Comments on “This is not cognitive science”

Comments

On the Beauty of Contradiction

Alexander's picture

Oddly, people who say this are usually also vociferous proponents of the superiority of rationality to irrationality, and quick to condemn opponents as irrational. The logical contradiction between “it’s impossible for brains to do anything other than rationality” and “most people are hopelessly irrational” appears not to bother them. The confusion here seems to be between “all rational systems are formal” and “all formal systems are rational.” A rational system must have some “distinctive virtue”; most formal systems do not.

Cough Eliezer Cough Yudkowsky? Cough
It seems you could read the paragraph on the Church-Turing Thesis in his voice. Am I right on this or unfair? It generally seems to me that him and LessWrong tend to breed rationalist eternalism. Your section on Bayesianism seems relevant.

Might the ability for a formal system to derive contradictions perhaps be a feature, not a bug? As per Godel again (maybe I should just actually study this proof, to feel less speculative), wouldn’t this entail that the formal system could represent more structures than before? While the system would at times fail, it seems that it would be more flexible– or dare I say, nebulous?

Paraconsistency

I don’t know whether Yudkowsky has made that argument. Some people in the LessWrong community have. That community has generally been growing up and letting go of their rationalist eternalism to some extent, so it’s possible that no one there would any longer; I don’t know.

Your intuition about allowing contradictions within logic is a sensible one, and some logicians have pursued it. There are “paraconsistent” systems of logic that limit deduction so that contradictions don’t “explode.” In practice this doesn’t seem to buy you much, however.

How close is paraconsistent logic to metarationality?

Alexander's picture

Thanks for pointing me towards paraconsistent logic, it’s cool to discover that what I’ve been thinking of has already been independently discovered. And thanks also for engaging with me in the comments so promptly.

A brief read of its Wikipedia page shows a few applications:

Epistemology and belief revision. Paraconsistent logic has been proposed as a means of reasoning with and revising inconsistent theories and belief systems.
Knowledge management and artificial intelligence. Some computer scientists have utilized paraconsistent logic as a means of coping gracefully with inconsistent[16] or contradictory[17] information.
Deontic logic and metaethics. Paraconsistent logic has been proposed as a means of dealing with ethical and other normative conflicts

These examples look like attempts to deal with nebulousity, which is why it seems sort-of metarational to me. Yet you say it does not buy much. Why? Say a person uses some paraconsistent logic as a way of dealing with nebulousity: is this metarationality, or just another epicycle of rationality attempting to work where it can’t?

This website has really changed the way I look at things but I still can’t quite make sense of it all. It has aided me on my exit from Utilitarian eternalism, which ironically contrary to its own prescriptions has caused me much pain (I considered suicide and was miserable for at least a week because I wondered about the possibility of insect suffering and how that might make my life cause more suffering than it brings in happiness, the annoying “the universe is infinite how can you count utility” problem as an existential crisis, etc.). I started looking for a new ethical approach, which has currently manifested as trying to make compromises between different ethical points of view such that I satisfy a decent amount of all of their suggestions. Per your reference of the book, I bought In Over Our Heads and have been reading it as an attempt to understand these issues further. I’m still trying to understand what metarationality looks like. Granted, I haven’t quite gotten there in the book yet, but I have read a great deal of Meaningness, but don’t quite feel that I “get it”. Paraconsistency seems close(?) to my current version of ethics and seems close(?) to what sort of thing I think metarationality is. Am I at least on the right track…?

Paraconsistency and postrational pain

Yes, I think paraconsistency is exactly an attempt to recognize and work with nebulosity. (It’s probably not a coincidence that its main advocate is Graham Priest, who’s explicit that he’s inspired by Buddhist logic, which also meant to work with “emptiness,” more or less the same thing as “nebulosity.”) It doesn’t seem to really get to grips with the problem, though. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s just kind of simplistic. (I may be wrong; I haven’t looked into it in detail.)

I’m really sorry to hear about your painful exit from eternalism. If reading Meaningness contributed to that, I apologize deeply. As I wrote here a main motivation for my writing is to help make that transition as painless as possible.

The reason I haven’t posted most bits of The Eggplant as I write them is that Part I is likely to shake readers out of rationalist eternalism. Until I can provide a better alternative, I feel that it would be irresponsible for me to publish that.

trying to make compromises between different ethical points of view such that I satisfy a decent amount of all of their suggestions.

I think that’s a good approximation or starting point, at the very least!

I bought In Over Our Heads and have been reading it as an attempt to understand these issues further.

For ethics, The Evolving Self is more relevant, although both cover approximately the same material, and Over Our Heads is somewhat easier to read.

I’m still trying to understand what metarationality looks like. Granted, I haven’t quite gotten there in the book yet, but I have read a great deal of Meaningness, but don’t quite feel that I “get it”.

I’m really sorry that I haven’t had enough time to write to reach the part of the book that would explain this. Kegan is probably as good a source as you can get for now.

Am I at least on the right track…?

I think so!

meaningness (no subject)

I came across this on a ‘systems science’ list , and it said this was by a cyberneticist. I can’t really tell if its science or poetry (reminds me a bit of Godel , Escher ,Bach (GEB) in that way).

I looked at the Church -Turing thesis (CHT) discussion—i’m not sure i agree with that discussion, but i just skimmed it , so i’d have to think about it—and also exactly what you concluded. (I discuss this at times with a former student of Martin Minsky (early AI, MIT) . (I sort of agree with CHT but combine it witth Turing’s last paper on the ‘oracle machine’).

