Torture Simulated with Flipbooks 2011-05-26T01:00:12.649Z


Comment by amanojack on "The Conditional Fallacy in Contemporary Philosophy" · 2018-02-02T18:06:26.484Z · LW · GW

This is just a manifestation of the general fact that it is impossible to specify a hypothetical fully without telling the entire story of how things got that way from the dawn of time. Speaking of hypotheticals is thus inherently loose. There is no way to avoid fallacies in most such exercises. Feigning rigor by calling specific cases "fallacies" is pretention.

It isn't just difficult to avoid these errors; it's impossible, and relegates the exercise to the merely cautiously suggestive, not a central method of philosophy.

Comment by amanojack on [Paper] On the 'Simulation Argument' and Selective Scepticism · 2013-05-19T13:13:40.109Z · LW · GW

The Simulation Argument is incoherent in the first place, and no complicated refutation is required to illustrate this. It is simply nonsensical to speak of entities in "another" universe simulating "our" universe, as the word universe already means "everything that exists." (Note that more liberal definitions, like "universe = everything we can even conceive of existing," only serve to show the incoherence more directly: the speaker talks of everything she can conceive of existing "plus more" that she is also conceiving as existing - immediately contradictory.)

By the way, this is the same reason an AI in a box cannot ever know it's in a box. No matter how intelligent it may be, it remains an incoherent notion for an AI in a box to conceive of something "outside the box." Not even a superintelligence gets a free pass on self-contradiction.

Comment by amanojack on Decision Theory FAQ · 2013-03-03T05:21:10.660Z · LW · GW

I agree; wherever there is paradox and endless debate, I have always found ambiguity in the initial posing of the question. An unorthodox mathematician named Norman Wildberger just released a new solution by unambiguously specifying what we know about Omega's predictive powers.

Comment by amanojack on Rationality: Appreciating Cognitive Algorithms · 2012-10-11T08:42:25.072Z · LW · GW


I'd phrase it as "truth is subjective," but I agree in principle. Truth is a word for everyday talk, not for precise discourse. This may sound pretty off-the-wall, but stepping back for a second it should be no surprise that holding to everyday English phrasing would interfere with our efforts to speak precisely. I'll put this more specifically below.

But if e.g. you get in an accident and you lose your leg, nobody will have offered you an opinion, but nonetheless it'll be true that you'll be missing a leg.

This is actually begging the question in that you tacitly assume objective truth by using the standard English phrasing. That there is such a thing as an objective truth is precisely the conclusion you hope to establish. Unfortunately English all but forces you to start by assuming it. Again, carrying over the habits of everyday talk into a precise discussion is a recipe for confusion. We'll have to be a little more careful with phrasing to get at what's going on.

I'd first point out that when you say, "you lose your leg," you are speaking as if there is some omniscient narrator who knows "the objective facts of reality." Parent's point is exactly that there is no such omniscience. There are only individuals, including you and I, who have [subjective] experiences.

To get specific, we would have to identify who it is that witnesses the loss of Parent's leg. If you had said, "e.g. you find that you get in an accident and that you lose your leg," it would not be convincing to follow up with, "but nonetheless it'll be true that you'll be missing a leg."

We could all have witnessed (what we experience as) Parent losing a leg. It will be "true" for us (everyday talk), but none among us is an omniscient narrator qualified to state any more than what we experienced. Nowhere is any objective truth to be found. If we were to call it an "objective truth," we would simply be referencing the fact that all three of our experiences seem to match up. It would be at best an inter-subjective "truth," but this "truth" is a lie to someone else who thinks they see Parent with both legs still attached. To avoid confusion, we had best call it a subjective report or something. Hence, while perhaps not ideal, "truth=opinion" is not too bad a way to put it after all.

Comment by amanojack on If epistemic and instrumental rationality strongly conflict · 2012-05-10T18:49:01.033Z · LW · GW

Any time you have a bias you cannot fully compensate for, there is a potential benefit to putting instrumental rationality above epistemic.

