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Discussion: Children's Rights and Other Topics

This post is a reply to three comments from an interesting reddit discussion between me and Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat about children's rights. You can find some of the context on reddit, but they deleted one of my comments at time of writing. Here is a pdf with most of the context without my writing deleted (reddit does not actually allow displaying and entire discussion at once in your browser). In any case, I've tried to write this in a self-contained way. Links to the comments I'm replying to now: 1 2 3.

Update: For posting my reply (a link to this post), I was banned from the subreddit where I was having this discussion, and my reply was deleted. No reason was given. I sent a private message to Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat so he can find this reply. No one else viewing the discussion on reddit can see this continuation. In any case, I can no longer continue the discussion on reddit. Dr_Kenneth_Noisewat, if you don't want to reply on FI list, please reply in the unmoderated blog comments or email me. I hope people learn something about reddit censorship and openness to discussion from these events. Keep in mind while reading the rest: I was banned for linking this blog post.
do you think software pets learn? they store data in memory about past interactions and act differnetly in the future.
Yes, I absolutely think so. While the definition you list here is a little simplistic, I believe it holds true to most philosophical and psychological definitions of learning.
That was not a definition. It was a statement about something software pets do, which is not the same kind of thing as human learning.
This seems to be implying that humans are distinct from animals rather than different by degrees of complexity.
But your definition of human learning can still be refuted by using animal examples. Many animals have language (again in the same degrees of complexity).
No animal has a language in which one can write, or read, Atlas Shrugged. Whatever they have, which you call "language", is a different kind of thing than English.

Note that Atlas Shrugged can be written in Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, French, etc. All major human "natural" languages have this in common. This is not a coincidence, it's because they are universal languages (they can express all ideas which are possible to express in language), whereas the animal "languages" are not universal.
Again, I think this is implying that humans are somehow distinct from other animals, if we can model animals now it is certainly possible to model humans in the future. Some popular theories suggest that our minds are modelable as such. I think some introductory readings on the philosophy of mind and free will might help clear up some of the points that you've made here so far. I'll post a few sources for introductory material below:
The issue is not what can be modelled. The point I was making is that animals only do things which can be accounted for with non-intelligent software techniques. Humans do other things.

You are mistaken that reading those links, or similar things, will clear this up. I am well read. I have a large amount of experience debating these issues. Actually, the only way you will change my mind is by saying something new to me – which means something not found in typical introductory material.

Another issue is that material like this is written from a perspective with a certain way of thinking about philosophy, certain premises assumed, and so on. Which perspective varies some. But they pretty reliably contradict Karl Popper, Ayn Rand, or both, and do not include an explanation of where Popper and/or Rand was mistaken, so it's not suitable to persuade someone who agrees with them about most things.
Hmm, this may have been an issue of clarity on my part for simply stating "mental areas." By that, I mean puzzles and challenges designed to test reasoning, knowledge of causation, learning, and adapting to create new solutions. I highly suggest you check out the movie when you have the time because it'll clear that up. But, even if we could create programs that model animals in this way and outperform children, wouldn't that seem to state from your earlier example about software, that humans are modelable as well?
Watching the movie you recommend won't change anything because I've already seen a bunch of similar videos. I disagree. Seeing more of the same won't change that.

This is a philosophy issue and comes down to issues like: What is intelligence?

I say intelligence is a type of universality – universal knowledge creation. Understanding this requires understanding what universality is, and what knowledge is, which is best done by reading David Deutsch's (DD's) books to begin with. The best known example of universality is universal classical computers – computers which can do any computation which any classical computer can do. ("Classical" here means not using features of quantum physics that weren't in classical physics.) The iMac I am typing on is a universal classical computer. A universal knowledge creator is one that can create any piece of knowledge which any knowledge creator can create. That is what humans are, and what intelligence is. But animals aren't. This isn't a matter of degree. There is no non-universal classical computer which works anything like my iMac, no halfway. DD calls this the "jump to universality".

It's ideas like this which are at issue, and which are not addressed by the material you bring up.
consider reason and adults. you try to persaude people. if you fail, you try to think of better arguments. you don't punish him.
Except we do punish adults for breaking rules as well, especially if they haven't responded to previous attempts at reason. I would like to note here that many of the views I am expressing here are not ones that I entirely support but are more a byproduct of me playing devil's advocate to many of your ideas.
OK good to know about devil's advocate.

In general, we do not punish adults for disagreeing with us. We leave them alone, and they leave us alone. There are ways the government oversteps, but I'm not going to go into those now. I advocate minimal government.

The normal time we don't leave someone alone if he won't listen to our arguments is if he violently attacks us. Then leaving him alone is not an option, by his choice. So we can't be blamed for not leaving him alone, we haven't done anything wrong if we defend ourselves.

Put another way: if he violently attacks us, he excludes resolving the conflict by reason/persuasion or by mutually dropping the matter. If those are options, they are better. When they aren't, force is all that remains to us. (You may be able to run away or something like that. But in that case, he wanted to e.g. punch you, and what stopped him is your muscles not your mind.) With children, leaving them alone actually is an option in most scenarios where people punish children. E.g. if a child doesn't make his bed, the parent could let it go instead of punish.

The purpose of law and punishment in adult society is to protect people against violence and some related things (like threat of violence and fraud). It is not to make anyone agree with ideas or punish them for disagreeing and thinking their own way. If an adult doesn't want to learn algebra, or says he thinks algebra is false, I do not punish him, I leave him alone.
i don't think punishment is educational, only reason is. so if you do something other than reason, i don't think any learning happens.
This seems to imply that learning can only occur from reason. Let me try a counter example: If I place my hand in a fire and burn my hand, I learn to avoid placing myself in direct contact with fire.

