Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Net Safety

Apparently according to TV3/net nanny (or whoever it was) we need to be more net safe. You should separate our net identity from yourself. You should not put any photos on the web etc. Now, despite the fact I effectively do this I don’t care much for those who tell others they must do it.

1) Being on the net is rather like real life - you could give a false identity to all random strangers you met on the street if you want - but who would bother?
I have met many people from the net and they are as normal as non net people in fact if anything more so (if that is possible).
2) It is a bit like telling everyone to carry a gun in their house or put deadbolts on their doors. these sort of hiding just creates a bit of an arms race and makes being on the net all the more impersonal - one of the things that they were complaining about.
3) It is a distraction from the real issues. If there are pedophiles – just catch them! If there is too much bullying on the net – catch the bullies! Don’t just tell everyone to run and hide and pretend that solves the root problem.

Role in society

What is a philosopher's role in society?


Philosophers define what a problem is (is it inequality? if so why? what is the moral nature of a situation with inequality? (maybe even - what is a white person?)
Armed with this Sociologists show "there is a problem"
Armed with this Politicians "develop a pragmatic solution to the problem"
Armed with this Public servants "enact the solution"

A lot of people out there who are running around with a hammer and can't see anything but nails. One key bias on the right is the bias to see everything as a failure to use the market and one error on left is to see everything as a class issue.

Sometimes one side is right, but the truth often exists in neither of these two worlds. If there are situations where neither "hammer" fits the bill both sides will often ignore the answer even if you prove it to them and neither will make a decent attempt to look for it. Worse yet they will propose explanations they are totally unable to defend and see how loud they can shout it.

Maybe we are all now politicians and public servants.

Philosophy quiz

Here is a fun moral philosophy Quiz

My results are as below

1. Jeremy Bentham (100%)
2. John Stuart Mill (82%)
3. Aquinas (81%)
4. Jean-Paul Sartre (62%)
5. Kant (60%)
6. Aristotle (59%)
7. Plato (52%)
8. Spinoza (45%)
9. Epicureans (42%)
10. Prescriptivism (40%)
11. St. Augustine (35%)
12. Thomas Hobbes (31%)
13. Cynics (27%)
14. Ayn Rand (27%)
15. Nel Noddings (25%)
16. Ockham (23%)
17. Stoics (18%)
18. David Hume (15%)
19. Nietzsche (7%)

Israel invades gaza.. again...

I wish Israel would develop a more sensible strategy as opposed to just invading every time it got upset.
Clearly Israel is in a position where if it's honor is insulted (e.g. if a soldier is kidnapped) the politicians must react with force blow up a few bridges and probably end up killing some terrorists and maybe some collateral damage.

The problem with this is that even just considering Israel’s interests alone, decisions should be made on a consequentialist basis not a knee-jerk one. They need to be able to not invade if it is a bad time to do it (which I personally think is almost all the time - but that is up for some debate).

As with most democratic politics however we just have one group of gun toting hawks and one group of doves.. not a group of people thinking sensibly.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Apparently I am

A rational traditionalist
But as you can see only traditional in some of the ways they asked about.

Monday, June 26, 2006


I have a suggestion for a new invention - now all I need is someone to help me make it.
I need a very small video camera a very small audio recording instrument and a very small memory unit. The unit must be able to hold about 24hrs of recordings.
The trick is then designing it to meet particular markets, once done right it will be "the biggest thing since sliced bread".

Saturday, June 24, 2006

US elections

Public opinion polls for the 2008 election yielded the following results for potential Republican candidates:

(American Polling Research Institute - June 13-16, 2006}

Condoleezza Rice 30%
Rudolph Giuliani 21%
John McCain 20%
Newt Gingrich 8%
Mitt Romney 7%
George Allen 5%
Mike Huckabee 3%
Bill Frist 2%
Unsure 3%
Wouldn't Vote 1%

I notice Romney is still in there with 7% but as long as you have their supporters writing articles like
fighting the name recognition factor
you know they are in trouble. Name recognition is absolutely vital to winning an election it is even more important than actually having policies!