One fear I was unable to overcome for many years was that of approaching groups of people. I tried all sorts of things, but the best piece advice turned out to be: "Think they'll like you." Simply believing that eliminates the fear and aids in my social goals, even though it sometimes proves to have been a false belief, especially with regard to my initial reception. Believing that only 3 out of 4 groups will like or welcome me initially and 1 will rebuff me, even though this may be the case, has not been as useful as believing that they'll all like me.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T20:37:11.395Z · LW · GW

He's making some interesting points, and he gets extra credit in my view for taking so radical a view while usually remaining reasonable. I find his railing against prediction to be puzzling, but his semantic points and discussion of Ptolemaic explanations have given me a lot to think about.

I also noticed that even some of his friendly, reasoned posts were being downvoted to the same extreme negative levels, which seems unwarranted. He has posted too much without familiarizing himself with the norms here, but he shows sincerity and willingness to learn and adapt. He got a little testy a few times, but he also apologized a lot.

All in all, with a few notable exceptions, it looks like he is getting downvoted mainly for unfamiliarity with LW posting style and for disagreeing with "settled science" (I myself am not too partial to that term). Perhaps also for some unconventional spellings and other idiosyncrasies.

I'm open to being corrected on this, but I think I have read this entire thread and I am pretty sure Monkeymind is not deliberately trolling. High inferential distance feels like trolling so often that it's almost a forum trope. I myself am enjoying some of his posts and the responses.

I'll change my mind if he continues with the present posting style, though.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T20:08:39.107Z · LW · GW

You're making a ton of interesting points, but please succinctify (a lot!). I mean, let people reply and stuff. I feel sorry for you writing all that knowing almost no one will see it. It's obvious you're reading LW classic posts and making discoveries, and then immediately turning around and applying them, which is great. I just think you'd do well to steep yourself in the posting norms of this forum so you can participate in a more fruitful way. Again, I for one would like to hear well-reasoned radical views.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:58:55.349Z · LW · GW

To be honest, you sound bitter or something, although given the difference of opinion being as radical as it is, that is pretty understandable (so are the downvotes, for the same reason). Maybe let it cool off for a bit. I have an interest in hearing what you think after you have spent more time here.

You remind me of Silas Barta, and I think we could use more people who radically disagree with major pieces of LW, because it is good practice if nothing else.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:46:13.633Z · LW · GW

I think your position is just too radical here.

Ultimately all science has to eventually be used for prediction or it is useless except for aesthetic purposes. However, I do sympathize with what (I think) your main point was before, that prediction is no measure of a theory if the "theory" is just curve-fitting (it is, of course, a measure of the utility of the curve or equation that the data was fit to). That is really just common sense, though, so you may have meant something else.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:40:50.283Z · LW · GW

This is a LessWrong idea two: play the why game, keep asking "why" all the way down. Can't find the post on this though :/

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:38:14.997Z · LW · GW

Whoah, thanks for this. I get what you're saying now: you oppose Ptolemaic explanations. I think these are good points - why's this sensible post being downvoted? Even if there is something wrong with the reasoning, these seem like good, interesting questions to me.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:32:44.472Z · LW · GW

Theories don't explain- they predict. Consider gravity- Newton's law tells you the attraction between two masses, and it's mostly consistent with the mostly elliptical orbits that we observe the planets moving in.

The gravitational equation is effectively just* a summary of the observed data, so it is no surprise that it predicts. I believe Monkeymind finds this unsatsifactory, but I'm still not sure exactly how. Perhaps he defines theory differently. I'm a little curious what actually causes the Earth to pull on me, rather than, say, push me away. At the time Newton said he had no hypothesis for that, but now the same equation constitutes a theory or explanation? I feel like these terms are used a little too loosely.

*Not to imply that finding the equation that fit the data wasn't an important achievement

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:26:20.452Z · LW · GW

I would say the theory was poorly communicated, at best.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:23:12.300Z · LW · GW

I think you two may be talking past each other here. You clearly would do some observation before hypothesizing or theorizing, just perhaps not as much. I think the real difference between your positions lies in how you're defining a theory or an explanation (as opposed to a description of appearances). The explanation that QM raised to a level of attention was not an explanation in the way you probably mean, but more like what you may call a description, like a summary of observations.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T19:01:12.361Z · LW · GW

Luckily, you can choose to use a mechanism other than human intuition to understand the universe. Like mathematics, which seems to do a much better job, even in a way observable to humans. We have lots of devices (observable at human scales!) that do exactly what the mathematics said they would, like GPS.

