When people talk of the value of obedience to conscience, it often makes it sound like there is some sort of a relationship to a mysterious faculty with a mysterious authority. And that may all be true. …
[talk to be given at UC Riverside's Homecoming celebration, November 16, on the theme of happiness]
There are several different ways of thinking about happiness. I want to focus on just one of those ways. …
The following sound right:
It is always the case that s if and only if s at all times. It is always the case that s if and only if it is, always was and always will be the case that s.
But suppose, as may very well be the case, that we inhabit a multiverse whose universes all have temporally unrelated time sequences. …
cures by committee
Everything is impeach and remove these days! Should that hold also for the concept of statistical significance and P-value thresholds? There’s an active campaign that says yes, but I aver it is doing more harm than good. …
[This is the text of a talk I gave to the Irish Law Reform Commission Annual Conference in Dublin on the 13th of November 2018]
In the mid-19th century, a set of laws were created to address the menace that newly-invented automobiles and locomotives posed to other road users. …
The following account of the doctrine of propositional omniscience is incomplete:
x is omniscient iff x knows every truth and believes no falsehood. For suppose that x believes no falsehood and knows every truth but is suffering from retrieval problems for the truths that x believes, in such a way that it takes x a minute to recall what is the capital of China. …
This book unifies and extends the author’s previous work across metaphysics and the philosophy of language and logic with a careful eye toward the foundations of ontology. The result is rich, skillfully crafted, and mandatory for anyone working in (meta- )ontology or nearby areas in the philosophy of mathematics and language where entities like numbers, properties, and propositions generate controversy. It will repay a careful reader’s interest many times over.
Let’s start with the familiar picture: there are objects and there are properties. Metaphysical disagreement along each axis is familiar enough. We can disagree about what objects there are and about what those objects are like. For example, some believe in fictional characters, while others deny there are such things, and, among those who believe in things like Sherlock Holmes, some take fictionalia to be mental particulars, abstract entities, concrete possibilia, or objects of some other sort. Disagreement about what properties there are and about what properties are like often requires a bit more philosophical baggage. For example, some believe in non-natural moral properties, irreducible mental properties, or objective aesthetic properties, while others reject the existence of such properties. Moreover, those who accept the existence of properties disagree about whether they are universals, tropes, or entities of other sorts. The diversity and pervasiveness of metaphysical disagreement on these fronts is equal parts daunting and exhausting. What to do?
Consider the standard argument against the Incarnation:
Everything that is God is F (omnipotent, omniscient, impassible, etc.). Everything that is human is non-F.
Christ is God and human. So, Christ is F and non-F. …
Think of a wager as a sequence of event-payoff pairs:
W = ((e1, u1),...,(en, un)). There are then two different ways to calculate the expected value of the wager. First, directly:
« The morality of quantum computing
Annual recruitment post
Just like I did last year, and the year before, I’m putting up a post to let y’all know about opportunities in our growing Quantum Information Center at UT Austin. …
I wrote something for the Spanish newspaper El País, which has a column on mathematics called “Café y Teoremas”. Ágata Timón helped me a lot with writing this, and she also translated it into Spanish:
• John Baez, Qué es la teoría de categorías y cómo se ha convertido en tendencia, El País, 8 November 2019. …
« My New York Times op-ed on quantum supremacy
The morality of quantum computing
This morning a humanities teacher named Richard Horan, having read my NYT op-ed on quantum supremacy, emailed me the following question about it:
Is this pursuit [of scalable quantum computation] just an arms race? …
Suppose that we have a utility function U and an inconsistent credence function P, and for simplicity let’s suppose that our utility function takes on only finitely many values. The standard way of calculating the expected utility of U with respect to P is to look at all the values U can take, multiply each by the credence that it takes that value, and add:
E(U)=∑yyP(U = y). …
Police sometimes face mortal threats. They also face innocent people whom they mistakenly judge to pose a mortal threat. If too slow to react to the former, the police risk being killed. If too quick to react to the latter, they risk killing innocent civilians. …
. “Before we stood on the edge of the precipice, now we have taken a great step forward”
What’s self-defeating about pursuing statistical reforms in the manner advocated by the American Statistical Association (ASA) in 2019? …
Suppose a rock is flying through the air northward, and God miraculously and instantaneously teleports the rock, without changing any of its intrinsic properties other than perhaps position, one meter to the west. …
Critica by Julio Ruelos
In 1865, John Stuart Mill published one of his more obscure works. It was a book length critique of the work of the Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton. If you are interested in mid-19th century disputes about metaphysics and empirical philosophy, then it might be worth a gander. …
The tide is beginning to turn against counterintuitive theories of indicative conditionals which either deny them truth-values or give them apparently wrong ones, but a deductive argument in Gibbard’s 1981 paper ‘Two Recent Theories of Conditionals’ appears to show that those unhappy options are the only viable ones. …
