• The US $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

    I only have an anti-progressive bent in that they frustrate me because I tend to agree with their policies, but then their political execution in enacting them is usually terrible. They also tend to greatly over estimate their own support, leading to rhetoric and maximalist positions (a good example is the push to abolish talented and gifted programs from public schools, which is misguided and horrendously unpopular) that cost the elections.

    I find it likely that Democrats lose the House and Senate because:

    1. That historically happens during mid terms.
    2. It is even more likely to happen if the country is doing poorly, which it most certainly will be due to heavy drags on the economy.
    3. Biden's approval rating is absolute bottom barrel. It is worse than Trump's during the same week of his Presidency, and this was the week of Charlottesville and the news of Manafort's Russian corruption ties, which tanked his polls. It's worse than it looks because Biden's approval rating is -17 in Arizona, and similarly bad in every swing state, with his remaining support concentrated in electorally meaningless places.

    And I get it, the country is in crisis and we have a dotard mumbling off in his speeches unable to wrangle his party in his second meaningful vote (and the first, the stimulus, was a softball). Not great for turnout.
  • The US $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

    Potentially a great thing. It's 50/50 that they in fact pass absolutely nothing as progressives vote down the infrastructure bill and then can't get the rest through the Senate. I would say it is trending towards more likely that they get nothing, in which case it is more likely than not that Biden will have no major legislative achievements in his term, as I highly doubt the Democrats hold on to their razor thin margins in 2022.

    In retrospect, letting Progressives pack their wish list into the House bill was a mistake, since it seems to have given them the sense that they can make policy with just 25% of the seats in the legislature by threatening to tank everything, and what is more likely is that they get nothing.

    But this is less of a problem for true believer progressives because the worse things get for the people, the closer some glorious revolution is to coming, where a great utopia will be swept in by popular discontent. In reality, it will increase destablization and make everyone's lives more shit.

    The Democrats are at risk of proving they share Republicans inability to actually govern due to their own unrealistic base.
  • The US $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

    I feel like that's a very myopic quote. Plato and Aristotle didn't start being forgotten with the rise of Christianity; the process began soon after Aristotle's death. Stoicism and Epicureanism would come to overshadow them soon after, and while both certainly made contributions to philosophy and logic, I think it's fair to say things actually took a step back through antiquity. Plato doesn't come roaring back until he is reintroduced in a religious context himself, with Plotonius as a grand theologian / scholar. Point being, philosophy had already pricked it's finger back in the time of Alexander and only woke up in fits and starts. Hence most philosophy surveys barely skimming the years between Aristotle and Plotonius, then going back to sleep until Decartes- but that's centuries before the rise of Christianity.

    Plato's work itself is also filled with wacky theology, but that doesn't detract from his philosophy. By the same token, it was priests and monks, with their obsession with nominalism versus realism who began seriously unpacking Plato and Aristotle in the West again. Not to mention that they can hardly be seen as zealots given the wide spread influence of Averroestic deism in the academy. In any event, no scholasticism, no Decartes, no Renaissance, and no industrial revolution. The germs of thought and intellectual systems that would become the sea change in Western philosophy that would spur on the Enlightenment and scientific method all started up in the high middle ages with Ockham, the other Bacon , Duns Scotus, Erasmus, etc.
  • The US $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill

    Only a few I can think of. Bacon, Saint Augustine if you count Bishops, which I think you can. Marcus Aurelius obviously, the equivalent of a US presidential writing philosophy. I believe Abelard had some serious secular responsibilities at some points.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)
    Democrats have an easy way to raise the debt ceiling alone. The entire "crisis" is fabricated bullshit, the type Dems are supposedly "above." Mitch looks hypocritical, ok, but that doesn't matter, he had already maxed that out filling RGB's spot.

    The problem lies solely in the Democratic Party, which seems likely as not to shut the government down on its own President, and not pass any infrastructure bill, giving the people nothing, because a minority of the party seems to think their party's razor thin majority gives it's most progressive members the ability to dictate terms. It doesn't.

    To be sure, the fact that reconciliation only comes around once a year, combined with the filibuster is part of the problem. A Congress gets one and only one chance to pass new laws with less than 60 Senate votes before the next election, forcing any hope of reform into this one bill, but they knew that back in January. They didn't need a crystal ball to know Mitch would lead a vote for default to keep the pressure on. They needed to hammer out what they wanted back in the summer, not spend all the time grandstanding. Biden can't be the new FDR because Democrats aren't popular enough to win big, they need to realize that. Democrats aren't popular because they keep embracing suicidally unpopular positions like getting rid of gifted programs in local schools, and seem wedded to a race based advocacy of their programs that, when tested, makes voters of all demographics less likely to support them.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    I find this doubtful based on the evidence from Landslide, and various other interviews. Trump's Jan 6th involvement with the crowd was quite limited. He wasn't particularly interested in the protest beforehand, seeing brow beating Mike Pence as his route to staying in power. His speech, filled with ridiculous lies and grievance, was basically the same speech he had given in the preceding weeks, given with less energy than usual.