Of course, it is also possible to state that reasoning is the basis for this learning in that after getting burned, I think: "fire can cause pain if touched, I want to avoid pain, so I should avoid touching fire." However, I think this may necessarily lead one to accepting that punishment can cause learning in a like way. Say my child takes a cookie that I told him was mine, in return I take one of his toys (while explaining that I am taking something like he did). Now the child can learn "having something of mine taken feels bad, others must feel this way too, I shouldn't steal from others." This I think may be a good middle ground between punishment and reason.
Learning involves creating knowledge. There is only one known way to do that, which is called evolution, or in the context of human thought, called learning. No one has come up with any other way.

Yes I completely agree that there is reasoning involved in learning the pain was due to touching the fire, rather than, say, not touching the fire enough.

In general, if you punish a kid he may well learn something – e.g. that you are mean. If you punish him repeatedly and aren't too inconsistent, he might work out what your punishment policies are so he can predict and avoid it. That isn't learning useful life skills though (e.g. math, physics, programming, art, public speaking, writing, salary negotiation), it's learning how to deal with being subject to authority.

You bring up a special case of punishing: if a kid hits someone, you hit the kid so he can experience that being hit hurts. And some variations on that theme. I agree this is potentially educational, unlike hitting kids in general. You can imagine a kid saying, "Oh I didn't know being hit hurt. Hit me softly, so I can see what it's like. OK now try a little harder. Now try hitting my leg instead of my chest." And then learning from being hit. This involves a controlled environment where kid is in control of the experience. You can imagine how distracting and painful it'd be, and hard to learn anything, if kid was not in control of this hitting.

You can also imagine how tons of times, the kid already knows that being hit hurts (or that having his stuff taken away sucks, etc). In those cases someone needs to learn something else to resolve the disagreement (e.g. the kid might need to learn more about how treating others well is in his own self-interest, or kid might need to learn other ways to get cookies or playtime cooperation or whatever he was after. Or parent might need to learn to buy enough cookies so they don't run out).

Whatever parent does, kid will often learn something, just like kid learns something when parent isn't there. People often learn things in life. But for parent to reasonably be helping educate the kid, and get any credit, then parent needs to do something helpful. If parent does something unwanted by kid, it is unrealistic to expect kid will learn the particular thing the parent intends. If parent wants to suggest a particular idea or perspective to kid, parent needs to be a friend not an enemy.
people (both children and adults) are not logical or reasonable 100% of the time. And if a person is being unreasonable or is not willing to listen to reason, there is little that reason can do to change their minds. That said, I think it is important to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and to use reason whenever possible.
Sometimes people are unreasonable, and there is little you can do to change their minds. Yes. So what? Unless they are a criminal, leave them alone.

And if they are a criminal, don't pretend that defending yourself is you helping educate them. It's not about that, it's about defense, not help, not education.
if they STILL think drugs are a good idea, that's their opinion despite your argument. that's their freedom.
I absolutely agree with you here the problem comes in with the case of children. Children are very impressionable and so if their parents are advocating or at least displaying use of harmful drugs without warning the child of the potential dangers, they are infringing on the child's right to make an informed and uninfluenced decision.
First, no one has a right to uninfluenced decisions. Influences are everywhere. All parents influence. All parents have their own perspective and aren't totally neutral about everything. That's OK!

Now, instead of drugs, let's talk about bleach for a minute.

Child does have a right to make an informed decision about drinking bleach. Parent absolutely must not leave out sippy cups of bleach. He even needs to lock the cabinet with the bleach so his toddler doesn't get to it. And when the child is 12, the parent should have already have informed kid about the dangers of bleach, parent owes kid useful educational information like that.

Someone might say, "What if parent is wrong and actually bleach is good for you?" The general answer is that parent should present to child both his own opinions, and also mainstream opinions. At least two perspectives, not just one. (One perspective is OK when parent and the vast majority of society agrees. And of those cases, kid will sometimes ask for some alternative ideas, minority opinions, more information, etc, but lots of times he won't and there's no problem if everyone agrees.) Also, if society has several popular opinions, share all of them.

This "give parent's idea and society's idea" policy has two main purposes. It means when parent and society disagree, if parent is disastrously wrong, kid gets a different perspective, he has access to an idea that may be better. And it means when parent and society disagree, and society is disastrously wrong, kid can get parent's perspective, he again gets access to an idea that may be better.

Kid should also have access to whatever other publicly available ideas he wants, if he takes an interest in them. And he should be able to browse through them. That means access to library, YouTube, blogs, TV, Google, etc. Also note if the child decides an idea is bad part way through, and doesn't want to hear the rest, I'm definitely not saying parent should force child to sit through a boring lecture so parent does his duty to provide these ideas.

OK now back to drugs. A lot of people think drugs are very very bad. So parent has a responsibility to share this information. Even if parent thinks drugs are good, it's his job to understand, "I may be mistaken. That's conceivable, and could be a disaster if I'm mistaken and I only tell my child my idea. So I should share views from society too. And let kid think for himself, not choose for him."

People's main objection to this will be what if parent advocates something really bad, like bleach drinking (only for children I guess, or else parent would be dead), and shares information about reasons not to drink bleach, but kid agrees with parent anyway. Well what's really going on there if child gets the idea bleach is OK is parent didn't present the anti-bleach arguments fairly. So he did something very wrong with a life-or-death-issue, and stuff like this can justify interventions by the police.

