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thomblake comments on Reply to Holden on 'Tool AI' - Less Wrong

94 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 June 2012 06:00PM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 July 2012 04:40:00PM 7 points [-]

This sounds like it might be a bit of a reverent-Western-scholar steelman such as might be taught in modern philosophy classes; Plato's original argument for the immortality of the soul sounded more like this, which is why I use it as an early exemplar of reference class tennis:


Then let us consider the whole question, not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation, and the proof will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites? I mean such things as good and evil, just and unjust—and there are innumerable other opposites which are generated out of opposites. And I want to show that in all opposites there is of necessity a similar alternation; I mean to say, for example, that anything which becomes greater must become greater after being less.


And that which becomes less must have been once greater and then have become less.


And the weaker is generated from the stronger, and the swifter from the slower.

Very true.

And the worse is from the better, and the more just is from the more unjust.

Of course.

And is this true of all opposites? and are we convinced that all of them are generated out of opposites?


And in this universal opposition of all things, are there not also two intermediate processes which are ever going on, from one to the other opposite, and back again; where there is a greater and a less there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?

Yes, he said.

And there are many other processes, such as division and composition, cooling and heating, which equally involve a passage into and out of one another. And this necessarily holds of all opposites, even though not always expressed in words—they are really generated out of one another, and there is a passing or process from one to the other of them?

Very true, he replied.

Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking?

True, he said.

And what is it?

Death, he answered.

And these, if they are opposites, are generated the one from the other, and have there their two intermediate processes also?

Of course.

Now, said Socrates, I will analyze one of the two pairs of opposites which I have mentioned to you, and also its intermediate processes, and you shall analyze the other to me. One of them I term sleep, the other waking. The state of sleep is opposed to the state of waking, and out of sleeping waking is generated, and out of waking, sleeping; and the process of generation is in the one case falling asleep, and in the other waking up. Do you agree?

I entirely agree.

Then, suppose that you analyze life and death to me in the same manner. Is not death opposed to life?


And they are generated one from the other?


What is generated from the living?

The dead.

And what from the dead?

I can only say in answer—the living.

Then the living, whether things or persons, Cebes, are generated from the dead?

That is clear, he replied.

Then the inference is that our souls exist in the world below?

That is true.


Comment author: thomblake 25 July 2012 08:18:57PM 0 points [-]

Esar's summary doesn't seem to be different from this, other than 1) adding the useful bit about "passed away irretrievably" and 2) yours makes it clear that the logical jump happens right at the end.

I'm actually not sure now why you consider this like "reference class tennis". The argument looks fine, except for the part where "souls exist in the world below" jumps in as a conclusion, not having been mentioned earlier in the argument.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 July 2012 08:50:02PM *  0 points [-]

The 'souls exist in the world below' bit is directly before what Eliezer quoted:

Suppose we consider the question whether the souls of men after death are or are not in the world below. There comes into my mind an ancient doctrine which affirms that they go from hence into the other world, and returning hither, are born again from the dead. Now if it be true that the living come from the dead, then our souls must exist in the other world, for if not, how could they have been born again? And this would be conclusive, if there were any real evidence that the living are only born from the dead; but if this is not so, then other arguments will have to be adduced.

Very true, replied Cebes.

Then let us consider the whole question...

But you're right that nothing in the argument defends the idea of a world below, just that souls must exist in some way between bodies.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 04 July 2014 12:14:14PM 0 points [-]

The argument omits that living things can come from living things and dead thingsfrom dead things

Therefore, the fact that living things can come from dead things does not mean that have to in every case.

Although, if everything started off dead, they must have at some point.

So it's an argument for abiogenesis,

Comment author: bogdanb 10 July 2013 06:28:03PM *  0 points [-]

just that souls must exist in some way between bodies.

Not even that, at least in the part of the argument I’ve seen (paraphrased?) above.

He just mentions an ancient doctrine, and then claims that souls must exist somewhere while they’re not embodied, because he can’t imagine where they would come from otherwise. I’m not even sure if the ancient doctrine is meant as argument from authority or is just some sort of Chewbacca defense.

(He doesn’t seem to explicitly claim the “ancient doctrine” to be true or plausible, just that it came to his mind. It feels like I’ve lost something in the translation.)