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I agree, we tend to instinctively rely on virtue ethics. And this means that we are not psychopaths.

Our apparent reliance on virtue ethics is a result of the classical conditioning of 'good' and 'bad' that has been drilled into us since birth. "Bad Timmy! Stealing candy from the store is WONG!" is very negative reinforcement for a behavior.

If we could truly abandon our trained value system for pure consequentialism, then we would all be really good at running companies. But most people are not psychopaths, and more importantly most people do not enjoy spending time with psychopaths. So for the goal of sharing effective social interaction, it is probably for the best that we hold onto instictive virtue ethics.

Now could we change this in our children with a different style of training? "Bad Timmy! Stealing candy breaks down the implicit trust that allows our economy to operate at impressive levels of efficiency!"

From my reading, this is the crux of the issue. "Well-educated" and "Successful" individuals submit quickly to the rule of law, or other 'top' authorities. They are stuck either feeling like they have too much at stake to break out of the obedient channels, or they don't even consider the possibility that a protecting a friend's life and well-being could warrant a violation of law. It seems like it isn't an option, but that's only because the rules they have submitted themselves to say it isn't an option.

The "punks, fan girls and street kids" have NOT "learned their lessons well in school" and the the idea of breaking a friend out of a mental hospital becomes a no-brainer. The cops aren't always right, and they definitely won't look after us and our, so we have to do it ourselves. (Non-submission)

Compare this to "He's being held by the FEDS? well then there's nothing I can do" (Submission)

I don't feel sufficiently comfortable with statistics to tear apart the given example. I do have a different example with which to refute the point that the evidential impact of a fixed set of data should be independent of the researchers prior private thoughts.

Suppose I have two researchers, both looking at the correlations between acne and colored jelly beans. Alfred does twenty tests each with X subjects. Each test will feed subjects jelly beans of a single color for a week and then look at incidences of acne. Boris theorizes that green jelly beans are correlated with acne. Boris then does twenty test each with X subjects, identical to Alfred's test.

Alfred and Boris each use the exact same experimental procedure and each get the exact same results, finding higher rates of acne in subjects fed green jelly beans than in subjects fed other colored jelly beans. Boris' experiment is stronger evidence for a link between green jelly beans and acne than Alfred's experiment. Why? Because coincidences happen all the time.

Boris was looking for a correlation between green jelly beans and acne and the odds that Boris would find a correlation between green jelly beans and acne (by chance alone) was very low. Alfred was looking for a correlation but he wasn't specific about what correlation he was looking for. By chance alone, he was just as likely to find a correlation between blue jelly beans, or red jelly beans, or any of the 17 other colors in the experiment. The fact that this experiment happened to show higher rates with green jelly beans isn't worth very much evidence. Now if Alfred were to use this experiment to form a hypothesis that green jelly beans were correlated with acne and perform another experiment which ALSO showed a relationship between green jelly beans and acne, THEN he would have much stronger evidence.

Jelly beans inspired by XKCD:

Having written this out, I'll offer a simpler example. Charlie and David each have a six sided die. They both think his die is weighted. Charlie says "I think this die will land '6' when I roll it". He rolls the die and it lands '6'. David just rolls the die and it lands '6'. They both now believe that his die will always land '6'. Exact same evidence. Charlie is more justified in his belief that the die is weighted to land '6' because if his die was not weighted, there would only be a 1/6 chance that he would have rolled a '6'. If David's die was not weighted, there would be a 6/6 chance that his die would roll to SOMETHING and generated his belief.

When evaluating the rational evidential impact of the results of an experiment, it is imperative that you take into account what it is that is being tested, and that is something that only exists in the experimenters private thoughts (or notebook or whatnot).

If you have twenty minutes, I would recommend this portion of a Radiolab broadcast about coincidences:


I was introduced to LW by a friend of mine but I will admit I dismissed it fairly quickly as internet philosophy. I came out to a meetup on a recent trip to visit him and I really enjoyed the caliber of people I met there. It has given me reason to come back and be impressed by this community.

I studied Math and a little bit of Philosophy in undergrad. I'm here mostly to learn, and hopefully to meet some interesting people. I enjoy a good discussion and I especially enjoy having someone change my mind but I lose interest quickly when I realize that the other party has too much ego involved to even consider changing his or her mind.

I look forward to learning from you all!