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
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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
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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
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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

The Sovereign Citizen

A tad self centered

Last week police in Massachusetts encountered a group of heavily armed men travelling in two cars. They didn't have drivers licences or gun permits and told the police that they didn't need those things because they don't recognize the US government as legitimate and so it's don't apply to them. There are many groups of them. Many are right wing extremists but the ones last week belonged to a black group called Rise of the Moors.

In Canada we have people with similar ideas who call themselves 'free men on the land'. These are nasty people. They will rent a property from you and then refuse to pay rent because they aren't bound by the laws of the land. They trash the place in revenge when finally successfully evicted.

I think these people are literally sick. They've caught a virus. But it's a mental virus. We call them memes. Years ago, Dennett likened memes to viruses that infected brains that were indifferent to the needs of those brains. With sovereign citizens we can see a clear example of a harmful meme though most memes are quite benign and we need them to survive.

But the sovereign citizens had been prepared to receive that meme by many aspects of the way we think about ourselves. People like to talk in terms of a 'social contract' that binds society together. I can see why. The idea of a contract is a set of rules that the signatories are bound by. Society has rules that everyone is bound by but it's pernicious to call that a contract because (apart from immigrants) the citizens born into a culture never sign a contract. I think the sovereign citizens are saying that they aren't bound by something they never agreed to.

I find this frustrating in a way. They are wrong but there is no rational argument that is persuasive to them. They can just cross their arms and refuse to agree. And we do live in an era where it's normal for public figures to tell big lies and make up alternative facts on the spot.

There are roots of this in both the left and the right.
I remember the post-modernist movement and it's assertion that there are no facts at all. There are only assertions made in the interests of the powerful.
That was a major attack on science.
And it almost makes sense if you look at the human project of scientific research. The problem is that science gives us useful knowledge that has built our world. Post-modernists gave us bad poetry and ugly pictures. The post-modernists tried to let the perfect kill the good. That worked for a lot of people.

Of course irrationalism is way older than post-modernists. All religions are irrational at base no matter how logical a superstructure they try to build on it. And religion is way closer to the core of our culture than post-modernists ever were.

In researching this topic I came across this idea at
(start quote)
. . . the extreme right became linked to the Christian Identity Movement. The Christian Identity Movement was ideologically centered on the belief that members of the Aryan race were God’s chosen people, not the Jews, and that America was God’s promised land reserved for Aryans alone. The ideology was built around radical interpretations of the Bible and it was embedded with conspiracy theories that the United States government had been infiltrated completely by Jews creating what the movement called the Zionist Occupational Government. It is under this belief system that the numerous far–right groups emerged.

(end quote)

I think it's important to note that rational persuasion will not work here. With persuasion the conversants have to understand the words each uses. I can't converse with a person speaks only French and I'm a Canadian :-( The problem is worse when people use the same language but interpret the words in radically different ways. What is to be done?

To a certain extent "might is right" will apply. Sovereign citizens may refuse to obey the law and they'll go to jail a lot. But one way I look at this is in terms of games theory where you have populations interacting. Most people in a society are co-operative in that they think they benefit by playing by the rules. The co-operative people trust that others are co-operative too. This gives opportunities to people who are cheaters. The cheaters thrive until the co-operators get wise and take steps against them. It turns out that an equilibrium can be achieved. A population generally has a proportion of co-operators/cheaters that is fairly constant. I consider sovereign citizens to be cheaters. Over time co-operators will learn how to handle the small number of them among us.

Returning to the earlier example of freemen on the land renting houses and then saying they are not bound by Canada's laws and don't pay rent.
This is parasitic behavior.
A society of only co-operators is conceivable (though unlikely) because it produces what it needs to survive. A society of only parasites couldn't survive because it doesn't produce. I think Kant had a maxim about that :-)

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.