Choose a topic

.. Cognition
Intelligence and Motivation

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Drag Story Tellers
I Distrust the News
What is to be said?

Structures of Understanding

Culture is Ordinary

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
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

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

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

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
Inclusion and Christmas
Open Society and Falsification
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
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
We Live in the Present
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
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

Post Phenomenology

Not postmodern

Phenomenology was one one the main threads of Western philosophy in the 20th century. It involved a new way of thinking about how we can act as we do in reality that emphasized the fact that we are inextricably immersed in a web of perceptions and interactions with the physical and biological and social worlds we inhabit.

We've been looking at one of the latest developments in phenomenology in the past few weeks; ie ecological psychology. A key concept for me in phenomenology is that what we perceive is meaningful to us AS we experience it. To an amazing extent we just do not perceive stuff around us that isn't meaningful in some way.

The thrust of this way of thinking has focus on how we actually experience our world, in contrast with earlier philosophic traditions which tried to figure out how the world MUST BE. And this approach has been very fruitful.

Via thinkers like Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Wittgenstein, and Quine we have come to see that meaning isn't found in reality. Meaning is found in our mutual dance of interpreting each other and our environment all the time - a dance that never stops. And this way of thinking is consistent with the strange (from an ancient perspective) scientific theories like relativity and quantum mechanics and evolution that transformed our world.

Phenomenology gave us the idea of the distinction between reality and our world. Reality is what exists. Our world is that subset of reality that is meaningful to us. And by the hypothesis nothing is meaningful to us without interaction.

But I have to say - useful as this set of concepts is it seems to me to be quite incomplete. For instance, a theory of affordances nicely explains in the macro what happens when we reach for a doorknob. Our bodies know how to respond to our situation; we don't have to figure it out.

In fact, if we did have to consciously control all of the cells in our body to reach for a doorknob we couldn't do anything. We've learned that consciousness isn't the core of our being that we thought before.

So how is phenomenology incomplete?
I think it's because of the link between perception and meaning. That link works when I'm walking down the street only paying attention to the stuff that's relevant to my project. But how about things we perceive that are not particularly meaningful.

These days I've found I've taken pleasure in the feeling of my feet. I just noticed it. I don't know how the concept of meaning could be relevant for something like that. When somebody is walking down the street talking to the voices in his head how is the idea of interaction with environment the sole consideration?

Or I wake up in the middle of the night with a muscle cramp. These are all experiences that I can't easily cram into the mold of perception is meaningful AS it is perceived.

Phenomenology also is incomplete when it comes to accounting for how we can create new things. I'm aware of this as an artist and writer. Right now I'm sitting composing this essay - what is it in the idea that perception depends on meaning that is relevant to that? Each week I sit down to a blank screen and just decide what meaning I'll create with the words I write. Each week I write in the same physical environment - and each week I write something new.
How does phenomenology account for that?

So what would Post Phenomenology look like?
It would be a bit like the linking of quantum mechanincs and relativity in physics. It would integrate the wholistic phenomenological way of thinking with concepts like evolution that have a huge role in explaining whatever world we occupy.

For instance, I suggest that memetics is a post phenomenological way of thinking. It is compatible with a wholistic philosophy but also give explanations about why certain ideas propagate through a population that phenomenology can't offer.

Post Phenomenolgy will also be interested in how something can possibly be interpretted by anything. It's not enough to say that perception is meaningful AS perceived. We need to see how meat like us implements the concept of meaning.

And I think Ray Kurzweil for one has done good work on that front.
He talks about how there are simple neuronal structures that interpret. They take information and produce different outputs depending on the information. He has shown how networks of such interpreters can actually go from raw data to meaning. He's the guy that developed the Optical Character Recognition systems that let a scanned text be turned into editable text And invented speech recognition systems that google uses when I speak my destination into the navigator on my tablet. The systems that Kurzweil works with are physical and have particular limitations based on that physicality. Those limits have not been explored.

What sort of thoughts CAN'T we have because of the structure of our brains? Isn't that an interesting philosophic question?

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.