Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rejection, Psychology, and Hidden Assumption

Psychology really needs to examine the assumption that they can generalize these single-impulse* type experiments to chronic or acute cases in real life. Basically, they need to actually investigate how and if these things are continuous. That, when exposed to a small amount of rejection, people become more aggressive, and therefore when exposed to a large amount of rejection or to continuous rejection, the reaction is the same.

*(Using the term like physicists do.)

They need to understand it, because occasionally there are apparent phase-changes in psychology. From what I've read of experiments linking video games and violence, the methodology is to have them play games and then let them at a human-shaped punching bag, and they found that players of aggressive games were more aggressive with the bag. The problem is the bag is still a game, which turns the results from 'Oh no!' to 'No shit!' The studies tell us nothing about the link between video game violence and real world violence, and the same flaws apply to links between TV and real violence.

I am reminded of the cross-examination study of rat navigation, where the original scientists basically concluded that the rats had ESP, but after carefully eliminating something like a dozen factors, the cross-examining scientist finally realized they were navigating by listening to the sound the floor made when they walked on it. (The experiment originally had something to do with changing the walls and letting the rats run it again. The scientists were baffled because they couldn't properly fool the rats.) He countered this by covering the floor with sand, muffling the sound, and causing the rats to duly become lost again.

So conclusions; scientist blow at controlling for things, simply because of the huge number of things to consider. Finding the answer is possible, but difficult and tedious.

So, er, what factors haven't the psychologists controlled for? Nobody knows, because nobody's done the groundwork. Basically we have a very nice tower, intricate and soaring, with no real foundation. (This is a symptom of grant-based science.)

All this for an assumption I think works pretty well, actually. I definitely agree; rejection biases the rejected to view the world as aggressing against them. In extreme cases, even positive, helping overtures are seen as aggression and duly counter-rejected, something I'm sure you've personally experienced.

And now some random stupidities, once again supporting the hypothesis that all journalism is spin:
"“Prior case studies show the majority of school shooters have experienced chronic peer rejection,” said the study’s lead author, C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky. “And while not everyone who feels rejected reacts violently, we found they tend to act out aggressively in other ways. We wanted to help explain psychologically why this happens.”"
That's unfortunate. Your study doesn't address how, only the fact that it does.

I do like how the link apparently has an actual abstract at the bottom, which is far more accurate. It uses phrases like, "A series of experiments tested the hypothesis that social exclusion increases the inclination to perceive neutral information as hostile, which has implications for aggression."
"They were also told that the author was up for a research assistant position and were asked whether they thought the author would be a good candidate, based on what they had read."
Bad experiment design hurts. The subjects don't have enough information to determine if the author is a good candidate or not. You can get the same information without asking them to disentangle this crap.

"Is this essay evidence that they would be a good candidate, or does is it evidence that they would be a bad candidate?"

Aaaargh. (X-phi people do this all the time.)
"The findings may help explain why social exclusion is often linked to aggression – which sometimes boils over dramatically, as in the case of school shootings, for example."
Everyone, and the press especially, is obsessed with school shootings. If you don't believe me, go look at the grand total of school shooting deaths.* Compare them to 9/11. Also compare it to car accidents and the flu. (Don't compare it to old-age related deaths, like cancer and heart failure, though this would be even more striking. Only a journalist would do that.)

*(I know this to order of magnitude, if you're really feeling lazy.)

Also compare to this hypothetical scenario; during the Medieval Ages, there is a 'rash' of crossbow murders during Mass. Does the reaction to the school shootings now seem...reminiscent?
"“Excluded people see the world through blood-colored glasses and it is our hope that this research can lead to a better understanding of why rejection causes aggression and what we can do to prevent such unwanted and harmful behavior,” said DeWall."
Gross. Let me translate. 'unwanted' and 'harmful' are both words of rejection. Basically DeWall is saying we need to understand rejected people so we can reject these behaviours better. DeWall is oblivious...but how well do you think that's going to work? (Incidentally, unless DeWall was drunk during the interview, this is hard proof that's he's not an expert, regardless of credentials.)

