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philosophy articles

How does knowledge work: using logic to model real-world communication

Hello and welcome to the moment that you (yes, all two of you) have been waiting for - the second installment of “How does knowledge work”. This is exciting right? Riight?

We all communicate, or at least we think we do. And I mean communicate in the broadest sense, from spoken communication to written to visual, from informal to formal (in the sense of logically-formal). We will look into all of that and we will present a whole theory of how communication happens that is based on the first installment of “How does knowledge work” where we basically established a logical framework for modeling how the human mind works.

You remember that, right? Right? Well, maybe the reason you fell asleep was that you actually were more interested in how people communicate with one another. Could this be it? Well, listen up, it’s actually interesting. Plus what better things you have to do? Communicate with actual people? But how would you know that you are actually communicating with them, if you are not familiar with the logical foundations of human communication?

Hello?

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Where universality breaks: about Kant's triads and the dual to Laplace's demon

Hi. Let’s wait for more people to show up… Or it’s just us? OK. So listen up, I wrote this very cool post that gathers almost all my mathematical and philosophical interests in one place…

OK, whaterver, if you are not interested I will stop.

OK, let’s try again * clears throat * “The age-old mystery of Kant’s triads has baffled academics for centuries: what is the significance of the third element that finishes each of his triad. And is it possible that the categories were given to Kant by aliens?”

What, now it’s too dramatic? No, impossible, Kant never used any drugs! OK, whatever, I give up, no more introductions for these articles, let’s just get on with it!

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Epistemology for you all: Was Gettier a fraud?

Yesterday, while browsing through the Wikipedia page on epistemology I came across the following excerpt:

Edmund Gettier is best known for his 1963 paper entitled “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”, which called into question the theory of knowledge that had been dominant among philosophers for thousands of years.[19] This, in turn, called into question the actual value of philosophy if such an obvious and easy counterexample to a major theory could exist without anyone noticing it for thousands of years.

I did not know anything about either Edmund Gettier or the referred paper, but the way this paragraph attacked not only all philosophers but philosophy as a discipline left me infuriated, so without doing much research, I deleted it from the article, stating that “you can easily see many examples of philosophers claiming similar issues”. If I wanted to get into more detail, I would have added that I don’t think that there is such thing as a “dominant theory” in philosophy and especially such that has no counterexamples - philosophy, after all, is about arguments, so you really want to you can always construct arguments to support even the stupidest thesis (which was what I was planning to do if someone attacked me for messing with Wikipedia’s epistemology page).

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How does knowledge work: using logic to model real-world thinking

“Hello, and welcome to another episode of “Logic for Y’all”. Today we are going to tackle a rather controversial topic - “Using logic to model real-world thinking”. Asked to comment on it, most people went: “Pff, logic!” and our resident logicians prepared the following summary: “Pff, the real world!”. But still, among our listeners, there were some wannabe philosophers who insisted that this is the most important thing ever, so it appears that we have no choice but to get someone to talk about it (there will be booze at the end). So let’s give a warm welcome to the only guy who agreed to speak about this boring topic, Jencel Paniiic!”

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Booknotes - The critique of pure reason

Lately, I’ve been exploring this book, which I will refer to as simply “The critique” from now on, by following the lectures by Robert Paul Wolff and decided to put my notes here in case someone finds them useful. This is a summary. The ideas expressed in it belong to Immanuel Kant. The phrase “Kant thinks” can accompany each sentence from it, but it is omitted for brevity and ease of reading. But at the same time, it is not objective - I am interpreting the ideas in the book the way I understand them, which may or may not be the way your philosophy professor interprets them. Also, the text is not in any way a substitute of reading the book itself - rather my aim was for it to help people who read the book by providing an additional viewpoint into what is happening in it.

I put my original research in a separate article about Kant’s categories.

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Plato's Republic and anarchy

The more I reread The Republic, the more I think that the guy who argued with Socrates at the beginning had a solid point — justice is whatever the rulers say. Incidentally, this argument leads straight to anarchy (the system which is taken to be bad, without any arguments).

Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?

Yes, I know.

And the government is the ruling power in each state?

Certainly.

And the different forms of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.

Good theories

Whenever I think about good physical theories, I immediately think of Boltzmann’s statistical mechanics (the theory of entropy, you can say), not because he basically discovered the science of atoms and molecules, but simply because every time I see an ice cube in a glass, I see the particles, the Brownian motion, the way the heat and coldness dissolve etc.