I think there is a common miscommunication on this point. If something cannot be understood in the conventional human sense, can it be understood via math? It depends on what we mean by "understand." We can certainly catalog what we observe and summarize those data in the form of mathematical formulae and models.

However, if those are merely very succinct summaries, it is no surprise that they make accurate predictions, as they would effectively just be extrapolating from the observed data. It also seems unsatisfying to call that a theory in the traditional sense, if it is really more like curve-fitting.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:48:14.497Z · LW · GW

Learning QM has been compared to learning to ride a bicycle. You don't do that by first defining your terms, you just get out there and do it, and it's hard to reduce the knowledge of how to ride a bike to definitions.

This may indeed be the case, but taking the outside view - if I didn't know you were talking about QM, but knew it was about some purported scientific theory - giving a free pass to the usual strict rationalist requirement to "define your terms clearly" would seem pretty dubious. There are a lot of ways to build whole systems out of equivocations and other such semantic fudging, a lot of religious argument operates that way, and so on.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:37:12.044Z · LW · GW

Your method of argumentation is a little unusual and perhaps a bit off-putting, but I don't know why all your posts are being systematically downvoted this low. It's clear from posts like this one that you're not merely trolling, but I think you're taking on too much at once. Also, your style is not very LessWrong friendly and you're posting a lot. Maybe slow it down a bit, get familiar with the lay of the land a bit more.

I, for one, would like to hear a bit more about your misgivings. You've said some interesting things so far that have got me thinking.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:27:21.848Z · LW · GW

One can't really "explain" a particle. I would say, however, that if you cannot show the shape of the particle (how it occupies space), it is somewhat questionable to call it a "particle" in any classical sense that I'm familiar with.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:18:01.961Z · LW · GW

Why shouldn't physics talk about concepts? Or first, what is your definition of "object" and "concept" - even just by examples.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:14:34.105Z · LW · GW

Yes, it does take far more than just defining ones terms, but we must start there b4 we can go anywhere else! I don't mean a infinite number of now define that, now define that....just the KEY TERMS of one's hypothesis b4 moving on to the theory. Whatever the defs are they must be used CONSISTENTLY.

I agree that key terms need a definition. They have apparently all been defined before, but no one here has yet shown an interest in giving those (or any) precise definitions right now. I'm not sure why, especially given that this is LessWrong. I'd help you out on that, but I honestly don't know the precise definition that QM theorists use for wave. Surely someone must know?

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T18:06:50.413Z · LW · GW

If quantum mechanical models accurately describe what's happening, the fact that we can't picture it in our heads is not a problem.

I think there's a danger of equivocating here on the words "what's happening." In other words, which "what's happening" do the QM models describe?

I'll elaborate. If we observe X, do the QM models describe X, or do they describe the (so far unobserved) phenomena that may underly X?

  • If the mathematical QM model merely describes X, it's hard to see how it is anything other than a very succinct cataloging of the observations, put in a very useful form. That's quite an achievement, but I can understand the hesitation with calling it an explanation or a theory.

  • If the QM model actually describes some as-yet unobserved phenomena that is proposed to underly X, then it seems like it avoids Monkeymind's criticisms because there is actually something additional being posited to be happening, behind the scenes as it were.

If it is the latter, I'd be interested in seeing an example (anything in QM).

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T17:48:12.837Z · LW · GW

"I can't get a picture of this in my head" is not a rebuttal of a physical theory, because there's no reason that our heads must actually be equipped to create pictures of how the fundamental level of reality works.

Agreed, the basic structure of reality may be unvisualizable and otherwise incomprehensible to us. However, a theory is ostensibly a physical explanation, not merely a mathematical summary of the observed data. Reading over Monkeymind's posts, it seems the point he is making is that these theories sort of seem to "feel like" physical explanations, but in the end are "just math."

