[ExI] Universal timeless principles
anders at aleph.se
Tue Oct 6 08:03:37 UTC 2015
On 2015-10-05 20:02, Dan TheBookMan wrote:
> On Oct 5, 2558 BE, at 9:09 AM, William Flynn Wallace
> <foozler83 at gmail.com <mailto:foozler83 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>> Philosophers could not even agree on the value of philosophy, I think.
> That's the argument from disagreement. If you take the argument from
> disagreement seriously, then shouldn't you apply it to all endeavors?
> Do scientists all agree on X? No, well, then X should be chucked out.
> X might be extended to all of science. In any field -- science, math,
> history, music, what and whether to have for lunch today -- you'll
> find a dissenter.
> (To pre-empt the argument that science or other fields all have means
> of settling such disagreements: No, there are dissenting voices there
> too. Not all scientists agree on how to settle science questions. Not
> all historians agree... And so forth.)
Disagreement does show that one should not be overconfident about a
conclusion, though. As I argued in my uploading ethics papers, the fact
that there is disagreement between reasonable people on whether software
can be conscious should be enough to make even consciousness-sceptics
agree that there is some chance that they are wrong, and hence we better
treat potentially sentient software nicely (the opposite case, treating
software nicely when it is actually non-sentient, is not as bad as
treating sentient software badly). This approach works when some
possibilities have a big and different weights, but there are still
nontrivial issues of what counts as reasonable disagreement.
Philosophy might be the field that criticises itself most vigorously.
>> And just why do they know any more about anything than the rest of us
> I wouldn't presume they know more, though one can't be sure until one
> familiarizes oneself with their work.
Exactly. People who discount philosophy frequently reinvent
philosophical wheels that have been in use for millennia.
Philosophers at least know what ideas have been tried before and how
they worked out. Many are also very good at critical reasoning about
abstract areas: when they make claims, they typically have documented
reasons for these claims.
We know a fair bit about what tasks humans can become expert in (see
). Philosophy does pretty well on decomposing problems and using formal
decision aids. Depending on branch, one may look at static things with
agreed on properties (good for expertise building) or messy human
domains where there is little agreement on what is what (bad). Some
philosophers keep on applying the same method to a lot of cases (good
for becoming expert at the method), others jump between methods (bad for
method expertise). Feedback is typically in the form of other
philosophers criticising - useful for becoming an expert on making good
formal arguments, but real-world feedback is clearly worth far more and
less common. All in all, we should expect philosophers to be really good
at doing academic philosophy, pretty good at analysing problems, decent
in talking about real-world situations where we get feedback on what
works and doesn't work, and hopeless in areas where there is no simple
feedback. This is why I prefer practical ethics and epistemology (real
world data and consequences!) to metaethics and metaphysics.
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
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