I looked at your post on Paraconsistant logic (graham Priest etc) —at one time i considered that nonsense, though I dabble with very similar ideas, but don’t take them too seriously.
I have sort of revised my position and now think Paraconsistant logic likely does have some uses (or applications) just as does ‘usual math and logic’ –but deals more with what could be called ‘unusual cases’ or ‘paradoxical cases’ —my intuitive view (which i have not really formalized in rigorous mathematical or logical sense) is these can be dealt with by a Turing ‘oracle machine’ or equivalently by paraconsistant logic.

I would be interested in whether the author of this blog also has math/science/llogic/cs background—not that its important, but just to know if discussions on those topics are grounded in more than just reading other blogs—eg Less Wrong . I think its ok for people with no technical background write on technical subjects–eg theory of relativity, mind, consciousness…. but like to know if what they are writing is closer to fiction, speculation or poetry than science.
Reading Hoftstader’s GEB similarily you may not know he does have technical background in CS/math….
I only read sections of GEB because i’m not much into the ‘dialog format’ and prefer shorter sort of succint papers—though less ones which are of the ‘axiom-proof-theorem’ form (as is done in pure math often).
I also wonder (‘why i wonder why i wonder why….’ (feynman quote) ) what sort of politics the author has—seems to be from UK (where Brexit is in the news). (I’m in USA where trump and impeachment are in the news—i view these as similar sort of movements—-backlashes against the ‘establishment’ and elites by people who felt marginalized .)

If I knew people around my area who read this kind of thing I mught read more and even try to have a study group, but people I know don't read this kind of thing. I also dont like reading only on a computer screen. And i spend time writing some of my own stuff (which i view as basically garbage --or it could be called 'if Mark Twain wrote science papers and social analyses', or 'mathematical tragicomedy'.)

I wrote a few things like ‘notes towards a scientific culture’ and ‘the rational use of rationality’ but sort of decided the ideas were derivative (other people like einstein and jaques monod (‘chance and neccesity’) wrote similar things) and ‘rationality’ (which i sometimes call ‘linear or piecewise linear’ thinking or ‘common sense’ ) dont really have much use in today’s world.
Moral Outrage combined with Hollywood marketing is what sells and paid (with $) attention to.

i have my fb page, and also have a blog axiomsandchoices which is mostly unused.

No need to apologize, your writing has helped me greatly.

Alexander's picture

I’m really sorry to hear about your painful exit from eternalism. If reading Meaningness contributed to that, I apologize deeply.

Not at all! Meaningness has been a source of hope– a bridge over the nihilistic abyss. It gave me the word for eternalistic phenomena that I sort of recognized but couldn’t properly address, leading to much frustration. I don’t really know who I could talk to about these issues (besides 1 friend that I don’t see much) because they are as much philosophical as psychological– I went to a therapist who was somewhat helpful, but really pissed/turned me off when they responded to my moral quandaries with “but morality is subjective”, making me doubt the efficacy of the average therapist on this problem. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this sooner, because I really don’t want to discourage your writing here, quite the contrary!

The reason I haven’t posted most bits of The Eggplant as I write them is that Part I is likely to shake readers out of rationalist eternalism. Until I can provide a better alternative, I feel that it would be irresponsible for me to publish that.

I agree with your decision here. Prudent.

Oh, one other thing to say is that although the book hasn’t gotten to meta-rationality yet, there’s a fair amount about it on the metablog

Thank you for these resources, I will take a look.

Thanks again for Meaningness :)

Consulting philosophers

I had a similar experience in my late 20s when struggling with meaning, and in particular with ethics. Perhaps most people would have described it as a “psychological crisis,” but (like you) I thought that the issues were philosophical, not psychological. I thought at the time that there ought to be a profession of “consulting philosopher” who could help you think through these sorts of problems.

There are a few such now. Pamela Hobart is one who’s a friend of friends, although I don’t know her or her work.

Thanks for all your help.

Alexander Davis's picture

I had a similar experience in my late 20s when struggling with meaning, and in particular with ethics. Perhaps most people would have described it as a “psychological crisis,” but (like you) I thought that the issues were philosophical, not psychological.

Well it’s good to know I’m not alone and that people survive it. It makes sense that such would have happened to you too, given this website. In my case I seem to have been infected just a bit earlier, at my ripe old age of almost 21.

I thought at the time that there ought to be a profession of “consulting philosopher” who could help you think through these sorts of problems.
There are a few such now. Pamela Hobart is one who’s a friend of friends, although I don’t know her or her work.

I checked her website and I like what I see. I think I’ll contact her. Thank you for all your help.

“as in Part One, almost

Luís Campos's picture

“as in Part One, almost nothing this Part is original.” -> “as in Part One, almost nothing in this Part is original.”

I thought at the time that

I thought at the time that there ought to be a profession of “consulting philosopher” who could help you think through these sorts of problems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_counseling

A friend who has lived in the Netherlands once told me that this is a commonly available service over there, and that part of the Dutch public conception of a philosopher involves them doing this kind of work. I couldn’t quickly find a good article about it, but Wikipedia mentions that one of the developers of the practice is Dutch, and this article talked about how philosophy is generally popular among the public there: https://www.filosofie.nl/all-of-these-people-come-here-for-philosophy/ .

Add new comment

Navigation

This page is in the section Part Two: Taking reasonableness seriously,
      which is in In the Cells of the Eggplant.

The next page in this section is The ethnomethodological flip.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays, not part the book.

Subscribe to new content by email. Click on terms with dotted underlining to read a definition. The book is a work in progress; pages marked ⚒︎ are under construction.