    There isn't anything showing intent for Trump. He treated Jan 6th as another rally, and wasn't particularly pleased that he didn't get to plan it. With no planning to incite the riot, or use it to his advantage, and indeed, only a minority of the crowd originally planning to enter the capital, there just isn't much there.

    Trump doesn't scheme or lead. He riffs at members of his court in an angrier version of his public speeches and people act based on his rants to please him. It makes intent very hard to prove. It also makes me doubt he can be tied to his organization's financial crimes because he lacks the patience for tax fraud. Maybe his call to Georgia will go somewhere, but proving intent will also be difficult.

    The bar for white collar crime is probably too high, but it's also Trump's management style (not managing and just ranting emotionally) that keeps him safe.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    If you want a check on bad leaders being elected, a body of people chosen for party loyalty and donations who only meet once every four years, with no deliberation, is really not what you want. Even if the Electoral College was supposed to serve some function at one point, it has no instructional legitimacy in doing so and no functional ability to vet candidates, or even its own membership. You'd have something even more chaotic than the election, a bunch of small business owners who donated to their state party getting to choose the future leaders.

    I don't even have to think far outside places I've lived for bad Democratic elected officials. Charlie Rangel, censured by the entire House, a rare unanimous Republican and Democratic vote, for corruption. Bob Mendez, corruption he was able to avoid prison for (reasonable doubt standard) but can surely be held to have been involved in (preponderance of evidence standard). Rod Blagojevich, almost comically incompetent corruption trying to sell Obama's Senate seat. Bill Clinton, if a decent executive, also with multiple sexual harassment and assault claims against him, made more credible by his confirmed behavior.

    Whereas there have also been competent Republican leaders. George Bush Sr. responsibly raised taxes when deficits rose, had realistic, limited war sims in the Gulf, managed the collapse of the USSR expertly. I would argue he was the best foreign policy President since Truman developed Containment.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    I'll be interested to see how mid terms go. Trump voters are mad at the GOP leadership, rightly intuiting that they despise their "God Emperor." Meanwhile, the party is following him on campaigning on an election he clearly lost, not a good issue. Sure, 60% of the party will at least tell pollsters they think he won, but having 40-50% of your party split on your main campaign issue, indeed, having them think you are telling bald faced lies about your main issue, does seem disastrous. And as we saw in Georgia, railing about fraud that hasn't occured kills your turn out. So a big upset could be on the way.

    The GOP doesn't need the Electoral College. They win majorities of House votes. The Democratic dream of minority votes surging against the GOP has never materialized, and by the third generation, new immigrants are far more attracted to the party. Their problem is that their loonies keep winning primaries, and their variously insane and racist messaging is killing them in national elections.

    However, the President's party usually loses in mid-terms, the economy faces major risks in the form of historically high corporate debt, the pandemic won't go away, and worst of all, the Democrats seem unable to govern, so I can see them getting wiped out. It looks 50/50 that the AOC bloc of the party tanks an infrastructure bill that was already passed by the Senate and ends up giving people absolutely nothing. That bloc seems unaware that if a race was run with Trump, a centrist Republican, a centrist Democrat, and a hardcore progressive, they would almost certainly come in a distant last place. Like Trumpism though, this can all be explained by the oppression of their base, the evil media, and voter suppression, clearly it couldn't be that they just aren't that popular and need to compromise...
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    I don't totally disagree with the sentiment but there are a few things to consider:

    1. The GOP base would be the one less likely to be dissuaded by a test. Democrats have far more low propensity voters. Additional barriers, such as having to vote in person versus via mail or drive through, needing to get some form of official ID, etc. all hurts Democratic turn out more than Republican. Trump likely squeaks by on narrow swing state margins if a new, major barrier to voting is implemented. As is, the mail in voting boosted turn out rates arguably cost him a second term, although they also surely boosted his vote total, which he is so proud of.

    2. All the same problems hold for minority turn out.

    3. A test that successfully weeded out Trumpism would have to actually be rigorous, something analogous to the FSOT with its wide range of questions on basic historical, legal, and economic issues. The test isn't super hard, yet it has a 1% pass rate. People not particularly interested in politics already self select out of voting, so any test that would uplift the quality of candidates would necissarily restrict suffrage, probably by more than half. Your median Trump voter his higher income and more likely to be educated, so education as a metric fails.

    4. The plan is going to be accused of racism due to the history of poll tests being used to eliminate Black voters. Although, I don't know if this is particularly fair since those generally weren't actual tests anyone could pass, but Kafkaesque riddles designed for failure. You'd almost certainly end up with disproportionate exclusion of minorities with any test though, which is a real political issue.