But what if parent has these wonderful ideas about how bleach is so great for kids, and they are super persuasive, and he's right? Well maybe he can explain that to the police, and then they'll be so thrilled they will help him get his kid a truckload of bleach. Good luck with that...
in the free market, racism isn't such a big deal because if Target is racist you go to Walmart instead. the big problem is government racism because of lack of alternatives. one of the big things i'd suggest here is getting government to stop being involved with most of life.
Definitely part of this is due to a simple difference in political philosophy again, but I would continue to argue that alternatives themselves do not solve racism. What if all alternatives are racist? Or what if a monopoly develops and now the racist option is the only choice?
If only a small proportion of people are racist, the free market makes the impact minimal.

If most of society is racist, say against asians, then asians are in big trouble under any system. But capitalism does offer some help here. Specifically, it provides people with large financial incentives to be less racist. If one employer is willing to stop being racist against asians, he can hire them for less money than he'd have to pay a white person for the same work. If one store is willing to stop being racist against asians, he can attract more customers.

What would you propose instead? It can't be government intervention unless you reject democracy, because the racist majority won't vote to have the government to intervene against themselves.
in general i advocte no testing or qualifications at all. let anyone vote. we let stupid adults vote. why not stupid kids too?
This would be a huge problem. As said, children are impressionable, and so if an individual wants to gather more support for their views one simple option open to them would be to have more kids. I'm sure we both agree that this would be disastrous treatment towards children and consequently one of the reasons child labor laws were instituted, to stop people from having children just to make a profit.
No, I don't agree.

To start, one thing I'd point out is in a free society with a minimal government, gathering votes doesn't do you much good. If there's no porkbarrel spending, no wealth redistribution, no policies favoring particular groups over others, then there's a lot less incentive to gather votes. Some things still matter, e.g. there might be a foreign policy disagreement, but in a society where there's no pork being handed out votes are much less of a big deal. The less the government does, and more limited its powers, the less power it wields, then the less anyone will care to control it. Children who aren't allowed to vote are, of course, not at fault for the current welfare state policies where tax monies serve as loot for voting blocks, and should not be punished for that situation.

Having more kids is not a simple option. Kids take a lot of effort and cost a lot of money. A much simpler, easier and cheaper option is finding a bunch of dumb impressionable people and making an impression on them.

And btw many kids don't like their parents and, thanks to secret ballots, will easily be able to vote the opposite of what the parent wants to spite them, without getting caught.

If people took the money it costs to raise a kid, and donated it to a political party instead, that party would be able to use it to get a lot more votes than the one kid could give them. Money already indirectly buys votes a lot cheaper than the price of a kid, because many adult voters are impressionable to TV ads and other methods.

Which is not ideal, but not such a big deal either. If you don't like it, I recommend trying to spread better ideas so more people learn how to think for themselves better, and be less impressionable.
Upon reading some of BOI, looking into your community, reading some posts and other things as you have suggested; I can't say that I was surprised at your views. I had already managed to guess at quite a few of them from the discussion we'd been having.
Good. I try not to hide my ideas. I try to share them!
But, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that you seem to have much more depth and breadth in your studies/research to be labeled as a simple "Ayn Rand worshiper" as I'm sure the community has done, and so I've been excited to engage with you.
Yes, OK. BTW, I think the simple "Ayn Rand worshiper" is more of a myth and a straw man than a reality. I think it's very hard to find people like that. When I go to Objectivist communities and try to talk to people, the most common problem I run into is they disagree with Ayn Rand on a lot of things, and don't know a lot of her ideas, so we're not able to have a discussion about the advanced nuances of Ayn Rand's ideas. If anyone knew where to find simple (or nuanced) Ayn Rand worshipers, I wish they'd tell me. I would like to try talking to some people like that.
I think a lot of the bad blood towards objectivism supporters on the philosophy subreddits is not necessarily the presence of criticism that seem to be ignored. Often times in this subreddit people will come in with a reading of Ayn Rand as their only exposure to philosophy. Yet they will believe every word she says and usually have an attitude as if all the problems of philosophy have already been solved. The community has gotten tired of trying to engage with these people as they are often unreceptive and stagnant towards criticism and other ideas (I apologize for whoever as been downvoting you in this discussion we've been having).
It'd be nice if more people had broader knowledge of philosophy. This applies to people on all sides though.

I don't care about reddit down votes.

My experience is the philosophy subreddits are mostly full of people who have only been exposed to certain perspectives, and not others (not mine). I don't see much difference between that and someone who only knows the Ayn Rand side of things. One of them gave this list:
Plato, Aristotle, Heidegger, Foucault, Popper, Russell, Feyerabend, Kuhn, Hume, Hegel, Kant, Descartes, Ayer, Quine, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Machiavelli, Leibinz, Locke, Smith, Mill, Marx, Gettier, Rorty, Badiou, James, Whitehead, Dewey, Chalmers, Sellars, Platinga, Reichenbach, Adorno, Gadamer, Benjamin, Foot, Deleuze, Derrida, Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Frege, Rawls, Said, Kripke, Nozick, Levi Strauss, Epicurus, Nietzsche, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Xeno, Fodor and Dennet, with all the commentary from everyone that ever wrote one, and that you read the entirety of the Stanford and Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
I think this is typical and representative of a perspective I've seen many times before.

