Truth + Reason = The True Religion? 2021-09-17T22:14:31.565Z
“Who’s In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain” 2021-09-16T02:38:43.556Z
I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should) 2021-09-06T22:31:54.813Z
Musing on the Many Worlds Hypothesis 2021-07-05T19:38:26.407Z
Notes on Kindness 2021-07-03T21:47:45.972Z
Notes on Perseverance 2021-04-08T00:01:36.105Z
How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia 2021-03-13T15:28:51.407Z
Notes on Amiability 2021-02-15T19:34:48.204Z
Notes on Frugality 2021-02-05T16:54:54.085Z
Notes on Judgment and Righteous Anger 2021-01-30T19:31:21.314Z
Notes on Forgiveness 2021-01-26T02:05:35.651Z
[Link] Philosophers’ Non-Profit Offers Free Online Critical Thinking Course 2021-01-25T15:16:14.529Z
Notes on Optimism, Hope, and Trust 2021-01-20T23:00:04.268Z
Notes on Gratitude 2021-01-13T20:37:30.004Z
Notes on Attention 2021-01-03T21:52:34.139Z
Notes on notes on virtues 2020-12-30T17:47:04.102Z
Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness” 2020-12-27T05:06:39.104Z
Notes on Moderation, Balance, & Harmony 2020-12-25T02:44:55.342Z
Notes on Patience & Forbearance 2020-12-23T16:31:04.680Z
Notes on Fitness 2020-12-21T16:51:17.623Z
Notes on Duty 2020-12-18T18:54:29.179Z
Notes on Dignity 2020-12-17T15:46:15.933Z
Notes on Courtesy 2020-12-16T04:08:31.448Z
Notes on Chastity 2020-12-11T22:01:53.879Z
Notes on Know-how 2020-12-09T17:21:18.936Z
Notes on Fairness 2020-12-07T18:52:46.649Z
Notes on Care 2020-12-05T16:33:18.013Z
Notes on Integrity 2020-12-03T23:42:44.376Z
Notes on Simplicity 2020-12-02T23:14:13.444Z
Notes on Sincerity and such 2020-12-01T05:09:45.198Z
Notes on Humility 2020-11-29T19:50:28.349Z
Notes on Good Temper 2020-11-27T16:21:15.159Z
Notes on Endurance 2020-11-26T18:44:48.997Z
Notes on Benevolence (being “less bad”) 2020-11-26T02:43:26.272Z
Notes on Ambition 2020-11-22T19:53:28.925Z
Notes on Prudence 2020-11-19T16:14:16.838Z
Notes on Honor 2020-11-17T05:25:03.739Z
Notes on Loyalty 2020-11-15T19:30:05.025Z
Notes on Wisdom 2020-11-14T02:37:16.027Z
Notes on Respect-for-Others 2020-11-12T23:33:15.845Z
Notes on Self Control (Continence) 2020-11-09T21:27:57.967Z
Notes on Temperance 2020-11-09T02:33:09.692Z
Notes on Justice (as a virtue) 2020-11-05T20:27:57.142Z
Notes on Piety 2020-11-04T01:35:33.474Z
Notes on Industriousness 2020-11-03T01:55:28.110Z
Notes on Compassion 2020-11-01T19:10:00.504Z
Notes on Honesty 2020-10-28T00:54:50.839Z
Notes on Courage 2020-10-24T22:32:25.531Z
Virtue ethics and why the rationalist community might care about it. 2020-10-22T03:53:28.988Z
Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. 2020-10-15T03:28:07.170Z


Comment by David_Gross on Does truth make you moral? · 2021-09-16T15:49:48.638Z · LW · GW

FWIW, the philosopher William Wollaston's magnum opus is devoted to defending the thesis that truth and morality completely overlap with one another: that to adhere to truth and to be moral are identical.

Here's a free ebook version of his argument:

And my summary of his argument:

Comment by David_Gross on I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should) · 2021-09-08T02:07:18.981Z · LW · GW

I think you may be reading more (and more sinister things) into this than were originally there. I don't think DiAngelo starts with "a large part of your core identity is inherently very bad" at all. The progression she has in mind is more like this:

  1. You were raised in a culture that has a lot of baggage from its explicitly white supremacist origins, and as part of learning to adopt to that culture you learned ways of getting along with it that have the effect of reinforcing its racism. In part this is because as a white person those things were designed with your benefit in mind and so you didn't have much reason to look the gift horse in the mouth. You did this even if you didn't have any bigoted intentions or desire to be awful to non-white people.
  2. If you would rather work to repair the racist system rather than coast along continuing to take advantage of it, you'll have to work on that. But if you respond defensively whenever such opportunities are pointed out to you, you probably won't succeed.
  3. So try to drop your defensiveness and don't take it so personally when someone points out ways in which you have picked up patterns of behavior that help to reinforce a racist system you aren't even very sympathetic with.
Comment by David_Gross on I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should) · 2021-09-07T22:08:14.527Z · LW · GW

This isn't my area of expertise, but as best as I understand it, one reason why racismS is not de facto a synonym for "being white" because racismS is not primarily a description of individual people, the way racismF can be.

