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William Godwin against coercion

Quote by William Godwin:

Let us consider the effect that coercion produces upon the mind of him against whom it is employed. It cannot begin with convincing; it is no argument. It begins with producing the sensation of pain, and the sentiment of distaste. It begins with violently alienating the mind from the truth with which we wish it to be impressed. It includes in it a tacit confession of imbecility. If he who employs coercion against me could mould me to his purposes by argument, no doubt he would. He pretends to punish me because his argument is strong; but he really punishes me because his argument is weak. An Enquiry Concerning Political JusticeBy William Godwin
Recent posts

Two Misconceptions in Inductivism

An Excerpt from David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity. (Bold emphasis mine)
First, inductivism purports to explain how science obtains predictions about experiences. But most of our theoretical knowledge simply does not take that form. Scientific explanations are about reality, most of which does not consist of anyone’s experiences. Astrophysics is not primarily about us (what we shall see if we look at the sky), but about what stars are: their composition and what makes them shine, and how they formed, and the universal laws of physics under which that happened. Most of that has never been observed: no one has experienced a billion years, or a light year; no one could have been present at the Big Bang; no one will ever touch a law of physics – except in their minds, through theory. All our predictions of how things will look are deduced from such explanations of how things are. So inductivism fails even to address how we can know about stars and the universe, as distinct from…

Why Critical Discussion is Difficult

A short passage: 


The Myth of the Framework by Karl Popper (bold emphasis mine.)
Truth is hard to come by. It needs both ingenuity in criticizing old theories, and ingenuity in the imaginative invention of new theories. This is so not only in the sciences, but in all fields.
Serious critical discussions are always difficult. Non-rational human elements such as personal problems always enter. Many participants in a rational, that is, a critical, discussion find it particularly difficult that they have to unlearn what their instincts seem to teach them (and what they are taught, incidentally, by every debating society): that is, to win. For what they have to learn is that victory in a debate is nothing, while even the slightest clarification of one’s problem – even the smallest contribution made towards a clearer understanding of one’s own position or that of one’s opponent – is a great success. A discussion which you win but which fails to help you to change or to clarify your mind at l…

A Firmware Upgrade for the Mind

Q: 

What Book is so special to you that you feel immediately closer to someone when they mention how important it is to them?

This question was asked on Twitter, and I surprised myself in how quickly an answer came to mind (though I cheated and mentioned 2) because whenever people ask what are your favorite books I find it tough to answer. I have enjoyed so many that I'd be hard-pressed to just list 10. Despite this fact, I have found that although many books have taught me valuable lessons, none have completely changed the way I view things as much as Lying by Sam Harris and The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. More importantly than how I view things, these two books have changed how I act too. Using Sam's terminology, these two books were a firmware upgrade for my mind. I will be posting more on David's book, there is much to unpack and it is the best book I have ever read, for now, this post will focus on Sam's book.


Is it Ever Okay to Lie? A lie according to…

The Dream of Reducing Polarization

I wrote a small guide for the IDW Subreddit. I want to share it here too because I think it is important to familiarize yourself with the ideas of people who you may not agree with.

As John Stuart Mill Said:

It’s hardly possible to overstate the value of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves…Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress After the violent attack of a journalist in Portland by a radical violent far-left group and consequently the disappointing response by people who I would deem on my side of the aisle I felt like now more than ever we need a way to fight against polarization. Civility must win. Perhaps, I will write more about that incident in Portland but all I can say for now is, if you find yourself celebrating the violent attack of a reporter in one of our cities, you have taken a very wrong turn somewhere.

Anyway, I hope this guide helps. If David Deutsch is right and all Evils are caused by a lack …

If We Could Jail Hurricanes We Would

Since I wrote my last post on Free Will I have come across some interesting criticisms of my view.
My goal in this post is to respond to some of those criticisms and to also dispel some misconceptions about what it would mean to not have Free Will.

If there is no Free Will then why should we care about criminals or murderers? This is perhaps the most often brought up point when one starts talking about dispensing with the idea of Free Will. The idea of punishment and retribution is at the very core of our being. A remnant of our evolutionary past, primates do it, even bats do it. Nobody likes cheaters, freeloaders or worse, killers. We still need to differentiate between voluntary action and involuntary action, particularly because this will reveal your future intentions. So how would our justice system, and how we view those who wrong us change if we were to admit to ourselves that Free Will is an illusion? The answer is, not much, but it would change in one crucial way.  We would be…

What I should know by December

In Theory.
My learning goals for the next five months.
Ethical Theory

Have gained understanding of the classical theories in normative ethics (deontology, consequentialism, contractarianism, virtue ethics, among others.) Become facile with the contemporary philosophical research on these classical theories with the aim of understanding how (or whether) the former seeks to correct problems with the latter. Develop argumentation and reasoning skills in the evaluation of the various accounts under consideration.
Political Philosophy


Be familiar with the central debates in contemporary political philosophy and  have developed the skills for deploying the main concepts and arguments of these debates to critically analyze and evaluate a range of pressing political issues, from the ongoing immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border, to the recent rise of progressive and conservative populist movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and the Alternative Right (a.k.a., the Alt-Right…

Free Will

The Illusion of Free Will  Free will is an illusion. I will try to explain why I believe this is the case using a scientific and a philosophical argument. I want to first clarify what I mean by "Free Will." I think that free will can be defined quite simply as the ability to have acted differently. In other words, if you could go back in time at any point in your life you have the ability to have made a different choice. This is demonstrably false.
Scientific Case against Free Will One of the strongest cases against free will have been studies done by neuroscience to study our decision making process. A study done in 2008 showed that researchers could tell what decision a participant would take up to 10 seconds before they became aware of their decision. This and other studies have put into question the idea that we are the authors of our own actions. It seems to me at this point one fact is indisputable, some moments before we are aware of what we'll do next, our brain…

How I came to be a non-believer.

The Sun is average.
When I was a six year old my father bought me a magazine about Astronomy. I don't recall why he did it, probably to keep me busy while we went grocery shopping. I learned for the first time a few things about the Universe. The one fact that I learned that blew my mind was that the Sun was a star, just like any other, an average star. Armed with this knowledge I went to my catholic school ready to impress my friends and teachers. This was a mistake. Turns out the teacher was not thrilled when I brought up the fact. I don't know if she really thought the Sun was not a star or if she did and was pretending not to, but she quoted the bible to me and told me to be quiet. Also, to add injury to insult, a kid walked up to me at the end of class and punched me in the belly for "making up lies." (I don't feel bad as I got him back the next day pretty good)
 I tell that story because I learned something that day. Authority figures could be wrong. The B…

What I like about the Moral Landscape and some Critical Rationalism

Taken mostly from my CMV thread
This is what I believe to be correct about the Moral Landscape by Sam Harris: Moral Truths Exist

The Divide between facts and values is illusory in at least 2 ways:

Whatever can be known about maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures must at some point translate into facts about brains and their interaction with the world at large
The very idea of "objective" knowledge has values build into it, as every effort we make to discuss facts depends upon principles that we must first value (e.g., logical consistency, reliance on evidence, parsimony, etc.)
Ideas I am still considering (thanks to Brett Hall): Ontological truths exist independent of conscious creatures, thus, ontological truths cannot be dependent on the neurology of conscious creatures.
The criterion by which institutions should be judged is by how good they are at resolving disputes between people without violence or without coercion.
I learned these correction from Brett …