Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 71

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

How and when to quote or not to quote.

No evidence to back idea of learning styles (there goes another neuro-myth).

The fate of the critic in the clickbait age (bottom line, we still need them).

The problem with positive thinking. (Old, but good one.)

Emotions are cognitive, not innate, researchers conclude (just like the Stoics thought).

Why does everyone keep making Nazi comparisons? (Yeah, seriously, stop!).

115 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 71

  1. Robin Herbert

    You can go back thousands of years and read people recognising the role of the unconscious, the way it can mislead us, the way it can pull in different directions in moral decision making.

    The fact and role of unconscious mental processes is not new knowledge for the human race and our moral intuitions were probably not formed in isolation from this knowledge.

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  2. brodix

    Massimo Malagoli,

    The premise of spacetime comes from relativistic effects near the speed of light, such that in a frame moving close to C, length is contracted;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Length_contraction

    “Any observer co-moving with the observed object cannot measure the object’s contraction, because he can judge himself and the object as at rest in the same inertial frame in accordance with the principle of relativity (as it was demonstrated by the Trouton-Rankine experiment). So length contraction cannot be measured in the object’s rest frame, but only in a frame in which the observed object is in motion.”

    So if one is to measure the speed of light in a moving frame, it always measures the same as would be measured in a stationary frame/the vacuum, because the units of length used to compare it are shrinking. (Though this effect would only be apparent at some rate close to the speed of light.)

    Now when the the redshift of distant galaxies was first discovered, the debate over the cause was between doppler shift and “tired light.” Doppler shift is caused the waves appearing stretched to the receiver, as the source moves away. Moving toward us would cause blueshift. An example would be a train whistle coming toward you will seem to be higher pitched(shorter waves), while one moving away will appear lower pitched(longer waves).

    Now what could slow, or “tire” the light would be if it was moving through a medium, like glass, where the speed is slower. This was rejected because there was no distortion. Presumably anything dense enough to slow it would also distort it.

    The assumption then became these galaxies must be moving away from us. The problem then became that they appeared to all be redshifted directly proportional to distance and at a rate that increased proportional to distance. Equally in all directions. This meant that if is a normal expansion in stable space, then we are at the exact center of the universe.

    So then the argument became, based on Einstein’s physical explanation for the mathematical effectiveness of GR, “spacetime,” that space itself must be expanding and thus every point would appear as the center.

    So my observation is that while the math might seem to work, the underlaying logic doesn’t. For one thing, the premise of space and time dilation is based on motion in the vacuum. Which raises other issues, such as where this underlaying vacuum fits in the program. If you have lots of different frames, the one with the longest distance and fastest clocks would logically be closest to the stable equilibrium of this vacuum, which implies space as an absolute. But that is a side issue.

    The basic point I am making is that if light traveling from these distant galaxies is redshifted due to doppler effect, it means the light is taking increasingly longer to cross this distance, as it moves away. Which means it is NOT Constant to the distance.

    Basically there are two metrics of space based on the same intergalactic light, one, expanding, based on the redshifted spectrum. Being compared to another, based on the speed of the same light. Given the stable one, the speed, is being used as the denominator, as the essential measure of intergalactic space is calibrated in lightyears, then the other is the numerator.

    Now one of the analogies used to describe this is an ant walking on an expanding balloon. In that the light, as the ant, is taking the same steps, as the balloon expands, so it is having to travel further. Which overlooks the fact that both these measures are based on the same intergalactic light. The light is not traveling different dimensions of space, whether the speed or spectrum is measured.

    The doppler effect requires increasing distance, not an expanding unit of measure. It has to be moving at a stable rate over an expanding distance to cause redshift. What is the basis of this stable rate, if it is not space? Is there some underlaying “vacuum” setting the speed of light, that is separate from the space that is supposedly expanding? To use the ant analogy, what determines the speed of the ant, if it is not the vacuum/space? It is just being taken for granted.

