Perversely, a Level Playing Field is the Problem

On a level playing field where no-one is dogmatic about what is “appropriate” – but chooses what is appropriate from available tools & methods sounds like a healthy state of affairs, no? Free and democratic, what’s not to like?

But what if some tools & methods – and worldviews – have advantages that have nothing to do with their appropriateness?

This is the root of my 20 year agenda here, from before tech (ITC – information and communications technology) became as ubiquitous as it has, though the urgency has always been because the rise in both tech and the problem have been equally predictable. That’s the “I told you so” dealt with. What about the problem.

In that time the problem has escalated from being simply a threat to good order in technical circles, in business cost-benefit analyses and the like, to being a threat to the whole of free democratic society. I used to think I might be exaggerating until Jamie Bartlett came along ringing the same alarm bell. In fact as recently as my previous post, I tagged Jamie in to a longer-running dialogue about moderating the “pace” of social media dialogue. As well as this his succinct Medium blog post “The War Between Technology & Democracy” his most recent book has the similar but slightly longer title: “The People Vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and how We Save It)” (And I’ve still not read it!)

The specific (part of the) problem today arose from a Twitter exchange. This tweet from Jamie and the thread of dialogue below it:

Including this:

The problem is as old as philosophy, effectively the choice between (objective) facts vs (subjective) values. The objective side can be cast any number of ways from logical positivism to greedy objective reductionism – or plain “scientism” in my word of choice. The subjective or qualitative ethical (“what’s best?”) side varies enormously in expression, all taking the focus away from objective measurable outcomes – even those weighted with fuzzy risk factors – towards qualities of people and processes. Deontological in the sense of not driven by the existence of objective outcomes but by harder-to-grasp and harder-to-ground qualities or virtues and the like.

As I say none of this is new, and even here I must have hundreds of posts on the topic, the point is why this philosophical issue is so problematic in our times of ubiquitous tech.

It’s very simple – in my tweeted response above – this entirely objective vs at least partly subjective choice is about one being much easier than the other. Easier to define, easy to model, easy to … program, easier even when that programming involves communication-algorithms, data-gathering and machine-learning. The less clearly defined subjective stuff is almost a non-starter for programmable models, unless it is modelled using objective analogues for the real (subjective) thing.

For short:
Objective = easy.
Subjective = hard.

So then the competition for the communication of ideas takes over.

Memetics is a word I’m happy to use for it, many are not, but it’s just a word. Whatever the word, and whatever the content of the ideas, decisions, justifications, it’s the easy stuff – the easy to grasp, the easy to fit, the easier to use, the easier to communicate – that has a distinct advantage. All other things being equal, on a level playing field – it’s only natural – that the objective stuff of utilitarian philosophy wins out. Automation by algorithms – without qualitative moderators – simply reinforces that natural process.

The naturalistic fallacy accepts that natural is necessarily good. It’s not.

“A level playing” field is part of the problem, reducing a complex field to a single easy to visualise variable. “It’s complicated” always loses out to a simple justification.

The Problem is the Unmoderated Pace of Social Media

There are lots of problems with social media, blamed for so much fake news and the like, undermining everyday politics one way or another.

I’ve been warning about parts of the problem for almost two decades, as a memetic phenomenon, and in the last couple of years – aside from the explicitly political commentaries – even the execs and ex-execs of the various social media companies have been bemoaning the monster they had unwittingly unleashed – previously: Ripping Society Apart“.

As I say, there are many ways of slicing and dicing the problem, and things like the anonymity vs the humanity of our sources is one dimension, but I believe the one factor that is the multiplier of all others is its pace. The speed and ubiquity of communication. Rather than caring about the humanity of content there is a kind of instant gratification in the recognition and interaction.

This is a clear example of the former with a quote directly about the latter:

It bears repeating – it’s the dopamine buzz:

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we [at Facebook] have created are destroying how society works—no civil discourse, no coöperation, misinformation, mistruth”

As I keep saying, this loop is pure memetics. Stuff that is “catchy” spreads faster and wider than stuff that is “good”. This is why. Being exceptional / reactionary or ironic / funny at the expense of established wisdom becomes received wisdom because it’s less boring. Boring is the opposite of dopamine. Inhuman – uncivil – extremes always win.

