Pointing at Normativity
Consequences of Logical Induction
Partial Agency
Alternate Alignment Ideas
Filtered Evidence, Filtered Arguments
Embedded Agency
Hufflepuff Cynicism

Wiki Contributions


How can one train philosophical skill?

I'm mostly referring to the way of thinking where you can think of things in terms of computations. Without this, you might have weird ideas about what the mind can do with information, what can constitute a successful map/territory relationship, etc. Sorry, I'm not being very specific here; I just think there are a ton of philosophical errors which boil down to not understanding computation.

Granted, most of the important points are probably already "in the air" from computers playing such a central role in life and society today. People probably don't need formal information theory to have good intuitions about what information is, today, compared to in the past. But it probably still helps!

How can one train philosophical skill?

I just think there's something really important about the concept of computation, for philosophy. It seems even more important than materialism, in terms of how it shapes thoughts about a variety of subjects. Like, yeah, algorithmic information theory is pretty great, but as a prerequisite you should be thinking of things in terms of computations, and this to me seems like the more important overall insight.

How can one train philosophical skill?

Given your first suggestion, is the assumption that philosophers would attempt to address everything?

I was just trying to go off of Daniel K's prompt, which was precisely for philosophers to try to address everything. I agree that this is not obviously the best route.

How can one train philosophical skill?

I went to a relatively backwater undergrad, and personally, I thought the philosophy profs had a big emphasis on thinking clearly. My Epistemology class was reading a bunch of articles (ie the textbook did nothing to summarize results, only presenting the original texts); but, class was all about dissecting the arguments, not regurgitating facts (and only a little about history-of-philosophy-for-history's-sake).

Side note, the profs I talked to also thought philosophy was pretty useless as a subject (like objectively speaking society should not be paying to support their existence). I think they thought the main saving grace was that it could be used to teach critical thinking skills.

Possibly, this is just very different from grad programs in philosophy.

Plus, they almost never collect any actual data on whether these methods work.

Well, yeah.

So, it's simply not the case that one's approach to philosophy is that contingent on the past, or an extreme focus on literature reviews.

Ah, ok.

How can one train philosophical skill?

True, but I perceive room for them to be even less shy, and I stand by my earlier speculation. (I've read enough philosophy to know what Lance Bush was pointing at.)

How can one train philosophical skill?

Oh, it doesn't have to be the general public. I doubt it would be. You could select good judges.

How can one train philosophical skill?

I think a perhaps-more-practical version of "work thru li & vitanyi" is "learn computer science" -- eg, the book "logic and computability" might be a good text for philosophers. (It is thorough and technical, but introductory.)

How can one train philosophical skill?

Pirsig draws a contrast with music students, whose studies consist primarily of developing their skill at their instrument, not musicology, whereas philosophy students never do philosophy at all, only philosophology.

The contrast with music seems misleading. Almost any other field is full of studying the past! You don't primarily "learn physics" by going and doing experiments; you mainly learn it by studying what others have already done.

Granted, physicists read new textbooks summarizing the old results, while philosophers more often read the original material. That's a pretty big difference. However, that might be because philosophy is more directly about the critical thinking skills themselves (hence you want to read how the original philosopher describes their own insight), while physics is more just about the end results of that process.

It is common for phd theses to have a very large literature review. How over-the-top is philosophy in this, really? I would guess that many "humanities" areas are similarly heavier on the lit review. (Although, you could plausibly accuse those areas of the same dysfunction you see in philosophy.)

How can one train philosophical skill?

Formal debate is really really terrible in practice as a way to train anything resembling good philosophy, or else I'd think that a pretty good suggestion.

Specifically, all forms of debate devolve into speed-talking contests, because if you make a point that your opponent doesn't oppose, then they're considered by the judges to have conceded that point; so you want to make as many points as humanly possible in the time allotted. Aside from that, the game is all about coming up with clever argumentative maneuvers that have little to do with what arguments would work in real life and nothing al all to do with the truth.

Multiple attempted reforms of debate rules to get around these problems have failed, producing essentially the same result.

With respect to the distinct skills in "philosophy" -- I'm not so sure. I think maybe philosophy has correctly divided itself into subfields such as ontology, ethics, and epistemology. These subfields address different sets of questions, but use similar/identical "philosophical method" in doing so. This suggests that a common set of skills are involved in many philosophical pursuits, somewhat unlike the sports analogy.

Granted, I do suspect that there's a list of skills, which might best be trained separately. Here is an attempt to list what they might be:

  • Question generation.
    • Maybe just come up with "is a hotdog a sandwich" type questions for lots of everyday concepts?
  • Hypothesis generation. Given a set of "data" (usually from intuition -- eg, cases where someone does, or doesn't, seem to be behaving morally) generate a hypothesis which fits the data (eg, a theory of morality).
    • This might be trained by trying to come up with dictionary definitions of foreign words, given only examples. 
    • Another exercise could involve improving dictionary definitions of familiar words.
  • Counterexample generation: strike down a theory by coming up with a case which clearly goes against it.
    • Give counterexamples to dictionary definitions.
    • Counterexamples in mathematics -- give negative examples for false conjectures.
    • Just, like, a whole lot of critiquing each other's theories.
  • Argumentation: clearly, precisely, and convincingly express a philosophical view, supporting it with good reasoning and avoiding missteps (eg fallacies).
    • Training in formal logic and other valid methods of inference such as probability and statistics.
    • Fallacies and biases. 
    • Lots of writing practice with detailed critiques for clarity, accuracy, and persuasiveness.

The above three skills seem to be a bit overly anchored to a specific way of doing philosophy for my taste, but there you have it.

How can one train philosophical skill?

To turn this into a training technique, we might:

  • Have a big list of questions, which approximates all the big questions in philosophy.
  • Try to answer all of them from a plausible, coherent perspective.
  • Get feedback on how coherent (and plausible) the perspective is, how well-argued the answers were, etc.

Or, perhaps, a courtroom-like examination process where a committee selects a line of questioning? (Roughly, draw some questions randomly off of the Big List to try to catch the student off-guard, and then depending on the student's answers, go down a line of questioning which best searches for flaws in the view?)

Load More