According to the polls the first three could win an election against Hillary and the rest couldn't HOWEVER I would say it is a sound bet that Hillary will finish strongly and McCain and Rice might not fare so well so they could be tight battles. I think Hilary would beat rice in the end at least.

I am pro Rudolph Giuliani for his ability to get thigns done and his (as far as I can tell) socialy liberal positions. I am pro Hilary because it gives me Bill back again - and he did pretty well from an impartial perspective aside from a sex scaldal or two (and who doesn't love a sex scandal?).

So Hillary v Rudy... Let the battle begin!

Chomsky Medialens and Atopian

Beaumont from the observer takes on Chomsky and preemptively takes on medialens as well.

Of Chomsky he notes

"'By applying a Chomskian analysis to his own writing, you discover exactly the same subtle textual biases, evasions and elisions of meaning as used by those he calls "the doctrinal managers" of the "powerful elites"."

Something I have noted in almost every article Chomsky has written. Simply Chomsky is not the solution to the decline in the standard of debate - he is a symptom of it. However if anything Chomsky is worse since most people are only half aware of their strategies Chomsky is aware enough not only to catch out others using them but to catch those who attack him doing those same things.

Of medialens he says

"'Think a train spotters' club run by Uncle Joe Stalin"

Alex at atopian continues the trend of this debate

"It contains such a horrendous misread of everything media lens is about that you have to wonder whether it is in fact a cunning ruse to lend support to the ideas that they put forward. Full of rhetoric, slights about the media lens group as being communists ("Think a train spotters' club run by Uncle Joe Stalin"), sheer mistaken facts (media lens do not put the death count in Iraq at 100,000 - they put it higher), and totally wrongheaded arguments (the BBC can't have any biases towards the government because the government doesn't think it does?)."

1) The trains spotter’s club line is rhetorical - but medialens would have to be drowning in hypocrisy to get too upset about that.
2) He referred to the lancet study as the barometer not as the claim, so Alex is mistaken
3) The BBC bias argument is a misreading of his article (although it is possible his article is a misreading of meadialens - that was not what Alex argued)
He said

"In their peculiar version of the world, the BBC is chief propagandist for the government (I'm sure the ministers sliced and diced on Today each day - as Simpson points out in his reply to Medialens - would not agree)."

The point being "you’re going to need a more sophisticated theory mate".

that being said, I actually agree with medialens' objectives, there is systematic bias in the media, related to power structures and the nature of the readers. The media will be fast to be critical of countries where almost no readers are sympathetic and which have little power eg Burma they will also tend to believe those who give them a lot of information e.g. their local governments rather like how a foreign correspondent might believe everything the locals tell him. It is harder to be critical of rich people because they can fight back it is harder to be critical of majority opinions because readers don’t want to read things contrary to their current beliefs.
Maybe medialens can address some of these issues - or maybe they are just part of the system...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Soccer picks

Portugal beat Mexico I thought that was possible
Ghana beat out the Czech (surprise but not a huge one they have a good under 21 record)
Switzerland got in ahead of France (something I realized was likely as soon as they had drawn)
From here on in
Germany beats sweeden by 1 goal
England beats Ecuador by 1 goal
Argentina beats Mexico convincingly
Netherlands scrapes through over Portugal in extra time
Italy beats Australia easily maybe 3-0
Brazil beats Ghana maybe 3-1
Spain beats France easily
Switzerland beats Ukraine by a goal or two

Netherlands beats England surprisingly easily
Brazil is very lucky to get through against Spain
Italy teaches Switzerland a lesson in soccer
Argentina has little trouble with Germany

Brazil is again very lucky against Netherlands
Argentina finishes off Italy’s run

Argentina wins the final.

Brazil has a hard run - Spain could easily eliminate them early.

