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David Miller Doesn't Want To Discuss

I contacted Critical Rationalist philosopher David Miller about my improvement on Critical Rationalism. I sent him this material explaining it. His entire reply was:

May invite you to look at §4 of Chapter 5 of my Out of Error?

I replied:

Sure, but I'm unclear on why. I don't see that it replies to me or refutes something I said. And you intentionally omit discussion of the case involving "comparisons of verisimilitude", which is important to this discussion. You also focus on scientific testing and deduction, whereas I deal with thinking in general. And in ch. 4.1, you write:

Indeed, [science] may also allow falsified hypotheses to be retained, provided that there is some weight of negative evidence that would eventually cause them to be banished.

So my criticism does apply to your position, since you think arguments can have an amount of weight. Similarly:

In Critical Rationalism: A Restatement and Defence you write (ch. 10.1):

A minimal objective theory of truthlikeness does indeed seem to be possible. Whether an objective theory of scientific progress can be built on its back I do not know.

The truthlikeness approach is an example of an amount of goodness approach. This attempt to evaluate an epistemological amount, like the amount of weight of arguments mentioned above, contrasts with my refuted or non-refuted approach. Because criticisms are decisive or false, and there's no medium strength or weight arguments, there's no way to differentiate ideas on a truthlikeness continuum – there's no way to get an idea to any of the middle positions via argument (rather than arbitrarily) because arguments either put ideas to the very bottom (refuted) or don't move them at all.

Scientific progress (and non-scientific progress) is saved, however, by the binary approach I explain in my Yes or No Philosophy. (In case you missed the link at the bottom of the essay with further info: http://fallibleideas.com/essays/yes-no-argument If price is a problem, name your price, including free, and I'll send you a code.)

PS in Out of Error ch. 5.4 you bring up O'Hear on induction. You may be interested in my criticism of his position:

http://curi.us/2012-anthony-ohear-on-popper


David Miller's full reply was:

Thank you for replying.

So I asked:

Does that mean you aren't interested?

Do you know anyone who would be interested in discussing an improvement to Critical Rationalism?

His entire reply was:

Truth to tell, I am not at present interested in entering into any more discussions. You could join the critical rationalism Facebook group https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/criticalrationalism/.

So, he initially tried to hide it, but he doesn't want to discuss philosophy and doesn't know anyone who does. (That Facebook group is low quality, as I think he already knows. I've tried discussing there already. Miller didn't have a good recommendation to give, such as the name of even one person who would want a serious discussion of my philosophical breakthrough.)

Miller isn't interested in a way to improve the philosophy his books are about. He's not interested in criticism of his beliefs, even when it comes with an already-developed solution. He's not interested in thinking, learning, progress or truth-seeking. And he doesn't know of anyone who would be interested. Very sad!

I share this as important evidence about what the world is like. People think there are smart, serious intellectuals out there somewhere having great discussions, figuring important stuff out. But I've contacted many of them and consistently find they don't want to think and don't know anyone who does. (Excepting David Deutsch and Thomas Szasz.)

I wrote back to say:

But then, if you're mistaken, how will the error get corrected?

Miller didn't reply.


Elliot Temple on August 1, 2017

Comments (47)

BTW I sent the criticism of O'Hear's philosophy writing to O'Hear. No reply so far.

curi at 3:35 PM on August 1, 2017 | #8890
"Critical Rationalism says ideas are criticized using evidence and argument. The better an idea survives criticism, the more preferred it is over competing ideas"

This claim of yours is refuted in the chapter.

I have had much interesting conversations with Miller, he has never been so curt.

Andrew Crawshaw at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9114
> This claim of yours is refuted in the chapter.

Which chapter? Can you provide a quote or some indication of what you're talking about? I'm guessing I would read it and disagree (or I already did) and be unable to guess which part you meant and why.

> I have had much interesting conversations with Miller, he has never been so curt.

He didn't want to face a major intellectual challenge.

curi at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9115
It was not major. You are misunderstanding his view of CR.

"This is what leads Popper to say that, since we prefer truth to falsehood, we prefer the refuted theory to the one that is not. But this preference is not a logical consequence, since it goes beyond a summary of the state of the discussion; and if that is what Popper meant by saying that there can be good arguments for 'preferring -- if only for the time being then T2 to T1 with respect to verisimilitude', then he overstated his case. All that may be derived from the empirical report that T1 is refuted and T2 is not (together with a statement of the preference of truth over falsehood) is that T2 should not be preferred to T1"

And

"[T] he combination of evidence and deductive logic offers no advice concerning [...] what theory or course of action we should prefer."

Miller, Out of Error, p127.