That is to say, you can call someone a racistF, which is de facto a synonym for calling them a bigot or intolerant or a "race realist" or something like that, because a racistF is someone who believes in or professes racismF or acts like they do. But racismS doesn't work like that. It isn't an explicit belief system, but "a sys­tem­ic, usual­ly (now­a­days) non-ex­pli­cit or eu­phem­is­tic, often sub­con­scious, in­ter­lock­ing and per­va­sive set of social, cultural, and political devices that reinforce white supremacy."

So you wouldn't tell someone "you're racistS" but you might tell someone "you might want to be aware that the decision X that you made, or the thing Y that you said, had the effect of strengthening or perpetuating racismS."

Comment by David_Gross on I read “White Fragility” so you don’t have to (but maybe you should) · 2021-09-07T21:54:07.813Z · LW · GW

I see where you're coming from, and I also wish I didn't have to do the extra work to remember the correct technical definition of racism when I read White Fragility. That said, I expect that when I read a book in a particular discipline that I will need to be more attentive to the terms of art in that discipline. For instance, when I read a book of physics, I don't expect the author to cater to my folk definitions of "work", "energy", "power", "momentum", and so forth: instead, I expect that I will need to learn how to use the terminology of the field precisely as its practitioners do if I am to follow its arguments and learn what they have to teach.

Comment by David_Gross on Positive Expectations; how to build Hopefulness · 2021-07-03T18:42:02.423Z · LW · GW

See also: Notes on Optimism, Hope, and Trust

Comment by David_Gross on An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles) · 2021-06-22T02:12:11.861Z · LW · GW

Bostrom estimates that just one second of delayed colonization equals 100 trillion human lives lost. Therefore taking action today for accelerating humanity’s expansion into the universe yields an impact of 100 trillion human lives saved for every second that it’s is brought closer to the present.

I don't much care for this rhetorically sneaky way of smudging the way we feel the import of "lives lost" and "lives saved" so as to try to make it also cover "lives that never happen" or "lives that might potentially happen." There's an Every Sperm is Sacred silliness at work here. Do you mourn the millions of lives lost to vasectomy?

Comment by David_Gross on Strength, not courage, is the second component of goodness · 2021-06-01T04:17:45.166Z · LW · GW

Endurance, maybe? Perseverance?

Comment by David_Gross on Deliberately Vague Language is Bullshit · 2021-05-15T20:42:14.347Z · LW · GW

See also: The trouble with passive voice sentences.

Comment by David_Gross on Vim · 2021-04-08T05:10:41.342Z · LW · GW

You can exit insert mode by pressing Escape but it is faster to remap your CapsLock key to Ctrl and then exit insert mode with Ctrl-[.

I don't get how that's faster.

Comment by David_Gross on The Power of Positivist Thinking · 2021-04-03T13:35:25.727Z · LW · GW

So... first of all, I'd like someone to look up the logical positivists and say what it is they actually believed.

A.J. Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic is brief, to-the-point, bold, and fun to read. All of this to the extent that you may forget why you dislike reading philosophy. I'm pretty sure that Eliezer and Scott would enjoy their time reading it and would get something out of it.

Comment by David_Gross on How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia · 2021-03-15T19:25:58.403Z · LW · GW

I wish I remembered where I heard about this. It was a long time ago and seemed convincing to me at the time, but now I don't remember the details, and a little googling doesn't turn up much of anything to confirm this. I should probably dial back how I describe this until I can verify it.

Comment by David_Gross on How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia · 2021-03-14T22:51:01.430Z · LW · GW

I try to maintain my concentration on what I see, and so deliberately don't pay attention to other sensations.

I haven't experimented much with the other senses in this way. I wonder if you could get similar results by concentrating on bodily sensations (or some other sense) that I've gotten by concentrating on the visual. Seems like it'd be a good avenue for experimentation.

