curi: Write about me some more.
Elliot: What?
curi: I said I want attention, bitch!
Elliot: That's lovely.
curi: People pay attention to cursing, right?
Elliot: I dunno.
curi: Fuck you.
Elliot: -_-o [That's a sweatdrop. So is ^_^;]
Lia: Hey, I was just reading, and I found out people in Israel are killed like all the time. That's awful.
Elliot: You mean murdered.
Lia: Yes, you're right. That's an important distinction.
Isyn: This other piece says the Israelis are oppressive murderers, and their only casualties come from freedom fighters.
curi: Blood Libel!
Isyn: What?
curi: Not only are the Jews oppressive murderers, but they steal children in the night, because they need the blood of gentile children for their best pastry recipes.
Isyn: Really?
curi: -_-o No.
Isyn: Do you think baby blood tastes good?
Elliot, curi, Lia: *anime fall*
Isyn: I was just asking...
Elliot: One point of note is that, if Israelis are often murdered, then whatever force Israel is using to fight terrorists and murderers is insufficient.
curi: Only hippies don't like Israel, and they don't like self defense either, so that's a pointless point.
Lia: curi!
curi: What?
Lia: Just because hippies smell doesn't mean you should slander them all the time.
curi: It's not like they will defend themselves ;-p
Elliot: Yes they will. They aren't really pacifists. They just say that when it suits them. They don't seem to have any problem supporting mass murdering tyrants, when that suits them.
curi: If they defended themselves, and won, they would no longer be able to play the victim. And as they support the unsuccessful, they would have to take my side after beating me up.
Isyn: *goofy grin*
curi: What?
Isyn: I was just imagining you getting beat up by a couple of hippies.
curi: *whining* Hippies would not be able to beat me up! I would kick their asses.
Isyn: Sure ya would.
curi: Don't make me come over there.
Isyn: Are you saying you don't even have free will?
curi: That's it...
Elliot: -_-o Hey, Lia, hit that switch.
Lia: *flips switch*
Camera: *fades out as curi jumps Isyn*

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Read this. IMAO is great! It's humour with a significant amount of truth in it, that expresses an important and generally ignored point.

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Epistemology

Some people believe that the truth is manifest for all to see, if only they would look. Under this view, anyone who does not see the truth, must be bad. So, if you ever hear someone arguing that their view is self-evident or obvious, be wary -- s/he either thinks you are intentionally bad or s/he is inconsistent.

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Inverse Theory

Evolution requires truth to function. Evolution progresses towards truth. The inverse view may be complete and stable but it is not true by the normal use of the word.

The term inverse theory originally came from the following notion: an idiotarian is a person who needs an anti-idiotarian to tell her/him what white is, so s/he can call it black. I don't think this is the right definition for idiotarian, but I do think it's a useful idea and deserving of a word. Moral inverter is fitting.

(I've been using 'view' and 'moral view' interchangeably. I just used 'moral inverter' for someone who inverted a physical fact. Basically, I don't think there's any particular difference. Because people twist their factual theories according to their moral ones.)

If a moral inverter's view is not true, s/he cannot evolve it. So, to create it, s/he must find a true view to reverse.

But how can we reconcile this with the notion that someone holding on to a part of the inverse view, will, as s/he approaches a complete worldview, approach the inverse? Well, if an inverter has a bunch of inverse theories in a sphere, s/he can compare new ones to the preexisting ones for consistency, and to see how well the theories mesh in terms of explanation. However, when approaching a completely new issue, won't the inverter be at a loss?

In a sphere, to make very much progress, one needs to have some notion of what truth means. It doesn't need to be explicit (in a language with symbols and grammar). Without some notion, how can one evaluate theories? One cannot. Of course, in all objective spheres, every person alive does have such a notion. But sometimes the notion is only marginally better than none at all. I would offer up aesthetics as an example of a sphere where people do not have a good conception of truth. I would offer up science as one where people have a very good conception of truth -- true scientific ideas correspond to physical reality.

If a practitioner of the good view approaches a new sphere, s/he will create some notion of truth, and try to make progress. If a practitioner of the inverse view approaches a new sphere, I do not expect her/him to create an inverted notion of truth -- an inverse-epistemology -- and make progress towards it. This is because no one wants to be bad.

