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In response to comment by RedErin on Quotes Repository
Comment author: Jiro 10 February 2015 10:56:50PM *  7 points [-]

This seems like typical mind fallacy. Especially since the quote comes from a writer, who is used to having lots of worlds in his head and may be especially prone to making unwarranted assumptions that his mind is thus typical.

In response to comment by Jiro on Quotes Repository
Comment author: crazy88 11 February 2015 08:38:41AM 4 points [-]

I think this is an uncharitable reading of the purpose of Gaiman's quote. His quote isn't really meant to be a factual claim but an inspirational one.

Now obviously some people will find more inspiration from quotes that express a truth as compared with those that don't. Perhaps you're such a person (I suspect that many people on LW are). At risk of irony, however, it's best not to assume that everyone else is the same as you in that regards.

Evaluating something with an emotional purpose in accordance with its epistemic accuracy (instead of its psychological or poetic force) is likely to lead to an uncharitable reading of many quotes (and rather reinforces the straw vulcan stereotype of rationality).

Comment author: iarwain1 08 December 2014 02:21:28AM *  7 points [-]

I recently started reading up on the standard approaches to epistemology. Much of the primary discussion seems to be focused on the question "what constitutes knowledge?". The basic definition used to be that to count as knowledge it needs to be a belief, it needs to be justified, and it needs to be true. But there's the Gettier Problem which points out that there are cases that satisfy the above criteria but which we wouldn't normally consider "knowledge". Numerous alternative "theories of knowledge" have been proposed, new counter-examples have been pointed out, philosophers have split into competing camps (each under its own "-ism" title), and hundreds if not thousands of papers have been published on this topic.

But I'm totally confused. It sounds like they're just arguing about basically arbitrary definitions. So agree on a definition and get on with it. Or define different types of knowledge if that suits you better. And if that doesn't perfectly capture everything we might mean by the word "knowledge", what difference does it make? If they'd taboo the word "knowledge" would there be anything left to discuss?

I assume I'm just missing something. But if in fact they could just taboo the term and get on with more important discussions, then could someone please explain to me why so many highly intelligent, extremely thoughtful philosophers have spent so much time on a (seemingly) ridiculous discussion?

Comment author: crazy88 08 December 2014 09:13:20AM 4 points [-]

Yes, philosophers tend to be interested in the issue of conceptual analysis. Different philosophers will have a different understanding of what conceptual analysis is but one story goes something like the following. First, we start out with a rough, intuitive sense of the concepts that we use and this gives us a series of criteria for each concept (perhaps with free will one criteria would be that it relates to moral responsibility in some way and another would be it relates to the ability to do otherwise in some way). Then we try to find a more precise account of the concept that does the best (though not necessarily perfect) job of satisfying these criteria.

I personally find the level of focus on conceptual analysis in philosophy frustrating so I'm not sure that I can do justice to a defence of it. I know many very intelligent people who think it is indispensible to our reasoning though so it may well be deserving of further reflection. If you're interested in such reflection I suggest that you read Frank Jacksons, "From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis". It's a short book and gives a good sense of how contemporary philosophers think about conceptual analysis (in terms of what conceptual analysis is, btw, Jackson says the following: "The short answer is that conceptual analysis is the very business of addressing when and whether a story told in one vocabulary is made true by one told in some allegedly more fundamental vocabulary.")

Off the top of my head, why might someone think conceptual analysis is important? First, conceptual analysis is all about getting clear on our terms. If you're discussing free will, it seems like a really bad idea to just debate without making clear what you mean by free will. So it seems useful to get clear on our terms.

Myself, I'm tempted to say we should get clear on our terms by stipulation (though note that even this involves a small amount of conceptual analysis or I would be just as likely to stipulate that "free will" means "eating my hat" as I would be to stipulate that it means "my decisions flow from my deliberative process": and many philosophers only use conceptual analysis in this easily-defendable manner). So I would stipulate what various meanings of free will are, say which we do and do not have and leave it to each individual to figure out how that makes them feel (which type of free will they care about).

However, a lot of people don't find this very helpful. They care about FREE WILL or MORALITY or BEING THE SAME PERSON TOMORROW (a.k.a. personal identity). And they need to know what the best realiser of the criteria that they have for this concept is to know what they care about. So if you tell a lot of people that they have free-will-1 and not free-will-2, they don't care about this: they care whether they have FREE WILL and so they need to find out which of free-will-1 and free-will-2 is a better realiser of their concept before they can work out whether they have the sort of free will that they care about. Insofar as I don't think telling people what they should desire (no, you should desire free-will-1, regardless of the nature of your concept of FREE WILL), I don't really have any objection to the claim that such a person needs to carry out a more robust project of conceptual analysis (though I feel no need to join them on the road they're travelling).

