Fictionalism

Fictionalism is the view in philosophy according to which statements that appear to be descriptions of the world should not be construed as such, but should instead be understood as cases of “make believe”, of pretending to treat something as literally true (a “useful fiction”). Two important strands of fictionalism are modal fictionalism developed by Gideon Rosen, which states that possible worlds, regardless of whether they exist or not, may be a part of a useful discourse, and mathematical fictionalism advocated by Hartry Field, which states that talk of numbers and other mathematical objects is nothing more than a convenience for doing science. Also in meta-ethics, there is an equivalent position called moral fictionalism (championed by Richard Joyce). Many modern versions of fictionalism are influenced by the work of Kendall Walton in aesthetics.

Fictionalism consists in at least the following three theses:

  1. Claims made within the domain of discourse are taken to be truth-apt; that is, true or false
  2. The domain of discourse is to be interpreted at face value—not reduced to meaning something else
  3. The aim of discourse in any given domain is not truth, but some other virtue(s) (e.g., simplicity, explanatory scope).

Wikipedia

Diogenes, also known as Diogenes the Cynic

800px-Waterhouse-Diogenes

Diogenes (1882)
by John William Waterhouse

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts, such as carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He criticized Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates, and sabotaged his lectures, sometimes distracting listeners by bringing food and eating during the discussions. Diogenes was also noted for having mocked Alexander the Great, both in public and to his face when he visited Corinth in 336.

wikipedia

Dream of the butterfly

One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called ‘the transformation of things’.

via wikiquote

Pessimistic Meta Induction Theory

DUBNER: Right now, we’re talking in the year 2017. A lot of people now are convinced that the U.S. government and many others erred terribly in declaring fat to be the cause of obesity. Many people now believe, as you argue, that sugar is a much bigger villain. How do we know you’re not the guy that’s wrong this time, that you’re not just another — perhaps well-intentioned — big-brained do-gooder who is making a massive mistake?

LUSTIG: An awfully good question. This is known as the pessimistic meta-induction theory. What it says is, “Everything we knew 10 years ago is already wrong, and everything we know today will be wrong 10 years from now. Why should we do anything differently when we know that whatever it is that we believe today will end up being wrong?” If you play that game, then you might as well never do any research, never do anything at all, and live with the current dogma.

– FREAKONOMICS podcast – There’s a War on Sugar. Is It Justified?

Pessimistic induction @ wikipedia

Most practical thing – Chesterton quote

In the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called ‘Heretics,’ Mr. Chesterton writes these words: “There are some people–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.”

I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds. You know the same of me.

Pragmatism, A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking – William James

Spinoza and William James on freedom

Spinoza long ago wrote in his ethics that anything that a man can avoid under the notion that it is bad he may also avoid under the notion that something else is good. He who habitually acts sub specie mali, under the negative notion, the notion of the bad, is called a slave by Spinoza. To him who acts habitually under the notion of good he gives the name of freeman. See to it now, I beg you, that you make freemen of your pupils by habituating them to act, whenever possible, under the notion of a good. Get them habitually to tell the truth, not so much through showing them the wickedness of lying as by arousing their enthusiasm for honor and veracity.

Talks to Teachers, William James
via Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16287

PROP. LXVII. A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.

Proof.–A free man is one who lives under the guidance of reason, who is not led by fear (IV. lxiii.), but who directly desires that which is good (IV. lxiii. Coroll.), in other words (IV. xxiv.), who strives to act, to live, and to preserve his being on the basis of seeking his own true advantage; wherefore such an one thinks of nothing less than of death, but his wisdom is a meditation of life. Q.E.D.

Ethics, Benedictus de Spinoza
via Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3800

Self inflicted gaslighting – Bad Habit or Mental Exercise?

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We are specifically made for PSYCHEDELIC CONTENT, trippy or mesmerizing stuff that will make a sober person feel stoned, or stoned person trip harder! We’re not about posting things that are merely neat or amazing, but instead, things that sort of mess with your mind, warp your reality.
Mindfucks and self-inflicted gaslighting. Or the hypnotic or mesmerising. Vivid colors, intense patterns. Mind-blowing science and philosophy. Chill or trippy music. Surrealism, absurdism and strangeness.


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The Hermeneutic Circle

The hermeneutic circle,” he was saying. “That’s what Dilthey called it. You don’t know what to do with the details unless you have a grip on the structure, and at the same time, you don’t know what to do with the structure unless you know the details. It’s true in life and in literature. The hermeneutic circle. It’s a vicious circle.”

