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Philosophy of science books every computer scientist should read (tomasp.net)
183 points by nkurz on Dec 11, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 205 comments



Gonna go ahead and recommend Hume's Treatise of Human Nature on top of this, which underlines the complete impossibility of inductive proofs—not deductive, recursive proofs, but inductive proofs based on incomplete knowledge of state available.

This is not because it's immediately relevant to coding, but because it helps illustrate the difference between knowing the complete state of a problem and only knowing part of it—the latter of which is the central problem of science, arguably. Most of the philosophy of science builds on this work either directly or indirectly. Hustle and read it!

EDIT: reasoning -> proof, my bad.


Given that inductive reasoning is possible and that that it is (in the case of Solomonoff induction) on very solid philosophical and mathematical footing, I'm skeptical of any book which claims it's impossible.


> Given that inductive reasoning is possible

The question is not whether or not it is possible (in the sense that it is useful) but whether it leads to knowledge. This, of course, depends on your definition of knowledge, which is the question of epistemology. In some circles these days there is a move back to a utilitarian definition of knowledge, namely, if you can interact with a system and predict its behavior then you can say you know how it works, because your model is useful. This is not, however, the commonly accepted view of what constitutes knowledge.

Funny thing: the consequence of the Gettier problem (sort of like the "incompleteness conjecture" of epistemology) is that either we must accept a very unsatisfying definition to what constitutes knowledge, or use a good, rigorous and satisfying definition and then find out that nothing we think we know actually qualifies.


Hume meant inductive proof. I checked Solomonoff induction, and it seems to be talking about probabilistic inductive reasoning.

It isn't logically possible to prove anything affirmatively. That's what Hume was referring to.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction


Even if it's true, Hume was a great thinker and keeps historical value. Besides, I'm sure he would agree with your being skeptical of any book, whatever its theses :)


You can reason effectively, but proving is another thing entirely. You can never prove beyond the shadow of a doubt we are not about to be razed by gamma rays--there could be some arbitrary rules to the universe that only kick in right now.


Sorry, but it's stuff like this that causes me to avoid most philosophy.

Yes, there are extremely small likelihoods for all kinds of extremely unlikely things. That doesn't make tools like induction any less useful. Sure you can't prove X, but you can show that the likelihood of ~X is far, far lower than the likelihood that you will hallucinate ~X.


This one's at the foundation of our science though. Karl Popper's ideas on falsification have been very influential in how scientists frame their work. And errors of induction have caused some notable financial blowups because models missed tail risks.

The example you replied to was farfetched, but not an abstract ivory tower notion – it's something deeply built into how we view the world.

This doesn't mean there's no use of inductive reasoning, or that we shouldn't suspect that some things are far more likely true than others. But remembering the ultimate impossibility of inductive proof can help avoid real world errors.


Right: "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" by Karl Popper

Also Gödel's stuff. I still like Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter.


Please notice how far afield you went to find a failure of inductive reasoning: Financial markets. Not a bad math proof. Not an incorrect physics theorem. Not even a civil engineering disaster. Markets!

Markets aren't exactly known for regular behavior. If anything, they are anti-inductive.[1] If you find and exploit any regularity in them, the regularity eventually disappears.

It's for these reasons that I remain unswayed by your claim.

1. http://lesswrong.com/lw/yv/markets_are_antiinductive/


Ok, Newtonian physics. That was accepted for a long time because it was utterly, utterly consistent with all our evidence.

Until it wasn't, in some edge cases. And we adopted a new theory that explained things better.

My point was that the impossibility of induction is at the core of science. Science generally does things well because it accounts for this. I cited financial crashes as an example of what can happen if you don't account for induction.

What, exactly, are you disagreeing with?


And it's still consistent with most of our everyday evidence.

It hasn't been falsified, it's been expanded. There's a difference.


No, the universe Newton described was falsified. In the Newtonian universe, information (including gravitation and electrical attraction) travelled instantly.

Kuhn talks about this concept quite a bit in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Relativity was not merely an expansion of the Newtonian explanation of the universe. It was a complete change of our understanding of how the universe worked, even though relativity reduces to the same equations as Newtonian mechanics at low velocities and low masses.


> Please notice how far afield you went to find a failure of inductive reasoning

Philosophy doesn't "find a failure" of inductive reasoning because it doesn't care (in this context) about how well things work. It questions whether induction creates knowledge[1] (vs. "mere" utility). You're arguing about plumbing with a banker. If all you care about is plumbing, the bank is indeed a bad place to discuss it. It sounds as if you simply have no interest in looking at the world from a perspective other than utility, and the that you take the value of utility as an axiom. Philosophy is simply an exploration of views of reality with axioms different from yours. It is like the study of logics, while you like sticking to a particular logic system, building on top of that one. What you consider to be the end of the chain of questions that interest you, philosophy considers the beginning. That's perfectly fine and maybe philosophy isn't for you, but you've got no quarrel with it, and so far stated no disagreement with it.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology


Kurt Gödel (1930) Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme I

That was rather bad news for Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell ;)


You can show that the likelihood (read: P(data|~X) of ~X is low, given a particular underlying model and a set of observations. To bootstrap that to a probability of ~X (read: P(~X | data) ), you need philosophy to help choose a prior on the underlying set of models.

Or of course you can just ignore these details and fallaciously conflate likelihood and probability like most pop-frequentists, but that leads to crazy results even in the "real world."


> That doesn't make tools like induction any less useful

But philosophy isn't concerned with the question of utility. It is also not at all just playing language games (although philosophers have pondered both language and games). But if you're limiting your field of view only to that which is practically useful, you may be excluding other ways of looking at the world which you may find satisfying.


And pondered language games!


> But philosophy isn't concerned with the question of utility.

Of course it is. It's just that you have defined the word "utility" to exclude some of the things it means to certain philosophers.


> It's just that you have defined the word "utility" to exclude some of the things it means to certain philosophers.

On the contrary. I pointed out the previous commenter's hidden assumption that "it works" equals "it is valuable". If you believe they are equal, you need to justify your belief. I also pointed out that "it works" most certainly is not equal to "we know", unless you have a good justification to believe that this is the case. The goal of philosophy is to uncover hidden assumptions and question them.


No, it's concerned with truth, including the truth of good utility. But utility is never the primary concern, even among utilitarians and pragmatists.


Truth is a utility.


Hume was deeply concerned to distinguish empirical reasoning from math and logic (matters of fact vs relations of ideas). Induction doesn't work in the sense that it doesn't guarantee its conclusion but of course even Hume thought it works whenever you are ok with something less than a guarantee (which he thought we are most of the time).

Also, the problem of induction is only one part of this marvelous tome. Protip: get the new Fate-Norton Oxford edition and not the Selby-Bigge-Nidditch.


Starting in philosophy is hard because it takes a lot of immersion to begin getting a sense for what people are even talking about. Most fields are like that, but philosophy is notable since it often uses normal words in (many different) technical ways. It can also be hard to stick with it long enough to feel even what the motivations for the problems are.

The motivation for the "Humean problem of induction" along with a description of how it has evolved needs to be set up somewhat carefully. Marc Lange provides a nice intro if anyone is interested. http://www.stephanhartmann.org/HHL10_Lange.pdf

But once you've got the basics from a "mere" phil of science perspective, you can go a lot further. For example, you can look at how "knowledge" is linked with human values and what it is to live a good life. Or at how the experience of art is connected to learning or human development. How does the "Humean problem of induction" bear on these themes? These far reaching connections---which typically involve an empirical or "scientific" component---are where philosophy really gets fun!


How it is that one can (seemingly) reason effectively using inductive logic despite its not being, according to Hume, formally valid is exactly the question Hume is interested in. You might think he's wrong to find this interesting, which is fine. But remember that the point of philosophy is to be grappled with--if you ignore the work just because you think the conclusion is incorrect, I submit that you're doing it wrong.


For those who have a curiosity but lack the patience or inclination to read these books, "Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction" is a highly approachable introduction to this particular branch of philosophy.

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Science-Very-Short-Introduc...


That's exactly what I did, and it left me feeling even more confused. As an example, the book, as I understood, proposes that "What is life?" is a serious philosophical question for biologists to deal with. That sounds an awful lot like arguing over definitions, which seems to be rarely useful.[1] Then there's the famous Feynman quote which seems to make it clear that he thought little of PhilSci.

It'd be great to see a real example applied to software languages. A concrete "here's why it does X" kinda thing. I see there's several essays and a paper linked from Tomas's site so perhaps I'll find something useful there. I do understand that as a mere software writer, there may not be much for me.

Meanwhile, the biggest use for PhilSci is defending physics models we can't test, isn't it? Perhaps, for example, using Bayesian probability to rate things, and using, I dunno, elegance, as positive evidence. But I'm way out of my depth here so perhaps someone can tell me if this is even remotely coherent. Consciousness seems to also involve a lot of philosophy, mainly because the understanding at this point is fairly limited and a lot of is just reasoning about things. (Versus being able to point out how a brain really works, how a consciousness works, etc. Some apparently think this is simply unknowable and magical.)

1: It's more common that fighting for definitions is useful for rhetorical purposes. E.g. copyright infringement being called stealing versus infringement or "piracy".


How much did Feynman actually know of philosophy? My impression upon hearing him speak about it was: not very much.

So I'm not sure how much weight we should give his opinion on something he knew little about.


One of my majors was Philosophy and I'm often disappointed by the attitudes of Feynman, Hawking, and other scientists towards philosophy. Their domain is science and I don't think that it is their place or right to judge the value of other disciplines as they apparently do not have a deep understanding of the subject.

Questions like "what is life" have serious implications for biology and arguing over definitions is important because it ensures that when we say something like "a virus is not alive" we have a well grounded and justified basis on which to make that claim. If we didn't take the time to argue over definitions we would have scientists arguing past one another because of trivial misunderstandings about the meaning of words rather than arguing over some other actual significant point such as the conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. The role of Philosophy is often described as providing us a framework for reasoning.

Philosophy typically intersects with science at the "edges" where we are making novel discoveries in both disciplines and don't really know what to make of them yet so we have to reason about the evidence and concepts to make sense of it all so we can proceed.

You mention Physics, and the big debate in philosophy is whether the Standard Model describes reality as it is, or whether it simply a convenient tool where equation manages to encompass most of the empirical results we have so far. I'm not sure exactly where you are going with Bayesian methods but probability is definitely a focus of some philosophers and our department head wrote a somewhat influential paper about different concepts of probability. (a "taxonomy" of probability if you will but that might be a controversial way to put it in an academic setting just like the rest of this post) Edit: I might also add that this professor had a Phd in philosophy as well as theoretical physics, so really smart guy, and the TA had one in physics and was pursuing one in philosophy, so also a really smart guy.

It's also important to note that philosophy of science by and large does not aim to judge the merits or validity of science/scientists/scientific theories. The point is more to understand "what is science" and provide a passive definition instead of a passive one if you will.

Philosophy of Mind is a "hot" branch right now as well and it remains to be seen if any significant progress will be made in the next several decades. We still don't have a consistent way to discuss "consciousness" and if you read literature coming from people with a computer science background, then from a psychological background, then a neurological one, you will find that they describe it in very different (and likely incompatible) ways.

I've forgotten the context specifically but there is a degree of controversy over the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia since the diagnosis rates vary wildly depending on geography even when patients display the same symptoms. The implication is that neither disease is "real" and is instead a result of the training of psychiatrists. Yet we still don't want to abandon the idea that these people are mentally ill so how do we provide a coherent definition of a mental illness. It seems to pertain to consciousness in some way and if so how? We can't answer this way with out a coherent and consistent way to discuss consciousness which we still don't have.

I hope that gives you a bit of insight even if this comment comes across as disjointed and I have been willingly vague and partially inaccurate at points because you could spend a lifetime reading on some of these subjects but still not consume all of the relevant literature. This again probably reflects the difficulty that you had with that book. Philosophy of Science is already a somewhat specific branch that is difficult to approach without some background in philosophy already. In a way that book is an introduction to a specific branch of philosophy that assumes a large amount of background knowledge.


Thank you for your reply.

Who cares if we say "a virus is [not] alive"? Obviously that's predicated on the definition of alive. It doesn't change what a virus is, and certainly doesn't change our understanding of viruses. It seems like the only time that kind of thing matters is if you've got some existing issue with "alive" (like, say, a law granting rights to anything "alive") and now need to fight it out to retrofit something.

I'm thinking of "Dissolving the question"[1] and the infamous "If a tree falls in a forest a but nothing hears it, does it make a sound?" The fact that this generated any serious question/answer is absurd. Everyone agrees on what happens. They just like to argue over what "sound" really means. Again, this is only an issue if you're e.g. at court resolving a poorly written noise violation law. Yet "If a tree falls" isn't apparently used as a quick lesson in definitions, but apparently treated like it holds something interesting.

It might be fun to argue stuff. Like, is vim truly an IDE if I load it up right? Doesn't really change anything, but it might be fun. I get the feeling a lot of philosophy consists of people chasing this. If it's not to judge merits or validity, and is just passive, then perhaps that explains it.

