Saturday, March 10, 2018

Intellectual Humility

The world is more complex than we can imagine, and every new point of view we encounter can enrich our understanding even if we don’t embrace it entirely. But this comes with the risk of self-effacement and growing uncertainty. Imagine that you are standing in a small clearing in the middle of a vast forest, and that this forest represents your ignorance of the world. The clearing you stand in represents your knowledge. As one gains knowledge, the clearing expands and the forest of ignorance recedes. But as the clearing expands, so does its circumference and so the area of contact between knowledge and ignorance also grows, and our knowledge of the extent of our ignorance grows with it. So, paradoxically, the wiser we become, the less wise we feel. This is the wellspring of intellectual humility, the Socratic realization that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, and the more apparent it becomes that your own opinions are susceptible to fallibility.

- Matthew Blackwell

Knows Little Of That

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

- John Stuart Mill "On Liberty"

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Free Gift From Heaven

The power of the human network, as I always say. This guy says it pretty elegantly as well. Again I remind you that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts:

"It is impossible for any man to contribute to the social system the physical equivalent of what it costs that system to sustain him from birth until death–and the higher the physical standard of living the greater the discrepancy. If, in addition to his food, he receives also the product of modern industry, this is due to the fact that material and energy resources happen to be available and, as compared with any contribution he can make, constitute a free gift from heaven."

— M. King Hubbert, Man-Hours and Distribution

Sunday, February 11, 2018


anthropomorphism: the notion of giving things that are not human, human qualities

mechanomorphism: the notion of giving things that are not mechanical, mechanical qualities

Atheists contend that theists are anthropomorphizing nature when they talk of god and theists contend that atheists are mechanomorphizing god when they talk of nature.

Cost Benefit Analysis

"Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life." 

— Susan David

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thieve No Longer

"It is a foolish commonplace expression, that without this pretended freedom of will, rewards and punishments are useless. Reason, and you will conclude quite the contrary. " 

If, when a robber is executed, his accomplice who sees him suffer has the liberty of not being frightened at the punishment ; if his will determines of itself, he will go from the foot of the scaffold to assassinate on the high road; if struck with horror he experiences and insurmountable amount of terror, he will no longer thieve. The punishment of his companion will become useful to him, and moreover prove to society that his will is not free.

– Voltaire "Philosophical Dictionary"

Nasir ad-Din Tusi on Labors Divided

Now, since the Man pivots on mutual aid, while cooperation is realized by men undertaking each other’s important tasks fairly and equally, it follows that the diversity of crafts, which proceeds from the diversity of purposes, demands (a measure of) organization; for if the whole species were to betake themselves in a body to one craft, there would be a return of the situation against which we have just been on guard. For this reason, Divine Wisdom has required that there should be a disparity of aspirations and opinions, so that each desires a different occupation, some noble and others base, in the practice of which they are cheerful and contented.

Likewise, it has been ordained that there should be diversity in their states in such matters as wealth and poverty, quickness and stupidity; for if all be wealthy, they will not serve one another, as equally they will not if all be poor: in the first case, this is on account of their being independent of each other, in the second because of inability to pay anything in return for the service of one to another. Again, since crafts vary in nobility and baseness, if all men be equal in the faculty of discrimination, they will choose one class (of employment), whereby the other classes will remain vacant and the desired end will not be realized. This is what the Philosophers mean when they say: ‘If men were equal, they would all perish’.

However, since some are distinguished by correct management and others by superior strength, one group by great dignity of manner and another by abundant capability (while some, devoid of discrimination and intelligence, are virtually tools and instruments for men so endowed), all tasks are determined in the manner as observed; and from each undertaking his own important duty, the ordering of the universe and the organization of Man’s daily life becomes act.

Now, since it is impossible to conceive the species to exist without cooperation, while cooperation without combination is an absurdity, therefore the human species is naturally in need of combination. This type of combination, of which we have already given an account, is called ‘civilized life’. The term is derived from ‘city’, a city being a place of combination for individuals carrying on, by their various trades and crafts, the cooperation which is the means of procuring a livelihood. Just as we said, concerning Economics, that what was meant by ‘household’ was not a dwelling, but the combination of the inhabitants of a dwelling in a particular way: so here also, what is meant by ‘city’ is not the dwellings of the inhabitants of a city, but a particular association between the inhabitants of a city. This is what the philosophers mean when they say that Man is naturally a city-dweller, i.e. he is naturally in need of the combination called ‘civilized life’.

– Nasir ad-Din Tusi "The Nasirean Ethics"