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TheOtherDave comments on Probability is in the Mind - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 March 2008 04:08AM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 May 2013 05:40:48PM 2 points [-]

I agree that if "my stove does not contain X" is a meaningful and accurate thing to say even when X has no extension into the real world at all, then P("my stove does not contain X") >>> P("my stove contains X") for an arbitrarily selected concept X, since most arbitrarily selected concepts have no extension into the real world.

I am not nearly as convinced as you sound that "my stove does not contain X" is a meaningful and accurate thing to say even when X has no extension into the real world at all, but I'm not sure there's anything more to say about that than we've already said.

Also, thinking about it, I suspect I'm overly prone to assuming that X has some extension into the real world when I hear people talking about X.

Comment author: Kawoomba 26 May 2013 12:36:10PM 0 points [-]

I'm glad we found common ground.

I am not nearly as convinced as you sound that "my stove does not contain X" is a meaningful and accurate thing to say even when X has no extension into the real world at all, but I'm not sure there's anything more to say about that than we've already said.

Consider e.g. "There is not a magical garden gnome living under my floor", "I don't emit telepathic brain waves" or "There is no Superman-like alien on our planet", which to me all are meaningful and accurate, even if they all contain concepts which do not (as far as we know) extend into the real world. Can an atheist not meaningfully say that "I don't have a soul"?

If I adopted your point of view (i.e. talking about magical garden gnomes living or not living under my floor makes no (very little) sense either way since they (probably) cannot exist), then my confidence for or against such a proposition would be equal but very low (no 50% in that case either). Except if, as you say, you're assigning a very high degree of belief into "concept extends into the real world" as soon as you hear someone talk about it.

"This is a property which I know nothing about but of which I am certain that it can apply to reality" is the only scenario in which you could argue for a belief of 0.5. It is not the scenario of the original post.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 May 2013 03:47:54PM 1 point [-]

The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes that I'm getting my labels confused with my referents and consequently taking it way too much for granted that anything real is being talked about at all.

"Given that some monitors are bamboozled (and no other knowledge), is my monitor bamboozled?" isn't the same question as "Given that "bamboozled" is a set of phonemes (and no other knowledge), is "my monitor is bamboozled" true?" or even "Given that English speakers sometimes talk about monitors being bamboozled (ibid), is my monitor bamboozled?" and, as you say, neither the original blue-ball case nor the bamboozled-computer case is remotely like the first question.

So, yeah: you're right, I'm wrong. Thanks for your patience.