All of Q_the_Enchanter's Comments + Replies

The redefinition of folk concepts or archaic philosophical coinages so that they denote things that are real (per our current understanding) is a fun game. 'God exists' is true, for example, if God is (say) the whole of reality. 'We have free will' is true, for example, if free will is reasons-responsiveness. 'The mind exists' is true, for example, if minds are what brains do.

I'm sure 'intentionality' exists too. In some sense.

That was me at July 25, 2008 at 02:15 PM.

I lived in Regensburg, Germany for awhile, in which there is a hunk of stone wall that dates back to just after the time of Christ. If I recall, it wasn't far from a McDonald's.

If life is great and then you die, there's no existential problem: nothing needs to be redeemed.

On the other hand, if life sucks and then you die, the prospect of an omni-delightful life after death might be the only thing to take the edge off. In that case, rationality is a real downer.

Kip Werking says: "[T]here seems to be no principled reason for regarding one [type of moral precept], and not the other, as non-arbitrary. In both cases, the moral content is discovered, and not chosen, one just happens to be discovered in our DNA, and not in a tablet."

Though there's a question whether moral dispositions exist encoded in our DNA that can ground some properly moral norm or set of norms, such dispositions would be far less arbitrary than a norm inscribed on a tablet. These dispositions might be "arbitrary" in the sense t... (read more)

My bête noire in the fictional mistreatment of rationalism is that fictional rationalists refuse to update. The f*ing poltergeist (or whatever) will be wreaking all sorts of plainly observable havock -- objects floating in the air, demons materializing and vanishing before our eyes, people's faces melting off, etc., etc. -- and the "rationalist" will inevitably be standing there with a dumb look on his face, saying something like, "Well, there has to be some natural explanation..." Before he gets killed, of course.

Stupid, stupid minds!

I don't believe I even understand myself.* So it's no wonder I don't really understand others (those of the opposite gender in particular).

*The irony being that it probably takes an unusual degree of self-understanding to understand this.

Eliezer, on your construal of free will, what content is added to "I chose to phi" by the qualification "of my own free will"?

If "moral responsibility" is just moral response-ability, then sure, no problem. But I'd be careful to distinguish that sense of the term from the more common notion of moral responsibility as being morally praise- or blameworthy.

"Having established that there is no such thing as a free will, the practical thing to do is to go on and pretend there was."

The thing to do is go on and ignore the question altogether. When I deliberate, I'm not wracked with anxiety about whether I have Free Will. I just go about deliberating. "I deliberate" means I deliberate -- whatever else that means; thinking about the else won't make me a more effective deliberator.

"Because there are many levels of organization that separate our models of our thoughts - our emotions, our beliefs, our agonizing indecisions, and our final choices - from our models of electrons and quarks."

That's really elegant. Very nice.

What you describe as "requiredism" is pretty much the sort of "compatibilism" espoused by Dennett (among many others -- I'd say the idea traces back to Locke). In any case, I'd agree that a different word for this idea would be useful, one that connotes the rejection of the useless, loaded concept of free will. 'Requiredism' is kind of ugly, though. How about 'conationism'? 'Conative realism'?

Then again, there are some topics that seem to turn even the most brilliant minds to mush. (These seems to be the same topics for which, incidentally, there could be no epistemically relevant "authority.") Hence, your disagreement with Aumann out-of-hand, for instance.

Thus I'd think some kind of topic-sensitivity is lurking in your rule as well.

Tanasije, you said "Quinean empiricism," not empiricism simpliciter. Quine was at least epistemologically physicalist (to whatever degree physicalism can be so restricted), so I thought adding realism made the point cleanly enough.

Anyway, I'm arguing that the reason successful, productive scientists presume "the world can in some measure be described and understood" is that they presuppose a rough-and-ready physicalism with regard to the phenomenon they study. (As I see it, the lack of any scientifically productive appeal to "intri... (read more)

"[Physicalism] is just yet another metaphysical position."

I don't think that's correct. Scientists presuppose naturalism when they study a phenomenon. For historical reasons, a special word has been coined for the standard presupposition when it is applied in the context of consciousness. That word is 'physicalism.' In this sense, physicalism is merely a sound methodological induction (as is the subsidiary induction that methodological naturalism tells us something about the likely ontological constitution of the world).

Alternatively, 'physicalis... (read more)

Best exchange:

GENERAL FRED: Are you sure?

SCIENTIST: As sure as we can be in the total absence of evidence.Brutal.

Tanasije Gjorgoski, I don't quite understand the argument. Science doesn't "a priori deduce facts." It generates and tests explanatory structures that purport to account for observed regularities. Physicalism (ontological naturalism) isn't an a priori theory of scientific methodology; it's an induction from the success of the scientific project. (Science generally proceeds within a physicalist framework because physicalism has worked... (read more)

Sorry, that last comment was mine; didn't want to leave it unsigned.

Right. It's one thing to send up the inanity of the Jesus myth. But it's quite another to cast Mary as sexually liberated. Eliezer, how dare you!