LW Philosophers versus Analytics

post by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T15:40:15.138Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 85 comments

By and large, I would bet money that the devoted, experienced, and properly sequenced LWer, is a better philosopher than the average current philosophy majors concentrating in the analytic tradition. I say this because I have regular philosophical conversations with both populations, and notice many philosophical desiderata lacking in my conversations with my classmates, from my school and others, that I find abundantly on this website. Those desiderata, which are roughly the twelve virtues. I find that though my classmates have healthy doses of curiosity, empiricism and even scholarship, they lack in, evenness, lightness, relinquishment, precision, perfectionism and true humility.

How could that be? LW has built a huge positivized reductionist metaphysics, and a Bayesian epistemology which can almost be read as a self improvement manual. These are unprecedented, and in some circles, outrageous truths. This is not to mention the original work that has been done in LW posts and comment trees on, meta-ethics, ethics, biases, mathematics, rationality, quantum physics, economics, self-hack, etc.  We have here a self-updating reliably transmittable well oiled machine, the likes of which philosophy has only so rarely seen.

What is even more impressive to me about LW as a philosophical movement, is that it seems to be nearly self contained when it comes to philosophy. I mean most experienced LWers probably really haven't read very much Kant, maybe some Wittgenstein or Quine; but LWers can still somehow solve the problems philosophers spend their lives solving by building disconnected and competing philosophical systems specifically designed for each task, by the use of roughly one rather generally successful epistemology and metaphysics, which can be called together LWism.

So if you agree that LW does better philosophy than analytic philosophers, let's put our money where our mouths are, as our own philosophy suggests we should. I will post a series of discussion posts each concentrating only on one currentish question from academic philosophy. In each post, I will cover the essentials of the problem, as well as provide external resources on the problem. Each post will also include a list of posts from the sequences which are recommended before participation. Each question will be solved with a consensus of less than 2 to 1 odds amongst professional philosophers, i.e., if more than 2/3s of professional philosophers agree, we won't bother. So as to not waste our time with small fish.

You guys, will then in turn cooperate in comment trees to find solutions and decide amongst them, then I'll compare the LW solutions to the solutions given by a random sampling of vaguely successful analytic philosophers, (I will use a university search for my sampling). I will compare the ratio of types of solutions of the two populations, and look for solutions that happen in the one population that don't occur in the other, then I'll post the results, hopefully the next week. (edit): This process of comparison will be the hardest part of this project for me, and if anyone with training or experience in statistics might want to help me with this, please let me know, and we can work on the comparison and the report thereof together. My prediction is that we will be able to quickly reach a high consensus on many issues that analytics have not internally resolved.

The series will be called: the "Enthusiastic Youngsters Formally Tackle Analytic Problems Test" or "the Eyftapt series" [pronounced: afe-taped]. Alternatively Eyftapt could stand for the "Eliezer Yudkowsky and Friends Train Amazing Philosophers Test." Besides shedding moderate light on our philosophical-competence/toolbox juxtaposed to analytic philosophical-competence/toolbox, I'd also like to learn what LW training offers that analytics are currently missing. So that we can focus in on that kind of training for our own benefit, and so that we can offer some advice to the analytics. That is, assuming my prediction that we'll do better is correct. This will not be as easy as comparing solutions, and I may need much more data than what I'll get out of this series, but it couldn't hurt to have a bunch of LWers doing difficult philosophy added to the available data.

What do you guys and gals think, might you be interested in something like this? Mind you it would be in discussion posts, since the main point is to discuss an issue.

(I know some of you cats don't like "philosophy", just call it "arguing about systems and elucidating messy language and thought in order to answer questions" instead. That is what I think we do better.)

BTW, if you have some problem you think we should work on, or or if you think we would be really good at solving some problem or really bad at it compared to non-LW philosophy, message me or comment below, and I'll give you credit for the suggestion. These are the topics I am already decided on: universals/nominalism, correspondence/deflation/coherency, grue/induction, science realism/constructivism, what is math?, scientific underdetermination, a priori knowledge?, radical translation, analytic synthetic division, proper name/description, deduction induction division, modality and possible worlds, what does it mean for a grammatical sentence to be meaningless and how do you tell?, meta-philosophy, i.e., questions about philosophy, and finally, personal identity, roughly to be posted in that order.