On physics and using Bayes versus Scientific Method, I was thinking more about string theory (and I know nothing of this at all), where, since we can't test it at all, it's not proper science. Yet using a Bayesian model, we're free to add evidence apart from verifying experiments. If, for example, I come up with some simple rules for how the universe works, and out of those arise a huge amount of known equations, there may be no way to test if my rules are true and worth studying more on. It'd violate the scientific method, since there's no testing. Yet the mere fact that that "one little trick" explains a bunch of known physics is a huge amount of positive evidence by itself.

Again, thanks for taking the time to write out your reply; I did appreciate it.

1: http://lesswrong.com/lw/of/dissolving_the_question/


I want to push on the "alive" issue a bit more. You're absolutely correct in that it doesn't tell us anything more about the virus - but it does tell us more about our definition of "life".

This is in line with the "tree falls in a forest" example as well - the "paradox" is not in whether the tree falls, but whether we would consider it sound. The solution is to be more precise about defining "sound", as either "vibration of air molecules" or "vibration of someone's ear drum". Similarly, the "are viruses alive" question is pushing us for a more precise definition of "alive", which we can then apply to (for example) how we might classify self-sustaining chains of chemical reactions on alien planets.


But there is no precise definition of sound that encompasses both (or more?) uses. It could refer to either, and you just need to make it clear and the whole fuss disappears.


Well, the "virus is alive" thing is more of a toy example, a real example (which actually happened) that pertains to biology might be that of cigarettes causing lung cancer. There were extensive studies done to prove the statistical link between smoking and lung cancer but in the end we do not find a one to one correlation. Some smokers will go their entire lives and not get cancer, other people will never smoke and get lung cancer (although that number is very small). It can be obviously established that smoking is statistically linked to getting cancer, but the burden for claiming that smoking "causes" lung cancer is somewhat higher. Since scientists at the time could not account for why some smokers develop lung cancer and others do not it becomes question of epistemology, the branch of Philosophy that deals with knowledge. How can we really know that lung cancer "causes" cancer or if it is simply a side effect of something intermediate caused by smoking or closely associated with it. The other alternative is that smoking is like playing roulette. In that case it also seems inappropriate to say that smoking "causes" cancer and instead it causes one to have an increased risk. (I don't know if more research has been done on why some people develop cancer and others don't.) Causation is an extremely thorny subject but in this case (iirc) it was one of the first times that a phenomenon was accepted as being a cause when there was not a one to one direct correlation with its effect.

As for the tree in the woods, again this is a toy example. It's a vastly simplified example that philosophers use to discuss epistemology because it provides a simple basis on which to argue about something. In math and engineering they use the spherical cow in a friction-less world. Obviously no one cares about a spherical cow but it's useful as an isolation tool so that you can really work on just the problem at hand.

I don't know a lot about string theory but if it cannot be tested and is still considered science this is indeed very troublesome for many theories of science. Perhaps this ties into the realism / anti-realism debate where philosophers debate whether there are actually strings or they are just convenient mathematical constructs with wide explanatory power. I personally am somewhat of a nihilist on this point and I don't think it's appropriate to bend the concept of reality to apply to things like strings and that this is basically just an incoherent exercise to begin with.

A non-string example of this debate that I know a little bit more about (but not much) is the debate over observability. I can observe the wall in front of me unaided with my own eyes and sense of touch.

We can also "observe" radioactive decay in a gas chamber by examining the condensation trails of particles traveling through the gas, but are we really observing them? This seems to be more indirect than the first example, so can we really know that there are particles traveling through the gas? If indirect evidence is not acceptable in science, what is the cutoff point that it becomes unacceptable. I could hear from a friend of a friend of a friend that they saw bigfoot and while everyone might trust everyone else this most certainly is not a scientific observation. This latter example is extreme but it demonstrates the importance that scientists understand the scientific method and the philosophy behind it.

If string theory can only be proven indirectly, at what level of indirection does it become inappropriate to say that the observations are evidence for the theory. It sounds as if we only have very indirect evidence for string theory which is probably why it is so controversial.


A claim of someone seeing Bigfoot is most certainly Bayesian evidence. If your friend has been known to be accurate (and his friend, etc.) then it is positive evidence for Bigfoot. (After all, if he claimed to have NOT seen it, it'd be evidence against Bigfoot.) It's just not so strong compared to all the other observations where no positive evidence was found. Ideally you have some perfect way to load up all these pieces of evidence and calculate how probable Bigfoot is. A fantastic example of this kind of work is Gwern's "Who wrote the 'Death Note' script?"[1] Without an authoritative way to experimentally test, it's not following the scientific method. Yet it certainly seems to improve our knowledge.

The lung cancer thing, I'm not sure I follow. Is this simply not statistics issue combined with a lack of knowledge about the human body?

1: http://www.gwern.net/Death%20Note%20script


I think the "tree falls" riddle is precisely about making one realize the exact thing you said, rather than an actual attempt at finding a yes/no answer to it.

I think an interesting distinction can be made between concepts that are linked more to the actual things covered by them and as we find out more about those things, the definition text gets updated, vs. concepts where entities can move in and out of its coverage as we learn more about them.

In case of life, you may say at the outset that dogs, humans, birds and trees etc. are alive, but rocks, clouds etc. aren't. Then your task essentially becomes like a machine learning algorithm's: you get a training set and then you have to make a model, a decision surface in some feature space that separates the yes from the no examples well enough, while still fulfilling certain smoothness etc. criteria. Of course we never do such things actually, but it's related.

When you get a new example, like a virus or prion, you have to decide on which side it falls.

The interesting question is: what happens if it turns out that one of your training examples were represented with some erroneous features? Or what if we discover some new features that could be relevant?

Do we still label those examples as animate/inanimate and update our decision surface accordingly, even if it makes the surface quite complicated? Or do we relabel them to so that we can keep the decision surface simple? Or do we keep its label and rather relabel some of its neighbors too, to make the decision surface simpler?

These are rhetorical questions, I'm trying to show how arbitrary the whole thing is. There is no "One True" label until we decide it and it's actually like an engineering trade-off decision between matching tradition/intuition and the simplicity of the definition. The former is like the training set error in machine learning, the latter is like regularization.

I think learning about CS and programming would be beneficial to philosophers as well as the other way around. Due to the required unambiguity of computer programs, many times programmers and CS people had to tackle issues like this. Philosophy is largely written in natural language, which results in a lot of ambiguity. For example, read the source code of a simple Quine (a program that prints out its own source code). You'll see code, code written in quote marks, things in quote marks escaped and nested into other other quote marks etc. I mean CS has developed concepts like currying, or variable scoping, which are very much related to philosophical issues. For example when you create and event handler, and say onMouseClick = function(){print x;} what do you mean by x, the current value of it, or the value when the event happens? Do you evaluate it now, or postpone it until the event? In natural language both sound the same, "you print x". But do you mean x as a symbol or do you actually mean the thing pointed at? Like asking "Do you think the president of the US will die in 2050?" can mean whether Obama will die in 2050, or the president incumbent in 2050.

The similarity of this to the "life" issue is whether we freeze the current meaning of "life", or we allow it to change.

So I think a lot of this confusion is just the result of not having to face these distinctions in natural language, while CS people have sorted out many of these things conceptually, in things like reification, reflection, virtualization etc. Of course it's not new, the "use-mention distinction" is well-known from earlier, but programming makes it really straightforward and obvious.


It's important to choose a single coherent definition of "alive" so that we can accurately communicate with each other. But it's actually not a very important question whether a virus is alive.

If I define "alive" as {X, Y, Z}, then I might make scientific claims like "alive -> Q". This is a shorthand for "{X, Y, Z} -> Q".

If you define "alive" as {X, Y}, then according to your definition "alive -> Q" might be false.

But as long as we can clearly disambiguate and substitute definition for term, there is no problem. I am claiming "{X,Y,Z} -> Q" while you are claiming "it is unproven that {X,Y} -> Q".

See also: http://lesswrong.com/lw/np/disputing_definitions/


Enumeration like {X, Y, Z} is just one of the two main ways to define concepts. The other one is with a property, like {the Turing machines that halt on empty input}.

In the first case a meaningful question could be "what is the thing that makes these objects similar, what is a description that connects them?" For example if you see that certain animals die from some poison but others are unaffected. Then you may make up the concept of "resistastrong" animals that don't get killed.

You can do it in two very distinct ways. Either by enumeration, or by declaring the set as {the animals that don't die from the poison}. In the first case the definition is fixed and any more animals that are discovered to die from the poison are not accepted into the set. In the second case, the set may grow as more animals are discovered to die from the poison.

The way natural language works is often a hybrid of the two. We may call something a name, but then gradually the meaning can drift. We first have a fixed set. Then we realize some simple description that unites those things. Then we discover more things that fit this description and incorporate them in the set. Then we iterate again to find a better, more compact description of this new set. Maybe this will actually even throw out some of the elements that were previously included, because the description can be made much simpler if you throw out some edge case.


If you did philosophy you know that arguing over word definitions is a complete and utter waste of time and effort. What is altruism? Go. Be bored. Makes a mockery of the entire philosophy of morality.

While Philosophy is useful in teaching you to understand the crux of an argument and how to structure an argument, the discipline itself is of little merit and consequence in this day and age.

We had this argument here recently, Phil of Sci is a post-facto justification of methodology successful scientists already employed.

Having done it myself, it's not really a discipline, it's a side-note of historical interest. Saying that intelligent people like Feynman couldn't understand PhilSci without studying it is laughable. Especially because it's one of the simplest branches if you skip the tiresome arguments about word definitions in empiricism.


It's certainly true that definitions are often arbitrary and aren't the "meat of the issue". For example if a field is too obsessed with how it labels things, then it's usually a bad sign.

When in university, some courses would focus very much on definitions and lists of things and what part of the field covers what things, I could tell there was some pretentious bullshit going on. Now mathematics seems like an exception to this, but actually they don't argue about definitions in this sense. If you define your terms slightly differently a mathematician may be annoyed but he will recognize if your overall work is valid.

It's also true on an individual level. I noticed that people who like to argue whether they are programmers or software developers tend to be less concerned about actually getting something done, vs. people who'd say "call me whatever; you can come and watch what I do and decide what you call it".

It comes across as overcompensation for having little to say otherwise. Good scientific papers also don't dwell too much on how to categorize and break up the related fields. But apparently there are people who enjoy defining terms precisely, like whether they do Data Mining, Data Science, Machine Learning or AI or Statistics or Probability. They are all fluid categories and have significant overlaps. There is just no reason to work towards sharp separation.


> the biggest use for PhilSci is defending physics models we can't test, isn't it?

You are presuming a value function -- utility -- for the very subject that questions values, presumptions and what it even means to know. You have to take a step back :)

As logic is the foundation of mathematics even though very little mathematicians directly care about those foundations -- and you certainly don't need to fully understand them in order to understand almost all math -- so too is philosophy the foundation of knowledge and value. You don't need to understand it in order to do science, but it is a foundation nonetheless. It is best, therefore, not to ask questions like "what is it good for/how is it useful" before venturing into philosophy, because philosophy grapples precisely with questions like "is utility good?" and "what is good anyway?" You study philosophy because you wish to ponder the foundations to everything. Either those questions will resolve themselves for you or they won't...


Mathematics cannot be reduced to logic, logic is not the foundation mathematics. An excellent summary can be found here.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philosophy-mathematics/

or just google Russell's paradox


I didn't mean that math can be fully reduced to logic, but that logic is the field of study concerned with the foundations of mathematics (although, perhaps not exclusively). Interesting link, though.

BTW, Russel's paradox has been resolved in pretty much all logic systems that are now used as the foundation of math.


Everyone who is interested in popular science should study at least the basics of philosophy of science. It helps us understand the meaning and implications of a lot of concepts that we often use in our arguments, such as falsifiability, reproducibility, and "evidence-based".

These concepts sound neat in theory but need to be interpreted a lot more carefully, with a healthy dose of subtlety, in the messy world of bleeding-edge scientific research. Especially if you're using them to try to discredit somebody else's work as "unscientific".

If you're the type that gets impatient with philosophy, the broader field of science and technology studies (STS) is a lot more exciting and interdisciplinary. It's a loose collaboration among sociologists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers, and political scientists who share a common interest in the interaction between science and human society as a whole.

If you're interested in STS, Sergio Sismondo's Introduction to Science and Technology Studies offers a high-level overview of the field, both philosophical and political, in a compact and accessible package. The bibliography section is also a gold mine of interesting books and case studies from every subfield of STS. (Disclaimer: Sergio was my Ph.D. supervisor.)

Programmers in the age of social networking and IoT might also find actor-network theory particularly interesting. Callon and Latour were way ahead of their time, trying to view everyday objects as first-class citizens in the vast, distributed network of knowledge that makes up modern science. French sociologists are crazy, but sometimes they're prophetic as well.


