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Comment author: lifelonglearner 09 April 2017 03:36:39PM 0 points [-]

Hello, I'm the kid.

I think the quote is taken out of context:

To be clear, I don't actually think that socialism is a good solution (I didn't list it as an actually feasible solution), and it was meant to be humorous.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 April 2017 01:45:15AM *  1 point [-]

Sorry. I've been reading English literary journals and lit theory books for the past year, and the default assumption is always that the reader is a Marxist.

In response to Belief in Belief
Comment author: PhilGoetz 13 April 2017 01:32:49AM *  0 points [-]

The rationalist virtue of empiricism...

I'm not disagreeing with any of the content above, but a note about terminology--

LessWrong keeps using the word "rationalism" to mean something like "reason" or possibly even "scientific methodology". In philosophy, however, "rationalism" is not allied to "empiricism", but diametrically opposed to it. What we call science was a gradual development, over a few centuries, of methodologies that harnessed the powers both of rationalism and empiricism, which had previously been thought to be incompatible.

But if you talk to a modernist or post-modernist today, when they use the term "rational", they mean old-school Greek, Platonic-Aristotelian rationalism. They, like us, think so much in this old Greek way that they may use the term "reason" when they mean "Aristotelian logic". All post-modernism is based on the assumption that scientific methodology is essentially the combination of Platonic essences, Aristotelian physics, and Aristotelian logic, which is rationalism. They are completely ignorant of what science is and how it works. But this is partly our fault, because they hear us talking about science and using the term "rationality" as if science were rationalism!

(Inb4 somebody says Plato was a rationalist and Aristotle was an empiricist: Really, really not. Aristotle couldn't measure things, and very likely couldn't do arithmetic. In any case the most important Aristotelian writings to post-modernists are the Physics, which aren't empirical in the slightest. No time to go into it here, though.)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 09 April 2017 05:01:09PM 0 points [-]

(The environment does not need to learn virtue; therefore it was created perfect.)

If you think you are giving Aquinas's views there, you are mistaken. He says that the opinion that the environment was created imperfect and gradually perfected is "better and more theological" than the opinion that it was created perfect.

He also gives a reason for this to happen, namely that by coming to be gradually, the world can participate in causing its own perfection.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 11:55:00PM *  0 points [-]

I was unfairly inserting in the parentheses my own presumption about why Christians saw the world as having been created perfect. The passage I was talking about from Aquinas did not talk about perfection of the environment.

I'd like to see what Aquinas did say. Have you got a citation? I'm pretty sure that the notion that the world was created imperfect has never been tolerated by the Catholic Church. Asserting that creation was imperfect might even be condemned as Manicheeism. Opinions vary on what happened after the Fall, but I find it unlikely that Aquinas could have said God's original creation was imperfect. (If he did, he was probably copying Aristotle, and making some fine definitional distinction not explained here, to avoid heresy.)

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 03:31:44PM *  0 points [-]

Historically, Christians objected strongly to fossil evidence that some species had gone extinct. They said God would not have created species and then let them go extinct.

Perfection is a crucial part of Christian ontology. God's creation was perfect. That means, in the Christian way of thinking, it is unchanging. Read Christian descriptions of God (who is perfect), and "unchanging" is always one of the adjectives. "Unchanging" is a necessary attribute of perfection in Christian theology, and God's creation is necessarily perfect. The environment, therefore, was designed and created not to ever change.

One could argue that individuals are thus imperfect because they are born young and then mature. I've never heard a counter-argument against this accusation, though I suspect they exist in the wreckage of medieval theology.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 03:45:52PM *  1 point [-]

Yep, the argument to justify the imperfection of children, and thus the necessity of growth, is based on Aristotle's notion of perfect and imperfect actualities. Aquinas wrote:

Everything is perfect inasmuch as it is in actuality; imperfect, inasmuch as it is in potentiality, with privation of actuality. ... It is impossible therefore for any effect that is brought into being by action to be of a nobler actuality than is the actuality of the agent. It is possible though for the actuality of the effect to be less perfect than the actuality of the acting cause, inasmuch as action may be weakened on the part of the object to which it is terminated, or upon which it is spent.

The reason God created humans so that they have to grow from imperfect childhood (lacking the maturity of a complete human) towards a perfect adult state, rather than being adult, is thus so that they may learn virtue, which is the process of striving for perfection. (The environment does not need to learn virtue; therefore it was created perfect.)

I don't know whether humans would have born offspring that were babies if not for the Fall, nor why animals bear babies, if not for the sake of their spiritual growth.

Comment author: ike 08 April 2017 03:35:57PM 0 points [-]

An evolved system is complex and dynamic, and can lose its stability. A created system is presumed to be static and always stable, so Christians don't consider LUC to be an issue with respect to the environment.

The distinction here would be that a created system's complexity is designed to be stable even with changes, not that it isn't complex and dynamic.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 03:44:47PM *  0 points [-]

I didn't mean to retract this, but to delete it and move the comment down below.

Comment author: ike 08 April 2017 03:35:57PM 0 points [-]

An evolved system is complex and dynamic, and can lose its stability. A created system is presumed to be static and always stable, so Christians don't consider LUC to be an issue with respect to the environment.

The distinction here would be that a created system's complexity is designed to be stable even with changes, not that it isn't complex and dynamic.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 03:31:44PM *  0 points [-]

Historically, Christians objected strongly to fossil evidence that some species had gone extinct. They said God would not have created species and then let them go extinct.