 


(edited after first posting, I just realized it may be worth mention that):

I was not happy about coming to this view. I have always thought of myself as an aspiring analytic philosopher, and even got attached to the ascetics of analytic philosophy. I thought of analytic philosophy as the new science of philosophy that finally got it right. It bothered me to no end that I had been lead to have more faith in the philosophical maturity/competence of a bunch of amateurs on a blog, than in the experts and students of the field that I planned to spend the rest of my life on. I have committed myself to the methods of academic-analytic philosophy publicly in speeches and to my closest friends, colleagues, and family; to turn around in under a year and say that that was all naive enthusiasm, and that there's this blog of college kids that do it better, made me look very stupid in more than one eye, I cared and care about. More than once, I have dissolved a question in my philosophy and cog-sci classes into an obvious cognitive error, explained why we are built to make this error, and left the class with little to do. Professors have praised me for this, and had even started approaching me outside of class to ask me about where I got my analysis from; their faces often came to a sincere awe when I tell them: "I made it up myself, but all the methods I used are neatly organized, generalized, and exemplified in this text called the 'sequences' on this blog of youngsters called 'Less Wrong'. It's only a few hundred pages, kinda reads like G.E.B."

One day, a few months back, one of my professors who I am on a particularly friendly basis with asked me: "Every time we are in class and there is a question, you use this blog of yours, and it seems it gives you an answer for everything, so why are you still studying the analytics, instead of just studying your blog?" I think he meant to ask this question sardonically, but that is not how I took it. I took it as a serious question about how to optimize my time if my goal is to do good philosophy. Not having a good answer to this question, and craving one, probably more than anything, is what prompted me to think of doing this series.

I may be wrong, and it may be that LW has just as hard of a time forming consensus on the issues that analytics have a hard time with, though I doubt it. But I am much more confident, that for some reason, even though I have had very good training, have a very high GPA, have read every classic philosophy text I could get my hands on, and had been reading several modern philosophy journals, all before I even knew about LW, LW has done more for my philosophical maturity, competence, and persuasiveness, than the entirety of the rest of my training, and I wouldn't doubt that many others have had similar thoughts.

 

 

85 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-28T16:13:56.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Go for it! I know next-to-nothing about open problems in philosophy, so I'm interested to see what problems you had in mind. And this seems like a great way to sharpen one's ability to dissolve questions. I look forward to your forthcoming posts.

Also:

properly sequenced LWer

For some reason I have this mental image of a gang of rationalists cornering someone in an alleyway, with one of them holding up a laptop and yelling, "Sequence him!"

Replies from: Multiheaded
comment by Multiheaded · 2011-12-31T21:44:23.849Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For some reason I have this mental image of a gang of rationalists cornering someone in an alleyway, with one of them holding up a laptop and yelling, "Sequence him!"

Maybe that's really something we all ought to do.

comment by thomblake · 2011-11-28T19:01:41.709Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is even more impressive to me about LW as a philosophical movement, is that it seems to be nearly self contained when it comes to philosophy.

This is mostly false. Lw is aided by its multidisciplinary nature; there are many people here with some philosophy background, ready to add insight or correct misapprehensions when needed.

Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-28T21:26:16.216Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agree.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T22:46:19.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

^^ Case in point I suppose.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2011-11-28T23:22:13.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Case and point

Do you mean "case in point" or something else?

Replies from: None, potato
comment by [deleted] · 2011-12-01T19:50:42.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you mean "case in point" or something else?

Its the same for all intensive purposes.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2011-12-01T21:48:06.797Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a bit adverse to agreeing with you. But I might have an alterior motive in saying that. But I guess it's a mute point now.

