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I think each year's flu vaccine is a slight modification on an existing vaccine. This may well (read: I have no idea, but it sounds plausible) make it faster to safety test the flu vaccine than a vaccine for a novel disease.

I think this is an uncharitable reading of the purpose of Gaiman's quote. His quote isn't really meant to be a factual claim but an inspirational one.

Now obviously some people will find more inspiration from quotes that express a truth as compared with those that don't. Perhaps you're such a person (I suspect that many people on LW are). At risk of irony, however, it's best not to assume that everyone else is the same as you in that regards.

Evaluating something with an emotional purpose in accordance with its epistemic accuracy (instead of its psychological or poetic force) is likely to lead to an uncharitable reading of many quotes (and rather reinforces the straw vulcan stereotype of rationality).


Yes, philosophers tend to be interested in the issue of conceptual analysis. Different philosophers will have a different understanding of what conceptual analysis is but one story goes something like the following. First, we start out with a rough, intuitive sense of the concepts that we use and this gives us a series of criteria for each concept (perhaps with free will one criteria would be that it relates to moral responsibility in some way and another would be it relates to the ability to do otherwise in some way). Then we try to find a more precise account of the concept that does the best (though not necessarily perfect) job of satisfying these criteria.

I personally find the level of focus on conceptual analysis in philosophy frustrating so I'm not sure that I can do justice to a defence of it. I know many very intelligent people who think it is indispensible to our reasoning though so it may well be deserving of further reflection. If you're interested in such reflection I suggest that you read Frank Jacksons, "From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis". It's a short book and gives a good sense of how contemporary philosophers think about conceptual analysis (in terms of what conceptual analysis is, btw, Jackson says the following: "The short answer is that conceptual analysis is the very business of addressing when and whether a story told in one vocabulary is made true by one told in some allegedly more fundamental vocabulary.")

Off the top of my head, why might someone think conceptual analysis is important? First, conceptual analysis is all about getting clear on our terms. If you're discussing free will, it seems like a really bad idea to just debate without making clear what you mean by free will. So it seems useful to get clear on our terms.

Myself, I'm tempted to say we should get clear on our terms by stipulation (though note that even this involves a small amount of conceptual analysis or I would be just as likely to stipulate that "free will" means "eating my hat" as I would be to stipulate that it means "my decisions flow from my deliberative process": and many philosophers only use conceptual analysis in this easily-defendable manner). So I would stipulate what various meanings of free will are, say which we do and do not have and leave it to each individual to figure out how that makes them feel (which type of free will they care about).

However, a lot of people don't find this very helpful. They care about FREE WILL or MORALITY or BEING THE SAME PERSON TOMORROW (a.k.a. personal identity). And they need to know what the best realiser of the criteria that they have for this concept is to know what they care about. So if you tell a lot of people that they have free-will-1 and not free-will-2, they don't care about this: they care whether they have FREE WILL and so they need to find out which of free-will-1 and free-will-2 is a better realiser of their concept before they can work out whether they have the sort of free will that they care about. Insofar as I don't think telling people what they should desire (no, you should desire free-will-1, regardless of the nature of your concept of FREE WILL), I don't really have any objection to the claim that such a person needs to carry out a more robust project of conceptual analysis (though I feel no need to join them on the road they're travelling).

All that said, standard epistemology (as opposed to formal epistemology) is one of the worst areas of philosophy to study if you're uninterested in these conceptual debates as such debates are pretty much the entire of the field (where in many other areas of philosophy they play a smaller, though often still substantial, role).


Exactly what information CDT allows you to update your beliefs on is a matter for some debate. You might be interested in a paper by James Joyce ( on the issue (which was written in response to Egan's paper).


Then if the uncompressed program running had consciousness and the compressed program running did not, you have either proved or defined consciousness as something which is not an output. If it is possible to do what you are suggesting then consciousness has no effect on behavior, which is the presumption one must make in order to conclude that p-zombies are possible.

I haven't thought about this stuff for a while and my memory is a bit hazy in relation to it so I could be getting things wrong here but this comment doesn't seem right to me.

First, my p-zombie is not just a duplicate of me in terms of my input-output profile. Rather, it's a perfect physical duplicate of me. So one can deny the possibility of zombies while still holding that a computer with the same input-output profile as me is not conscious. For example, one could hold that only carbon-based life could be conscious while denying the possibility of zombies (denying that a physical duplicate of a carbon-based lifeform that is conscious could lack consciousness) while denying that an identical input-output profile implies consciousness.

Second, if it could be shown that the same input-output profile could exist even with consciousness was removed this doesn't show that consciousness can't play a causal role in guiding behaviour. Rather, it shows that the same input-output profile can exist without consciousness. That doesn't mean that consciousness can't cause that input-output profile in one system and something else cause it in the other system.