I don’t think about the number of grand important open issues that were solved by this theory, but I think about way the way that a person like me can use it in their thinking. Like for example that one time when my frined told me to leave the oven opened after using it, because they wanted for the heat in the oven to warm the room, and I explained to them that the heat from the oven will always warm the room, simply because it had nowhere else to go.

And I think of category theory in a similar way — not as a tool that delivers results I use to solve some important problems, that were otherwise unsolvable, but it is a tool that broadens my perception of the world, which is much more important and fruitful. I don’t care if all problems which are solved by category theory happen to also be solved by other mathematical theories, nor how many of them are actually solved this way, I care only about the categories and functors in my head.

Data

People like to be reminded:

“data never speak for themselves”

But of course it doesn’t, after all, the objects of the dataset, the phenomena being investigated etc. are all defined using some theory, never forget that i.e. you have the theories even before you have the data (how can it speak of itself then?)

Feedback loops

“Protest against trans people, cause they are insane.” “Lock people in prison, cause they commit more crimes.” “Ban burkas, cause islamic people are terrorist.”

Life would be much easier if more people understood feedback loops.

Good theories

Whenever I think about good physical theories, I immediately think of Boltzmann’s statistical mechanics, not because he basically discovered the science of atoms and molecules, but simply because every time I see an ice cube in a glass, I see the particles, the Brownian motion, the way the heat and coldness dissolve etc.

And category theory is similar - it may not be a tool that I use to solve some important problems, that were otherwise unsolvable, but it is a tool that broadens my perception of the world, which is much more important and fruitful.

Occam's razor

The most popular formulation of the principle says that you just have to seek for the simplest explanation.

“We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” — Newton

But there is a deeper formulation, that concerns the very nature of explanations, hinted here in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus:

3.328 “If a sign is not necessary then it is meaningless. That is the meaning of Occam’s Razor.”

In a logically correct explanation of a phenomena, you are not allowed to invoke any entity without using some part of the phenomena as a justification for your claim.

E.g. if your apartment has been robbed, you are allowed to say stuff like:

1) “There is a rope hanging from my window, therefore the robber used it to enter”

or even less probable stuff like:

2) “They didn’t steel my shampoo, therefore they must be bald”

But not:

3) “The thief is probably a person of color”

The difference is that the claim 3) that the thief is a person of color, has no basis, whereas there is some basis, for claiming 2) that they are bald, (although not much.)

Statistically, 3) might be probable, more probable than 2), but still 3) is forbidden and 2) is allowed, cause when we make claim 2) we are thinking, whereas when we make claim 3) we are just repeating stuff that we heard before.

The scholastics (just like the Greeks) had faith that God left clues that would allow them to discover the truth about the world by themselves. This is the basis for Occam’s razor - faith in one’s own abilities. And this is what makes it important.

Also, one might consider the principle that is dual to Occam’s razor:

  • Occam’s razor (or Negative Occam’s razor, as I sometimes think about it): Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity i.e. when forming a theory, postulate no more than it is needed to explain the phenomena.

  • Dual Occam’s razor (or Positive Occam’s razor): Entities must not be removed beyond necessity i.e. if something is indeed needed to better explain the phenomena, it must be postulated.

David Deutsch uses this to makes a very compelling argument in “The fabric of reality”, regarding the Many-worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics that goes roughly like this: “if the other universes don’t exist, then where does the computation of quantum computing algorithms, such as Shor’s alghorithm, takes place?”

Short history of modern philosophy

The biggest discovery of 19-th century philosophy was due to Kant, who discovered that you can have a framework that is entirely consistent with Plato, Aristotel, Leibniz et al, and at the same time consistent with empiric data, and with itself, provided that you accept that this framework is kinda subjective.

The biggest discovery of the 20-th century, due to Baudrillard, Barthes, et al (pardon my lack of French philosophy background), and at the same time by Wittgenstein, McLuhan and probably many other people, (actually, Hume was there all along) is that a framework that is subjective can actually be consistent with anything you want, as long as you don’t pose any specific criteria to what “subjective” is.

The biggest discovery of the 21-th century, is still due, I guess, but it would probably be some formalization of the idea of the subject, which would be a full circle towards the times before 19-th century.

Meanwhile in the realm of science:

Newton discovers a scientific framework that is entirely consistent with Plato et al, if only you have the concept of an absolute space, but the concept of absolute space doesn’t agree with observation.