Replies from: gwaba
comment by gwaba · 2011-12-02T02:21:11.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You know, I agree with nyan_sandwhich I think. Who cares. I wouldn't have changed it.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2011-12-02T15:52:10.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, I wasn't suggesting it be changed; I was just asking whether "case and point" was in this instance supposed to mean the same thing as the actual phrase "case in point" or something else I hadn't thought of. There is at least one other meaning in circulation that applies to "case and point" but as far as I know not "case in point".

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-12-03T08:36:04.155Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"case and point" is incorrect, as is "for all intensive purposes". My post was supposed to be a joke.

Replies from: arundelo
comment by arundelo · 2011-12-03T09:11:02.485Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For those who don't know, there's a word for these. They're called eggcorns.

(Note that thomblake's comment was a joke too; it had three intentional eggcorns. Edit: Actually three intentional errors, two of which are eggcorns. "Alterior" is just a misspelling.)

Replies from: thomblake, None
comment by thomblake · 2011-12-04T23:32:32.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All three find themselves on lists of eggcorns.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-12-03T09:15:49.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

shit i didn't even notice those. Got to step up my game. thanks for the link

comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T23:25:19.877Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fail, whoops

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2011-11-28T19:44:48.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean most experienced LWers probably really haven't read very much Kant, maybe some Wittgenstein or Quine...

Public service announcement: don't read Kant.

Replies from: Karmakaiser
comment by Karmakaiser · 2011-11-29T17:08:48.429Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Implicit in your statement is that Kant can be read.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T21:10:31.466Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LOL, I agree BTW. You probaby shouldn't read Kant if you already have LW, unless you are interested in the history of philosophy for its own sake.

But Kant isn't meaningless. The guy really was quite competent, and well read. And if nothing else, it is to his credit that he nearly created boolean logic in his formal terminology for logic. Read Kant's logic, and you will find almost every inference you can derive from boole, and rules for how to combine these inferences. His logic is the closest thing I've seen to formal logic before formal logic, and that was about a century before boole; that's at least worth mention.

comment by lavalamp · 2011-11-28T17:11:29.200Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was going to downvote for ingroup bias until I got to the end. Sounds like a cool idea to me!

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-28T20:39:43.298Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm excited by the prediction that you'll do this.

One quibble:

LW has built a huge positivized reductionist metaphysics, and a Bayesain epistemology which can almost be read as a self improvement manual. These are unprecedented...

Positivized reductionist metaphysics is quite old, as is Bayesian epistemology. I suppose "Bayesian epistemology as self-improvement" might be kind of a new twist, but it's implicit in Savage (1954) and other works.

Replies from: potato, potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T23:39:29.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They're not quite original to LW. I know of plenty of texts I would suggest to someone on Bayesian epistemology, that are not LWish. And G.E.B. say's most things that LW would say about reductionism, though it doesn't go looking for hard problems to reduce, like LW does.

The reason I think LW has an advantage over formal epistimologists, and contemporary philosophers, is because of how clear, entertaining, useful, diverse, ground breaking, scrutinized, precise, narrow. etc our sequences and terminology in general are. And because of our practices of constant focused argument, and karma selection, to select amongst positions, instead of the usual trend-method of philosophy. It also can't hurt that LW makes values out of optimally doing stuff so as to win, so when we find a reason to not hold a hypothesis, we drop it without a single tear.

Replies from: antigonus, Bruno_Coelho
comment by antigonus · 2011-11-29T02:04:15.602Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And because of our practices of constant focused argument, and karma selection, to select amongst positions, instead of the usual trend-method of philosophy.

I don't understand this. Are you saying that a casual voting system by a group of amateurs on a website consisting of informal blog posts is superior to rigorous peer-review by experts of literature-aware arguments?

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T03:32:24.707Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, If by "amateur" we mean non-professional. On the other hand if by "amateur" we mean only slightly more competent than average, I would disagree that LWers are amateur.

Replies from: antigonus
comment by antigonus · 2011-11-29T03:40:45.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I can't really imagine how you came to that conclusion. You seem to be going preposterously overboard with your enthusiasm for LW here. Don't mean to offend, but that's the only way I know how to express the extent of my incredulity. Can you imagine a message board of dabblers in molecular biology congratulating each other over the advantages their board's upvoting system has over peer review?