Id rank the teams in this order

gang patches

Wanganui's proposed bylaw banning gang patches and regalia from public places in the city has been held up to see if it complies with the Bill of Rights.
I think we need to hurry up and get this through to give it a chance and see if it does work. Maybe it won’t - but let's see.

Kahui twins

the kahui twins situation is truly perverse. Today we have a funeral with the victims being put in the ground by the people who are presumably responsible for killing them (or why would they need to "stonewall") and their accomplices (before or after the fact).

So for the moment they can have their grieving, but the country wants someone to pay.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kiwis and the USA

Not only do we have issues with money we also have issues with foreign affairs

"Douglas Sparks, who came to New Zealand to oversee the Anglican Church's Wellington Cathedral, suddenly packed his bags two years ago and vowed to never bring his family back. Mr. Sparks said he was the target of anti-US graffiti and his children were taunted by classmates who said they hoped US soldiers in Iraq would be killed.

And the last US ambassador to New Zealand, Charles Swindells, went out with a bang in mid-2005. In his farewell speech, he browbeat some listeners for indulging in "empty, inaccurate criticism of US ideals or actions that offers no constructive alternatives and gives no credit where credit is due."

sometimes I have to say I'm ashamed to be a New Zealander.

New Zealanders can't handle money

For some stupid reason we love to spend much more than we earn and as a result our current account deficit is 4.1 billion for the last quarter or 9.3% of GDP.
maybe its about time to burn some lenders for being so stupid as to lend to all the fiscally irresponsible New Zealanders.
Either that or the economy is just noting that New Zealand is deeply uncompetitive and we don’t really produce much worth buying. Either way - sort it out kiwis!

thailand and murder

Is Thailand becoming unsafe? I am hearing too many stories of this sort of killing that I would normally only expect to occur in places like America.
Usually in Asian countries you can count on there being a low violent crime rate (even if you will be fleeced for al your tourist dollars). They need thaksin back so he can stomp out whatever groups are at fault.


Looks like we won't be microchipping farm dogs and in the light of that surely we can agree to give up on the whole project.

I am not opposed to microchipping in theory but the problem is that I cant see how this is going to help much. If it is useful I would like to have seen the evidence out in the public but it seems the pro-loby hasn't really done that.

Anyway the law has now been crippled and a law with exceptions for various catagories is a stupid law so lets jsut abandon the whole idea.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Should the US donate billions of dollars to Israel?

I think the US has better things to do with its money - but prove me wrong if you like.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

University lecturing

I heard that at the university of Auckland if you were doing accounting 301 (cost and revenue accounting) that you would be told

1) That it is an open book exam (no problem there), and
2) That you need to buy the book - no problem, and
3) That the book is written by the lecturer (suspicious) and
4) That the book has numerous errors in it (say what!?)

And that the students are upset about the quality of the course.

The problem here is not the specific example (which may or may not be a fair representation since it is just one side) but relates to the level of potential for political manipulation of the system and the lack of care used to ensure we have good teachers.

There are not any courses required to be a lecturer you just talk to the head of the department and "pow" you’re all of a sudden teaching the class and getting a few more of your books sold.

To teach young children you take a course over several years but to teach at uni you just have to be good at something else. Strange.

soccer world cup

silly italian only drew with the USA. I take back my suggestion they would win - it will be argentina instead I think.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Conflict resolution principle

Richard - once again based another theory on sterba's conflict resolution principle.

I can see how that might appeal to a "free trade" libertarian. The idea is that even morals are in a sense "negotiated". In a sense we ask a person not to hurt another person and can "expect" them to do that in return for being able to participate in civil society. There is a strong pragmatic argument here i.e. that a law we can't reasonably expect to be obey will often not be obeyed.

The problem here is that Richard is using it to attack propitarianism (a common sort of libertarianism). Now I love attacking Libiterianism as much as the next guy but I'm not sure he has a foundation here despite his great confidence in it's irrefutability.

