Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Academic Philosophers

Yes, this is slightly because it's personal to me. I am in that philosopher's carnival. However, in this case it simply allows me to get the necessary data.

While I'm clearly in the 'bad' part of the mixed bag, I cannot even find out why that is, according to him. He is willing to blithely dismiss reams of attempted thought - not just my own, which would be a different problem - but not willing to actually defend such.

Either that or he posts implicit insults and then doesn't watch the comments attempting to take him to task.

As you will know if you've ever taken a university course, this is standard modus operandi of professors. This is another reason I'm against credentials. (Not simply because I don't have any.) Professors use their credentials as a replacement for arguments. Anything they deem 'unworthy' can simply be declared such because the 'unworthy' don't have an expensive piece of paper.

I don't mind being called a 'mixed bag.' I really don't give a crap what Richard Chappell thinks. However, he is part of a pernicious social system that allows itself to condemn without allowing the condemned to redeem themselves. In other words, by all evidence, they do not condemn because they want people to improve, but just because they want to condemn people. And this I do care about.

Incidentally, I do like my theories to be falisifiable. To whit; a simple, consistent defence of his charge, such that I (and the others) have the possibility to improve, would completely falsify my theory with respect to him. Were two others to do so as well without an overwhelming number of people confirming my theory in the meantime, I would consider it completely false.

Until then I consider the Ivory Tower locked and bolted because those inside want it bolted and locked. As such, their credentials are meaningless at best and downright insulting at worst. (Again, I'm totally a job applicant. If they did grant me a credential, I wouldn't take it as an insult, but rather as a point falsification, and would seek further falsifications. ("Hey! Maybe they aren't just jerks! I wonder if this guy here is also not a jerk... Oh well, maybe I was just unlucky. I bet (hope) THIS one isn't a jerk...")

Notably, my emails to my local university were answered once, but not satisfactorily. My further attempts have been ignored. I also emailed David Chalmers because he has a paper very similar to mine, and to my complete surprise he answered.
"feel free to send what you've written along, though the chances are i won't be able to respond at length."
Guess what? He didn't respond at all to my follow up email. I would gladly have accepted, "You know? I don't really feel like reading it anymore." My suspicion is that he did and dismissed me as a quack without bothering to let me know what I have done wrong in his eyes.

His probable conscious justification: "He's a quack, it would be a waste of time."
His probable actual reason: "I have no good reason to discount this paper, but I don't like it, and therefore I will ignore it."

Again, this is easily falsifiable. All he has to do is meet my (very relaxed) standards of dismissal OR give me a summary of the kinds of mistakes I've made. Considering that I successfully alienated my contact at my local university, if I objected to the mistakes I would be sure to ask first if he cared to review my objections. Again, 'not at length' is not 'not at all.' I would also have accepted, "I may not respond at all." (And you can test this by arguing with me and trying it out.)

14 comments:

Richard said...

No insult intended; I was merely offering a cautionary assessment, for the sake of my readers, of how much value they could expect to get from following the links.

You raise some interesting broader issues, related to my old post on 'The End(s) of Discussion'. It's probably true that if a random person emails a professor out of the blue, asking for feedback on their thoughts, they often won't get a reply. You treat this as a self-evidently bad state of affairs, but it's not clear to me that this is so. Professors have limited time, so one needs to consider whether correcting confused layfolk is the best possible use of their time.

'His probable actual reason: "I have no good reason to discount this paper, but I don't like it, and therefore I will ignore it."'

I have trouble imagining what prior beliefs would make reasonable your assumption that he had "no good reason" for the dismissal. Do you have, for example, good reasons to think that you are a better philosopher than he?

How do you distinguish this case from one where, say, a random guy writes to Einstein or Stephen Hawking to explain his personal theory of physics, and assumes from the lack of reply that he must just have Einstein stumped?

I hope you don't take this the wrong way -- I don't mean to be rude. But these are the sorts of questions that might help you get a more accurate conception of the situation. Credentials often indicate genuine expertise. And experts don't always have as much spare time as one might wish (especially if there are lots of people vying for their attention).

Alrenous said...

I have to say I'm shocked that you're actually here.

Also, as stated in the article, even the first paragraph constitutes full falsification as far as I'm concerned.

On the downside, this kind of polemic is unmistakably 'mean' rather than charitable. But, it worked; you're rewarding me for writing one. I found out what I wanted to find out.

You treat this as a self-evidently bad state of affairs, but it's not clear to me that this is so.

I did not expect a reply, but I did get one. And then, I didn't get one. It's the second part that bothers me. "Won't respond at length" is different from "Maybe won't respond at all." While I may forgive this from the layman, a philosopher needs to be more precise.