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T03:49:40.766Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know it sounds crazy, that is why i wanna test it. My probability that what I am saying is true is probably too high, I agree, and I suck for not being able to correct it right now. But if it is or isn't, I should have some better idea after these posts.

If I didn't have the stark contrast between the friendly arguments I have with my class mates and professors, and the arguments I have here on LW, I would react to someone else saying what I am saying roughly as you are reacting.

But let us not forget, that comparing molecular biology and philosophy, is like comparing self-help and physics. We should not be as surprised if a bunch of clever enthusiasts make better self-help than professionals, as if a bunch of clever enthusiasts made better physics than physicists. This is because physicists are better at physics than self-help writers are at self-help, the same is true of biologists and philosophers respectively.

Replies from: antigonus
comment by antigonus · 2011-11-29T04:03:33.526Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

But let us not forget, that comparing molecular biology and philosophy, is like comparing self-help and physics.

I'm comparing the review processes of molecular biology and philosophy. In both cases, experts with a deep grasp of most/all the relevant pitfalls provide extensive, specific, technical feedback regarding likely sources of error, failure to address existing objections and important points of clarification. That this is superior to a glorified Facebook "Like" button used by individuals with often highly limited familiarity with the subject matter - often consisting of having read a few blog posts by the same individual who himself has highly limited familiarity with the subject matter - should go without saying, right?

The problem with self-help writers is that, in general, they are insufficiently critical. It has never been seriously alleged that philosophers are insufficiently critical, whatever their other faults. Philosophers are virtually dying to bury each other's arguments, and spend their entire careers successfully honing their abilities to do so. Therefore, surviving the gauntlet of their reviews is a better system of natural selection than having a few casually interested and generally like-minded individuals agree that they like your non-technical idea.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T07:51:54.369Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If they really honed their skills in crushing their opponents arguments, and could transmit this skill to other successfully, then we wouldn't have so many open questions in philosophy, and we would notice the sort of exponential growth of the power of our methods, like we see in molecular bio.

I think philosophers are critical, but they still argue about things which they do not know how to settle far too often, at least when biologists or physicists argue, they can work on settling it right away nine times out of ten, instead of first spending time figuring out what procedure we could use to decide. This can make it as if philosophers aren't critical at all; if I don't know how to figure out which one of us is right, then if you critique me I won't have any reason to change my position, since I don't know if what you just said is independent of my position. What's worse is that sometimes we argue still without even trying to figure out a procedure that would decide amongst solutions. These problems are not as rampant in philosophy as they are in self-gelp, but those are the issues I was trying to get at.

That this is superior to a glorified Facebook "Like" button used by individuals with often highly limited familiarity with the subject matter - often consisting of having read a few blog posts by the same individual who himself has highly limited familiarity with the subject matter - should go without saying, right?

Well there is more, do not forget that most LWers are heavily sequenced, and that is nothing to disregard. It is part of my hypothesis which predicts that LW will do better than analytics, that being trained in the history of philosophy, and learning phiosophical concepts through their history, inevitably makes them confusing. And that is the common practice in academic philosophy. Might you say that someone might have a better understanding of Quantum physics after reading the sequence than after reading and completing a textbook on Quantum physics for a university class? They are at least not too far off. And I have many friends whom are qualified whom have told me that the quantum physics sequence helped them understand quantum physics more than any class they have taken.

But either way, these posts should help us decide how far off my optimism is, and how far of your realism is. Can't wait to argue about the results. Do you wanna make any suggestions in my methods of comparison and sampling? All ears.

Replies from: antigonus
comment by antigonus · 2011-11-29T15:10:11.510Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If they really honed their skills in crushing their opponents arguments, and could transmit this skill to other successfully, then we wouldn't have so many open questions in philosophy

What is your basis for concluding this? "Philosophers are really good at demolishing unsound arguments" is compatible with "Philosophers are really bad at coming to agreement." The primary difference between philosophy and biology that explains the ideological diversity of the former and the consensus of the latter is not that philosophers are worse critical thinkers. It is that, unlike in biology, virtually all of the evidence in philosophy is itself subject to controversy.

