Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Gray comments on Applause Lights - Less Wrong

91 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 September 2007 06:31PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (81)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: Gray 18 March 2011 03:13:26AM *  11 points [-]

Eeek, I think the differences in interpretations are due to the de re / de dicto distinction.

Compare the following translations of the statement "people without political power should not be ignored."

De dicto: "It should not be the case that any person without political power is also a person who is ignored."

De re: "If there is a person without political power, then that person should not be ignored."

If the two predicates in the de re interpretation ("person without political power" and "person who is ignored") are coextensive, and thus equivalent, we should be able to substitute like terms and derive "If there is a person without political power, then that person should not be without political power." Given that I wanted to use the more charitable interpretation, this is the interpretation I should use, and so you're correct :)

But look what happens to the de dicto interpretation when you substitute like terms. It turns into "It should not be the case that a person without political power is a person without political power." This is the sort of thing I was objecting to, to begin with. But it was the wrong interpretation, and thus my error.

(Yeah, I decided to go into an extensive analysis here mainly to refine my logic skills and in case anyone else is interested. Mathematicians, I suppose, would probably not have studied the de re / de dicto distinction; mainly because I don't see much relevance to mathematics.)

Comment author: CuSithBell 18 March 2011 04:03:33AM 0 points [-]

Huh! Thanks for the thorough analysis :) I'd say the most likely intent behind the statement is that people with direct political power should use it for the benefit of those without direct political power - i.e. elected officials and so forth should provide support for minority groups without much voting power. In which case your initial thought that they intended a "de dicto" reading could be right!

Did I tip my hand about being a mathematician by mentioning set theory? ;)