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Hi, I'm in Brisbane and potentially interested. Not a lot of free time at the moment though (finishing off PhD). I've been to Skeptics in the Pub, but haven't had time to go recently. I think I'm a member of UQ Skeptics on Facebook.

I think there is a problem in the culture of philosophy.

It's seen as generally better to define things up front, as this is seen as being more precise.

That sounds reasonable. Who doesn't want greater precision?

Precision is good when it is possible. But often we don't have a good enough understanding of the phenomena to be precise, and the "precision" that is given is a faux-precision.

Often logic is used to define precise categories, by philosophers examining their concept for X. Then they look at and discuss and argue over the consequences of these definitions.

I think it'd be more appropriate for them to spend more time trying to examine the nature of the instances of X out there (as opposed to the properties of their concept of X), based on a loose notion of 'X' (because at this point they don't really know what X is).

(caveat: I didn't read the pages linked to in this post's description)

they might, though you have to be very careful in treating partial data as representative of the whole picture.

but the data for the kind of factors she's talking about (i've read the book, though it was a while ago) goes beyond what property records could provide.

The data necessary for such systematic examination is not available in some fields. I'm not sure about this field, but maybe it was one of them (back then at least)?

Nice post. You could write a similar one on helping the environment. How often do you hear people say, about helping the environment, that "every little bit helps"?

While we're on the topic of an Australian meetup, are there any other LW ppl in Brisbane? If there's some we could organise a meetup.

So, my suggestion is to use "rationality" consistently and to avoid using "rationalism". Via similarity to "scientist" and "physicist", "rationalist" doesn't seem to have the same problem. Discus

A while back I argued against using the term "rationalist".

Some further thoughts:

Noticing that something isn't right is very different from developing a solution.

The former may draw on experience and intuition - like having developed a finely honed bullshit detector. You can often just immediately see that there's something wrong.

I've noticed that when people complain that someone has given a criticism but hasn't or can't suggest something better, they seem expect that person to be able to do so on the spot, off the top of their head.

But the task of developing a solution is not usually something you can do off the top of you head. It's a creative act, and that usually means you have to sketch out bits and pieces, critically evaluate them, modify them, and repeat until you have developed something satisfactory.

Yes. Too often people treat it as a sin to criticize without suggesting an alternative. (as if a movie critic could only criticize an element of a film if they were to write a better film).

But coming up with alternatives can be hard, and having clear criticisms of current approaches can be an important step towards a better solution. It might take years of building up various criticisms -- and really coming to understand the problem -- before you are ready to build an alternative.

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