymond Feist.

Say what you want about her, she hit on some (but not all) important truths.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Win » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:35 am UTC

Duncan_ wrote:I'm aware of the fact I may be accused of ducking a burden if I speak about people being bad philosophers without pointing to what a good philosopher looks like. I could direct you to Dennett, Quine, Hume, Steve Stich or Jesse Prinz all of whom strike me as acceptable examples, but for a more 'multimedia' submission I offer: Arif. Arif Ahmed is what all philosophers should be like, mutatis mutandis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHXwCe89js


Why, oh why won't this video load?? And after that description got me all worked up too.

enjoyeverysandwich42
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby enjoyeverysandwich42 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:41 am UTC

aterimperator wrote:Good, then there's a practical use for philosophers after all: convincing people that science has value. You'd think pointing to LCD monitors, internal combustion engines, the internet, microwaves, satellite, etc. would be enough, but somehow it's not, I mean maybe science just got lucky right? So there we go, a *practical* use for philosophers. On the other hand, I think marketers are more effective, and there's none of this messy business with "logic" and "truth" if I just hire one of them...


But anyway, things have gotten all Summer Glau in here, so I think I'll bow out (read: run away) now...



Mmm... or perhaps determining if any of these things are actually of any real use or value? Each new technology creates a new set of problems - there's nothing intrinsically good about any of those things you mentioned, and they only have value relative to their use in society. Philosophy deals with the sort of things that drive society, beliefs, morality, etc. I don't understand this idea that hard science is somehow superior to other areas of study.


Duncan_ wrote:I'm aware of the fact I may be accused of ducking a burden if I speak about people being bad philosophers without pointing to what a good philosopher looks like. I could direct you to Dennett, Quine, Hume, Steve Stich or Jesse Prinz all of whom strike me as acceptable examples, but for a more 'multimedia' submission I offer: Arif. Arif Ahmed is what all philosophers should be like, mutatis mutandis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHXwCe89js


<3 for Steve Stich

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby kristacanton » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:05 pm UTC

DarthMarth wrote:This comic gave me my first "get out of my head, Randall" moment. This comic is about me, and my disillusionment with special relativity after this semester! That guy is me, only with a goatee and philosophy major.


I am supposed to be studying for my exam tomorrow which will have a bit about special relativity.

Then I started daydreaming that I would learn general relativity and invent warp drive. Unfortunately I don't care so much for hard math or things that are probably hopeless.

Relativity is disappointing.


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