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Showing posts from May, 2024

Degrees and Kinds of Stupidity

Many stupid ideas take the form "There is nothing outside ____". One thing that makes ideas stupid is their capacity to capture a brain, to render it incapable of thinking certain thoughts.  We can thus measure the stupidity of ideas in at least two ways: (1) the scope and range of brain function that a stupid idea prevents you from having, and (2) the "grip," so to speak, that this idea has on your brain - that is to say, the degree of difficulty of removing this idea from your brain and liberating yourself from it.  Stupid ideas can be awfully clever.  Wittgenstein is a perfect example of a thinker that was capable of producing ingeniously clever stupid ideas - that is, ideas that, once they have locked themselves onto a person's brain, become fiendishly difficult to dislodge. On the low stupidity end of the spectrum, we have a statement like "There is nothing outside of my mind."  That is to say, solipsism. A significantly stupider idea would be som

The Problem with Political Mandates

    Let's say candidate A and candidate B are running for office on a specific issue or policy.  Specifically, let's say candidate promises that if he is elected, he will make sure that X will happen, and candidate B, for her part, promises that if she is elected, she will make sure that X will not happen.  We could also assume that A comes from a political party that overwhelmingly supports X, and B comes from a political party that overwhelmingly opposes X.  Let's further assume that X is a popular thing that lots of citizens want.  Indeed, it is so popular, and people so fully believe that A is committed to X that it makes a decisive difference on the results of the election, and indeed A wins, and is duly sworn into office.  Generally, at this point, we tend to say that candidate A - or rather, elected official A - has a political "mandate" to do X. Now that the people have voted in A to do X, is X more likely to happen, or less likely?  Let's think about

Doxastic Voluntarism and the Insufficiency of Language

Can I choose to believe what I want to believe? You shout at me: "2+2=5!" You hold up 2 fingers in front of my face, and then you raise 2 more.  You're now holding up 4 fingers. You shout at me: "I'm holding up 5 fingers! Say it! Say it!" Now, I can say , "2+2=5."  But can I believe it? I can say: "You're holding up 5 fingers."  But can I really believe it? It's not up to you to decide what I believe. Is it up to me? Can I decide what I believe? Let's say I really want to agree with you.  Is that the same thing as agreeing with you? As I already said, I can say, "2+2=5".  Can I believe it? I can even say, "I believe that 2+2=5."   I can even say, "I believe that 'I believe that 2+2=5.'" Or, "I believe that 'I believe that 'I believe that 2+2=5.''" I can also say, "2+2=5 is true." Or "'2+2=5 is true' is true." Or "''2+2=5
[posted on facebook as an answer to a question, 5/21/24] There's a lot of worthless crap in Lacan (and the Lacanians). I think his stuff is most interesting the further away it gets from Freud. (He's more of a poet, or a priest, or an entertainer, than a scientist. But that applies to Freud, too.)    But anyway, here's a few things that I thought were worth thinking about, all of them so brutally simplified as to be wildly inaccurate (I'm sure Lacanians would hate this):   1. The difference between "aim" and "goal". As Lacan sees it, the aim of the drive is not to achieve the goal, but rather to perpetuate itself as drive. You don't really want to solve your problems, you want to maintain your problems. (i.e., maintain your desire, maintain your longing, maintain your sense of incompleteness.)   2. Lacan doesn't go the (Buddhist?) route of trying to achieve happiness by having no desires. Unfulfilled desire is a necessar
Quite often, when people are humble, it's just a form of contrariness - under which, one can unmistakably recognize the ego.

The Internet as the Unconscious

One of the most interesting ways that the internet has changed day-to-day human society is the following experience: let's say you interact with a specific person a lot on social media. Then you see them in "real" life. You see them, they see you, you see them see you, they see you seeing them. But you have very little interaction, at most a "hey". It's almost like we have become 2 (or more) separate people: our online identity, and our irl identity. The online versions of ourselves are friends, but our meatspace doppelgangers are at best acquaintances, awkwardly shuffling past each other. To me, this experience is just one example of a larger phenomenon: the internet is surrounded by a complex psychological scaffolding of disavowals. You "know" (people, subcultures, information) online, but you *pretend not to know* elsewhere. You pretend to be "innocent," so to speak. The internet has become the (quasi-)permanent repository of di

Objections to the Economic Calculation Problem Argument

  I find the argument of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, sometimes called the "economic calculation problem" to be an interesting, intriguing, attractive argument, but one that is not very rigorous. I haven't seen it worked out in a mathematical, quantitative way that would be scientifically testable. So far, I'm not convinced. Here are some doubts I have:   First of all, it does seem intuitive to say that economic planning would be very difficult, but I haven't seen an air-tight proof that it's actually impossible. Even if it were somehow proven that it is impossible for a human or a group of humans, I don't see how it would be impossible for AI or for a combination of humans and AI software. Just as an example off the top of my head, what if there were a machine-learning algorithm that could simulate human minds - not just a single human mind, but many human minds - hundreds, or thousands, or more, at various levels of resolution
    I suspect that F. H. Bradley is more important in the history of philosophy than it might appear.   Bradley hovers in the background of all of that first generation of Analytic philosophers.  Officially, of course, they rejected Bradley, and Bradley's quasi-Hegelianism.  A.J. Ayer was particularly vicious towards him.  (Was Bradley really a Hegelian?  I'd say it's debatable at best.  Ultimately, personally, I would say, no - Bradley's idealism was quite different from Hegel's - maybe even, in some ways, superior to it.  But I'm willing to listen to opposing views on this point.) But Bradley is there, lurking, almost as a kind of unconscious for the Analytics.  Russell, of course, openly admitted his intellectual debt to Bradley.  I see Bradley's influence even more acutely in Wittgenstein.  Wittgenstein's entire oeuvre looks to me like the return of the repressed.  From his early philosophy to his late philosophy, I see a gradual revival of Bradleyan
 Postmodernism is a fancy term for the period of the solidification of total US hegemony.
 The USSR was an American client state.
 I'd summarize Wittgenstein this way: you can take the boy out of the continent, but you can't take the continent out of the boy.