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Post 0

Saturday, July 27 - 4:34pmSanction this postReply
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I got asked for my philosophy on one foot. I personally never found Objectivism on one foot that useful. I thought it's too hard to understand if you don't already know what the stuff means. Philosophy is hard enough to communicate in whole books. Some people read Atlas Shrugged and think Rand is a communist or altruist. Some people read Popper and think he's a positivist or inductivist. Huge mistakes are easily possible even with long philosophical statements. I think the best solution involves back and forth communication so that miscommunication mistakes can be fixed along the way and understanding can be built up incrementally. But this requires the right attitudes and methods for talking to be very effective. And that's hard. And if people don't already have the right methods to learn and communicate well, how do you explain it to them? There's a chicken and egg problem that I don't have a great answer to. But anyway, philosophy, really short, I tried, here you go:

There is only one known rational theory of how knowledge is created: evolution. It answers Paley's problem. No one has ever come up with any other answer. Yet most people do not recognize evolution as a key theory in epistemology, and do not recognize that learning is an evolutionary process. They have no refutation of evolution, nor any alternative, and persist with false epistemologies. This includes Objectivism Ayn Rand choose not to learn much about evolution.

Evolution is about how knowledge can be created from non-knowledge, and also how knowledge is improved. This works by a process of replication with variation and selection. In epistemology, ideas and variants are criticized and the survivors continue on in the process. This process incrementally makes progress, just like biological evolution. Step by step, flaws get eliminated and the knowledge gets better adapted and refined. This correction of errors is crucial to how knowledge is created and improved.

Another advantage of evolutionary processes is that they are resilient to mistakes. Many individual steps can be done badly and a good result still achieved. Biological evolution works even though many animals with advantageous genes die before other animals with inferior genes; there's a large random luck factor which does not ruin the process. This is important because of human fallibility: mistakes are common. We cannot avoid making any mistakes and should instead emphasize using methods that can deal with mistakes well. (Methods which deal with mistakes well are rational; methods which do not are irrational because they entrench mistakes long term.)

A key issue in epistemology is how conflicts of ideas are handled. Trying to resolve these conflicts by authority or by looking at the source of ideas is irrational. It can make mistakes persist long term. A rational approach which can quickly catch and eliminate mistakes is to judge conflicting ideas by their content. How do you judge the content of an idea? You try to find something wrong with it. You should not focus on saying why ideas are good because if they have mistakes you won't find the mistakes that way. However, finding something good about an idea is useful for criticizing other ideas which lack that good feature it reveals a flaw in those rivals. However, in cases where a good feature of an idea does not lead to any criticism of a rival, it provides no advantage over that rival. This critical approach to evaluating ideas follows the evolutionary method.

This has implications for morality and politics. How people handle conflicts and disagreements are defining issues for their morality and politics. Conflicts of ideas should not be approached by authority and disagreement should not be disregarded. This implies a voluntary system with consent as a major issue. Consent implies agreement; lack of consent implies disagreement. Voluntary action implies agreement; involuntary action implies disagreement.

Political philosophy usually focuses too much on who should rule (or which laws should rule), instead of how to incrementally evolve our political knowledge. It tries to set up the right laws in the first place, instead of a system that is good at improving its laws. Mistakes should be expected. Disagreement should be expected. Everything should be set up to deal with this well. That implies making it easy to change rulers and laws (without violence). Also disagreement and diversity should be tolerated within the law.

Moral philosophy usually makes the same mistake as political philosophy. It focuses too much on deciding-declaring what is moral and immoral. There should be more concern with fallibility, and setting things up for moral knowledge to incrementally evolve. We aren't going to get all the answers right today. We should judge moral ideas more by how much they allow evolution, progress and mistake-correction, rather than by trying ot know whether a particular idea would be ideal forever. Don't try to prophesy the future and do start setting things up so we can adjust well in the unknown future.

Things will go wrong in epistemology, morality and politics. The focus should be on incrementally evolving things to be better over time and setting things up to be resilient to mistakes. It's better to have mistaken ideas today and good mistake-correction setup than to have superior ideas today which are hard to evolve and fragile to error.



