this is supposed to be about Think...

just a snooty half-reference to schopenhauer's water...but it will probably degenerate into a discussion of the topics in Think and interweave with my most recent podcast. All of which will make this monologue gravitate towards Hume's ideas about cause and effect... but I can't help it (heheh, determinism jokes are fun.)

So..continuing where I left off. I'm almost done with Searle's podcast on the philosophy of society and it synced nicely with reading Think. Basically Searle's point is that human intention and our derivation of meaning are what underly and explain ontologically objective (different from epistemologically objective) social structures.

Things like money's existence, or the idea that someone is a citizen of a given country.
The thing I like most is that he picks apart the category errors that most people make. It's excellent to say that you're being "objective"... but not always helpful. If you're analyzing a scientific theory, you had better be epistemically objective. You can't really say that water is composed of hydrogen and fluorine, unless we suddenly decide that "Fluorine" now means: that atom with 8 protons. Definitions and expressions may be arbitrary, but the brute facts aren't. Whether you use meters or light-years, the actual distance to the sun is the same.
Dollars or sesterces would be completely different. Most "subjectivity" arises from how humans denote value. Certain things exist because we agree that they exist (and the vast mass of institutional facts exist because some sort of "ocracy" finds them useful or valuable in some way.)

A book club is arguably not a fact of the universe (Douglas Adams would probably find something clever to say about that, but I am not he.) However, who's going to say that a book club doesn't exist? That is what Searle argues is an ontologically objective fact. Whether a given book club (or government, whatever) is better than another or whether book clubs are intrinsically worthwhile things and should in fact exist at all, is subjective in every way. Searle seems to think this concept is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

I also think Searle's interpretation of Hume's theory of cause and effect is rather unfair, both to Hume and to people who disagree with it. Now I might be taking this out of context, but it seems like what Hume's actually saying is that cause and effect aren't unreasonable, just that you can never entirely explain the steps in between. That sounds like local skepticism about causal relations. Which you could probably get most reasonable people to agree on.

Surely Hume can't actually be saying that the scientific method is purely inductive and because you can't explain the cause of a cause of a cause each effect is as likely as any other. If that's what he means Hume completely undermines the empiricism that he's so enamored with (which he actually admits in the end of that chapter) since if you're a proper scientific Bayesian (or have some common sense) none of this is an issue, because when you explain that "Yes if the universe were completely arbitrary we might have a green sky tomorrow and this is turn would completely confuse all the people studying tautologies.. but the sky has been blue every morning that I have observed it up until this point. Maybe sky-color is entirely random and by some extraordinary happenstance our universe has had a run of blue skies, but if it is entirely random, than the probability is of a small chance recurring is lower than something with a basis in "fact" (in hume's sense -- as opposed to knowledge attainable by the "mere operation of thought.")

This "trend" implies a cause, not that my eyes are somehow fonder of the idea of a blue sky than a green one. Having a working hypothesis that explains why the sky is blue doesn't mean that I wouldn't have to reformulate my view if the sky is green tomorrow, but as a human -- in order to actually use my brain -- I'm automatically going to draw inferences and might as well draw ones that make some sense. Everything that Hume says practically begs for a universal reductionistic theory of science:

Elasticity, gravity, cohesion of parts, communication of motion by impulse: These are probably the ultimate causes and principles which we shall ever discover in nature, and we may esteem ourselves sufficiently happy, if, by accurate enquiry and reasoning, we can trace up the particular phenomena to, or near to, these general principles.
Which would be okay, except things start to get a lot more complicated and well... chaotic. Indeterminate. And just plain weird. So this theory doesn't appeal to some people on an intuitive level. It could be that there are really no "consequences" and each thing randomly follows another, but to make any sense of things i.e. even if you are the most ridiculous sort of determinist you still need to decide what to do and have a working theory of free will, even if it might turn out to be false. Likewise if you believe everything is an illusion, like Berkeley, or you believe that you are a figment of Brahma's imagination.

