Thursday, March 13, 2008

Karl Popper; Analysis; He's Anarchist!

Got a bit about Karl Popper. Found out it supports Philosophical Descent and The First Step.

Small problem though; Popper was very impressed with deduction.

There's a thing called 'the problem of induction' if you weren't aware.

Popper's ideas about deduction are unimpressive to me because I seem to have solved the problem. Deduction, you see, is a special case of induction. To say "Popper stresses that we ascertain whether one theory is better than another by deductively testing both theories, rather than by induction." is complete nonsense. It's like saying you're hammering with a hammer, not a tool. Programming with Lisp, rather than a language.

Notably, Popper is one the few philosophers that I don't hate...so far. It goes recursive because not hating a philosopher is so refreshing, leading to greater enjoyment of his work, leading to more relief, and so on.

Also, Popper rejects the empiricist doctrine that empirical observations are, or can be, infallible, in view of the fact that they are themselves theory-laden.

This needs to be corrected to "observations are infallible, but our application of them to theory is most certainly fallible. " The reality is that, as I've mentioned before, to distrust your senses is to be insane. As such every single observation ever is infallible, even schizophrenic hallucinations. However, the simplistic way everyone applies these data to theory is flawed, to say the least. The hallucination is indeed data - but of what? Well, first it means they're hallucinating, which can be verified with whatever senses aren't involved in the hallucination, or at the very least by a separation in time. Therefore, the most meaningful way to apply this data is to a theory of how the schizophrenic's brain is working. They hallucinate a girl on a busy street, but she isn't hit, passersby are unhorrified, etc... Thus, they can safely conclude that their visual system has an interesting bug, and [safely conclude that they (cannot safely conclude that objects in their visual field exist, without some independent corroboration.)]

Regardless of how 'faulty' our senses may be for some particular purpose they cannot help but provide a wealth of valuable information.

One of the reasons I like Popper is that he's capable of saying things I haven't thought of.

"But if this is true, Popper argues, then, paradoxical as it may sound, the more improbable a theory is the better it is scientifically, because the probability and informative content of a theory vary inversely - the higher the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false."

Learning is so awesome!

On the other hand,

"Popper, then, is an historical indeterminist, insofar as he holds that history does not evolve in accordance with intrinsic laws or principles, that in the absence of such laws and principles unconditional prediction in the social sciences is an impossibility, and that there is no such thing as historical necessity."

I mention this to illustrate a common truth; there are so many different ways history could logically arrange itself that there must be some logically nontrivial historical necessities. On the other hand, due to the chaotic nature, these will almost certainly be inaccessible to science and philosophy. In any case, the evidence suggests that there aren't enough to be useful in particular, even if you could use ESP to find them.

Later,

"At a very general level, Popper argues that historicism and holism have their origins in what he terms 'one of the oldest dreams of mankind - the dream of prophecy, the idea that we can know what the future has in store for us, and that we can profit from such knowledge by adjusting our policy to it."

So, we predict the future with certainty so that we can change the future? Uhhh...about that....

I don't actually know whether prophecy is a longtime human longing or not, but it doesn't actually matter. I'm treating this idea a bit like the schizophrenic does their visuals; the explicit or base knowledge is of no consequence. Instead, the higher meanings dominate.

I like fantasy books, especially the ones with prophecy. This prediction accords with my experience. But why? The way prophecy in fantasy works is that the world is somehow predetermined to follow an ironclad pattern, usually through sheer force on the part of the source of prophecy. But, if indeed the entire world (is prophesied or can be prophesied are logically identical for this analysis) then prophecy is useless. The information of the prophecy either cannot be acted upon, or else the prophecy takes into account its own effects, leading to an infinite regression that most likely does not converge.

On the other hand, if some of the world is free to decide, then prophecy basically can't work, because it would have to shield the prophetic events from any and all feedback, which in practice is an impossible task. I'm going to neglect completely trivial prophecies like the ones we can make ourselves. "I'm going to finish writing this post. I'm even going to edit it and add links and stuff like that." These prophecies are dependent on free will, basically. I'm not sure how to clearly demonstrate this, but it's true anyway.

On the other hand, what is science but the first successful attempt at prophecy? I prophecize that if I drop an object in the vicinity of the Earth, it will accelerate at 9.8m/s/s in the approximate direction of Earth's center of gravity. Woot! I'm a prophet!

Notably, I'm equivocating quite a bit here, but I think that's okay because hominid brains are good at parsing crap like that.

Popper clearly wanted to be anarchist; he wanted piecemeal evolutionary solutions to social problems, he just thought for some reason that the state can accomplish instead of impede this. It's not his fault - while it's logically necessary that states be hypocritical, the arguments are extensive and emotionally charged - not
the easiest thing to get your head around, unless you're already predisposed to the emotional charge.

It's not the first time I've run across a thinker who wants to be an anarchist but rejects anarchist solutions. In fact, it seems to me that if you gathered everyone together in the town square and made them vote for what they actually want, we'd all end up anarchist. Even people who explicitly state that they don't believe in anarchy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Skimming the Blog

If you're skimming my archives and have the urge to read something you're not obviously interested by, in case one of my tangents is interesting, it's better just to ask me about it. I'll have a quick look and summarize all the tangents, and you can pick the ones you like.

Toothpaste vs Baking soda

So the only reason I wasn't already brushing my teeth with baking soda is that my mother told me it tasted horrible.

I can't decide whether I should excoriate her for being an idiot or me for believing her.

I was experimenting with vinegar as a cleaning compound, and I decided to have fun with the whole science-fair volcano thing. Pure vinegar really does smell like 'volcano' to me. Then I realized I'd never properly tested baking soda as a toothpaste.

The first thing I found out is that it tastes better than toothpaste. So, I got my toothbrush and started brushing. It was much more comfortable than toothpaste - it doesn't burn.

I noticed it easily equaled toothpaste as a cleaner; as in, not impressive. So I got a better payload and tried again. Success. Baking soda also cleans better than toothpaste.

Notably, baking soda is also edible, though I wouldn't recommend it. I did find swallowing some was less than awesome.

So, tastes better, cleans better, nontoxic, doesn't burn, and it is cheaper. It even says right on the box that you can use it for cleaning your teeth. So, obviously, everyone uses toothpaste. Can you say marketing coup?