    Another argument used is that speed is only measured over limited distance, not intergalactically. Yes, speed is a scalar; The rate of momentum, but lightyears are still the “ruler”/unit used to calibrate cosmic distances.Supposedly it is taking more lightyears to cross, in order to redshift.

    So; If the speed of light is not Constant to the distance, it is not relativistic. If it takes light longer to cross, in order to redshift, then it is NOT relativistic. Therefore using “spacetime” to explain redshift completely overlooks a central premise of relativity.

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  3. SocraticGadfly

    Per Massimo’s response to Garth, the fact that we’ve discussed here before whether animals (of at least a certain brain level) act morally or not, that alone undercuts the idea that moral responsibility is “wishful thinking.” Even the instinctual reciprocal altruism undercuts it.

    I don’t know if Massimo was referring to Brodix’s understanding of general relativity, or something else, as “refreshing.” Enough said.

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  4. SocraticGadfly

    Ahh, got it. I wouldn’t even try to understand where that’s coming from, myself. And, I try not to comment on things I don’t understand at all; I know a decent amount of philosophy, but I’ve never had a class in formal logic, so I pretty much “zip it” on that.

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  5. Alan White

    Brodix–

    With respect, and with respect to just one excerpt from a post:

    “If you have lots of different frames, the one with the longest distance and fastest clocks would logically be closest to the stable equilibrium of this vacuum, which implies space as an absolute. But that is a side issue.

    The basic point I am making is that if light traveling from these distant galaxies is redshifted due to doppler effect, it means the light is taking increasingly longer to cross this distance, as it moves away. Which means it is NOT Constant to the distance.”

    There are multiple confusions here–so many that I simply cannot untie them. But the Doppler effect and spacetime metrics and the constancy of the speed of light are not at all as you represent them. This is deeply confused.

    And Massimo I am trying to adhere to your call to keep to matters of OPs. But Brodix, please know that while I respect many of your comments, what you are trying to say here really makes no sense.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. brodix

    Alan,

    Simple question;

    If “space is what you measure with a ruler,” is the ruler the speed of light, or the expansion, based on redshift?

    I certainly agree I don’t have a formal education in this, but this is a point no one seems to be able to answer. Either they do what you just did and tell me I’m confused and don’t know what I’m talking about, or versions of the ant and balloon analogy, or arguing light speed is only measured locally and doesn’t apply, so if you see where I have made a mistake, I’d be perfectly happy to hear it. Personally my interest isn’t in being right, but finding out what is right. If I come across something which doesn’t seem to add up, I ask. Is that a crime?

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  7. Alan White

    Brodix:

    “Simple question;

    If “space is what you measure with a ruler,” is the ruler the speed of light, or the expansion, based on redshift?”

    But it’s not a simple question–it is a mishmash of different questions. Space is measured with a ruler. The speed of light is a law in SR based upon operational measurements of both space and time. The expansion of the universe is a conclusion based upon an argument about measured frequencies of light–not the speed of light–from distant moving sources. I think–I’m not sure–that you are taking measurements of an observer-dependent kind to have some invariant absolute significance

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  8. SocraticGadfly

    Dan, to me it’s not an issue of being related to the links or not, even. It’s “claiming that something doesn’t add up,” then, rather than asking a question from that point, doing “new math” and building up all sorts of presuppositions (which may not be substantiated) and only then asking a question saying “I don’t understand” but basing the question on that foundation of new presuppositions.

    Per my statement about not knowing formal logic, it would be like reading a formal logic sentence of Hofstadter’s in GEB, and saying “now, I don’t think this means X” … then grinding some gears, making a bunch of presuppositions and then saying “I do think it means Y and Z,” and “I’m asking a question about Y and Z.”

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  9. brodix

    Dan,

    It did wander a bit there. Starting from my defense of Coel’s position as our resident Scientismist.