Speaking as a complete layman, Philosophy of Science rocks. Feynman was smoking crack. Philosophy of Science is an extremely important discipline. It will just make your head explode. (Along with epistemology and couple others)

I started on my learning journey using The Great Courses series -- it's kind of like famous professors giving an abbreviated overview (20-40 hours) of their 101 courses. Deep enough that it's not some Discovery Channel show, light enough that you're not up until 2 a.m. every night for a month reading Hegel.

I think that the reason most scientists like Feynman don't get it is that they treat philosophy as a scientific discipline. It is not. Philosophy is the asking of questions. Every now and then you get into a fertile area where those questions can become their own science. This is why philosophy is called the "Mother of all sciences" Oddly enough, I think philosophers themselves have lost their way, but that's a story for another day.

My advice to those who are interested is to get an easy introduction, and don't take it too seriously. I love philosophy because it's like meeting the smartest people that ever lived in a bar and having them talk about really deep questions. But you'll have more fun talking to a lot of people than spending a deep dive with one guy. They tend to have a few good ideas and then spend the rest of their lives over-applying them.

Philosophy is also a great way to begin to talk about the important questions involving technology and people. Don't let anybody tell you any different. I've been very interested in the Philosophy of Language and how it relates to technology teams talking to users about solutions. Just got through writing an essay comparing the conditions that led to Sir Francis Bacon's New Orgonon with conditions in the Agile practitioner community today. Anybody writing apps controlling the speech of millions should have a grounding in political theory -- or risk turning the planet into a cesspool of conformity just so they can make a buck. Cool stuff.


> Just got through writing an essay comparing the conditions that led to Sir Francis Bacon's New Orgonon with conditions in the Agile practitioner community today.

Can you share a link to the essay?


It's part of a script for a video training series I'm working on. I'll post a link when we release it.


> Feynman was smoking crack.

He just had a warped sense of humor ;)


At least he had one; a lot of people writing about science and philosophy don't seem to even understand the concept.


I think you can start with "For and Against Method" which gives you Feyerabend and Lakatos. I'd also substitute Ludwik Fleck for Kuhn.

But that's personal preference. The list is solid (imo)


Michael Polanyi is also a solid substitute for Kuhn, and a contemporary of Fleck.

Kuhn is way more popular, though, and the Structure is short and straightforward, so it's probably a safer recommendation for beginners.


I would also highly suggest Giere's book, Understanding Scientific Reasoning: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/015506326X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=...

It's a textbook so it's a bit denser than a standard nonfiction offering, but it explains the perspectives of a few famous philosophers of science, the scientific method, clears up some common misunderstandings, and is packed with case studies which make the concepts easy to understand. It's a great piece for either reference or learning about science in general.


Would add The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert A. Simon [1] to the list. The current list is lacking a design science view, which is much more applicable to computer science than natural science books.

[1] https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/sciences-artificial


I also recommend the course PHIL202 - Philosophy of Science on Saylor.com. It is for free.

https://legacy.saylor.org/phil202/Intro/


I would add: Conjectures and Refutations, by Karl Popper.


And also "The Logic of Scientific Discovery", Karl Popper.

I read it at young age, and it was an open-mind read.


It might be worth mentioning that the titles of those two Popper books are the reason why Imre Lakatos's book recommended in the OP is called "Proofs and refutations: the logic of mathematical discovery".

(I don't think knowing this makes any particular difference to how one reads any of the books involved; it's just amusing.)


also Our Knowledge of The External World by Bertrand Russell


"A Science Of Operations" sounds great.

But can someone explain to me why the hard cover costs $120 (Amazon), and the paperback $180 (Amazon, B&N)?

It's 342 pages, so it's not like it's one of those encyclopedic tomes. Not that I try justifying a price-per-page, but what is it, a collection of expensive papers in print form?


It is an academic publication by Springer. That's why - academic publishing is just crazy. (Anybody around here doing a start-up that would make it obsolete?)

I would, of course, never suggest downloading the PDF from unofficial sources, but I could completely see why people are doing that.


Kindle: $143!!

This is so, so annoying. The Kindle version should never be higher than any dead tree version!


Please keep in mind that the book by Bruno Latour referenced here (Science in Action) and another of his articles was lampooned in the Sokal Affair because Latour was confused about relativity:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/transgress_v2/trans...

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/le_monde_english.html

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/sokal/noretta.html


For more practical persons I recommend skipping the historical parts of philosophy and go straight to Bayesianism. I recommend "Rationality" by E. Yudkowsky as an entry point, "Probabilistic Inference" by J. Pearl, "Artificial Intelligence" by Russel & Norvig for the theory and "Formal Theory of Creativity & Fun & Intrinsic Motivation" by J. Schmidhuber for inspiration.

[1]: http://people.idsia.ch/~juergen/creativity.html


I'd say that even for more practical persons, skipping the historical parts would be partly missing the point. As a practical person myself, I enjoyed the less-obvious works much more because they show a different way of thinking and so you'll learn things that you wouldn't otherwise even think about. Some of the more practical/analytical writings are just like more computer science formalisms, except that they are less believable. I'm sure there is a lot of good things there too, but I personally prefer things that are a bit further from my daily job! (Aside, there is one chapter on "The Bayesian approach" in the 3rd edition of "What is this thing called science", so that one might be a good entry-point for this topic too.)


I wouldn't recommend anything by Yudkowsky as an introduction to anything (other than maybe an introduction to contemporary techno-cults, aimed at the graduate level). As a "philosopher" he is exceptionally inept at questioning his own assumptions and reasoning. His writing lack any philosophical rigor (they try to obscure their axiomatic assumptions rather than articulate them, let alone explore them). As a result, his "philosophy" -- and in particular his views of rationality -- feels very antiquated (some read as if they'd been written in the 1700s) or something Sheldon Cooper would write. It has all the philosophical rigor of a child; or Ayn Rand. In any event, it is very uninformed and limited (not to speak of his nomenclature, which deviates from that of philosophy, and so makes orienting his views in the grand scheme of things difficult).

His writings are more of an interest to people who are interested in researching particular modes of thought in various sub-cultures. In this case, how antiquated views of "rationality" are gaining popularity in Silicon Valley pop-philosophy: http://harpers.org/archive/2015/01/come-with-us-if-you-want-...

He is a cult-leader, not a researcher, and like all cult leaders, his talents lie in charmingly convincing gullible victims that his thoughts are profound, when, in fact, they don't exceed those of a very intelligent 14-year-old know-it-all. If you approach his writings as actual philosophy (rather than intriguing historical documents of a techno-libertarian cult, which is what they are), after reading them you are certain to know less of philosophy than when you've started, even if your original knowledge was absolute zero.

His writings are to philosophy what Fox News is to news: inspire and agitate unquestioning followers, while making sure they don't learn about the world by constructing an elaborate -- and enticing -- virtual world to isolate them from reality.


I'm not here to defend the particular social movement that grew around these guys, even though they are right about some things, like catastrophic risks tied to new tech (which certain academics are quick to dismiss).

And I get the point of it not being too rigorous in academic sense. Sure, no arguments there.

The point I would like to make is that dismissing thinkers due to their writing style, personality issues, oddities, etc, can lead to very problematic outcomes. Many top thinkers in history have had childish qualities and were not well-rounded fully functional "normal" human beings. "Normal"s are too busy leading productive lives to write thousands of pages on vaguely identified future risks. The types of blind spots that these odd thinkers can uncover in the rest of the society can be very useful in improving everyone's lives. The guy who pointed out the toxicity of lead had to go through same type of ridicule by the society that was busy applying a layer of lead paint on every flat surface, including their faces. Same with many others pointing out practical risks that the society is currently blind to. Off the top of my head, other famous weirdos with odd beliefs, yet huge contributions to science/tech: Faraday, Tesla.


I am not dismissing his writings based on his personality, but based on its lack of rigor. In fact, I am not dismissing them at all as examples of their genre. But they are not philosophy. Philosophy requires a certain form of questioning and doubt which those writings lack. Regardless of what genre they belong to, they also lack originality, which is something Tesla and Faraday had in abundance. If they uncover anything, it is the very interesting political foundations of a group of people, some of whom possess a lot of power in today's society.

Also, I do not doubt for one second their ability to improve some people's lives. If they didn't, he wouldn't have had a following.


> something Sheldon Cooper would write

One might view this as a style/personality jab rather than an issue with rigor.

All I'm saying is Sheldon Cooper types have moved things forward for the rest of society more often than people realize.

Also, it would help to hear why you're so dismissive of the underlying arguments. One of their core ideas is that technology (specifically AI) can grow to surpass human level intelligence and pose a threat to the civilization. This is not a vacuous statement or a lunatic's fantasy, we have seen many other types of technology develop to a point where they pose an existential risks (e.g. nuclear weapons). If anything, the dismissal of AI-related risks reveals very clear blind spot / lack of rigor in most people's reasoning. "Because it hasn't happened yet, it must not be a problem we should worry about."


> All I'm saying is Sheldon Cooper types have moved things forward for the rest of society more often than people realize.

Rarely outside of their narrow field of expertise. I have no doubt that a real-life Sheldon Cooper would have made great contributions to physics. Philosophy, however, would not be his strong suit.

> Also, it would help to hear why you're so dismissive of the underlying arguments.

I haven't dismissed the conclusions, just said I disagree with many of them. I have dismissed their inclusion under the term philosophy because they don't follow the method. It is not a matter of style, just as following deduction rules and proven theorems through a careful precise process is not a style of mathematics but is mathematics. Eliezer Yudkowski makes some intriguing arguments, but they are political more than philosophical in their method.

> If anything, the dismissal of AI-related risks reveals very clear blind spot / lack of rigor in most people's reasoning. "Because it hasn't happened yet, it must not be a problem we should worry about."

Indeed, that is not why people with rigorous thinking on the subject dismiss the threats cautioned by the singularitarians. Also note that many people warn of AI risks all the time (forget true AI, people are warning against current use of machine learning), it's just that those are not the same risks the singularitarians are alarmed about.

In any event, very good arguments against singularitarian alarmism are found in abundance and that is not the topic of this discussion.


> I haven't dismissed the conclusions, just said I disagree with many of them.

Earlier: > If they uncover anything, it is the very interesting political foundations of a group of people

That sounds like a classic dismissal to me.

--

Anyway, not to get bogged down in a silly semantic argument. Who cares if it's real philosophy? I've tried reading Heidegger when I was young and naive. If that's real philosophy, I'll pass, thank you.

If you have substantial, rigorous arguments against the existential risks posed by AI-based tech, I'd love to hear those, otherwise what you're saying sounds a lot more like an emotional and political reaction (presumably from the left end of the political spectrum).


What cult does he run? Lesswrong? Lesswrong is dead, so if that is his cult, that must make him a pretty poor cult leader.

Techno-libertarian? I'll grant you the techno part, but lesswrong/the internet rationality people are about 70% left-wing and 25% libertarian.

So, what cult does he run, and what makes it a cult?


Singularitarianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularitarianism

EDIT: I agree with the parent reply that Elizer's writings do not rise to the level of good philosophy, but don't believe that 'singularitarianism' can currently be considered a cult. But it possesses some attributes similar to cults so I believe it's correct to call it a 'cult-like' or 'proto-cult' belief system.


I don't think it's fair even call singularity stuff a cult. I would agree with calling it religious though.

But cult-like at least to me implies more negative connotations. Isolating people from their friends & families. Abusive behavior towards its members. Stuff like that. Compounds where people live etc...

Has this singularity "cult" even hurt anyone?


> But cult-like at least to me implies more negative connotations. Isolating people from their friends & families. Abusive behavior towards its members. Stuff like that.

I did not mean it like that, and if that is how people understood it then I apologize. I meant it in the sense defined by Wikipedia: "In the sociological classifications of religious movements in English, a cult is a religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices". Or, in other words, a small fringe (possibly non-theistic) religion.


This comes across as an instance of motte and bailey ( http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-bric... ). It would be better to either avoid the word cult, or stand behind the full connotations of the word including the implied accusations.

FWIW, take it from me as someone with a sense of humor who's a little closer to the situation: Yudkowsky is clearly not a cult leader because he only has one sex slave. A cult leader would have five or more. As for the actual ideas, if his writing style bothers you then Nick Bostrom's book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is a good entry point (from an academic philosopher).


> It would be better to either avoid the word cult, or stand behind the full connotations of the word including the implied accusations.

I am sorry for using the word with its the academic meaning, which is what I'm familiar with[1], rather than the colloquial one. As I said in another comment, I am not a native English speaker, so I was not familiar with the colloquial connotation of the word in English. Indeed, I now see on Wikipedia that English speakers are often confused by the use of the word in texts translated from other languages (where it carries the same definition but without the same negative connotations).

[1]: My favorite professor said, "There are only two profitable things you can do with an academic training in history: work as a technical advisor for historical movies or form a cult".


Eh. I don't think that Wikipedia definition is commonplace usage. There are numerous social groups with deviant novel beliefs and practices, that people don't call cults. Do you call all such things cults?