In the previous post, I showed how the self-structure could be specified. The self has also some properties, e.g., phenomenal, social, and ethical ones, that are capable of being specified in structural terms. …
[an edited excerpt from my forthcoming book, A Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical Misadventures]
There’s something I don’t like about the ‘Golden Rule’, the admonition to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. …
Suppose that yesterday you guessed that today I’d freely mow the lawn, and today I did freely mow the lawn. Then, the correctness of your guess is a doxastic good you possessed. (Note: If the future is open, so that there was no truth yesterday that today I’d mow the lawn, it’s a little tricky to say when you possessed it. …
The local five minute hypothesis is that the earth, with everything on it, and the environment five light-minutes out from it, come into existence five minutes ago. Let’s estimate the probability of getting something like a local five minute hypothesis by placing particles at random in the observable universe. …
The Structural Realist theory of the Self (SRS) is presented as an extension of structural realism in the philosophy of many-particle physics. Structural realism addresses the problem of conflicting ontological consequences with regards to the existence of individual objects at the sub-particle level by making commitments to commonalities. …
Samuel Ibn Tibbon (c. 1165–1232) was a translator, philosopher,
and philosophical commentator on the Bible. He is most famous for his
translation of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed from
Arabic into Hebrew, but he translated other works by Maimonides, and
produced the first Hebrew versions of Aristotle and Averroes. In
addition to his work as translator, Ibn Tibbon was an original
author in his own right. He wrote the first full Aristotelian/Maimonidean
explication of the biblical book Ecclesiastes, a
philosophical-exegetical monograph entitled Ma’amar Yiqqawu
ha-Mayim, and several smaller philosophical-exegetical treatises
On numerical-sameness-without-identity views, two entities that share their matter count as one when we are counting objects. Here is a curious consequence. Suppose I have a statue of Plato made of bronze with the nose broken off and lost. …
According to dispositionalism about modality, a proposition <p> is possible just in case something has, or some things have, a power or disposition for its truth; and <p> is necessary just in case nothing has a power for its falsity. But are there enough powers to go around? In Yates (2015) I argued that in the case of mathematical truths such as <2+2=4>, nothing has the power to bring about their falsity or their truth, which means they come out both necessary and not possible. Combining this with axiom (T): pp, it is easy to derive a contradiction. I suggested that dispositionalists ought to retreat a little and say that <p> is possible just in case either p, or there is a power to bring it about that p, grounding the possibility of mathematical propositions in their truth rather than in powers. Vetter’s (2015) has the resources to provide a response to my argument, and in her (2018) she explicitly addresses it by arguing for a plenitude of powers, based on the idea that dispositions come in degrees, with necessary properties a limiting case of dispositionality. On this view there is a power for <2+2=4>, without there being a power to bring about its truth. In this paper I argue that Vetter’s case for plenitude does not work. However, I suggest, if we are prepared to accept metaphysical causation, a case can be made that there is indeed a power for <2+2=4>.
As before, I am very grateful to John for letting me present my work. My new book Structuring the Self (2019) Palgrave Macmillan, Series New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science, did not initially aim to introduce a new insight into the nature of selfhood so much as to give structure to our little knowledge about the self, knowledge that has been already evolved in works of Karl Friston, Vittorio Gallese, Thomas Metzinger, Georg Northoff, and a few others. …
Humans often represent and reason about unrealized possible actions – the vast infinity of things that were not (or have not yet been) chosen. This capacity is central to the most impressive of human abilities: causal reasoning, planning, linguistic communication, moral judgment, etc. Nevertheless, how do we select possible actions that are worth considering from the infinity of unrealized actions that are better left ignored? We review research across the cognitive sciences, and find that the possible actions considered by default are those that are both likely to occur and generally valuable. We then offer a unified theory of why. We propose that (i) across diverse cognitive tasks, the possible actions we consider are biased towards those of general practical utility, and (ii) a plausible primary function for this mechanism resides in decision making.
Why do successful constitutions have the attributes characteristically associated with the rule of law, such as generality, stability, universal applicability, publicity and consistency? Why do constitutions involve public reasoning? And, how is such a system sustained as an equilibrium? In this paper, we adapt the framework in our previous work on “what is law?” to the problem of constitutions and their enforcement (see Hadfield and Weingast 2012, 2013a,b). Most accounts of the constitution take the constitution as given and study its effects. This holds for the vast majority or works in both law and economics and positive political theory and the law. Most traditional legal scholarship focuses on the development of constitutional doctrine by clause of the constitution; or study a wide range of normative issues raised by constitutions.