Choose a topic

Pencil and Paper

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
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
Sex and Gender
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Problem with Hedonism
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

Sorites Paradox

What's a heap?

Stanford Encyclopedia of Phlosophy puts the paradox this way: 1 grain of wheat does not make a heap. If 1 grain of wheat does not make a heap then 2 grains of wheat do not. If 2 grains of wheat do not make a heap then 3 grains do not. If 9,999 grains of wheat do not make a heap then 10,000 do not.10,000 grains of wheat do not make a heap.

That is we can't make a heap of wheat from a non heap of wheat by adding one grain at a time.

Similarly if you start with a heap, you can't make it a non heap by taking away a single grain of wheat. Therefore you can never get a non heap from a heap by removing one grain at a time.

This paradox pops up in all sorts of contexts. In general there is a situation moving from one state of affairs to another by steps that are too small to count as the move in itself. For instance, if you start at yellow on the color wheel and go around 30 degrees you move from yellow to red. If you move 1 degree you move from yellow to yellow. Where is the dividing line between yellow and red? It can't be orange because a dividing line would have yellow on one side and red on the other. At orange you have just orange on either side of the line - no line is apparent.

Or consider how a new species evolves from an ancestral one. At what sharp point in time can we say when the new species arose? We can't. It is always true that all children are the same species as the parent.

Situations where the sorites paradox arises involve a certain sort of vagueness. Its sort of like porn - we all know heaps when we see them but they are hard to define precisely . Philosophers relate to vagueness like nature supposedly related to a vacuum - with abhorrence. But perhaps this abhorrence is misplaced.

One approach to resolving the paradox is to first look at the extreme cases. One grain of wheat isn't a heap, A truck load of wheat on the floor is a heap. And there are boundary cases where we can't really say one way or the other.

This morning Elaine suggested an interesting variation on this: say you took the truckload of wheat and spread it out so it was only a single grain thick.
Would that be a heap?
How about two layers thick? Or three . . . - get the idea?

Vagueness might have more than semantic significance. Not only is the distinction between heap and non heap vague but the heap itself is sort of vague. It has many members but very little is known of those as individuals - they are all part of this vague structure called a heap. Since the structure is vague there aren't strong forces maintaining a certain state of affairs.

And this has practical results. It's fun to jump from a height into a pile of wheat because the grains can move to absorb the energy of your fall without affecting the heap as a whole very much. Which interestingly might give us a way to define a heap. If small changes in the members make a big difference then that's not a heap. If small changes don't make a big difference then that's a heap.

Or we might try a more pragmatic definition: If you'd be comfortable leaping into it then it's a heap.

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.