All that said, standard epistemology (as opposed to formal epistemology) is one of the worst areas of philosophy to study if you're uninterested in these conceptual debates as such debates are pretty much the entire of the field (where in many other areas of philosophy they play a smaller, though often still substantial, role).

Comment author: James_Miller 13 September 2014 08:43:30PM 1 point [-]

I don't press. CDT fails here because (I think) it doesn't allow you to update your beliefs based on your own actions.

Comment author: crazy88 14 September 2014 10:05:15PM 2 points [-]

Exactly what information CDT allows you to update your beliefs on is a matter for some debate. You might be interested in a paper by James Joyce (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jjoyce/papers/rscdt.pdf) on the issue (which was written in response to Egan's paper).

Comment author: mwengler 12 February 2014 06:52:08PM 0 points [-]

So you might be able turn a population of conscious creatures into a population of p-zombies or Elizas just by compressing them.

Suppose you mean lossless compression. The compressed program has ALL the same outputs to the same inputs as the original program.

Then if the uncompressed program running had consciousness and the compressed program running did not, you have either proved or defined consciousness as something which is not an output. If it is possible to do what you are suggesting then consciousness has no effect on behavior, which is the presumption one must make in order to conclude that p-zombies are possible.

From an evolutionary point of view, can a feature with no output, absolutely zero effect on the interaction of the creature with its environment ever evolve? There would be no mechanism for it to evolve, there is no basis on which to select for it. It seems to me that to believe in the possibility of p-zombies is to believe in the supernatural, a world of phenomena such as consciousness that for some reason is not allowed to be listed as a phenomenon of the natural world.

At the moment, I can't really distinguish how a belief that p-zombies are possible is any different from a belief in the supernatural.

Also this scenario reopens the question of whether uploads are conscious in the first place!

Years ago I thought an interesting experiment to do in terms of artificial consciousness would be to build an increasingly complex verbal simulation of a human, to the point where you could have conversations involving reflection with the simulation. At that point you could ask it if it was conscious and see what it had to say. Would it say "not so far as I can tell?"

The p-zombie assumption is that it would say "yeah I'm conscious duhh what kind of question is that?" But the way a simulation actually gets built is you have the list of requirements and you keep accreting code until all the requirements are met. If your requirements included a vast array of features but NOT the feature that it answer this question one way or another, conceivably you could elicit an "honest" answer from your sim. If all such sims answers "yes," you might conclude that somehow in the collection of features you HAD required, consciousness emerged, and you could do other experiments where you removed features from the sim and kept statistics on how those sims answered that question. You might see the sim saying "no, don't think so." and conclude that whatever it is in us that makes us function as conscious we hadn't found that thing yet and put it in our list of requirements.

Comment author: crazy88 12 February 2014 11:30:11PM 2 points [-]

Then if the uncompressed program running had consciousness and the compressed program running did not, you have either proved or defined consciousness as something which is not an output. If it is possible to do what you are suggesting then consciousness has no effect on behavior, which is the presumption one must make in order to conclude that p-zombies are possible.

I haven't thought about this stuff for a while and my memory is a bit hazy in relation to it so I could be getting things wrong here but this comment doesn't seem right to me.

First, my p-zombie is not just a duplicate of me in terms of my input-output profile. Rather, it's a perfect physical duplicate of me. So one can deny the possibility of zombies while still holding that a computer with the same input-output profile as me is not conscious. For example, one could hold that only carbon-based life could be conscious while denying the possibility of zombies (denying that a physical duplicate of a carbon-based lifeform that is conscious could lack consciousness) while denying that an identical input-output profile implies consciousness.

Second, if it could be shown that the same input-output profile could exist even with consciousness was removed this doesn't show that consciousness can't play a causal role in guiding behaviour. Rather, it shows that the same input-output profile can exist without consciousness. That doesn't mean that consciousness can't cause that input-output profile in one system and something else cause it in the other system.

Third, it seems that one can deny the possibility of zombies while accepting that consciousness has no causal impact on behaviour (contra the last sentence of the quoted fragment): one could hold that the behaviour causes the conscious experience (or that the thing which causes the behaviour also causes the conscious experience). One could then deny that something could be physically identical to me but lack consciousness (that is, deny the possibility of zombies) while still accepting that consciousness lacks causal influence on behaviour.