Comment by David_Gross on How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia · 2021-03-14T15:47:32.294Z · LW · GW

When I've been aware of such sudden-jerks, it's been around Guidepost 6, just as I'm about to slip into sleep, and is usually accompanied by a micro-dream in which I need to suddenly move for some reason (usually, it's that I missed a step on a staircase or something like that; but once I remember flinging my arm out in front of me to catch a baseball coming my way).

Some of this may be as you theorize: that sleep paralysis is lagging dream-consciousness and so your body doesn't know that it shouldn't actually move when your dream-consciousness tells it to.

I've interpreted some of the instances of this as a protective mechanism: if you're lying in a position where your tongue might block your airway or for some other reason your body decides that you're not safely-situated for sleep, it jerks you awake to encourage you to start over in another position... sort of like an abort to the launch sequence. I don't know whether there's anything to this interpretation; it's just a pet theory.

Comment by David_Gross on How to use hypnagogic hallucinations as biofeedback to relieve insomnia · 2021-03-13T18:28:03.737Z · LW · GW

tl;dr: By focusing in a counterintuitively alert way on your hypnagogic hallucinations you can use them as a sort of biofeedback mechanism, following them as they change their characteristics in predictable ways in a direction that leads you out of insomnia into sleep.

alternatively: By reading this prolix description of hypnagogia, your eyes will glaze over until you find yourself nodding out.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on notes on virtues · 2021-03-04T02:13:22.862Z · LW · GW

The spreadsheet is a LibreOffice doc I could send you if you're interested.

Thanks for the idea of making a sequence out of these. Here it is: Notes on Virtues

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Amiability · 2021-02-15T23:25:40.828Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I remember that Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue made the surprising claim that Jane Austen was the last thinker of note in the Western virtue-oriented tradition of ethics as it was dying out (before its more recent revival). I should go back and reread some of her books with that in mind.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Amiability · 2021-02-15T21:48:47.115Z · LW · GW

I hadn't intended this post to be at all karma-related, but now I'm very curious about how you would connect karma and amiability.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Amiability · 2021-02-15T21:21:17.892Z · LW · GW

Comment by David_Gross on How Should We Respond to Cade Metz? · 2021-02-13T17:43:09.014Z · LW · GW

I was surprised at how shallow and uninformative the article was, especially after so much time had gone into it, and how it had attracted so much pre-publication interest. The article shows the reader almost nothing about what makes SSC interesting, instead spending most of its paragraphs hunting for or alluding to evidence of possible wrongthink. There's a quality pop-news profile to be written about Scott, his blog, and the community that respects it, but the New York Times didn't seem to even try to write it. A missed opportunity and a blot on their reputation.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on notes on virtues · 2020-12-30T22:07:38.984Z · LW · GW

It can be an interesting exercise to try to find patterns, regularity, structure, commonality among the virtues. I like your insight here.

When I tried to do this, I ended up categorizing virtues as those involving Temperament (e.g. initiative, independence, frugality, spontaneity), Social Virtues (e.g. kindness, honesty, generosity, leadership, wit), Character (e.g. humility, honor, benevolence, integrity), Attitude (e.g. hope, serenity, temperance, patience), and Intellectual Virtues (e.g. imagination, rationality, know-how, curiosity). Looking back at this, I think the Social and Intellectual virtues make sense as categories, but it's harder to distinguish Temperament / Character / Attitude from each other, so I don't know if that's as helpful.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Fitness · 2020-12-22T00:10:10.236Z · LW · GW

I'll start ;-)

The best exercise program is one you actually do. Darebee is a site that has a bunch of exercise programs that you can do at home (no special equipment needed). It's free, and ad-free (donation-supported). It's useful particularly for those of us working from home who have good pandemic-related reasons to stay away from the gym.

Comment by David_Gross on Unexplored modes of language · 2020-12-10T23:09:15.383Z · LW · GW

drumming/tapping, received by ears or touch possibly faster than spoken language, because precise sounds can be very fast. I don’t know. This doesn’t really sound good.

That sounds like Morse Code. Telegraph operators had developed a set of codes and abbreviations and emoticon-like conventions during the heyday of the telegraph... give it enough time and internationalization and it might have developed its own grammar. There was a case of a POW who blinked in Morse code during a propaganda video he was forced to make: 

Comment by David_Gross on [deleted post] 2020-12-09T20:05:59.344Z

I can relate. I also had a dream in which I suspected I was dreaming, attempted to do some tests to rule that out, ruled it out to my satisfaction, and later woke up from it. Disconcerting.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Fairness · 2020-12-08T03:24:39.634Z · LW · GW

I believe they did a follow-up study to try to adjust for this. In the follow-up they were able to surreptitiously note the results of the coin flip (without the flipper knowing). The people who flipped the coin but ignored the result because it didn't go the way they wanted still rated themselves more fair than those who did not flip the coin but just decided to make things go their way without going through a coin-flipping ritual first.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Fairness · 2020-12-07T22:30:55.865Z · LW · GW

I drew a blank.