In order to care about the humanity and reality of a communication beyond the buzz – it is necessary to pause, check and ignore if it looks inhuman, as I try to do with anything suspiciously anonymous or bot-like. But that pause is boring compared to the buzz available.

I’ve written on moderation before, and it sounds like restricting freedoms of communication, but we really have to dampen down the buzz, moderate the pace. Avoid short-termism writ large. You can say anything you like, so long as you   s  a  y   i  t    s  l  o  w  l  y   and in moderation.

Lots of other good stuff in the New Yorker piece on Zuckerberg.

[Post Note: Great piece also from Jamie Bartlett
– still not actually got his book, but must do –
here on his Medium blog:
The war between technology & democracy

Myles Better

Myles Power is an “internet nerd” with a real job.

By day (or night, depending on his shifts) he’s a chemist working in an industrial lab (taking money from big business – yeah, he knows). In his spare time his podcast battles conspiracy theories on all fronts with the best research and analysis he can dig up.

Me, I often think too much effort spent debunking conspiracy theories is part of their perverse attraction. The memetic effect that helps spread them. But hey someone has to notice and point out that they are politically motivated conspiracies in the first place, so it’s better the debunking is done carefully and thoroughly.

By way of a change his latest podcast is short (<5 min) piece – sponsored by Merck’s 350th anniversary – about acting on curiosity based on vaguely noticing “something’s not quite right”. Even when a scientist’s job is explicitly directed research, it’s these anomalous moments that provide the greatest inspiration towards a new solution or development. Notice these moments and “stay curious” is his message.

Rang bells with me for two reasons.  Not least because my own epistemological trajectory started with exactly that “hang on, how can that be” feeling in a mundane industrial business context. (I’ve written about that most recently here, referring to this thought journey.)

More importantly, this whole drive to solve anomalies is very much the fundamental “meaning of life” – effectively what it means to be human, as Myles points out. Whether this is seen as the peak of Maslow’s “self-actualising” motivations, or Deutsch’s universal constructor theory – humans as highly evolved problem solvers, after Popper. It looks like “curiosity” but it is a drive to compress knowledge – to make anomalies fit in a broader understanding with greater explanatory reach.

To know more for less. An evolutionary drive for efficiency and effectiveness. Curiouser and curiouser.


[Post Note: An even better fit:

The David Deutsch post linked above, referring to constructor theory, also refers to his belief that “creativity kills innovation”. Obviously depends on what you mean by these two similar terms, but the point is clear here. Trying new stuff for its own sake is counter-productive. The real value is in anomalies as exceptions to the otherwise familiar. My usual “we need conservatism” mantra that progressive evolution requires fecundity and fidelity as well as mutation. The new makes no sense – has no meaning – without the context of the established.]

Street Epistemology Update

Dave Harding posted on a recent Magnabasco filmed SE session. (Update in the sense that I posted on these earlier examples 3 years or so ago.) These are rough notes in preparation for a dialogue.

SE = Street Epistemology
SM = Socratic (Questioning) Methodology

Interesting that David concludes this subject actually questions him back, as I noted too. Anyway, my rough notes:

Selective – one young passer by, who happened to chose “the God of Israel as the one true God” as a confident belief. Selection is no coincidence. (And this is a very naive subject – by definition – still in school and too busy for interaction with any wider ideas, on her own admission later.)

Where she is right now is because of her Christian church upbringing. Aware of this late middle / early high school. I want to follow what’s true. Looking for truth. Needs a firm foundation. (Seeking notice, not justifying that it is or even saying what it is.)

(Still not said what is believed or any reasoning why – just the wish / seeking.) Just claiming 100% belief, but recognise even that leaves her with questions to wrestle with. Confidence nevertheless remains 100%. (That’s what I’d call faith. Proceeding “as if” true, despite open mind to modification – metaphorically true in Peterson/Harris terms)

(Ought to be prompting some questions of what 100% belief means – given still questions. Switches to opposite, though, non-belief?)

