What if your brain could talk to you? ’That’s a silly question’, I hear you say, ‘My brain already talks to me.’
To the best of our current knowledge, the mind is the brain, and the mind is always talking. …
Creativity is the production of things that are novel and valuable (whether physical artefacts, actions, or ideas). Humans are unique in the extent of their creativity, which plays a central role in innovation and problem solving, as well as in the arts. But what are the cognitive sources of novelty? More particularly, what are the cognitive sources of stochasticity in creative production? I will argue that they belong to two broad categories. One is associative, enabling the selection of goal-relevant ideas that have become activated by happenstance in an unrelated context. The other relies on selection processes that leverage stochastic fluctuations in neural activity. While the components appealed to in these accounts are well established, the ways in which I combine them together are new.
The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in
legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual
actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case
that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason
to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the
four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the
four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the
first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls,
1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical
philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a
property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of
individuals and other institutions?
Suppose that a contraceptive has the following properties:
Fewer than 1% of users have a pregnancy annually. At least 5% of users annually experience a cycle where the contraceptive fails to prevent fertilization but does prevent implantation. …
Until fairly recently secession has been a neglected topic among
philosophers. Two factors may explain why philosophers have now begun
to turn their attention to secession. First, in the past two decades
there has been a great increase not only in the number of attempted
secessions, but also in successful secessions, and philosophers may
simply be reacting to this new reality, attempting to make normative
sense of it. The reasons for the frequency of attempts to secede are
complex, but there are two recent developments that make the prospect
of state-breaking more promising: improvement in national security and
liberalization of trade.
Are you a liberal, socialist or conservative? Are you fiscally conservative but socially liberal? Or socially conservative and fiscally liberal? Are you a classical liberal or a neo-liberal? Are you a Marxist socialist or a neo-Marxist socialist? …
Although the proper definition of ‘rape’ is itself a
matter of some dispute, rape is generally understood to involve sexual
penetration of a person by force and/or without that person's consent. Rape is committed overwhelmingly by men and boys, usually against
women and girls, and sometimes against other men and boys. (For the
most part, this entry will assume male perpetrators and female
victims.) Virtually all feminists agree that rape is a grave wrong, one too
often ignored, mischaracterized, and legitimized. Feminists differ,
however, about how the crime of rape is best understood, and about how
rape should be combated both legally and socially.
The paper has a twofold aim. On the one hand, it provides what appears to be the first game-theoretic modeling of Napole´on’s last campaign, which ended dramatically on June 18, 1815, at Waterloo. It is specifically concerned with the decision Napole´on made on June 17, 1815, to detach part of his army and send it against the Prussians, whom he had defeated, though not destroyed, on June 16 at Ligny. Military strategists and historians agree that this decision was crucial but disagree about whether it was rational. Hypothesizing a zero-sum game between Napole´on and Blu¨cher, and computing its solution, we show that dividing his army could have been a cautious strategy on Napole´on’s part, a conclusion which runs counter to the charges of misjudgment commonly heard since Clausewitz. On the other hand, the paper addresses some methodological issues relative to ‘‘analytic narratives’’. Some political scientists and economists who are both formally and historically minded have proposed to explain historical events in terms of properly mathematical game-theoretic models. We liken the present study to this ‘‘analytic narrative’’ methodology, which we defend against some of objections that it has
I'm working through Daniel Batson's latest book, What's Wrong with Morality? Batson distinguishes between four different types of motives for seemingly moral behavior, each with a different type of ultimate goal. …
In his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke’s primary aim is to provide an empiricist theory of ideas that can support interesting results about the nature of language and knowledge. Within this theory, Locke distinguishes between simple ideas and complex ideas (E II.ii.1: 119). Roughly, an idea is complex if it has other ideas as parts; otherwise, it is simple. For Locke, as is well known, all simple ideas derive from sensation (perception through sight, taste, smell, hearing, or touch) or reflection (a form of introspection directed at mental acts) (E II.i.2-4: 104-106). Aetiology also plays a role in Locke’s classification of complex ideas: ideas of modes, ideas of substances, and ideas of relations. All complex ideas are formed by a voluntary act of combination or composition. Ideas of modes, such as numbers, beauty, and theft (E II.xii.5: 165) are formed without considering whether the combinations conform to real patterns existing in the world (E II.xi.6: 158, E II.xxii.1: 288, E II.xxxi.3: 376). Ideas of substances (such as human beings, sheep, and armies – E II.xii.6: 165), by contrast, are formed with a desire “to copy Things, as they really do exist” (E II.xxxi.3: 377). Ideas of relations are like ideas of modes (E II.xxxi.14: 383-384), except that their aetiology includes, in addition to the mental act of composition, the distinct mental act of comparison on the basis of some respect or dimension (E II.xi.4: 157, E II.xxv.1: 319).
