Paul is dead, Rock is dead, God is dead. Okay, whatever. But what about Philosophy? Many people seem to think it is, but what the eff do they know? What caused some people to believe that philosophy has gone the way of the dodo? Many would likely point the finger at mass telecommunication and the imminent “dumbing down” of society through mindless popcultural saturation etc. etc. etc. But I’m not one of them.
I blame academia. Even at the university level, most every philosophy class has become litany of Power Point slides listing dead white guys from decades or centuries past. Where is all the new shit? Where’s the contemporary generation of philosophers with fresh ideas or at the very least a fresh perspective on the timeless questions?
They’re right here, baby. Come on down the rabbit hole- or you can take the red pill- just don’t do both at once.
First up, we have the Less-Wrong Bayesians.
For a quick run-down on the Less-Wrong Bayesians, don’t be afraid to dig into Wikipedia. Go on, I won’t tell your philosophy 101 professor.
www.LessWrong.com is one hell of a website. It’s not run by just one person, but many. All of them working together to refine rationality. Bayes’ Theorem is their most important tool on their glorious quest. At first glance, Bayes’ Theorem looks like a simple equation for calculating conditional probabilities. And it is.
However, the broader implication of the theorem is the important part. The primary takeaway from Bayes’ Theorem is that we should accept statements as true or false based on sliding probability scales. Truth- or more so the ability to declare something as true- is more a matter of conditional probabilities than a hard “True” or “False”. The list of ways in which this site attempts to refine rationality, such as “Anecdote is Evidence,” are too long for any single article, but that’s why you have eyes and an internet connection of your own.
Go look them up and read, you irrational lazy bastards.
This guy is smarter than you and he knows it. He has a tone more condescending than I do and I can’t get enough of it. He’s obsessed with power (Foucault, anyone?). Every aspect of it; how it’s used, how it’s transferred, and most importantly how all you people whining about the powerful are just jealous. Sound simplistic? It isn’t. This guy isn’t just some Rush Limbaugh clone who spews forth mindless hyperbole in defense of the “1%”. C.J. Caswell has a sharp mind and a firm grasp on history to defend his views.
C.J. Caswell believes that power inequality is good. He argues that it consolidates power among a very small group of individuals, thus allowing them to more efficiently push society towards higher goals. Egalitarianism be damned. Ever felt like Democracy sucks, or at least the version of it that extends the right to vote to every idiot able to show up and press a button? This guy is your spirit animal, or spirit philosopher or whatever. If you hate the idea of inequality, then this guy is also for you, because nothing spurs personal growth as much as considering the viewpoints of someone you disagree with.
And lastly, John Searle, Douglas Hofstadter, and Daniel Dennett (walk into a bar. Okay, not quite.)
The work of these philosophers is colored by obsession. Their particular obsession? Consciousness.
More specifically, what consciousness is, how it happens, and it’s features. Hofstader alone has written multiple tomes on this one subject (i.e. Godel, Escher, Bach and I Am A Strange Loop). So yeah, they are obsessed. One might be tempted to ask when it comes to explaining consciousness: “But, isn’t consciousness just electrons firing in your brain?” To put it simply, yes and no, but mostly no.
That’s like saying motion is just a car engine. Engines put cars into motion, yes. However, in the same vein (and more to the point of this section of the article) brains produce consciousness, yet are not themselves the consciousness they produce. Thusly, neuroscience certainly has much to say about consciousness, but consciousness can still be explored without relying on neuroscience. That’s what these philosophers do. When neurology has something to say they listen, but then they go home and use their colossal philosophical might to extend thought on consciousness.
(Bonus round! Most of these philosophers are also scientists).
That’s all I got for this month’s brief foray into philosophy. Go forth and question everything, but don’t do it alone. Many minds have navigated the perilous waters of life before us. Use their thoughts to guide your own. It’s dangerous out there.