    IMO, a much better system would be to not let people vote for the chief executive. Professional city and county managers vastly out preform elected officials at the local and regional level. Professional managers already administer large US political units with millions of people living in them, mostly out West. You could avoid the problem of elections being popularity contests by having people elect a small panel (based on popular vote and region, maybe 6/5 seats) who in turn hire a president and have the power to fire them. Selection is then done by merit by a party small enough to actually deliberate. This keeps regular accountability via elections and removal, but introduces a buffer to populism.

    Also, I wouldn't put it all on the GOP. If a liberal Trump could exist (far harder because everyone would try to cancel them to out flank them), I don't doubt many Democrats would love them.

    I look forward to pitching my system when, following Rome and Byzantium, and Avignon and Rome, we have new systems inaugurated in Mara Lago and Washington. I will say, the "Mara Lagonian Empire" does have a cool ring to it. Rather than the legal titles of Caesar and Augustus from the Dominate, the rulers shall be proclaimed the formal titles of "Donald" and "Trump," but maybe it can be reformed from the inside after the death of the king.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    US elections wouldn't be polarized dumpster fires if we didn't have such an incoherent and broken election system.

    If we went via the popular vote, the GOP would have won one election in a third of a century. The one election they did win was by the slimmest margin in that period, with the benefit of an incumbency they picked up despite losing both the popular vote in 2000, and, based on the most comprehensive recounts released, also the electoral vote.

    So, the GOP would be forced to rebrand in a more democratic system because they simply aren't capable of winning national popular votes anymore. What was once a quirk of the US system that appeared every 30-50 years, is now the entire GOP strategy.

    But then the certification process, which allows room for myriad constitutional crises, like state legislatures overturning their elections, or the old Congress that was conceivably just voted out getting to throw out the electors and pick a new candidate, opens up a whole list of horribles. It's possible for a party to lose, and still use majorities from a previous election to overturn the current one.

    A majority of Republican House members did indeed vote to throw out the electors and appoint Trump president. Of course they did this safely knowing it would never happen, but one could see it happening next time around. Nor will Democrats be immune. Their leadership is obviously losing hold of the party to the extent that it now seems possible they will pass absolutely nothing in terms of infrastructure or a budget, because a small minority of progressives wants their perogatives to come first, despite representing a fraction of the country.

    I certainly could see a Democrat making the case that the Congress should throw out Republican electors because of voter suppression, or because they won the popular vote in the future, now that norms around the process are broken. Indeed, Democrats helped erode these norms by pulling stunts requesting George Bush and Trump electors get thrown out and replaced previously.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)
    I'm big on Presidential histories, but I always avoided the Trump ones because it seemed like so much leaked that they wouldn't reveal much.

    However, I read Landslide, which focuses on the efforts to overturn the election, and it is absolutely hilarious. Comedy gold.

    Apparently Trump wanted to make Guliani Attorney General, or a nominee for the Supreme Court. Think of all the comedy we missed!
  • What is your opinion of Transhumanism?
    Don't think it's a moral debate worth having. If it can be done it will be and I don't suspect any of us are going to win an argument with a 400 IQ posthuman with a brain full of cybernetic implants and lab grown add ons, nor prevail against their 9'8 stature, 6 brawny arms, and adamantium bones. So, I'd prefer to join them and be an X-Man too.

    To be sure, God will liquidate them if they are abominations, but this could be the next step in our redemption. The ape brain isn't so good at avoiding sin.

    Plus the Chinese are already looking at it so we have to, and then I'm sure the ETs already did it so humanity has to. It's a highly modified techno dog eats regular bio dog universe out there if Earth is any example.
  • Who is to blame for climate change?

    Everyone. There are more humans on Earth than we have the ability to sustain without releasing GHGs that in turn warm the planet.

    Some have a larger impact than others. The US, Canada, and Australia have the highest emissions per person. Part of this is climate. North America is a lot less temperate than Europe. Massachusetts towns have lower average winter lows than Moscow or Helsinki, with the Mid-West being significantly colder, while large part of the population lives in deserts that are far hotter. More energy is required for heating and air conditioning. Much lower population density as well as intentional policy decisions to support cars over public transport also feed into it. Some poorer countries have surprisingly large carbon outlays though, Iran is on par with Europe. Poorer countries tend to use less.

    That will likely change over time though. Technology offers a lot of ways for wealthy countries to reduce net emissions, so poorer countries may eventually have higher net emissions per person, which isn't great since they will also continue to experience rapid population growth.