Most Libertarians clearly seem to reject it in the "naive" (i.e. short term principle application) way that he applies it here as I will elaborate on later. If they do indeed reject it, then it is not a common foundation and you can't prove someone wrong by appealing to a foundation that is not common. All you do then is to define how different your positions are. (Which permits a libertarian to argue at cross purposes).

The conflict resolution principle states that moral demands must be "reasonable demands".

Obviously the first question that leaps into the minds of beginner philosophers is that "reasonable" is not defined. It is unclear exactly what you are talking about each person who reads it will fill it with their own assumptions. To me reasonable might be action for the good of society - to someone else reasonable might be action for the good of themselves. If it that much of a variable it's predictive power is crippled and it ceases to be useful for proving much at all.

the classic defense is to retreat and say - OK I cant say what reasonable is except that I know you cannot expect a person to "starve".

However there are more sophisticated problems for this theory - starting with the simplest

1. "Non-negotiable" situations

Imagine you are dealing with someone who is really bad. Many people would say Osama has a "moral duty to hand himself in" - we don’t expect him to do it but if for some instant we were in his shoes we would want that decision to be made, furthermore even the extremely liberal amongst us probably consider it would be appropriate to apply moral sanctions on him to try to make him do that (he certainly isn’t welcome at my house!).

2. Long term perspective

This comes up in the counter point "what if they are responsible for being poor? should we give money all the time to dig them out of the hole they created?" In those argument as long as you consider that every person has the potential to lift themselves out of poverty no individual has as a wholistic set of choices the "no other option" position that richard proposes with the Conflict Resolution Principle. I am less sympathetic to this but since it is common it is worth mentioning.

3. "Irrationality"

This centers around the fact that individuals actions are not always (in fact not usually) rational. For example if my family and I were on a deserted Island I could probably expect them not to kill and eat me EVEN IF that because a rational way for them to increase their chances of living longer. I.e. the moral burden would fall on them to not do it. If they did does it they would have to live with the fact that they had made that choice and surely most of us would consider that appropriate.

4. Determinism

If we assume for a moment that the world is deterministic we start to get into trouble. If everyone’s choices are predetermined it becomes (in a sense implied here) irrational to ask them to obey any rule that they won’t obey. This creates an interesting. Moral rules tend towards what people do anyway and moral sanctions become immoral in themselves and the whole theory collapses like a house of cards.


Now in spite of this the theory does have validity as part of indirect utilitarianism. As a rule of thumb, where there are no obvious reasons to act otherwise, it is reasonable to not try to place moral obligations on others that are unreasonable and as a rule of thumb it is generally ok to "kick back" when someone places an "unreasonable" demand on you.

The nit picking problem that I have here is that in spite of this one is in danger of begging the question if one then uses it as a justification for rejecting competing hypothesis such as libertarianism.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Soccer picks

Winner Runner up
A Germany Ecuador
B England Sweeden
C Argent Netherlands
D Mexico portugal
E Italy Czech
F Brazil Australia
G France Switzerland
H Spain Ukraine

And I could have the pooling wrong but If I don't...

Germany Sweeden winner Germany
England Portugal winner England
Argent Ecuador winner Argentina
Mexico Netherlands winner Mexico
Italy Australia winner Italy
Brazil Ukraine winner Brazil
France Czech winner France
Spain Switzerland winner Spain

then Spain argentina italy and Germany to gothrough to semi's and argentina and italy in finals with italy winning.

England with a chance to beat germany
switzerland with a chance to beat spain.

the odds however would have portugal beating mexico and croatia keeping australia out
and probably england argentina italy spain in the semi's

but I think Portugal and England always over promise England pay even come second in their round and be eliminated by Germany.

Philosopher's carnival

on philosophy has a great post on causation.
Raising an concept that is sadly lacking from most people's world views.