But to be fair, I know it's at least partly my style of writing. (Tested recently because I overcame this handicap for the first time.) I get this to a lot of people, actually. I'm very good at making people break off conversations with me.

Do you have, for example, good reasons to think that you are a better philosopher than he?

Actually, and sorry for this arrogance, but that's what I was trying to find out. Now, I can't.

Cut sentence: ("Chalmers is basically the foremost authority on consciousness. That is, unless I'm the foremost authority on consciousness.")

Also my beliefs are actually somewhat statistical in nature. For example, perhaps Chalmers was actually just hit by a bus. However, one of the triggers of the aforementioned breaking off I'm so good at getting is when I start breaking out my really good arguments.

In general, the most likely option is that people who *were* rebutting me suddenly find that they can't anymore. In particular, of course, I can't actually infer anything from a single non-response. However, the fact is that I can stop this from happening to some degree, but only by being dishonest about my beliefs. If I bring out the big guns, people tend not to come back.

Note, I sent junk a message identical to this one, but he responded. He said no, I'm just taking a while. Be patient. However, you'll notice that the linked message was not responded to. While to ignore is not really to accept, the fact is I have given a false dichotomy and bamonster did not refute it.

It bothers me when a tenured professor acts like random internet people. Something is wrong. (May be my personality.)

Alrenous said...

I have to clarify two things.

First, Chalmers' reactions as compared to my predictions.

I predicted he wouldn't respond at all. (Much as I predicted you most certainly wouldn't bother to read other posts on my site.)

Having responded, I knew immediately that that 'not at length' meant 'not at all.' But this means that Chalmers is either lying or mistaken. Not good.


Next, part of the reason I find this instinct so irritating is that I have the opposite. I get twitchy if I try to force myself not to respond. If...when...I act as they do, it is extremely unhealthy for me.

So there's two possibilities. One, they're unhealthy. Two, I'm just a different kind of human being.

Neither possibility is particularly flattering for my opponents.

Alrenous said...

Sorry but I keep forgetting things.

Also, I was very successful in asking a question of my local university's math department regarding my ideas on the math of non-determinism.

The thing is, I avoided any mention of non-determinism because I predicted it would result in a Chalmers.

I mentioned Gaussians and infinitesimal probabilities instead. Got a very useful answer.

Alrenous said...

Also, Max Tegmark has just responded to my email to him...after like, a couple months.

So, clearly at the very least I'm being too impatient with Chalmers.

(Sadly, no so much my local university's grad students.)

Alrenous said...

Unfortunately this has gone recursive.

I mention that "However, one of the triggers of the aforementioned breaking off I'm so good at getting is when I start breaking out my really good arguments."

Now, hopefully Richard was simply distracted, and I will be proven wrong again.

However, I will now be even more exact about the conditions for the aforementioned breaking off or lack of response.

It is when I carefully support my arguments.

The opposite is also true; if I am intentionally sloppy, as indeed my opening article is, I can easily get answers.

An unfortunate (read: atrocious, literally) parallel is that, apparently, if I'm polite it's far less likely that I will garner response than if I am rude.

Because of this constellation of facts, there are only two serious possibilities. I will also mention the unserious one.

First is that there is some factor in my argumentation that proves that I will be unswayed by evidence. (Note that this gets contradictory fast.)

The other is that there really is no rebuttal, so much so that most people cannot even pretend. However, they do not respond because they cannot bring themselves to agree.

The final one is that humans have, even over text, a mysterious and very high bandwidth form of communication. People respond when I use this communication in a certain way and not otherwise; in fact, the content and form of my arguments is irrelevant. Even the subject is irrelevant; it is only the high bandwidth form of communication that matters.

I'm still completely baffled as to how Richard found this post. It was created after the philosopher's carnival. Did he browse my archives? Randomly check the front page? Get a tip from someone who usually reads his site and decided to browse my archives?

Notice that "And experts don't always have as much spare time as one might wish (especially if there are lots of people vying for their attention)."

Richard is an example of such an expert; the kind with credentials. (Expensive pieces of paper.) Where did he find the time to discover and post on this blog?

In short, I'm extremely frustrated. Why won't anyone answer my questions?

It doesn't make any sense to me. I love answering questions. It's awesome.

Genius said...

Chalmers is a magician of logic - I expect he CAN make an argument against any position you might hold and probably do so quite quickly (that is not to say he would be right - just that it would be a plausible defense) So I don't think "unable to answer you" is on the table.