Further, who gets to decide what's 'unwanted?' Since a scientist is saying this in newspeak, it's supposed to be all objective. It's impressive how far they can twist the language, really.

No, even under these assumptions, the best conclusion is that the 'unwanted' and 'harmful' behaviour here is the rejection itself. While the school system is trying that already, you probably noticed how completely backhanded their 'acceptance' really is. All my classmates clearly did, anyway.
"“This suggests these people feel betrayed by others.""
Actually...no. There is no evidence for or against. And since you're not an expert, you have no idea either.

I continue to be troubled by the fact that lying to your subjects is blatantly unethical. It bothers me but I have no idea why.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quick Note on Money as Value

The marginal value of a dollar is smaller for a rich person than a poor person. The fact that rich people will pay more for a good than a poor person is a problem for using money as a measure of things people really value, but socially it is an excellent thing. It is essentially a low-resistance pathway for poor people to extract dollars from rich people.

People making a low wage producing luxury goods they cannot themselves afford is, contra Marx, a social good, in fact nearly a necessity for upward mobility. Simply put, the poor can produce things by inputting their 'true' value, and then selling these things to the rich for an inflated value produced by the rich discounting dollars.

In the end it's another way wealth violates conservation. The dollars the rich part with are, just by virtue of ownership, worth more once the poor have them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bobby Dunbar; Hypocrisy and Misdirection

(I jump right in with the spoilers, before I list either the name or the link. I apparently think suspense, while not without upsides, is completely dominated by downsides and is therefore a waste of time. If you disagree, I suggest finding a workaround.)

I was watching something accurately billed as 'should be a tedtalk.' And I thought, "Man, he really knows his stuff." So I decided to check out the stuff produced by the dude who knows his stuff.

'Best of' lists have been pretty useful to me before. So I tried it again and it worked again. But even here, even 'best of,' even non-politicized reporting, you need skill to not be mislead by. They're not even intentionally spinning this stuff; it happens more or less automatically, to the point where it would take a serious amount of skill to stop.

Again, I worry that this is just me. That everyone else just deals with this with their hypocrisy circuit. Certainly, the Dunbars believed that Bobby was a Dunbar. Similarly, the listeners here will believe he was an Anderson, and all the character conclusions that will imply. That is, if I go up and talk to them, that is what they'll say to me. However, if you judge their beliefs by their actions* then the listeners, when dealing with someone like a Dunbar, may behave very differently than their stated beliefs would indicate.

*(Specifically actions that don't include talking about their actions or beliefs.)

All this to say that, unfortunately, my brain doesn't work that way. I must consciously understand the real motivations and the actual justified conclusions behind what is stated in shows like Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, or I'll end up doing something stupid.

This may be because I don't stop at the first level of conclusions. I tend to take things as far as they'll go, as is required for philosophy. The hypocrisy circuits don't function well outside common-sense domains beyond which these logical peregrinations often take me.

Hopefully, though, this isn't just me. Hopefully I can say in general: not being mislead by journalism takes a good deal of skill.

Sadly it wasn't as good as I hoped. Maybe I just don't like journalism, but to me, on an absolute scale, journalism can and should be a whole lot better, especially if this is the best. (Simply put, the YouTube videos seem a lot more like a real person talking about things they really care about. You'll see below how everyone in the show don't even consciously know what they really care about, let alone can talk about it.)

Nevertheless, at least for the best, the pro outweigh the cons. Especially the philosophical resources provided by the radio show I settled on. Quotes not checked for accuracy; the seeking function on the podcast is not worth me wrestling with. I tried to disentangle my real angle, about families, bonds, and identity from the rest, but it turns out it's a continuum and it didn't work. Ultimately this is to continue my theme of an economic purpose for philosophy. These people need my services, or the services of someone like me.

But in short, my real point, my main point, is just that the Dunbar family has rejected Margaret, quite stupidly. Blood is a terrible reason to form bonds, but if you try and it works, it means there were good reasons. It doesn't matter if Margaret is a Dunbar by genes or not. What matters is, did the Dunbars enjoy her company? Did she enjoy theirs? Then the bonds were there, for good reasons, not reasons of blood.