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Post 1

Saturday, July 27 - 8:30pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot,
There is only one known rational theory of how knowledge is created: evolution.
I don't want to rain on your parade but there is a real problem with this statement and it flows all through your post. Evolution is unthinking. It is automatic. It is present in every instance of biological life - at the DNA level. But knowledge is a product of thinking and that is volitional, non-automatic, and only related to biological evolution - not driven by it.
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Evolution is about how knowledge can be created from non-knowledge, and also how knowledge is improved. This works by a process of replication with variation and selection. In epistemology, ideas and variants are criticized and the survivors continue on in the process. This process incrementally makes progress, just like biological evolution. Step by step, flaws get eliminated and the knowledge gets better adapted and refined. This correction of errors is crucial to how knowledge is created and improved.
You need to bear in mind that until you quite specifically specify otherwise you are talking about a DNA based process where those inheritable traits that aid in relative survival between competing organisms will leave more offspring behind. You are not discussing knowledge at all. I'm quite familiar with "memes" - Dawkin's concept of evolutionary trends applied to behaviors, and the adaptation of that concept to cultural evolution. But you have to include some mechanism that creates the ideas, some criteria for the criticism of the ideas, some standards for judging and the rate of acceptance of the criticism, and the link between properties of the meme and its survival. You claim that "This process incrementally makes progress", but it can also go the opposite direction and give us dark ages. Biological evolution has an agent... the gene, it's phenotypical expression, and the result on survival/replication rates. Dawkin's memes can be seen as cultural (especially if you want to stretch 'cultural' to include the songs sung by birds) and they have a statistically measurable rate of "evolution" - but even Dawkins saw this as part of his "Extended Phenotype" - being the determinist he is. If you believe that man has any degree of volition, then you are in a different place altogether and your claim that right ideas will appear, get better criticism, and prevail is not going to hold water as the explanation of how knowledge is formed or improved. It is like talking about how sausages are made and never mentioning meat. Knowledge forms in the human mind and there are processes that lead to that and others that don't and choice and thinking are involved. Your system, if accepted as true would leave you unable to reply to my arguments since your system has no knowledge until some unspecified time has passed and the criticisms are somehow judged and accepted by some standard that remains blank, and then somehow, evolution says one of us is right. Magic.

You have abandoned logic and reason in favor of opinion polls. Last idea standing at any given time is the current idea of knowledge. When does that time arrive? Blank. How is the criticism formed or judged? Blank.

Morality by consensus. Political systems by academic acclaim.

I am optimistic that reason will out in the long term... and that is a kind of evolution at work. But that isn't the same as saying that knowledge is a product some kind of census that we blindly hold to be fallible but yet right - and then call that 'evolution'.



Post 2

Sunday, July 28 - 12:06amSanction this postReply
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Criticism (selection of ideas) is not automatic. Nor is conjecture (thinking of ideas). Nor is this DNA.

The current state of knowledge is the best ideas anyone has. It does depend on what anyone knows. Why shouldn't it? This has nothing to do with opinion polls, it's just the fact that if an idea isn't known yet then you can't use it. You always have to go by what you know so far and no more.

You're correct that thinking has no guarantees. It's possible to try to use your mind but make mistakes and make things worse. So what? 1) No rival epistemology can change this 2) fallibility is not a bad thing

Regarding how much time has to pass: you just aren't understanding the epistemology. And instead of asking for more information you fill in the gaps in your understanding with nonsense. The idea that I can't reply to you until unlimited time passes isn't what I meant, and I'm not sure if you're honestly trying to understand me. Actually the way it works is you can conjecture when enough is enough for now, and improve that conjecture with criticism, it's up to your thinking to decide such things.

I'd also note you haven't given any alternative answer to Paley's problem (nor has Objectivism).

And I didn't say consensus. It's up to your own critical judgment and you can think all by yourself if you want. Talking to others is valuable but whatever, that's not fundamental.
(Edited by Elliot Temple on 7/28, 12:08am)




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Post 3

Sunday, July 28 - 12:51amSanction this postReply
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Now you're saying that criticism isn't automatic... which is what I said. And you are saying that it isn't about DNA. Well, evolution is automatic and it is about DNA. And you are the one who said knowledge is a product of evolution. You said "They have no refutation of evolution" - well, none that you will listen to, at least. You wrote, "Ayn Rand choose(sp) not to learn much about evolution" but clearly you are the one that is falling short of understanding epistemology and evolution.

I pointed out that your description falls apart when you put it next to a time scale and you say that I don't understand epistemology. I notice that anyone who disagrees with you gets the same reply - they don't understand and/or they aren't trying to understand. You say fallibility isn't a bad thing but it apparently doesn't apply to you. My point was that your 'evoluton' system leaves no method for discriminating between knowledge and nonsense, except for the passage of an unspecified amount of time and some kind of concensus.

You said, "I didn't say consensus" and you tell me that I can think all by myself. Well, thank you very much - I do think all by myself and my understanding of epistemology doesn't allow for knowledge to be acquired in any other way. Sure, I can talk to others, but then I have to think about what they say. And no one else can think for me. Knowledge has to be acquired in some fashion, inside the mind of someone who is thinking. That is why we discuss things like "deduction," "induction," "logic," etc., as part of epistemology.