    Alan,

    “The speed of light is a law in SR based upon operational measurements of both space and time.”

    Not really. The speed of light is the speed of light. 299792458 metres per second.

    I suppose you meant to say the fact it is measured as a constant, in any frame, is a law in SR.

    “The expansion of the universe is a conclusion based upon an argument about measured frequencies of light–not the speed of light–from distant moving sources.”

    Presumably referring to cosmic redshift.

    “I think–I’m not sure–that you are taking measurements of an observer-dependent kind to have some invariant absolute significance”

    No. My point is two measures are based on the same intergalactic light and related to one another, if one is presuming to use the doppler effect to explain redshift.

    Yes, light is measured locally, but that is how speed is always measured. When you drive down the road, the car isn’t comparing how far you travel to the time it takes, but is simply measuring your current velocity.

    Now the time light travels in a year, about 1 trillion miles, is considered the standard unit of cosmic distance.

    Yet, using the premise of doppler shift to explain redshift of distant galaxies, it is assumed these galaxies ARE moving away, such that it takes light LONGER to cross this distance. So there are TWO metrics. How far light travels a given unit of time, compared to the distance between galaxies. Keep in mind the explicit assumption is it will take light longer to cross, in order to redshift, as the space between these galaxies increases, as measured in lightyears.

    So which is the ruler space is denominated in? The speed of light, or the distance between galaxies?

    It is way past my bedtime, so continue on Sunday. Hopefully.

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  10. Markk

    I’m sick of these Scientism Nazis claiming that everything is science and science can answer everything.

    (Not really, but it’s not often you get to make a comment that’s inflammatory, pointless and yet still on-topic.)

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Coel

    Folks, being slightly pedantic, my “liked” comment was of course not literal, but it was irony rather than sarcasm (there is a difference!).

    Echoing Alan White,

    There are multiple confusions here–so many that I simply cannot untie them. […] what you [brodix] are trying to say here really makes no sense.

    Exactly. Thus,

    brodix,

    … if you see where I have made a mistake, I’d be perfectly happy to hear it.

    It is not “a” mistake, if it were people could straightforwardly point it out, it is multiple levels of confusion and misunderstandings all entwined with each other.

    If I come across something which doesn’t seem to add up, I ask. Is that a crime?

    The crime is not asking. But, when multiple people on multiple blogs tell you multiple times that “There are multiple confusions here — so many that I simply cannot untie them” the sensible thing to do it conclude that you have multiple confusions on the topic. No?

    The “crime” is to then say things like: “using GR to explain cosmic redshift overlooks the fact that in order to redshift, the speed of light cannot be constant to the distance”, thus concluding that you’re the one with the clear understanding and that tens of thousands of theoretical physicists have all made the same basic error. That Einstein for instance, what a numpty! Fancy overlooking a fact as obvious as that!**

    The second crime is being completely incorrigible, taking absolutely no notice when anyone tries to explain it to you.

    The third “crime” is, of course, being deeply off topic, however often you want to steer the conversation round to it.

    [**Now that was sarcasm.]

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  12. milesmutka

    Philip Thrift,
    The interesting paper you linked is not about computation or computability, even though it has Turing in the title (it is about the activation-inhibition model that Turing also invented).

    The redshift debate I am not going to touch, except to say that the redshift (z) of distant galaxies is what is actually measured in science, distance+time is what that measurement is interpreted to mean, with the current standard cosmological model.

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  13. brodix

    Under the cries of Nazism are some interesting political dynamics and Corey Robin offers up a useful take on political cycles;

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  14. sethleon2015

    One last comment on the ’emotions are cognitive’ concept.

    I reviewed the link Massimo posted which I had engaged with at the time of the initial posting. I still don’t see how anything presented makes a case that emotions are necessarily preceded by conscious deliberation. If anything it seems to suggest the much more reasonable conclusion that emotions and cognitive reasoning are simply entangled, so that it be a mistake to classify emotions as either the non-cognitive, or cognitive or pre-cognitive, or post-cognitive. I think the neuroscience if anything supports the interdependent, integrated conclusion.

