Choose a topic

.. Society
We Live in the Present

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
Culture is Ordinary
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
Job Destroyers
Money and Value
Money is Different
National Accounts
Necessary Production
Paper Wealth
Post Capitalist Society
Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
Social Wealth vs Surplus Value
Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
The Ontology of Debt
Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability

Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Libertarian Coercion

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Too Small to See
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

A society needs a government.
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Family Values
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
Open Society and Falsification
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
To the Moon
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

Absolute Knowledge

The best we know

Like Johnson I approach a stone and kick it. The shock on the toe of my boot convinces me that it is really there. And we have thoughts and make statements about reality that are more or less accurate or true. Absolute has to do with statements that cannot be wrong. That seems to be a good basis for understanding reality; that we build our understanding based on things that are absolutely true.

The search for those things that are absolutely true went on for a long time. It continues in some circles. It seems reasonable but the search turned out to be sterile. It never discovered anything not built into its assumptions. It is possible to say things that are absolutely true. The most common sort are tautologies. If I say 'one is one' then that is absolutely true but doesn't get us far.

t took Russell/Whitehead several hundred pages to prove that 1+1=2. And that might be absolutely true but most of us have to take their word on that. Most of us just take a definitional approach; that is, 2 is defined to what 1 + 1 produces.. And it definitions work well for many things. But they fall apart at the edges.

A 747 is an airplane. Is a helicopter an airplane? That depends on the details you include in the definition. And notoriously, no definition is ever complete. So this idea of airplane that seemed at first glance to be absolute is actually hard to pin down.

Math and logic are disciplines that deal quite a bit with absolutes. They do that by exploring the implications of complicated tautologies that they develop. They produce statements like e = m c^2 out of a series of mathematical manipulations and by gum it is found to correspond to reality with fabulous accuracy. We learn from it unlikely things like 'light always moves at the same speed' which we take to be absolutely true. And then people shake that up by showing instances where information moved faster than light.

So while math gives us knowledge of relationships that may be absolute but whose connection to actual relationships may be tenuous. Rather than absolute knowledge we have "the best we know".

We take numbers usually to be absolutes. 2 apples is 2 apples. But some numbers are called irrational because we know they are there but can't say precisely what their value is. Pi is an example. It's the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it's diameter. It pops up all over the place. It's value is: 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286 . . . . to 76 places Note the dots at the end. They indicate that there are more decimal places that are not shown. You can find pi to a million places on the internet and it still ends with those dots. So pi is a thing that we take to be absolute but we don't know exactly what it is. We go with "the best we know".

Since I was young I've been fascinated with the way reality is made of atoms. I would look at the complexity of reality and marvel that it's all 'just' atoms. I was a deterministic reductionist (or maybe a reductionistic determinist - I forget:-) A big shock was to learn that atoms weren't the fundamental things. Atoms are made of subatomic particles. And those are made of quarks and all sorts of things Which begged the question of course of what those things were made of. There seemed to be an endless regression of levels. It seems hopeless to understand the fundamental level - the level that would replace the atoms in my old idea that everything is 'just' atoms. Later I became comfortable with it being hopeless to understand that level. But I've come to think that I don't need to understand that level. I take on faith that reality exists and that I can learn about it. I can do that without considering any sort of bottom level of reality.

Let's look at what absolute knowledge might be like in that context. Let's recall that we are talking about statements that can be more or less true. Dawkins speaks of a teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Can we say absolutely that it is not there? I'd say yes - but my standard for absolute is 'the best we know' And really - even if the teapot was there, undetected forever, the absolute truth of it's existence wouldn't matter.

How pragmatic is that? What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.