David Denby quoting Columbia professor in the essay Does Homer Have Legs?

Moral Rules and Exceptions


Dealing With The Exception

The exception is perhaps the greatest obstacle for any moral theory to deal with. You adopt a supposedly ideal moral system which should tell you what to do to act morally in any possible case: all you have to do is deduce the proper action from your principle or set of principles, then follow it. No problem. You’ll be doing the right thing, and acting without sin. But then you run into that odd, unexpected situation where following your rulebook doesn’t seem so neat and tidy. This new case is special, unique, and unanticipated by your ethical system. In fact, it just feels wrong to follow the rules here in this instance. Do you go with your rulebook, or your current intuition?

There are many who would step in and try to defend principled (rulebook style) ethics. They have three obvious defenses:
(1) Simply deny that apparent problems create exceptions.
(2) Hold the view that principles can be rewritten so that the apparent exceptions are no longer exceptions.
(3) Argue that each apparent exceptional case is really a case of conflicting principles, where two or more principles both apply, but one is overruled by another of greater priority.

Why You Shouldn’t Be A Person Of Principle,
Ramsey McNabb, Philosophy Now

Schopenhauer – Desultory Quotes

If you want to know how you feel about someone take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you first see it on the doormat.

Every parting is a foretaste of death, and every reunion a foretaste of resurrection.

After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

The first rule of style is have something to say.

Money is human happiness in the abstract; and so the man who is no longer capable of enjoying such happiness in the concrete, sets his whole heart on money.

We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.

Life and dreams are leaves of one and the same book. The systematic reading is real life, but when the actual reading hour (the day) has come to an end, and we have the period of recreation, we often continue idly to thumb over the leaves, and turn to a page here and there without method or connection. We sometimes turn up a page we have already read, at others one still unknown to us, but always from the same book.

Searle’s Chinese Room

Chinese room thought experiment

“Searle’s thought experiment begins with this hypothetical premise: suppose that artificial intelligence research has succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input and, by following the instructions of a computer program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose, says Searle, that this computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a live Chinese speaker. To all of the questions that the person asks, it makes appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be convinced that they are talking to another Chinese-speaking human being.

The question Searle wants to answer is this: does the machine literally “understand” Chinese? Or is it merely simulating the ability to understand Chinese? Searle calls the first position “strong AI” and the latter “weak AI”.

Searle then supposes that he is in a closed room and has a book with an English version of the computer program, along with sufficient paper, pencils, erasers, and filing cabinets. Searle could receive Chinese characters through a slot in the door, process them according to the program’s instructions, and produce Chinese characters as output. If the computer had passed the Turing test this way, it follows, says Searle, that he would do so as well, simply by running the program manually.

Searle asserts that there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle would not be able to understand the conversation. (“I don’t speak a word of Chinese,” he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either.

Searle argues that, without “understanding” (or “intentionality“), we cannot describe what the machine is doing as “thinking” and, since it does not think, it does not have a “mind” in anything like the normal sense of the word. Therefore, he concludes that “strong AI” is false.

wikipedia

Moral Particularism

Jonathan Dancy on Moral Particularism

Is morality simply a matter of applying general principles? Jonathan Dancy thinks not. He is a moral particularist. In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast he defends moral particularism in conversation with Nigel Warburton.

Very stimulating intellectual conversation @Philosophy Bites

Anamnesis

In philosophy, anamnesis (/ˌænæmˈniːsɪs/; Ancient Greek: ἀνάμνησις) is a concept in Plato’s epistemological and psychological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo, and alludes to in his Phaedrus.

It is the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.

via Wikipedia

Post Decision possibility.

LPT: Instead of excessively worrying over a decision, decide what you’re going to do, then do things to *make* it the right decision afterward.

The best class I took in my Masters program was a decision science course. The prof had a lot of great LPT-type advice, but one thing he said in particular has stuck with me. He said most people will excessively worry and over-analyze a decision, but then do very little about it after the decision is made. We spend 95% of our energy pre-decision, then 5% after. However, he said a lot of the science shows that very often there isn’t a “right” decision, but there are things we can do after that will make it right. For example, don’t feel like there’s a right/wrong decision to make when considering a job offer out of state. If you do decide to take it, once you’re there do things to “make it” the right decision, like go out and make friends, work hard but keep a good work/life balance, etc. Change that 95/5 split to more like 50/50.

via reddit

*LPT -> Life Pro Tip