I’ve been running this Link Roundup series for over a year now, and I’ve nearly hit #40. For those who don’t know, not only do I list the cool links I found that week, but I list them so the coolest is on the top, and they go in descending order of my interest. Last time I hit #20, I did a recap roundup of the best links from #1-#20 — every top link from the first twenty roundups was included, and then re-sorted. (The all-time winner was “The Twelve Virtues of Rationality”)
Now that I’ve been closing in on #40, I was geared up to do another one documenting the top links from #21-40. But doing twenty top links made sense when I used to cram twenty links per roundup; now I do ten. So now, it makes far more sense to do only a top ten. Thus, in preparation for my fortieth roundup, I’m going to do the best of #21-30 here, and then do the best of #31-40 later after #40 is published.
So, here are, in order of my interest, my ten favorite links from Weekly Link Roundups #21-30:
- The Secret Joke of Kant’s Soul [PDF]: “In this chapter, I draw on Haidt’s and Baron’s respective insights in the service of a bit of philosophical psychoanalysis. I will argue that deontological judgments tend to be driven by emotional responses, and that deontological philosophy, rather than being grounded in moral reasoning, is to a large extent an exercise in moral rationalization. This is in contrast to consequentialism, which, I will argue, arises from rather different psychological processes, ones that are more “cognitive,” and more likely to involve genuine moral reasoning. These claims are strictly empirical, and I will defend them on the basis of the available evidence. Needless to say, my argument will be speculative and will not be conclusive. Beyond this, I will argue that if these empirical claims are true, they may have normative implications, casting doubt on deontology as a school of normative moral thought.”
- Why God is a Terrible Explanation for Anything: “I think what you have there is a total train wreck. That is my opinion of theistic explanations. For a start, when they say ‘God is the simplest explanation,’ who says that? Suppose instead of Newton, someone had come along and said, ‘I think that your inverse square law of gravity is much too complicated. I’m going to explain the motion of the planets in terms of woo-woo.’ And you say, ‘What’s woo-woo?’ And they say, ‘The woo-woo is the thing which makes the planets move. It’s the single perfect entity which makes them go round in their orbits. And what can be simpler than woo-woo?’”
- Dan Gilbert on Our Mistaken Expectations [TED Talk]: “Dan Gilbert presents research and data from his exploration of happiness — sharing some surprising tests and experiments that you can also try on yourself.” This talk presents a lot of data that demonstrates that making decisions is more about not knowing how to get what we want — we don’t even know what it is we want!
- God is Magic: “The ‘God is Magic’ argument is really just another version of the ‘God of the gaps’; the God that is the answer to whatever gaps there currently are in the body of scientific knowledge; the blue crayon that gets used to fill in all the empty spaces in the coloring book… despite the fact that blue has never, ever proven to be the right color. And it’s not actually an explanation. It doesn’t offer any clarity about why things are the way they are — a magical God could presumably have made things be any way at all, and the answer to why would ultimately just be, “God’s whim.” And it doesn’t offer any predictive power — ditto. It’s not actually an explanation. It’s just a way of getting around the necessity of offering an explanation.”
- Rats in a Maze: “Think of it this way. If God exists, and if his goal for us is to be saved and rejoin him in Heaven, then all he’s done is deliberately create us apart from him and then set up a series of arbitrary hurdles we have to jump over to get back to him. Why not just create us in Heaven in the first place? Why create us at all? In the theistic view, our lives and the cosmos are just an experiment, a test run, a child’s puzzle box. The things we do here and now have all the significance of a rat trying to find the way through a maze contrived by the experimenter. What’s the point? To memorize a route through the maze and be rewarded with a piece of cheese? I refuse to believe my life has no greater purpose than that. Why is so much – an infinity, in fact – riding on our performance in this infinitesimal blip of existence in a lower sphere?”
- 3 Strikes Against Fatalism: “Here are three brief sallies against the plausibility of fatalism, one by Bob Miller of Charlottesville. They are designed to prevent any plunge into pessimism that determinism might engender among those who suppose we must have free will for life to be worth living. Fatalism is pretty obviously false, but we want to make sure no one gets demoralized by a naturalism that understands all our behavior as fully a function of environment and heredity. It’s important (and not difficult) to avoid the false conclusion that determinism disempowers us. It doesn’t in the least; rather it shows us how to make the most of our abilities. If after reading these, you find yourself depressed about not having free will, please be in touch.”
- The Error in Error Theory (PDF): “Moral error theory of the kind defended by J.L. Mackie and Richard Joyce is premised on two claims: (1) that moral judgements essentially presuppose that moral value has absolute authority, and (2) that this presupposition is false, because nothing has absolute authority. This paper accepts (2) but rejects (1). It is argued first that (1) is not the best explanation of the evidence from moral practice, and second that even if it were, the error theory would still be mistaken, because the assumption does not contaminate the meaning or truth-conditions of moral claims. These are determined by the essential application conditions for moral concepts, which are relational rather than absolute. An analogy is drawn between moral judgements and motion judgements.”
- The Simple Truth: “This essay is meant to restore a naive view of truth. [...] Many people, so questioned, don’t know how to answer in exquisitely rigorous detail. Nonetheless they would not be wise to abandon the concept of ‘truth’. There was a time when no one knew the equations of gravity in exquisitely rigorous detail, yet if you walked off a cliff, you would fall.”
- The Earth Is Round (p < .05): “After 4 decades of severe criticism, the ritual of null hypothesis significance testing—mechanical dichotomous decisions around a sacred .05 criterion—still persists. This article reviews the problems with this practice, including its near-universal misinterpretation of p as the probability that H0 is false, the misinterpretation that its complement is the probability of successful replication, and the mistaken assumption that if one rejects H0 one thereby affirms the theory that led to the test. Exploratory data analysis and the use of graphic methods, a steady improvement in and a movement toward standardization in measurement, an emphasis on estimating effect sizes using confidence intervals, and the informed use of available statistical methods is suggested. For generalization, psychologists must finally rely, as has been done in all the older sciences, on replication.”
- Summary of “The Straw Vulcan”: “The classic Hollywood example of rationality is the Vulcans from Star Trek. They are depicted as an ultra-rational race that has eschewed all emotion from their lives. But is this truly rational? [...] These characters have a sort of fake rationality. They don’t fail because rationality failed, but because they aren’t actually being rational. Straw Vulcan rationality is not the same thing as actual rationality.”
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