Actual truth is independent of her confidence. Check. Confidence in belief doesn’t discount the possibility of being false. (ie she doesn’t doubt this false possibility, even though she doesn’t doubt this belief. Not willing to lower her confidence, even though open to doubt. Mentions “proofs” – so we need to ask. (We already have “faith” on the table, but now we have “proof” – problematic I’d say – but she introduced the term, guessing that’s what Anthony meant by justification / reasons I’d say.)

Main proof. It’s about changing you – whatever religion it is. (OK. I don’t hear any proof?) The personal experience of change. (She – and Anthony – should be exploring the nature of that “experience” and change?)

(Switch straight to alternate case of someone else’s experience of a different religion? Her example too close, he suggests Hindu Vishnu hypothetical?)

Main, but not sole “proof”. Faith? How is that different to maintaining 100% confidence despite acknowledging the risk of falsehood.

Not necessary to know everything, so why drop level of confidence on incomplete proof.

(Actually think the problem here is limits in the skill of the facilitator / questioner.)

Recalling “drills” of what she’s been taught – but yes, she is saying faith and belief are synonymous (my point earlier) hence his questioning is not actually analysing (separating) anything.

Accepting evidence exists on trust, without first hand experience of it.

Circled a bunch. Yes, not actually settled on much.

Objective – truth. Questions are best method for test whether is belief is true – no argument. The analytical part, but is not the creative / constructive seeking part?

There is a season. More questions, always. Leave to think about.

(Yes she would be good at the SE method. And yes she will probably continue to be thoughtful in her beliefs)

This was a pretty benign encounter – thoughtfully increasing thoughtfulness. Still see basic limitations to SM / SE process to naive questioning side.

(His one-sided post-summary of her “honesty” …. hmmm.
See steelmanning by contrast.)

Overall, however, much better than the bad-faith examples I’d reviewed before.

David naturally links his own conclusion to the MoQ.

Encouraging intellectual thought like this is moral
according to the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ).

Sure is moral, though should not be encouraged to the exclusion of intuition and action. And, that’s true according to many a perennial philosophy, including Pirsig’s MoQ.

And if the objective is simply to get someone to start their own internal conversation with questioning – it’s all good. In this specific example, the line of questions seemed a little “random” – switches of subject at points when obvious sequential questions had arisen – still encourages questioning, but maybe less “productive” as time-limited discourse. Leaves me with two fears. One, no evidence that the Q&A changed Anthony’s thinking anywhere? Two, as well as “thinking” she clearly took away some “assumptions” about what she thought she was getting from Anthony – that were probably mis-leading guesses – dialogue really needs to happen over extended multiple human encounters. (Need some Rappaport / Steelman cycles in there.)

But as I say to “initiate” thinking – all good. Epistemology 101. (ie This is primarily about testing epistemology rather than creation or synthesis of the causal taxonomies / ontologies required or implied. Anthony implied several times the “basket” of reasons would have some logical / causal hierarchies / and dependency networks / heterarchies – so I know he understands this. Even in a 45 minute engaged and lively encounter, the only real “content” achieved is the questioning thought.)

Reason and the Gods

The content and quality is somewhat undersold by the title but this session from IAI HTLGI (not sure which year?) has some fascinating examples of the key dialogues.

Titled “Reason and the Gods”
Subtitled “The necessity of religion and spirituality”

Gottlieb ultimately falling back on – “but what do we mean by religion” – when asked to address some specific assertion about the inevitability and need for religion, by Baggini in the chair. Need to (at least implicitly) classify an ontology as part of the question. Sure, wide / shallow definitions – land-grabs – always kill the dialogue, but in good faith the parts and layers present or absent need to be addressed separately. There are a whole range of “religious” components – and on many dimensions too, from:

  • The spiritual feel of more than the objectified individual in a material world
  • Meaning of life in the good(s) lived for – Maslow and all that.
  • Theistic and non-theistic framework and physical/literal and metaphorical and/or ritual conceptions of these.
  • Dogma and denial or intolerance of alternatives and formal authority of texts and priests and organised ritual, etc.
  • We’re talking about some or all of these (and maybe some more independent aspects I’ve missed) when we talk about religious belief, and whether or not we need a comprehensive religion to satisfy the need for any one part (if at all).