Talk to an inverter. Ask her/him about her/his view in some sphere s/he hasn't thought about much -- try to get her/him to create a view. In my experience, s/he will likely be at a loss. This is because s/he does not have any epistemology to work with in the sphere. However, if I present my view, the inverter will no longer be lost. Her/his worldview is very clear that I must be opposed, and thus s/he will chronically disagree with me, and set about creating the inverse view of mine.

The word 'true' generally refers to the good view. But the inverse view can have its own meaning for truth. But few or no people actually adopt the inverse meaning for truth explicitly. It is very difficult to adopt, because no one wants to be bad.

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Anti Theory

I generally don't like being against things. Here's an example:

Anti-semitism is quite evil. However, I am not anti-anti-semitism. Rather, I am pro-Jewish.

The difference is between fighting a cause, and simply living my life and recognising the value in good things, and supporting those things.

I do not consider incidental "opposition" (opposing things that get in the way of doing something nice) or explaining why something is wrong to try and help someone understand stuffz better to violate this principle.

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Here's a useful risk-minimisation strategy for matching tests:

If you get it down to two things, and you have no idea which answer goes to which question .... write the same answer twice! Then you get half credit.

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Anti Theory

Here's a relation between Anti Theory (about opposing things) and Inverse Theory (about the inverse moral view, the good view, and the empty view).

Inverse theory provides a strong reason that being focussed on anti theories is dangerous. If you're wrong, you approach the inverse view.

But what if you're right? Won't inverse theory predict you approach the good view? Technically, yes, as your worldview becomes complete, it will go to the good one. However, holding a theory sacred has no effect if the theory is never challenged. And it's not as if reasonable people are in danger of approaching the inverse view unless they grab hold of "people who think apples are the spawn of the devil are wrong" for dear life.

Focusing on theories and holding them strongly has the most effect on one's progression to a stable worldview when those theories come up a lot, and say a lot. So, holding some trivial falsehood wrong, won't matter much. But holding something true false, will matter quite a lot. Anytime the subject comes up, it will lead to lots of badness.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
On the ARR email list someone just asked about Viagra. So I thought I'd go over the different ways drugs could help with sex.

It's possible that arousal works like this: we have various theories that trigger various chemical releases, and then other theories about what to do in the sensory environment created by those chemicals. In this case, if the first set of theories (that trigger chemicals) were messed up, we could bypass them with drugs. If the problem was in the second set of theories, about what to do with the chemicals released already, drugs wouldn't help. (You could string in more layers if you liked, like 3 different chemicals triggering in a row, some mechanically, some based on theories)

It's possible that arousal is purely mental without intermediate chemical stuff (or perhaps not according to modern biology, I just mean abstractly conceivable). In this case, drugs wouldn't help, except with physical malfunctions, like messed up blood flow to important bits.

What's not conceivable is to take theories out of it, and declare that "when in a sexual situation" or some such, then chemicals control behavior. For one thing, how do the chemicals know what a sexual situation is? And for another, chemicals controlling behavior is absurd. And for another, people have been known to stop having sex in the middle. (Oh, sorry, the chemicals take *partial* control, which means, ummmm .... nothing coherent).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)
Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Self defense requires the use of force
Conclusion: Self defense involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Fighting evil requires force
Conclusion: Fighting evil involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: Self defense and fighting evil involve risk of collateral damage
Premise: Some people object to war against Iraq on the basis that collateral damage is morally wrong
Conclusion: These people think that fighting evil and self defense are morally wrong or these people are inconsistent

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sociobiology is a very popular theory. It claims that genes (at least partially) control human behavior.

Now, in the general case, if we want to explain behavior, and we just attribute it to something random, like where the stars in the sky are, we will be laughed at. There is no explanation of how stars control behavior.

How's sociobiology different? It's not! There are studies that show correlations, but none that demonstrate causation. And there is no explanation of how genes cause the behavior, no more than there is of how stars do it. And there's a very compelling alternative explanation, that does include a mechanism: we act on our theories (worldview).

Now, you may know that animal behavior is determined by genes. And you may know that aspects of human bodies like eye colour and brain structure are (at least partially) controlled by genes. How can brain structure not (partially) determine behavior? Because the laws of computation state that universal computation is hardware independent.