The second part is about her father. "If my grandpa isn't my grandpa, who am I?" "My first guess is who you always were. The fact is you have always been an Anderson living among Dunbars. I would suppose you could continue being an Anderson living among Dunbars, except now you're not mistaken about this." "But that's not who my blood says I am!" "So, what, now you know you're an Anderson, you're going to take up farming? Knowing who your ancestors were changing absolutely nothing about who you are. It changes your 'real' name and who you can safely have sex with, and that's all."

I read about this in fiction often enough. Usually it is cheesy and simplistic, but all my books come to the same conclusion; for human relations, human bonds, it doesn't matter what your birth certificate should look like.

There are two minor points I'll highlight as well. One is implicit, about children, which you'll notice by the glaring lack of any further commentary.

The story also shows, again, how children are seen by our people. The question never asked is 'How does Bobby feel about all this? Did he just go along with this? Did he question it? Did he fight it?" Our people consider children to be objects. Just bit pieces. No better than slaves. Objects, bit players, slaves....they don't have thoughts or feelings.

(Admittedly, once Bobby matures (20s) he's allowed beliefs. They suggest he created the legend himself to help convince himself he was really a Dunbar, so he could get on with living his life and stop worrying about meaningless labels.)

The second is very explicit, and hearkens back to at least the Bible, about how flawed human characters really are, and about how much effort everyone puts into denying their own flaws and the flaws of people they like, ultimately to their own detriment. It's the ultimate in conditional love.

'No, honey, you're perfect!' And they really deceive themselves into believing that. Let me translate.

'Yeah, uh, honey, if you weren't perfect I would hate you. Notice how I rag on even the slightest defect in my coworkers. No pressure though!'

(There's also a less cynical third option, which is that your flaws are actually quite irrelevant, much like the actual quality of the food is irrelevant to food preferences. Rather, we all see the flaws, but pointing them out is simply a way to communicate disgust, contempt, or hatred, whereas lying about it is the way to communicate trust, respect, and love. Less cynical but still counter-productive.)

I bring up this character thing because it's something I only recently cured myself of. Now, I'm very good at spotting patterns. I've intentionally played up this already strong facet of the human brain. Other people do not act as if they know how flawed the real people behind these story characters are. (By flawed I simply mean lacking in virtue, not as in badly designed.) The only issue with this conclusion is that I cannot be entirely sure the two ways of acting are different for other people, but they are for me.

Certainly they mouth the words - I've seen at least on reference to flawed humans in the New York Times - the simple fact is that condemnation is rarely if ever non-hypocritical. It is never mitigated by the deserving humility in the face of your own flaws. Everyone is willing to cast the first stone. (Unless specifically asked, the percentage drops then, because the rarely-used conscious computer engages.)

I'll jump right into the hypocrisy.

"'Know why I stayed in my shell of grief.'

She had to have, on some level, known."
So presumably this woman, according to Wizard's First Rule, believed what she wanted to believe, not the truth. But, in the end, the hypocrisy circuit fails. The weight of that nagging feeling in the back of the head releases you from the lies you tel yourself.

The thing is, now what? Does she repatriate Bobby, nee Bruce? No. Hell no! She can't do that. And precisely for the reason given above. People make mistakes, but she knows that it's hellishly unlikely that Jillian would have thanked her for admitting her error. No, more likely she would just be piling external grief on top of internal grief. And so, because everyone is willing to cast the first stone, Jillian never saw her son again. Good going, you jerks.

Of course, even without all this, Bobby would probably be used to life with the Dunbars now. Another adjustment would probably be pretty bad for him, as shown by the condition of the kids social services takes custody of.

Nevertheless, I must disclaim that you don't get a free moral pass just because you contributed your womb. Jillian's quest to reunite with her son, just as Lessie's, was an utterly selfish quest. She felt bad not personally taking care of her son, and wanted to find that son to feel good again. It had nothing to do with his well being or his wishes, the first you know by the fact that he was likely no worse off with the Dunbars.

The Dunbars, however, thought Margaret was being selfish, not Lessie. While there are many unstated facts that might make this true, ultimately it is the family that's being the most selfish. "She found a truth you didn't like, just one, and now you're never going to speak to her again? Just to hide from this one meaningless fact?"