The question naturally arises, to the newbie at least, of what the difference really is between a mathematical summary of the data we've collected and a mathematical theory of how (by what mechanism) a physical phenomenon occurs.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-05-08T17:29:42.717Z · LW · GW

Taking the outside view - that is, forgetting this is a conversation about QM - this sounds a little hand-wavy. It seems natural to ask for precise definitions of basic terms in an article about QM, and for consistency in their usage.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-04T10:23:55.009Z · LW · GW

I didn't say he was in the Bayesian camp, I said he had the Bayesian insight that probability is in the mind.

In the final quote he is simply saying that mathematical statements of probability merely summarize our state of knowledge; they do not add anything to it other than putting it in a more useful form. I don't see how this would be interpreted as going against subjectivism, especially when he clearly refers to probabilities being expressions of our ignorance.

Comment by amanojack on Seeking links for the best arguments for economic libertarianism · 2012-05-04T08:34:49.901Z · LW · GW

I think you'll find the extreme cases (totalitarian economic controls vs. complete laissez faire) to be helpful to look at so as to challenge the way you're framing the spectrum.

Also, politics and economics go hand in hand, economics being - in terms of what it is usually actually used for - the study of how political actions affect the economy. For example, David Friedman argues that courts would produce better rulings if they were not run as a monopoly, and that the same is true with laws and regulations themselves. So at the limit it is not easy to separate them.

Another example is the libertarian argument that pollution is largely enable by weakened property rights due to laws passed in the 19th century (in the US case) preventing torts against polluters, and from the basic fact that the government essentially owns the waters and airways. These types of arguments tend to undercut the whole divide between economics and politics.

Comment by amanojack on Seeking links for the best arguments for economic libertarianism · 2012-05-04T08:06:30.773Z · LW · GW

Short: I, Pencil by Leonard E. Reed

Long: Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

Very long: Socialism by Ludwig von Mises, or any of F.A. Hayek's work on spontaneous order

(All available in pdf form by googling, though some may be copyrighted)

For specific questions, the Mises forums will happily supply you with arguments and tailored links for any economic questions. Just be sure to ask for arguments on consequentialist grounds since the forum is idealogically extremely libertarian (but friendly).

If you're looking for something more mild of the John Stossel or Milton Friedman variety, try anything by Friedman himself, or Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy - though these may not align with libertarian arguments on monetary policy.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-04T06:31:32.274Z · LW · GW

I have also found claims that one or a few simple ideas can solve huge swaths of the world's problems to be a sign of naivity, but another exception is when there is mass delusion or confusion due to systematic errors. Provided such pervasive and damaging errors do exist, merely clearing up those errors would be a major service to humanity. In this sense, Less Wrong and Misesian epistemology share a goal: to eliminate flawed reasoning. I am not sure why Mises chose to put forth this LW-style message as a positive theory (praxeology), but the content seems to me entirely negative in that it formalizes and systematizes many of the corrections economists (even mainstream ones) must have been tired of making. Perhaps he found that people were more receptive to hearing a "competing theory" than to having their own theories covered in red ink.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-03T02:31:47.482Z · LW · GW

Sure. He wrote about it a lot. Here is a concise quote:

The concepts of chance and contingency, if properly analyzed, do not refer ultimately to the course of events in the universe. They refer to human knowledge, prevision, and action. They have a praxeological [relating to human knowledge and action], not an ontological connotation.


Calling an event contingent is not to deny that it is the necessary outcome of the preceding state of affairs. It means that we mortal men do not know whether or not it will happen. The present epistemological situation in the field of quantum mechanics would be correctly described by the statement: We know the various patterns according to which atoms behave and we know the proportion in which each of these patterns becomes actual. This would describe the state of our knowledge as an instance of class probability: We know all about the behavior of the whole class; about the behavior of the individual members of the class we know only that they are members. A statement is probable if our knowledge concerning its content is deficient. We do not know everything which would be required for a definite decision between true and not true. But, on the other hand, we do know something about it; we are in a position to say more than simply non liquet or ignoramus. For this defective knowledge the calculus of probability provides a presentation in symbols of the mathematical terminology. It neither expands nor deepens nor complements our knowledge. It translates it into mathematical language. Its calculations repeat in algebraic formulas what we knew beforehand. They do not lead to results that would tell us anything about the actual singular events. And, of course, they do not add anything to our knowledge concerning the behavior of the whole class, as this knowledge was already perfect--or was considered perfect--at the very outset of our consideration of the matter.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-03T02:16:09.516Z · LW · GW