If you are a determinist, it would seem more rational to also believe in causes and effects. I might buy the 'unpredictable and unprovable' bit from a Dualist or someone with a penchant for idealism, but if you're a determinist you should have a good (and scientific as possible) reason to believe something that goes against naive/commonsense interpretations of human action, or -- if you're so inclined -- a first-level evolutionary hermeneutic, like: "people who do a given thing live longer and reproduce more."

Unfortunately whenever I start thinking about anything in this area philosophy I get stuck on free-will. I wish people had a more holistic and connected view of philosophy. I've heard many comparisons of different fields, but few people bother to cover the implications of certain theories and how those implications are themselves theories. If you're going to dichotomize everything you might as well do it sensibly; it makes no sense to believe in a soul and determinism. Or "nuture" and explain that someone was genetically predisposed to go on a murder spree. Being generally consistent and not defaulting to standard dogma seems like it would appeal to people (especially people who purport to be scientists) and would be something that they tried to apply, but it doesn't seem to be.

I mention this because some people have a tendency to decide that they and only they are right after interpreting/misinterpreting other peoples rational and/or insane ideas, just as much as others are prone to completely swallowing someone's theory about the universe and never making any modifications.

Also Searle is apparently more famous than most people on iTunesU because his views on speech acts were mentioned in A Short Course in Intellectual Self Defense (which I intend to at least skim when i get the chance, because even if the book is junk it's an awesome title.)
..and oh, he originated the chinese room experiment too.. now I have to re-write this to reflect my cool-idea-I-now-like-you bias ;)

I think I'm thinking about thinking...

Think was decent.. other than a kind of insulting reference to 'teenage girls who have an excessive interest in "cosmetics" and how their minds and lives might be improved by reading this book.' It was a good overview for me. I don't know if it was a good book honestly. I always used to make the mistake of thinking that a book was good when I simply liked the subject. So Asimov was fantastic because it was scifi, any old textbook on biology was great…and so forth. And there aren't many subjects I don't like (maybe anthropology, anything newer than the Golden Bough is unbelievably boring in my opinion,) so it took me a number of years to figure out that I had actually encountered some of those "theoretical" bad books in reality.

Basically he starts of explaining ontology, starting with Descartes and cogito ergo sum and the ball of wax and gives a pretty decent explanation of classical rationalism. i.e. "taking nothing as certain" until you can have "a clear and definite picture" of reality. However if you don't take his ontological explanation of God's existence any further than you can throw him (which you shouldn't, it's almost as bad as Anselm's) you're left with only one definite conclusion: something -- probably you -- exists. Well that's good; let's have a round of applause for the rationalists shall we? Come on even Plato got past this point and it's kind of annoying because my objections about the arbitrariness of this had to wait about a century for Berkley.

Well -- says the anthropomorphized Western philosophical tradition -- maybe we should only question things bit by bit (local skepticism,) because we need some way of appraising reality which contains our tools of analysis. We can't undermine everything, our naive view of existence might be perfectly alright and we'd never know. So we'll make a few assumptions.. we know that we're making assumptions, everything's under control. Otto Neurath's very elegant (which doesn't mean that it's correct obviously) comparison of a ship at sea to our picture of reality, is quite reasonable. In fact it flows directly from Hume's empiricist view.

Hume's idea was that: you can't doubt everything, you can't establish anything definite that way. What you need is observation; you can't just use your head, you've got to use your eyes and any other applicable senses (incidentally, 'common sense' was according to Aristotle the unifying sense that allowed us to interpret the input of all 5 senses..) Positivism is generally represented as the pro-scientific philosophical view and takes that -- as well as the better parts of Descartes' work -- into account.

So we've established that we're going to use the scientific method, because it beats twiddling our thumbs or doing nothing (ok at least I have.) But wait! We've got a problem: what if people don't see the world the same way you or I do? What if they're zombies? What if we live on a planet where we call this liquid thing water, where it freezes at 0 degrees celsius (which is epistemically objective even though the measurement is arbitrary and observer-dependent) were we drink it like water and it hydrates us like water with no similar ill-effects to drinking the pollutant infested H20 that we now ingest, but it's not actually water? How is anything certain?