Perfection is a crucial part of Christian ontology. God's creation was perfect. That means, in the Christian way of thinking, it is unchanging. Read Christian descriptions of God (who is perfect), and "unchanging" is always one of the adjectives. "Unchanging" is a necessary attribute of perfection in Christian theology, and God's creation is necessarily perfect. The environment, therefore, was designed and created not to ever change.

One could argue that individuals are thus imperfect because they are born young and then mature. I've never heard a counter-argument against this accusation, though I suspect they exist in the wreckage of medieval theology.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 09 April 2017 03:05:42PM *  1 point [-]

The kid says that school is competitive, and that's bad--why can't they all agree to work less hard (presumably so they can have more time to play video games)? "Getting students to accept the reality that they might just not go to the best schools is good, I guess. But unless it also comes with the rallying call of engaging in a full-on socialist revolution, it doesn’t really deal with the whole issue."

This kid is the straw man conservatives present of socialism--the idea that the purpose of labor unions and socialism isn't to have a decent wage, but to not have to work hard.

There is a competition crisis, though. The problem is partly the idea that getting into an elite school is a measure of your intelligence--it isn't; they're explicit that that isn't the sole basis of admission, nor do they even have any measure of intelligence other than standardized test scores, so why not use the standardize test scores?

But it's also the allocation of social attention. Each field of study is too large now relative to the number of practitioners. Merit doesn't work anymore. There is no such thing as reputation anymore, except within a small circle of colleagues. Nobody trusts grades or recommendations. The problem isn't competition, but that we have no functioning reputation system anymore.

What conservatives and environmentalists agree on

9 PhilGoetz 08 April 2017 12:57AM

Today we had a sudden cold snap here in western Pennsylvania, with the temperature dropping 30 degrees F.  I was walking through a white field that had been green yesterday, looking at daffodils poking up through the snow and feeling irritated that they'd probably die.  It occurred to me that, if we could control the weather, people would probably vote for a smooth transition from winter to summer, and this would wreak some unforeseen environmental catastrophe, because it would suddenly make most survival strategies reliably sub-optimal.

This is typical environmentalist thinking:  Whenever you see something in the environment that you don't like, stop and step back before trying to change it.  Trust nature that there's some reason it is that way.  Interfere as little as possible.

The classic example is forest fires.  Our national park service used to try to stop all forest fires.  This policy changed in the 1960s for several reasons, including the observation that no new Sequoia saplings had sprouted since the beginning of fire suppression in the 19th century.  Fire is dangerous, destructive, and necessary.

It struck me that this cornerstone of environmentalism is also the cornerstone of social conservatism.

continue reading »
Comment author: MrCogmor 04 April 2017 10:20:31PM *  0 points [-]

Rational Utilitarianism is the greatest good for the greatest number given the constraints of imperfect information and faulty brains.

Rationality is the art of making better decisions in service to a goal taking into account imperfect information and the constratints of our mental hardware. When applied to utilitarianism you get posts like this Nobody is perfect, evertyhing is commensurable

Rationality plus Utilitarianism plus evolutionary psychology leads to the idea that a rational person is one who satisfies their own goals.

I don't see how this follows. Evolutionary psychology provides some explanations for our intuitions and instincts that the majority of humans share but that doesn't really say anything about morality as Is Cannot Imply Ought. Some quotes from the wiki page on evolutionary psychology.

We are optimized for an "ancestral environment" (often referred to as EEA, for "environment of evolutionary adaptedness") that differs significantly from the environments in which most of us live. In the ancestral environment, calories were the limiting resource, so our tastebuds are built to like sugar and fat.

Evolution's purposes also differ from our own purposes. We are built to deceive ourselves because self-deceivers were more effective liars in ancestral political disputes; and this fact about our underlying brain design doesn't change when we try to make a moral commitment to truth and rationality.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 07 April 2017 06:21:51PM *  1 point [-]

I don't see how this follows. Evolutionary psychology provides some explanations for our intuitions and instincts that the majority of humans share but that doesn't really say anything about morality as Is Cannot Imply Ought.

Start by saying "rationality" means satisficing your goals and values. The issue is what values you have. You certainly have selfish values. A human also has values that lead to optimizing group survival. Behavior oriented primarily towards those goals is called altruistic.

The model of rationality presented on LessWrong usually treats goals and values that are of negative utility to the agent as biases or errors rather than as goals evolved to benefit the group or the genes. That leads to a view of rationality as strictly optimizing selfish goals.

As to old Utilitarianism 1.0, where somebody just declares by fiat that we are all interested in the greatest good for the greatest number of people--that isn't on the table anymore. People don't do that. Anyone who brings that up is the one asserting an "ought" with no justification. There is no need to talk about "oughts" yet.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 04 April 2017 07:49:53PM *  1 point [-]

This sounds great! There is no FAQ on the linked-to website, though. Is Arbital open-source? What are the key licensing terms? How's it implemented? How does voting work?

If we're all supposed to use the same website, there are advantages to that, but I would be less excited about that.

Also, the home page links to https://arbital.com/explore/math, but that page is blank. Er... https://arbital.com/explore/ai_alignment is also blank for me. Perhaps Arbital doesn't work for Chrome on Windows 7 without flash installed.

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