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...Cognition
Pencil and Paper

Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
Weave
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Cognition
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
Genius
GIGO
I Lost My Knife
Illusion
Incomplete Information and Stories
Instinct
Is free will an illusion?
Metarepresentations
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Superstition
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?

Economics
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
Markets
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

Environmentalism
Blowing Up Pipelines

Epistemology
Absolute Knowledge
Exists
I do not know everything
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Unpredictability
Verificationism

Evolution
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?
Networks
Omicron
Politics and Evolution
Roles
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Freedom
Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Laws
Libertarian Coercion

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

Mathematics
As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Memetics
Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Morality
Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?

pending
Police

Philosophy
Agency
Being
Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Ratchets
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?

Politics
If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority

Programming
Loopsidaisy

Science
Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Fields
Neurophilosophy
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Time
Too Small to See
UFOs
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

Society
A society needs a government.
Belly of the Beast
Civilization
Corruption
Cultural Appropriation
Family Values
Governance
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
Magic
Open Society and Falsification
Privacy
Sex and Gender
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Problem with Hedonism
Totalitarianism
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

UBI
Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs







Taking Things on Faith

Structures of Understanding

Among my personal quirks is that the idea of god seems unreasonable to me and so I don't take it into account in my own daily life - aside from philosophy discussions of course :-) I've met people who understand how unreasonable the idea is but they accept it on faith. I've heard them refer to themselves as 'believers' and 'people of faith' and the capacity to believe unreasonable things is a measure of the strength of their faith. People like me are called faithless.

Among people who find the idea of god to be unreasonable are many who agree in a way. They claim to take nothing on faith. They need to be convinced by reliable evidence. And since even religionists don't claim to have convincing evidence for god (just faith) then they don't have to rely on faith.

Both are mistaken but in different ways.
My view was formed when I considered solipsists and these 'brain in a vat' thought experiments. The movie The Matrix made it vivid. Rather than being a person walking around in reality we 'could' be a brain in a vat getting sensory information from (say) evil scientists. The solipsist position is that there would be no way from experience alone to tell that that was not the case. Seemed to be a solid argument that couldn't be countered. I countered it by saying to myself; I take on faith that reality exists and that I can learn about it. So the solipsist might be right. There is no way to refute the assertion. But it's completely sterile. I've not found it to yield any other ideas - it's a dead end - nothing more to be learned or said.

Religionists and I both take on faith that reality exists and that we can learn about it. I don't think people could function in reality at all without taking that on faith. Even solipsists take that on faith when they are outside of philosophy discussions :-)

But given that reality exists and that I can learn about it, the capability of being convinced by reliable evidence is hugely important. And for me, reliable evidence gets grounded in reality somehow. Starting as babies with just taking the existence of reality on faith and proceeding to learn about it, that learning produces a mental structure that I call a structure of understanding. I call it a mental structure because it's an abstract explanation about how we come to know and understand things but I also think that it reflects how our brains physically work. A structure of understanding is the set of things we've learned that don't contradict what we already know.

We might take learning to be a two step process here. When we first perceive some feature of reality it is meaningless until we can find its place in our structure of understanding. Sometimes we make a new place for it and the structure adjusts accordingly to accommodate it. And it happens that if we can't assign meaning to that raw perception then it doesn't become a thing we are aware of. Religionist and I share the faith that reality exist and that we can learn about it. I think that they have an extra layer of faith at the foundation of their structure of understanding; a layer that involves the existence of a god. That extra layer can profoundly affect the interpretation of our perceptions.

In general I've found this to be pretty benign. When I was young there was a rule of not talking about religion or politics at the supper table. This allowed people with different things taken on faith to get along. Somehow that's been lost. Well - I watched it happen and at first it was progressive people doing it. Many progressive movements have involved forcing people of different faiths to confront something they perceived as bad as if it was good.

Now our society is somewhat in turmoil. I think vaccines are safe and a necessary and reasonable public health measure. Other people find that stories about vaccines magnetizing people fit right into their own structure of understanding. And they are not politely keeping their views to themselves.

I was interested to learn that Trump was influenced by Norman Vincent Peale and his idea of "positive thinking". That idea was that if you say something often enough and positively enough, many people will adopt what you say into the things they take on faith. Which of course affects people's structure of understanding which in turn affects what seems reasonable to them and their behavior.

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.