Anonymous at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9116
Neither quote you give matches my copy of the book, and the first quote appears to have a typo in the first sentence. If you choose not to use an ebook and copy/paste, it's your responsibility to get quotes 100% exactly right.

And you aren't being responsive to e.g. what I already said in the blog post. Nor are you writing out any argument about how these quotes you give would refute my claims.

curi at 11:53 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9117
Also please use ">" for quoting here so quotes are colored. It's way more readable.

Anonymous at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9118
Sorry, the quote in the above is wrong. Let me quote the last part again.

"All that may be derived from the empirical report that T1 is refuted and T2 is not refuted (together with a statement of our preference of truth over falshood) is not that T2 should be preferred to T1 but that T1 should not be preferred to T2"

This does not stop us from accepting T2, it does follow that if we try to accept T1 we are open to criticism. Accepting T2 is not compulsory given just the evidence and argument.

Anonymous at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2017 | #9119
You're omitting the italics and you didn't fix the second quote. You don't see to care about scholarship. You're still marking quotes wrong.

How about you respond to the blog post:

> > Indeed, [science] may also allow falsified hypotheses to be retained, provided that there is some weight of negative evidence that would eventually cause them to be banished.

> So my criticism does apply to your position, since you think arguments can have an amount of weight.

So Miller thinks a thing ET has a criticism of. So you should speak to the issues (who is right in the disagreement?) instead of pretending there is no issue.

Anonymous at 12:02 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9120
You're saying: not all of ET's arguments apply, with their exact wording, to Miller's revision of CR. So what? The main point applies.

Anonymous at 12:05 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9121
You say that critical rationalism states

> "The better an idea survives criticism, the more preferred it is over competing ideas"

This does not apply to Miller since accepts that that is wrong.

He claims

...[T]he combination of evidence and deductive logic offers no advice concerning [...] what theory or course of action we should prefer"

The quote is truncated, because the rest is unimportant.

Your claim and his claim are at odds. Deductive logic, although you might disagree, is for Miller, the primary means we investigate claims and it's use is always negative ie critical.

Anonymous at 12:06 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9122
> > Indeed, [science] may also allow falsified hypotheses to be retained, provided that there is some weight of negative evidence that would eventually cause them to be banished.

I am not sure this links up with prefererences. You would have to explain why you think this.

Anonymous at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9123
Why did you open a new debate with ET when you have an open one pending your reply?

The text "combination of evidence and deductive logic" does not exist in *Out of Error*. You're literally repeated a misquote after being told it's a misquote.

Why did you double quote the first quote in your new message, and not quote the second one at all? You seem deeply confused about how to do quoting. Given you can't even deal with quoting, why do you think you have the skills to deal with scholarship? Scholarship is much, much, much harder than doing quoting correctly. You need to be way more detail oriented and precise to do a scholarly debate like you're attempting than to do quoting.

You have not addressed the "weight of negative evidence" issue.

Anonymous at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9124
> > > Indeed, [science] may also allow falsified hypotheses to be retained, provided that there is some weight of negative evidence that would eventually cause them to be banished.

> I am not sure this links up with prefererences. You would have to explain why you think this.

ET criticized the idea of weight of evidence. Are you unfamiliar with ET's position and point?

Anonymous at 12:10 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9125
It does exist.

I will quote it in full.

>"Given our aims and abstract predilections (for truth over falsehood, for truthlikeness and >accuracy over inaccuracy, for success over failure) the combination of empirical >evidence and deductive logic offers no advice concerning what we should accept or >believe or do, or even what theory or course of action we should prefer"

Anonymous at 12:13 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9126
Andrew, I developed my standards and methods of arguments in thousands of hours of one-on-one discussions with David Deutsch. I find your standards and methods for discussion are inadequate to the task at hand. The truth requires better methodology to reach. Are you interested in talking about how you developed your skillset, background knowledge, etc, and trying to improve it? I am open to criticism and discussion on points like that, which I think are important. Or do you just want to debate in what I regard as a too-sloppy-to-get-anywhere way, while not being very interested in the constant stream of mistakes you make which are pointed out?

Here you are pushing back for the third time on your misquoting. You've badly mangled this new quote by quoting a quote for no reason and then inserting 3 extra quote markers in the middle. And anyway, if you actually look at it, it doesn't have the text "combination of evidence and deductive logic". Why are you unable to read accurately? I think that's a huge problem. But I guess you'll think it's a minor problem which should be ignored? If so, do you have arguments about methodology, or are you just going by intuition? I have arguments e.g. http://fallibleideas.com/overreach

curi at 12:17 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9127
I missed out "empirical". Sorry. Your claim about Miller remains criticised.

