Situating LessWrong in contemporary philosophy: An interview with Jon Livengood

If you'd like to learn non-backwards-looking philosophy, which is indeed how most philosophy in mainstream American departments is done, then I highly recommend skipping undergraduate courses, which for some weird reason, kinda "talk down" to the students. Instead, I suggest three things:

(1) Just read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Pick a topic you like, such as causation or time or animal ethics, and just read the article or related articles.

(2) Read or skim academic papers or books. Most of them are surprisingly readable, especially the introductory parts. Notwithstanding criticisms of academic writing, I do think that analytic philosophy places unusual emphasis on writing clearly and plainly. (We can thank Russell and Moore for that in large part. Though, Plato wrote beautifully as well.) You can find good ideas for what to read from the Stanford Encyclopedia or track down philosophers whose work you find interesting.

(3) Listen to podcasts. Philosophy Bites's archive is a treasure trove: it has so many important philosophers on and they all have interesting and clear explanations of some central idea. Also check out Matt Teichman's elucidations. And there are a few more I'm forgetting. And then if you find something interesting, track the philosopher down, and read their books or papers. (Unfortunately, blogging by philosophers isn't as active as one might wish; I think this tracks the general reduction in blogging on the Internet.)

You'll learn a lot more this way than through undergraduate classes, which are usually slow and dull. I'm in philosophy grad school, but never took any philosophy undergraduate classes, but I picked up a significant background in philosophy using the 3 techniques above. I'm really happy for that. I love research-level philosophy, but undergraduate classes are too slow for me to sit through.

The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation

You're right: it was probably wrong of me to ask people to only find errors in his reasoning. It is indeed an invitation to fall under the spell of confirmation bias. It would've been better to also ask people to find places where he makes good arguments.

Where I disagree with you is the claim that attacking someone's epistemological method is necessarily the same as attacking the positions they hold. (Though, I agree with you that it might be interpreted that way.) In a different comment, I try to make it clear that my goal was not necessarily to attack particular positions that Adams holds (though I disagree with him on many positions), but to point out the methods that he uses that might be persuasive to some folks, but ought not to be persuasive, because these methods are not truth-seeking.

Adams uses several techniques (listed in the post) that could be used to argue for any position—even one that I wholeheartedly agree with. I suspect that in such a case I might not be quite so enthusiastic to point out the flaws in the reasoning. But as someone trying to be more truth-seeking, I ought to be sensitive to bad argumentation in those cases as well.

Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

Stars become invisible at high altitudes because the Earth becomes very bright compared to the stars. This happens because when you are higher up, you see more of the sunlight reflected by the Earth. This happens because at higher altitudes more of the Earth is visible to you. Thus, your eyes or your cameras cannot distinguish the relatively dim light of the stars. The sky still appears black because there is no atmosphere to make the light scatter and give you feeling of being light outside that you experience on the surface of the Earth. You can see the stars if you are on the night side, you have good cameras, and you set the focal point to the sky.

I'll get to the equinox thing later.

Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

Thanks. You're right. I mis-interpreted their experiment as written. I'll try to read it again to see what's going on and see if it's explicable.

Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

Sure. His arguments look pretty easy to refute using some basic physics and some Google searches. Let me know if you find any other argument of his that you find particularly compelling and I'll take a crack at it.

How long has civilisation been going?

You might want to correct: "And we forget so easily that 50 lifetimes ago we were nothing."

How long has civilisation been going?

Umm... 12000/25 is 480. Not 48. All the other numbers in the discrete human lifetimes section should be multiplied by ten. Not as impressive as you might've thought. Still, kinda impressive I suppose.

Can anyone refute these arguments that we live on the interior of a hollow Earth?

I don't have time to refute each of arguments, because there're too many. But consider number 5 in your list. He describes a laser experiment that he claims cannot be accounted for on the current picture of the Earth. But if you think it through, it is perfectly well accounted for.

Here's the version of the experiment performed by the two Polish guys on a lake. They place two stakes 2km apart. The stakes have lasers attached to them at 30 cm height from the surface of the water. They measure the height above the surface of the point at which the laser beams meet and find it to be 39-40cm above the surface of the water.

Wild Heretic claims, on the basis of this diagram, that on the convex Earth theory (i.e., the widely accepted theory) one should expect the height from the water at the point where the lasers meet to be smaller that the height at which the lasers are mounted. But Wild Heretic's diagram misrepresents the state of affairs. Here is a better representation I drew and associated calculations that I did, which show that the convex Earth theory correctly predicts that the laser beams would meet approximately 38cm above the surface, which is very close to the observed 39-40cm.

EDIT: As dogiv points out below, I mis-interpreted the experiment. So the argument above is not a refutation of the experiment as described.

The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation

A general point: I fear Adams attributes positions and beliefs and intentions to Trump which, from Trump's actions and public statements, are not justifiably attributable to Trump.

The dark arts: Examples from the Harris-Adams conversation

I don't necessarily disagree with all Dark Arts practitioners. By a Dark Arts practitioner, I just mean someone who uses rhetorical techniques to win debate points, without particular regard for the truth. What they're defending may or may not be true.

In the case of Scott Adams, in my view, most of what he is defending is false. But that's a different debate. In this post, I just wanted to highlight the techniques he uses. I try not take a particular position with respect to his claims; I probably don't succeed.

I'm neither a moral relativist nor an epistemological relativist. I suspect you probably reject epistemological relativism—i.e., you probably believe there are statements (e.g., 2+2=4) that are unambiguously true or false.

Not being a moral relativist does not mean I believe there is a giant stone block with the One True Morality on it. Indeed, the existence of such a stone block is a poor account of the nature of morality for the reasons highlighted by Socrates in the Euthyphro. The nature of morality is a contentious issue, and I won't pretend to be an expert. But having heard several arguments, I think moral relativism is untenable, mainly because it's an unlivable thesis. Sometimes you just need to say something is straightforwardly wrong: e.g., if you torture an innocent person for hours to alleviate your boredom. Here is an argument I'm convinced by.

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