    Probably the place to focus policy wise is on optional choices people make that increase emissions a lot. Living in large dwellings, a majority of Americans driving trucks or SUVs, eating meat every meal. It's particularly bad in the US. Protein, eating meat every meal, is marketed as a way to lose weight, instead of, you know... eating less. People think passenger cars will explode if they touch a gravel road. In fact, every car I've owned I've taken up dirt roads for camping, even used to bring a crappy Ford station wagon up high clearance roads with the help of a wood board. Meanwhile people with Jeeps end up crashing them in 5 inches of snow in the South. We probably add at least another large country's worth of emissions because people refuse to learn to drive. Although really it's more of a fashion statement. Somewhere in the last 15 years using a pick up as the family vehicle became stylish.
  • Why Was There A Big Bang
    In reading a lot of this thread, it strikes me that the many competing theoretical physics models of how the Big Bang might have occured are not particularly useful for answering this question in the sense it is often asked.

    Swerve and symmetry breaking as causal explanations don't get at the more essential question: why is there something rather than nothing? From whence all this matter and energy? Or, as important of a question, why does it behave the way it does?

    It's unclear to me if physics can give us an answer on this. Physics is the study of relationships between physical forces, but how can it study why those relationships are what they are?

    The problem with setting up the existence of matter and energy, or their fundemental behaviors as "brute facts," is twofold.

    1. Many things we once considered brute facts have turned out to be explained by even more fundemental forces and particles. The onion keeps being peeled back. A lack of ability to progress in explanation does not mean there is no deeper explanation.

    2. This answer is highly unsatisfactory, and explanations of theoretical models with varying levels of empirical support and claims of predictive power all amount to so much window dressing on "I don't know, it is what it is."

    Of course, the entire question also seems to presuppose some sort of "God's Eye View" through which all truth corresponds to facts of being. I am not so sure this sort of correspondence epistemology actually makes any sense. On the one hand, it seems beset by the skepticism that has hung like a cloud over modern philosophy, "how can I be sure of anything except for my internal states," and on the other it takes a view of knowledge as somehow pure and ahistorical, when it appears that knowledge is more something that evolved and changes forms over time.
  • Poll: (2020-) COVID-19 pandemic

    Don't know. How would it be rolled out? There are gaps in the current system. All most people got as proof of vaccination is a flimsy paper card that is easily lost or destroyed. My first shot was recorded by my health insurance company but my second, at a mass vaccination site while traveling was lost in the ether. Mandatory vaccination for school districts works because the case load is low and pediatricians have had decades to be forced into adequate records compliance. With the vaccine, my fear would be people losing their jobs, access to services, because the shots were flooded out without good records keeping. This would also probably hit poor people worst. This is less of an issue if it continues to be shown that additional shots aren't a risk, since people could just get another.
  • If the brain can't think, what does?

    Surely the Reptilians would resist that though. They already have a monopoly on powerful people.

    inanimate matter -> animate matter -> animate, thinking matter (us) -> the attaining of the Absolute

    That's why the ETs are observing us, to see if we can do it. Hence all the wild UFO sensor readings on US military aircraft.
  • If there are simulated worlds, does there have to be a first non-simulated one?

    That's how I think of the simulation problem too. I think people are getting ahead of themselves when they start worrying about stuff like the speed of light being potential evidence for the universe being simulated. We already are in a simulation. We don't interact with the real, the noumenal. We interact with internal simulations of them. When I see a car roll up to a stop sign I only understand it in relations to the symbols superimposed on the purr sense immediacy. The sight alone is just a riot of colors and shapes, it's the simulation I understand (and of course, even sense immediacy is a simulation of what is going on outside).

    So we're in a simulation. I suppose we could also be a simulation in a simulation, but rather than a universe running on a PC, we could be the thoughts of another being thinking of what it is like to be an "other.' This is the interpretation of God of the mystic Jacob Boehme.

    God is everything. God wants to know Itself, and must do so through Its self. Thus it posits that which it is not, other minds, through which to know Itself. We know there is something not nothing, because we're here. A thing is defined by what it is not, the negative, and so it makes sense that God must create the other to be as something can not be without a definition.
  • If the brain can't think, what does?
    Who is thinking?
    It's probably better to think of what is doing the thinking. While folk psychology generally has an individual as a unified whole, an indivisible actor, modern psychology and neuroscience paints a picture of multiple interlocking systems, with varying degrees of specialization and autonomy. And indeed this view predates modern science by millenia, with plenty of writers pointing out that we often don't act as a unified whole. Nietzsche was writing about a "congress of souls" instead of a unitary soul at the opening of Beyond Good and Evil long before we had MRIs.

    When Descartes went to "I think, therefore I am," he is perhaps making a bit too much of a leap with the "I" part of the claim (this was a critique of Hume's).

    As an example of this, people with split brains, brains that have had the major connections between the two hemispheres of the brain severed, experiences a lot of abnormal cognitive issues. For instance, if you ask them to write down their ideal career, each hand will give a different answer, and they will not be aware of the discrepancy. So which answer is the real one? I'd say both. Both are the results of thought, they just aren't being edited into a single result due to lack of communication.