Haven't you realized that evolution is a system that requires more than one organism? Your claim that knowledge is produced by evolution puts the production of knowledge outside of the human mind and requires some unspecified amount of time and multiple organisms - unless you want to tell me that I don't understand evolution.

Don't feel obligated to reply to this, because I've lost enthusiasm for your style of argument.




Post 4

Sunday, July 28 - 4:41amSanction this postReply
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> I don't want to rain on your parade but there is a real problem with this statement and it flows all through your post. Evolution is unthinking. It is automatic. It is present in every instance of biological life - at the DNA level. But knowledge is a product of thinking and that is volitional, non-automatic, and only related to biological evolution - not driven by it.

Evolution (or, as it is known at the level of ideas, conjectures and refutations) is the only (known) process by which knowledge is created.

> You need to bear in mind that until you quite specifically specify otherwise you are talking about a DNA based process where those inheritable traits that aid in relative survival between competing organisms will leave more offspring behind.

It seems clear to me that he's not discussing only DNA.

> You are not discussing knowledge at all.

How so?

> I'm quite familiar with "memes" - Dawkin's concept of evolutionary trends applied to behaviors, and the adaptation of that concept to cultural evolution. But you have to include some mechanism that creates the ideas, some criteria for the criticism of the ideas, some standards for judging and the rate of acceptance of the criticism, and the link between properties of the meme and its survival.

Yes. Are you asking for clarification of how this works?

> You claim that "This process incrementally makes progress", but it can also go the opposite direction and give us dark ages.

That can happen with biological evolution but overall it does incrementally make progress.

> Biological evolution has an agent... the gene, it's phenotypical expression, and the result on survival/replication rates. Dawkin's memes can be seen as cultural

Sure.

> (especially if you want to stretch 'cultural' to include the songs sung by birds)

Huh? Birds are born knowing their songs. Even if raised in captivity they will sing them. This is in no way cultural.

> and they have a statistically measurable rate of "evolution" - but even Dawkins saw this as part of his "Extended Phenotype" - being the determinist he is. If you believe that man has any degree of volition, then you are in a different place altogether and your claim that right ideas will appear, get better criticism, and prevail is not going to hold water as the explanation of how knowledge is formed or improved.

It's not that the right ideas will prevail. Ideas are evaluated in terms of their environment, in this case the other ideas that criticize them.

> It is like talking about how sausages are made and never mentioning meat. Knowledge forms in the human mind and there are processes that lead to that and others that don't and choice and thinking are involved.

Yes, but when you choose to generate knowledge it doesn't automatically happen. You can't force it. Elliot is explaining how the knowledge is actually created.

> Your system, if accepted as true would leave you unable to reply to my arguments since your system has no knowledge until some unspecified time has passed and the criticisms are somehow judged and accepted by some standard that remains blank, and then somehow, evolution says one of us is right. Magic.

I don't get this. You reply when you think you've understood well enough to reply.

> You have abandoned logic and reason in favor of opinion polls.

Far from it!

> Last idea standing at any given time is the current idea of knowledge.

Yes, if by "last idea standing" you mean idea that we have no criticism of, but how is that an opinion poll?

> When does that time arrive? Blank.

If you were actually interested in learning, and left off the "blank", this might actually be a decent question. But anyway, when (if ever) that time arrives is not predictable.

> How is the criticism formed or judged? Blank.

The same way as any other idea - by evolution. Again, you would get better answers if you wouldn't answer the question so poorly yourself in advance.

> Morality by consensus.

If no reasonable person has a criticism of acting on some idea, then it's right to act on it. Is that what you mean?

> Political systems by academic acclaim.

Uh, where do you get that? He said nothing about acclaim having anything to do with the creation of knowledge.

> I am optimistic that reason will out in the long term... and that is a kind of evolution at work.

Elliot isn't saying that society's knowledge automatically grows. We might implement policies that inhibit the processes that create knowledge, just as we can affect biological evolution with breeding and genetic engineering. To know whether we're doing this it helps to know how knowledge is created.

> But that isn't the same as saying that knowledge is a product some kind of census that we blindly hold to be fallible but yet right

No one's advocating any kind of "blind holding". Ideas are always subject to revision and improvement, but if we know of no criticism of some idea, why not adopt it?

> and then call that 'evolution'.

Because it basically is?

> Now you're saying that criticism isn't automatic... which is what I said. And you are saying that it isn't about DNA. Well, evolution is automatic and it is about DNA.

What do you mean by automatic?

> And you are the one who said knowledge is a product of evolution. You said "They have no refutation of evolution" - well, none that you will listen to, at least.

What is your refutation of evolution?

> You wrote, "Ayn Rand choose(sp) not to learn much about evolution" but clearly you are the one that is falling short of understanding epistemology and evolution.

How so?

> I pointed out that your description falls apart when you put it next to a time scale and you say that I don't understand epistemology.