But either way, these posts should help us decide how far off my optimism is, and how far of your realism is. Can't wait to argue about the results. Do you wanna make any suggestions in my methods of comparison and sampling? All ears.

I'm not sure that your experiment makes any sense. What exactly are you going to be comparing? Most analytic philosophers in most articles don't take themselves to be offering "solutions" to any problems. They take themselves to be offering detailed, specific lines of argumentation which suggest a certain conclusion, while accommodating or defusing rival lines of argumentation that have appeared in the literature. That someone here may come up with a vaguely similar position to philosopher X's on issue Y tells us very little and ignores the meat of X's contribution.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T05:28:38.428Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am going to look for problems that Analytics say have not been solved, let LW work on them, and then ask Analytics if they think LWers solved them. I'll be looking for problems that have not been settled in modern philosophy with 2/3ds agreeance, and seeing if we can have 2/3ds agreeance here.

I'll compare all of our solutions to analytic solutions of varying kinds. I'll try to randomize the Analytics I use as much as possible.

I predict that LWers will not be stumped by many of the problems that are considered hard in analytic philosophy, and that they will be able to reach 2/3ds consensus a few orders of magnitude faster than analytic philosophers. Also i predict that eventually Analytics will end up agreeing with us, if they ever do reach 2/3ds consensus, it just takes them longer.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-30T05:40:17.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

and then ask Analytics if they think LWers solved them

This is the step that will probably fail. Our solutions will most likely utilize techniques like Dissolving the Question and cognitive science in general, but communicating these techniques is not easy.

comment by Bruno_Coelho · 2011-11-29T01:48:38.200Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The language is a positive factor in some cases. For example, for me lukeprog is more clear than Eliezer, but I learn more rapidly reading the sequences.

Another aspect, the method of dialogs help to understand the point, but if your objetive is understand the resolution of the problem, you have to learn math.

comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T10:47:41.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What about the mixture of postivized reductionist metaphysics, with Bayesian epistemology, with decision theory, and correspondence theory, together practiced as self/system optimization and philosophical method? How original is that? I'm asking.

Those all seem to be things that philosophicalish LWers often have in common.

Replies from: TylerJay, lukeprog
comment by TylerJay · 2011-11-30T03:45:37.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"No, of course they were not in this new reference class which you have just now constructed in such a way as to contain only yourself." -Severus Snape, HPMOR

Replies from: Normal_Anomaly
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-29T19:48:03.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How original is that?

Not sure.

But I'm not sure LWers share correspondence theory much. Eliezer's position seems to be more Peircian.

Replies from: arundelo, potato
comment by arundelo · 2011-11-29T23:42:38.274Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliezer considers himself to hold the correspondence theory (and for what it's worth I agree, though I'm not familiar with Peirce's position):

[A]fterward I quickly walked over to Ms. Egan and explained the correspondence theory of truth: "The sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white"; if you're using a bucket of pebbles to count sheep then an empty bucket is true if and only if the pastures are empty.

Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-30T00:22:03.844Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! That does seem to be his position, then. I'm tempted to write a post of objections to the correspondance theory, but... my post queue is already so long! And I'm not sure how much Eliezer and I disagree on the issue in practice.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T02:44:15.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would love to read you critique the correspondence theory. I've never been able to really imagine a non-correspondence view of truth for more than ten minutes. Every now and again I can use pragmatist goggles, but then I ask why true sentences are more useful to believe than false ones, and I come right back to correspondence.

As I understand things, EY is a hardcore correspondence dude, and so is the rest of most of LW. I'd be very interested to hear what problems you have with correspondence. I just can't imagine a belief being rational for any reason other than it modeling reality, and I can't imagine what it means for one statement to be truer than another without imagining that one models reality more accurately than the other. I'd love to know how you do this, if you do. Or if you could recommend a couple texts on correspondence you sympathize with.

Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-30T03:48:36.077Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps this can be the subject of your first post in the series on philosophical questions for LW discussion.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T05:00:04.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was thinking I would try to stay away from things already on LW. But correspondence is a big topic. I'll include it, but I already started working on something else for the first question.

comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T20:46:06.894Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Peircian as in pragmatist? I always thought EY was a correspondence theorist with a hint of redundancy theory.

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2011-11-30T01:31:00.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He's written stuff like

"Snow is white" is true iff snow is white

suggesting that this got to the heart of Truth. Without any explicit mention of either correspondence or facts, I've always thought of this as a deflationary theory.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T01:57:52.733Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To understand whether a belief is true, we need (only) to understand what possible states of the world would make it true or false, and then ask directly about the world.

That is from the LW entry on truth. Pretty clearly correspondence if you ask me.

comment by djcb · 2011-11-28T21:55:27.376Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By and large, I would bet money that the devoted, experienced, and properly sequenced LWer, is a better philosopher than the average current philosophy majors concentrating in the analytic tradition.

Of course, this may very well be true, but a priori at least I would not so readily dismiss people who spend most of their time doing philosophy rather than outsiders having a different opinion about the emperor's wardrobe.

Nevertheless, I think it's an excellent idea to see what different approaches to the same questions can bring us. However, since LW'ers in general (and the poster in particular) can hardly be considered neutral parties in this, I would recommend getting an analytic philosopher on board to give both sides a fair chance. Especially to determine what is really meant with 'better philosopher'.

Furthermore,

a random sampling of vaguely successful analytic philosophers

is not really the best way to compare things, in my opinion; apart from the hard-to-check methodology, one should try to find the best arguments from the best analytic philosophers to compare against.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2011-11-29T13:33:20.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course, this may very well be true, but a priori at least I would not so readily dismiss people who spend most of their time doing philosophy rather than outsiders having a different opinion about the emperor's wardrobe.

I don't know if it's up to going up against professionals on their home ground, but I have found LessWrong to be excellent training for philosophical street-fighting. Arguing on the Internet, arguing with theists, that sort of thing. "C'MON IF YOU THINK YER ROBUST ENOUGH."

Replies from: TheOtherDave, Normal_Anomaly
comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-29T15:21:09.489Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thereby contributing to the time-honored goal of ensuring that nobody on the Internet is wrong.

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2011-11-29T20:19:40.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or, at least, that they're wrong much better.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-12-12T22:00:13.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting that that's your experience. I found the high quality of discussion on LW made me less able to enjoy arguing with theists. Once I learned what conversation between two relatively sane people both willing to change their minds felt like, it was painfully obvious that my internet arguments weren't like that.

comment by Morendil · 2011-11-28T20:12:02.702Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are unprecedented

How do you know?

Replies from: bryjnar
comment by bryjnar · 2011-11-29T11:55:05.926Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreed. In particular, as a philosophy student, I would add that there is very little on LW that I would class as original philosophy. A lot of it is presented well, and in a way that is accessible to people who aren't familiar with the language and literature of modern analytic philosophy. However, most of these issues have been discussed by analytic philosophers in some detail.

e.g. this post and the following discussion makes a pretty good effort at embedding Eliezer's metaethical position into the usual metaethical landscape. Sure, there's disagreement about it, but the discussion certainly can, and has been, phrased in those terms.

So I would certainly say that LW has provided me with some useful perspectives on some philosophical issues, but you can find most of the material in analytic philosophy if you look. True, there's a whole load of tripe to wade through, but there's something to be said for the discipline of really understanding why everyone else is wrong! And if you're of an analytic/logical bent, you'll probably tend to gravitate towards that part of the literature anyway.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-28T19:38:36.133Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We have here a self-updating reliably transmittable well oiled machine, the likes of which philosophy has only so rarely seen.

Unless one counts theology as part of philosophy.

