Choose a topic

The Past and the Future.

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
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
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


What's a government for?

We all live in states these days.
Nobody created states. They evolved from earlier forms of social organization like tribes. Since states evolved, I wouldn't say they have any sort of purpose. They exist.

States can differ a lot.

But what states do is organize a population within a territory according to various rules. That is, states govern their population.

In a democracy there is the idea that that governance should ultimately be in the interests of the population governed. This is tricky to define and achieve, but a part of the mechanism is that citizens vote and that the will of the majority, as expressed in elections, determines the composition of the legislatures that create laws and institutions. This can work and be stable. Places like Canada have been pretty stable and prosperous places for a long time.

But the idea of the will of the majority is an aggregate will - no one person determines what the state will do. In fact, democratic states have many governance systems in place besides legislatures. There are constitutions and courts and police and a civil service all interacting. Many people have taken "the will of the people" to mean "my will". In practice, since referenda are pretty rare, this means that the citizen votes for a representative in a legislature. And in general those representatives organize themselves into parties.

I'm a person with fairly strong ideas about how society should govern itself. I think we need to move away from capitalism and towards a better system. I even have ideas about what that system would be like. But I don't have any illusion that my preferences will come to fruition any time soon. Democracies, and maybe all political systems, face a more proximate problem than the best political or economic philosophy. That is; good governance.

I suggest that good governance involves government that is stable and reliable and trustworthy. I like Popper's idea of an Open Society. This is a society that has no fixed vision about what society should be like, but instead just moves along solving problems as they arise. Popper criticized everyone from Plato to Marx because they all claimed to know how society should be organized and the end of attaining that state justified any means to get there.

It's why I like democracy. I think democratic societies sort of bumble along slowly getting better and better but without a goal that can be stated as a dogma. That kind of structure can enable an Open Society.

So for me, a legislature should be clear mindedly considering the issues before it. What are the facts here? What do people who have studied things think? What's the mood of the people?

That is an idealistic view of course but I think that minority governments have a much harder job attaining that ideal. With minority government minorities can control the government agenda by withholding support unless concessions are made by the majority to the minority. We are seeing an extreme example of that in the USA. The Democrats have a razor thin minority in the Senate. They are proposing policies for repairing America's sick democracy. They are being stymied by a couple of grandstanding members of their own party.

That's not good governance.
The USA opposition is constantly trying to force concessions to avoid the government defaulting on its debts. That is not good governance.

One issue is that people are rarely thinking about governance and how to do it. Rather, their concern is: "is my voice being heard?"

I can sympathize. I have strong ideas that I think are well worked out and that I'd like to present to a legislature or prime minister and have them say: "Great idea!! Let's do it!"

That's what people imagine when they want their voice to be heard. Of course I'd have to stand in line. Lots of people are like me. But we all have different ideas. So good luck with being heard.

In Canada our electoral system is a "first past the post is the winner" type system. People cast ballots and the ballots are counted and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

It's not a perfect system, especially when the vote is close. It's a system where many minority ideas are never considered in the legislature. It leads people who voted for candidates who didn't win with the idea of "my vote doesn't count". This is an illusion. All votes are equal. It's just that one or other candidate gets the most votes.

There are alternative systems to first past the post. They involve voters ranking candidates on their ballot in terms of preference. Which requires quite a complex vote counting procedure that isn't as transparent as first past the post. And I think that with such a system, given political system based on parties, would rarely establish a stable majority government. And I think good governance is more important than all ideas being represented in the legislature.

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.