In general we associate the active elements of the world as things that can be at fault and so we tend to also describe them as causes. For example if a baseball is thrown against my window, and the window breaks, our intuition is to say that the moving baseball is the cause of the broken window. However if we distance ourselves from the association between agency and causality it should seem reasonable to say that the disposition of the window to break is also part of the cause of the broken window, after all if the window had been stronger the ball would have simply bounced off. Another source of confusion when studying causality is time. At different times different events might be seen as the cause of the current state of affairs. For example earlier I described the ball as a cause of the window being broken. However if we look further back in time it would seem that the person who threw the ball was a cause of the broken window, and further back than that their parents are the cause of the person’s existence, and thus the cause of the broken window, and ultimately the big bang is the cause of everything.

he also has some cool diagrams

Analyzer shows that Quantun intederminancy isnt helpful in regard to libiterian free will. Ie that a libiterian is no more free if QI controls them than if some determinist principle does it.

atopian argues human rights shouldn't be used as a basis for morality - I think what he means is Negative human rights. But it is a good point anyway.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Power cut

Apparently an earth wire fell on one of the main cables.. and bam - no power to auckland. they better not let this happen again I was without power for about 6 hours - not too bad for me (although hard to boil water for the baby bottle) but for some elderly people it could be risky to their health and to businesses it could be VERY costly.
Presumably there should be some potential for compensation?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mav Phil goes utilitarian

Unon seeing hte death of Al-Zarqawi, Maverick philosopher converts to utilitarianism
"Presumably, it is the value of human life that makes it wrong to take human life. But if the value of human life demands of us that we not take it, how can it not also demand of us that we take steps to prevent the taking of it? And if the prevention requires the taking of human life, then the very value that demands of us that we not take human life demands of us that we take it in some circumstances."

In the comments it is noted
"A few surviving parents have declined to call for the death (execution) of those who murdered their offspring."
In a sense I agree with Mr Berg and the commenter in that I would not call for the death of a person (as a utilitarian I think that is VERY rarely the only option) BUT at the same time I agre with MP - IF it is the only option I would take it. S effectively dont kill the murderer on death row but you can kill the murderer who is on the run (under some circumstances and al-zarqawi was probably one of those).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

angelina and brad Pitt

Apparently everyone's "favorite couple auctioned their baby pics for charity like so many celebrities seem to do. Great eh? Everyone loves Brad and Angelina and to think they won’t even make any money out of it... or will they?
My wife raised the point that we could be being suckered here. Somthing that was brought up in her home country and in relation to super generous Dick Cheney.
Brad and Angelina have sold these pictures for many millions of dollars (lets say 10 million for argument's sake), and they will almost certainly give this to charity - but are their tax benefits to this come tax time? I expect there probably is, Brad and Angelina could easily be making a tidy profit from it.

Anyway, I hope at least they donate the before costs amount… few things annoy me more than when someone asks me for a donation without mentioning half the money goes to them!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Queens Honours

I am a little bit of a monarchist myself - but I still find these queens honors ridiculous. Someone received an award for "services to architecture" - I hope the best ditch digger got an award for "services to ditch digging", and for that matter Graeme heart should get an award for "services to money making".
I suggest the award should only be available to people who sacrifice beyond the call of duty for the good of the country or people in general rather like a purple heart.
Likely people to receive it would be firemen, police, people at accident scenes and potentially those who risk their lives in the name of charity.
Of course there would be varying degrees for various awards.

As it is the system reeks of corruption. I.e. you give rewards to rich famous and powerful people making them more so for no reason other than they have those traits.

Word on the Street II

word on the street is that personal tax cuts are likely (the street being winston peters).

Word on the street

word on the street is that the person who bought the "tana handbag" is from a provintial rugby union. And will use it for some sort of "wellington is a bunch of girls" sort of marketing move.


Looks like Maverick Philosopher is also a chess player.
However being a "child prodegy" in chess just isn't quite the same as being one in rugby or soccer. So I'm long past wanting to blog about it (in fact almost past wanting to play it at all).
As a result - on to other topics.