And to be honest, I wouldn't even call the singularity culture a religion. It has no supernatural beings (no gods as you, but no angels or whatever as well). No magical beliefs. By that I mean things like the idea that prayer can heal. No ways to worship. No prescriptions on how to live your life. Literally the only thing is singularity = rapture.

Like honestly, what makes it a religion? Its just a weird idea that nerds like to talk about.


> I don't think that Wikipedia definition is commonplace usage.

Perhaps, but my training was in (mostly medieval) history, and that is the usage I'm most familiar with (I am not a native English speaker, either).

> And to be honest, I wouldn't even call the singularity culture a religion. It has no supernatural beings (no gods as you, but no angels or whatever as well). No magical beliefs. By that I mean things like the idea that prayer can heal. No ways to worship.

None of those are required of a religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

In particular, consider the Clifford Geertz quote: "[Religion is a] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

But again, my terminology is academic rather than reflecting everyday use.

> No prescriptions on how to live your life.

With that I would disagree.


>With that I would disagree.

What prescriptions does singulartism give on how to live?

>None of those are required of a religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

If you want to call the singularity culture a cult or religion, I'm not going to stop you. You can define things however you want. However, from what I see it has little in common with other things I would call cults, and other things I would call religions.

Now if you are honestly consistent, I will applaud you. So I am curious to ask. What are some other cults, aside from the ones I would agree to be cults (Scientology and such). What are some other religions aside from the ones I would agree to be religions (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and such...).

I'm just basically curious what else you call a cult/religion aside from singularity + the stereotypical stuff.


> What prescriptions does singulartism give on how to live?

Well, not singularitarianism alone, because it is certainly just a subset of a belief system, but the prescriptive side of that culture is known as CFAR[1], I believe, where Yudkowsky plays a role.

> You can define things however you want.

Not how I want, but how academics who study religion define them.

> What are some other cults, aside from the ones I would agree to be cults (Scientology and such). What are some other religions aside from the ones I would agree to be religions (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and such...)

A notable one (that has so far taken many forms) is New Age. It is related to another called theosophy (of the Theosophical Society).

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Applied_Rationality


This is a very important point. His cult can wreck your thinking. I think it should only be read by people with enough contextual information to call his bullshit. He definitely is a smart guy in a way, and you can't easily attack his writings in a way that would be easy to understand for a newcomer.

So I won't attempt that here. Instead, I'll tell my (random internet guy's) feelings and vague ideas: You know when you meet a stranger and you feel something is off, but you don't really know what, but something's funny? Martial art and personal defense coaches usually recommend that you listen to this feeling and act accordingly.

Singulitarianism is basically an apocalyptic doom-religion. It follows the same scheme. For example, I just read a reddit thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/DebateReligion/comments/3vsoe7/chri...) the other day and the post reminded me of Singulitarianism a lot. There is an apocalypse, some external information that you should rely on instead of you intuitive faculties because they are biased and unreliable, but if you follow the path of the leader you'll be saved.

Also, its followers react to criticism similarly to religious people.

And another problem is that nobody serious has ever rolled up their sleeves, went through and criticized the whole mess of their Bible (called Sequences), a massive collection of writings, interlinked thousand-fold in an intricate complex network. Simply because the people who could do this don't care much about some random guy posting stuff to his blog.

Fortunately since the Basilisk story came out and we could see Yudkowsky's reaction, it was an eye-opener for many people. Still his movement is quite well-spread and gets linked to often by CS people, mathematics students etc.

And I won't start to refute individual claims. I admit this. The thing is not about the individual claims but the way they are linked and the kind of narrative it builds. The untold assumptions lurking in the background etc. The way he tries to take credit for age-old ideas by renaming them and not caring about the origin of them, since the history of philosophy is irrelevant anyway, we should just read his blog posts and related stuff.

My advice for novices is to start with the mainstream. You can of course criticize the mainstream once you have sufficient knowledge. Read textbooks, classical works, go to universities, take interesting courses etc. Don't teach yourself this stuff from a random guy's blog who has no qualifications on anything he speaks about (which isn't a disproof but a red flag).

I've been vague and I stand by it. Yes I might have been irrational in my comment or led by feelings and emotions. I don't care. I just had to put this out here. I don't aim my paragraphs as ultimate refutation but as a warning. I felt I had to write this for the benefit of people who may be new to this man's world.


Climate science is basically an apocalyptic doom-religion. It follows the same scheme. For example, I just read a reddit thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/DebateReligion/comments/3vsoe7/chri...) the other day and the post reminded me of climate science a lot. There is an apocalypse, some external information that you should rely on instead of you intuitive faculties because they are biased and unreliable, but if you follow the path of the leader you'll be saved.

And another problem is that nobody serious has ever rolled up their sleeves, went through and criticized the whole mess of their Bible (called Climate Science Papers), a massive collection of writings, interlinked thousand-fold in an intricate complex network. Simply because the people who could do this don't want to be criticized in the media.

Fortunately since the Climategate story came out and we could see the leadership's reaction, it was an eye-opener for many people. Still this movement is quite well-spread and gets linked to often by journalists, politicians, etc.

None of your critiques are remotely specific to lesswrong. All could be equally well applied to climate science or a variety of other things where I suspect you'd be unwilling to apply it.


If climate science was advocated by a single person without any formal qualification in climatology, physics, hydrology, Earth Science etc. it would be similar.

But Climate science is a lot less about an Apocalypse. Mainstream climate science isn't about a total wiping out of humanity but a few degrees of change in temperature, extreme weather, more deserts, floods etc., which are terrible catastrophes but nowhere near on the scale that Yudkowsky likes to dream up (evil robots destroying everything and torturing and extorting and creating myriads of simulations of simulations of you being tortured in the worst ways possible in various hypothetical, counterfactual scenarios to acausally motivate you to serve these evil overlords etc.)

Also, climate science doesn't ask you to "obviously" dismiss reputable fields and past sources. It's just a very bad analogy. The best defense of Singulitarianism is the "but what if you're wrong" kind of betting. Because their imagined doom scenario is so extremely unimaginably bad, they argue that they can get away with little proof, since multiplying the huge disaster with a little probability still gives a large expected risk. They like to say "shut up and multiply" as a slogan for this, i.e. multiply probability and outcome to get the expectation. He lays the groundwork and path for this such that if you gradually get into his system, he can take you in the woods without you noticing. It's no less than a panic-inducing mind virus.

And yeah, you can say I didn't disprove him with this. I don't want to. My main point is: don't start with his writings and don't recommend them to people who are uneducated in these topics. You'll do them a favor by recommending reputable sources.


Mainstream climate science isn't about a total wiping out of humanity but a few degrees of change in temperature, extreme weather, more deserts, floods etc.,...

You are sounding like a climate skeptic.

What does Yudkowsky ask you to "obviously dismiss"?

Near as I can tell, your only critique of Yudkowsky is that he asks you to consider various philosophical and scientific edge cases that are outside of the social mainstream, and are therefore somehow wrong in a way you refuse to discuss.


Your writing implies you think Yudkowsky believes/promotes the Basilisk. Are you not aware he thinks that is nonsense?


I have no idea what he truly believes in and I don't even care too much. What I care about is the effects of his writings. Remember we are debating whether his writings are to be recommended to someone who is new to philosophy about science, algorithms, cognitive biases etc.

The Basilisk is an organic outgrowth from it. And it's just one of many. They follow naturally from the tenets of the religion, they aren't outliers or "bad apples".


>I have no idea what he truly believes in and I don't even care too much.

It is relevant. Look what you wrote:

>Yudkowsky likes to dream up (evil robots destroying everything and torturing and extorting and creating myriads of simulations of simulations of you being tortured in the worst ways possible in various hypothetical, counterfactual scenarios to acausally motivate you to serve these evil overlords etc.)

Unless I am mistaken, this is a clear reference to Roko's basilisk. EXCEPT Yudkowsky didn't dream it up. Roko did.

Can you elaborate on your issues w/ the Basilisk? As far as I am concerned its just a thought experiment. If Yudkowsky had actually tried to get people to give him money or something via it you would have a good complaint... but he didn't.


> Unless I am mistaken, this is a clear reference to Roko's basilisk. EXCEPT Yudkowsky didn't dream it up. Roko did.

Correct, I was conflating things. But his unfriendly AI scenario is pretty bad too.

My issue with it is that it's a symptom of an over-confident belief system naturally leading people to such conclusions. And now I don't want to get into refuting it, it's been done numerous times to varying degrees. I think the whole underlying system is problematic, there is no superficial mistake in the reasoning, once you accept a few philosophical standpoints and value judgments that the reader is spoon-fed while reading his blog posts.


To repeat this idea with a different mood affiliation:

I have no idea what muslims truly believe and I don't even care too much. What I care about is the effects of their beliefs...Terrorism is an organic outgrowth from it. And it's just one of many...

I take it that if Donald Trump makes this claim, you'll support it?


How are "muslims", over 1.5 billion people with wide ranging beliefs and practices analogous to one individual who leads a small group? If you were to apply this to a particular muslim with a following, who you believe has advanced particular beliefs with a negative effect, then the sentiment expressed by johann30 would make a lot of sense, and even the most heart-bleeding of liberals would agree.

I don't have enough information to agree or disagree with johann30 specific claim, and I can't comment to the negative effects he says he had witnessed on himself and others (all I know is that Yudkowsky is neither a philosopher nor an expert on the subject), but your analogy did not resemble his idea at all.


Please stop trolling on HN.


Can you clarify what you mean by the word "trolling"? I'm honestly asking the question because I don't understand what you object to.

If I understand what the term means to you I can avoid that in the future.


You've used a dismissive hand-wave ("mood affiliation") to reduce somebody's comment to something clearly provocative ("muslims... terrorism... Trump"), then alleged that the commenter must support the latter. Such a post is in effect just a delivery mechanism for the provocation, so I call it trolling. It's like reaching out and tweaking somebody's nose as you're talking—it doesn't much matter what point you happened to be arguing for at the time.

Your post (and you post a lot of these) takes the form of logically substituting one expression for an equivalent one, but that's not what you're doing at all—you're simply pretending to. Not even mathematical expressions can be substituted that way without careful proof that every step preserves the meaning, and natural language simply doesn't work this way to begin with. It isn't valid to rip something out of its context, do major surgeries on it, then fling it back with the claim that it's what the other is really saying. When the thing you're flinging back seems designed to be offensive, the likelihood that this is sincere communication, aiming at understanding, plummets.

Many of your recent comments seem crafted to be technically unimpeachable while still tweaking people's noses. I could be wrong about that and would prefer to be; it's hard to read intent. But the fact that they come across that way is already a problem. You'd contribute more of value if you sincerely, and not only technically, eliminated that element and sought neutral ground with others. Note that this doesn't entail changing your views, though it can involve making an assessment of how much the conversation can tolerate before it goes haywire, and calibrating accordingly. But that's part of civil discourse anyhow. It makes no sense to send messages with little chance of being received.


I didn't mean to imply that I really thought Johann30 supported Trump or islamophobia. Rather, I used that example because I thought it was such an extreme and obviously false example of similar logic ("I have no idea what X truly believe and I don't even care too much") leading to wrong results. I realize now that my last sentence could be misinterpreted as being literal rather than rhetorical with an obvious negative answer (as was intended by me).

And of course there is possibly a distinguishing principle that Johann30 used as an unstated premise - that's just a flaw of natural language. But I realize I could have been clearer in allowing for that possibility. I'll try to be more literal in the future.

I understand you want others to stop being provoked by my comments, but I can't really control that.

What is the concrete action you'd like me to take? Will being more literal and explicitly requesting the elucidation of unstated premises/stating that I obviously don't think the person believes the contradictory conclusion/etc be sufficient? Should I include an explicit disclaimer that I'm making an argument by contradiction? Or are arguments by contradiction now explicitly disallowed (only constructive logic, I guess)?


You could create a neutral version of the claim:

I have no idea what X truly believe and I don't even care too much. What I care about is the effects of Y ... Z is an organic outgrowth from it. And it's just one of many...

Your claim is that if you substitute in any X, Y and Z (where X, Y and Z are consistent with each other), the statement is equivalent. You want the original poster to reply to this idea. Dan's point, which I agree with, is that putting in emotionally charged X, Y and Z is not civil, promotes emotional responses and is effectively trolling.

(I also happen to agree with Dan that the particular X, Y and Z matter, and the sentences are not necessarily logically equivalent with any X, Y and Z. But it's still possible to make the above argument without the emotional baggage. I understand it's a rhetorical technique to shock the reader into seeing what you perceive as sloppy thinking, but I think it is more likely to inflame and prevent discussion on the original topic.)


To make the argument the conclusion can't be neutral. It has to be definitively and obviously wrong. That's why I chose Trump and Islam - it's such a ridiculously wrong conclusion that I doubted anyone here could support it.

I agree that the particular X/etc sometimes matters. And a valid argument against mine would be to give a clear limiting principle (something unstated in the original post, but perhaps implicit?) that applies to the critique of less wrong but fails for Islam.