My point was to indicate that not all people who put stock in the "Austrian school" accept post-Misesians as competent intepreters. I meant, essentially: Mises had it right, but read his original work (not later Austrians) and you'll be able to tell whether I'm right.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-03T02:09:18.053Z · LW · GW

I would have prefaced that with "in my opinion," but I thought that was obvious. (What else would it be?)

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-02T03:12:05.025Z · LW · GW

Block and Rothbard do not understand Austrian economics and are incapable of defending it against serious rationalist criticism. Ludwig von Mises is the only rigorous rationalist in the "school". His works make mincemeat of Caplan's arguments decades before Caplan even makes them. But don't take my word for it - go back and reread Mises directly.

You will see that the "rationalist" objections Caplan raises are not new. They are simply born out of a misunderstanding of a complex topic. Rothbard, Block, and most of the other "Austrian" economists that followed merely added another layer of confusion because they weren't careful enough thinkers to understand Mises.

ETA: Speaking of Bayesianism, it was also rejected for centuries as being unscientific, for many of the same reasons that Mises's observations have been. In fact, Mises explains exactly why probability is in the mind in his works almost a century ago, and he's not even a mathematician. It is a straightforward application of his Austrian epistemology. I hope that doesn't cause anyone's head to explode.

Comment by amanojack on Open Thread, May 1-15, 2012 · 2012-05-02T02:54:44.425Z · LW · GW

Debating with Block would turn any rationalist off of Austrian econ. No one got it comletely right except Mises himself. Actually not even him, but he was usually extremely rational and rigorous in his approach - more than any other economist I know of - albeit often poorly communicated.

In any case, any non-ideologically motivated rationalist worth their salt ought to be able to piece together a decent understanding of the epistemological issues by reading the first 200 pages of Human Action.

Comment by amanojack on Words as Mental Paintbrush Handles · 2012-04-13T18:51:56.718Z · LW · GW

I've had the same experience. To me this suggests that although not all conscious thoughts are visual, they may all be sensual. That is, of the five senses.

Actually, this is tautological if "conscious thought" means a thought we are completely aware of, unless we can be 'aware' of something other than five-sense experience.

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-04-13T17:09:56.797Z · LW · GW

Eliezer can tell us how to visualize triangular lightbulbs, but not zero-dimensional objects. Which is more mysterious?

Comment by amanojack on Configurations and Amplitude · 2012-04-13T17:07:42.077Z · LW · GW

For that matter, amplitude of a wave...but what is waving? Where's the realism?

Comment by amanojack on Does functionalism imply dualism? · 2012-02-04T09:12:08.326Z · LW · GW

The question of "dualism" isn't even a real question. Science tells us that a certain wavelength of light will appear to us as green. But what really is the point of knowing that? Well, it gives us a set of instructions for how to make us experience green. But the instructions for how to produce the subjective experience are not themselves the experience. The notion that if we could just figure out how to make people experience green through some manipulation we will have learned something amazing is silly. We can already do that by showing a green flag or telling someone not to think of a green rabbit.

Comment by amanojack on Not for the Sake of Pleasure Alone · 2011-08-10T03:05:22.028Z · LW · GW

Plus we have a hard time conceiving of what it would be like to always be in a state of maximal, beyond-orgasmic pleasure.

When I imagine it I cannot help but let a little bit of revulsion, fear, and emptiness creep into the feeling - which of course would not be actually be there. This invalidates the whole thought experiment to me, because it's clear I'm unable to perform it correctly, and I doubt I'm uncommon in that regard.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-26T01:15:49.938Z · LW · GW

Dictionaries tend to define the moral as the good.It is hard to believe that anyone can grow up not hearing the word "good" used a lot, unless they were raised by wolves

The problem isn't that I don't know what it means. The problem is that it means many different things and I don't know which of those you mean by it.

an amoral hedonist

I have moral sentiments (empathy, sense of justice, indignation, etc.), so I'm not amoral. And I am not particularly high time-preference, so I'm not a hedonist.

preferences can also be defined to include universalisable values alongside personal whims

If you mean preferences that everyone else shares, sure, but there's no stipulation in my definitions that other people can't share the preferences. In fact, I said, "(though they may be universal or semi-universal)."