Am I confused here or do the three points above seem to hold?

Comment author: crazy88 01 June 2013 12:15:40AM *  0 points [-]

It depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for Drescher style stuff then you're looking for a very specific type of contemporary, analytic philosophy. Straight off the top of my head: Daniel Dennett, Nick Bostrom and some stuff by David Chalmers as well as decision and game theory (good free introduction here).

If you're interested in contemporary, analytic philosophy generally then I can't really make suggestions because the list is too broad (what are your interests? Ethics? Aesthetics? Metaphysics? Epistemology? Logic?). Good general resources, however, definitely the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which is a great resource), Philosophy Bro (for a lighthearted take), Philosophy Bites (for a podcast). The list here, cited by someone else, is a good guide to prominent papers some of which will be harder to understand without background knowledge than others.

If you have specific questions during your self-study, feel free to PM me and I'm happy to try and help (I'm far from an expert but also know substantially more philosophy than the average person).

Comment author: Kawoomba 12 April 2013 07:44:17AM *  1 point [-]

I find your comment to be quixotic. I live in a sheltered bubble, but apparently not yet so far up the ivory tower.

Whenever you walk into any department store, get a loan to buy a car, a new stereo, or whatever, noone there who's trying to sell to you is going to care whether that purchase is in your self-interest, or whether you can afford it (other than your ability to pay), other than to make you happy so that you become a repeat customer, which also isn't a function of the customer's self interest, just think about tobacco companies.

Whether it's the educational sector signing you up for non-dischargeable student loans, car loans, new credit cards offered in the mail, or just buying a PC game, noone will inquire as to your actual self-interest. They'll assume you're an adult and can do what you darn well please - and your self-interest is your business, not theirs. They can pitch you, and if you listen, it's your decision and responsibility.

Would you say that the overwhelming majority of modern day society does then not care at all about the welfare of others, just because they allow others to make their own choices, and let them be autonomous regarding their own self-interest?

The infantizing part is saying "I don't think women are capable of disengaging from a negative conversation, therefore they ought to be protected since their own agency doesn't suffice. There must be rules protecting them since they apparently cannot be trusted to make their own correct choices."

Comment author: crazy88 12 April 2013 08:02:47AM 1 point [-]

I don't think further conversation on this topic is going to be useful for either of us. I presume we both accept that we have some responsibilities for the welfare of others and that sometimes we can consider the welfare of others without being infantilising (for example, I presume we both presume that shooting someone for fun would be in violation of these responsibilities).

Clearly, you draw the line at a very different place to me but beyond that I'm not sure there's much productive to be said.

I will note, however, that my claim is not about doubting the capability of women nor about "protecting" women in some special sense that goes beyond general compassion. It's about respect for the welfare of other people.

Other than that, I think this conversation has reached the end of its useful life so will leave things at that.

Comment author: Kawoomba 11 April 2013 10:40:31AM *  -2 points [-]

If you are a car salesman and have a button you can legally press which makes your customer buy a car, you'd press it. Instrumental rationality, no?

If you are a researcher who has a button he can legally press to make that reviewer look upon his submission more favorably, you'd probably press it.

If you are a guy and have a button you can legally press that makes the woman you're trying to woo fall in love with you, pressing that button would be ... bad?

I find it extremely condescending to say you're responsible with how a woman you just met feels, it's treating them like a child, not like an adult who can darn well be expected to make her own choices, and turn away from you if she so desires. This of course only applies with the male staying in the legal framework and not exhibiting e.g. stalking behavior (i.e. accept when the woman is turning away).

Of course women have a right to demand respect and to be treated in whatever manner they as individuals desire, just as males have a right to provide that sort of interaction or not to provide that sort of interaction. Externally imposing unwritten rules (other than a legal framework) is infantizing adult agents.

Comment author: crazy88 11 April 2013 11:18:15PM 2 points [-]

If you are a car salesman and have a button you can legally press which makes your costumer buy a car, you'd press it. Instrumental rationality, no?

Instrumental rationality doesn't get you this far. It gets you this far only if you assume that you care only about selling cars and legality. If you also care about the welfare of others then instrumental rationality will not necessarily tell you to push the button (instrumental rationality isn't the same thing as not caring about others).

Of course, I don't expect anyone who doesn't care about the welfare of others to find any of what I'm saying here compelling. A certain level of common ground is required to have a useful discussion. However, I think most people do care about the welfare of others.