Results in social choice theory such as the Arrow and Gibbard- Satterthwaite theorems constrain the existence of rational collective decision making procedures in groups of agents. The Gibbard—Satterthwaite theorem says that no voting procedure is strategy-proof. That is, there will always be situations in which it is in a voter’s interest to misrepresent its true preferences i.e., vote strategically. We present some properties of strategic voting and then examine 7 via a bimodal logic utilizing epistemic and strategizing modalities 7 the knowledge-theoretic properties of voting situations and note that unless the voter knows that it should vote strategically, and how, i.e., knows what the other voters’ preferences are and which alternate preference P' it should use, the voter will not strategize. Our results suggest that opinion polls in election situations effectively serve as the first n — 1 stages in an n stage election.
The donation and transfer of human gametes (eggs and sperm) for
reproductive purposes raises many important and difficult questions. Some of these relate directly to policy and practice; others are more
conceptual. Gamete donation occupies an interesting position within
bioethics, having something in common both with other forms of
donation (blood and organs, for example) and with
reproductive technologies not involving donation (ranging
from IVF through to more controversial areas like cloning, embryo
selection, and genetic modification). It also shares some features
with adoption and surrogacy, practices which also
(arguably at least) involve the transfer or delegation of parental
duties and rights.
Image courtesy of BagoGames via Flickr
Yuval Noah Harari wrote an article in the Guardian a couple of months back entitled ‘The meaning of life in a world without work’. I was intrigued. Harari has gained a great deal of notoriety for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. …
The determination of “who is a J” within a society is treated as an aggregation of the views of the members of the society regarding this question. Methods, similar to those used in Social Choice theory are applied to axiomatize three criteria for determining who is a J: 1) a J is whoever defines oneself to be a J. 2) a J is whoever a “dictator” determines is a J. 3) a J is whoever an “oligarchy” of individuals agrees is a J.
This essay makes a case for the practical authority of deliberations and the intentions they yield. I argue that sound deliberations yielding an intention to act are together a (i) content-independent reason not to re-open deliberations about how to act and (ii) a content-independent reason to act as intended on the basis of those sound deliberations. Many philosophers have argued that this sort of ‘bootstrapping’ is impossible. In this essay, I neither rehearse nor challenge those arguments. Rather, my aim is to defend
Lee Bonteçou’s striking and haunting piece, Untitled 1959/1960 is a three-dimensional piece of work rendered out of steel and canvas, framed and hung as if a normal painting. Taut, seemingly grimy canvas is fashioned, using steel armature and thin wire, into two volcanic cones, the centers of which are deep, black ovals. The ovals appear as limitless abysses piercing the space occupied by the artwork. When viewed in the white box of a gallery space, it feels as if Bonteçou has rent a hole in the surface of reality to reveal a lurking, violent deep darkness. This piece, like much of Bonteçou’s work in that era, embodied a startling mix of painting and sculpture. Viewed today, it remains surprising and aesthetically remarkable.