Anonymous at 12:19 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9128
You need to figure out how to stop making mistakes so issues can get sorted out, and progress can be made. When you pile mistake on mistake, outstanding issues build up and become overwhelming instead of being resolved. In order to do this, you need to stop being overly ambitious relative to your discussion skills so that some success can occur.

I know this isn't how people usually think about discussion. I'm willing to be patient and forgiving. However, I don't know how to ignore this problem productively. I think it has to be faced.

curi at 12:19 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9129
Actually, I did not quote it wrong. That's exactly what it says in my copy.

Anonymous at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9130
> I missed out "empirical". Sorry. Your claim about Miller remains criticised.

Have you actually read all the comments? You've been answered already.

Also tripling down on misquoting is not a "Sorry." and move on matter, it's a big deal. Being highly persistent with mistakes is important and gets in the way of correcting mistakes. Your disinterest in self-improvement – combined with not already being a world class scholar (100% of whom *are* interested in self-improvement, btw) – seems incompatible with a productive discussion.

Anonymous at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9131
> Actually, I did not quote it wrong. That's exactly what it says in my copy.

This is unclear. You wrote it two different ways. So you have two copies, which you refer to as "my copy"?

Anonymous at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9132
If you look at my quote it says "empirical evidence". It is you who is failing to read it properly.

Anonymous at 12:24 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9133
> If you look at my quote it says "empirical evidence". It is you who is failing to read it properly.

What you first posted was:

> "[T] he combination of evidence and deductive logic offers no advice concerning [...] what theory or course of action we should prefer."

You followed up with:

> ...[T]he combination of evidence and deductive logic offers no advice concerning [...] what theory or course of action we should prefer"

(Mismatched quote marks in original).

Now you claim that your original quote says "empirical evidence"? What is wrong with you? What?

Do you know how to do a text search on a webpage? Try searching for "empirical evidence".

Spooky Ghost at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9134
maybe he’s upset and flailing badly as you puncture his self-image

Mysterious Jabroni at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9135
The quote in #9126 is accurate wording. Your claim remains criticised.

Anonymous at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9136

Anonymous at 12:30 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9137
> Actually, I did not quote it wrong. That's exactly what it says in my copy.

By which you meant you didn't quote wrong on your third attempt (and no one said you did)?

Anonymous at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9138
See also #9120 #9121 and the open question:

> Why did you open a new debate with ET when you have an open one pending your reply?

Anonymous at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9139
the argumentative visitor was emotionally caught up in the chat and now he stopped replying entirely

literally couldn’t sort out quoting issue b4 RIP

let alone sort out the actual topic

partly b/c he *didn’t want* to sort out quoting issue!

nor did he want to discuss methodology – does it matter if ur quoting wrong and making other mistakes, or can u just ignore that and get stuff right anyway?

bystander at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9140
there were on-topic non-meta replies to him which he also ignored...

Anonymous at 12:55 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9141
> there were on-topic non-meta replies to him which he also ignored...

well, let's be real. there were on-topic non-meta points *in the original blog post* which he ignored the entire time!

Anonymous at 12:57 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9142
> well, let's be real. there were on-topic non-meta points *in the original blog post* which he ignored the entire time!

right. his inability to meaningfully engage with the material was one of the reasons the conversation developed a meta part.

Anonymous at 12:58 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9143
Andrew was constantly ignoring things that were said to him. e.g. early on:

> And you aren't being responsive to e.g. what I already said in the blog post.

He apparently didn't understand that (based on him never doing it) and didn't ask. He just ignored it. When you don't understand what the other guy is saying and ignore it, the discussion falls apart. By ignoring sections of text as if they weren't written, you're introducing large semi-random communication errors into the discussion.

It's hard to talk to someone if they just sorta delete some passages before reading what you said.

Anonymous at 1:07 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9144
> Why did you open a new debate with ET when you have an open one pending your reply?

Andrew has at least two previous open discussions with ET pending Andrew's reply. Now, with this one, he has three. See:

http://curi.us/2054-discussion-about-the-importance-of-explanations-with-andrew-crawshaw

http://curi.us/2053-yes-or-no-philosophy-discussion-with-andrew-crawshaw

Anonymous at 1:12 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9145
do u think AC got mad at the implication that he isn't a threat or challenge to Miller, and that frustration informed the rest of the discussion from there?

Or maybe he got mad at the very first thing said to him:

> Which chapter?

He never actually answered that question, and he really didn't like having to deal with the precision of actually saying what he meant.

Anonymous at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9146
When you ask "Which chapter?" people think you're being pedantic and looking for a word lawyer fight, regardless of whether it's a reasonable question. So they go into fighting mode (if they weren't already – some people just show up in that mode, or get into it when they see something related to their heroes Popper and Miller is being criticized).