In other words, universal computers -- ones that can do any calculation possible for computers -- all compute the same, no matter how you build them. Whatever the structure, if it's a universal computer, it won't give different results for the same input. It may have more or less storage space, and process slower, but, given adequate time and disks with extra memory, the results of all possible computations will come out the same.

So too with human brains. Any brain with the same input problem set, will give the same answer, because brains are universal computers. (Note that the input problem set includes all the theories [including memories] of the person).

Why is this different than with animals? Because animal brains are not universal computers. They cannot do all possible computations.

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Epistemology

True and mutable is one of the wisest phrases I know. It means we should hold our best explanations true and act on them, not give in to relativism. Just because we may be wrong, does not mean any particular idea we have is wrong, or that we should not hold our ideas true. It also means that our ideas must be mutable -- they must be open to criticism and change and improvement. And being mutable does not make them less true.

When someone says something is true, s/he does not mean s/he's certain it is true. That, of course, would be absurd. So what does it mean to assert something is true? Simply that it is the best explanation.

There is a common fallacy that says fallibilism implies mistakes. The logic is that because we can't be certain, we are bound to make mistakes. The refutation is to look at a particular action or theory, and point out that, while it may be a mistake, fallibilism does not state it is, and all we can do is use our best explanations. So, fallibilism is not an argument against this specific thing. Then, we examine another action/theory. Then another. The point is, fallibilism does not imply any particular mistake, and cannot be used as an argument against the truth of any particular proposition.

Credit for the phrase true and mutable goes to Yehudit's LGF comment here.

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Parenting

Here are two generalisations (if you haven't already, read previous entry first):

Left-wing folk object to TCS because they view all sorts of things as coercive, and see parental coercion as miniscule in comparison, and a defense of children. For example, some lady got the word "gun" removed from her daughter's spelling test. One can imagine the reaction if her daughter wanted to get a gun, and write gun a bunch, and draw gun pictures. The justification? In essence "guns are coercive/bad". Another common one is "TVs are coercive/bad" and therefore must be kept from children to protect them. Also, not having a college education is coercive, and so are fatty foods, which justifies... Also coercive is capitalism, which justifies not letting children buy things (they'll be tricked into wanting more and being materialists).

Right-wing folk object to TCS because they don't understand causality in human behavior. Mindless causes are ok, but not rationally discussable ones. Hence, children have bad theories because kids are dumb, not because their parents mistreat them. And TCS is a waste of time, because children won't understand anyway. Children are dumb, you can see it if you just look around and watch some kids mess up. The solution is to discipline/spank them (notice this is a method that can be applied, unthinking, to any problem). Also, as behavior isn't caused in any rationally discussable way, people who say treating children as inferior messes up their theories can be ignored. Besides, do children even have any theories besides the ones we teach them..? And also, genes cause behavior and being naughty is human nature (but beatings can overcome human nature).

Thanks to Rachel Lucas for the gun link.

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Parenting

TCS is the true parenting theory. The primary ideas are:

- Fallibility (certain knowledge is impossible; people can be wrong)

- No Authorities (ideas must be judged on their merit, the source is irrelevant to truth content -- therefore children can be right and can't be dismissed)

- A state of coercion is one in which a person has two active theories that conflict, and is being forced to enact one prior to resolving the conflict.

- Coercion is bad for knowledge growth (I will write an entry giving the epistemic reasons for this in the future)

- Common Preferences, coercion-free solutions to problems, are always possible

- This means children don't do anything they don't want to

- What people want is subject to morality, and thus children won't want horrible things, as long as parents offer good moral theories

- Good ideas beat out bad ones in argument (and thus if parent's moral theories really are better than some alternative, parent won't lose argument)

- If your ideas are so great, have some faith in them to stand up to criticism

- Criticism Good

- Abandonment Parenting is morally wrong (parents have an obligation to help their children)

- Advice Advice Advice (parents should give children lots of advice, but children should be free to disagree)

- Don't Hurt Children (I can't say this enough)

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Here's two generalisations:

Right wing folk deny explicable, rationally discussable causes for human behavior.

Left wing folk do not value anything.

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I've written comments about government in this Samizdata thread.

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