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

Moral Realism.

It Depends

I'm a realist. That is: I have faith that reality exists and that I can learn about it.

This implies that there are true or false statements that can be made about reality.
So I might say as a true statement: On Earth the acceleration caused by the force of gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared. That is actually only an approximation because the Earth is not a perfect sphere and there are variations that depend on the actual structure of the Earth at a place. But we take the statement to be true because we think that we can refine the figure as much as we want given more information.

In 'Stranger In A Strange Land" Heinlein gave us the idea of a 'fair witness' (Anne in the story). If Anne was asked 'What color is yonder house?' she'd say 'the sides I can see are white.'

I take Anne as a realist. A sceptic might scoff: it is false to say that the house has a color at all. It's all in your head. Without a perceiver it is meaningless to speak of what color a house is. That is, there is no color in reality and it's all in your mind. And who is to say what is in your mind is the same as what is in my mind?

But then it must be asked right away; who is to say it's not? You can't jump from 'Maybe it's different' to 'It is different' We live in an age when color blindness is well known. I think one common accomodation is how traffic lights us both color and position or symbol to indicate the state of the system to drivers. But all such systems depend on drivers who have the capacity to see.

Can moral statements be true or false in the way that statements about reality can be true or false?
Moral realism asserts that.

I was reading a moral sceptic today (JL Mackie) who opened a famous essay (The Subjectivity of Values) with the bald statement "There are no objective values". Mackie holds that while moral values are built into our language and culture they don't objectively exist. For instance, that which is moral in one culture is not moral in another culture. How can a moral idea be objective if it isn't universal? For me, the moral sceptics fall into the absolutist trap - the platonic idea that nothing is objective unless it is perfect and eternally unchanging.

There is an easy way out of that trap.
We make moral judgements in a way much like we understand language. The basic structure is that information goes into a system and interpretation comes out. With language we are interpreting statements in many ways. With morality we are interpreting situations in terms of right and wrong. With language we have brains blessed by evolution with structures that can interpret combined with a culture that informs that structure. ie 'et' means 'and' in some languages and is a contraction of 'eat' in others

I hold that it is objectively true that 'et' means 'and' in French. In a similar (but more complicated way) abortion is 'good' in my culture but 'bad' in others What this points to is the fact that the goodness or badness of abortion is not given by reality at the level of atoms.

And I can take it as true that if you believe that souls are created at conception and that only God can terminate a soul - then for you - abortion is objectively wrong. I don't believe that and so for me abortion isn't really a moral issue. That's an objective stance too. In the sense that objective has to do with making statements that can be shown to be true or false.

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.