His description doesn't fall apart when you put it next to a time scale. Why don't you just ask how it works in that case?

> I notice that anyone who disagrees with you gets the same reply - they don't understand and/or they aren't trying to understand.

Seems like an accurate description of you, at least.

> You say fallibility isn't a bad thing but it apparently doesn't apply to you.

It applies to him like everyone else. Why would you say that?

> My point was that your 'evoluton' system leaves no method for discriminating between knowledge and nonsense

Sure it does. Unsuccessful variations are weeded out both at the DNA level and at the level of ideas.

> except for the passage of an unspecified amount of time

Objectivism doesn't predict exactly how long it will take to create some kind of knowledge either. How is this a flaw in what Elliot said?

> and some kind of concensus. You said, "I didn't say consensus" and you tell me that I can think all by myself. Well, thank you very much - I do think all by myself and my understanding of epistemology doesn't allow for knowledge to be acquired in any other way.

What you call "thinking by yourself", even if you don't talk to anyone else, is a process of conjectures and refutations, in your mind. That is evolution.

> Sure, I can talk to others, but then I have to think about what they say. And no one else can think for me. Knowledge has to be acquired in some fashion, inside the mind of someone who is thinking. That is why we discuss things like "deduction," "induction," "logic," etc., as part of epistemology.

Epistemology has to do with the creation of knowledge. Induction does not.

> Haven't you realized that evolution is a system that requires more than one organism? Your claim that knowledge is produced by evolution puts the production of knowledge outside of the human mind and requires some unspecified amount of time and multiple organisms - unless you want to tell me that I don't understand evolution.


What Elliot is talking about doesn't require more than one organism. Ideas evolve in your mind by variation and selection.

> Don't feel obligated to reply to this, because I've lost enthusiasm for your style of argument.

I can see why, because you seem more interested in jumping to conclusions than in learning anything.



Post 5

Sunday, July 28 - 9:23amSanction this postReply
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Elliot: Again, I'll just flat out disagree with you on your ethics. It doesn't make sense for an individual of some population to act within the constraints of mutually consensual laws. Laws may generally be consented by the poor majority or the king or the rich... but it will foreseeably be the case that minorities/ruled will have different strategies for success, and hence some of the laws will restrict or enslave them in ways that they do not consent. Hence it will be in their self interest to disobey the law if they can get away with it.

For a simple example, take humans and cattle. If the cattle had their way, they'd probably vouch for: no fences, humans/sheep dogs guiding them to the best grass, more land devoted to grass/hay, no wolves, and no slaughterhouses. Humans on the other hand have different preferences.

Laws are most shaped by the preferences of the most powerful/forceful. Potentially differing groups of entities can abide by different sets of laws within the same geological area. If there are contradictions between the laws between groups, there may be some sort of use of force/domination by the more powerful.

So on a smaller scale, between groups of people who have similar abilities and financial contexts, your method sounds fine. But I just don't see how it would work between dissimilar competitors.

===========

I'd agree that over the long term many ideas are generally created and exist in quantities via evolution. I think evolution usually wouldn't include algorithmic transformations on DNA in order to create new DNA... bleh I guess it does never mind (viruses, repair processes, etc).

Say... new ideas within an entities neural network are created by:
1. Practically random idea alterations (noise from neural sensors of auidio, visual, touch etc)
2. Observing surroundings (watching a ball's trajectory through the air...)
3. Algorithmic transformations of other ideas (concatination, decimation, addition, multiplication, integration/derivitivation, etc)
4. Direct idea transfer (Reading, listening to speech)

#4 requires that some other entity performed the prior 3. After an idea is generated, long term yes the number of copies of the idea that exist is controlled via evolution.

I think classically people consider new idea generation via evolution to only mean #1. But then horizontal gene transfer is #4. The DNA/RNA interacting with its surroundings is a primitive form of #2. Then for #3, some simpler algorithmic transformations are performed at the DNA/RNA level, but then there are a ton of more complex algorithms that are performed as you include more in the entity such as proteins, organelles, cells, multicellulars, and multi-organ bodies (paricularly w/ neural networks).

By the way, Elliot, Joshua, are you guys determinists/compatibalists?

===========
Experienced user's note: make sure to preview your edits before posting, otherwise your edits aren't used.