I guess that leaves some variant on your second option - but I'd probably be more charitable because it is more demanding for Chalmers to treat every request with respect than for you to do so - since he just has more requests - and probably more challenging ones.

BTW I think your paper is not written in a particularly publishable way at the moment. Do you have a journal in mind for publishing? that might be partly what gives people (probably erroneously) the impression that you wont be swayed - or rather that they cant sway you.

As to the last section
if your blog links to another blog there is a track back system - so he can find you that way.

As to time of experts - I think by experts we are talking people like Chalmers who write books and articles etc as opposed to just people with a degree.

Alrenous said...

Even still, "not answer at length" is not "not answer at all."

That plus I received that answer literally within seconds of sending the first email.

Similarly, literally everyone else I've emailed has answered me.

I think your paper is not written in a particularly publishable way at the moment.

This would be because I have no idea how to write it in a publishable form. It's a skill I just don't have.

Of the traits I know a publishable paper should have, (only a handful) I disagree with most of them.

--

Trackbacks don't work unless you link to the trackback url...isn't that correct?

Genius said...

Yes you are correct - it is a breach of etiquette. My point I guess was it might be an excusable one. I guess I am charitable.

re publishing - yes I disagree with many of them too - and yet that's how the system works.

One of the things is to reference academic papers - that presents as there being a large number of famous people who agree with you. Also referencing the reviewers work helps to establish that you are on the same ball park in terms of your topic and methodology.

Alrenous said...

Actually, I just realized something.

Some background; my brother is exactly one month shy of being 20 years older than me. Despite this, we're also only different to about one part in 240.

He once said something to a publisher, which he paraphrases, "I told them to shit or get off the pot." Not realizing, of course, that the fact that they hadn't summarily returned the manuscript was a very good sign.

Now, given that Max Tegmark answered my email (very awesomely, I might add) I suddenly realized I might be making the same mistake.

I want Chalmers to shit or get off the pot. Instead, he might actually be taking it seriously, which is why he hasn't said something like, "I read it, but I think you need to read X book and Y paper. Good luck with that."

I would normally forgive but he's supposed to be a genius philosopher. You don't get to be imprecise anymore at that point.

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Re publishing. Sadly, while I generally agree, I cannot. My ideas are a synthesis of many many things I've read over many years, and I can't even remember where I found most of them out anymore.

Aside from the fact that it's basically a single expansion of Chalmer's paper, (which I hadn't read at the time) I don't have very much to cite.

Genius said...

It's interesting how for no apparent reason siblings can have the same personal quirks. one of our things is being unable to kill insects (despite very different philosophies).

this probably sounds a little tedious - but what i do is sit down at the computer go to one of the sites where you can search for papers and go through whatever couple of hundred turn up. Then take the ones that seem to support your position and reference them in the appropriate place.

Just speed read the abstracts in the first pass. If you don't have access to journals you could see what other people are referencing but you should have a look at the actual article before you reference it.

"You don't get to be imprecise anymore at that point."

That is a very high standard.

Genius said...

Once upon a time (back in my school days) I decided that I would never lie (in the board sense that excludes things like what you mention here). It is interesting how many times in normal language you use things that are technically untrue or fake certainty when you are not certain.

Alrenous said...

I almost never lie.

I kind of wish I could let people assume I put 'almost' in front of every 'every' that I don't put 'exactly' in front of. Sadly I keep forgetting to even try.

Yes, it is a very high standard. I find that holding myself to it helps ensure that I think in straight lines.

Bad habits percolate from casual conversation to real work.

I like your method. It is tedious, yes...but guess what? It's way better than alternatives.

Vimarsha said...

Excellent. I enthusiastically receive your "pentagram" concept and its implications.

It has the power to intuitively explain some things I previously only could state: for example, I have the same conclusion as you that consciousness must be physical. My reasoning: 1. consciousness exists, self proved; 2. external objects exist, and upon observation, they are causally coherent (this causality is beyond my individual power of imagination so it cannot be a self induced illusion - there must really be an exterior world). 3. There is a link between consciousness and objects. My conclusion is that objects are consciousness (or that consciousness is intrinsically part of objectivity).

I can accept that emergence explains all mental activities like perception, abstraction, imagination, etc but it cannot explain one last step: why is there shining conscious experience of all this? (or in technical terms, why am I not a philosophical zombie)

Did you call yourself a dualist? I think you are probably a property dualist.

By the way, in Tantra the world is defined as Siva + Sakti. Sakti is essentially causality (mathematically causal reality) and Siva is consciousness. They are defined as one and the same thing, seen from two different perspectives. They anticipated by millennia this conclusion.