Courage, and how to get some 2020-10-24T22:32:25.531Z · score: 12 (7 votes)
Virtue ethics and why the rationalist community might care about it. 2020-10-22T03:53:28.988Z · score: 33 (16 votes)
Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. 2020-10-15T03:28:07.170Z · score: 66 (41 votes)
Would you join the Society of the Free & Easy? 2019-07-10T01:15:27.002Z · score: 17 (9 votes)
How would you advise a peer-supported virtues-oriented self-help group? 2019-05-31T00:20:48.452Z · score: 16 (6 votes)


Comment by david_gross on Stupid Questions October 2020 · 2020-10-22T04:10:35.084Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (2 votes) · 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 · score: 20 (10 votes) · 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 · score: 10 (3 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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 · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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 · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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.