Post 6

Sunday, July 28 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
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Josh and Elliot, you guys write with such identical styles that you could be the same person, or true believers in the same cult.
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You said, "It seems clear to me that he is not discussing only DNA." That is obvious! And my point was that biological evolution requires DNA, multiple organisms working over time in a competitive environment, genetic traits that enhance reproductive success alter future DNA pools, etc. My point was that he is mis-using the concept evolution.
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You said, "That can happen with biological evolution but overall it does incrementally make progress." Evolutionary biologists don't talk about evolution as "progress" - that would be a normative term and implies value. Value would require a valuer. We can value some human cultural trends and dis-value others because we can use the quality of life of man as a standard. But demise of one bacterial species because it is less efficient at metabolizing a particular molecule than another species where neither have an effect on humans can't be seen as "progress" - certainly not in the sense you are implying.
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You wrote, "Huh? Birds are born knowing their songs. Even if raised in captivity they will sing them. This is in no way cultural." Wrong. There are quite a few birds that imitate the songs they hear other birds sing. And as to the use of the world 'culture' by ethnologists in general, and Dawkins in particular, you need to read "The Selfish Gene" or "The Extended Phenotype"

A meme is a unit of cultural transmission. Dawkins invented the term "meme" and his example was a song bird that imitated the song it heard a bird of another species sing. Some strict behaviorists and determinists have chosen to use the concept of "meme" as a way to explain the transmission of behavior in humans so that they can avoid messy terms like 'thinking' or 'choice' or even 'knowledge.' None of which they believe in.
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You say that knowledge is the product of evolution, but you also say, "It's not that the right ideas will prevail." You can't have it both ways. Either we look at knowledge as a measure of 'rightness' of some sort (i.e., correspondence to reality), by some sort of standard, or we look at it as the non-normative (neither right nor wrong) automatic outcome of the passing of time during which an evolutionary process works on this media.
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You say that, "Ideas are evaluated in terms of their environment, in this case the other ideas that criticize them." That isn't quite complete or accurate. The evaluation occurs in a mind and that mind may be comparing an idea to criticism acquired from outside, or not. It might not be subjecting the idea to any criticism at all, or to self-made criticism, or to a mistaken grasp of a criticism acquired from outside the mind. If the evaluation is the process that results in knowledge, that is not evolution as it is understood in biology - it is logic, reason, deduction, induction, etc. It is true that today's knowledge base has improved many, many fold by examining and building upon what went before, but that isn't what creates the knowledge. It is the mental activity. And taking in, and applying criticism is just one component. And it is a component whose greatest strength lies in the building of a structure - pieces being put into place.
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I said, "[your system implies that the] Last idea standing at any given time is the current idea of knowledge." And described this as knowledge by the standard of an opinion poll.

You replied, "Yes, if by "'last idea standing' you mean idea that we have no criticism of, but how is that an opinion poll?"

It is an opinion poll because only by checking to see if others have criticisms can you tell if it is the last idea standing. You have to, in effect, poll people to see if, in their opinion, there are criticisms to the idea. If the poll comes back saying, "Nope - no criticisms" then you declare it "knowledge"
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You told me that I would get better answers if I wouldn't answer the questions so poorly. But that is your criticism of me, and I have criticism of you. Does that mean we have no knowledge on who is right... not yet? Or, is it reasonable for me to ask how you "KNOW" that my question answers are "poor"?

You said, "If no reasonable person has a criticism of acting on some idea, then it's right to act on it." But how do you KNOW which person is "reasonable"? Your system says you have to wait on this 'evolutionary' process till there is no criticism before you have knowledge.

Your description is of a system where you KNOW nothing till there are no criticisms popping up on your screen. That isn't about knowledge, only about the state of your beliefs at the moment and with no relation to reality.

There is a period in a baby's life where when Mom disappears from sight, she is gone from existence. This is because the baby hasn't formed a concept or even a primitive grasp of object permanence or that existence precedes consciousness. The baby at this point, as per your terminology, KNOWS that Mom blinked out of existence. When you have a system that obfuscates belief and knowledge you are permitting contradictions to have a special status and diminishing or eliminating the concept of a real world independent of our awareness.
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You wrote, "Ideas are always subject to revision and improvement, but if we know of no criticism of some idea, why not adopt it?" Is the idea that ideas are always subject to revision and criticism also subject to revision and criticism? Why would you adopt that idea when there are a great many criticisms of it? (Not just me, but many philosophers).
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Let me ask others on this forum that have read posts by Josh or Elliot or others defending there approach.... Do you get the impression that there is an quasi-religious, proselytizing style evident here, or is that just my reaction?



Post 7

Sunday, July 28 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
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> Elliot: Again, I'll just flat out disagree with you on your ethics. It doesn't make sense for an individual of some population to act within the constraints of mutually consensual laws. Laws may generally be consented by the poor majority or the king or the rich... but it will foreseeably be the case that minorities/ruled will have different strategies for success, and hence some of the laws will restrict or enslave them in ways that they do not consent. Hence it will be in their self interest to disobey the law if they can get away with it.

I didn't say that. What you're disagreeing with isn't my position and you didn't provide any quotes or other explanations about why you're attributing it to me.