    You see this with the experience of volition as well. Folk psychology posits an individual decider, the soul or ego, which makes choices and enacts voluntary actions. However, when testing voluntary movement, research finds that the begining of a voluntary motion begins before a person experiences the sense of deciding to move. The movement begins, and the sense of choosing is retroactively formulated.

    This is common to all movement, but blindsight provides another good example. People with damaged eyes can't see, but they can still imagine sights and dream of vision. On the other hand, people with a sufficiently damaged visual cortex do not experience sight, despite having working eyes. They cannot visualize and do not dream of vision. However, some of the connections from the eyes to the brain don't run through the visual cortex, some run to the motor cortex. And so you get blindsight. People who don't experience sight can nonetheless navigate rooms using vision and even catch things thrown at them. When they make these movements based on a sight they do not experience, they come up with all sorts of explanations for why they made the 'voluntary' movements they did that appear to be inaccurate. Again, an example of a lack of unity in thought.


    As for your position that thought isn't created in the brain, how do you explain the fact that injuries to the brain result in profound effects on thought?

    Is thought non-physical, existing in a sort of ether?

    If so, how does this non-physical thing interact with our physical bodies?

    Why do drugs radically alter perceptions by changing the chemistry of the brain? Thought should be safe if it doesn't live in the brain.

    Why are brain imaging techniques so effective at predicting mental health disorders or the effects of brain injury?
  • Can we know in what realm Plato's mathematical objects exist?

    I think this to mean that bits of matter somehow represent ideas, in the same way that codes represent objects in, say, computer systems. It seems natural, even obvious.

    The problem is that even very simple mental operations can generate enormously divergent patterns of neural activity. Very simple stimulus and response patterns in mice are subject to what is called 'representational drift' - the same stimulus evokes responses in very different regions in the brain over time. Same thing happens with humans, albeit even more complicated. I read that long neurological studies attempted to trace characteristic patterns of activity in human brains when learning simple tasks, like memorising a new word, but that the activities were so divergent that researchers could detect no consistent pattern despite years of studies (see Why Us?, James le Fanu.)

    Furthermore, consider the way in which a divergence of symbolic forms can be used to convey the same idea. A number can be represented by a variety of symbols, but they all specify the same idea. So the meaning of the idea is in some sense separable from its physical form. The mind, of course, can recognise such equivalences and translate one form to another - but again, can that be understood as a physical process? I think rather that it's a pretty cogent argument for dualism.

    Right, when memes are said to live in the host, it isn't in a particular set of synapses we're talking about, it's a set of processes that give rise to a corresponding, similar-enough, set of mental phenomenon. Memes are abstractions that live as part of the emergent system of conciousness in their hosts. However, I think memes can still be understood as physical processes. The evidence for this is that people with damaged brains stop being able to understand ideas. If there is a powerful idea in a society, one that dominates their conciousness, and that society and its texts are destroyed, the meme vanishes until some lost text is found and translated by archeologists. It doesn't hang out in the ether, or if it does, no empirical evidence for it can be produced. So maybe it is the case that the idea lives on in an eternal realm, but the eternal realm is not necissary to explain ideas.

    That you can't pinpoint the physical location of an idea, and that the activity that makes up the idea changes from moment to moment isn't at all incompatible with the findings of neuroscience, it's what we should expect. If ideas corresponded to hardwired structures then we'd have a finite memory capacity and would loose very specific bits of information with age and neuronal death, which isn't what we see. I would also disagree with the code analogy. I think brains as computers analogies generally do more harm than good in explaining things. When you write code, the meaning of your operations doesn't shift over time. Individual strings remain constant. That's not how brains work. The pattern of neuronal activity associated with something as simple as a smell varies over time, eventually corresponding to entirely different sets of neuronal activity. Since the subjective mental phenomena don't appear to change over time, this appears to suggest that the process, not the medium in which it occurs, creates the mental phenomena.

    It's like how ecosystems exist but aren't located in a singular location as well. The movement of ideas works the same way that a terraforming operation could recreate an ecosystem in any physical space using none of the same material.

    So I don't think you need non-material ideas to make sense of ideas. You just need a model where there are myriad ways to represent the same idea. The other problem for eternal ideas is that, if they are not material, how do they interact with our material brains? It seems like you'd need some version of Decartes pineal gland in place for that.

    Which is not to address that the "material world" is itself a subjective abstraction made up of ideas, and that, in every sense, our understanding is the product of ideas. I find valid arguments for forms of idealism or dualism in that direction, just not in Plato's original direction of pointing to seemingly eternal ideas.
  • Can we know in what realm Plato's mathematical objects exist?

