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But could you really have saved $100 by having decided to buy that same exact house except without that extra square foot?

Yes. Sorry for the unintended ambiguity.

I see. No problem.

By the way, do you have an opinion on whether it's good or bad that nobody in the AI community seems to employ FPE?

Certainly not the writings in AI discussed on LW. Probably not any other writings either.

Isn't that what I said? I don't get what you're trying to say here.

ETA: Oh, are you responding to "perhaps they all employ FPE like it's nothing"? At first, I thought you were responding to "I'm not well-read in AI".

First, a couple general considerations:

  • How far are you in the book? If you're stuck in Part II, I would recommend skipping to its last section. In my opinion, for somebody just starting out with his philosophy, the rest of that part simply isn't insightful enough to justify how difficult it is to read. Save it for later, if at all.

  • Remember that he wrote it over 200 years ago. You'll have to spend a lot of time getting fluent in his idiosyncratic 18th century English to really get what he's saying. I find that sort of thing interesting, so it was actually a bonus for me. But if it would only be an obstacle for you, and you have a sufficiently high time preference for this kind of thing, you might be better off sticking to something that uses more familiar language.

Now, I want to say something about his philosophy.

He used a rare method that I call "first-person epistemology" (FPE). He didn't start out from the usual premise: that he was but one mind in a physical universe. No, he began much deeper: from nothing but the immediately given. His world was simply a sequence of sensatons. For example, he didn't directly apprehend 3D space. His senses conveyed only a sequence of 2D images on his visual field. If the term "3D space" is to mean anything, we must define it as referring to a particular kind of sequence of those 2D images. Our belief in 3D space pays rent by helping us predict what 2D image we'll experience in what situation (perhaps among other things).

I think that this method (FPE) is extremely important, but nobody ever seems to employ it. I've only seen two people: him and Berkeley. Perhaps there have been others. I'm still looking. Based on some bio I read a while ago, Carnap seemed to fit the bill, but I don't really know. I haven't tried him yet. I can't read German, and I hate reading translations. They usually suck. Anyway, I said that nobody seems to do Hume any justice. I'm not prepared to substantiate this, but I think that at least part of that is because they don't understand his method (FPE). Nobody seems to get FPE, even though it seems totally obvious to me.

I think that the real progress to be made in AI is in understanding how our own consciousness works. If we can understand our own action, we can build an actor. Maybe even a better one. But how could we do that? I think that FPE is the way to go, and Hume did it best. Human Nature (or at least Book I and some of the parts of Books II and III) is an excellent monograph on how our consciousness works. But what do I know? I'm not well-read in AI. Perhaps they all employ FPE like it's nothing, and they're all well past Hume's stuff. No idea. Maybe you could let me know? Any idea?

Anyway, a few more things:

  • If you're having trouble with a section, I might be able to help. I generally know what he's talking about, and I can usually translate his points into more modern wording.

  • I think that he's extremely important, and I think that his treatise is his best work. He's tied with Mises as my favorite writer, and his treatise is tied with Human Action as my favorite book. I don't have any authority around here, but perhaps this means something to you.

  • If I wanted to be cocky, I would say that you probably wouldn't get anything important from Hume that you wouldn't get better and easier from my future posts anyway. I intend to try to convey a lot of important stuff to this community, and Hume is one of my two biggest influences.

But enough of all that stuff. Let's get to the real question. What are your goals? Why do you think that you would be better off reading what you mentioned instead of Hume? What would they have that Hume wouldn't? What exactly are you trying to accomplish by reading this stuff? After all, where to turn always comes down to where you're trying to go. I can't have an opinion on whether you're wrong until you tell me what you're attempting to do.

Everybody's always citing Hume, but nobody ever seems to do him any justice. The OP is simply yet another example in this trend. I have no idea whether after reading the first paragraph of your post, Hume would agree that he couldn't "bring himself to seriously doubt the content of his own subjective experience", but I'm pretty sure that by the end of it, he would summarily reject your interpretation of his epistemology.

First of all, to make what I'm saying at least sound plausible, I need only give you one counter-example:

  • He referred to our propensity to ascribe a place to each sound as an illusion. According to Hume, a sound exists nowhere. Of course our natural reaction is to balk at those words, but that's only because we so strongly associate the object that caused the sound (e.g., a TV), with the sound itself (i.e., your subjective experience we call "the sound it's making"). But they're clearly separate in our subjective experience, and unlike the TV, the sound has neither a shape nor a location. (1)

There he's clearly not taking it for granted that we never get confused about the content of our subjective experience. He thinks that sounds exist nowhere, but he also recognizes that it's more natural to get confused and not notice that. According to Hume, our natural tendency is to be wrong about this aspect of our subjective experience. Perhaps he would also agree that there are more cases like this?