I find it extremely condescending to say you're responsible with how a woman you just met feels, it's treating them like a child, not like an adult who can darn well be expected to make her own choices, and turn away from you if she so desires.

There is, of course, a line between compassion and condescension and I agree that it is bad to cross that line. However, I think it's unreasonable to think that showing the level of concern that I'm talking about here for someone's welfare is crossing this line. To choose a silly example, it would be undesirable for me to shoot someone for no reason but a selfish desire (I, of course, do not actually have this desire). However, if I didn't shoot someone for some reason, this would be taking some responsibility for the welfare of others. However, this hardly amounts to treating them like a child. Similarly, not deliberately making a woman feel bad about herself is simply showing compassion and being respectful toward others. There's no reason to think this amounts to treating someone like a child.

Externally imposing unwritten rules (other than a legal framework) is infantizing adult agents.

I'm not "imposing" rules, unwritten or otherwise. What I am doing is suggesting that insofar as you care about the welfare of others, it is undesirable that you deliberately make people feel bad about themselves. Having a concern for the welfare of others is hardly infantising adults (consider the gun example again: it is not treating someone as an infant to decide not to kill them on the grounds of their welfare).

Comment author: roland 11 April 2013 02:26:41AM 2 points [-]

In general a PUA should always make a woman feel good, otherwise why should she choose to stay with him? Probably women suffer much more through awkward interactions, stalkers, etc...

For example, let's hypothetically imagine that women are more attracted to people who make them feel insecure

Making a woman feel insecure might work, so does a movie that makes people feel scared(ever enjoyed a good horror movie?). Should we blame a PUA if that works for him?

Beautiful women will have an edge when negotiating with a man, should we blame her for using this as a tactic?

I've decided to write my own post on the subject, feel free to take a look:

http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/h6l/pick_up_artistspuas_my_view/

Comment author: crazy88 11 April 2013 02:34:13AM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for a reply. I did take a look at your post but I don't think it really engages with the points that I make (it engages with arguments that are perhaps superficially similar but importantly distinct)

In general a PUA should always make a woman feel good, otherwise why should she choose to stay with him? Probably women suffer much more through awkward interactions, stalkers, etc...

I have no problems with certain things that one might describe as pick up artistry. My comments are reserved for the things that don't involve respect for a woman's welfare (demeaning her, for example). And yes, I'm sure people suffer more through stalkers but that doesn't set the bar very high.

Making a woman feel insecure might work, so does a movie that makes people feel scared(ever enjoyed a good horror movie?). Should we blame a PUA if that works for him?

If you think that people should care about the welfare of others then yes. I think here we have identified the ultimate source of our disagreement. The fact that you think this is even a question worth asking shows that we have substantially different background assumptions (and this perhaps explains why you find attacks on PU confusing).

ETA: I realise now that it was unclear whether you were asking whether we should blame a PUA for the movie thing or for deliberately making a woman feel insecure. If the first, no (except perhaps in unusual circumstances) as going to a movie doesn't go against the woman's welfare presuming she, like many people, finds the fear of a horror movie desirable or finds it to be made up for by other aspects of the movie. If the second, then as per above: yes, I think a person should care about the welfare of the person that they're picking up.

Comment author: crazy88 11 April 2013 02:24:17AM *  1 point [-]

Hi Roland,

I replied to you in the other thread and I'd be interested to know what you think about my comment (I'm not really making the sort of claim you dismiss in this post so I'm curious as to whether you agree with what I'm saying or whether my comments are problematic for other reasons). Comments quoted below for ease of access:

If the sole determining factor of whether an interaction with a women is desirable is whether they end up attracted to you then, yes, even the most extreme sort of pick up artistry would be unproblematic.

However, if you think that there are other factors that determine whether such an interaction is desirable (such as whether the woman is treated with respect, is not made to feel unpleasant etc) then certain sorts of pick up artistry are extremely distasteful.

For example, let's hypothetically imagine that women are more attracted to people who make them feel insecure (I take no position on the accuracy of this claim). Sure, it would just be "understanding how women work and adjusting your behaviour to be more attractive to them" if you deliberately made them feel insecure. And sure, this would be no problem if being attractive was the sole determining factor of whether the interaction was desirable. However, if you think women deserve to be treated with respect and not made to feel horrible (presuming not because they are women but just because all humans deserve this) then this interaction is extremely undesirable.

Some discussions of pick up artistry don't just blur this line but fail to even realise there is a line. To those who think women should be treated with respect, this is extremely concerning.

