Monday, August 10, 2009

Folk philosophy
Are you sure "dualism" means what you think it means?

The real problem about commenting on this is that we have yet to see the full proposals. The Lib Dem blogosphere, particularly the Libertarians, love to get terribly exercised at the prospect of banning thingsIt’s just not liberal! we are constantly reminded, or more precisely, it is Fundamentally Illiberal(complete with scary looking capitalisation). Personally however, I tend to take a more evidence-based approach before banging on about John fucking Mill (I think the Lib Dems should produce their ownGod Trumps inspired Liberal Trumps, with the Mill card always winning. It would save a lot of time). Philosophy is always reached for, psychology or sociology almost never. It is as if the last 100 years never happened. More to the point, it is as if dualism was never critiqued. Frankly, if we did all live in a state of complete seperation of mind and body, the libertarians would have a point. The fact that time and again we learn that environmental factors affect behaviour is a problem they have never come to terms with.- [source]

I don't have a view on banning "air-brushing", but I don't see how whether dualism or d'Holbachian materialism is correct can have any possible bearing on the necessity or efficacy of the proposed ban.

For bonus hilarity, the previous instalment of this row involved people who couldn't diagonalize a Hamiltonian expressing firmly-held opinions on the implications of quantum mechanics on "free will" and, remarkably, the amount of time physicists spend on different problems. Favourite comment:
"You ask for “proof” - well, how is thousands upon thousands of accumulated scientific knowledge? We live in a closed, causational universe (you could, again like a theist, argue for some kind of quantum-get-out-of-jail-free card but that don’t wash). That is what science, from Newton to Darwin to Einstein tells us. " - [source]

which was a surprise, as the last time the political blogosphere tried to dress up as David Deutsch, we were assured:

"Quantum mechanics screws with the whole concept of a personal god at such a fundamental level that even the most ardent religious apologists steer clear of arguing with the cosmologists and trying to take on the uncertainty principle.

They just ignore it and hope that everyone but a few physicists will go on thinking that quantum mechanics is way to difficult to bother trying to understand."

The things you learn on the internets!


LemmusLemmus said...

It's funny you should mention that, as I've just learned:

"All Utilitarians are horribly selfish people as surely as every person who's ever said "you can trust me" is a liar."

(Literally, that sentence isn't even wrong, as you can sometimes trust people who tell you to, but I'm pretty sure that's not what the author means to say.)

There's a lot to learn indeed.

Political Scientist said...

That entire exchange is spectacular!

Did you enjoy your blogging break?

LemmusLemmus said...

My charitable interpretation is that the guy is mistaking Mr. Utilitarianism for Mr. Communism or something. I'm a little surprised that he gets so worked up about it, as in an earlier thread he seemed to argue that morals are a merely aesthetic choice.

Wouldn't neccessarily call the blogging break highly enjoyable, but it did serve both stated purposes.

Charlotte Gore said...

couldn't diagonalize a Hamiltonian expressing firmly-held opinions on the implications of quantum mechanics on "free will"

That's funny. What does it mean? :)

Political Scientist said...

Hello Charlotte,

I've added some punctuation to make the meaning clearer:

"people (who couldn't diagonalize a Hamiltonian) expressing firmly-held opinions on the implications of quantum mechanics on "free will" and, remarkably, the amount of time physicists spend on different problems. "

More verbosely:
There exist within the comment thread, commentors who:
(a) express firmly-held opinions on quantum mechanics, yet
(b) are unable to diagonalize a Hamiltonian

This was intended to imply
(c) that people who know little or nothing about quantum mechanics should adopt a degree of humility when offering sweeping opinions, all the more so when they criticize those who do.

[Having read your twitter feed, I see how it could be read as implying Hamiltonian matrices had opinions on free will. This was not my intention, and I should probably get the Punctuation Fairy to look at my posts before I hit "publish"]

There is, as I'm sure you'll agree, quite a lot of silly in the comments thread, not limited James Graham rather peculiar atribution of "cod philosophy" to physicists. All the stranger, given his technique consists of complaining his opponents are like theists and invoking the trinity of Newton, Darwin, and Einstein as though they were magic words that would prove his argument correct. Oddly, he is rude about 18th century philosophy when his entire argument could be drawn from Enquiry, or for that matter Philo in Dialogues Part VII. He also uses "consequentialist" when he means "naturalistic", which will surely make the baby Anscombe cry.

I agree with you about free will, but as it is a philosophical and not a scientific question, it is simply not going to be resolved by empirical means.

Charlotte Gore said...

Ah thank you, yes, that makes so much more sense!

I'm actually surprised you explained it - I thought you were making a satirical comment about the quality of some of the comments on that thread! ;)