    I never really bought the idea that reducing the number of forms and making actualities be the product of mixtures of a smaller set of forms solved the Third Man problem. Plato himself gets at this in the Parmenides when he says there aren't forms for dirt and mud, but that there might be for more essential items. However, you still have the problem of infinite regress with the form of the large or small. The only solution I find particularly appealing there is to boot out the forms that are necissarily comparisons (e.g. small, large, bright, etc.), but then you still have to deal with them in some way.

    Aristotle's categories seem to get around this issue in a much better way. I mentioned Hegel before because I think the synthesis there provides an explanation of how the universal and the particular can interact in being in a "circle of circles," while avoiding the Third Man Problem, through rejecting epistemological realism entirely.
  • Can we know in what realm Plato's mathematical objects exist?

    Not really. I'm not saying it's the case, it's just a model that explains the forms and how they could arise from material processes.
  • Can we know in what realm Plato's mathematical objects exist?

    Yeah but for the materialist, these mental objects are located in the brain. There is a model for explaining how concepts like God or math can spread across billions of human minds, memes, parasitic reproducing bits of idea. They have a physical being in the neurons of their hosts. God is just a very effective meme.

    For memes undergoing natural selection pressures as they reproduce in their hosts it only makes sense that ones that explain the world well and have predictive power would come out on top. Mathematical ideas are memes they are successful because they have utility for their host.


    To get back to the original post, from an idealist perspective , Hegel, you have the universal (forms) producing the specific, since we can only understand the world through ideas (universals). Since the true is the actual, and the truth is the whole, it follows that it is these ideas that give rise to the world of experience, the only world we can speak of directly. It also develops that world to become more complete, to reach a higher stage of truth.

    It's a take I find appealing. More than I do Neoplatonist or Gnostic versions, which have the forms living in a kind of magical soul dimension of pure mind and pure ideas. The problem there, is that, as Aristotle showed, and Plato acknowledged in the Parmenides, the world would be filled with various infinitely regressing forms- a whole dimension of reductio ad absurdum infinities.
  • Remarks on the famous debate between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston

    Maybe it's the framing of physics that is throwing me, but, at least in that context, "universe" does not apply to a class. Nor does it do so vis-a-vis the Big Bang. The universe is the sum total of actual energy and matter that exists, and the volume occupies. Thus the Big Bang talks about the universe expanding. Indeed, some of the best evidence for the theory comes from evidence of this expansion. Classifications don't expand, these text books clearly refer to an expanding material entity, the universe. References to "other universes" generally don't mean "other classes," they mean parallel sum totals of mass and energy that don't interact with each other, or only interact in the magic of science fiction.

    In modern English, the class argument probably applies better to the word "being," but I suppose decades of Big Bang being a headline theory might have changed the sense of the word universe since Russell.
  • Remarks on the famous debate between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston

    I think the idea would be that several aspects of the universe, namely physics' fundemental forces, would be uncaused brute facts; they simply are and produce effects. You can't talk about what does not exist as part of the universe in the same way you can't talk about a round square. "Universe" is just a category for the set of things that can have meaningful statements made about it.

    I think this gets back to Parmenides and the problem of language in dealing with actual potentialities versus actualities. So the idea of a unicorn exists, it exists as a meme that lives encoded in human neurons, but the actuality doesn't exist, but it doesn't not exist in the same way as a round circle does, i.e. ruled out by contradiction.

    It's been a while since I read Aristotle and it's 5 am in Mountain time, just couldn't sleep, so I'm not going to hazard an explanation of him here, but I feel he did a pretty good job parsing out the difference between potential and actual events, which answers the Parmenidean problem of how what is not can exist in our minds, or exist in the past. In that sense, it is meaningful to talk about potential actualities, and I think using the universe as "the material world" in which the potential becomes actual is a useful definition.

    I'll try to find the relevant passages. I think universe could be used meaningfully. The problem is you really have two definitions, the physicalists universe as all actual material, and its potential states, versus the subjective world with all potential experience. Confusion there is a problem of definition though, not a problem of logical contradiction. "That" and "the" aren't nouns and the universe is and I think Russell's claim runs into the problem that universe certainly can be defined meaningfully in the way the word is most commonly employed.

    I suppose the problem for physicalism in asserting various aspects of material being is a set of brute facts is on the one hand, that we keep peeling back layers on the onion and finding that these brute facts do have causes resulting from other layers of fundemental forces, and our elementary particles prove they can break down into even more elementary particles. Newton's gravity was brute fact, and highly predictive and it ultimately was disproven. This is more of a problem vis-a-vis the Big Bang because generally we have to posit fundemental forces changing in that enviornment. The other part of the problem is the Hard Problem of Conciousness, and a gap in explaining how subjective experience arises, and how, if everything is filtered through it, we can posit meaning without it. Because to talk about meaning without an understander can also be said to be meaningless.