Einstein discovers a framework that that doesn’t include the concept of absolute time (which he doesn’t admit is Kantian).

Quantum mechanics discover that a framework that does not rely on the concept of absolute time is inherently subjective (depends on observer).

Authority and christianity

I was thinking that Plato allegedly said that ignorance is the only sin and if it’s possible that he said that, since the concept of a sin came later in history and I suddenly realized that the concept of a sin is pure BS Like “There is this thing that you would really like to do but you should not do it because it is wrong (and God will punish you), so you should never ever do it and you should beat yourself (literary) when you go as far as to think about it.”

That’s like saying “you’re guilty until proven innocent, and you will never be innocent. All you can do is pray to us to relieve your pain.”

The doctrine of the world’s major religion is just totalitarian propaganda, thinly disguised as advice/prophecy.

Like, if you take the fable about Adam and Eve and the apple. What does the apple represent? Sex? Knowledge? Or most probably just opposition to authority. Not clear what was God’s purpose with putting the tree there. All we understand is that if we do wrong we will be punished and we already did wrong…

Early and late Wittgenstein

Hot philosophy take: The big difference between the early and late Wittgenstein is that the early Wittgenstein thought that a picture is supposed to have a single interpretation that can be communicated between interested parties, whereas the later Wittgenstein realized that this can never actually happen.

Intelligence and freedom of thought

Intelligence is just the practice of thinking freely about something, (without accepting any kind of external dogma as a-priori true.) Nobody can ever teach you to be intelligent.

99 percent of being intelligent is realizing that all those fucktards who give you advice like “Don’t marry” or “Go study this and that” are just fucktards who don’t have anything better to do and are using you as a means to raise their self esteem m by having people listening to them.

Most people recognize some of these people as fucktards, but few recognize and are able to break free from all of them.

Kant's principle

Kant’s principle: If there is only one of it (and there cannot ever be more), then it’s probably imaginary e.g. time, space, god, self…

Corrolary: You only truly understand the things that you yourself made up. And so if you think you truly understand something, either you are wrong or you made that thing up.

Kant's discovery

The main discovery of Kant is that we are not “blank sheets”, but are born predisposed to certain modes of perception. This thought had profound influence on almost every intellectual discipline.

I believe that Kant discovered that when thinking about the laws of Euclidean geometry (“Given two points, there is a straight line that joins them”). These are “facts” that are deeply embedded in our perception of the world, so much that we cannot imagine a world where they are not true, but at the same time they cannot be proved, they don’t follow from anything.

Therefore, he reasoned, there are laws/axioms/postulates that are “embedded” in our minds, that come before perception giving general direction about our perception of the world. They are “pure reason”.

Science philosophy and mathematics

Science is just a subdiscipline of philosophy, the scientific method is an application to what philosophers call critical thinking.

Critical thinking is just asking yourself the question “What would be the consequence if a given thing that we accept as true is actually false?” over and over again.

The scientific method is the practice of applying this question to empirical observations.

Mathematics is another subdiscipline of philosophy that studies how far can you go once you accept a given set of postulates as true (while the rest of philosophy is mostly concerned with which things are true).

So science is mathematics + a little philosophy. This came because I learned that when writing “Principia Mathematica”, Newton was influenced by two books - “Principia Philosophiæ” by Rene Descartes, from which he took the subject matter (and the name) and “The Elements” by Euclid, from which he took the method of reasoning.

On Godel-related strong AI refutations

Penrose’s theory and all other Godel-related strong-AI refutations are stupid: “Human mind is different from a computer because humans are capable of detecting logically inconsistent theories and logical paradoxes and think outside the box in order to know that they are paradoxes.”

This is not true at all - our mind actually does nothing more than what a computer operating system would do if it sees a process that occupies a lot of memory and doesn’t produce a result - it would kill the process (or the thought that leads to paradox.) We aren’t able to escape an infinite cycle because we are more capable than computers - we are merely equipped with heuristics necessary to escape from a situation that does not benefit us in any way (sometimes).

On dishonesty

This morning I woke up with the following question in mind: What are the characteristics of the mental process that strips life from it’s dreamlike properties and makes it dull and monotonous?

My theory is has to do with dishonesty.

Dishonesty are the processes in which we purposefully create an interpretation of the facts that we know is not the most truthful interpretation.

