I've been thinking again about the realism vs anti-realism debate, about what scientific theories actually tell us about the world. Historically in the philosophy of science, the debate is between realists, who see scientific theories being at least an approximate representation of reality, and instrumentalists or anti-realists, who see those theories as mere prediction frameworks … Continue reading The debate between scientific realism and anti-realism seems like it’s about theory scope
This week, while working through my podcast backlog, I came across an interview of Jacy Reese Anthis. We discussed Anthis' paper on consciousness semanticism a few months ago. Like me, Anthis sees the term "consciousness" as ambiguous, one that has had a variety of different meanings over the centuries, and continues to have a range … Continue reading Philosophical semanticism
In one of the final chapters of his book: Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, David Chalmers asks, have we fallen from the Garden of Eden? "Eden" in this case is a metaphor for living in a world where everything is as it seems, matching our pre-theoretical view of reality. In Eden, everything exists … Continue reading Universal functionalism
Information, computation, and reality
David Chalmers in his book: : Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, has a discussion on information and reality. He identifies different types of information: semantic, structural, and symbolic. Semantic information is what we colloquially think of as information, it's the patterns that tell someone or something about reality. A map of a city … Continue reading Information, computation, and reality
Criteria for being real
David Chalmers in his new book: : Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, takes the philosophical stance of virtual realism. As I understand it, virtual realism is the thesis that virtual reality is genuine reality, with emphasis especially on the view that virtual objects are real and not an illusion. In general, “realism” is … Continue reading Criteria for being real
Can we know if we’re in a simulation?
I'm currently making my way through David Chalmers' new book: Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. Chalmers explores the simulation hypothesis, using it as a portal into a wide ranging selection of philosophical issues, including discussions on God, information theory, structuralism, and a lot of other topics I haven't gotten to yet. His … Continue reading Can we know if we’re in a simulation?
What philosophers believe, 2020 edition
Back in 2009, David Bourget and David Chalmers conducted a survey of professional philosophers, asking for their positions on 40 questions. Over the years, a number of people have pointed out the existence of that survey. While I don't think anyone should change their position purely based on what large numbers of philosophers think, it's … Continue reading What philosophers believe, 2020 edition
Scrutinize what makes you angry
We all have ideas or concepts that exasperate us when they're brought up. Mine have changed over the years. When I was younger, anything that called into question certain ideas, such as the religious faith I was raised in, or the mantra of American patriotism, irritated me to no end. I tended to reject propositions … Continue reading Scrutinize what makes you angry
The Scout Mindset
Julia Galef is the host of the podcast Rationally Speaking (which I've listened to for years and recommend). She's a rationalist concerned with improving the way she and others think. As a result, she often puts out material critiquing typical reasoning mistakes. As Sean Carroll pointed out recently when interviewing her, this tends to put … Continue reading The Scout Mindset
Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?
In the scientific realism vs instrumentalism debate, realism is the position that the elements of a scientific theory represent reality. So when general relativity talks about space warping, space really is warping. Instrumentalism, or anti-realism, is the stance that scientific theories are just prediction mechanisms, with no guarantee that they represent reality. Under instrumentalism, general … Continue reading Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?