Woodhead – voices a counterbalance to the “all you need is love” and golden-rule consideration idea, that is, you also need truth and courage etc. There’s a word for this amorphous collection of personal good – Virtue (after virtues).

Anyway, the main reason for posting was the people.

  • Julian Baggini I already know and like (much referenced here). In this dialogue Baggini is chair and handles it well, with his knowledgable ability to summarise and ask the next question.
  • Anthony Gottlieb I’ve never seen or heard speak, but was a big fan of his two books “The Dream of Reason” and “The Dream of Enlightenment” (Both of which I saw as supplemented – even completed – by Kenan Malik’s “Moral Compass” – which is relevant topic-wise though he’s not part of this dialogue.) Gottlieb, as my one comment above suggests, is cast as the anti-religious atheist / rationalist / humanist role in this dialogue, so I suspect doesn’t do justice to the nuances of his real position.
  • Linda Woodhead I’m aware of but not previously registered any of her contributions explicitly. Came across as an excellent considered defender of the place of religion, with all the subtleties in the detail. Must follow-up.
  • Myriam François I’d not come across at all before. She was a breath of fresh air. Proper assured dialogue in the role of SOAS Islamist / Journalist in this archetypically God vs Reason caricature. Must follow-up.

Zionist Set-up of Israel was Racist – Obviously.

The Zionist set-up of Israel was historically – obviously – racist. By definition, a lot of “Western Empire” activities were. And equally obviously modern-day Israel is a state that needs holding to critical account for its actions like any other.


But this is not what the Labour party anti-semitism arguments are about.

It’s about truth AND reconciliation. Freedom to state (historical) truth is one thing. Appropriateness of when and where to say it is another.  Reducing the multi-layered / multi-timescale complexity – conflating many issues – into a single present-tense sound-bite / poster-slogan is a disgusting move.

Freedom of thought and expression is enshrined in UN. Reminding and assuring people that still exists (generally) in one set of (specific) rules on anti-semitism and holocaust denial is a distraction. A dangerous, divisive, diabolically-motivated distraction.

Rules are for guidance of the wise. It is plain wrong – dangerously misleading – to refine rules to cover every conceivable situation, every exception, every counter-exclusion. Formal rules should focus on their point.

There, I said it.

Literally Physical

I’m in the process of watching and listening to the three four recent Sam Harris / Jordan Peterson conversations.

[So far I’ve only watched the odd clipnow watched and annotated below, the whole of Parts 1 and 2. First one and first half of the second are excellent – second one degenerates into spurious assertions too complex to be properly discussed, despite brave efforts of Bret Weinstein.]

[Also, although I’d already captured the links from Peterson and Harris, the prompt to start this thread and actually watching them, was a tweet by Godless Spellchecker that shared one small clip – from late in Part 1 it turns out. I wish I hadn’t. Sadly that is just a religion-bashing-with-zero-attempt-at-understanding sound-bite. The conversation and Harris are much better than that. Utterly unrepresentative clip for a private agenda.]

Anyway, before I do, I’m prompted to post my starting position, as I often do, in order to keep myself honest on any eventual opinion.

Harris I have problems with – as one of the four horsemen, he is one face of “new atheism” that appeals to many of the objectively reductionist  types. Even though I question his credentials for the positions he holds, he is a good writer though, and through his many recent “conversations” what he is missing, with that “scientistic” position when it comes to facts and evidence, is becoming more apparent. Dennett gave up trying to educate him, but eventually they made up and parted friends. Some other recent conversations I saw him as “chastened” by what he didn’t understand, a sure sign that he may be starting to appreciate what that is.

Peterson is controversial – polemical by design – but is nevertheless an interesting thinker. More to the point he sees the value of actual conversation over and above any logical argument content of such dialogue. It’s a feature of the IDW (Intellectual Dark Web) he inhabits in dialogue with other controversial thinkers, when not in the blinding spotlight of publicity (BSP) he clearly also seeks. For me that irony is his point.

Stephen Knight is one of the post-new-atheist on-line personalities with his Godless Spellchecker podcasts of interviews debunking supernatural religious myths – and related cultural evils – as he would see it. Good luck to him I say. Me too. But, like Harris he has the same initial blind spot to his own thinking. Seeing all argument, and even conversational dialogue, in terms of physical evidence for physical facts.

