I think that claiming that is just making the confusion worse. Sure, you could claim that our preferences about "moral" situations are different from our other preferences; but the very feeling that makes them seem different at all stems from the core confusion! Think very carefully about why you want to distinguish between these types of preferences. What do you gain, knowing something is a "moral" preference (excluding whatever membership defines the category)? Is there actually a cluster in thing space around moral preferences, which is distinctly separate from the "preferences" cluster? Do moral preferences really have different implications than preferences about shoes and I've cream? The only thing I can imagine is that when you phrase an argument to humans in terms of morality, you get different responses than to preferences ("I want Greta's house" vs "Greta is morally obligated to give me her house"). But I can imagine no other way in which the difference could manifest. I mean, a preference is a preference is a term in a utility function. Mathematically they'd better all work the same way or we're gonna be in a heap of trouble.

but the very feeling that makes them seem different at all stems from the core confusion!

I don't think moral feelings are entirely derivative of conceptual thought. Like other mammals, we have pattern matching algorithms. Conceptual confusion isn't what makes my preference for ice cream preferences different from my moral preferences.

Is there a behavioral cluster about "moral"? Sure.

Do moral preferences really have different implications than preferences about shoes and I've cream?

How many people are hated for what ice cream they eat? F... (read more)

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments

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We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.