Comments on “Circumscription: a logical farce”


You’re right. This would be a

anders's picture

You’re right. This would be a horrible idea to put into a book.
Also I think atomized humor is much funnier than absurdist humor.

An Interesting Aside I Noticed in the Pengi Paper

Stephen's picture

Loved this, although I can see how it wouldn’t work well in the Eggplant book.

Related to this, I was looking through your original Pengi paper and noticed this intriguing line which you haven’t talked about on Meaningness yet:

We chose Pengo as a domain because it is utterly un- like those AI has historically taken as typical. It is one in which events move so quickly that little or no plan- ning is possible, and yet in which human experts can do very well. Many everyday domains are like this: driving to work, talking to a friend, or dancing. Yet undeniably other situations do require planning. In [Agre, in prepara- tion] we will outline a theory of planning that builds on the theory of activity that Pengi partly implements. Planning, on this view, is the internalization of social communication about activity.

Did you ever get to this part of your work? This sounds interesting to me. Also, this idea could be a good signal to more die-hard rationalists that you’re not just telling them all to become dancers and stop planning things :).

Plans as communications

The Pengi paper citation there is to Phil’s thesis… I can’t remember whether it ended up talking about this or not.

A paper that did was our joint “What are plans for?”. It’s a long string of IOUs that we mostly didn’t deliver on. But the ideas were good ones, I think!

I’d read a whole book of these dialogues

Saul's picture

Some of my favorite philosophy is written in a dialogical joke format, so I wouldn’t rule it out entirely - this is a good one! However, I guess it’s a very small venn diagram segment of readers that would get everything in here - I’m sure I’m missing at least one or two bits :)

This was fun.

Joshua Brule's picture

This was fun.

Also, it, indirectly, cleared something up for me. “Why”, I wondered, “Would early postmodern thinkers write their ideas as obfuscatory riddles instead of, you know, understandable prose?”

I think it’s both more fun to write and read. I suppose I could appreciate that in the abstract, but this made it clearer.

Philosophical jokes

Saul — Glad you liked it! I realized only after posting it that I was unconsciously imitating Gödel, Escher, Bach, which is full of dialogs in this style. (Which he took from Lewis Carroll, who was actually the logician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.) You might enjoy that if you haven’t read it.

Joshua — Yes; they were writing for extremely smart, overeducated, highly-motivated geeks who would enjoy the style. I suppose they never for an instant imagined their work would become Official State Orthodoxy in the way it has, and therefore preached in the market square and forced on dull undergraduates.

My favorite example, although it predates pomo by many decades, is Thorstein Weblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Every sentence is an exquisite bejeweled puzzle box. You turn it over and over and find the hidden button and it pops open to reveal a tiny delicate insight. You have to work for it, but wow is it worth it.

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