Time travel II

Two more thoughts

1) this relates to the multiple universes model (and some others). The time travel Fermi Paradox. If this world is a world where time travel is likely to become possible and we are likely to be able to go back in time to now or earlier then why haven’t we seen someone else do it?
If there are multiple universes then this universe would have many similar universes and out of those universes if any capable of time travel (or rather hop universes) they would have a huge incentive to do so, So one would expect it to happen millions of times from that universe. Thus almost every non time traveling universe would receive a visit from a time traveling one as long as being able to time travel was one of their possible futures (with more than a trivial probability).

The fact we haven’t seen it implies it is unlikely OR not very easy to see for some reason.

2) the second thought relates to the “within a single universe” time traveler. Lets say you “had” gone back in time and it is part of your history that you were governor of your country (you don’t have to be aware of it). Then you go back in time (almost exactly repeating what the last you did) - will you meet yourself governing the country?
the question here relates to whether you go back to a "default history" one where no time travel has occurred effectively wiping clean what you did "last time" or do you go back to your own history and meet another potentially almost identical you?


STEVEN DEN BESTE @ USS Clueless gets a bit excited about anonymous posters

he quotes his target - Demosthenes

“I don't want my arguments here to affect how people treat me in real life (unless I let them... and more importantly I don't want interpretation of my arguments weighed by how people perceive my beliefs and interests- I'd prefer the arguments to stand on their own, and the reputation of Demosthenes to grow and exist apart from my reputation and credentials in real life.”

Steven argues
1) They are unaccountable for their actions
“By posting under a pseudonym, Demosthenes in his person is accountable to no-one. He can lie, cheat, distort, deliberately deceive, or libel with impunity, because there are no potential consequences for him in doing so.”
2) They are ashamed
“I don't care who Demosthenes is, but I do care that he's ashamed to admit who he is, and afraid to accept the social consequences of expressing his opinions.”
3) They are in a sense dangerous
"The nameless human behind the blog hopes that the synthetic avatar Demosthenes will take on a life of its own. It's a disturbing ambition"

I take a fairly slack attitude towards being anonymous, but despite my bias I suggest Steven has the weaker position.

1) You are accountable in a sense as long as you use a consistent pseudonym. If one used many different names and was constantly making dubious statements of fact about certain things (e.g. trolls) clearly this would become a big issue but otherwise their credibility rests on their reliability in the same way that anyone elses does. But Steven does not seem to be attacking just the "troll" set of anonymous bloggers - he is attacking them all (although Demosthenes as a example).

2)Being anonymous doesn’t mean you are ashamed of your position.
What Steve is assuming is that there is some strong latent reason to want to use your name address and workplace. T some people there is - maybe they have a need to be famous or maybe they are a party hack and it reflects well on them.
But it is also possible they just don’t care or can't be bothered with the potential for ad hominem attacks wasting their time. I’m also not sure liable counts since how often have international liable cases been taken against named bloggers?

3) The growing of the avatar without the person behind it is no more dangerous than with that person. Steve talks about how it permits people to, as party employee, troll other websites. The thing here is that if you were a party employee and you posted under your name you would loose the potential to be able to oppose your own party without consequences as opposed to loosing the ability to support it. Probably these people upon pressure would just retreat to their own groups and become more

In an ideal world you could argue your position based only on the evidence - and other people would ignore anything you said that was just opinion wihtout supporting evidence. Giving someone the opportunity to say "but your chinese so your biased" or "but your from the south" or "but you are a labour supporter" doesnt add to the debate for any intelligent reader (although it may effect the less intelligent ones).

The way he looks at the issue is a sad inditement of US politics, in that he seems to assume people are completely partisan, that debate won't result in rational solutions without retribution to assist it and that people don’t take reputation of the speaker into account when evaluation evidence.