That is a lot more variety than Ayn Rand's perspective alone. But it's still a limited perspective which doesn't include an understanding of Ayn Rand's ideas, and also excludes some other perspectives. (And in practice, any particular person will only really be familiar with a few of the names on that list, not all of them. And my guess is actually zero of them understand Popper well, which is one of the people who would have provided more useful variety.) And it isn't just Ayn Rand that's missing, it's liberals in general like Burke, Bastiat, Turgot, Menger, Mises, Reisman, etc. Instead they have [Adam] Smith and pretty much call it a day without any understanding of capitalism or liberalism. And when one of these people does learn something about a liberal like Burke, he often learns a particular perspective on Burke, and does not learn the way of thinking about Burke that I would agree with.

The list he wrote is kind of random too. Where's Parmenides? Where's Heraclitus? Where's Thales!? He included Anaximander and Anaxagoras, but not Thales! Why? I understand the theme where he omitted most thinkers I like because he disagrees with their way of thinking, which makes his list less diverse. But the choices of Presocratics strikes me as random.

And where's Socrates? The categorization of Socrates under "Plato" is itself a significant claim; it's part of a perspective I disagree with.

I think it's actually really notable how long a list of philosophers this person wrote while almost entirely excluding the long list of philosophers I like, or have heard of positively and intend to learn more about one day. They have their 30 people they like, and I have my 30, and there isn't a ton of overlap. They claim their perspective is really broad, but they over and over again exclude almost all the people I see value in, while listing tons of people I consider to have value far far below zero.

I'm perfectly happy to accept I have a particular perspective. All I'd say is I do read things I disagree with, and talk with people I disagree with, so I find out about other ideas even though I disagree with them. But I think most people (yes on all sides) actually have more limited perspectives than they think, and don't do nearly enough to find out about ideas they (currently) disagree with.

They should admit their perspective is very biased and limited in some ways. But they won't do that. They want to pretend their list of thinkers is all there is. Because they don't want to have to read and debate the people they don't like, at all. They can't win debates, so they just pretend the opposition doesn't exist.

I think a lot of the bias here is because universities are extremely biased, and the main theme of this thinker list is they are acceptable to universities as important prestigious authority figures. People go to university and the university tells them which 20 people to read, and they read that and think they have a broad education, and never read the type of people who are at odds with the university's point of view, like Ayn Rand.

By the way, I grew up left wing. I changed my mind.

(I am using the word "liberal" with its proper meaning, not the modern American meaning where it means left-wing anti-liberals.)

I agree there are many unsolved philosophy problems (Rand would agree with that too). But I do think some problems have been solved, and that a lot of people deny this because they don't understand the solutions offered by Rand, Popper, and a few other particularly effective philosophers.

I think if people get tired of dealing with the same ideas over and over, they should write canonical essays which address them, then in the future deal with people by providing links. There are rational ways to keep the possibility of advancing the discussion, without doing repetitive boring tasks and getting frustrated. I discuss this in my Paths Forward essay.
This leads to both sides dismissing the other which I think is a bad thing and prevents possible learning or at least productive discussion. But as I said, you seem to be at least extremely more read into your areas of interest than this stereotype that I've depicted. Even if I tend to agree with the majority on the philosophy subreddits about criticism towards objectivism and some other ideas, I respect the amount of effort you have obviously put into developing these positions for yourself, and I think these kinds of discussions can always be a good thing. So I'll just move into some thoughts I had about some of the things I've read and you can feel free to (or not to) respond to any areas I bring up.
OK. BTW, Rand has a lot of ideas, she was a really broad thinker who covered a ton of ground. Some of them get very little notice. I'd like for her critics to sometimes tell me what's wrong with her concept and criticism of secondhand living, instead of just complaining about selfish capitalism. Or tell me what's objectionable about her advocacy of the practical value of philosophy to human life. Or maybe even why she's wrong about atheism! There's so many interesting topics besides just getting mad that she's right wing.
Upon reading the intro and skimming through a few other sections it is obviously a very well written book. The author has an excellent control of his prose (although it may be a little too "grand" for my tastes). But the book didn't ignite whatever compelling spark in me that it has to you and your community. The language was often awe-inspiring but I wonder if a lot of it's ideas held up to the promises of the language.
I don't like grand writing either. I think it's much plainer writing than most similar books, but there's room for improvement. It's noticeably nicer reading than Popper, who is worlds better than Kant to read. Rand is a better writer though, and plainer (but I try to write more plainly than that), though she does have a style which bothers some people.

I believe the ideas in The Beginning of Infinity do hold up, and are very important once studied and understood. Which I've done. And there's no critics who've done that. I guess I should also mention that some of us have had extensive discussions with DD and also he's written thousands of emails to FI group precursors. (There is a 20 year history, but it moved around a few times.) So we know more arguments than fit in the book.

In any case, the basic thing I ask of people is to point out a mistake in the book before giving up – and share that mistake incase there was a misunderstanding or a way the criticism is false. You write more below on several topics, so let's see:
Philosophy: Deutsh obviously has a very strong understanding of Popper and manages to explain his ideas very well. This was enjoyable because often when none-philosophers do philosophy, they either have a poor understanding of the philosophers they engage with or no knowledge and wind up repeating ideas that have already been done way before, missing out on the large body of work already present.
I don't know why you try to categorize people into philosophers and non-philosophers. Nor do I know how you're categorizing. DD is a philosopher. It's hard to imagine what more you could want than all the work he's put into philosophy, before you'd count him. Not that you know how much work he's put into being a philosopher. All you know, I guess, is that he doesn't have a university degree in philosophy. But that wouldn't have helped him understand Popper better anyway, and might well have gotten in the way. And I can tell you he's studied philosophy more than is required to get a university degree, and if you were assuming otherwise I don't think you should have.