Much like Steve Wolfer started arguing with DNA stuff that isn't my position and I didn't say, because he conceives of evolution in a particular limited way and doesn't understand evolutionary epistemology.


There is no such thing as direct idea transfer in reading. When you read, what happens is photons hit your eyes with some information. You interpret this into words according to some learned conventions. That part is simple enough. But what do the sentences mean? How do you put the words together into concepts? This is an error-prone process that people often get wrong, not an automatic "direct" process. What it actually requires is guessing the meaning of the text and criticizing one's guesses to improve them until they are good. (Notice btw the unity of our epistemology. We don't see things as a bunch of special cases.)

For a longer explanation of this, read The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. Reading that book would clear up a lot. Anyone Objectivist interested in being challenged and perhaps learning something should read the book. (The information about how reading works is also in Popper but more spread out there and would take more study to understand.)



Post 8

Sunday, July 28 - 11:48amSanction this postReply
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Much like Steve Wolfer started arguing with DNA stuff that isn't my position and I didn't say, because he conceives of evolution in a particular limited way and doesn't understand evolutionary epistemology.
I criticized your statement that Knowledge is a created by evolution. You didn't say what kind of evolution and in the world of science, evolution is understood to be biological evolution. I assumed that you might mean memetic evolution and I included criticisms indicating that too was not capable of creating knowledge. You appear to react to criticism as if you were infallible, or that other people are always the ones who are wrong, and it is your job to teach and enlighten them. That doesn't seem to go with the theory you are advocating.

Isn't it possible that my criticism of your statements is reasonable?

You have presented a theory of what creates knowledge. I'm not the only one that would criticize it - there are many different epistemologists who would present criticism of it. Why make personal attacks on me saying my understanding is limited? Is that a bit presumptuous? Wouldn't the reader be entitled to throw out those arguments against me as ad hominem?

My point is that whatever creates knowledge has to happen in a single mind at a single time, for each instance of knowledge created... and that there are two sides of the process that must be examined: The particulars of the process that were necessary and sufficient to make it knowledge as opposed to just a belief, and that there must be a measure of correspondence to reality that is included in the concept of creation of knowledge.

There is an evolutionary process in a culture that maintains the store of a societies beliefs, but that isn't an epistemological process that creates knowledge. It can create a store of mythology as well as knowledge.



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Sunday, July 28 - 12:25pmSanction this postReply
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By the way, Elliot, Joshua, are you guys determinists/compatibalists?

Speaking for myself, I favor free will. So did Popper, Deutsch and Rand.

BTW the terms "determinism" and "indeterminism" are both physics terms and I think it causes a lot of confusion that people use them for philosophy positions. I don't agree with doing that.

When it comes to physics, the currently prevailing theory of physics (quantum physics) is deterministic. This means that if you have particular starting conditions in an experiment, exactly, and then there's some motion, the results are not random, you always get the same result. (There is currently some common confusion about this that I won't go into.)

I don't have some argument against quantum physics; I accept it. If physics were indeterminist -- contained a few random dice rolls -- that would in no way help the situation with free will. Random isn't free. So the association between physics indeterminism and free will doesn't make sense and physicists are not the enemy here.

What I've found many people actually think is the following: having laws of physics at all (whether then contain randomness or not) is incompatible with free will. I do not agree with this.



Post 10

Sunday, July 28 - 12:55pmSanction this postReply
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"There is no such thing as direct idea transfer in reading."

Hm, or maybe more correctly, directness vs intermediary of idea transfer is a scale. Some forms are more direct than others. I agree that there can be errors/mistakes made along the way of reading, no matter the process (audio/visual/chemical/touch/nucleic acid...). I also agree that words can have different meanings to different people, and that an author of a message may have a different meaning in mind for a word than a reader has when they read it.

Also, "transfer" isn't exactly the right word. It makes sense for ideas who's authors soon forget the idea, but most of the time ideas are copied, not transferred. Through some communication channels, ideas are transferred, such as air or a wire... and just looking at the small buffer of memory at the source of the transfer, yea it looses the transferred memory right after it sends it, but usually the author that created and transmitted the idea retains a copy. So if you really want to be picky we could call it "copy transfer" not "transfer".

=========

"I didn't say that. What you're disagreeing with isn't my position and you didn't provide any quotes or other explanations about why you're attributing it to me."

OK, sorry, I was mistaken about your ideas on laws/coercion. I skimmed some more of your essays, it looks like you include the phrase (my paraphrase): "If entities within a set want to avoid coercion with each other then..."



Post 11

Sunday, July 28 - 1:00pmSanction this postReply
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I think we're still disagreeing. I think reading requires creativity to understand what's being said.

