Choose a topic

.. Epistemology
Language and thought

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Consciousness defined
Dialectics and Evolution
Intentional Stance
Training vs learning
What is a Vegetable?

.. Epistmology
Dire Warnings

.. Evolution
Life is Amazing
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Adversarial Legislatures
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Red Rover Red Rover
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

Freedom and Badness

Is badness a mental disease?

A surprising thing about the pandemic caused social lockdown is that many many stores in my neighborhood have boarded up their windows. A beautiful thing about that is that dozens of artists have taken to creating original artwork on the blank panels. As you can see, there are many artist's visions being presented for free for the locked down city to enjoy as they go out once a day for exercise and groceries. One woman's work struck me in particular. She's an excellent draughtswoman who works in black and white, The first work I saw of hers was this panel showing beautiful portraits of dogs. See the whitish patches? I realize now that those are places where her work was vandalized and she had to redo it. Then, down the street closer to my home she did this. One day it had been replaced with this: I contacted the store owner and found out that she'd taken the work home because it was being vandalized so much she couldn't finish it.


I've seen that kind of vandalism a lot. People steal cans of spray paint and feel they can just muck up anything they want. I've even met people who think like that (in the course of other work). They claim to see nothing wrong with what they are doing. I've met people who smirkingly tell me that they are improving things. These days, as a philosopher in this relativistic age, I find I can't refute them. What is 'good' and what is 'bad' these days?

Well - it's becoming clear to me that you can't say that the physical change of the vandalism is good or bad. Paint is just paint. The impression we get from an image is just an impression. Who is to say which impression is good or bad - on what basis would we say?

I'm thinking that the badness isn't in the physical picture - it's in the brain of the vandal. For whatever reason, that brain thinks the vandalism is a good thing to do. The Doors put it this way once: (at a time when I was hitch-hiking a lot).
"There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride, sweet family will die
Killer on the road"

I once actually picked up a guy with a brain like that; fortunately he got out without focussing on me. I know they exist though.

Why is their evil like that in the world?
It's a particular problem for religions that propose a god that is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving who created everything that exists. Why would such a being create evil?

The standard answer to that is (paraphrasing here) that god didn't create evil. God created free will and free means you can do anything - including being bad.
And there is a more subtle aspect to that: that being good is meaningless unless there is bad to contrast it with.
The unsubtle aspect of that is that you can't be proud of being good without sneering at those who are bad.

I have never seen the necessity of that dichotomy. Life is hard and complicated enough with dealing with brains that are squirming like a toad. If we were all good people, and by far the most of us are, we will still face huge challenges in keeping ourselves together amidst the hurley burey of our society - but do we really need bad people thrown into that mix?

I know what our world is like.
I know that it can generate intolerable stress that causes lots of mental damage.
I also know that due to genetic variation people are born with brains with a very wide range of capabilities and attitudes. But also as we learn more and more about ourselves we are learning that lots of our behavior is a product of very particular brain structures.

For instance, wikipedia tells me that the fusiform face area is the area of the brain that recognizes faces. If that area is damaged for whatever reason the capacity to recognize faces is lost. Another area of the brain is responsible for a feeling of familiarity If that area is damaged but the fusiform face area is intact, the patient recognizes the face but thinks it's an imposter. (That's called Capgras Syndrome)

So - we might not be far from a time when a brain scan could reveal the brain structure that makes people think it's a good idea to vandalize other people's work. Once we have that capacity we might be able to just change that area and the desire to vandalize would just vanish. Should we do that if we can? I sure don't recommend rushing into that. I've known people who are severely bipolar and their symptoms are relieved by Lithium. And while that alleviates their symptoms it has side effects like destroying the will and the ability to make pictures. And they struggle with which is worse.

The brain is a very complex and multi-dimensional system that has grown to it's present state. You can't just change one part (like changing a tire on a car) without cascading changes happening throughout the brain and body and even the set of social relations we are all involved in. But what if the time comes when we understand that system well enough to make those kinds of changes.

Should we or shouldn't we?
Why or why not?

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.