Third, it seems that one can deny the possibility of zombies while accepting that consciousness has no causal impact on behaviour (contra the last sentence of the quoted fragment): one could hold that the behaviour causes the conscious experience (or that the thing which causes the behaviour also causes the conscious experience). One could then deny that something could be physically identical to me but lack consciousness (that is, deny the possibility of zombies) while still accepting that consciousness lacks causal influence on behaviour.

Am I confused here or do the three points above seem to hold?


It depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for Drescher style stuff then you're looking for a very specific type of contemporary, analytic philosophy. Straight off the top of my head: Daniel Dennett, Nick Bostrom and some stuff by David Chalmers as well as decision and game theory (good free introduction here).

If you're interested in contemporary, analytic philosophy generally then I can't really make suggestions because the list is too broad (what are your interests? Ethics? Aesthetics? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Logic?). Good general resources, however, definitely the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which is a great resource), Philosophy Bro (for a lighthearted take), Philosophy Bites (for a podcast). The list here, cited by someone else, is a good guide to prominent papers some of which will be harder to understand without background knowledge than others.

If you have specific questions during your self-study, feel free to PM me and I'm happy to try and help (I'm far from an expert but also know substantially more philosophy than the average person).


I don't think further conversation on this topic is going to be useful for either of us. I presume we both accept that we have some responsibilities for the welfare of others and that sometimes we can consider the welfare of others without being infantilising (for example, I presume we both presume that shooting someone for fun would be in violation of these responsibilities).

Clearly, you draw the line at a very different place to me but beyond that I'm not sure there's much productive to be said.

I will note, however, that my claim is not about doubting the capability of women nor about "protecting" women in some special sense that goes beyond general compassion. It's about respect for the welfare of other people.

Other than that, I think this conversation has reached the end of its useful life so will leave things at that.


If you are a car salesman and have a button you can legally press which makes your costumer buy a car, you'd press it. Instrumental rationality, no?

Instrumental rationality doesn't get you this far. It gets you this far only if you assume that you care only about selling cars and legality. If you also care about the welfare of others then instrumental rationality will not necessarily tell you to push the button (instrumental rationality isn't the same thing as not caring about others).

Of course, I don't expect anyone who doesn't care about the welfare of others to find any of what I'm saying here compelling. A certain level of common ground is required to have a useful discussion. However, I think most people do care about the welfare of others.

I find it extremely condescending to say you're responsible with how a woman you just met feels, it's treating them like a child, not like an adult who can darn well be expected to make her own choices, and turn away from you if she so desires.

There is, of course, a line between compassion and condescension and I agree that it is bad to cross that line. However, I think it's unreasonable to think that showing the level of concern that I'm talking about here for someone's welfare is crossing this line. To choose a silly example, it would be undesirable for me to shoot someone for no reason but a selfish desire (I, of course, do not actually have this desire). However, if I didn't shoot someone for some reason, this would be taking some responsibility for the welfare of others. However, this hardly amounts to treating them like a child. Similarly, not deliberately making a woman feel bad about herself is simply showing compassion and being respectful toward others. There's no reason to think this amounts to treating someone like a child.

Externally imposing unwritten rules (other than a legal framework) is infantizing adult agents.

I'm not "imposing" rules, unwritten or otherwise. What I am doing is suggesting that insofar as you care about the welfare of others, it is undesirable that you deliberately make people feel bad about themselves. Having a concern for the welfare of others is hardly infantising adults (consider the gun example again: it is not treating someone as an infant to decide not to kill them on the grounds of their welfare).


Thanks for a reply. I did take a look at your post but I don't think it really engages with the points that I make (it engages with arguments that are perhaps superficially similar but importantly distinct)

In general a PUA should always make a woman feel good, otherwise why should she choose to stay with him? Probably women suffer much more through awkward interactions, stalkers, etc...

I have no problems with certain things that one might describe as pick up artistry. My comments are reserved for the things that don't involve respect for a woman's welfare (demeaning her, for example). And yes, I'm sure people suffer more through stalkers but that doesn't set the bar very high.

Making a woman feel insecure might work, so does a movie that makes people feel scared(ever enjoyed a good horror movie?). Should we blame a PUA if that works for him?

If you think that people should care about the welfare of others then yes. I think here we have identified the ultimate source of our disagreement. The fact that you think this is even a question worth asking shows that we have substantially different background assumptions (and this perhaps explains why you find attacks on PU confusing).

ETA: I realise now that it was unclear whether you were asking whether we should blame a PUA for the movie thing or for deliberately making a woman feel insecure. If the first, no (except perhaps in unusual circumstances) as going to a movie doesn't go against the woman's welfare presuming she, like many people, finds the fear of a horror movie desirable or finds it to be made up for by other aspects of the movie. If the second, then as per above: yes, I think a person should care about the welfare of the person that they're picking up.

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