On whether brains are embodied

This is an outgrowth of A first pass at David Chapman’s metarationality. In Abstract Reasoning as Emergent from Concrete Activity, David Chapman quotes a summary article about the “E-approaches” in the cognitive sciences: E-approaches propose that cognition depends on embodied engagements in the world. They rethink the alternative, ‘sandwich’ view of cognition as something pure that can be logically isolated from non-neural activity. Traditionally, cognition is imagined to occur wholly within the brain....

November 13, 2021

A first pass at David Chapman's metarationality

[The philosophical meat of this article is under the section “Current threads and questions”. Feel free to skip to that.] This tweet has had a big impact on my life: 🧵 Trying to Figure Out Where @DavidDeutschOxf's Critical Rationalism and @Meaningness's Meta-rationality Disagree (for the very small niche of people that find this interesting) — Jake Orthwein (@JakeOrthwein) April 24, 2021 When I stumbled upon it, I had spent about a year being deeply entrenched in the philosophical worldviews of critical rationalism, espoused by the physicist David Deutsch (which he had inherited from the philosopher Karl Popper)....

November 13, 2021

Are there contradictions in reality?

When I was reading The Beginning of Infinity, one of the passages that stood out to me was about contradictions (emphasis mine): Since theories can contradict each other, but there are no contradictions in reality, every problem signals that our knowledge must be flawed or inadequate. Our misconception could be about the reality we are observing or about how our perceptions are related to it, or both. (18) There are no contradictions in reality....

September 23, 2021

Addenda to consciousness post

I recently published a substack post on consciousness and am using this to write a few extra notes that I excluded from the article for brevity. My goal with the article was to take the reader on a kind of explanatory journey, which meant that I had to take certain intellectual shortcuts and brush over some nuances. Examples: I start the piece with a materialist paradigm in which it’s “obvious” that chairs and atoms are not conscious....

August 11, 2021

Logical Impossibility

Warning: This piece is not meant to be readable. I’m just trying to explore some ideas about the foundations of math and belief. How is it that we can imagine things that are logically impossible? I’ve always been a little perturbed by this. It was strange to me that we can imagine or even believe things that are logically impossible. It makes sense to me that we can imagine things that are physically impossible....

June 22, 2021

Absurdism

The word ‘absurd’ has always held a special place in my heart. ‘Absurd’ evokes the ridiculousness of everything around us—the serendipity of our mutual existence at this place and time, the immeasurable complexity of the cells and proteins that make up our bodies, the unfathomable size of our galaxy. The moments I’m in touch with this absurdity have always been the moments I felt most alive. I’d find myself in awe that anything exists at all, and that the things which do exist happen to form this particular conscious experience of ‘me’ and ‘the world’....

May 21, 2021

Problems I'm thinking about

This is a list of philosophical questions I’m currently grappling with. Truth and objectivity I tend to be a realist, i.e. I think there are objective truths about the world, whether or not we’re aware of those truths. And for a while I’ve had the view that through science, philosophy, conjecture, reason, and error-correction, we could get closer to knowing those objective truths. (Some thoughts on objectivity here.) Recently I’ve been less sure about (1) the existence of such definite, objective facts describing the world, and (2) whether error-correction actually helps us get closer to those facts....

May 20, 2021

Life as problem-solving

A key part of happiness is understanding the role and nature of problem-solving in life. We are always solving problems. A problem can be defined as a conflict between ideas. The process of solving it requires the creation (and testing) of new ideas. Here are examples of problems: how do I relieve this back pain? how do we enable knowledge workers to collaborate more effectively? how do we reduce poverty?...

May 19, 2021

Objective morality

This post is an attempt to answer the question: how do you define morality objectively? Context: I used to be a moral nihilist (there is no such thing as “good” and “bad”, morality is completely arbitrary and subjective, the universe does not care). Today, I’m closer to being a moral realist, though I reserve some room for the possibility that morality is entirely a human construct. At the very least, I think arguments for objective morality should be considered seriously....

May 18, 2021

The importance of documenting (and subsequently sharing) your ideas

Many people have talked about this but I’d like to share my framing of it. As we grow, our ideas change. The way we see the world shifts. We update our political inclinations, philosophical stances, personal values, and understanding of things. Sometimes this is a sudden shift, precipitated by a profound experience or insight. But it usually happens more slowly than that. It can occur so slowly that it’s imperceptible – you only notice it after your worldview has already changed dramatically....

May 12, 2021