You may be making the classic of error of taking "subjective" to mean "believed by a subject"

It'd be a "classic error" to assume you meant one definition of subjective rather than another, when you haven't supplied one yourself? This is about the eight time in this discussion that I've thought that I can't imagine what you think language even is.

I doubt we have any disagreement, to be honest. I think we only view language very, radically differently. (You could say we have a disagreement about language.)

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-26T00:42:29.500Z · LW · GW

This is the whole demonstrated preference thing. I don't buy it myself, but that's a debate for another time. What I mean by subjectively is that I will value one person's life more than another person's life, or I could think that I want that $1,000,000 more than a rich person wants it, but that's just all in my head. To compare utility functions and work from demonstrated preference usually - not always - is a precursor to some kind of authoritarian scheme. I can't say there is anything like that coming, but it does set off some alarm bells. Anyway, this is not something I can substantiate right now.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-26T00:37:48.911Z · LW · GW

You're right, I think I'm confused about what you were talking about, or I inferred too much. I'm not really following at this point either.

One thing, though, is that you're using meta-ethics to mean ethics. Meta-ethics is basically the study of what people mean by moral language, like whether ought is interpreted as a command, as God's will, as a way to get along with others, etc. That'll tend to cause some confusion. A good heuristic is, "Ethics is about what people ought to do, whereas meta-ethics is about what ought means (or what people intend by it)."

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-26T00:29:29.275Z · LW · GW

The concept of truth is for utility, not utility for truth. To get them backwards is to merely be confused by the words themselves. It's impossible to show you've dispensed with any concept, except to show that it isn't useful for what you're doing. That is what I've done. I'm non-cognitive to God, truth, and objective value (except as recently defined). Usually they all sound like religion, though they all are or were at one time useful approximate means of expressing things in English.

Comment by amanojack on Pancritical Rationalism Can Apply to Preferences and Behavior · 2011-05-25T23:09:22.960Z · LW · GW

How can he justify the belief that beliefs are justified by sense-experience without first assuming his conclusion?

I don't know what exactly "justify" is supposed to mean, but I'll interpret it as "show to be useful for helping me win." In that case, it's simply that certain types of sense-experience seem to have been a reliable guide for my actions in the past, for helping me win. That's all.

To think of it in terms of assumptions and conclusions is to stay in the world of true/false or justified/unjustified, where we can only go in circles because we are putting the cart before the horse. The verbal concepts of "true" and "justified" probably originated as a way to help people win, not as ends to be pursued for their own sake. But since they were almost always correlated with winning, they became ends pursued for their own sake - essential ones! In the end, if you dissolve "truth" it just ends up meaning something like "seemingly reliable guidepost for my actions."

Comment by amanojack on Metacontrarian Metaethics · 2011-05-25T22:52:21.226Z · LW · GW

Is this basically saying that you can tell someone else's utility function by demonstrated preference? It sounds a lot like that.

Comment by amanojack on Pancritical Rationalism Can Apply to Preferences and Behavior · 2011-05-25T22:46:53.775Z · LW · GW

Why not just phrase it in terms of utility? "Justification" can mean too many different things.

Seeing a black swan diminishes (and for certain applications, destroys) the usefulness of the belief that all swans are white. This seems a lot simpler.

Putting it in terms of beliefs paying rent in anticipated experiences, the belief "all swans are white" told me to anticipate that if I knew there was a black animal perched on my shoulder it could not be a swan. Now that belief isn't as reliable of a guidepost. If black swans are really rare I could probably get by with it for most applications and still use it to win at life most of the time, but in some cases it will steer me wrong - that is, cause me to lose.

So can't this all be better phrased in more established LW terms?