Replies from: None, potato, lukeprog
comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-28T23:10:48.545Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Funny I wouldn't have thought a statement derived from the ideas that:

  • a) Religious conversion often causes a massive re-evaluation and shift in beliefs
  • b) Memeplexes associated with a religion (a larger memeplex host) can be pretty darn successful.
  • c) Theological writing has been historically more often than the rest of philosophy intellectual dynamite that inspired action and change.
  • d) Theology can be easily bended like law to accommodate pragmatic new strategies and tactics for its own preservation
  • e) Theology is often basically philosophy and philosophy was often theology.
  • f) LW has cultish tendencies, as do all movements. Cults actually meet the description of the OP pretty well, except for the whole mapping to reality thing.

...would be controversial. Wasn't expecting the downvotes. Updating my model of fellow LWers.

Replies from: Normal_Anomaly
comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-11-29T00:40:24.250Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

f) LW has cultish tendencies, as do all movements. Cults actually meet the description of the OP pretty well, except for the whole mapping to reality thing.

Regardless of whether this is true, what relevance does it have to theology being an efficient producer of philosophical ideas (which it is)?

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T08:53:01.162Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cults/sects ect. are examples of where theological ideas have attracted a very dedicated and dynamic following. The OP list a number of similar (feel free to dispute this) features that are evidence in favour of us being a "reliably transmittable well oiled" philosophy machine. Point f) was about how surprisingly well those features map to the features of cults/sects/religions.

Why apply different standards for LW and a random sect when it comes to determining if they are a notable school of philosophy?

Also perhaps I brought it up because it wanted to signal that us being an awesome school of theology/philosophy is not strong evidence in favour of our awesomeness with epistemic rationality and no more evidence of our instrumental rationality than the success of a sect.

Replies from: Normal_Anomaly
comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-11-29T11:22:31.405Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also perhaps I brought it up because it wanted to signal that us being an awesome school of theology/philosophy is not strong evidence in favour of our awesomeness with epistemic rationality

This is a good point, which comes back to a comment I and some other people have made. Just because LW can produce philosophy, doesn't mean it can produce true philosophy. Therefore we need an objective metric.

comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T22:48:37.646Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

C'mon now, I said rarely, not never. edit: though I would like to know why you think theology was well oiled.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-28T23:00:18.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In theology it is arguably common, at least much more common than the few example the rest of philosophy provides (if we for the sake of argumetn accept theology as part of philosophy).

though I would like to know why you think theology was well oiled.

A mean lean adaptive machine. Take note of what I was commenting on:

We have here a self-updating reliably transmittable well oiled machine, the likes of which philosophy has only so rarely seen.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-28T20:43:04.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or analytic philosophy itself.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T23:03:13.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Really, you think training in analytic philosophy does as much to philosophically mature a student as being sequenced? It always seemed to me that it is so hard to find analytic wins, and you have to crawl and bite through so much poop before you find it, that you might be better off just reading LW and not getting into (emotionally or ascetically) those (often fascinating) mistakes. Analytic philosophy may be as reliably transmittable as LW, but I don't think of it as well oiled. Or at least I think you would have to have a friend who has already looked through the poo to guide you to the win, in order to not get caught up in cool mistakes.

(edit): If I had to design the curriculum for philosophy students, I would reverse it. I would start with the clearest, most modern, and best reasoned positions, and then after that introduce the students to the history of mucky mess ups that lead to them. But why we would introduce students to philosophy by using the muckiest most primitive philosophy as an introduction, I could not imagine.

Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-29T00:01:16.810Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant only that analytic philosophy is a "self-updating reliably transmittable well oiled machine." Within 30 years it took over most of philosophy in the English-speaking in world, and much of philosophy elsewhere, and in some ways it remains the dominant school, if the analytic-continental distinction works at all anymore.

comment by Suryc11 · 2011-11-28T16:02:50.608Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking as someone who is currently taking a university class on philosophy and who has used LW to better formulate and convey ideas in class, I would be very interested in this.

comment by gwern · 2011-11-30T04:48:23.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

An analytic philosopher (well, grad student) discusses this post: http://musasha.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/analytic-philosophy/

Not reflexively hostile and worth reading, I think.

(Also in Google Alerts, Brazil84 continues his Knox-is-guilty-and-LW-disagreeing -proves-it-is-a-bunch-of-irrational-cultists shtick.)

comment by bungula · 2011-11-29T15:41:29.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for making a testable hypotheses, and proposing to test it.