I found the cake-dividing and roommate algorithms promising. If I'm in situations in the future that seem isomorphic, I'll be sure to do some research to try and find a fair division method that's most likely to make everyone feel they got what's coming to them.

But as far as how to cultivate the virtue of fairness... I dunno. The best I came up with was to be much more cautious about my self-assessment of how fair I'm being if I have skin in the game. I should definitely assume that my brain is going to be feeding me some good reasons why fairness and my self interest happen to coincide again.

Some of the experiments suggest "hacks" that might help (e.g. sometimes people engaged in "fairer" dictator-style divisions if there was a mirror in the room with them when they made the division) but I don't have a good feel for how reliable those would be generally.

Don't bother to google how to become more fair unless you're in the market for skin cream.

Comment by David_Gross on Toward A Culture of Persuasion · 2020-12-07T14:57:28.791Z · LW · GW

Is “rhetoric” the discipline you’re looking for?

It used to be a standard part of a good liberal education, and I’d be happy to see it return, retooled for the media of the modern day.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Sincerity and such · 2020-12-01T16:08:06.392Z · LW · GW

Sometimes the passive voice is more graceful or effective. In those cases, you can avoid the trouble that passive voice usually causes if you explicitly add the grammatically-optional subject.

For instance: "Insider information was unwisely tweeted by Elon." By using the passive verb "was tweeted" you change the order, and therefore the relative emphasis, of "insider information" and "Elon" in a way that may be appropriate to what you're trying to communicate. But by explicitly adding "by Elon" you successfully resist the temptation to leave the subject unstated, and thereby save the day for clarity and precision.

I cover that in my advanced "technical writing in one easy lesson" class ;-)

Comment by David_Gross on What are Examples of Great Distillers? · 2020-11-12T19:45:01.619Z · LW · GW

I'm fond of the "A Very Short Introduction" book series from Oxford University Press. Some very good examples of those include Thomas Pink's on Free Will, Susan Blackmore's on Consciousness, Christopher Janaway's on Schopenhauer, David Weir's on Decadence, Stanley Wells on Shakespeare, and Brad Inwood's on Stoicism.

Comment by David_Gross on Notes on Temperance · 2020-11-09T14:48:49.689Z · LW · GW

I'm not as familiar with Christian views on temperance (though I am very fond of After Virtue - I associate Christian temperance with "Thy will be done" -- trying to discern God's desires and aligning one's own with those -- but I haven't looked into it very closely beyond that superficial guesswork. Is there any resource you would suggest beyond After Virtue to get the Thomist viewpoint on temperance (without having to read the ginormous Thomist corpus)?

Comment by David_Gross on Stupid Questions October 2020 · 2020-10-22T04:10:35.084Z · LW · GW

I'm a physics dilettante... a little undergrad 101 stuff and some exposure to pop sci. I was mulling over the explanation of gravity as being warped space rather than a force, such that an orbiting body for example is not being held in orbit by the gravitational force exerted between it and the object it's orbiting but is merely traveling inertially in a straight line in a space that has been warped by a big mass in the midst of it.

Okay, thought I, I can picture that.

But then I tried to apply it to another scenario: hole drilled through the middle of the earth (or some simpler, non-rotating, isolated mass... weight dropped into hole. I imagine the weight oscillating back and forth, speeding up as it approaches the center, slowing down as it approaches the surface, then repeating in the other direction. I can't seem to grok a curved space that's so curved that an object can go in what appears to be opposite directions along the same path within it without a force being applied to it to make it do so. Yet I understand that from the POV of the oscillating mass, no force is felt. What am I missing?

Comment by David_Gross on It "wanted" ... · 2020-02-15T23:57:25.037Z · LW · GW

This is perhaps tangential to your point or pedantic, but "want" was not always merely synonymous for "desire" in English. "Desire" implies something with conscious awareness of a lack wishing to have that lack redressed. "Want" can mean simply the lack without the consciousness of it: e.g. "this watch wants a seconds hand", or "as he wanted education, his wits were poor." This way of using the word seems to have been dropping off in recent decades, but may explain some of the examples you have seen.