So, when being dishonest, we have to maintain two separate interpretations - the true one (which would always exist), and the the one we want to believe and/or want others to believe.

the true interpretation is “alive” - it always updates, it always has something happening with it.

The false one, is less connected to reality, so it is static. Nothing happens in it, as we have to ignore the reality with which it is incompatible.

The principle of triviality

Jencel’s principle of triviality:

Any self-consistent body of knowledge can be reduced to a number of clear elementary postulates and everything else would follow from them. So, any body of knowledge for which it is not immediately clear what these postulates are, is not self-consistent.

Also, the number of those postulates is usually small.

Simply put: if you cannot explain the system using very elementary language and constructs, then there is probably inconsistency in it somewhere.

Example: most religious doctrines, astrology, cryptocurrenciesetc.

Popper's argument

The logical basis of Popper’s solution to the problem of induction - only with modus tollens we can make valid logical conclusions that proceed from specific to general, and we can make only negative such conclusions, e.g. “This swan is black, therefore not all swans are white.” Hence the only criteria for valid knowledge is fasifiability.

Antinomy

Word of the day: Antinomy — an undecidable conflict between two theses, none of which is true, simply because the question has no answer. (via Immanuel Kant)

On systematic learning

Systematic learning (especially of the institutionalized kind, the way it’s done at schools) doesn’t work - the principal method of learning is being exposed to some new info which you connect to what you already know in a creative way, educational institutions always try to do the creative work for you and that’s why the process is bound to fail. Learning is always spontaneous and almost always comes from unserious and unusual channels. That’s why a week of motivated research can get you to learn more than years at school.

Facts

I came to the world for the facts, but it turns out I can only have pictures of facts. This is some shit.

Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard's last words

Look how different philosophers are from one another:

Wittgenstein’s last words (upon hearing that friends are coming to visit him): “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life”

Kierkegaard’s were “My life is a great, to others unknown and incomprehensible suffering.”

Seems that Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard are the modern version of the laughing and the crying philosopher.

Kant vs Hume

I find it fascinating how similar it is to the Critique of Pure Reason, though the backgrounds of the two authors are so different.

Kant and Hume embody the religious and scientific schools in philosophy, Kant seeing belief as a transformative force and Hume seeing it as a peculiarly of the human character.

The ultimate conclusion that you can reach when comparing their viewpoints is that causality is not a law, nor a meta law, but a belief which every thinking being must hold to some extend.

Deepest chapter of Kant's Critique

At first I thought that the Transcendental Deduction was the heart of the matter of “The Critique of Pure Reason”, but upon rereading, it’s definitely not it. The deepest chapter is appropriately called “Systematic representation of All the Synthetic Principles of Pure Understanding” and is awesome. Especially the “Analogies of Experience” and the “Anticipation of Perception” are so deep that I did not understand a single word at first, but it all comes together with time.

Positive nihilism

Positive nihilism:

Nothing that you say or do matters in the grand scheme of things, and this is pathetic, but more pathetic is the refusal to accept that fact, instead of conforming to it and thus making it the only thing you conform to:

Your achievements don’t matter, so no point in being dishonest.

You failures don’t matter, so no point in giving up.

Your strive to perfection is vain, so no point in pressuring yourself.

The concept of the self

Re-reading “I am a strange loop” and finding much stuff that I missed originally. I like the author’s idea of an organism’s concept of self as the central concept in an organism’s system of thought, and the one that binds all other concepts together.

Like, a concept is considered true and real by us only if it relates to our concept of ourselves. Our concept of ourselves is the realest thing there exists for us (although it in actuality is completely objective).

On spirituality and society

It won’t be till we start fearing spiritual death more than we fear physical death, that our society will arrive at the next stage.

On the concept of myriad of things

Dogen’s concept of a “myriad of things” (or “the thousand things” as it is sometimes translated) is very similar to Kant’s concept of the “manifold of sensibility”, essentially both are trying to highlight the novel, flux-like aspect of reality, the fact that the concept of objects are subjective (no pun intended). It would be a really cool plot twist if it turned out that Kant had read Dogen (very highly unlikely in real life).

On the banality of evil

Hannah Arendt’s principle of the banality of evil is also valid in the other way around: not only that evil is banal, but all banal things are evil i.e. a thing is banal if and only if it is evil.

On productivity

Seems that all this obsession with productivity that we have is due to the fact that we don’t believe in the things we do and so we want to at least do more of them.

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