According to Margaret Gilbert’s collective epistemology, we should take attributions of beliefs to groups seriously, rather than metaphorically or as reducible to individual belief. I argue that, similarly, attributions of belief to markets ought to be taken seriously and not merely as reports of the average beliefs of market participants. While many of Gilbert’s purported examples of group belief are better thought of as instances of acceptance, some collectives, such as courts and markets, genuinely believe. Such collectives enact truth-aimed processes that are beyond the control of any single individual. These processes produce beliefs that are distinct from any individual belief and do not merely report the "average" or "majority" view of the group. In the case of markets, beliefs are indicated by prices, though it is often difficult to infer beliefs from prices and those inferences are almost always uncertain. Market beliefs are justified when traders collectively possess sufficient evidence, there are sufficient incentives for participants to trade based upon the evidence they possess, sophisticated traders have enough power to counter common cognitive biases, and there is no manipulation of prices. Thus, in some cases markets can know.
Jason Brennan says:
June 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this further. Christiano leads mostly with an empirical critique, but that’s frankly not a promising route for him to take, and I don’t find any of the purported empirical criticisms troubling. …
The idea of the social contract goes back at least to Epicurus
(Thrasher 2013). In its recognizably modern form, however, the idea is
revived by Thomas Hobbes; it was developed in different ways by John
Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. After Kant, the idea
largely fell into disrepute until it was resurrected by John Rawls. It
is now at the heart of the work of a number of moral and political
philosophers. The basic idea is simple: in some way, the agreement of all
individuals subject to collectively enforced social arrangements shows
that those arrangements have some normative property (they are
legitimate, just, obligating, etc.).
The Black-Scholes(-Merton) model of options pricing establishes a theoretical relationship between the “fair” price of an option and other parameters characterizing the option and prevailing market conditions. Here I discuss a common application of the model with the following striking feature: the (expected) output of analysis apparently contradicts one of the core assumptions of the model on which the analysis is based. I will present several attitudes one might take towards this situation, and argue that it reveals ways in which a “broken” model can nonetheless provide useful (and tradeable) information.
« Yet more errors in papers
The Social Justice Warriors are right
As you might know, I haven’t been exactly the world’s most consistent fan of the Social Justice movement, nor has it been the most consistent fan of me. …
The criminal law is broadly retributive insofar as it predicates censure and sanction on culpable or responsible wrongdoing. Wrongdoing for which the agent is not responsible and, hence not culpable (in this sense) is excused. Responsibility and excuse are scalar phenomena, because the capacities constitutive of the normative competence required for responsibility can be had in different degrees and their impairment can be a matter of degree. Ideally, the criminal law would aim to deliver just deserts in cases of partial responsibility, making censure and sanction proportional to the degree of culpable wrongdoing. However, with some qualifications, American criminal law is bivalent about responsibility and excuse. It treats responsibility as all or nothing, and it is very stingy with excuse, in effect, treating many cases of partial responsibility as if the individuals were fully responsible. It is normatively problematic to treat responsibility and excuse as bivalent when the underlying facts about them are scalar in nature. In this essay, I want to explain this concern about the bivalent character of American criminal law, take partial responsibility seriously, and explore realistic alternatives to bivalence about excuse.
Both “optimists” and “sceptics” in regard to extraterrestrial intelligence tend to hold the view that we are entitled to an epistemically clear position: either there will be a signal, in the sufficiently general sense, proving the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), or no such signal is forthcoming. The distinction, I wish to argue here, is not at all so clear-cut. On the contrary, there are arguments, intrinsic to the subject matter, to the effect that the detection of ETI will be a protracted affair characterized by uncertainty at every step. Such view of SETI discovery mandates different policies from those conventionally discussed in the literature. We should not gear our expectations and publicly promote the view that the Contact will be a clear-cut, Archimedean “Eureka!”-style discovery. In contrast, the tempo and mode of the process of discovery might significantly influence societal and political reactions to the discovery. We should be prepared for such a protracted unfolding of events.