In my informed judgment, DD understands Popperian epistemology about as well as Popper did. Better in some ways, worse in others. They're comparable. I think that alone is plenty to qualify him as a top philosopher, though DD also knows a lot of other philosophy (though Popper even more).
His arguments for Popper's ideas are clear and convincing although I'm not sure much convincing needs to be done at this day in age for falsifiability.
Popper has been very badly misunderstood, and many of his major ideas are being completely ignored by academia and most of the world. He is not at all popular, only some misunderstandings and a tiny fraction of what he said is well known.

For example (one of many), Popper solved the problem of induction – by rejecting it, accepting induction as impossible, and proposing a different way to approach epistemology. These philosophers who learned a little about falsifiability are inductivists who absolutely reject Popper's way of thinking, usually with little idea of how it works.

So a huge amount more convincing is needed. Popper was very marginalized during his lifetime and nothing much has changed. Most secondary sources about his work are grossly inaccurate and misrepresent his views. And most introductory philosophy books and courses either omit Popper or only mention him very briefly without explaining much (and if they do say anything, it's often wrong). (I'm not guessing this – I know a Popperian who checked hundreds of university courses and books to find this out.)
When he later goes onto to argue against things like positivism and postmodernism, I don't know if he realizes that these kinds of things have already been critically dismissed by the large part of current academic philosophy. Nevertheless, the arguments provide another mostly-original approach to add to the pile. His whole aesthetics thing felt pretty unnecessary to me especially considering all the literature he is ignoring there, but I didn't hold this issue to be of any critical importance to the book anyway so no big deal.
Yes some specific things are already reasonably well known and common opinions, and DD knows that. They can still be worth mentioning some because of how they fit into the book's arguments and themes, and make it more self-contained. And also to provide a different perspective on how to refute them as you mention, that's definitely important too!
Dichotomies: He has a few dichotomies which I think would be more wise to re-evaluate as spectrums such as the dynamic vs. static cultures and the rational vs. anti-rational memes. Classifying everything as black or white is hard to do and almost always the incorrect approach.
Well, I await your arguments on these points. Things like rational and anti-rational memes have a logic to them for why they have to be that way. A mixed meme wouldn't be effective and wouldn't make sense – having majorly contradictory themes and methods is not the optimal way to outcompete other memes for replication.
The other areas I will go into will be much further out of my area of expertise than this so take my comments with a grain of salt. I don't know either how solid these classifications even are in the first place, but again, my reading time was limited.

Multiverse theory: I'm not a physicist. That being said, from what I've been able to gather from most of these theories it seems as if multiverse theories often lack any additional explanatory power over their opponents. And interestingly, these theories seem to be able to be classified as infalsifiable ones according Popper's own ideas which would seem to be a huge contradiction for Deutsch. But again, I'm not a physicist and these criticisms may be handled in this book or elsewhere.
I agree with DD on this, and know enough about it to debate it with physicists. I'd be happy to discuss if you want to go into details. If you want to really understand it though, I'd recommend reading both of DD's books first. Or at minimum, chapter 2 of The Fabric of Reality.
Beginning of Infinity: This proposal too seems to have a degree of infalsifiablility around it given that we can't ever really know if there isn't more to progress on. Additionally, for someone against induction, this whole idea of the beginning of infinity came off to be to be something more or less induced out of the patterns he explains in parts of his book. I'm sure I'm missing parts of the author's argument here and I would be interested to see if these criticisms have any merit. Additionally, this kind of idea of infinite progress has been theorized over and over by many different people (see: singularity, although there are many different forms of it) and this just seems to be another, although I will grant that it seems to be a little more creative and rigorous than the ones currently out there.
Falsifiability is a Popperian criterion for whether an idea is scientific. Being unfalsifiable is not a criticism of an idea that was trying to be philosophy, not science.

A broader concept is criticizability. Can the idea be criticized? Could it lose an argument? If so, then it's fine as philosophy. Being able to be criticized with scientific tests or other empirical observations is helpful, but ultimately it's just a special case of criticism (and actually as DD explains in FoR, even most scientific ideas are rejected by non-empirical criticism).

I agree that others have had some somewhat similar ideas. I don't see that as a big deal or a problem. There are, I think you agree, differences in what DD says to make it notable and not just a repetition.

One of DD's arguments is to think about what makes things impossible? Laws of physics. What law of physics makes progress beyond a particular point impossible? And if there was one, why that point?
Good explanations: This whole idea just seems a little broad and already intuitive. Of course finding good explanations for things allows us to progress in the areas better explained. Progress leaves us better off, that's the definition of progress. So of course we pursue progress/better explanations because we like to be in a better situation over a worse one. Additionally I would be hesitant to list any single cause for the enlightenment, even if that cause happens to be one as broad as "good explanations" although the approach is certainly a novel and interesting one.
While good explanations seem like common sense, basically no one believes this, or at least they don't act like it. They keep doing explanationless correlation science, for example. Most "scientists" get this completely wrong and waste their careers, today. This is discussed in BoI chapter 12.