    I just read a related essay concerning wisdom of which emotional regulation is an important component. Here is an excerpt giving one take that describes the integration of various functional neural centers.

    http://aging.nautil.us/feature/174/the-wisdom-of-the-aging-brain

    “For Jeste and colleagues, the evidence was enticing. “Based on all of those, we suggested there is a neuro-circuitry of wisdom,” says Jeste. This circuit involved the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (responsible for rationality, discipline, and self-preservation), the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (associated with “kind, supportive, social, and emotional behavior needed for survival of species”), the anterior cingulate (which mediates conflicts between parts of the prefrontal cortex), and the striatum with amygdala (part of the reward circuitry).

    According to Jeste, wisdom comes from a balance of activity in these brain regions.”

    I am not sure it is especially helpful to claim there is a neural circuit for wisdom either, but I do think it is a mistake to conceive of either emotions or cognition in a manner where the dependence goes in one direction or the other. I think the descriptive picture should be interdependent.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. wtc48

    Shakespeare has Lear’s fool make the distinction between the deteriorating effect of aging and its enhancement of perspective:

    “Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. garthdaisy

    Massimo,

    “We learn how to think properly about all sorts of things by way interacting with our environment, primarily other people.”

    I know. That is sensory input. When you interact with the world and others you are getting sensory input. But the emotions you experience are not part of what’s coming in. Your emotional and cognitive capacity are already in you (innate) waiting for sensory input to react to.

    “As for there being conflicts between different aspects of “us” that also seems obvious to me. Have you never experienced the feeling of fighting your own urges, and either winning or losing? Who was fighting? Against whom?”

    Good question. How many of us are in here? How many consciousnesses are you hypothesizing? Do we have more than one consciousness? And do they fight with each other? Do they have different goals? Or are they all part of one single consciousness. In which case, how can they have separate goals?

    ”I think you are, for instance, responsible for what you just wrote, and if you disagree I really don’t know how to help you.”

    Which me is responsible? Conscious me, subconscious me, or both? Again, are you hypothesizing two separate consciousnesses that have different goals? Or do we have one consciousness? When you say I am responsible for what I wrote, what if I didn’t veto my subconscious when I was writing it. If my subconscious is responsible for the idea, and I didn’t veto it, which me is responsible?

    When you talk about this “veto” capacity, you seem to be citing only the conscious part of my mind as “the self” the one doing the vetoing. Am I vetoing another consciousness or another part of my consciousness that has it’s own goals, in which case, why is it not considered a whole other consciousness?

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  17. SocraticGadfly

    That said, it’s a bit off topic, but not to the general theme of this blog. Massimo, given my link to Searle’s sexual harassment, McGinn’s, and Pogge’s, do you think philosophy has a special problem with this?

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  18. Massimo Post author

    Socratic,

    No, I don’t think philosophy has a special problem with sexual harassment. It is widespread in other academic disciplines as well. If anything, philosophers as a community are more sensitive and responsive to it, see for instance the APA’s systematic efforts to counter sexual harassment.

    That said, I am a bit weary of jumping from accusations to condemnation, that being the case of Searle, McGinn or whoever. If they are guilty, they should be prosecuted according to the law. If they are not, then the university should do absolutely nothing about it, since there would be no “it” to do something with.

    And it should go without saying that the scholarly contributions of these people (interesting in Searle’s case, weird and not particular consequential in McGinn’s) ought to be treated independently of whatever personal or legal issues affecting these people.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. SocraticGadfly

    Massimo, I would agree. Fairly related, I would also note at this point that Catholic priests do NOT commit child sexual abuse at a rate significantly above the national average. The myth / “meme” makes for an easy motivated reasoning talking point, but, it’s not true.

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