Comment by David_Gross on Does the US nuclear policy still target cities? · 2019-10-02T02:08:18.201Z · LW · GW

In his book "Among the Dead Cities", A.C. Grayling looks at the Allied policy of aerial bombardment of Axis population centers, including the aims of the policy, how it was carried out, and its results. He concludes that it wasn't justified even in the conventional-weapons era; it was not militarily effective, particularly compared to other possible policies/targets, and it was a violation of even the bare minimum standards that the Allies later considered sufficiently self-evident to use as the basis for war crimes trials. The justification you mention ("to destroy the ability of the enemy states to continue to make war... because the factories have been destroyed or because there are no longer people to work in the factories") is something of a post-hoc search for a rationalization. If the Allies had wanted to attack factories, they could have concentrated on attacking factories. Instead they attacked population centers in order to kill and terrorize the people living there. This did not have the hoped-for negative effect on war-fighting morale (for the same reason 9/11 didn't discourage the U.S. from meddling in the Middle East), and can probably better be explained as a policy motivated by malice and vengeance than by coldly thought-through strategic planning.

Comment by David_Gross on An attempt to list out my core values and virtues · 2019-07-07T20:27:17.127Z · LW · GW

This strikes me as a worthwhile exercise for people to undertake. It can give valuable perspective and suggest important avenues for self-improvement. For what it's worth, here's what I came up with the first time I tried it:

Comment by David_Gross on Depression philosophizing · 2019-02-03T20:24:47.407Z · LW · GW

Nietzsche isn't a great example. His health was dreadful throughout his life, and it's really astonishing how good his mood and vigor were, given the crippling nature of his ailments (until his ultimate collapse). Philosophy in his case was probably a mood booster and a good coping mechanism.

There are lots of paths you can choose to wander down in philosophy. If you suffer from depression, one of the symptoms is that when you reach a crossroads in this wander, you'll choose the path that leads into the dark dismal swamp of nihilism and a dark uncaring universe with no meaning or point. That's not philosophy's fault, that's depression's fault.

But "dwelling on stuff" in general probably isn't a good strategy for dealing with depression, so if you're spending time philosophizing that you should be spending exercising, improving your diet, socializing, making doctor's/counselor's appointments, checking things off the basic-life-tasks to-do list so life doesn't get overwhelming, etc., then you might want to take a break.

Comment by David_Gross on No Really, Why Aren't Rationalists Winning? · 2018-11-04T21:16:39.143Z · LW · GW

If you want to know more about really winning vs. theoretically winning, you might be interested in what Aristotle taught about baseball:

Comment by David_Gross on No Logical Positivist I · 2008-08-07T22:14:47.000Z · LW · GW

There are three categories -- "meaningful," "meaningless," and "tautological" statements -- at least in Ayer's categorization. "Statements which are not testable are meaningless or tautological" would be an example of a tautology: just a definition of terms.

Because if you /could/ test the statement to see if it were true (not absolutely true, but, per Ayer, "probable"), you'd conduct an experiment where you took a sample of statements, tried to come up with tests (ways in which they refer to sense experiences that would serve to verify or disprove them), and then saw which ones were or were not meaningful. But in Ayer's framework, meaningfulness is defined as referring to sense experiences that would serve to verify or disprove, so it's circular, thus tautological, which isn't a term of abuse in Ayer's categorization the way meaninglessness is. He thinks that philosophers deal in tautologies all the time -- constructively! -- and that meaningful statements are more in the domain of science anyway.

Comment by David_Gross on No Logical Positivist I · 2008-08-05T20:28:36.000Z · LW · GW

I just finished reading Ayer's "Language, Truth & Logic" last night, and from my understanding of it, I think he'd think that your proposal about the appearance and vanishing of a chocolate cake was a meaningful proposal. He said, for instance, that it would be meaningful and reasonable to posit the appearance of wildflowers on a mountain peak nobody had climbed based on the fact that such wildflowers had been seen on similar mountain peaks nearby, or to propose that there were mountains on the dark side of the moon (before it was possible to empirically verify this). He seemed mostly interested in disqualifying propositions that were /in principle/ unverifiable. Now if you're asserting that this piece of cake came and went /and/ that it's not just going to be really difficult to come up with a single sense-impression that this fact would have some bearing on, but that it is /in principle/ impossible to do so, then he'd probably say you're talking rot.

Your example of a spaceship exiting the range at which you could possibly have any interaction with it is another issue. Ayer deals with the "does this tree continue to be when there's no one about on the quad" question, and says that (if I remember right) since the logical construction "this tree" is composed of both actual and hypothetical sense experiences, there's no reason why you have to imagine it vanishing when those sense experiences aren't immediately occurring. Even given this, though, I'm not sure if Ayer would call your spaceship meaningless or merely improbable, since its hypotheticals would all seem to be logical impossibilities.