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

The Source of Bad Behavior

Can't we just get along?

I was in a store the other day talking to a woman about a new phone. At the other end of the counter a man was yelling at another clerk. He left in a rage and knocked over a display as he left, spilling it at my feet. I was like wow! I couldn't do that. Most people couldn't I think. It's certainly not the sort of action that does any good in the immediate sense and in the long term has a bad effect for the perpetrator. For instance, they get barred from stores. So I'd call that bad behavior. It's a pretty mild example. But I wonder; where does that come from? Why doesn't everyone just spontaneously do what's needed so we all get along in peace?

One part of the answer is that we are biological things: a level of abstraction distinct from things like crystals. Crystals deal with pretty simple atomic structures where atoms get pushed into place by fields. With atoms in a field, every atom is in it's place - no thought involved.

I've been fooling around with a simulation of a magnetic field lately. I can draw lines of force between 'poles'. Each line is unique, but all the lines depend on the same underlying field.

Biology isn't like that. In biology everything is detached from everything else. There is a web of mutual interactions for sure but it's a web where everything is looking out for itself, not a web with an underlying field that determines the fate of everything.

It's an interesting side note that the internal structure of biological things very much depends on a certain sort of field, though not one like a magnetic field. But within organisms, the form of everything is determined by its 'position' within the organism.. But a fox hunting a rabbit isn't following any sort of field gradient. Both the fox and rabbit are continually making choices.

People take this business of making choices to another level. We are social animals with language. This enables an understanding of reality that is far beyond what other creatures can attain. We do things for our own (often very subtle) reasons. I call this autonomy. Others call it free will. No need to quibble about the terms here. And there is no reason why the things we do should be agreeable to everyone. In fact, that may be impossible since people aren't all responding to some underlying field that organizes everything.

A society depends on people acting in a harmonious way. Since we don't have a field to refer to we instead generally act according to the norms of society. But a few among us who can prosper by cheating. Thieves and liars for example.

People are very variable. We are each unique in many ways. We all share capabilities but we get them in variable amounts. Some of us are eloquent. Others good at making pictures. Some find that being cooperative is very influential. Others less so.

I'm thinking of the guy who caused the disturbance in the store. His anger control mechanism wasn't being very effective but his behavior is well within human norms. When the capacity for empathy is impaired, then the person doesn't care for the welfare of others. That starts to become what I call evil. The guy in the store did no harm - it was just a bit upsetting.

Thinking about the fox and rabbit, being caught is certainly bad for the rabbit. But the fox isn't really being evil. Or thinking of natural disasters that kill hundreds of thousands of people. That is bad, but it's not evil.

For me there is a bit of a paradox here. I've been interested in theodicy - the problem of evil in Christian theology. The issue is, given an all loving and omnipotent and omniscient being that created reality, why is there any evil at all? And the response has been that to be able to endow people with freedom then necessarily some of them would choose to do bad. This is very similar to my own conclusion. We are autonomous (or free) creatures. That is actually true. That means it's in evitable that some of us will be bad.

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.