Time travel

Richard looks at the potential for time travel

He takes a pretty deterministic approach

A time traveler may play a role in making the past what it is. But she couldn't make it what it isn't...
I'm not sure that it really does make much sense to speak of a second temporal dimension, or 'personal time'. More plausibly, the static historical dimension is the only temporal dimension that there is.

Preparing the groundwork - this seems to suggest that the arrival in the past fundamentally precedes the arrival in the future.

> Further, event B causes event A (two time travel events). If B hadn't occurred, then neither would have A.

Here he effectively denies that you could kill yourself in the past because if you did you would prevent B.

> Though note that one way out of this... [multiple universes]

He then misses the answer right in front of him.
multiple universes time travel is not really time travel it just means thee must be many worlds with a single "time" just with similar events happening more or less quickly. I think this creates major problems for you actually finding these theoretical worlds where you could jump into the past because they are out of alignment with your own world. (I can explain that in a later post)

I think the argument here tends towards a different solution – this is the "time traveler is part of the system" way of looking at time travel.

In this way of looking at it you would go back in time do everything you could to kill Hitler but when you returned find absolutely nothing changed. You would fail or maybe discover Hitler was killed but it was kept secret or something along those lines because at t2 your actions had already influenced t2.

You can say “that doesn’t make sense! I could just decide to change the plan” but you have been arguing there is no external timeline and the t1 is already factored in at your t2.As a result in this model the (theoretically potentially) infinite loop feeding in at t1 through to t2 and back to t1 are all part of the history at t2 - so it would turn out as above.

You could build this out of a paradox by either saying

1) you create an initial unstable state (lets say you go back in time and kill yourself) but in the next “oscillation” that would happen a bit differently because you are not there to kill yourself. It bounces back and forth until a solution arises that doesn’t create a change and then in essence that example is reinforced an “infinite” number of times and the odds of you experiencing a paradox state tend towards zero.

2) Nature automatically resolves the paradox even if it requires twisting of other laws of physics (which could well be defined largely the same paradox avoiding principle) because the paradox creates a sort of supreme low energy state - rather like how exposing a vacuum results in air rushing in. I see quantum mechanics as a useful tool for solving that.

Functionalism and mental states

Maverick Philosopher looks at brain states
Asking the question "So what distinguishes the brain states that are mental states from the brain states that are not? This question cannot be evaded. The distinguishing feature cannot be anything intrinsic to brain states qua brain states."

"The physical composition of the light bulb or valve-lifter is irrelevant to its being a light bulb or a valve-lifter." "[the important thing] is the causal role it instantiates"

He then argues

"Here is one problem. It seems clear that my intention to clear brush could not have been a desire for a cold beer. Nor could it be an intention to paint the bathroom. The act of intending is individuated by its intentional content"

What MP has done here is to define his objects in two different ways.
The light bulb he has defined as an object - one that could be used for multiple purposes - this was easy for him to do because he can see it, and see how it is being used. The mental state however he has defined by its purpose one that could be served by multiple objects.

As noted in his comments particular "mental states" will be different in their physical nature between people and even between moments in time in the same person. the reason he cant imagine a certain mental state being used for another purpose is because he has effectively defined that state as having one and only one purpose!

What MP has uncovered here is that Functionalism is going to be awkward to apply in certain contexts when information like “what physically that you are talking about” is unclear.

An example wopuld be that you could say “a teaching procedure” could be used as your description of a Video. This teaching procedure couldn’t be used as a door stop… book and you could propose that it couldn’t be used otherwise – or you could say “why not? Just take it out of the player and put it in the door!

Similarly an intent to mow the lawn doesn’t seem like an intent to paint the bathroom – but a little bit of shaking and suddenly you are painting a bathroom.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

$1000 fine for breaching suppression orders

Asher notes
Police in Christchurch have laid charges against two supporters of Louise Nicholas. Frances Martin and Daniel Rae, who both face a charge of breaching suppression orders

Martin and Rae appear at the Christchurch District Court at 9am on June 21st . A rally will be held outside the court from 8:30am

The offence of breaching suppression orders does not carry a term of imprisonment but carries a fine of $1000.

