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.. Epistemology
Semiotics and Body Language

.. HUM
A Mind

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
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
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
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
Inclusion and Christmas
Open Society and Falsification
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
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

What is a newspaper?

Levels of Abstraction

. . . . something as simple as a newspaper might be specified to six levels, as in Douglas Hofstadter's illustration of that ambiguity, with a progression from abstract to concrete in Godel, Escher, Bach (1979):[12]
(1) a publication]
(2) a newspaper]
(3) The San Francisco Chronicle]
(4) the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle]
(5) my copy of the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle]
(6) my copy of the May 18 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle as it was when I first picked it up (as contrasted with my copy as it was a few days later: in my fireplace, burning)]
An abstraction can thus encapsulate each of these levels of detail with no loss of generality. But perhaps a detective or philosopher/scientist/engineer might seek to learn about something, at progressively deeper levels of detail, to solve a crime or a puzzle. (from wikipedia @

Thus we can understand the word newspaper on many logical levels. That is; the many levels all taken together are an abstraction. All of these levels can be the case at same time. A person is aware of the context that the word is being used in and plucks the right meaning out of the abstraction.

There is also a contrast involved between something abstract and something concrete. Abstractions are similar to platonic forms. The word apple stands for an abstraction and an apple in my hand is a concrete example. Numbers present another sort of example that in an interesting way depends on abstractions that can have concrete examples. Just saying "2" doesn't say much. But saying "here are 2 apples" says quite a bit.

I've combined these two ideas of "logical level" and abstraction into the idea of "levels of abstraction". I think I got the idea 40 years ago from Gregory Bateson's book Steps to an Ecology of Mind but I don't have a copy of it now and I admit that I can't find any reference to it. But the idea is attractive enough to me that I claim it as my own too. I'm motivated by a philosophic need to ground things like cognition (as an extreme example) in physical reality.

The common view of atomic physics demonstrates the idea pretty clearly. We have protons and neutrons and electrons that have certain properties. Those properties let them combine to make atoms. That's going up one level. You can see how the subatomic particles are made of things like quarks. That's going down one level. I've found that you can go up through many levels. Atoms make molecules with properties that atoms don't have - chemistry. Biology is a level where things are made of molecules but can do other things like crawl around And the capacity to crawl around enables cognition.

I call those levels "levels of abstraction" One friend told me that the label gives her hives. But - hey - I do need a label for the idea and this is the one that I think fits. I'm not strongly attached to labels and if there is a better one then I'd like to see it.

I think the motivation to use "levels" is obvious from what I've said already but I do acknowledge the problems with using a spatial reference - levels are not really above or below and certainly no level is the 'real' level.

The motivation for "abstraction" is a bit more subtle. It's like all of the levels in the newspaper example are true at once - forming an abstraction that has properties that the levels themselves don't have. (note these are logical levels) That is: you can read a newspaper - all those things that are not readable create something that is readable. When properties of lower level things combine to produce higher level things - I call that abstraction.
et voila!! Levels of Abstraction!

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.