And also:

We can think of it another way: what do we think constitutes the welfare of a woman? Presumably we don't think that it is just that she is attracted to the person she is currently conversing with.

However, if this is the case and if we care about how our interaction with people effect their welfare then the fact that a person's interaction with a woman makes the woman attracted to them doesn't entail that the interaction was desirable (because we care about their welfare which is more than just their extent of current attraction).

Note that this need not be a condescending attempt to institute an objective conception of welfare on an unwilling recipient. For example, we might think that a person's welfare is determined by their own subjective, personally decided upon preferences. Now perhaps a woman has preferences to be attracted to the person they're talking to (or perhaps not) but presumably they also have preferences to feel good about themselves and a number of other things. Again, then, even taking their self-identified welfare, we can't presume that an interaction is benefiting a woman's welfare just because they are attracted to their current conversation partner.

To put it another other way: just because a woman finds herself attracted to a person following an interaction, it doesn't mean she doesn't wish that the interaction had been different. So the conversation may fulfill the man's interests in being attractive but it doesn't follow from the fact that the woman is attracted to him that it fulfulls the woman's interests.

Of course, if you think a woman's welfare is her own problem and an interested man's only responsibility is to be attractive to the woman then you won't find this compelling but that attitude is precisely what the problem is (many people think that one should be concerned about the effects of one's interactions on others' welfare).

ETA: So to clarify: the claim was not that some women's tastes are distasteful but rather that a woman's tastes don't entirely determine her welfare so we can't move from a claim that something is in accordance with her tastes to a claim that something is in accordance with her welfare (or, for that matter, her desires, because her tastes in men don't fully define her desires either)

So I don't say that the problem is manipulation: I say the problem is a lack of concern about the welfare of women. Wearing a nice shirt doesn't show that lack of concern, deliberately demeaning them does. The dividing line isn't trying to influence women vs not doing so but the way this manipulation is carried out. Similarly, my claim is not about the accuracy or pleasantness of a view of women, it's about the desirability of a way of treating women even if that view is correct. So your comments above don't seem to respond to these issues. What do you think about these issues then?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 11 April 2013 01:38:46AM 1 point [-]

If the sole determining factor of whether an interaction with a women is desirable is whether they end up attracted to you then, yes, even the most extreme sort of pick up artistry would be unproblematic.

However, if you think that there are other factors that determine whether such an interaction is desirable (such as whether the woman is treated with respect, is not made to feel unpleasant etc) then certain sorts of pick up artistry are extremely distasteful.

That's the issue. Some people have an ideology that some women's tastes are distasteful.

Comment author: crazy88 11 April 2013 01:49:33AM *  4 points [-]

That's the issue. Some people have an ideology that some women's tastes are distasteful.

It's a clever line but doesn't really interact with what I said (which may perhaps have been because I was unclear: I don't intend to suggest this fact is your fault).

We can think of it another way: what do we think constitutes the welfare of a woman? Presumably we don't think that it is just that she is attracted to the person she is currently conversing with.

However, if this is the case and if we care about how our interaction with people effect their welfare then the fact that a person's interaction with a woman makes the woman attracted to them doesn't entail that the interaction was desirable (because we care about their welfare which is more than just their extent of current attraction).

Note that this need not be a condescending attempt to institute an objective conception of welfare on an unwilling recipient. For example, we might think that a person's welfare is determined by their own subjective, personally decided upon preferences. Now perhaps a woman has preferences to be attracted to the person they're talking to (or perhaps not) but presumably they also have preferences to feel good about themselves and a number of other things. Again, then, even taking their self-identified welfare, we can't presume that an interaction is benefiting a woman's welfare just because they are attracted to their current conversation partner.

To put it another other way: just because a woman finds herself attracted to a person following an interaction, it doesn't mean she doesn't wish that the interaction had been different. So the conversation may fulfill the man's interests in being attractive but it doesn't follow from the fact that the woman is attracted to him that it fulfulls the woman's interests.

Of course, if you think a woman's welfare is her own problem and an interested man's only responsibility is to be attractive to the woman then you won't find this compelling but that attitude is precisely what the problem is (many people think that one should be concerned about the effects of one's interactions on others' welfare).

ETA: So to clarify: the claim was not that some women's tastes are distasteful but rather that a woman's tastes don't entirely determine her welfare so we can't move from a claim that something is in accordance with her tastes to a claim that something is in accordance with her welfare (or, for that matter, her desires, because her tastes in men don't fully define her desires either)

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