    These don't seem to be problems for Russell because he is handwaving it all away as meaningless, but if I read him right he seems to be falling back into a Parmenidean trap. It always struck me that Russell fell into the habit of mistaking what his analytical tools worked on for being synonymous with being worth consideration. If the tools he favored didn't work for a problem, the problem wasn't real, was meaningless, or at least should lay outside philosophy.
  • An answer to The Problem of Evil

    Is good then defined by the absence of evil?

    I suppose many philosophers would have said yes. I like the Gnostic argument that the material world as a whole is simply an accident, but who can say?
  • The United States Republican Party

    At this rate, the party is coming to represent nothing more or less than personal loyalty and subservience to the infallible personage of Donald Trump.
  • Plato's Allegory of the Cave Takeaways
    For me, it's that the cave is in fact sealed, a tomb.

    Kant showed us that we cannot interact with our physical world. Everything is mediated by the structures of the mind. We cannot see the noumenal world.

    So what of the nominal world, the world of eternal forms, names in themselves? It seems to me that we also have a Kantian turn here in modern semiotics. Symbols forever refer to other symbols. Indeed, they help construct perception from the top down at least as much as sensory data does from the bottom up. However, symbols aren't eternal; they change, their meaning and are in constant flux, even at the level of individual understanding. My idealized form of the Good isn't what it was a decade ago, and there is no absolute truth to it outside references to other symbols. "There is nothing outside the text."

    Thus, we can climb ever higher in our cave, but we can never escape to the light of the Absolute. Not only that, but we aren't truly in the cave together. We're alone in our own cave, only hearing others as they bang upon the walls of their own tombs. The shape of our tomb destroys these echos, so we never truly hear them either.

    Perhaps, in a sort of Nietzschean mold, it is this climb itself from which we create meaning, not from any escape? Maybe, but I think we're more like Wiley Coyote, sprinting over thin air, about to plummet the second we look down.
  • A Refutation Of The Ontological Argument, Version 1.0

    Potential infinity is a matter that's settled. However, actual infinity is highly controversial.

    My refutation of Anselm's argument:

    Actual infinities don't exist.

    I believe I may have found a problem with one of your premises though.

    "Actual infinities don't exist," doesn't seem to follow from their being controversial.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)

    I wouldn't get your hopes up. If there was solid information linking Trump to crimes it probably would have leaked by now. His CFO might go to jail. I wouldn't be surprised if Rudy goes to jail, but that's about all that can be hoped for. He can tie up any civil penalties for years, likely until he is dead, and one of the lessons he seemed to have learned from his decade of losses in the 80s is to risk other people's capital instead of his own, so his wealth will probably keep soaring on passive investment.
  • East Asian Buddhists

    I don't know if I agree with that. The argument is that you can tell that your mind is a real one. You know that for sure, and that certitude us a real difference. On other minds it is necissarily agnostic.
  • Does systemic racism exist in the US?

    That's one way to spin it...

    That's a program for community outreach policing, C3, etc. Exactly what advocates have asked for.

    And given both the:

    A. Demonstrable low quality of many forces and;
    B. Surging murder rates in urban areas and sustained high murder rates in the US generally,

    I'd say it might be a wise investment. Several US cities have homicide rates higher than the Latin American states we have refugees fleeing from, it's not like crime doesn't need funding.

    I don't think I'd blame it on a "rotting core." Was the US rotting in the 1960s when crime began to rise? Seems to me it was at its apogee then. The Baby Boomers had arguably the best period of widespread economic growth and social stability of any people in the history of the species, and crime boomed. Did the US radically get its act together in the 2000s? Crime plunged from the early 90s on, to its second lowest point in US history, yet income inequality was surging then too, and the foundations of Trumpism were being laid.
  • Time is an illusion so searching for proof is futile

    That's certainly one way to look at it. I think Whitehead is instructive here:

    Whitehead makes quite explicit the fact that his theory of space-time structure differs in two major respects from the Newtonian theory. First, the theory of space-time structure in the Whiteheadian cosmology is a relational theory as opposed to the "receptacle-container" theory in the Newtonian cosmology (PR 108f, 441). Space-time structure concerns relations between and sustained by the actual occasions of the universe; it is not an actual thing in which the real events of the world occur. Second, the extensive continuum, of which spatiotemporal extensiveness is a more specific determination, is a "real potential" factor of thc universe in the Whiteheadian cosmology as opposed to absolute space and absolute time continua as real and actual things comprising the universe in the Newtonian cosmology (PR 113f; cf. 101-06). The coming-to-be of present actual occasions actualizes -- specifically, spatializes and temporalizes -- an extensive order for the universe. These two points will be referred to again as this investigation concludes.