It's like trying to advocate for education or rational discussion. Everyone says they already agree and then doesn't listen. Then they do it in ways I consider mistaken. Trying to communicate about issues where people think they already agree, but there's major differences, can be tough. Especially when you just skimmed – I think some of this comes across better when reading the full book.
Overall Impression: He's a great writer and certainly one capable of inspiring others. He is a strong thinker with the ability to apply many solid ideas in creative ways. But that seemed to be kind of it. His "unifying theory" seems to only sort of connect the major issues he goes into and kind of comes off as rambling sometimes. That said, I loved his optimism for the future and even if I don't agree or believe in all of his ideas, I respect and appreciate that kind of progressive outlook.
My main concern is the book has arguments and explanations on dozens of specific topics, many of which I think are valuable. While the book has some ongoing themes and they are important, if you just read it as a collection of separate essays without fully understanding the connections (which is to be expected at first, philosophy is hard), it'd still have high value. Two such topics relevant to this discussion are universality and ape behavior.
Fallible Ideas:
Both space and time are getting a little sort for me here so I may find myself rushing again. I'm unfamiliar with Yahoo groups and so the structure is currently harder for me to navigate and read (one of the reasons why I didn't want to post to the group). But other than that it is an interesting group. I know you yourself seem to have ideas in libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, atheism, objectivism, Karl Popper's ideas, and possibly some support for futurology (please correct me if I'm wrong, it isn't meant to be offensive). The group seems to be mostly linked to the objectivism and Karl Popper. As you are probably aware, this is not my area of interest but I also don't have anything against it. The one thing I noticed which I hoped was just a mistake on my end was that there seemed to be some favor in shaming others on the group which I found disagreeable. Particularly here and here
You are welcome to post about topics of interest to you, and only read posts about those topics, at the Fallible Ideas (FI) discussion group.

When something looks like shaming, or otherwise mean, it's important to remember that you don't have all the context. For the Alan post, I've known him for over a decade. He doesn't feel shame due to an email criticizing his public online writing/behavior, he appreciates criticism. Alan also would have said something if he'd thought I made a mistake. In the other post, I criticize Frank J. The context there includes that Frank J is not an FI member, so he won't see this. He is a long time public figure, by choice. I and some other FI members have mostly liked his writing for a long time. Further, I didn't explain my criticism (relating to how many children to have) very much because regular readers already know what it is, and anyone who doesn't is welcome to ask. The purpose of the post was to point out an example related to a philosophical point already agreed on, and to express sadness regarding the state of the world and the way children are treated.

Another thing I'd point out is I personally write the majority of posts which could be considered offensive. So you aren't going to participate at the group and be like, "I liked that curi guy, but everyone else here is a jerk." More the opposite.

There are reasons I write as I do, and others do some as well. Some things do violate conventional norms, politeness, and some people's expectations. Some things are Objectivist, some aren't. In each case, I'm open to discussing the matter. One general attitude at FI is that criticism is a valuable gift. Criticism is key to learning and improving, and highly desirable (and watering it down to be "nice" gets in the way of learning for rational people).
Now although my beliefs differ greatly from those on your community I would be happy in the near future to have a discussion some time. I would be open to having a ground up discussion of objectivism especially from a morals/ethics point of view in which I could argue back and forth in a manner like we have been doing here. As long as it remains civil which I'm sure will be the case. If you think your community would have some interest in this shoot me a PM and we can figure out a date or time or something to start it off.
Yes that'd be great. Just post to FI whenever you want. Please note, FI discussions are asynchronous: you post on your schedule, other people will post on theirs. Sometimes there may be delays. Also the main other thing to note to get started is the email formatting guidelines – in particular use plain text and do quoting similar to how you wrote part 1 on reddit, rather than top posting. A difference from reddit is FI emails are expected to be self-contained (leave enough nested quoting for context so it makes sense).

Note FI is very open to a wide variety of topics, and if in doubt about something just ask.
I promise the final part will be very short
I don't really mind length. Which reminds me: sometimes FI posts are quite long. If this is a problem for you, there are a couple things you can do about it. One is to reply multiple times separately, about different topics, to split it into several smaller and more manageable discussions. Another is to only reply about a specific point. Another is to ask people to write less (though they may very well reply that they enjoy writing it, and you can just not read/reply to parts you don't want to, and maybe someone else will be interested in that part).

Also you can reply to a three month old post. You can take your time and go at your own pace. There is no expectation that you keep up, or that you continue discussions promptly. We don't devalue ideas because they were written last year. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for writing self-contained posts!)
Anyway there are a few suggestions/recomendations I would like to make for you if you don't mind. I don't wish for them to come off as insulting and they may not apply to you but they were just some thoughts/questions I had.
OK. FYI you can't offend me. I'm not sensitive. (This is one reason I sometimes offend people, because I don't spend my time thinking about some of those kinds of issues.)
Burden of Proof: I'm sure you're aware that many of the positions you hold are minority ones in the current philosophical climate.
Yes, I'm aware.
What that will often mean is that you will find yourself making the challenging claim to the current state of affairs. This will usually place the burden of proof upon you. I think this may be another reason the community has been harsh. This means that instead of asking for others for criticisms against your ideas, it will be more effective for you to lead with criticisms of their ideas or with actual proofs to the claims you make. This may help you find a generally better reception here and be seen as someone more open to discussion.
"Burden of proof" is a concept I disagree with in general. I won't get into that now, but there's a specific problem I see here. The "mainstream position" frequently consists of 20 different versions of something with significant differences. If I pick one and argue with it, people say they didn't have that version in mind. It can be necessary to nail them down on what specific stuff they believe before arguing with it. So there's an important reason for people advocating standard views to still state their view, or link a particular statement of it which they take personal responsibility for.

This often comes up with academic papers in particular. Sometimes I just pick a typical one and point out errors. Then people say, "Well, not every paper is perfect, but there's so many other papers reaching the same conclusions." Then, maybe they pick one, and I criticize it too, and then they stop speaking to me. Other times I ask people to pick a paper first, and claim it doesn't have errors (not just like a typo, but errors which ruin the main conclusions), and the majority of the time they refuse to do it. So things can be difficult however you approach it.