Pron kind of tried to do this - he said Johann30's argument can only apply to small groups and Islam is large (though where this large vs small distinction comes from is unstated).

To take a mathematical (and hopefully completely uncontroversial) example of this:

Fool: "The sum of IID random variables is gaussian. Therefore $Z"

Smartass: "Oh yeah? What about C/(1+x^2)? Your argument is invalid."

Fool: "Oops I meant IID random variables with finite variance, just thought that was implicit and obvious."

Of course, if Fool can't come up with that added clause then the Smartass has disproven him.


You can still construct an example that is "definitely and obviously wrong" but emotionally neutral. Which you did above.


Seems like I can't comment normally anymore due to downvotes or some other mechanism. So I quit the discussion now.


I had the same issue and I've just seen this:

https://www.quora.com/Hacker-News-How-come-I-cant-reply-in-a...

I think that's a pretty good lesson from PG!


New users quickly reach a comment limit. You can create a new account on a different IP and continue.


I feel you. I'm reminded of Robert Kegan's stages of development, whereof the rare individual who reaches stage four, the stage where one learns to transcend irrational personal attachments and instead cultivate logical, systematic principles and practices to guide behavior, nevertheless sooner or later starts to find niche problems or, let's say, glitches within his or her system, and hopefully is able to eventually reach a stage five, wherein one is able to move among systems freely, picking them up and setting them down as needed, because the whole damn thing, the human situation, is funny and crooked and lovely and not a neatly determined algorithm. Kegan's is of course an overdetermined system. It has problem spots. It can be picked up and set down. It's funny. Lesswrong on the other hand, I personally haven't yet found the part where someone shrugs and says, Hey, this works pretty well for me, but it won't yield you an e.e. cummings poem to appreciate on a snowy day. It feels like the beginning of an effort to evolve into something like that mysterious race of human computers who own the monopoly on space travel in Dune.


In my time at LW I saw so many people becoming anxious, struggling with how to "escape themselves", how to transcend their biases, and meta-biases, knotting themselves into paradoxes with the elaborate hypothetical constructions, it was just sad after some point. They convinced themselves that rationality means trusting an external system so that if it leads to something counterintuitive, it must surely be seriously accepted. I mean it's kind of how it works, you shouldn't rule out your potential conclusions at the outset, but real life is a lot messier than theories. And I know one can say, this sounds like an excuse to be lazy and unreflective and uninterested in the world's problems, but actually all I'm saying is you can't obsess over this sort of thing and keep your mental hygiene at the same time. This sort of thing can make people burn out or become actually depressed or paranoid.

One must keep the ability to laugh at oneself, to be able to humorously see a kind of futility in what one does but dance the dance anyway. Clenching too hard, making one more nested iteration in the prisoner's dilemma or the chicken game won't help.

Also don't take stuff more seriously than a certain ceiling.

For me, reading about Zen ideas helped me get out of this narrow, "rationalized", neatly ordered, algorithmic, packaged-and-labeled way of thinking. Metaphorically it's kind of the difference between a probabilistic machine learning system vs. a symbolic knowledge system where everything is defined precisely and unambiguously and every rule is laid out etc.

I'm still materialist and atheist, but I think being too deeply involved in any ideology is harmful (be it Marxism or Fascism or Scientology or LW). Yeah, you can reflect upon whether it's possible to live truly independent of ideologies without making or finding a new one for yourself. But there are certain indicators, like when you feel you're getting distanced away from the people around you physically, when you start feeling superior for belonging to the in-group etc., it usually means you're just not noticing some aspects and are obsessing over something. Sure one can say that if innovators thought like this and always stayed in line of the mainstream, we never would have gotten Ford or Jobs etc. And there is truth to this, but it kind of sounds like "X dropped out of college and went on to be successful therefore dropping out of college is a good idea". No, generally the good idea is to be humble and positive about the people around you, be open and reflective but not obsessive and be able to relax.


It's sound advice, I'd second it.

It's not so much that we "hate" Elizer, like Aljik suggests, it's just that on the whole - compared to the many mindblowing authors mentioned in this thread - Elizer just isn't particularly outstanding. Someone has to say it, lest anyone reading this for the first time gets the wrong impression.

Anyone's welcome to still read him, for all we care, but you may as well be getting your philosophy education from Cosmopolitan.


> Anyone's welcome to still read him, for all we care,

Of course, but I'd qualify this a bit. If you are in a life situation where you feel alone or in need of a community, you feel you're not included enough, or feel "smarter" and more reflective than your environment, then spending time at LW can amplify your smugness and stroke your ego to the point of not noticing what you are turning into. I saw many people there with milder psychological problems. Really, a psychologist would probably have an interesting time analyzing the "life advice/coaching/coping" parts of that forum.

However, if you're living a balanced, good life, reading this stuff won't matter much. It's similar in many ideologies. If you're in a receptive situation, then Scientology, or Reddit's Redpill, or basically any elitist, enlightening type of subculture along the lines of "you now understand what it all really is about" can be harmful.


Yeah, agreed! It's no surprise that LW has been known to attract a few PUA followers as well.


> Someone has to say it, lest anyone reading this for the first time gets the wrong impression.

Sorry what? You have to say that isn't outstanding, unless some one gets the impression he is?

Maybe this is crazy idea, but if Elizier wasn't outstanding... wouldn't that be something people would figure out for themselves? On the otherhand if people are reading his works, and walking away with the impression that he is outstanding, couldn't it simply be that it is? And even so, who are you to say that is wrong?

On the other hand, if there really are authors who write about similar things,but better than Yudkowsky I would be interested in reading (I haven't found any).

So, since you claim to know of such things, could you pick something Yudkowsky has written about and name me another who does it better?


Who am I? WHO AM I?

I am some random anon posting their views on the internet, as is every other person here. It's called having a conversation.

"So, since you claim to know of such things, could you pick something Yudkowsky has written about and name me another who does it better?"

Yes, I could. But since you've so far been a total arrogant assface, and since your tone implies that - rather than a genuine interest - you simply want to bait me into a further argument so you can show off how much you're in love with Elizer... I'm going to pass. Do your own research if you're so "interested".


>Yes, I could. But since you've so far been a total arrogant assface, and since your tone implies that - rather than a genuine interest - you simply want to bait me into a further argument so you can show off how much you're in love with Elizer... I'm going to pass.

For a conversation you being pretty insulting. But, no, contrary to your assumption its actual curiosity.

If you are worried about this argument continuing if you refer me to such works, I promise not discuss them if you post them.


Could you elaborate? How can it wreck one's thinking? I mean, maybe I'm wrong but your writing as if it is dangerous to read for the untrained to read.

I agree with singularity being like a religion. I think the singularity is nonsense. On the otherhand I don't think the rest of your accusations are accurate.

First, I'm not sure I would name Yudkowsky the leader of the singularity culture. Of lesswrong certainly, but lesswrong is dead. Yudkowsky is about as much a leader of the singularity stuff, as P.G. is of "hacker" culture. A big name with writings on philosophy and the culture. Honeslty I would name Kurzweil as a far bigger person w.r.t singularity stuff. He is far more known.

Furthermore no where does Yudkowsky say anything like "if you follow me you'll be saved". In fact he probably believes the singularity will save everyone (if friendly a.i).

This is where I expect you to bring up Roko's Basilisk. For those unaware, Roko's Basilisk is the idea that a A.I may retroactively punish people who didn't assist in it's development. Therefore if you don't want to suffer you should donate money and time to creating A.I.

First of all, this was idea was created by a guy called, Roko. Not Yudkowsky. Yudkowsky doesn't believe it. Yudkowsky's response among other things was to say that it was not ethical of Roko to write about the basilisk, if Roko really believed it to be true.

Kind of like how sometimes atheists will say that Christians shouldn't proselytize to people who have never heard of Christianity, because if they don't know about it, God can't very well send them to hell for their disbelief.

Anyways I am interested to hear why you felt so strongly you had to warn us off him. The hate Yudkowsky gets is something I don't understand but want too.


I have literally just brought up Roko's basilisk in a different branch of this thread! Cray cray.


I was gullible enough once to eat up his philosophy. Because he's not trivially wrong. He tries to take credit for developments that aren't his, present good ideas mixed in with nonsense and you just swallow it all naively, unless you've previously thought through the stuff. His casual dismissing of the mainstream can become your style as well, and you can feel you become part of something special, something that transcends most people's levels. It's really not unlike Scientology.

Sorry if I come across as warning too much. It probably depends on your personality type. If you are a very reflective and self-critical person, you can tie yourself up with his philosophy I can tell you that much. Now, granted, the consequences of something don't tell much about the truth of that thing (just like the "God exists because if God exists then I feel safe and happy and gives meaning to my life" is a bad argument.), still - keeping in mind that we are discussing whether a novice should be advised to read Yudkowsky - I think there are better choices.

I absolutely think that if you're above average smart but lack the factual, lexical knowledge, then reading his stuff can be detrimental to your intellectual development. You're better off without it. Yeah, you can make the case for going through such experiences, just like you can make the case that going through drug addiction and recovery can make you a better/stronger person in some sense, but as a first approximation it's better to stick with mainstream literature. That's the main point I'm trying to argue for.

And I have to add that it's weird and frustrating to argue about this because obviously those defending his ideology are smart enough to come up with good counterarguments. It's nothing like debating with, say, Young Earth Creationists. These people (perhaps including you) are often intelligent, tech/math/CS-literate people. The point of disagreement is of a finer nature that is hard to even discuss because that whole aspect is usually dismissed as "useless philosophy".

It's somewhat akin to https://xkcd.com/793/ where someone who masters one technical field feels an immense power or superiority and becomes a bit smug.

Feynman had the cred to be able to say "If you don't like it [the way nature works], go somewhere else; to another universe maybe", but talking in this kind of confident way requires a very solid background. I'm not talking about prizes, simply actual results. And I know it's difficult due to the nature of the topic (studying a hypothetical unknown-probability event that can wipe out everything), but this sort of cop-out is just not convincing.


> His casual dismissing of the mainstream can become your style as well, and you can feel you become part of something special, something that transcends most people's levels. It's really not unlike Scientology.

Um. You might want to read up on what Scientology is; they're not even remotely in the same league. For example, Yudkowsky has never been accused of war crimes. Also, his brainwashing technique seems to be a bunch of essays, rather than, say, a biofeedback device coupled with personalized verbal abuse and a systematic dismantling of peoples' personal relationships.


The becoming part of a special in-crowd who will save the world is the similarity. Not the torture and crimes of course. I've seen and read quite a lot about Scientology, but you are right that they are nowhere near the same league. Scientology is a massive and extremely rich bunch, who do some very bad things on purpose.


>It's somewhat akin to https://xkcd.com/793/ where someone who masters one technical field feels an immense power or superiority and becomes a bit smug.

That's what really put me off of the LW community as a whole - that condensing attitude of superiority over anyone not in the in-group. There was a telling comment in one of the articles that went along the lines of: "Oh yeah, LW is not for everyone. It takes a particular kind of person to discuss the intricacies of the Newcomb's problem day in and day out". That made me cringe so much when I read it. Like, jeez, just get over yourself, no one cares how "smart" you are.


Do you have any substantive arguments against his philosophy or just vague insults?


Just some basic particulars (if you can call them that): he is not in the habit of carefully exploring alternative views to his own (instead he ridicules them without attempting to understand them); he seems to write as if both his deductions and assumptions are obvious rather than question them; he almost never tackles more current actual philosophical ideas (rather than occasionally paint them in an "obviously" ridiculous light by completely misunderstanding them); most importantly, he seems to present a definitive answer after definitive answer rather than seriously and systematically explore questions.

That is not to say that I don't occasionally agree with his conclusions, but his process lacks the originality and constant self-doubt that makes philosophy so entertaining and interesting. Instead, it offers dismissal or certainty -- stuff that may make religion or blog posts entertaining. But that's not philosophy.

Besides, my vague insults are pretty much the common view (which is actually far more dismissive than I have been). It is anyone in the small minority who considers Yudkowsky a philosopher that requires substantive justification. In any case, even if you find his writings convincing, Yudkowsky would still make for a very bad foray into philosophy, because he tends to make up his own nomenclature rather than use accepted one (and present age-old ideas as his own). His fondness of definitive answers and ridicule of others means his work mostly serves to confuse rather than enlighten anyone who is interested in what philosophers do, or what current interesting debates are taking place. Even if you disagree with all that, you would surely agree that a fringe thinker, unrecognized by the academic community and who's not recognized to have made a single original contribution to the field (pretty much by anyone) is probably not the best guide for a beginner.


> Besides, my vague insults are pretty much the common view (which is actually far more dismissive than I have been).

So why should I take the common view seriously? If vague insults are all professional philosophers have to offer, what's their value here?


So you disagree with his style, not his substance, and even you admit he's getting things right.

I didn't know tone policing/tone trolling was such an important part of philosophical discourse.


> and even you admit he's getting things right.

