Choose a topic

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Dialectics and Evolution

.. Evolution
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Reusable Bags
Sleeping in a tent
Social Media

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Excellence is a Plateau
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
Gender dysphoria
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Intelligence and Motivation
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
Structures of Understanding
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?
What is going on?

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
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
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?

Body Plans
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 Job
A society needs a government.
Babies and Bathwater
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Drag Story Tellers
Family Values
Governance and Power
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
I Distrust the News
Inclusion and Christmas
Its a Free Country
Life Extension
Moral Decline
Open Society and Falsification
Parents, Children, and Community
Rethinking Rights
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Social vs Individual Responsibility.
Society and The State
Society evolved
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Common Good
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
The Rule of Law.
Thoughts on Justice
To the Moon
Trial by jury
Virtue Signalling
We Live in the Present
What is to be said?
What made freedom a bad word?
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

Rethinking Knowledge

We don't know everything

I recently read an interesting piece by David Papineau called Knowledge is Crude.
His thesis is that we have a concept of knowledge that goes back through evolutionary history to at least chimpanzees that doesn't fit our present world very well.

He uses a legal example: say there was a prison riot in which 99 people assaulted guards and one did not. There is no direct evidence (in the hypothesis) about which inmates had done the assault. Each has a 99% chance of being guilty and a 1% chance of being innocent. What would you do? Let them all go rather than convict and innocent person? Or convict them all knowing that one innocent person would be punished.

Papineau imagines knowledge in the context of a troop of chimpanzees. There is an alpha male who hoards all the bananas. The lesser males have to 'know' that the alpha male can't see a particular banana before they will go for it. This is a pretty sophisticated cognitive capacity. But Papineau is thinking of it as ancient and primitive.

He turns to a legal context again by noting that eye-witness testimony is surprisingly unreliable. Say eye witness testimony is correct 95% of the time. We intuitively trust that more than a statistical case that is 99% certain.

With the chimpanzee the knowledge of the location of the banana and the alpha male would be very direct. The chimp would basically have no doubt. With statistical knowledge there is always some doubt. And it seems that we call ideas and facts that we don't doubt, knowledge.

As Papineau points out we have evolved, even in the legal system to a slightly looser standard. Rather than beyond doubt we have beyond reasonable doubt. This involves checking the case against evidence and what we already know. This is not a perfect or automatic process but it also works pretty well.

Science presents a similar issue. Since Hume we have had to acknowledge that scientific knowledge is contingent. Many times things have been discovered that changed the meaning of much of what is 'known'. But this is a feature, not a bug. It has allowed science to evolve to be the body of knowledge we use (if not trust) so much today.

Papineau points to a distinction between knowledge and belief. The idea is that a belief is an inner judgement that can be true or false. I'm not sure if it makes sense to distinguish between beliefs and knowledge. Both beliefs and knowledge can be correct or incorrect and that will influence our interpretation of our situation and how we behave.

Papineau touches on an evolutionary account of why we tend to trust direct knowledge over indirect knowledge and then loses that idea. But if direct knowledge predates homo sapiens then I'd see it is a pretty fundamental structure in our brains. We feel it directly like we feel vision or emotion. Indirect knowledge involves capacities that evolved later that enables abstract ideas and language. And I suspect that in humans there will always be a tension between the two. Direct knowledge involves motivation by emotion. Indirect knowledge involves motivation based on what we have learned. Don't we need both?

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.