Aside from whether they should be charged or not - $1000 is a joke.
you could start a business doing this and make a tidy profit just absorbing the fines. A celebrity could do it just for the profile.

Besides getting paid by the interested parties I can, just off the top of my head, imagine a little business going to the court, recording whatever sensitive information there was, and then putting it on pamphlets with Viagra ads on them.

Friday, June 02, 2006

East Timor - thought...

John Roughan argues that we may have caused more harm than good in helping East Timor to independence. I/S and Neil M are outraged at his suggestion that "rouged" states like Indonesia are better than independence and given the evidence (all the 'unlawful deaths' and torturing) I'm likely to agree but he does raise some points worth discussing.

1) The fact that Indonesia didn’t work for the east Timorese doesn't change the fact that East Timor may not work for them either. Offering an independent state as a solution may be offering a "Claton’s solution" - the solution you offer when you are not really offering a solution.

If that is the case, one could level the same critique against the UN Australia and NZ that is leveled against the US - i.e. that the whole plan is poorly thought out in regard to the long term consequences. Including the suggestion that they are not prepared for the system we are offering them OR the one that is often used with hope by those opposing the US - that it requires a level of commitment that we just don’t have (i.e. a VERY long term "occupation"). This argument is often used by Chinese discussing china - "we are not ready for democracy" the idea being that fast transition doesn’t work well with democracy. Maybe this is a flawed idea and also rather patronizing but it is one possibility.

If that is the case in the end you are helping them to the top of a hill so that they can fall off the cliff on the other side. One should at least consider if this is the case. And there is a stronger test - is this the best place we could be spending our limited resources? Or is it a "money sink"?

2)In principle, I also agree with John that chopping up countries into little bits is a bad thing. East Timor is likely to be, approximately, the poorest country in the world, in a larger country there would be some potential for people to move location or government support - but in a small country probably not. So your independence actually limits your freedom in several of the most important ways.

Obviously in this case the bad things seem to outweigh the good if we consider a simple binary choice of "occupation and abuse by Indonesia and "independence" with an unstable government. But maybe another country could form a close relationship with Timor... Papua New Guinea? Maybe chop off Irian jaya and merge them? Maybe no other country in their right minds would want to take on such a poor area....

3) Are we "blinded by propoganda" into ignoring concequences in favour of feel good activities? Should we pay more atention to concequences? or would it set a bad precident to say "you are being abused - but you are not ready for democracy so I'm afraid I can't do anything" (quite possibly...).

Even spiders are smart!

The new scientist magazine has yet more evidence that scientist's (and society as a whole's) assumption that animals don’t think is deeply flawed. Jumping spiders have been shown to spot prey remember them remember the strategies that are effective in hunting them (as learned from last time) including combinations of vibrations created by trial and error on their webs, determine pathways to get to those spiders even when they cant see them and utilize strategies like attacking from in front if they are carrying an egg sack or from behind or above if not.

This is an even lower species than the "chameleon" brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) which "Lizard expert" Ann Paterson has shown can recognize other lizards and adjust their aggression displays accordingly*.

Both of these animals utilize strategies that many people would deny mammals using despite these species evolving potentially hundreds of millions of years earlier. The new scientist itself refers to a raiding party of spider monkeys with awe, when a similar example of strategy was on TV the other night involving mere cats!

The bottom line is that animals are much smarter than we give them credit for - they just don’t always use that intelligence or at least not in human ways - not surprisingly. The central problem is that we assume animals can’t do thing until they prove the can - we obviously need to accept this will always create an underestimation of their abilities.

* Paterson, A. V., and S. McMann. 2004. Differential headbob displays toward neighbors and non-neighbors in the territorial lizard Anolis sagrei. Journal of Herpetology 38:288–291 - amongst many others