I said that I occasionally agree with his conclusions. I mostly don't. But I'm not the ultimate judge of correctness, and I can't give the final ruling on them one way or another (that's not how philosophy works). However:

> I didn't know tone policing/tone trolling was such an important part of philosophical discourse.

Not tone but process. Yudkowsky may be correct in the same way that the pope may be correct (BTW, I find both to occasionally raise a though-provoking issue), or both may inspire (different) people, but that makes neither of them philosophers because what they do isn't philosophy. I'll put it another way: your grandmother may make you soup when you're sick and it may (or may not) actually help you, but that doesn't mean she's practicing medicine.

The mere discussion, however, of "tone policing/tone trolling" is very much in line with what Yudkowsky does, which may best be described as expressing a certain political ideology regarding science, philosophy, knowledge, public discourse etc.. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their opinions and their ideologies, but that alone is not enough to make them philosophers, even if they try to keep their arguments consistent.


I also think that his obsession with the kinds of inverted reasoning, such as "anti-inductive markets" is serving an interest of his: by planting this meme in your head, you'll subconsciously apply it out of context, when his qualifications of reputation come up. He'll say "Oh but even if I had qualifications, you'd probably reject my claims, so I don't need qualifications". They (and his earlier co-author Robin Hanson) also like to reduce things to signaling, basically saying that education is just to show off and raise one's status by acquiring pieces of paper, but if you really want to get things done, it's more efficient to self-study and concentrate on the really important things, skipping all this mess that is education.

So if you eat these ideas at the right time, you won't find anything suspicious about him lacking any reputation, any qualifications. He's trying to sell you the idea that he's so much above the ridiculous ideas of the mainstream that he doesn't need to go among them an get tested by them, he tries to sell you that this is just signalling, the way a really rich person doesn't need to show off expensive items, or a big dog doesn't need to bark as much.

Another thing about the anti-inductive meme is that seeing the world thought these glasses makes you kind of paranoid. Because how can you know if the thing you conclude shouldn't be the exact opposite? You know, maybe the system figured out what you will think, it simulated you and now you are supposed to outsmart that system, etc. When in reality, the overwhelming majority of everyday things are straightforward and inductive and rarely go deeper than 1 or 2 levels of "simulating the other". But his focus on the superintelligent being makes you think subconsciously that this is the nature of the current world as well, and a lack of qualifications should actually be seen as a proof of skill, not as a counterevidence.

Maybe you say nobody would think that, but I did, some years ago. I got sucked into his writings and I was gullible. Since then I have learned a lot from other sources and can see much better how he rips off previous ideas, repackages them and creates a crazy ideology.


> They (and his earlier co-author Robin Hanson) also like to reduce things to signaling, basically saying that education is just to show off and raise one's status by acquiring pieces of paper, but if you really want to get things done, it's more efficient to self-study and concentrate on the really important things, skipping all this mess that is education.

You say it like it's not true. Traditional education is a mess. A lot of it is smoke and mirrors and signaling. Which is why online education is huge and growing.


> Traditional education is a mess.

True.

> but if you really want to get things done, it's more efficient to self-study and concentrate on the really important things, skipping all this mess that is education.

Also true, at least some of the time.

However, it does not follow that the uncredentialed person telling you that education doesn't matter is therefore right in the rest of what he/she is telling you.


> However, it does not follow that the uncredentialed person telling you that education doesn't matter is therefore right in the rest of what he/she is telling you.

Where did I say that it follows?

Also, AFAIK Robin Hanson is a full econ professor.


You didn't. I was noting the gap between what you said and what johann28 said.


If you really ended up thinking like that I think that is more reflective of your personality/mind than Yudkowsky's writings. Like, I don't mean this to be insulting, but normal people don't end up paranoid and anxious and worrying about what levels people are playing at and thinking that super intelligent beings are the nature of the world, after reading LW. Normal people say "Huh thats cool" and it makes for fun dinner table talks and at best comes up in real life if you are a contestant on a game show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0qjK3TWZE8

Yudkowsky isn't some devious mastermind trying to brainwash people into thinking wrong so he can. So he can what? Even if he was a devious mastermind who created a polemic work so as to get people to think wrong... what would his goal be?


I didn't end up actually paranoid, that's an exaggeration. But many people for whom this is the first encounter with these topics, do get confused and "brainwashed". Some people can't really understand the implications in the first place, so they of course won't be impacted.

I don't have enough time now, but at some point I may try to summarize the specific patterns of thought that are most problematic in their treatment of counterfactuality, acausality, simulations, free will, anti-inductivity, signaling etc.

I'm not saying he's devious. I think he probably believes what he says as far as I can tell or care. But it's irrelevant.

And about normal people: there are writings scattered around the internet about similar experiences and there are probably more in private exchanges (as the posts themselves describe). I even read about things akin to support groups. Of course I shouldn't blow this out of proportion, we aren't talking about masses of people here.


I'd be interested in reading this. You keep writing as if LW/Yudkowsky is very harmful,but you won't elaborate on what the danger is aside from "think wrong".

Like if people were donating all their money to A.I because of the Basilisk, or killing themselves while gambling because they've taken many worlds too far, or something I could see why you would be so urgent to warn people away from Yudkowsky. What is you are so concerned with?


> what they do isn't philosophy.

It's more philosophical than what most philosophers do, as long as they dismiss people out of hand.

Yudkowsky at least admits others have ideas worth engaging with.


That is a uncharitable caricature of pron's point. pron's main point was about methodology, not style. That is, pron is claiming that he is not rigorous. Since rigor is fundamental to practicing philosophy, it does cut to the substance of the work, not the style.


They like to emphasize and masturbate to that one paragraph in the Russel-Norvig AI textbook mentioning the concept of "Friendly AI" along with a citation to a Yudkowsky writing. Beyond that single case, I don't know any public "endorsement" of any of his ideas by experts of any related field (if you can call this one citation an endorsement at all).


Yes! Look up Roko's basilisk.

It's like someone wrote a lovecraft-style horror story, forgot that it was fiction, and totally lost their shit over it.

It used to be a banned discussion on LessWrong because it's supposedly a truth so horrifying that it'll destroy your mind as soon as you understand it.

.... if that's not cult behavior then I don't know what is!


Honestly, find me one person who believes that the Basilisk is a truth so horrifying that it will destroy your mind.

That is ridiculous. It isn't such a thing and no one believes it to be such a thing. That isn't why it was banned.

To make an analogy, say I believed I created some code, that if ran, would kill the person who was using the computer it ran on. Then I posted that code online.

In some-sense, that would be really dumb of me. Even if you don't believe that my code actually works, you can still be consistent when criticizing me for sharing it.

The second issue that maybe in the future, such a thing will be possible. Maybe computers and humans will be so integrated that you can kill people with malicious software.

Those are the reasons the Basilisk was banned. Do I think banning them was the appropriate action? No. It was Yudkowsky power-tripping cause hes arrogant. Is it as you or others make it out to be? No.


It is very kind of you to explain the situation to me.

Except that I've actually met the infamous Roko, and given your shitty explanation I seem to have a better handle on the issue than you do.

So, think about what that means for a second. Without knowing anything about me, your first reaction to seeing me disagree with you was to assume that I simply do not understand the issue as well as you do, and then to proceeded to lecture me on it in the most simplest and infantile way possible.

That right there? That kind of arrogance which makes you speak over whomever you are talking to in order to shove your view into their face, all the while assuming that you need to explain the most basic things to them? That's why I can't stand LWers. That's why you guys reek of being a cult with no actual interest in rationality.

But since you are so DESPERATE to defend Elizer (when I have not once said that I dislike him - something else that you would have noticed if you bothered to LISTEN), I'll let him speak for himself. Here's an excerpt on him talking about the basilisk.

"To reduce the number of hedons associated with something that should not have hedons associated with its discussion, I will refer to the subject of this discussion as the Babyfcker. The Babyfcker will be taken to be associated with UFAIs; no Friendly AI worthy of the name would do that sort of thing.

Point one: Suppose there were a flaw in your argument that the Babyfcker can't happen. I could not possibly talk publicly about this flaw.

...

Point four: If I could go back in time and ask Roko to quietly retract the Babyfcker post without explanation, I would most certainly do that instead. Unfortunately you can't change history, and I didn't get it right the first time."

You can read the rest of the rant here: https://www.reddit.com/r/LessWrong/comments/17y819/lw_uncens...

I'll humbly let the readership of HN decide for themselves what they think of this sort of philosophy.

Peace.


>assume that I simply do not understand the issue as well as you do

Not, I assumed you had different understanding. Maybe you do have a more accurate understanding of the situation but that isn't clear yet.

And as for giving a simple explanation? Why is that a bad thing? I want to communicate clearly so you can understand me.

>That's why I can't stand LWers.

I'm not a LWer. I don't have an account there. I've never interacted with the community at all. I've just read some of the posts.

>Here's an excerpt on him talking about the basilisk.

Which just supports my understanding.

As he says:

>Basically, the same obvious precautions you'd use if Lovecraft's Necronomicon was online and could be found using simple Google keywords - you wouldn't post anything which would cause anyone to enter those Google keywords, unless they'd been warned about the potential consequences.

Which is analogy akin to my coding one.

>But since you are so DESPERATE to defend Elizer

I think Elizier is a pretty messed up person. He clearly has mental issues. At the same time, I am very thankful to him/LW/HPMOR for personal reasons. Which is why I will step up to defend him when I think he/LW is being, I guess slandered?

> (when I have not once said that I dislike him - something else that you would have noticed if you bothered to LISTEN)

I never accused you of disliking him.

Honestly though, for as much as you've condemned my behavior in this discussion, I'm not the one repeatedly insulting people.


Please don't resort to personal insults on HN.


Bonus link: A panel on automating science which I greatly enjoyed watching.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VchrEoimSO8


Speaking about books, there are a lot more accessible books than those on the list, and here are a few:

[1] Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0415891779

[2] Philosophy of Science Vol 1 & 2 by Mario Bunge

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0765804131/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/076580414X/


I recently encountered the Duhem-Quine thesis on wikipedia which I think presents a really interesting perspective on testability, something I never really questioned before in the philosophy of science.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duhem%E2%80%93Quine_thesis


I would add Ruth Millikan's work. "Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories" is her masterpiece, but way out of depth for a beginner ("out of depth" in philosophy meaning most people are likely to be bored, confused, or dismissive yet with the right background the book is amazingly exciting, insightful, and valuable). "On Clear and Confused Ideas" is more approachable and has been made available for free online now. http://web2.uconn.edu/philosophy/department/millikan/clearct...


I would add "The Formation of the Scientific Mind" by Gaston Bachelard. This text analyses the nature of the mental patterns that prevent from making actual discoveries (what he calls "epistemoligical obstacles").


My #1 recommendation is http://beginningofinfinity.com/ by David Deutsch. I also recommend his two TED talks, especially https://www.ted.com/talks/david_deutsch_a_new_way_to_explain... which makes clear why induction is simply wrong and explains how science actually works.


I would add: The Retreat to Commitment, by W.W. Bartley, III.


The Value of Science http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0375758488/

Meditations on First Philosophy http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0192806963/


In a similar vein, I highly recommend Discussion of the Method by Billy Vaughn Koen. It's a philosophy of engineering that resolves many of the unanswered questions you'll have after reading Feyerabend, and also gives an overview of the field of philosophy of science along the way.


Also:

Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology"

Ellul's "The Technological Society"


Why Popper is not on the list?


Popper is definitely important! He's not on the list because I didn't read his works (I know I should). His key points are widely known that I was simply more interested in reading books that go in other directions. (There is also nice introduction to Popper in the textbook mentioned.) But I would like to get back to him!


While all the books he suggests are worth reading, the list as a whole has a major gap: nothing from feminist or post-colonialist perspectives. So I'd add Sandra Harding's "Sciences From Below", and perhaps the collection "Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science".


Is there a reason that Feminist books would add something particularly special? (Versus books simply written by women?) I don't know much except apparently respected Feminists have said stuff like "E=mc^2" is a "sexed equation" and other inane stuff. (Generally non-physicists talking about physics doesn't end well.)

Is there a short, concise, summary of what Feminism has contributed to sciences? (Given that I don't think one's chromosome's or gender should matter much in the first place.)

Sorry if this is extremely ignorant; just curious.


Yes, feminist philosophy of science does address things that aren't typically found in non-feminist works, even those written by women. In particular, "situated knowledge" -- knowledge that reflects the particular perspectives of the subject -- plays a very big role, and for example leads to a lot of interesting questions about "objectivity".

There are a couple of excellent page on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one on Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science [1] and another on Feminist Perspectives on Science [2].

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-science/


I guess any philosopher of science systematically call into question objectivity, and in recent times will have to come to terms with "situated knowledge" one way or the other. If feminism is defined with these terms, why would e.g. Latour not qualify as feminist?


