Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 73

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

A number of high profile intellectuals defend (good) hierarchies.

Combining the strange idea of a multiverse with the bizarre one of property dualism to get “immortality”? No thanks.

Can we trust medical science? Why are we so critical of pharmaceutical companies?

The problem with the “privilege police.”

Studying the emergence of complexity by way of “digital alchemy.”

The battle over the status of Pluto, the (dwarf?) planet.

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Categories: Plato's Suggestions

298 replies

  1. “Vanguardism!” Yep, that’s about what I would call it … trendy, hipster, or similar, too.

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  2. See, cousin, that’s the problem about moving to Europe — it’s damp, cold and cloudy. (Well, in the south it’s not, but Spain still has a fair amount of dependence on British tourism, Massimo’s Italy — do the trains run on time?, and Greece — while not accepting World Bank/IMF austerity measures imposed on it, nonetheless, Greece is a poster child for both dysfunctional government and dysfunctional attitudes toward government.)

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    • do the trains run on time?,

      Socratic: An Italian train story.

      I friend of mine went to a conference in Etrice traveling by train down Italy from Munchen. He took his family with him. On the way their they were on decrepit, ancient train; unpleasant but w/o incident accept for one hour strike during which the crew set up an umbrella near the engine and played cards.

      On the way back they were delighted to see the train was new and beautifully appointed.

      In the countryside near Naples there was a fire in the galley. There was no fire extinguisher. The train pulled up by a farm house. The cook ran to the house, got a bucket of water from the women there, rushed back to the train and SUCCESSFULLY put out the fire!

      Sorry Massimo!
      \

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Let’s move to Australia, instead, fellow liberal, and more so, left-liberal, Americans. Continent-sized country, more socialized than the US, warm weather, sunshine, lots of scenery. If we need mountains, New Zealand isn’t that that far away.

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  4. Hi DM,

    For me, there is no “you you”. I see no way to identify yourself as any one of the instances in particular.

    Isn’t difference in spatial location sufficient?

    Or, there is nothing to stop someone going round all the copies of me, putting a label on each, 1, 2, 3 …

    Or we can distinguish them by the slight differences between them (since your account is only about copies that are sufficiently similar). After all, if they had to be exactly identical then your “immortality” scheme would not work: when the me me dies, anything that is not dead is ipso facto not a copy of me.

    Finally, I’m pretty certain that my first-person subjective consciousness picks out one instance of me, not an ensemble among which one cannot differentiate.

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  5. Socratic:

    According to this article, super-rich Americans are buying property in New Zealand in case of apocalypse.

    Why NZ and not Australia I’m not sure.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

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  6. Hi Coel,

    Finally, I’m pretty certain that my first-person subjective consciousness picks out one instance of me, not an ensemble among which one cannot differentiate.

    The way I think of it, your conscious experience is what you are, but indistinguishable experiences are produced in different places in an infinite universe. So there is no way for you to pick yourself out of the ensemble if all you have to go on is your conscious experience. The different Coels may be in different places and times, but those places and times are identical as far as each Coel can see. So it’s different from your case of the Ming vases, one in NY and the other in Beijing, because the environments of those Ming vases are different and there is an observer (you) to whom the difference is manifest — so these are indeed different vases from your perspective. If I were God and I could see all the Coels at once, I might be able to distinguish between one instance and another, but the point is that Coel himself cannot, because there is nothing in his experience or his environment that allows him to distinguish one instance from any other.

    Or, there is nothing to stop someone going round all the copies of me, putting a label on each, 1, 2, 3 …

    Once you do that, the different copies would start to diverge. But it is not plausible anyway that someone could put a different number on each of the infinite Coels. Even if someone did, a typical Coel would have a number that is effectively an infinite number of digits long, and each such Coel could only ever be aware of a finite number of these digits in his lifetime (or, to take account of immortality, in the life lived to date). For each such finite string of digits, there would be an infinite number of Coels who cannot use the digits to distinguish between themselves.

    Or we can distinguish them by the slight differences between them (since your account is only about copies that are sufficiently similar).

    I would be inclined to be reasonably liberal about how similar they have to be, but the point is that no matter how conservative you are, you will find an infinite number of copies that are as similar as you care about. In particular, where the differences cannot be discerned by Coel himself, then I would say they have to be the same person.

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  7. Hi DM,

    If I were God and I could see all the Coels at once, I might be able to distinguish between one instance and another, but the point is that Coel himself cannot, …

    But whether I myself can do that is a different issue from whether there is a fact of the matter. There are plenty of things about which there will be a fact of the matter, but humans cannot know it. For example, “who fired the arrow that killed Harold at Hastings?” (presuming that the arrow-in-the-eye story is true).

    Once you do that [put labels on], the different copies would start to diverge.

    Yes, but they’d still be within the “sufficiently similar” category. And if I can conceivably put different labels on them then it shows that there is a fact of the matter about which is which.

    Further, if the labeling were sufficient to mean that they were no longer faithful copies of me, then surely some copies dying and others not is an even bigger difference. Thus, when the me me dies, the only copies of me are ones that are also dead, so I am mortal.