In any case, if you want someone to go first on something, just ask. One part of my approach to discussions, which I think should be more popular, is more back-and-forth. It's fine to write a short reply merely indicating you think the other guy should go first on some point. And then he can do so, or ask why, or argue why not, or whatever. And you can go from there. No big deal. Often I say something and don't preemptively include my full reasoning because I don't know if it's wanted, I don't know if the guy disagrees or not, and I say a lot of things and giving full reasoning for all of them would be very long. What I expect people to do is ask for more info about parts they disagree with, ask for more details if they are interested in a part where I didn't preemptively give a lot of detail, etc. I always have more ideas behind what I write, and I can't write them all, but I can add more in the particular areas people ask about.

I think going back and forth a lot in small chunks can help with the sort of issues you were concerned with. And can help with clarifying statements and dealing with misunderstandings. (I know this post is very long, but on each individual topic it's actually small chunks. You're welcome to split it up when replying however. I haven't split it because there wasn't any particular issue I thought I needed a reply about before replying to some other part.)
Studying Philosophy Independently: I get the sense that much of your philosophical learning has been done on your own/outside the classroom. In one way, this is an extremely admirable thing because of the difficulty. And in another way this difficulty can make it challenging to be correct all the time. There was a post a little while ago that I think does a great job handling this: here
Note how I posted in that thread and was ignored. That's typical. It's very hard to get people to join FI (even people who like me and/or are willing to have a discussion with me). And it's very hard to get people to give/discuss reasons why not with any seriousness or depth. If you have any ideas about this, let me know! My latest attempted solution is I wrote Paths Forward and keep linking people to it, but basically no one will read it and discuss. (One thing I've noticed is people treat links completely differently than fresh content, which makes it hard to talk to them because I don't want to rewrite the same ideas over and over. And I don't even really want to copy/paste stuff and lose formatting just for the sake of manipulating them.)

It's very very very very very challenging to be correct all the time no matter what you do.

You didn't link to a specific comment so it's hard to tell which ideas from the reddit discussion you liked. One thing I would point out is that many academics are not famous, and are accessible by email. For example, I had a question about William Godwin, and I was able to email and ask the scholar (Mark Philp) who made the 7 volume set of Godwin works, and he contacted another scholar about the matter and I got a good answer. I was able to have extensive discussion with Thomas Szasz, one of the best recent thinkers, until his death, simply by emailing him intelligently. There is no university professor today I'd prefer to have discussions with rather than Szasz. Another example is that in the past, DD was readily available on IRC – and he's always answered some email. And before email, people like Ayn Rand and Richard Feynman answered some letters from the public.

Of the people who are inaccessible, one should consider: why are they less accessible? Why aren't they open to discussion? Where are their Paths Forward? Are they judging ideas by the source rather than content? They might not be very valuable to talk with anyway. And going to a university would only get you limited access to a few of them. And if you disagree with your professors, because you like Ayn Rand and they don't, you might not get much at all – and it may well be the same with the other students who need perspectives similar to their teachers to get good grades (and btw you might get bad grades for disagreeing about some ideas).

Anyway, learning and getting things right is extremely hard no matter what, academia is overrated, the current design of schools is irrational (a big topic, I know!), and I don't know what your specific point was.

One other thing is I wanted to comment on something said in that thread:
I had a unit called Love and Friendship (it sounds ridiculous, but it was one of the best classes i'd taken) and this guy who is pretty much insane had to do a presentation on Kant's theory of love, or something along those lines, and he started by drawing a map of Australia on the whiteboard. (I live in Aus, but that doesn't make this any less weird), nothing else needs to be said about that guy. We also had a guy legit rage quit because he went on a big rant about how Descartes is wrong and not useful anymore and the lecturer was a huge scholar on Descartes just shut him down hard, guy almost cried I swear.
A teacher making a student almost cry is NOT OK, and not what education should be like. Reddit doesn't seem to mind though. People are so mean. He was wrong, so he should be punished? How is that education? Why not calmly and kindly explain a few points to him? This kind of misguided and cruel attitude to education is common among both students and teachers.

Having mean attitudes to people who present some material you already know (like a map of Australia) is also cruel and a bad attitude. It reminds me of when people made fun of Richard Feynman for going to the library to look up a "map of the cat", and then also complained when he presented information they had already memorized.
I'd like to add one additional thing to the sentiments there. It's not just about being around people that have similar interests to you, but also about the people that have different interests to you. A community of all like-thinkers will have a much slower time being exposed to new ideas to progress, and it will have a near impossible chance at accepting any ideas that are so radically different from the ones the community currently has (no matter how correct/rational the new ideas are).
Yes, that is one reason FI has always welcomed dissent, I frequently invite people who disagree with me, and I frequently search out other communities. That is one reason I posted on reddit recently.
That is one of the main reasons I love the philosopy community on reddit because so many different view points can meet and discuss here.
I'd like it more if the moderator didn't ban me from /r/badphilosophy (no reason given) and threatened to ban me from /r/askphilosophy (no specific reason given, no quotes or examples given) unless I obey some rules he was unwilling to clarify/explain (though I received a PM from someone apparently familiar with the scene, who informed me the actual rule is don't be an Objectivist, which seems very plausible given events so far). The moderator was also used standard dishonest/irrational tactics in the discussion (first he said the problem is that I was having discussions at a place for asking questions, but when I asked about the where the line for too much discussion was, then he ignored that topic and started saying I needed to follow different rules, which he was also unwilling to explain or give any example of me violating). And he waited until he was already on the verge of banning me to speak to me for the first time.