But I haven't proven you wrong yet. I've only tried to throw some doubt on your side. At this point, all I can do is sit back and ask you, "Can you cite me a significant number of instances where Hume contradicts the insight in your post, and perhaps by doing so, leads himself into error?" I mean, I have virtually no doubt that that's an impossible task, but then again I'll still be here if you try to shoot me down.

(1) From Human Nature. He starts off by saying this, and then moves on to saying this. If you want, ctrl-f to find exactly where those quotes came from. Perhaps I didn't do justice to his insight about our subjective experience of sound and whatever, but it's okay. I was only trying to show you an example of where he implied that we can be wrong about the content of our own subjective experience.

Very interesting suggestion. Thanks.

By the way, in that word language, I simply have a group of 4 grammatical particles, each referring to 1 of the 4 set operations (union, intersection, complement, and symmetric difference). That simplifies a few of the systems that we find in English or whatever. For example, we don't find intersection only in the relationship between a noun and an adjective; we also find it in a bunch of other places. Here's a list of a bunch of examples of where we see one of the set operations in English:

  • There's a deer over there, and he looks worried. (intersection)
  • He's a master cook. (intersection between "master" and "cook")
  • The stars are the suns and the planets. (union)
  • Either there's a deer over there, or I'm going crazy. (symmetric difference)
  • Everybody here except Phil is an idiot. (complement)
  • Besides when I'm doing economics, I'm an academic idiot. (complement)
  • A lake-side or ocean-side view in addition to a comfortable house is really all I want out of life. (intersection)
  • A light bulb is either on or off. (symmetric difference)
  • It's both a table and a chair. (intersection)
  • Rocks that aren't jagged won't work for this. (complement)
  • A traditional diet coupled with a routine of good exercise will keep you healthy. (intersection)
  • A rock or stone will do. (union)

I might be wrong about some of those, so look at them carefully. And I'm sure there are a bunch of other examples. Maybe I missed a lot of the really convoluted ones because of how confusing they are. Either way, the point is that there are a bunch of random examples of the set operations in English. I think simply having a group of 4 grammatical particles for them would make the system a lot simpler and perhaps easier to learn and use.

Are there any natural language that do anything like this? Sure, there are probably a lot of natural languages that don't make the distinction between nouns and adjectives. That distinction is nearly useless in a SVO language. We even see English speakers "violate" the noun/adjective system a lot. For example, something like this: "Hand me one of the longs." If you work someplace where you constantly have to distinguish between the long and short version of a tool, you'll probably hear that a lot. But are there are any natural languages that use a group of grammatical particles in this way? Or at the very least use one of them consistently?

Note: Perhaps I'm being too hard on the noun/adjective system in English. It's often useless, but it serves a purpose that keeps it around. Two nouns next to each other (e.g., "forest people") signifies that there's some relation between the two sets, whereas an adjective in front of a noun signifies that the relation is specifically intersection. That seems to be the only point of the system. Maybe I'm missing something?

Another note: I'm not an expert on set theory. Maybe I'm abusing some of these terms. If anybody thinks that's the case, I would appreciate the help.

I think that most of the potential lies in the "extra-radical possibilities". The traditional linguistics descriptions (adjectives, nouns, prepositions, and so on) don't seem to apply very well to any of my word languages. After all, they're just a bunch of natural language components; they needn't show up in an artificial language.

For example, in one of my word languages, there's no distinction between nouns and adjectives (meaning that there aren't any nouns and adjectives, I guess). To express the equivalent of the phrase "stupid man", you simply put the word referring to the set of everything stupid, next to the one referring to the one of everything that's a man, and put the word for set intersection in front of it. You get one of these two examples:

  • either: [set intersection] [set of everything stupid] [set of everything that's a man]
  • or: [set intersection] [set of everything that's a man] [set of everything stupid]

Of course that assumes that there's no single word already referring to the intersection of those two sets, or that you just don't want to use it, but whatever. I just meant to give it as an example.

I think that this system makes it more elegant, but it's not a terribly big improvement. And it's not very radical either. The more radical and useful stuff, I'm not ready to give an example of. This is just something simple. But it's sufficient to say that you shouldn't let the traditional descriptions constrain you. If you're trying to make a better language, why limit yourself to just mixing and matching the old parts? There's a world of opportunity out there, but you're not gonna find much of it if you trap yourself in the "natural language paradigm".

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