Amartya Sen has recently levelled a series of what he alleges to be quite serious but very general objections against Rawls, Rawlsian fellow travellers, and other social contract accounts of justice. In The Idea of Justice, published in 2009, Sen specifically charges his target philosophical views with what he calls transcendentalism and procedural parochialism, and with being mistakenly narrowly focused on institutions. He also thinks that there is a basic incoherence—arising from a version of Derek Parfit’s Identity Problem—internal to the Rawlsian theoretical apparatus. Sen would have political philosophy pursue inter-societal comparisons of relative justice more directly and in the manner of social choice theory. Yet the positive argument that he develops in support of this method is quite thin. That aside, Sen’s polemical strategy of inflicting death by a thousand cuts is ineffective against the Rawlsian paradigm. For, as I show herein, none of these criticisms has the force we might be led to expect.
In this article, I outline various ways in which artifacts are interwoven with autobiographical memory systems and conceptualize what this implies for the self. I first sketch the narrative approach to the self, arguing that who we are as persons is essentially our (unfolding) life story, which, in turn, determines our present beliefs and desires, but also directs our future goals and actions. I then argue that our autobiographical memory is partly anchored in our embodied interactions with an ecology of artifacts in our environment. Lifelogs, photos, videos, journals, diaries, souvenirs, jewelry, books, works of art, and many other meaningful objects trigger and sometimes constitute emotionally laden autobiographical memories. Autobiographical memory is thus distributed across embodied agents and various environmental structures. To defend this claim, I draw on and integrate distributed cognition theory and empirical research in human-technology interaction. Based on this, I conclude that the self is neither defined by psychological states realized by the brain nor by biological states realized by the organism, but should be seen as a distributed and relational construct.
In the discipline of international relations there are contending
general theories or theoretical perspectives. Realism, also known as
political realism, is a view of international politics that stresses
its competitive and conflictual side. It is usually contrasted with
idealism or liberalism, which tends to emphasize cooperation. Realists
consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states,
which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their
own national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side of
the realists’ emphasis on power and self-interest is often their
skepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations among
“Africana philosophy” is the name for an emergent and
still developing field of ideas and idea-spaces, intellectual
endeavors, discourses, and discursive networks within and beyond
academic philosophy that was recognized as such by national and
international organizations of professional philosophers, including the
American Philosophical Association, starting in the 1980s. Thus, the
name does not refer to a particular philosophy, philosophical system,
method, or tradition. Rather, Africana philosophy is a
third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring
organizing oversight to various efforts of
philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective,
critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic
expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of
African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental
Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide.
I argue that bodybuilding should not qualify as a sport, given that at the competition stage it lacks an essential feature of sports, namely, skillful activity. Based on the classic distinction between Leib (the lived body) and Körper (the objective body) in phenomenology, I argue that bodybuilding competition's sole purpose is to present the Körper, whereas sports are about manifestations of Leib. I consider several objections to this analysis, after which I conclude that bodybuilding is an endeavor closer to both beauty competitions and classical sculpture rather than to any other known sports.
On Wednesday, Scott Alexander finally completed his sprawling serial novel Unsong, after a year and a half of work—incredibly, in his spare time while also working as a full-term resident in psychiatry, and also regularly updating Slate Star Codex, which I consider to be the world’s best blog. …
As Danny Glover put it, environmental injustice (EIJ) is about the fact that South-Central Los Angeles children have only one-third of the lung capacity of Santa Monica children (van Gelder 2001). South-Central LA is mostly black and heavily polluted; Santa Monica is mostly white and pristine. Children bear the brunt of the difference. In most nations poor people, minorities, and children bear EIJ—disproportionate pollution that causes poorer health and higher death rates. This article shows how scientists and engineers contribute to EIJ if they mask, thus encourage, EIJ by using flawed analytic techniques such as short-term studies or incomplete verification and validation. It illustrates EIJ effects of three such errors: using small or nonrepresentative samples, misrepresenting uncertainty, and misusing statistical significance.