"Why do you need to do this?"
Why does it matter? If it turns out Bobby's legend was true, nothing changes. If it's false, nothing should change. It's only meaningful because Margaret was curious. They want to pretend it's not true in any event! They could just do that! But no, they have to do that and act as if its true when talking to Margaret. And apparently nobody even notices the cast-iron cohones this takes, let alone tries to call them on it. Think about it; if Margaret is just wrong, what's with all the ire? That makes her crazy or stupid, not an evil "orchestrating" mastermind. She can only be evil if she's right but they just want to pretend otherwise.

Oh, and because people are highly irrational unless forced to consciously think about it.

More tragically, there's very little guarantee that the actual DNA test was accurate. First, a single test is not very reliable in this case. While indeed you share 50% of your non-autosomal genes with your parent, they had no living parent to test, or even great grandparent. (Handy chart.) On average, you share 50% of your genes with a sibling. What that means is that sharing none of your genes is quite possible. Further, this test was not against an actual sibling, but against some apparently random Dunbar. Finally, I'm not convinced the lab was testing under the knowledge of what they were doing, if one of their techs considered it a paternity test. An easy check would be to now test the father against an Anderson. I consider this check no less than completely necessary. (For instance, a huge percentage of men are cuckolded. What if Bobby Dunbar wasn't ever a Dunbar?)

"It's like they don't believe me."
On the face of it: well boo fucking hoo. Not that! Anything but that!

I actually should be misogynist here. I should blame this on her being a woman and disliking conflict more and needing social support more...but I'm not going to.

She is weak. She is weak like a child, but not because she's a woman. She's weak because she has avoided conflict and strife in her life instead of facing it and withstanding it. She has sacrificed her personal values and beliefs for the sake of momentary comfort. Eventually, now, one of her drives has forced her to face adversity, and she has no idea what to do.

(Is this her fault? Or is it her parent's fault? Or her society's fault?

(Also, you see what I did there? The misogynist view is, in this case, actually more charitable than the one supported by the facts. Take note if you talk to a feminist; equality cuts both ways, and it's trivial to slice a woman on the sword of affirmative action. If you talk to a dumb feminist, play with them by noting that direct insults on individual women are required if you're to respect women as a whole. The fireworks should be quite spectacular.)

So, as per my standard practise, it's time to toss the surface reading. By "It's like they don't believe me," she means "I wish my (adoptive) family would support me." (Of course I don't even really know what 'support' is supposed to mean, but you get my drift.) This woman sees no reason for her family to break the bonds between them. Similarly, I see no reason. So she believes something contrary to what you believe. So what?

Compare this latest debauchery by the Dunbars to the actions of the Andersons. (Contrary to progressive thought, blood will tell. While you can overcome your breeding, most people don't. And most of them don't do it on purpose. {Frankly most people don't even overcome their first instincts, let alone their genetic predispositions.})

The Andersons were fully aware that the Dunbar's story was the opposite of theirs. Nevertheless, they attended a talk given by Margaret. They worked closely with her, in fact. Clearly, the actual motivations behind the Dunbar's shunning of Margaret are selfish and defensive in nature. They don't want to know; and that's fine. But (naturally) they're being highly hypocritical about it.
"They don't like what it suggests about their ancestor's motives and characters."
Again, I see the denial of flawed human beings. Of course your ancestor's motives and characters were bad. Everyone's is, including yours. Now you just know how. Or, in the Dunbar's case, deny how. (Please remember that if the truth had been the opposite, or if a repeat DNA test upturns the verdict, I would be accusing the Andersons of hypocrisy instead. They would fare no better in this test, except for the meaningless difference that it wouldn't be a family member they would be shunning.)

Margaret keeps talking about how they know, deep inside. This is just some truth bubbling up through her hypocrisy circuit. In this case, about the hypocrisy circuit. These Dunbars did some self serving things by deceiving themselves. You will too, most likely in the next few hours. Hell, I'm probably doing so right now. (And remember, you can't fix a problem you don't consciously know you have.)