He repeatedly emphasised “literal” in pointing out JBP’s difficulty answering SH’s question about a “physical” resurrection. In fact when challenged he insisted it was obfuscation (by me too) not to accept literal as synonymous with physical.

Quite simply, any talk of “god” and supernatural “miracles” is a branch of philosophy called theology, no matter how much a physical scientist qualifies his question with “literally”. The irony is that literally is literally about words, and the scientistic fallacy is to conflate the word with the object represented. To reify it in the physical world. Anyway, time I watched the Harris / Peterson dialogues. Back soon.

[Post Note after Parts 1 & 2 – why would anyone (Godless Spellchecker) pick up on that one “SH has a go at JBP” snippet from near the end of Part 1? The whole dialogue is EXCELLENT. Very bad faith by Godless Spellchecker.]


Maybe not that soon!
(4 x 2 hours of material?)
Part 1

Excellent. JBP starts with what I call Rappaport’s Rule, after Dennett (JBP refers to psychologist Karl Rogers) … the only way to start progress.

So, JBP on SH – Structuring ethics on something solid – avoiding two catastrophes, religious dogmatism and moral relativism. Yep says SH.

And, objective to minimise suffering / maximise well-being (kinda) Yep. (Classic Utilitarianism, though SH disowns the ism later.)

And yep, dogmatic fundamentalism of any kind, not just religious. (But not all dogmas are created equal? Sure. Cults resemble religion even if not strictly religious or theistic.) THE PROBLEM IS DOGMA – agreement reinforced. [Science is at risk of dogma as any religion.]

Hence primacy of “freedoms of thought and expression” – the antidote to dogma – enshrined in UN. Everything is in the details.

The only thing wrong with religion is dogma – this is not a joke. (Man, SH is setting-up some straw-man, JBP hauls this one back into the dialogue.) Anyway, joke aside, dogma is the problem. True belief has to be more than  cultural or religious heritage. (Chimps example – inherited culture deeper than religion and politics. [Sticklebacks, I’d add, too.])

Good people corrupted by religion – ISIS recruit example? Hmmm. Lot of “ifs” in the elaboration. Unpicked by JBP. Conflated claims of truth and understanding. Non-allegorical unambiguous (bad) content of Quran … sure. Pretext or veracity. Not sure where we’re headed here. Who’s arguing?

SH cracking jokes to score points? Still not sure who’s arguing – 14th century religious values and practice are dismantled by rationality, etc. And obviously old text could be better if written differently – this is the Irish argument. “I wouldn’t start from there.” Fine! [Dreadful partisan audience! Both ways!]

Whole (narrative) vs parts (sentences). However bad the parts, the whole provides context. OT is brutal. Harris is obsessed by “the text” – Christian, Jewish or Islamic. Psychological truths “in the rubble” not in all parts.

Straw-man! End of the book is not excusing the categorically bad.

Psychological truths is JBP’s thrust (unsurprisingly). Infinite interpretation of ANY narrative, including the would-be objectively factual one.

Fundamentalism beats subtle theology – sure – that’s memetics. We agree it’s dangerous. Things need “grounding” even where not cast in dogma.

Back to grounding values in (objective) truth. The old “is to ought” chestnut, without some interpretive framework? Not best captured by stories? No SH. No-one’s saying we lose grip on objective reality, it’s simply saying that’s not the same as moral value.

Abstractions are fictions, powerful and useful. (Why not extend good/bad parables to heaven and hell?) Aha – literal and metaphorical truth, we’ve arrived. (Bogging down, suggests Weinstein.)

No JBP’s not playing devil’s advocate – he agrees with you that hell is bad – he is simply saying that’s not an objective truth. An intuition that is (typically) captured in stories – even hypotheticals written by SH.

Yay! Evolutionary Heuristics! – in lieu of impractical objective calculation – to enable us to function in the world. (Again vague / multiple interpretation loses out to clear literal dogma – in a bad way, sure.) Memetic advantage says SH, as I already said above? Instrumental evolutionary advantage summarises Weinstein.