Replies from: Protagoras
comment by Protagoras · 2011-11-29T22:42:33.893Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I upvoted it mostly because I'm a philosopher (analytic by training), and always up for more philosophical discussion, but this is a good reason too.

comment by Larks · 2011-11-29T01:35:09.676Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For topics, were you thinking things like the philpapers questions?

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-30T21:27:52.144Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, at least ten of those are going on.

Universals/nominalism, grue/Induction, correspondence/deflationary/corehtist, science realism/constructivism, what is math?, a priori knowledge?, analytic synthetic division, proper name/description.

Are the ones I have decided on. Anyone have any more suggestions? I'm all ears. Just remember I'm trying to go for stuff that there isn't already a lot of on LW, and that analytics do not agree on with 2/3ds consensus.

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2011-11-30T23:13:43.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Modality & Possible Worlds? The Problem of Perception? A-theory/B-theory?

comment by Hyena · 2011-12-01T02:23:40.872Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your target populations are very different. Your average philosophy undergrad is closer to your average undergrad than is the average LeWer. Pitting LeWers against philosophy undergrads who spend substantial amounts of their time on unassigned philosophical investigation and discussion seems a more fair fight, at least if you also handicap LeWers for age.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-12-02T17:55:39.288Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most people that major in philosophy in my school do do a fair amount of philosophy on their own time.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-29T01:25:13.732Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great idea! Can't wait for the SHOWDOWN!

Suggestions for topics: Whether an hypothesis is considerably strengthened (not just corroborate) by not being falsified in an experiment.

or

Whether induction is logically justifiable.

Haven't studied that much philosophy, so I'm not really sure what the current state of opinion amongst analytic philosophers. . .

Replies from: Jayson_Virissimo
comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2011-11-29T11:36:44.126Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those aren't so much open problems as vague and ambiguous problems. If you tighten up those problems there are other disciplines that have a more or less consensus answer.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2011-11-28T16:05:59.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I will post a series of discussion posts each concentrating only on one currentish question from academic philosophy.

Will each of them misspell "versus"?

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T16:08:33.841Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Every single one. I suck at spelling, I will just use a better spell check before I put stuff on here from now on. Everyone of my articles, you think I would learn.

edit: or actually we think there are many reasons why I wouldn't, but you know.

Replies from: shminux, Burrzz
comment by shminux · 2011-11-28T16:13:18.289Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I personally tend to downvote poorly proofread posts (comments are OK). If you did not bother spell-checking and rereading what you wrote, you probably did not think through your post (and point), either.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T16:15:03.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree, I am dyslexic, I actually reread every post several times before posting. I am just bad at noticing small details in letters, and bad at remembering arbitrary sequences. I am working on it.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-11-28T16:31:49.676Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suggestion: Get someone else to proofread the drafts before you post them.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-28T16:33:27.141Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great idea. Kind of a duh, but I wasn't doing it already.

Replies from: Normal_Anomaly, None
comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-11-29T02:58:46.158Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I volunteer.

Replies from: potato
comment by Ronny (potato) · 2011-11-29T03:52:04.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks a ton. I will take advantage of this generous offer.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-28T19:42:07.773Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I volunteer.

comment by Burrzz · 2011-11-28T22:53:48.923Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're doing good!

comment by RichardChappell · 2012-10-15T18:19:06.770Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did this ever happen? (If so, updating the OP with links would be very helpful.)

comment by gwaba · 2011-12-02T02:22:53.739Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am interested in this. I'll try to get the sequences read in time and participate.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2011-11-29T03:30:12.911Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds like fun. It will be interesting to see whether we can come to consensus.

comment by Marius · 2011-11-29T18:45:57.787Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Each question will at least be held at 2 to 1 odds amongst professional philosophers, i.e., if more than 2/3s of professional philosophers agree, we won't bother. So as to not waste our time with small fish."

This is cheating, of course. You are comparing group A to group B on questions specifically selected for their difficulty to group B. Instead, it would be more fair to find open problems in fields that haven't received much attention from professional academic philosophers.