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Posted on April 11 at 3:50 p.m.
Markus, yes, the problem is how purposiveness arose in a universe that is alleged to be entirely non-purposive. As this problem is usually framed, including in my article above, the question is how does mind itself emerge from non-mind? Mind surely includes purpose in any reasonable definition. I link to my previous essays in the essay above, in which I address in detail the problems of emergence of mind from no-mind. Emergence of life from non-life is a different problem. How do you think purpose evolved from that which has no purpose? And how do you define purpose?
On Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World
Posted on April 11 at 12:59 p.m.
pk, there is a certain satisfaction and grim "joy" in accepting the hard-nosed meaningless world of scientific materialism. I know because I was one of those people for quite some time. I found it uplifting in terms of ego gratification to be above those who had weaker bellies and needed the meaning provided by patriarchal God or gods. But over time I realized that the scientific materialists had overshot the mark and had become fetishistic in their embrace of meaningless to the point of nihilism. And when we examine the best evidence from physics, biology and the neurosciences I also realized that scientific materialism is missing half the story. So we get a twofer with deep science: 1) we get to re-include the missing half of the story (our own minds and subjectivity more generally) in a far more complete scientific description of the universe; 2) we get a far grander narrative about the universe and our role in it. I'll be fleshing out these two themes in later essays.
Posted on April 11 at 12:55 p.m.
Hi DrDan, do you mean Religion Without God by Dworkin? If so, I'll check it out. I think you may be right about the cultural symptoms of our current existential malady. There does seem to be a strange fascination with the dark side of human nature. But there are probably a ton of other reasons behind this current trend too.
Posted on November 9 at 1:26 p.m.
Botany, my article already reflects the factors you raise. I describe the long-term problem of rising interest rates, which are factored in CBO's projections. I agree that QE will end before too long and we'll also see rising rates on government debt over time (as new, higher-interest debt is acquired). I then suggest that the long-term debt problem can be solved by cutting the federal 'defense' budget in half over the course of 5-10 years.
On How to Fix the National Debt, with Pictures!
Posted on October 11 at 9:50 a.m.
loonpt, sounds like we're on the same page on the idea of devolving power back to the people. However, I think the discussion should, at least in the next decade or so, focus on the appropriate level of governance for each issue area, rather than focus on acting as though the federal government is nothing buy a tyrannical imposition of power. On the tax issue, I'll also point out that the actual tax burden on Americans is far lower than you suggest. That is, when deductions and tax avoidance are figured in, the total tax burden is far below the half of our income that you suggest it is.
I wrote about community Kickstarter ideas in Part I of this essay and I totally agree they should and could be part of the solutions to local problems. However, I warned in that piece, and I'll do it again here, against thinking that those kind of solutions could magically solve all of our problems in lieu of federal or state problems. Could community Kickstarter approaches replace Medicare or Medicaid? Not anytime soon. States, however, could replace the federal role in health care and most health care programs are actually run by states under federal rules that can be implemented with some discretion by each state. I'm all for states rights so I hope to see more discretion granted to states in all areas in coming years.
With respect to minority rights, I agree with you that constitutional limits play this role, and the courts are the primary protectors of such limits. Even if we had far more direct democracy today there is no reason to think that courts should go away. Legal and constitutional decisions are perhaps one area that should be the province of experts (lawyers and judges), at least in terms of application. When it comes to making laws, value judgements are essential, and crowds are fully equipped to make value judgments. In fact, they're probably the best entity to make such judgments if we agree that majority rules is the foundational principle for democracy. However, I'm suggesting here that application of laws to particular circumstances, which is what courts do, may always be best left to experts. But maybe I'm wrong on that.
Anyway, my key point is that there's no reason that minority rights would be treated any differently in a more directly democratic system than in a representative democracy.
On The Wisdom of the Mob
Posted on October 11 at 9:39 a.m.
DrDan, I agree with you fully that more education is key, I was really heartened by today's NYT story about school "flipping" where some schools are now following the Khan Academy model for every class, where students watch instructional videos as homework and then work through problems and discussion in class. This flipping has had incredibly significant impacts on student achievement already.
That said, I fear you're missing the point a bit of my piece. My key point is that we can and should entrust more and more decisionmaking to the crowd b/c crowds have been shown time and time again, particularly when they are diverse, independent and decentralized, to make better decisions and forecasts than the smartest members of that same crowd and of the so-called experts. So if we devolve power away from the leaders who you correctly point out can in many circumstances fool the American electorate, the risk of being fooled is reduced. At the same time, decentralization of power makes such abuses of power less likely b/c of the difficulties in herding cats.
However, any move toward more direct democracy will necessarily be incremental and should start locally, as I wrote in part I of this series. There are many ways we could implement direct democracy solutions at the local level, such as in local land use decisions, local environmental regulations, and local campaign finance rules, to name a few examples. Any exercise in direct democracy must be subject to the constraints of the judiciary, which will enforce constitutional limits and protect minority rights.
I think a good way to ensure that local direct democracy expansions don't rely on uninformed voters is to hold such votes online but require that each voter get certified for each vote by having to read through the background and relevant discussion points for each vote. This could be required a day or more in advance to ensure that voters don't vote in a knee-jerk manner. So even though there will always be healthy debate about outcomes, at least such votes will be informed by the necessary background - above and beyond simply being a citizen in the neighborhood or town that is impacted by the vote at issue.
I addressed concerns about security in Part I. If we can do $billions in online commerce each year, we can figure out how to make online elections secure - particularly if we start locally and incrementally.
Posted on September 8 at 12:24 p.m.
Thanks DrDan. I'll check out the article you mentioned. Which piece of Sloterdijk's are you referring to?
On Unusual Method
Posted on September 7 at 11:52 a.m.
pk, why not address the issues addressed in this article rather than culling the worst critics' statements on matters not even addressed in this interview? Why go ad hominem when we're discussed ideas about the evolution of science? How are Kuhn, Popper, Fuller right/wrong on their ideas about the evolution of science?
Posted on August 25 at 9:19 a.m.
Scientifik, I recommend highly that you read Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. You'll enjoy it.
On Something from Nothing?
Posted on August 25 at 9:16 a.m.
pk, your last post mis-stated my views and my previous arguments pretty seriously. Since you've read and commented on my columns pretty consistently over the last few years, I'm surprised that you would have mis-read my views that substantially. Most likely, it was just shorthand, but regardless we've been over this ground before in terms of why I think materialist and dualist views of consciousness come up short. The only other options are idealism and panpsychism. Idealism, I feel, makes a similar but opposite mistake as materialism in that it doesn't seem to adequately explain matter and its relationship to mind. Panpsychism, therefore, rises to the fore.
On A Mini-Discourse on Spiritual Method
Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, Former U.S. Poet Laureate ... Read More
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