She also speaks about how Percy is 'capable' of stabbing a man, as if this has any bearing on whether he could lie about Bobby. Again, I can go to the New York Times; everyone is capable of evil. The thing is, I don't see any reason to stab a person. Neither does Margaret, but apparently Percy did. That is a difference of belief, of thinking, not capability.

He did it on the eighth anniversary of the presumed death of the original Bobby Dunbar. Beware anniversary reactions; you're not aware of it, but your body knows the exact time and date at nearly all times, and fully understands the significance of both.

Margaret thinks the stories in the papers are 'how judgemental' of Julia. So I guess she agrees with me; they may also be true, a point she has avoided, stating only a preference and a fact. In the times, having three children by two men, neither her current husband, was the definition of loose morals. Whether this means Julia was a slut or not is more difficult to determine, but there's no reason she might not have been. The other implications may be equally true, or not.

Note how Julia Anderson "Had no lawyer and no allies in Appaloosa, and thus the boy was now Bobby Dunbar." Our court system takes no note of the fact that justice depends on these things and desperately needs to be revised if it wants to pretend to serve anyone but the rich. I personally suggest a rousing round of privatization. It's not like you can stiff the poor more than we already are. (And by definition they don't have that much property to protect anyway.)

There was no side-by-picture because Jillian Anderson had no picture of Bruce. (Good lord how did they, some of the best in the business, not catch things like this?)

The plan was to keep the results of the DNA test sealed. Margaret could have easily kept them to herself. She didn't. Her father could have also.

There were several other intentional manipulations I caught as well, that I don't deem worthy of pinioning.

In the end, every family's story contradicts those of the other families. Most likely, they're all mistaken. I've read a lot of people who know investigations into these stories never turn out well, precisely because if you tell anybody, they'll react like the Dunbars. In the real story, everybody is deeply flawed. What really happened is most likely a small or forgivable initial wrong, followed by escalating salvos of major wrongs by all sides. Everyone ends up looking bad - that is, the flawed humans they always were but can no longer deny.

The age of Bruce during the incident isn't consistent within the show. Whether and who did any kidnapping, moral or legal, is not consistent within the show. No wonder press accounts even at the time weren't consistent; the media can't even manage self-consistency. Just another example about how fraught even the simplest historical conclusions are.

On reviewing the show, I was struck by how petty the whole thing is. People can, and have to, deal with dead children, and so could have Lessie. Julia could have visited her son or ascertained that he was being cared for at any time. It's one child who was adopted more or less by accident instead of the usual way. Oh no. What a difference.

Can this support all the acrimony and attacks this spawned? Clearly not. It can hardly support the court costs incurred. No, this is classic angst. (Which is why I can't stand people accusing teenagers of being angsty. Such hypocrisy.)

Character Assassination
Though really it's more character suicide.

Julia Anderson, much as she may have reformed in her third marriage, had a disreputable youth. Her choice of husbands was so wise and had such forethought that she was shot in the foot the night of her wedding. (On purpose? By accident? Pretty bad accident, anyway.) Her constant attention to her lost son speaks more of obsession than of any kind of straightforward loss.

Finally, the whole incident would have been impossible had Julia not let Bruce go with Walters.

None of this means her loss was in any way deserved or justified. But just because she was wronged, in this story, many people will believe her a saint. Kind of ironic, since elsetimes people are wont to ask "Why do bad things happen to good people?" as if they're surprised. (Shows what I get for trying to take people's words at face value, hence my policy above.)

Lessie Dunbar, in desperation, deceived herself and used the flaws of the legal system to take a boy that wasn't hers. (Probably; again, the genetics test needs to be checked. Also, if the DNA had gone the other way, they would have held up some other letter supporting that conclusion instead.) Her husband stabbed a man and, apparently, was a chronic adulterer, and she left him, and the children, not too long after the incident with Bobby.

Finally, this would not have been possible if Lessie had been properly watching her son during their excursion into the alligator-infested swamp. (Which is why parents obsessing over car seats and padded playgrounds irritate me so much. Modern parents are not much more capable than Lessie - they put the children in cars to begin with, an extremely risky move compared to a playground.)

