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David_J._Balan comments on Applause Lights - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: David_J._Balan 11 September 2007 06:53:06PM 3 points [-]

The democracy booster probably meant that people with little political power should not be ignored. And that's not an empty statement; people with little political power are ignored all the time.

Comment author: Gray 15 March 2011 07:54:44PM 6 points [-]

Actually, that seems to be an extremely empty statement. "Having little political power" seems to imply, and is implied by, "being ignored". I wouldn't doubt that the two predicates are coextensive. Since people with little political power are, by definition, ignored; saying that people with little political power should not be ignored makes as much sense as saying that squares should be circular.

But maybe I'm not being very charitable here. You can make the shape that was once square more circular, only as long as you note that the shape isn't a square anymore. Similarly, people with little political power can, over time, gain more political power, which is a positive thing. But even if everyone has an equal amount of political power, the proposition that "people with little political power are ignored" would still be true, even if the predicates contain the null set.

Comment author: CuSithBell 15 March 2011 08:16:13PM *  4 points [-]

I disagree.

Even if your interpretation of these terms were accurate, "the elements of this set should (in the future) not be elements of this set" isn't an empty statement.

Second, a benevolent dictator (or, say, an FAI) could certainly advance the interests of a group with absolutely no say in what said dictator does.

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? ;)