The same moderator stated, "... I can't stand your incessant Randrage."

My intention is to ignore this – what else can I do besides leave? – but I won't be surprised if I'm banned soon.

Most moderated discussion places are like this if you ever say stuff they really strongly disagree with. (I do not moderate my discussion places.)

Even some places which may appear unmoderated are like this, such as Less Wrong. Your posts don't go into a moderation queue there (last I checked), so it might appear unmoderated. But they do sometimes censor Popperian ideas – arbitrarily, not according to any clear written policies. Their written moderation policies try to appear minimal and give a false impression of the actual policies (which go beyond the written ones, which themselves have huge limits, such as any discussion related to politics or PUA may be "suppressed" if any moderator wants to.) And basically the only reason the moderation is anything resembling limited is because they rely on downvotes to shut people up – and if you don't listen to that unargued social signal then people start getting mad and moderators may well start messing with you. So you have a choice between either being "voluntarily" suppressed by downvotes which try to pretend to be soft moderation, not hard moderation. Or if you don't go along with that soft suppression, then you can easily run into hard suppression. So really I'd view it as heavily moderated. I have examples I could dig up if someone is super interested and gives me a short statement of how it will be valuable to them and what they will learn.
The community obviously isn't perfect and niches obviously have their place as well, but I think holistic, inclusive meeting places are the best ones for sharing and debating ideas and one of the best places to learn.
But it's not holistic and inclusive. It has a certain portion of the spectrum of ideas, which stands out to me since I'm not on that portion and was met with great hostility from many people (not you). Another thing that didn't feel inclusive is being limited to 1 post per 10 minutes, across multiple subreddits. With no buffer: if I go to sleep and wake up eight hours later to 18 unread replies to me, and I post 1 reply, then it's a 10 minute wait to be allowed to answer the next one. This is especially inconvenient because reddit has fast paced discussion and people often stop talking to you after a limited amount of time passes.

Here is an example of how unbelievably cruel and cold they can be, rather than inclusive (note that on the reddit site, if you aren't logged in as me, my posts will show up as deleted, even though they predate what claims to be a last warning. And note that I was not told they were deleted – actually that was hidden from me, while I was lied to by saying I'd only been warned so far. And I have no idea what else was deleted, due to the very nasty policy of misleading me about what has been deleted.):

If you have the opportunity (if you haven't already) definitely take some university-level philosophy classes, in particular any upper level moral theories class. With good teachers and decent students, these kinds of classes are often full of some of the best group discussions and learning one can find. And it often provides a chance for many to explore the outcomes of a variety of moral systems. Additionally, if you are an objectivist, ethical egoism (which - in my opinion - includes objectivism as well), is usually the first theory discussed discussed in most classes. So you would be able to almost immediately engage in a topic that is very meaningful to you.
If there is any specific idea/argument you believe I don't know, you're welcome to point me where to find it in a book or video lecture. (Preferably a text format, those are easier to engage with, quote, go through at your own pace, etc.)
One last thing I forgot to add but wanted to because it applies to me too! I'm sure you're familiar with this concept but when reading philosophical texts, the favored method is to read it once charitably, meaning trying ones best to think like the author and convince oneself of the ideas presented before moving on. After that, one should read the text critically, looking for flaws in the arguing and trying to disprove the theory with examples and such. This does not mean attacking the weakest arguments or making them to be weaker (straw man) but instead challenging oneself to go after the strongest ideas.
Improving your opponent's ideas and addressing the strongest challenges is something Popper emphasizes.

But there is a difficulty I'd like to point out. If you clean up someone's argument, and then reply to that version, often they won't recognize it, and will accuse you of replying to a straw man! They may disagree with your improvements. I've found with a lot of people, I have to stick rather closely to what they said, or they won't get it.

Another issue is if you don't give criticism of the weaker version as written, then the person doesn't get to find out about those weaknesses. Pointing those out can help them.

You can try to explain to people why the current version isn't very good, and how to improve it, and walk them through the process and all the concepts you're bringing in to make the improvements. But that can be a big project, and they may disagree with a lot of it. So often you're kinda stuck replying to what they know and think now, if you want to talk with someone. But you still should consider what you see as the best version in your own mind, and discuss it with other people who understand.
I talk about this because it is something most people need help practicing this, myself included. And I think my need for practice showed in what is probably an overly critical and simplified analysis of BOI. I still believe many of those points have merit, but I should have definitely put more work into both understanding and strengthening Deutsch position before making those attacks.
I have no objection to your initial criticisms of BoI as long as you understand and keep in mind the context, e.g. that you hadn't read the whole book and some issue might be answered in a part you didn't read. I think it's good to start discussing things early, so you can clear up misunderstandings quick rather than reading the whole book and building a web of misunderstandings. And what if it's a bad book? Being able to read a little and start a discussion protects you from having to read entire books to judge at all. If you read chapter 1 of a book and it seems to suck, I don't think you should either be silent or read all the other chapters. Talking to someone who's read more can clear a few things up and help you find out if you're missing anything or the book really does suck.

I think it's important to keep in mind context in a huge amount of ways, and keeping in mind the context of how much you know about something and gaps in your knowledge is an important example. But with that said, replying even to simply the very first thing you disagree with (and stopping there for now) can be reasonable and an efficient time management technique.

(BTW, due to the comment length limit on reddit, this would have had to split into 7 comments. I think that's a very bad feature of reddit.)

Elliot Temple on March 11, 2015


What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)