Descartes suggestion (he was actually brilliant, hated by middle-schoolers everywhere for inventing algebra as we know it) was that our soul exists separately from our body.
Cartesian Dualism concerns dualism of substance and not merely appearance. Locke (in one of his duller moments) suggests that the sensations are "annexed" to a certain experience, they're arbitrary or are there "because God says so." That my dear children is called occasionalism (basically anyway, i'm not too clear on the details.) Liebnitz (*sighs besottedly*) decided that there must be some reason: 'if you're god, you should work smart and have the universe do it for you..' 'why should we get rid of cause and effect when the concepts have served us so well in the past' (assuming that we have survived the vagaries of childhood, learned which animals want to eat us and which pretty mushrooms aren't good to eat.) So -- Leibnitz says -- we experience things in the way that we do because of how we're constructed, sure sometimes things don't work that way and then people bring up qualia -- which is fine if that's your thing -- but usually people work the same way and feel the same way and so respond the same way.

But now we have another problem: if everything is determined by the physical constraints of the system, do we have a choice, any free-will? Sure.. I think I had an apple because I wanted an apple, but was I really free to choose an orange just as easily? Or was my "choice" of an apple as predetermined as the trajectory of a given rock or the size of the Milky Way? I think I chose, I can imagine myself choosing differently.. I have chosen differently under different circumstances, but I can't be sure. It brings up Schopenhauer's picture of the water, which is equally "free" to be a waterfall, rolling ocean or bubbling stream but 'prefers to rest quiescently in a pond right now thank you very much.' The saving grace of the book is that it actually explains compatibilism; compatibilist thought is basically determinism that makes a small amount of sense. Which is basically what I tried to say in another post except I didn't realize that I was trying to say it, so as a result it made no sense. The idea is that everything is determined by the laws of the system, but the laws of the system allow for other people trying to affect each other's actions. i.e. having speed limits: some people still speed but there are consequences which alter the parameters that affect what us automatons will "choose" to do. Which is not intellectually satisfying, but I'll admit is possible. Cartesian dualism suggests that something outside the natural world affects the physical world for us, which is called interventionism. Which I have to admit, doesn't sound much better... even to my ears. The bit God or a universal observer seeing you at a later point doing something meaning that it's all set up ahead of time is ridiculous too, a choice has to be made -- so of course you're going to see the result -- it doesn't change the decision. I'd rather believe in a weird 4d universe thanks.
There was more, but it didn't make a great impact a) because i was tired and didn't have the sense to just leave it for another day and b) he didn't have anything original to say. But it was about cool stuff like consciousness, probability and stuff that for some inexplicable reason makes most people's eyes glaze over.

All of this ends in a sort of circuitous way with him talking about universals, he keeps everything that's convenient about relativism and still reserves the right to tell you what's objectively good and bad.. or at least 'functional' and 'useless.' Which I do understand, I just don't agree with.

He has a thorough understanding of the subject (which i guess you should expect for a professor of philosophy) which helps him choose the most applicable source material from a given philosopher that answered opposing points of view. Other than that he's a bit of a jerk. I used to think that people talking about philosophers and some sorts of academics like stuck-up idiots was just because they were rednecks or jealous. But the thing is: it's actually true. As soon as you learn a little bit (insert appropriate snobby Alexander Pope quote here,) you end up thinking that everyone else is stupid. It's a really difficult sort of elitism to avoid. This weirdly synced with my podcast on the philosophy of society which is better than this book, especially because the lecturer was at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, so his lectures had some historical content as well.

I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Hyde....

My alter-ego is complaining that she doesn't get to go outside like Tyrone, Ramone and now Katla get to. She's also adamantly opposed to copying people, so I think her desire for self-actualization won out over her professed interest in intellectual honesty.