For more information on this topic, see The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. (I don't understand the unwillingness of most people -- here and elsewhere -- to read books which are better written/edited/organized than my posts that they do read. I also don't understand the general reluctance of most people to read much. If one wants to understand much, reading much is crucial. I often read recommendations by opponents, but not vice versa, IME.)


BTW, as a general rule of thumb, if it's not epistemology then I agree with Objectivism.
(Edited by Elliot Temple on 7/28, 1:01pm)




Post 12

Sunday, July 28 - 1:02pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot: What does "free will" mean?



Post 13

Sunday, July 28 - 1:09pmSanction this postReply
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Free will: people make choices.

As opposed to having a predetermined fate or destiny. As opposed to their life being outside their control or responsibility.
(Edited by Elliot Temple on 7/28, 1:11pm)




Post 14

Sunday, July 28 - 2:15pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot: "There is no such thing as direct idea transfer in reading." "I think we're still disagreeing. I think reading requires creativity to understand what's being said."

So... yea there are different processes that must go on for various forms of information transfer in order for the recipient to be able to have the same (or similar enough) message as the sender. You are criticizing that I'm not mentioning all of the details. But I think you've gone on a tangent, you are criticizing something that is unrelated to my point. I said:

"4. Direct idea transfer (Reading, listening to speech)"

All I meant was that an idea can be copied from one entity to another, which is an example of "a way in which a new idea within an entity's neural network is created". Yea, created isn't exactly the right word, "attained" is better.

===============

I agree there would be creativity involved in trying to create a scene in your mind's eye that is consistent with the word sequence, grammar, all that stuff. For an adult who is familiar with the grammar used and the subjects of the scene and the algorithmic changes used, I'm sure most of it is done without heavy conscious effort... your neural network automatically thinks of the different possibilities and figures out the best one by the time you finish reading the last word in each sentence. (Not to say that errors can't be made)

Let me provide some examples of what it means to think, and to transfer an idea:

Each of us use a significant portion of our neural network in order to simulate the state of reality (or a proposed reality) and how its state would change given a set of rules/algorithms on how it changes. Close your eyes, and imagine looking at a landscape (the eye closing part might work better if you use text-to-speech!):

Dark green grass, a tall tree with broad leaves, a bright blue sky with a single white puffy cloud up above the right side of the tree. The sun is mostly behind the cloud, but is beginning to peak out from the edge. And a black bird, maybe a raven, is flying in from the left to land on a lower tree branch. As your eyes are closed, look around with your mind's eye at the various details.

If you imagined that like I said, a significant portion of your neural network would fire just the same as if you were actually looking at the same scene in real life. Neurons in your retina actually fire as if they are receiving the colors dark green (grass) & bright blue (sky). You may fill in some details, such as the shape of the leaves, or which side of the cloud the sun is peaking out of. Each word in the message above helps to describe the scene, constraining what kind of things are in it. You've seen the sun peaking from behind a cloud before, and you may think of the initial rays before the sun becomes too intense to comfortably look at. Ravens sometimes glide and sometimes flap their wings as they fly in to land, and right when they get close to land they tip their wings from a horizontal angle "-" to a bigger angle "/" in order to slow themselves and maintain altitude (more transparent air molecules are collided into and deflected downwards with the bigger angle).

Mental simulation of reality. If my messages are successfully being read by you, then you are simulating the same scene with your brain as I did when I authored this message. Each word helps describe entities or a process of changing entities.

I could take a picture of the scene above, and send it to you by snail mail, and you could look at the picture for yourself.

A more complex scene requires more words to describe. Words can be used, or drawn images, or sequences of 0s and 1s, or neuron firings, or neural connection weights, or nucleic acid, or ... whatever can be read or written.



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Post 15

Sunday, July 28 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,
... but it will foreseeably be the case that minorities/ruled will have different strategies for success, and hence some of the laws will restrict or enslave them in ways that they do not consent. Hence it will be in their self interest to disobey the law if they can get away with it.

For a simple example, take humans and cattle. If the cattle had their way, they'd probably vouch for: no fences, humans/sheep dogs guiding them to the best grass, more land devoted to grass/hay, no wolves, and no slaughterhouses. Humans on the other hand have different preferences.
That made me laugh, but it is a decent analogy/counter-factual. If cattle were sapient and moral creatures, they would hire lawyers for the humane (human-like) treatment of cattle. There would be class-action lawsuits. They might even revolt against being forced into living for some kind of a collective with some supposedly "higher" purpose. They would reject self-sacrifice for the "greater good." But that doesn't mean that all law has to be law that always or only maximizes an ultimately-ineffable notion like "greater good."