Anonymous at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9147
A friend and I went for food. I am not upset. The presumption that pointing out my errors makes me upset is incorrect.

Furthermore, it seems to me that you are mistaking the task that a theory of verisimiltude would carry out; it woild for instance allow you to determine which theory is closer to the truth. But, whether any such theory can be formulated is a different matter. Miller accepts that such a hope might be misguided. Which he repeatedly stresses in his books. I don't see that Temple has criticised it, much less addressed any of the paper's Miller has written on the subject of deductive dependence. He seems to conflate what would be a logical property with an epistemological one and says that both are mistaken for the same reason. But since verisimiltude has not been generally criticised, but epistemological weight has, there seems to me a difference between the two. Miller sees that there is an open problem. Temple denies this.

Anonymous at 1:46 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9148
> Furthermore, it seems to me that you are mistaking [...]

who is "you"?

me???? at 1:48 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9149
ET criticized all weight of evidence (and "epistemological weight" as you now bring up). Are you familiar with his argument? Do you agree that if ET is right about that then Miller is mistaken?

Anonymous at 1:51 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9150
Is mistaken to believe that a theory of verisimiltude might not be possible?

Anonymous at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9151
It's not Miller's burden to locate how Temple's criticism applies to his theory. It is up to temple to draw on Miller's work. Represent it properly and explain how his criticism applies. Elliot needs to do the hard work here. Until that is done, then Temple is shouting in the dark.

Anonymous at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9152
Temple already did that. The third paragraph of his article reads:

> These views share a mistake. They both attempt to judge which non-refuted idea is better using an amount (support or criticism-survival). I'll call that amount epistemological goodness. The amount of goodness approach has no objective way to determine the sizes of the amounts, so it leads to subjective bias instead of objective knowledge, and it creates unresolvable disagreements between people.

This applies to CA's "epistemological weight" (which is an *amount of epistemological goodness*) and to Miller's "weight of negative evidence" (also an amount of goodness. being below zero doesn't change that).

Temple literally gave Miller a short quote from Miller's book in which Miller advocates the exact thing Temple's essay focuses on criticizing.

Temple clearly says (paragraph 4) that such amounts, whatever you call them, are a myth. Miller clearly thinks they exist and are used in CR thinking.

Anonymous at 3:43 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9153

correction

> This applies to CA's "epistemological weight"

AC's not CA's.

Anonymous at 3:43 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9154
> Is mistaken to believe that a theory of verisimiltude might not be possible?

Can you rephrase without a double negative?

Or, better, don't open a new can of worms and instead, for the first time in the whole conversation, reply to the main issue from the original blog post: ET's claim that arguments and evidence don't have weights.

Anonymous at 3:48 PM on October 10, 2017 | #9155
If it was possible to measure verisimiltude, then it would be possible to see which theories are closer to the truth. The weight that Miller was talking about was not epistemological but logical. It is not an amount of epistemological "goodness". Notice he links weight of negative evidence to verisimilitude. He also claims that science should not weaken the demand for true theories unless there is s working theory of verisimilitude. Elliot's denial that it's possible to do this is not a criticism of the possibility of measuring which theories are closer to the truth.

The can of worms I am opening is to get Elliot to state exactly his criticism. Not just to conflate it with something else like epistemological goodness.

Elliot also gives context by stating the two positions. He is linking epistemological goodness with the claim that we can increase the preference of one idea over another through evidence and argument. Miller is not doing this, which I have pointed out.

Anonymous at 2:36 AM on October 11, 2017 | #9156
>being below zero doesn't change that.

Miller does not state because a theory has been criticised that it is worse. He states it should not be preferred. It logically follows from the the state of the discussion, that you could have a stance of indifference between the two. There is no claim of being below or negative. One is refuted one is not. That is all, nothing other than the refuted one should not be preferred follows. It does not follow that the refuted one should be preferred less. Which is logically the same as the unrefuted one should be preferred more. Neither of those statements follow from the state of the evidence or logic.

Anonymous at 2:44 AM on October 11, 2017 | #9157
The first claim can also be made more precise by stating that just because there is more evidence against a theory it does not follow that it is worse, it just follows that it should not be preferred over the one with less evidence against it.

Anonymous at 2:48 AM on October 11, 2017 | #9158
Andrew,

Do you think arguments or evidence have weights or amounts?

Do you think Miller thinks arguments or evidence have weights or amounts?

Do you think Popper thinks arguments or evidence have weights or amounts?

I'm saying arguments and evidence don't have weights or amounts.

curi at 11:12 AM on October 11, 2017 | #9159

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)