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T22:34:57.654Z · LW · GW

I agree with this, if that makes any difference.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T22:31:49.317Z · LW · GW

I missed this:

If I tell you it will increase your happiness to hit yourself on the head with a hammer, your response is going to have to amount to "no, that's not true".

I'll just decide not to follow the advice, or I'll try it out and then after experiencing pain I will decide not to follow the advice again. I might tell you that, too, but I don't need to use the word "true" or any equivalent to do that. I can just say it didn't work.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T22:20:59.532Z · LW · GW

A lot of people care about truth, even when (I suspect) they diminish their enjoyment needlessly by doing so, so no argument there. In the parent I'm just continuing to try to explain why my stance might sound weird. My point from farther above, though, is just that I don't/wouldn't care about "truth" in those rare and odd cases where it is already part of the premises that truth or falsehood will not affect me in any way.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T22:17:13.299Z · LW · GW

Yeah, because calling it that makes it pretty hard to understand. If you just mean Collective Greatest Happiness Utilitarianism, then that would be a good name. Objective morality can mean way too many different things. This way at least you're saying in what sense it's supposed to be objective.

As for this collectivism, though, I don't go for it. There is no way to know another's utility function, no way to compare utility functions among people, etc. other than subjectively. And who's going to be the person or group that decides? SIAI? I personally think all this collectivism is a carryover from the idea of (collective) democracy and other silly ideas. But that's a debate for another day.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T21:33:48.032Z · LW · GW

It is not the case that all beliefs can do is predict experience based on existing preferences. Beliefs can also set and modify preferences.

I agree, if you mean things like, "If I now believe that she is really a he, I don't want to take 'her' home anymore."

I think moral values are ultimate because I can;t think of a valid argument of the form "I should do because ".

Neither can I. I just don't draw the same conclusion. There's a difference between disagreeing with something and not knowing what it means, and I do seriously not know what you mean. I'm not sure why you would think it is veiled disagreement, seeing as lukeprog's whole post was making this very same point about incoherence. (But incoherence also only has meaning in the sense of "incoherent to me" or someone else, so it's not some kind of damning word. It simply means the message is not getting through to me. That could be your fault, my fault, or English's fault, and I don't really care which it is, but it would be preferable for something to actually make it across the inferential gap.)

EDIT: Oops, posted too soon.

"Values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes"

So basically you are saying that preferences can change because of facts/beliefs, right? And I agree with that. To give a more mundane example, if I learn Safeway doesn't carry egg nog and I want egg nog, I may no longer want to go to Safeway. If I learn that egg nog is bad for my health, I may no longer want egg nog. If I believe health doesn't matter because the Singularity is near, I may want egg nog again. If I believe that egg nog is actually made of human brains, I may not want it anymore.

At bottom, I act to get enjoyment and/or avoid pain, that is, to win. What actions I believe will bring me enjoyment will indeed vary depending on my beliefs. But it is always ultimately that winning/happiness/enjoyment/fun//deliciousness/pleasure that I am after, and no change in belief can change that. I could take short-term pain for long-term gain, but that would be because I feel better doing that than not.

But it seems to me that just because what I want can be influenced by what could be called objective or factual beliefs doesn't make my want for deliciousness "uninfluenced by personal feelings."

In summary, value/preferences can either be defined to include (1) only personal feelings (though they may be universal or semi-universal), or to also include (2) beliefs about what would or wouldn't lead to such personal feelings. I can see how you mean that 2 could be objective, and then would want to call them thus "objective values." But not for 1, because personal feelings are, well, personal.

If so, then it seems I am back to my initial response to lukeprog and ensuing brief discussion. In short, if it is only the belief in objective facts that is wrong, then I wouldn't want to call that morality, but more just self-help, or just what the whole rest of LW is. It is not that someone could be wrong about their preferences/values 1, but preferences/values 2.

Comment by amanojack on Conceptual Analysis and Moral Theory · 2011-05-25T21:19:16.921Z · LW · GW

I never said they had to be "immediately useful" (hardly anything ever is). Untrue beliefs might be pleasing, but when people are arguing truth and falsehood it is not in order to prove that the beliefs they hold are untrue so that they can enjoy believing them, so it's not an objection either.