Panic_Lobster

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Open thread, 16-22 June 2014

So you are saying that the competition wouldn't be any fun if everyone believed that one particular team winning was the only acceptable outcome - it would defeat the purpose of the competition (fun) and devalue it to the point that there would no longer be any difference in utility anyway. That's basically the categorical imperative (if everyone broke their promises, there would be no such thing as promising, so the whole concept breaks down and so the rule makes no sense) Is that what you are getting at?

The problem is that not everyone does believe that Brazil should win. So I don't think we have a good solution for an individual utilitarian reasoner in a world in which most people do not think the same way.

Open thread, 16-22 June 2014

Are utilitarians theoretically obligated to prefer that Brazil win the world cup? Consider: of the 32 participating countries, only the USA has a larger population, but the central place of soccer in Brazilian culture, and their status as hosts mean that they have more at stake in this competition. So total utility would probably be maximized by a Brazil win.

These considerations would seem to make rooting for any other team immoral from a strict utilitarian perspective. This exposes some things I find problematic about utilitarianism. For example, I also have the intuition that it is okay for people to support their own team, even if that teams victory would make hundreds of millions of Brazilians unhappy. If you are a utilitarian player playing against Brazil, are you doing something morally wrong by trying to win? This seems absurd, but I can't see how to escape this conclusion.

AALWA: Ask any LessWronger anything

Why do you believe that there are god-like beings that interact with humans? How confident are you that this is the case?

The best 15 words

Positivism: "Anything that can't be verified is meaningless". This can't be verified. So Positivism is meaningless / false.

Rationality Quotes October 2013

The needs of the many...outweigh...the needs of the few."

-Mr Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Rationality Quotes October 2013

There is also a fair bit of continuity between the two--he retains one of the main theses of his earlier work: that much of our confusion about so called 'philosophical problems' is caused by people abusing language.

Rationality Quotes October 2013

The reason that testability is not enough is that prediction is not, and cannot be, the purpose of science. Consider an audience watching a conjuring trick. The problem facing them has much the same logic as a scientific problem. Although in nature there is no conjurer trying to deceive us intentionally, we can be mystified in both cases for essentially the same reason: appearances are not self-explanatory. If the explanation of a conjuring trick were evident in its appearance, there would be no trick. If the explanations of physical phenomena were evident in their appearance, empiricism would be true and there would be no need for science as we know it. The problem is not to predict the trick's appearance. I may, for instance predict that if a conjurer seems to place various balls under various cups, those cups will later appear to be empty; and I may predict that if the conjurer appears to saw someone in half, that person will later appear on stage unharmed. Those are testable predictions. I may experience many conjuring shows and see my predictions vindicated every time. But that does not even address, let alone solve, the problem of how the trick works. Solving it requires an explanation: a statement of the reality which accounts for the trick's appearance.

David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity

Rationality Quotes October 2013

What makes a mind powerful--indeed, what makes a mind conscious--is not what it is made of, or how big it is, but what it can do. Can it concentrate? Can it be distracted? Can it recall earlier events? Can it keep track of several different things at once? Which features of its own current activities can it notice or monitor? When such questions as these are answered, we will know everything we need to know about those minds in order to answer the morally important questions. These answers will capture everything we want to know about the concept of consciousness, except the idea of whether, as one author has recently said, "the mental lights would be out" in such a creature. But that is just a bad idea--in spite of its popularity. (...) For suppose that we have answered all the other questions about the mind of some creature, and now some philosophers claim that we still don't know the answer to that all-important question, Is the mental light on--yes or no? Why would either answer be important? We are owed an answer to this question, before we need to take their question seriously.

Daniel Dennet, Kinds of Minds

Rationality Quotes October 2013

When philosophers use a word—"knowledge", "being", "object", "I", "proposition", "name"—and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home?—What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use. You say to me: "You understand this expression, don't you? Well then—I am using it in the sense you are familiar with."— As if the sense were an atmosphere accompanying the word, which it carried with it into every kind of application.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations 116-117

October Monthly Bragging Thread

... I really don't think my syntax is that unclear.

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