    That is, space-time as a description of relationships between point events, as opposed to a real container.
  • A Global Awakening
    One of the problems with global warming is that the costs aren't distributed evenly. North America, Europe, and East Asia gain the most from using carbon fuels, while the costs will be borne most by Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The scale of the problem is almost mind boggling. Population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa across the century even for low level projections is astounding. A region that just passed a billion people five years ago will be more populous than all of Asia by 2100. More than half of all children on Earth will live in SSA (and this supposed massive out migration as well).

    The obvious problem is that areas of SSA, with the exception of Bangladesh, will be the high density population areas most effected. Part of this is geography (Bangladesh for example is vulnerable due to its low elevation), and another large part is state capacity and resources. You have a situation where there is exponential population growth even as the climate deteriorates as state capacity is low, or as is the case in areas of CAR and the DRC, practically non-existent.

    Just as the threat of WWI could be seen on the decades leading up to it, we now have the setting for a disaster that could dwarf both the World Wars emerging.

    The effects in wealthier nations might be mitigated, although prior evidence suggests the influx of people fleeing distressed areas could easily lead to a destablization or even collapse in governance. Without strong states, mitigation will likely only occur in wealthy pockets, with investment at the local level.

    So for example, the Las Vegas strip might be saved, even as the city is abandoned.
  • Is the Biblical account of Creation self - consistent?

    Thanks! I wanted to give Strauss credit but I was traveling and didn't have the book on me. He credits him in the text. I haven't had a time to finish the whole commentary because I have such a backlog that I have three Genesis commentaries alone I've started, The Man Who Wrestled With God by Sanford, a Jungian analysis, Mysterium Magnus, Boehme's rather mystical commentary, and this.

    On a side note, I don't get why anyone bothers arguing about the six days vis-a-vis science. There is literally a second origin story in the next chapter that goes differently. Genesis clearly isn't focused on a scientific retelling of creation.
  • POLL: Is morality - objective, subjective or relative?

    I think you're getting at a weakness there with the anti-natalism, but not via the direct route to "why?" The issue is when. How do you scope your moral calculus of harm? Providing humanity with petroleum science in 1600 would help alleviate suffering on a massive scale, perhaps for centuries, but would also help spur on massive population growth and pollution. When the two intersect, as they are now, you now get harm on a gargantuan scale from the same actions that reduced harm.

    The US had this very issue with grain donations after WWII. The US grows a massive food surplus. Donating food to nations with starving people helps reduce harm. However, it then undercuts the price of domestic agricultural products in those countries, which in turn causes poverty and retards economic growth, creating harm.

    The harm principal may appear to be grounded in something objective, but any sort of attempt at utilitarian analysis to pick between mutually exclusive moral actions shows it to be grounded in a subjective perception of the estimated effects of our actions.

    We don't say someone is immoral because they tried to reduce suffering and unknowingly increased it, nor do we call someone moral if they intentionally try to increase suffering, but their actions actually reduce suffering down the line. So objective suffering doesn't actually seem to have anything to do morality, only our subjective predictions on how our choices might effect future suffering. Objective suffering is another thing in itself we can never truly grasp, we can only grope around the edges, at our perceptions of probable outcomes.

    Even if we leave grounding aside, you still have an issue of scope. There is no objective reason to prioritize the end of suffering today against the suffering of ten thousand years from now. However, if you take a long enough view, you could justify acts of extreme harm to others today on the premise that they would reduce harm tomorrow.


    Anyhow, I would take it in a different direction. Altruism at the species level is based on the logic of reciprocity. The rules of reciprocity can be shown using game theory. Morality can be objective in that one could define optimal strategies for reciprocity that result in maximum benefit.
  • POLL: Short Story Competition Proposal

    Ha, gotcha. That idea was a joke though.
  • Survey of philosophers

    Maybe 14 billion years of history and four fundemental physical forces is a huge simplification. Our creators could be dealing with 14 trillion years of history and forty fundemental forces working similar to gravity, the strong nuclear force, etc.

    Anyhow, Yaldaboath doesn't need to simulate that entire universe, he and his Archons only need to simulate your experience, and really only the self conscious parts, so perhaps only 50 bits at a time. If you assume no free will, they also have a pretty good way to keep ahead of the information required to keep the simulation up, and they can always have you go to sleep to do patch updates.
  • Survey of philosophers

    I think the closer we get to being able to create brains in a vat in this world, the more likely it is that we actually are brains in vats.

    There is also the possibility that our simulated universe differs from the "real" one (or at least the universe that is the next level up from us, since we could be a simulation in a simulation) to such a degree that whatever we are is very different from a brain in a vat. Our creators might have generated our world as an experiment to study the evolution of simulated matter that works in profoundly different ways from "real" matter, in which case, we can't extrapolate what we really are as seen by our creators.

    It could explain the lack of intelligent life in our very vast "local" area. No need to explore space, a difficult proposition using anything but Von Neumann probes on absolutely massive timescales. Just get a Dyson Sphere going, plug into 2 billion years of power, and spawn a simulated universe.