For both, I think it would have been helpful to know that they were being coerced by their biology. They were pursuing their kids long after it was a good idea to do so, even in light of how much they wanted them back. They're not just in love, (it really doesn't matter if they are or not) they're obsessed, by biological imperative. On the other hand, they may strongly resent this knowledge, just as the Dunbars did. Ideology is powerful stuff, not to be trifled with.

For both, I think that carefully not seeing the essentially self-serving nature of the incident was helpful. If Lessie got Bobbie back, she wasn't responsible for letting her son get eaten by an alligator. If Julia got Bruce back, she wasn't responsible for letting her son get lost in the wilds, never to be heard from again. The obsessive pursuit speaks of someone who can't face the real reason for their pursuit, as would be necessary to reassess the pursuit and stop or achieve closure.

And the fact is, you are, statistically, just as selfish and hypocritical as these people. I'm not condemning them. (Or at least, I shouldn't be. Oops. It would be more obvious if I were talking to them in person.) I can't credibly do so. I'm accusing you(plural) of condemning them.

Unanswered Questions
Now, a very important note. Like nearly everything, the show attempts to distract you from unanswered questions by focusing on interesting parts of what they do know. However, considering these unanswered questions shifts the viewpoint on what they've said considerably.

If Bruce didn't look like Bobby, how did they find him with the peddler, Walters?

Was Julia Anderson's statement that Walters kidnapped the child also a self-serving, self-deceiving lie?

How are Julia's last seven children so obsessed with a man they never met?
This person had no direct impact on their lives whatsoever. You can see their real reaction when he briefly visited one of them. Their hypocrisy circuit immediately realizes that, in real human terms, he's little different than any yahoo off the street, and commands no special action. As I would predict, the man goes with his first instinct and does nothing. No one demanded he think consciously about it, and so he didn't. (I have several flags set up for exactly this kind of situation, which suggests you can do the same.) His later regret is also a self-delusion. He's obsessed with a man he made small talk with for some portion of a half hour total, ever.

What else don't I know, because they attempted to condense a century-spanning epic tragifarce into less than an hour of talking?

Emotional Logic versus Rational Logic
I think this is the core of my objection to this bit of journalism in particular. Clearly, its main goal is to satisfy the emotional system by telling a story. However, it also wants to pretend to analytic integrity by conveying some facts. As such, it fails at both. On the emotional side, I rather like the digressions into stories about their families. I want to hear about how other people live and relate to each other in the privacy of their own homes or their own times. But these are pushed into digressions because the show is supposed to be working toward a conclusion. On the flip side, because so much time is devoted to human relations, the focus on the facts is weak. The rational story is inconsistent and tattered.

Perhaps a bit of this is trying to please everyone a bit instead of pleasing one person properly. But mostly, it is an attempt to weld emotional logic to rational logic, as opposed to an attempt to unify them, to tell both stories at once. More precisely, it is an attempt to appear so welded; in fact, it is an entertainment product that entertains by deluding the listener into thinking it is informative.

Of course it may just be that knowing epistemology is bad for appreciate of journalism, just as knowing physics is bad for appreciation of action movies.

Finally, it would be helpful to know if I successfully got this essay to read well.

My emotional logic circuits completely outstrip my rational circuits. For instance, I came to the conclusion that nobody realizes how flawed everyone is before rationally analyzing the abundance evidence in favor, and initially wrote it down in that order. (Specifically I'd seen plenty of evidence, but hadn't rationally considered it yet.) It really screws up my flow. Was I able to fix it?

I find this is a general problem. The natural flow of my ideas is anything but linear and translates very poorly into essay form. So...uhh....get on creating that nonlinear form of writing for me, mmmkay? I'd do it myself but first I'm busy and second, aren't other people supposed to be good at stuff too?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The First Property of Consciousness

Towards a definition.

The first property of consciousness is directness.

There are two reasons. First, it is the exact same situation as with axioms; to reason, you have to start somewhere. Second, the property of sensation that I find most mysterious is this very directness.

To come to a logical conclusion - any logical conclusion - requires two completely unjustifiable assumptions. First, the rules of logic. Second, the first premises from which you construct your conclusion.

