Choose a topic

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. HUM
A Mind

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

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.