She would rather be uniquely wrong than boringly correct. Which results in each of her blog posts being a rehash of every single complaint that's been made about humanity for the last 3000 years. She's self-righteous, cynical and tends to overreact. A lot of my posts should have been made as Boudicca, simply because I sound more nasty in print than I actually am. Or according to Boudicca because I'm a complete coward, afraid to confess to socially undesirable beliefs. She's also probably deeply in love with Tyrone, but I haven't asked her -- we don't have that sort of friendship.

Her world-view is totally skewed so any insights she has are obscured by her warped personality.
Here's hoping that she'll shut up:

"People are hopelessly confused about life and the universe; most come to terms with their complete and utter ignorance, except for the rare few that manage to befuddle themselves into thinking that they understand a small section of it.

They are so deluded as to believe that only they have consistent beliefs and with ineffable hypocrisy decide that they should be allowed to rule the world, simply because they think about things... the nerve. Of course they don't rule the world, power-hungry sociopaths rule the world. The title is usually hereditary; I can visualize a long, distinguished line of autocratic brats being groomed for the throne and macerating the world under their prepubescent greasy thumbs.

This social order is quite predictable given that human rhetoric almost never is in agreement with our actual desires. Our ideas -- accrued over the millenia of adaptation to the cruel psycho-social realities of this world -- become outmoded more quickly than we can develop new rationalizations for our behavior. Maybe deep down, we're all sociopaths ,we're just not smart enough to always get our way.
We try to distance ourselves from these embarrassing beliefs, either by deceiving ourselves or explicitly lying. In an added layer of honesty, we do talk about these beliefs, but generally add suitable disclaimers, possibly even creating an imaginary personality for people to spend their ire on. Which shows us to be complex, urbane and considerate, while remaining uncontroversial and still in agreement with the majority (whatever our chosen in-group is.)

Were I not the cognitive minority, I would have no need of this crude dissociative element. I am delighted to be an outsider. Not because it gives me a feeling of superiority and not because it lessens any responsibility that I might incur from belonging to a group. It's simply because I don't have to worry about clouding my beliefs in a respectable miasma of jargon and politeness. We would all be better off with more honesty in the world."

I was wrong... no. 1

Really good point circulating in the econ blogosphere, Fessing up to Mistakes
I ought to admit when I'm wrong, partly because I value honesty and partly because it makes it easier to correct my mistakes.
Or maybe I just don't want to look stupid:
because people who hold heterodox opinions are just confused

Specifically: I ought to admit to holding mutually inconsistent opinions or reconcile apparently contradictory positions by reexamining and reformulating my statements of belief.

first one I can think of:

0: "Just because everyone's doing it, doesn't make it right" (I've heard various, extremely colorful variations on this, but I'm representing the condensed and umm, sanitized version....)

1: Or the bayesian-thingy...'Since you can't hope to arrive at every answer by yourself, it's best to rely on information collated and interpreted by experts, by compiling information and giving greater weight to the views of other better informed people, you should arrive at the best understanding of the situation possible.'

I think this can be pretty easily reconciled, since '0' concerns people ("who should know better" or relative experts) who are not merely listening to a majority, but an ill-informed, unwise majority.
...but if you're incompetent (relatively or absolutely,) how will you know if your assessment of other people's expertise is even remotely accurate?

I don't think that you can hope to consistently arrive at a better answer (i.e. without guessing) than the 'best experts,' you still need new information. Of course you learn from other people, anyone will admit that; I don't know that there are very many people who want to try and develop thousands of years worth of accumulated knowledge ex nihilo. My conclusion, they're both wrong (I have to wait for quantum computing to develop.)

This is already too long (meaning: I can't think of anything else right now, so I'm going to try to back out of this gracefully,) but this is probably the first of a series; considering that it's highly unlikely that I'm going to stop making mistakes, and even less unlikely that I'm going to stop blabbing about them ("a fool flaunts his folly.")