To justify the first assumption would be circular. The only way to prove the rules is to use the rules, begging the question. The only way to justify the second is to use a more fundamental assumption, which would then itself have to be justified.

Now, if you're Richard Brown and think infinite regression isn't a fallacy, this isn't a problem. However, if infinite regression isn't a fallacy, then you can resolve the Barber Paradox. The deal is, if the barber is unshaven, he concludes he must shave himself, but then the barber would be shaving a man who shaves himself - seemingly unnecessary, so he concludes he should stop shaving. But then he finds he's unshaven... This goes on ad infinitum...which should be resolvable if infinite regression isn't a fallacy.

Of course the real problem with the barber paradox is not oscillation, but the fact that it's a misuse of language. It's not actually a sentence. It's nonsen(ten)[s]e. I would assume I'm wrong and assign a truth value to the Barber paradox, but it's not actually a valid proposition in the first place, but simply does a good job at masquerading as one.

The other interesting example of infinite regression is to posit that there is no fundamental particle, that every particle is made up of yet smaller particles. The first problem is that we empirically know this is false. Beyond a certain size, smaller particles would be physically meaningless. The second problem is that for this to make sense, the smaller particles have to be different than the larger particles.

Consider the opposite; "The electron is made up of four smaller particles each with exactly one quarter of an e, spin 1/8, and so on. These particles cannot be unbound without immediate decay. Further, these particles are made up of yet smaller particles..." Ockham's razor scrapes that right off. Like quarks, the smaller particles must be different so as to explain interactions with other particles, instead of simply repeating the mysteries but with more entities to explain.

Unfortunately, with an actual infinite number of different particles, every electron would have within it every possible combination of properties. (Though presumably a tau lepton would have them in a different order.) It would be possible to create any possible interaction at all. It would be impossible not to create every possible interaction, constantly, as none of them would be barred.

Also, one of the possible combinations is a black hole. Every particle would be a black hole, contradicting the original premise. (Also we wouldn't be around to make these fancy proofs.)

A final point is the fact that infinite series can be summed. This is done using limits - in other words, we don't actually sum an infinite number of terms, but rather we get arbitrarily close to the sum. Note that the method for finding a sum of an 'infinite' series is actually very finite. That is, while it can be represented using infinity, it is exactly equivalent to a finite representation. Infinite series that are only equivalent to an infinite series - series where you would actually have to add an infinite number of terms - are divergent, and their sums are undefined; to define any sum is to make a contradiction.

Ultimately, while for physics you can treat it as a number, infinity is not really a number. To be sure, it is a mathematical object, but not a number. A proof by infinite regression would actually be making a very large number of claims that don't actually form a proof, but get arbitrarily close to a proof. This sounds a whole lot like induction to me, not deduction.

To reason, to deduce, you have to start somewhere, and that thing cannot be from deduction.

Here's my favorite quiz;

You have two facts. Jeanne is on the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower is in Brasilia.
Thus you can work out what city Jeanne is in; Brasilia.

But here's the actual question; How do you know Jeanne is on the Eiffel tower? That is, not 'how did you learn that' but once learned, how do you know it? What is the process of knowing? How do you justify knowing that Jeanne is on the Eiffel tower, and using it as a premise, given that a (reliable) source has supplied you with this data?
Similarly, all physically relevant math is based on counting, lately defined by Peano Arithmetic.
How do you know 1 comes after 0? How do you know what 0 is? The Peano Axioms don't supply these - they are assumed. Similarly, if the concept of 0 somehow depends on an actual justification, I can always bring it back until 'you just know' something, which means I've found a true fundamental axiom.

Here's the fact. You know these things directly. There is no proof or logic or process or justification. However we are to define 'you' as a coherent entity, knowing that Jeanne is on the Eiffel tower is known to you directly; it is an integral part of your identity. Even if it turns out there is some process, some instrument between you and Jeanne, then it just means you know that instrument directly instead.

Consider the opposite. Assume we know everything indirectly. The problem is the previous 'sentence' is no more a proposition than the Barber Paradox. It has dropped some implied words, so let me first expand a parallel example.

