Friday, December 28, 2018

Qualia are not all fundamental entities if theism is true

This argument is sound. I am not sure if premise (2) is true, though.

  1. If God exists, then all fundamental entities are intrinsically good.
  2. Pain qualia are not intrinsically good.
  3. So, pain qualia are not fundamental entities.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reducing the right to the good

Here is a simple reductive account of right and wrong that now seems to me to be obviously correct:

  1. An action is right if and only if it is non-instrumentally wholly good; it is wrong if and only if it is non-instrumentally at least partly bad.

Think, after all, how easily we move between saying that someone acted badly and that someone acted wrongly.

If (1) is a correct reduction, then we can reduce facts about right and wrong to facts about the value of particular kinds of things, namely actions.

By the way, if we accept (1), then consequentialism is equivalent to the following thesis:

  1. An action is non-instrumentally good if and only if it is on balance (instrumentally and non-instrumentally) best.

But it is quite strange to think that there be an entity that is non-instrumentally good if and only if it is on balance best.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Group "belief"

Even though nobody thinks Strong AI has been achieved, we attribute beliefs to computer systems and software:

  • Microsoft Word thinks that I mistyped that word.

  • Google knows where I’ve been shopping.

The attribution is communicatively useful and natural, but is not literal.

It seems to me, however, that the difference in kind between the beliefs of computers and the beliefs of persons is no greater than the difference in kind between the beliefs of groups and the beliefs of persons.

Given this, the attribution of beliefs to groups should also not be taken to be literal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Do we need performatives?

In a performative, a social fact is instituted by a statement that simultaneously announces it:

  • I hereby apply for the position.

  • I dub this ship the Star of the South.

  • I promise to pay you back tomorrow.

It seems we can distinguish two cases of institution of a social fact. Some social facts do not essentially require any party besides the instituter be apprised of the fact, and it is only the current contingent convention that those facts are instituted by an announcement. For instance, naming of persons is done by a public act in our society, but we could imagine (as happens in some piece of science fiction I vaguely recall) a society where people name themselves mentally, and then only reveal the name to their intimates. In that case, name facts already would obtain prior to their announcement, being instituted by a purely private mental act. In fact, in our society we handle the naming of animals in this way. You don’t need to tell anybody—not even Goldy—that your goldfish’s name is Goldy for the name to be that.

In the case of social facts that do not require anybody besides the instituter to be apprised of them, if we in fact institute them by means of a performative, that is a mere accident.

But some social facts of their very nature seem to require that some relevant party besides the instituter be apprised of the fact. For instance, it seems one cannot apply for a position without informing the organization in charge of the position, and one cannot promise without communicating this to the promisee. In those cases, it seems that the fact must be instituted by a performative.

That’s not quite right, though. The social fact of applying for a position can also be instituted by a pair of things: a performative instituting a conditional application and the truth of the antecedent of the conditional. “I hereby apply if no other applications come in by Wednesday night.” And in that case, the social fact can obtain without anyone other than God being apprised of it: even if no one yet knows that no other applications have come in by Wednesday night, it is a fact that one has applied. It seems that every social fact that is instituted by a performative announcing that very fact could be instituted by an appropriate conditional performative plus the obtaining of the antecedent.

But perhaps we can say something weaker. There seem to be social facts that logically require that they be partially instituted by someone’s apprising someone of something—but not necessary of the social fact in question. So while perhaps no particular performative is essential to instituting a particular social fact, some social facts may require some performative or other.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A professional philosophy life hack

I've found it much easier to get acceptances for papers that are technical and include a theorem or two. Maybe the referees/editor think: "Well, at least the theorems are true."

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Pascal's Wager at the social level

There is a discussion among political theorists on whether religious liberty should be taken as special, or just another aspect of some standard liberty like personal autonomy.

Here’s an interesting line of thought. If God exists, then religious liberty is extremely objectively important, indeed infinitely important. Now maybe a secular state should not presuppose that God exists. There are strong philosophical arguments on both sides, and while I think the ones on the side of theism are conclusive, that is a controversial claim. However, on the basis of the arguments, it seems that even a secular state should think that it is a very serious possibility that God exists, with a probability around 1/2. But if there is a probability around 1/2 that religious liberty is infinitely important, then the religious liberty is special.