(The asymmetric memetic war is the real issue – my agenda. We know dogma is the problem, yet we allow simplistic memes to mislead our discourse.)

And we end on Dostoevsky!

Kinda Q&A – Weinstein by popular audience demand.

[?JBP wrote Maps of Meaning before E O Wilson coined consilience?]

[Different belief patterns in different cultural contexts. No self-consistency of belief patterns – Godel & Logical Utilitarianism! TIG Dissertation?]

[SH is now into straw-men – arguing against suggestions of moral relativism, even though they have been explicitly discarded.]

Own it! What game? Don’t understand, me too. Ah, now we’re getting the “literal” reincarnation question. Obvious why there is no clear cut answer. – He doesn’t even literally (physically) believe in god, as he has said several times. Weinstein understands this is a long topic. We’re down to “the word” and “literal” again … it’s complicated, how long have we got [2hrs later].

[The whole dialogue is about metaphysical / theological relations to physical science – absolutely right to hang onto that despite insistence on a physically -literally – phrased question.]

Part 2

Steelmanning (opposite of strawman – ie Rappaport again, see Part 1) Restating position of each as seen by the other, better than the other.

Both pretty good. The POINT of this kind of dialogue. SH gag – “you write my next book, I’ll write yours” – is the key point.

Focus is metaphorical vs “literal” truth. Except they stick to the sacrifice / deferred-gratification angle. The “metaphorical” angle is simply the “as if” behaviour, even where not literally true. Fiction is more useful than fact “sometimes” but relatively few and far between says SH. Emotional – irrational – attachment to gun safety – low-cost / high-risk-consequence. JBP strong on many “fictional” stories derived from – evolved from – empirical experience. Not “invented” a priori. Obviously.

SH position, says Weinstein, Why would anyone NOT unpack the literal truth of these “as if” truths? [This is so much better than “trolleyology”!]

Pascal’s wager – unattributed – by SH.

Rational (“cash”) based approach will always beat a traditional religious based approach. Sure. That’s about allowing reason to question (and change) dogma – but the conservatism has value in resisting stupid and dangerous – less than perfectly informed – new ideas. Where is there anything remotely contentious here? What is stupid is to throw conservative tradition out with the bathwater.

We’ve already agreed literal dogma is the problem. But “facts” need to include subjectivity. Value of a thing is not intrinsic to the assembly of its component parts. Jeez, the hypothetical statement that emotional (subjective) value is in detectable brain states. This just the crazy reductionist problem. Reflected in the brain(s) sure, but not deterministically (objectively reductionist) related. Objectifying the subjective – obviously – that is the problem, presuming only the objectifiable components of the subjective have value. SH getting too dismissive here. This is just a practical vs theoretical argument. In an ideal world we would aim to use the most objective rational resources to make our decisions – but life’s too short to exclude timely available traditional and subjective resources that have not yet been objectified (may never be).

This second half is more adversarial. SH is using spurious strawmen metaphorical arguments – this is falling apart. Pretending to care. No-one really lives their life the 100% rational way. Weinstein spots we have passed through the core here. Can anything sufficiently complicated – the mid-east problem – really be grounded in one person’s (or an impersonal no-personal)  rationality. A blank sheet of paper without the context and history of populations?

Naturalistic fallacy – natural selection isn’t naturally good. Absolutely – just look at memes, where popular = “best” by definition. [Not all evolution – biological and/or cultural – is progress. Coincidentally I’m currently reading JBS Haldane “Possible Worlds” collection and he makes this warning in “Darwin Today” back in the 1920’s. Very enlightening.]

Valuing “all” the variables – no we don’t, we encapsulate many sets of them in handy metaphorical, goods – heuristics – in real time. I agree this is the crux.

Jeez! – more trolleyology – orphaning my child for the life of another. This is not moral philosophy SH! It’s not. Such extreme, binary examples that prove this is NOT how real everyday moral choice works (like Schrodinger’s cat). A though experiment that illustrates the absurdity. SH is just not a credible moral philosopher.

Explanatory reasoning reach – SH get’s this – but it’s not exclusive. Reason (conscious, conceptual cognition) or die. More spurious strawmen – Batman and superheroes. Jeez SH. Good faith has left the building. Back to Weinstein.