Good question ... I didn't mean to reduce feminist philosophy of science only to that, although it's a key element. The most important aspect of feminist philosophy of science is that it looks at things through a gender lens, and Latour explicitly rejects that. From "... That Damned Elusive Bruno Latour": [1]

"The social sciences have no 'out there' or 'up there' to serve as a foundation," Latour once told an interviewer. For that reason, Latour objects to feminist critics of science (who elevate gender to a transcendant principle), Marxist critics of science (who do the same with economics), and Foucauldian critics of science (who repeat the process with power). They, in turn, object to him. The British feminist epistemologist Hillary Rose, for instance, in a review of Science in Action, wrote: "By cutting himself adrift from those who point to the dominant interests which science serves and to the masculine composition of its workforce and its knowledge, [Latour] sidesteps the crucial challenge.... Unless feminism engages in a rather sharp struggle for social and conceptual space, both networks and analysis are likely to remain integral to masculinist hegemony.''

http://linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/9410/latour.html


Ahh, the soft bigotry of different expectations. From your [1]:

The masculine cognitive style is abstract, theoretical, disembodied, emotionally detached, analytical, deductive, quantitative, atomistic, and oriented toward values of control or domination.

The feminine cognitive style is concrete, practical, embodied, emotionally engaged, synthetic, intuitive, qualitative, relational, and oriented toward values of care.

Do you really think this line of thought is somehow "progressive" and "empowering" for us women??


No, I don't see that particular line of thought as progressive and empowering for women in today's world.

However, the quotes you choose are from a section that notes that "Various feminist standpoint theories ground the claim to epistemic privilege in different features of women's social situation" -- and in a paragraph starting with "Some early versions of standpoint theory (including Flax 1983, Hartsock 1987, Rose 1987, and Smith 1974) accept feminist object relations theory ..."

So I'd caution against rejecting the whole discipline based on early views from a handful of a few people.


No, I don't see that particular line of thought as progressive and empowering for women in today's world.

So you reject Standpoint Theory. I guess we agree about that.

Yet you also (seem to) accept the notion of "situated knowledge". But, without any recourse to Standpoint Theory to be able to privilege any claim over another, that necessarily commits you to relativism --and a rather extreme form, at that.

So you either reject the very notion of "situated knowledge" (and thus a great deal of feminist epistemology), become an extreme relativist, or accept Standpoint Theory.

I, for one, reject relativism --so that commits me to reject "situated knowledge"-based feminist epistemology (i.e. pretty much the whole discipline).


I'm not sure how you got from me saying "there are a lot of different sources of standpoint theory" and "I disagree with a line of thought stated by some early standpoint early theoreticians" and "don't reject the whole discipline based on some early work" to thinking I reject standpoint theory. How many times in this thread have I linked to and quoted Sandra Harding?


It's the end of the semester, I'm awfully sleep deprived, and I should be doing work instead --that's why. I apologize for misrepresenting your views.


No worries! But, to reassure you on one point: I'm not a relativist :)


Recognition that the styles exist, that they have (whether they ought to or not, and whether also on some more fundamental level than culture or not) a cultural association with gender, and that the style associated with the feminine gender has in patriarchal societies been devalued -- even to the extent of being treated as invalid and unworthy of consideration -- is both progressive and, if not empowering in and of itself, a fairly important foundation for empowerment.

So, yes.


[T]he style associated with the feminine gender[...]

That very idea is the most profound, insidious form of patriarchy there is. Think about it.


> That very idea is the most profound, insidious form of patriarchy there is. Think about it.

No, its not, and, you know, its pretty ridiculous to make that claim in a venue where the original text is accessible, so that it is obvious the way that you had to deliberately ignore the whole preceding and following parts of the sentence to even make the attack on the phrase you excerpt taken out of context remotely plausible.

Recognizing that patriarchy exists, and that certain associations exist in the context of patriarchy is not, itself, patriarchal.


Relax. I'm just trying to encourage you to think about your deeply held assumption, since you seem to care about women.

And no, I am not "deliberately ignor[ing]" nor taking out of context anything. Don't assume malice where simple disagreement may suffice.

I'm just claiming that the very idea that "[gender-associated] styles exist" is the most profound, insidious form of patriarchy there is. The rest of your qualifiers (viz. independence of whether or not they are cultural, or normative, and so forth) are immaterial: I'm claiming the very premise you start with is incredibly damaging, in profound and insidious ways.

Again, I invite you to think about it. Read Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer, but substitute the ζωή-βίος rift with a ζωή-ζωή (or βίος-βίος) rift. And see where that leads you.


> I'm just trying to encourage you to think about your deeply held assumption

What assumption are you talking about?

> I'm just claiming that the very idea that "[gender-associated] styles exist" is the most profound, insidious form of patriarchy there is.

The fact that they exist is certainly an aspect of patriarchy. The idea -- which is a necessary prerequisite to the ability to recognize, discuss, and alter the fact -- is not a form of patriarchy, on the contrary, the absence of the idea in presence of the fact would be make patriarchy unassailable.

> Again, I invite you to think about it.

I invite you to stop assuming that I haven't thought about this issue, quite deeply, for several decades.


Sigh. Nevermind then. Sorry for pointlessly rising your blood pressure.

(And to all, for bikeshedding this thread.)


I'm still not sure I understand your objection. Is it specifically to the phrasing that "gender-associated styles exist"?

How about the alternate phrasing of "Patriarchal society has historically associated styles with gender, devalued those styles typically associated with women, and used this as a tool to reinforce patriarchy" ... is that equally objectionable?


Sorry I wasn't clear.

My objection is to the very idea that 'styles' exist in the first place. I claim that's the primal rift that starts it all.

Like saying, e.g., "there are different kinds of human(ity)". Starts innocent, but it opens a dangerous door.


Thanks for the clarification. I agree that the categories we put on "styles" are constructed, but not sure that for me it follows that they don't "exist". For example after I shared this discussion with a friend, we talked about how the "wall of text" of Hacker News' UX was jarring to them and they much preferred a Pinterest-style UX, while I like the information density of HN (and Slashdot, and lobste.rs, and Reddit, and ...). To me it seems like this difference in our preferences certainly exists; and it feels like "style" is an okay word for it. Although of course "style" is usually thought of as generalized, which can be problematic.

So, I'll think more about it ... My initial reaction is that like gender (which I also see as constructed) it's still a useful concept, although you have to be careful with it, but like I say, worth pondering.


> knowledge that reflects the particular perspectives of the subject

I.e., a typical postmodernism. Not anywhere near any real science.


The problem here, is that when one wants to understand how scientific progress is made, the particular perspoectives of the subjects (a.k.a. current implicit and explicit understandings of scientists) is the matter for research.

Postmodernism has its place, also in 'real' science.


> when one wants to understand how scientific progress is made

Kuhn covered it in full. Nothing more to be said on this subject.

> the particular perspoectives of the subjects

Which is perfectly covered by well-grounded, tested and entirely scientific anthropology methods. No postmodernism whatsoever.

> Postmodernism has its place, also in 'real' science.

Postmodernism goes much further than simply acknowledging that a personal perspective may affect a pace of knowledge acquisition (but not the final outcome of it).

Postmodernism introduces an outrageous idea that a personal perspective is just as valuable as an objective knowledge, and some (with the so called feminists being among the worst) even go further and ditch the objective knowledge altogether.


> Kuhn covered it in full. Nothing more to be said on this subject.

The book was a classic when it came out, but there have been some fairly strong critiques in the past fifty years or so.

In fact, the most recent edition of the book includes a 'Postscript' written in 1969, in which Kuhne tries to answer some of the most pertinent criticisms of his theory.

There are also alternative theories to all this, or at least different perspectives one can take. Karl Popper's Conjectures and Refutations is a good example.


This stuff seems very gender studies specific?

Not that there is anything wrong with that.


Well, it is called feminist philosophy of science :) But while it comes from a gender perspective, feminist standpoint theory and situated knowledges are more general, really looking at the interaction between dominant and marginalized groups. "Starting from Marginalized Lives", an interview with Sandra Harding, has some good perspectives on this. http://jaconlinejournal.com/archives/vol15.2/hirsch-starting...


If I can summarize, the main distinction between feminist philosophy and normal epistemology is that feminists don't seem to believe in objective reality.

Most standard epistemologies believe there is an objective reality X, and we humans can make observations o(X) and then infer facts about X. E.g., a Bayesian will then use Bayes rule to compute P(X | o(X) ) = P( o(X) | X) P(X) / P(o(X)).

From what I can tell, feminists epistemologists reject this idea. They are generally insufficiently formal for me to figure out what they replace it with. For the most part, they don't seem to actually include objective reality (X in my notation) as a variable at all. They discuss whether certain views are gendered, but the correctness of those views plays a minimal role in the theory.

This of course sounds pretty crazy if you apply it to chemistry or physics, so for the most part these theories are simply not applied in those cases.


For feminist philosophers of science like Donna Haraway and Sandra Harding, it's not about rejecting objectivity, but rather about looking at how different perspectives influence what we mean by "objectivity".

Ssndra Harding discusses this in various places, such as her essay "What is Strong Objectivity".

For example, think about a medical study where subjects are primarily male. Do the results in fact represent "objective reality" for the general population?

Or, using your Bayesian example, consider fields that are disproportionately male, and there are gender differences in the observations o(X) that people make. Do the "facts" that are inferred represent "objective reality"?


Your examples are not philosophical at all. Sampling error and parameterized observations are both well known problems in statistics.

At my company, we are putting various checks in to mitigate sampling error, e.g. flagging A/B tests as potentially erroneous when they terminate at non-integer numbers of weeks. Are we somehow doing feminist philosophy?

In your example of gender differences in observations, the correct solution is to parameterize the gender of the observer. I.e., you'd have o_m(X) and o_f(X). This is no different from parameterizing the time since a visitor hit a website in a conversion experiment - a visitor failing to convert after 3 seconds gives you different information than a visitor failing to convert after 3 days. (In this case you'd have o_t(X) instead of o(X).)

The facts that are inferred do, in fact, represent objective reality. They just may not provide a lot of information on it.


How many scientific papers parameterize the gender of the observer?

Does your own work do this?


My own work has never needed to, nor do most scientific papers. Most observations are made by machines. In my current projects they are made by javascript in the browser. In past experiments they were made by things like CCD cameras or MRIs.

I do parameterize other observer properties. For instance, the example of time parameterization is exactly what I'm working on today. Parameterizing space/time in an MRI is an area of active research and is vitally important in the big machines.


> Most observations are made by machines.

... by machines designed and calibrated by men, and interpreted by men.

> In my current projects they are made by javascript in the browser.

... made by code written by a man in a language designed by a man and implemented mostly by men on a platform designed by a man and implemented mostly by men.

So, if you don't acknowledge the possiblity that this could lead to observation biases, then no, it doesn't sound to me like you're doing feminist philosophy.

On the other hand the way you can simultaneously say "the correct solution is to parameterize the gender of the observer" and "my own work doesn't need to and neither do most scientific papers" certainly does seem to clash with the notion of a single "objective reality"!


Are you suggesting women would calibrate CCDs a different way? Or that if Brandon Eich was a woman JS would be better or somehow "different" (given the same constraints)?

The idea that someones' chromosomes (or identified gender?) influence the outcome of machines seems like it'd need some rather massive evidence. Is there a short summary of this evidence? And why stop at XY vs XX? Why not include hair colour or other things?


Yes, I'm suggesting that languages designed by women -- and a software world where most languages, platforms, and tools -- would likely have different characteristics. Your assumption that it wouldn't seems to need just just as much evidence as the assumption that it would.


... by machines designed and calibrated by men, and interpreted by men...made by code written by a man in a language designed by a man and implemented mostly by men on a platform designed by a man and implemented mostly by men.

Are you claiming that if my hit counter were written by a female, in a non-javascript language, then it would yield a different count? Or that if my CCD were designed by a woman, it would take different pictures?

I'm really trying to apply the principle of charity here but I'm failing horribly. So please - I'm shining a laser through a dielectric and imaging the output with a CCD. What bias does feminist philosophy think the gender of the experimentalist introduces? Do the pictures become dimmer? Is noise introduced?

To clarify my position: ordinary statistics has ways of handling observational bias (parameterizing it, averaging it out). I acknowledge that in some experiments this would affect things. I also believe that in the vast majority of experiments (e.g., shining lasers through materials, mixing chemicals together) that these effects are exceedingly implausible and can be safely ignored. Do you disagree with this claim?


> Are you claiming that if my hit counter were written by a female, in a non-javascript language, then it would yield a different count?

I'm claiming that if the experiment that involved a hit counter was designed and implemented by women, in a language designed and implemented by women, running on a platform designed and implemented by women, and the results were interpreted by a woman, it might well lead to a different conclusion about "objective reality".

And I'm suggesting that your unwillingness to acknowledge that possibilty is an indication that you're not doing feminist philosophy.


You seem to be moving the goalposts a lot. First you discussed sampling error and different observers, until I pointed out that these are the province of ordinary stats.

Now you are discussing whether social experiments in an alternate universe might come out different. Of course they might.

I don't claim to be doing feminist philosophy - given how rapidly the definition shifts, how could I possibly know if I am? I certainly do feminist philosophy as per your first definition (worrying about biased samples and observers), and I certainly don't do it as per your second (thinking about alternate universes).


