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g comments on The Meditation on Curiosity - Less Wrong

36 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 October 2007 12:26AM

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Comment author: g 06 October 2007 11:37:27AM 1 point [-]

An OB post from November 2006 is a useful counterpoint to van Inwagen's paper, and there's been other discussion of van Inwagen's claims, generally in the context of the Aumann agreement theorem.

I think van Inwagen is wrong; if he really considers that David Lewis's disagreement with his position has enough evidential force that his continued holding of it is ill-supported by the evidence, then he *should* stop holding it.

van Inwagen doesn't really argue against this; he just says that it seems obvious to him that he's entitled to hold whatever opinions he finds himself holding, with whatever confidence he finds himself attaching to them. And in one sense he certainly is entitled to; he is also entitled to believe that the government of the USA has been taken over in secret by alien lizard-creatures. But he isn't entitled to do that and still be thoroughly rational.

Well, van Inwagen does offer one pseudo-argument: he "doesn't want to be forced" to adopt a position of "general philosophical skepticism", which he thinks accepting Clifford's rule of evidence would commit him to. Well, OK, but it seems a bit poor for a philosopher to be so openly embracing wishful thinking. I don't want to be a philosophical skeptic, and neither do other philosophers; therefore philosophical skepticism must be rejected (bah!); therefore Clifford's rule of evidence must be rejected.

Someone with more intellectual self-respect would say not "I must have some mysterious incommunicable philosophical insight unavailable to Lewis" but "I think Lewis is missing these specific points, and here is why he is wrong in what he's said about them".

I have a dark suspicion that deep down, van Inwagen is a general philosophical skeptic (after all, he's said that adopting a policy of basing one's beliefs on the evidence would lead to that position), but he finds it more congenial to go on making confident assertions on the basis of insufficient evidence.