Believing in the power of stories without believing what we shouldn’t believe? Sorry SH, you’ve lost your grounding. But intuitions ARE statements of faith – even local / temporary / tentative ones. (Not “dogmatic” faith, sure, we’ve already rejected those.)

SH on real AI now.

Weinstein summation of JBP “Some large fraction of [tradition] must be honoured.” Yep, agreed. (Divided brain … excellent. Good vs evil on a lansdcape of order and chaos.) (Spurious “eastern” noddy argument – sure there is a spectrum of evil and ignorance – who’s arguing. The Whitman brain-tumour defence. These are very complex arguments – SH unsuccessfully argued these with Dennett earlier.)

Good people ruled by bad ideas? – are evil people. People ARE their ideas – a very complex network of them. Back to free-will and “could have done otherwise”?

Universal good and evil – in a “right mind”. Categories don’t exist. We have the whole world on the table now – no chance of new progress.

“Well being” is good and we should ground our values in fact. Who’s arguing? All we’re acknowledging is that we have [useful] values that are NOT (yet, maybe never) grounded causally in such objective fact.

Integrative long-term evolved (subjective) value networks. Tools – rationality – are valued here and now.

Yep, good reasons don’t scale, bad reasons do in fact. Contrary to SH earlier claim. (Every gun is loaded. Valuable if not true.) Basic memetic argument – popular beats good.

I’m done. Not hearing anything new beyond my starting position.

(Need to read JBP’s posts about these dialogues:)

Facts and Values/Science and Religion: Notes on the Sam Harris Discussions (Part I)

[Post Note: Seems a fair summary to be, including the “steelmanning” of SH’s position and responses pretty much aligned with my take above. As I’ve said several times above – who’s arguing?]


Facts from Values? Not without an intermediary: Notes on the Sam Harris Discussions (Part II)

[Post Note: Also seems OK, but this is a deeper comparative review of the two positions beyond the 5 hours of dialogue, based on their two books. Maps of Meaning and The Moral Landscape. Neither of which I’ve read yet. I can’t buy and read books fast enough these days. Gonna have to start using the library(ies) more for research. Anyway, all looks credible, but can’t verify against the book contents.]

On facts, values, rationality and stories: Part III of Response to Harris

[And Part III of JBP’s response is effectively a chapter taken from his “Maps of Meaning” on Stories as the mediation between Facts and Values.]


Schrödinger – What is Life? / Mind and Matter

Working my way through a number of perennial philosophy references provided by Bruce Adam, initially in response to my After the Fireworks” Pirsig piece, and some subsequent posts. In fact I already collected most of the links in the “Perennialism” post.

I have the Clifford and J S Haldane materials ready to read.

Bruce also provided links to some on-line archive copies of Schrödinger – “What is Life?” and  “Mind & Matter“. I’d already read, liked and blogged reviews of these way back in 2004.

Out of curiosity I opened my copy of Schrödinger. The specific pages Bruce referenced – with Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy” were heavily annotated by me at the time:

The final note to the Epilogue of “What is Life?“:

And later in “Mind & Matter“:

That Schrödinger quote on Huxley: “fit to explain, but difficult to grasp and liable to meet with opposition” – same problem I was having with “meta” in my previous post. Same problem dealing with anything tainted with “woo”.

Quick skim also reminds me of Schrödinger’s references to Spinoza and to some of the same Sanskrit / Upanishad terms and concepts picked-up on by Pirsig. What goes around comes around. I mused on that in my 2004 comments too.

[PS – One of the most irritating things about the man’s damn cat, is that so many people quote it without realising it was only ever a thought experiment intended to show how ludicrous the theory was around uncertainty and superposition, NOT as a means to visualise a physical possibility AND by concentrating on this trivial, social-media-friendly-cuddly-cat erroneous item, the quality of the man’s actual thought and writing is practically consigned to oblivion. Grrrr.

That was one thing Stephen Hawking got right, “When I hear of Schrödinger’s  cat I reach for my gun.“]

[Post Note: And ha, apparently it is 75 years since Schrödinger gave the What is Life Lecture:

And this image sums up the regretful state of his damn cat. If only!]