You mean, I seem to you to be moving the goalposts a lot. Earlier in the thread you mentioned that you have a hard time understanding philosophy that isn't presented formally, so maybe some of what's going on here. So, get outside your comfort zone, and try taking a step back and rereading the discussion with the goal of trying to understand, rather than win a debate.


> If I can summarize, the main distinction between feminist philosophy and normal epistemology is that feminists don't seem to believe in objective reality.

Philosophies which dispute whether objective reality exists (or even is a coherent concept) predate feminism by, well, quite a lot.


Indeed. And guys dismissing things they don't agree with or understand as "not normal" also predates feminism by quite a lot.


Sure, but I'd hardly characterize them as "normal epistemology".


I would like to make one general suggestion. If someone says something that doesn't seem to make sense to you, assume that you have misunderstood something rather than assume they have. If after giving them all the benefit of the doubt and sincerely trying to understand their point you still disagree with them -- after making sure you have understood it completely -- only then can you truly argue with their position. Otherwise you're arguing with your own ungenerous notion of ideas that you believe are held by other people (who you happen to disapprove of for other reasons).

Think of it this way: if the other side are truly idiots, then arguing with them is no fun. So, even if they are idiots, even pretending that they're not and giving their arguments a more serious quality than they actually possess would only make everything more interesting, and serve to better define your own views better.

Doing the opposite makes sticking to your guns easy, but not for a very good argument (nor for polishing and pondering your own ideas).

As you have no clue as to what feminists truly claim -- nor, it would appear, any desire to find out -- all of your inputs on the subject are irrelevant. I have said it many times before and I will say it again -- if any of your discussions of feminism does not mention the word power, then you can be absolutely, positively, 100% certain that you have misunderstood its views. A feminist like me sees your text, looks for the word "power", sees that it's missing, and can immediately tell that you're not even in the right discussion. To me, your comments read like "no it isn't red! it's square!"

That someone chooses to analyze a dynamics in the context of power rather than objective reality does not mean that they do not believe in objective reality. It's like discussing an object's color rather than its shape. Yes, I agree, the texts may sometimes be confusing, but none of the various feminist theories are for beginners, and they assume some previous knowledge. There are good reasons to reject feminist epistemology, but they are not the ones you mentioned, and you couldn't have given good ones because you're not interested in the actual argument (again, if the word power doesn't come into play then you can be sure you missed something crucial).

So do the following exercise: take the word power (in its social sense) -- and it doesn't even matter how you think others define it; just give it your own best definition, but make it a good one -- and then argue why power may be relevant in epistemology, and try to do a good job at it. Pretend it's debate club and you've been assigned to argue something you disagree with, but are determined to win nonetheless. I can guarantee that the argument you will have come up with will be much, much closer to the actual one made by feminist epistemologist than what you currently believe their argument is.

I really hope you do it, because that would make your arguments against feminism have real value, and would make arguing with you actually worthwhile. As the stand, your comments sound to me like, “so I heard those ‘physicists’ claim that everything in the universe is made of potatoes, but that can’t be true, because water doesn’t taste like potatoes, so they must be stupid”. It’s like, how do you even respond to that? If an argument sounds so absurd to you that it couldn’t have possibly been made by anyone with a brain, it is safe to assume you have misunderstood what it is, even if the misunderstanding is completely the other guy’s fault. I cannot claim that we feminists are great at communicating our ideas.


I didn't claim feminist epistemology made no sense. I merely claimed it abandons objective reality. You seem to disagree with this, I take it?

The problem is that if objective reality exists, then all accurate beliefs must be nearly identical and all the other stuff can only play a minor role. I.e., two alternate beliefs (regardless of power or anything else) must be nearly identical to each other if they are accurate: |B1 - B2| < |B1 - X| + |X - B2| is the general idea (with B1, B2 being the beliefs and X being objective reality). That's the problem - if you allow objective reality then everything else is anchored near it, preventing anything interesting from happening.

Let me guess, there are mysteries hidden in tomes of knowledge you refuse to cite, and you are also unwilling to state anything formally here? Have fun with that act, I'm sure you are fooling everyone else here.


> then all accurate beliefs must be nearly identical and all the other stuff can only play a minor role

Please, please, try to debate the other side of this. That could be a claim made by feminists (as long as power plays a role). You don't need to read a word about feminist epistemology. Just think of something relating epistemology and power.

I can give you some answers, I really, really can, but it would take a long time. The best way is for you to imagine that a genius you admire, say Einstein or Russel, is the one who came up with feminist epistemology (involving power, of course). Try to imagine what he would say, and it has to be really good and really convincing. In fact, pretend they came up with it together, and that their 1951 paper, Feminist Epistemology: How Power Shapes Knowledge is widely regarded their best work. And remember, it is not a work of science but of philosophy, so like good philosophers, they tried to find their hidden assumptions -- and hidden values -- and challenged them at every turn. The result was a work of such simple brilliance, that has helped a whole generation challenge their assumptions and see knowledge in a new light.

The reason for that is because to understand something profound that is outside your normal mode of thought you must undergo a process, and it has to be voluntary (because it involves truly challenging your assumptions), and is much more crucial than the process required for learning a new fact within your normal mode of thought. But I can guarantee you one thing: the process will be extremely entertaining and extremely satisfying. You will enjoy it (I know because I had to go through it myself, when I decided to study history after finishing my math degree).

You must stop assuming that everyone whom you think you disagree with is an idiot. That is the only way you'll be able to actually understand what they're saying, and only then would your objections -- if still standing -- sound intelligent and pertinent rather than "nah nah nah". Once you do that, I'll gladly fill in the missing pieces to the best of my abilities. If you don't, anything I mention that you don't understand you'll attribute to stupidity, and you'll make every effort not to even try to understand. Since I know that there is no chance in the world that anyone can learn anything if they try their hardest not to, while believing that the speaker is an idiot, I really see no point in me trying. I only have a chance once you have convinced yourself that if there is something that doesn't seem right to you that's because you fail to understand something, so that your impulse is to learn more, not less. And the only way for you to do that is to convince yourself -- even for a short while -- that the other side is really, really smart; smarter than you even, so that you fill the blanks (and there are always blanks) not with stupidities that you attribute to the other side but either with true insight you come up with or with honest questions (instead of taunts presented as questions). There is zero chance of learning anything new otherwise. It would be like trying to teach evolution to creationists. I'm sure you would agree that's a futile task.


As predicted just above: Let me guess, there are mysteries hidden in tomes of knowledge you refuse to cite, and you are also unwilling to state anything formally here?

It would be like trying to teach evolution to creationists. I'm sure you would agree that's a futile task.*

In my experience creationists understand evolution just fine. They don't agree, but they understand. That's why we use formal reasoning - the process of following along is mechanistic and does not require revealed wisdom of the sort you are claiming I lack.


I told you time and again that I have no intention to teach someone who shows every intention of not wanting to learn. You simply repeated my words; I would hardly call that a prediction. However, while my unwillingness to lay forth my "tomes of knowledge" as you call them is understandable (and explicitly stated) in light of your stance, I can't see any good reason why you would still insist on not learning. I have told you that pretty much every thing you attribute to feminism is false, yet you have no interest in learning the actual claims. I cannot fathom why any person of intellect will only take pleasure in taking down arguments made by demented caricatures born of his misconceptions, while fearing to confront the actual arguments (which, he may find out, he actually agrees with!)

What you lack (and it's way more than just a claim at this point) is not wisdom (certainly not of some magical sort) but curiosity. I will match every bit of your formal reasoning, and you will enjoy the process -- I assure you. If mechanistic deduction is your only acceptable mode of thought, that is all that will be required. That brilliant Einstein/Russel paper was entirely written in first-order logic. Hardly a line of prose to it other than the somewhat dry introduction and the surprisingly droll conclusion, neither of which is essential (of course, you would have known that if you had bothered to try). An autistic robot would be convinced. However, a child would not, because as it turns out, children who are preoccupied with their own image have a hard time grasping even logic, formal as it is.

P.S.

I am a bit surprised, however, that you have brought up formal reasoning in this thread which discusses the philosophy of science. You surely know that regardless of how formal your methods are, short of logical inconsistencies, the results of your efforts largely depend on your axioms, which is what philosophy is (also) concerned with. I am not familiar with a formal method for deriving a set of axioms for humans, only informal ones.


I am a bit surprised, however, that you have brought up formal reasoning in this thread which discusses the philosophy of science. You surely know that regardless of how formal your methods are, short of logical inconsistencies, the results of your efforts largely depend on your axioms, which is what philosophy is (also) concerned with.

This is why good philosophers clearly state their axioms and then follow the logic to the bitter end.

But I'm sure that comparing me to a child will fool everyone here into thinking that you actually did state a clearly defined axiom somewhere.


> But I'm sure that comparing me to a child will fool everyone here into thinking that you actually did state a clearly defined axiom somewhere.

A non sequitur: I compared you to a child because you insist on arguing claims no one has actually made and insist on not trying to understand their claims; you insist on not listening. I have said over and over that I will not "state my axioms" in discussions with you because there is no chance in the world that you will in fact listen. You're not interested in a reasoned argument; you are interested in an argument against claims that you have made up. It is absolutely impossible to have a reasoned argument with someone who intends to misinterpret everything you say. Of course, I could be very, very precise as to reduce any chance of misinterpretation, but that would make my job very tedious and my comments far longer than they already are. I find discussions to be much more intellectually satisfying if each party tries their best to understand the others' arguments -- even if they vehemently disagree with them (of course, I'm not even sure you would disagree; you never bother to try and understand what those arguments are so you can't possibly even know whether or not you disagree with the actual claims). Otherwise, it feels more like third-grade taunts.

BTW, have you stated your axioms somewhere (other than the implied "axiom of the other's stupidity" which is implicitly used in every stage of your arguments like the axiom of choice from hell[1])?

> This is why good philosophers clearly state their axioms and then follow the logic to the bitter end.

If you ever try to actually understand what I'm saying (and that requires willingness and real curiosity) rather than try your hardest not to, I am certain you'll find that I follow this very path.

I will just say again that if the word "power" does not appear in an argument you attribute to feminism, then you can be absolutely certain that that is not the actual argument.

[1]: I would really suggest replacing it with the "axiom of the other's genius" (and I don't mean that the other side never makes mistakes; even geniuses do make mistakes). It is certain to make these discussions more challenging, interesting and intellectually satisfying. And hey, all parties involved (including passive readers) might actually -- god forbid -- learn something rather than just yell at each other!


Are there any Marxist or African-American perspectives you might be able to recommend?


Marxism is a little tough because for much of the twentieth century you had the split between Soviet and western marxism, where the Soviet branch considered itself properly "scientific" while the western branch engaged with more humanist themes from philosophy. In my opinion the philosophy of science developed in western marxism is much more interesting than the scientism of the Soviets. German philosopher Max Horkheimer's essay "Critical and Traditional Theory" (1937) is a classic and very influential formulation of a western marxist philosophy of science.

I don't know about African American philosophy, but among Latin American philosophers Enrique Ambrosini Dussel has done much to advance a unique perspective on epistemology and philosophy of science. In the English-speaking world his work has been championed by Sandra Harding, who was mentioned by another commenter.


Not sure that it's classified as "Philosophy of Science" but Mackenzie Wark's "A Hacker Manifesto" is pretty darn Marxist ... it even has a red cover :) Here's a 10th-anniversary interview of him by Melissa Gregg: https://lareviewofbooks.org/interview/courting-vectoralists-...

On the African-American perspective, nothing leaps to mind, sorry. Anybody else have suggestions?


Thanks-

I've recently started a 'It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it' sort of pursuit- I'm currently stumbling through Lois Tysons' "Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide"

EDIT: I mean that I'm doing my best to suspend/address whatever judgments I currently have, not immediately discard what I read.


Surely 'It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it' is a mark of any competent developer , After all you very often have to entertain competing theories about the inner workings of a program and pretty much everyone involved, users, maintainers, architects, managers, etc., will have a different theory. As a developer you will probably have to be able to discuss all of them without necessarily accepting any.

Unfortunately this does not necessarily require an educated mind.


Thanks for this comment. While trying to track down the source of the quote, I ran into this interesting, if a bit oddly formatted, blog post:

http://publicnoises.blogspot.com/2009/02/aristotle-and-accur...

There are a few good comments there, too, followed by a bunch of me-toos.


Haven't read it but it looks great. And yes, seems like a great exercise to entertain thoughts while suspending judgement.


"Feminist science" is an oxymoron.


I'd say pattern recognition is a very important aspect of science, and intelligence in general, so every ideology who tries to suppress theories for aesthetic or subjective reasons (criticizing something for being "offensive", instead of "false") is fundamentally anti-science, and anti-intelligence.


The obvious counterargument is that every ideology that tries to force theories to be accepted for aesthetic or subjective reasons is just as fundamentally anti-science.

This situation is more complex than these quotes can handle. The most relevant link I have is to http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage/, if anything.


Of course, it lacked feminist diversity.




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