Laws are most shaped by the preferences of the most powerful/forceful. Potentially differing groups of entities can abide by different sets of laws within the same geological area. If there are contradictions between the laws between groups, there may be some sort of use of force/domination by the more powerful.
But this -- that laws are shaped by unwieldy rulers in a social context of tilted power asymmetry -- was dealt with by Plato 2500 years ago [conversation between Socrates and Thrasymachus; ~~500 BC]:
Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me? But of course you won't.

Let me first understand you, I replied. justice, as you say, is the interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this? You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?

That's abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense which is most damaging to the argument.

Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them; and I wish that you would be a little clearer.

Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?

Yes, I know.
And the government is the ruling power in each state?
Certainly.
And the different forms of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.

Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I will try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice you have yourself used the word 'interest' which you forbade me to use. It is true, however, that in your definition the words 'of the stronger' are added.

A small addition, you must allow, he said.
Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that justice is interest of some sort, but you go on to say 'of the stronger'; about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore consider further.

Proceed.
I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just or subjects to obey their rulers?

I do.
But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they sometimes liable to err?

To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.
Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly, and sometimes not?

True.
When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?

Yes.
And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects, --and that is what you call justice?

Doubtless.
Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience to the interest of the stronger but the reverse?
Source:
http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.2.i.html

Recap:
If justice is the interest of the stronger, but the stronger happen to be fallible humans, then justice will also (sometimes) turn out to be against the interest of the stronger. And, therefore, by reductio ad absurdum, it is proven (for all time) that justice is not that which is in the interest of the stronger. The phrase, therefore, that 'might makes right' is false.

Ed




Post 16

Sunday, July 28 - 2:56pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot:

More on free will/determinism:

Given an initial state of the entirety of reality, including you who are looking at two pairs of pants and considering which to grasp (to pick up to wear for the day), where every electromagnetic wave/particle's position and velocity is defined for the entirety of reality...

If there was a God who was capable of setting reality's state as such, and then allowing reality to continue through its process of change from there... if he set it to that same state once, let time flow for a while, and then set it to that same state again, and let time flow for a while again, then would you for each iteration always grab the same pair of pants at the same exact time delta from the initial state in the exact same way?

=============

My answer:

Reality is deterministic. Given its current state, its deterministic process of change determines what the current state changes into. A human is a part of reality. A human, as being a part of reality, also performs deterministically, determining his own actions given his current state. His current state is continually being altered by interactions between his body and the rest of reality. He has a consciousness that can simulate reality and selecting plans of actions to perform.

I think reality will change exactly the same way. I don't think there are perfectly random events that have no cause. If such events happened, then I'd think reality would be chaos, unless they were limited to being very infrequent. Infrequent non-causal events just doesn't seem right, although I don't think its possible to prove one way or another. To me, a better explanation of "random events" are practically non-predictable events, such as predicting the outcome of a boxed up dice roll before the dice are uncovered from a violently shaken box... everything in reality influences the result including the gravitational pull of an asteroid in faraway galaxy.

And I'd say that we are destined to do what we eventually do... but that as you go further and further out into the future, the accuracy and precision of predictions of a human's future state diminish.

I'd say that we do have a "predetermined fate or destiny", but that its not really determined by other people, or "God", but by the entirety of reality's current state and the continual deterministic process by which it changes.

"As opposed to their life being outside their control or responsibility." A person's life is controlled by themselves and their surroundings both, some events are more self inflicted/caused than others. I don't think my friends should be forced to help someone who had misfortune, no matter whether self inflicted, forced only when in the form of retaliation. "Responsibility" is an ethical judgement, it includes implied shoulds. You cannot conclude a should without having a should in the premises. So in that you are revealing some of your ethics... that you should hold people responsible (require them to reimburse and make sure they lose) when they initiate force against you or your friends.



Post 17

Sunday, July 28 - 3:44pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Agreed. I don't mean to say "might makes right". I only mean to say "might makes". Here is my definition of justice: Poll Discussions : Would you act so as to punish a criminal? Post 43.

Cheers,
Dean



Post 18

Sunday, July 28 - 4:05pmSanction this postReply
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Punishing criminals is the use of non-defensive force. We should use defensive force against criminals and no more. Any more for punishment purposes, not defense, is aggression.

In typical usage, "punishing criminals" refers to both defensive measures and aggressive measures. It's a mixed up concept. It should be un-mixed-up. Society could do a lot better both at defending against criminals and also at not trying to hurt criminals unnecessarily (non-defensively) for "revenge" or "punishment" or other evil reasons.

BTW this is somewhat related to how parents punish children and pretend their aggression is education.



Post 19

Sunday, July 28 - 5:02pmSanction this postReply
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Elliot, The post I linked to was short, and I think would be interesting to you (and I'd be interested to be criticized by you). I didn't use the word Punishment anywhere in it. I didn't choose the title of the poll.
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores on 7/28, 5:08pm)




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