"Food is important." This is invalid. Food cannot be intrinsically important. It cannot value itself. It especially can't value itself for nutritional value without someone to eat it - that is, without an extrinsic entity. In reality, the full concept is, "Food is necessary for my survival, and my survival is important to me." It is necessary for and important to. Without a subject to modify, both words are meaningless.

Note, however, the chain ends at 'important to me.' This is axiomatic. It's true by virtue of being assumed. "Assume we know everything indirectly, through (x)." The concept is self-contradictory. Since infinite regress is a fallacy, this indirectness has to stop somewhere, at an (x). And whatever this unknown is, we know it directly.

And it is this I find so fascinating and mysterious about consciousness. It is the set of all things we know directly at any given moment. (It may be other things as well, but it's always this one thing.) Similarly, anything we start to know directly will become conscious. That's what it is; that's what I'm defining it as.

As always, this is a rational logic definition which follows an emotional logic definition. The rational definition should essentially confirm and clarify the emotional definition, though it's allowed a few unintuitive consequences. Since definitions are essentially assumptions, this cannot be challenged deductively, except by self-contradiction. (It seems to me, however, that the negation - consciousness isn't direct - has already been shown invalid by self-contradiction.) However, a better definition may be possible, which would match the emotional definition with greater fidelity. Nevertheless, my definition would not die, nor would whatever properties I unearth change; it would simply lose the label 'consciousness.'

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Question Log

Is it really possible to talk a person out of being irrational, or do they have to come to that conclusion on their own, first?
That is, can you inject and then remedy doubt through debate, or are things like the evolution debate a priori pointless?

It would appear that of everyone who thinks I'm a crappy philosopher, each believes I am their epistemic inferior. Naturally, I believe the same about them.
This is a symmetric relationship, but unfortunately only one of us can be right. What test or property can I assay or search for to break this symmetry?

What is contempt for?

What if there is really a second kind of time, which solves the origin problem for the universe? Since it's not physical per se, it most certainly can be infinite...what would this mean?

Does everyone think that life should mean something, even if it doesn't?

What, exactly, happens when a datum transforms from 'unexplained' to 'explained?'

What the hell is 'community' supposed to be?

People certainly write a whole lot of ideas, usually amateur history (this trend or that is ending) or amateur sociology. ("Let's stop this business of the B.A., this meaningless credential") How influential are these pieces? Do they start forming a patchwork of received wisdom? How does it relate to the fact that debate does not appear to be an effective method of spreading ideas? (I make a distinction between debating and merely watching a debate.) (I don't write first and foremost to be influential. I write because I want to.)

I was thinking about just sitting, just being, and I thought, "One of my parts is my senses - I can just sit and watch." But then I wondered, am I still me without my thoughts? What about without my identity, my personality? (Can that even make sense?)

Are record and tobacco companies actually evil, or just self-deluded?
Does the RIAA sit in their offices and think, "Now how can I fuck over the little man this time?" or do they sit there bemoaning how the public doesn't understand them?
When Nike used child labour, did the CEO think, "Man, that'll teach those jackasses at Adidas. Sweatshops! Ha! Beat that!" Or was it more like, "Hey these guys are cheap, I'll go with them." and later it was like, "Child labour? Fuck! Oh well, too late now...cover it up if you can."

We seem to have a large unused emotional range; we have emotions for things that don't usually exist, for things that don't have any noticeable survival value. Why?

What if you think you control yourself, but you don't, really?

What's the feeling of making a decision? Conversely, what would it feel like to have something happen that you didn't decide? Alien hand syndrome seems to invalidate determinism.

What is the difference that makes something 'understood?'

Actions can be evil. Can people, though?

Ethics don't exist absent a mind with values. You can't go out into the world and find anything that proves ethics, there is no ought from is, provided you don't look at the nominally subjective content of other minds. I need a word for this. The problem is that brains are made out of matter, so it's not ethics don't physically exist, and your mind exists independently from mind, which makes it objective relative to me. I can't find a word that doesn't make a sentence like, "Ironically, because ethics dont' objectively exist, ethics objectively exist." Do you know such a word?

Is there a coherent way to define what is serious?