    In particular, where the differences cannot be discerned by Coel himself, then I would say they have to be the same person.

    Sorry DM, you’ve been corrupted by too much time on philosophy blogs! It’s a very philosophical way of thinking to place primacy on human consciousness and what humans can know, and from there make the leap to supposing that what humans can know is the same thing as the fact of the matter.

    To a physicist like me, there is an external world that is the way it is regardless of humans. Thus, whether I can distinguish between different copies of me is a side issue.

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  8. saphsin:

    Lenin’s term for what we nowadays call Stalinism was State Capitalism. He was far too good a Marxist to believe that socialism was possible in a single country, let alone a backward agrarian one such as Russia.

    Also, Henwood is not a Leninist. He does have Marxist sympathies – which is a very broad church despite the medias attempt to brand is a isomorphic to some unrepentant vanguardism. His podcast has a wealth of interesting interviews.

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  9. Damn, ‘brand it as …’

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  10. You guys think Australia is more liberal than the US? Have you seen their political responses to refugees, climate change, Iraq, and so on?

    Can’t fault the lifestyle though. Nothing beats being next to a sizzling barbie as the sun sets over the waves. And they have good beer there now.

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  11. The Australian political landscape and its understanding of “conservative” and “liberal” does not map well to its American counterparts. Thank goodness.

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  12. Hi Coel,

    I’m very much of the “there is no fact of the matter” camp, and I think you’re in the “there is a fact of the matter” camp regarding personal identity. I think the objective scientific perspective is on my side, because personal identity is not something that appears to be part of the objective scientific view of the world.

    Sorry DM, you’ve been corrupted by too much time on philosophy blogs! It’s a very philosophical way of thinking to place primacy on human consciousness and what humans can know

    No, the world is the way the world is. But personal identity is a human construct/intuition. It is not part of objective empirical reality. It is what humans deem it to be and no more.

    To a physicist like me, there is an external world that is the way it is regardless of humans.

    To me too. But personal identity is no part of it. Personal identity is like money. It is what people believe it to be.

    Again, I’ve illustrated plenty of other cases where there doesn’t seem to be a fact of the matter. Are you still you if you suffer personality-changing brain damage? What happens if you split in two somehow, whether by a teleportation accident, mind uploading or biologically? Is the you who goes to sleep at night still the you who wakes up in the morning? How about when all the atoms that make you up are replaced instantly? How about when they are replaced gradually over years as actually does happen in the real world?

    The question of whether in these changes there is still a real you, or just clones, or which copy is the clone and which is the real you, is not an empirical question. They are puzzling and difficult questions because the underlying premise of the question — that there is such a thing as a “real you” and a fact of the matter about what the real you is — is confused.

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  13. Hi Markk

    “The Australian political landscape and its understanding of “conservative” and “liberal” does not map well to its American counterparts. Thank goodness.”

    Although there appear to be many conservatives here aching to be just like US conservatives.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi DM,

    Are you still you if you suffer personality-changing brain damage? What happens if you split in two somehow, whether by a teleportation accident, mind uploading or biologically? Is the you who goes to sleep at night still the you who wakes up in the morning? How about when all the atoms that make you up are replaced instantly? How about when they are replaced gradually over years as actually does happen in the real world?

    In all cases the answer is “yes”, those are still “you”, owing to similarity of pattern. But those questions are not ones I need answer in this context. In this context, we are considering two identical copies separated by umpteen light-years. I am asking only whether we can distinguish between those two copies, and in principle we could, by putting a label on each. About that there is a fact of the matter.

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  15. Robin, yes.

    Also, often here you see bumper stickers such as “I fish – and I vote!” And I think – of course you vote, it’s compulsory in this country. (Compulsory voting being an unusual feature of the Australian system.)

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  16. Hi Coel,

    In all cases the answer is “yes”, those are still “you”, owing to similarity of pattern.

    What? This doesn’t seem to be consistent with your view. So if I scan your brain and reproduce it in a synthetic substrate, the result is still you? Not a copy? Why not?

    And if you suffer brain damage such that your personality is radically altered, where’s the similarity of pattern?

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  17. The much deeper issue is that human civilization is predicated on growth, form ‘Go forth and multiply,’ to,’Go west, young man.’

    The question is how to develop a broad philosophic concept of organic/economic/social/cultural cyclical reciprocity and circularity.

    That the most important fact isn’t that we are marching toward the future, but that life is a gift we eventually have to give back. That we can’t take it with us, but should do our best to improve it, before passing it on.

    Humanity has always been terraforming the planet, as does all life and often we have done a passable and ecologically sound job at it.

    As it is now, capitalism is in the process of self destruction, as it blindly tries to convert all value to increasingly corrupt notational contracts. It’s a bubble and we should prepare for what comes next.

    Since attacking the system directly will only provoke reaction, as it spirals into the vortex, then there are deeper conceptual issues which could be addressed.

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    • I get the last word: it’s been years since trains in Italy have run on timely schedules, and the intercity ones are new. The regional ones still less so, but they are getting there. And Erice is a beautiful location in Sicily, well worth getting to regardless of the train you take.

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