Author Archives: nogre
“You’re being unreasonable!”
One or more of you may have had this directed at you. But what does the speaker mean by it?
Presumably the speaker believes that the listener is not acting according to some given standard. However, if the speaker had an argument to that effect, the speaker should’ve presented it. Hence, all the above statement means is that the speaker has run out of arguments and has resorted to name-calling: being unreasonable is another way of saying crazy.
Now, though, the situation has reversed itself. It is not the listener that has acted unreasonably, but the speaker. Without an argument that concludes that the listener is being unreasonable, then it is not the listener that is being unreasonable, but the speaker. The speaker is name-calling, when, by the speaker’s own standards, an argument is required. For what else is reasonable but to present an argument? So, by saying that the listener is being unreasonable, in essence the speaker is declaring themself unreasonable.
But, yet again, the situation reverses itself. If a person has run out of arguments, and makes a statement to that effect, then he or she is being perfectly reasonable. This returns us to the beginning! Therefore, by making a claim about someone else being unreasonable, you paradoxically show that you yourself are and are not reasonable, such that if you are, then you are not, and if you are not, then you are.
Welcome to the one hundred forty first philosophy carnival. In my internet travels I found some really cool philosophy inspired posters by Genis Carreras, which I have paired with the links to pretty up the carnival.
Zombies, because philosophers like zombies.
This is my favorite post of the carnival: U-Phil: Deconstructing Dynamic Dutch-Books? by Deborah G. Mayo. It is about dogmatism in Bayesian epistemology when considering Dutch Book arguments, as viewed by a frequentist. This is great stuff.
Is There a Difference Between Memory and Imagination? Ok, this has little to do with dogma, but I had nowhere else to put it. Greg argues that remembering is closer to imagination since it is a reconstruction.
What happens when people are placed under linguistic constraints and need to communicate? Experimental semiotics provides some insight with combinatoriality (recurrence of basic forms), but Gualtiero Piccinini argues that natural language is more complex. He says it requires potential infinite complexity, which may not occur with only combinatoriality. Still, ES leads him to hypothesize the “Gavagai Game” of language generation, which could provide insight into language.
Two different ethical views are propounded this carnival:
Richard Chappell, however, outlines a position where acts are evaluated on utility, not the character of the person doing them. By evaluating acts and not the person’s character, individual accidents of psychology which may make one person much more (in)sensitive to certain issues than others may be separated from their moral will. He argues that this position is highly practical.
The Business of Philosophy
Secondly the smokers have posted and been discussing some cool research done in the area of tenure-track philosophy hiring by Carolyn Dicey Jennings. So you want a philosophy job? Take a gander and these numbers! [Go BU!]
Two takes on Rule Following
Murali at the Leage of Ordinary Gentlemen argues for a basis of law on a two tier system, the distinction between habit and rule following, and an internal point of view.
Dave Maier discusses semantic rule following in Wittgenstein. This is actually a really good discussion of how we get caught in a bind of wanting both definitions and revisability when it comes to identifying fundamental measures, but I’m actually posting this because I want to point out that my duckrabbit is better (and more stylish) than his duckrabbit. My duckrabbit should be the standard duckrabbit. And what if my duckrabbit were to significantly change? Would we have to revise all other duckrabbits to account for the change? Of course not. Since it is so inconceivable that my duckrabbit should become fundamentally different, if it were to change, it would signify that we had lost our minds. So there is no problem here at all.
But What is Philosophy
Another article by Dave Maier, What is philosophy, again?, but this one over at 3 Quarks Daily.
My contribution to the carnival is that I am starting a new blog, The Road to Sippy Cups. My inaugural post is I Sneeze, Therefore I Am. I say on the about page, “Philosophy’s goal is to wean us off ideas — even if they had sustained us — because those ideas no longer provide us with what we need, and, hopefully, onto better ones.” And I will be writing, “metaphysics with an eye towards values, humans and society.” So I encourage you to go check it out.
If you have made it this far…
… you might be an internet philosopher!
So go over to the philosophy carnival page and sign up to host or submit your work!
I’ll be hosting the next philosophy carnival, so please submit some fun links over at http://philosophycarnival.blogspot.com/.
At least since Selten (1975) game theorists have considered that given a series of decisions there is some small probability that the person making the decisions will make a mistake and do something irrational, even if she knows the right thing to do. This is called the trembling hand approach: although a person rationally knows the right (rational) thing to do, sometimes her hand trembles and she chooses incorrectly.
Therefore, given a game defined by a finite set of iterated decisions and payoffs in which all the rational moves are known by both players (think Tic Tac Toe), there is a ‘perturbed’ game in which the rational choices are not made. So consider playing a game of Tic Tac Toe: Either player can always force a draw in Tic Tac Toe and hence prevent loss. However, it is easy enough to make a mistake (through inattentiveness, eg) and allow your opponent to win.
I believe this approach is a good start but does not go nearly far enough to incorporate probability into game theory. The issue stems from the trembling hand approach assuming that irrational behavior occurs because of ‘some unspecified psychological mechanism.’ This is fine, but then every trembling hand probability, every chance of making an irrational decision, is defined as a separate, independent probability. This means that making an irrational decision is based on chance, as if we roll a die every decision we make.
Perhaps some people have this problem, that they act irrationally at probabilistic rates, but this doesn’t seem either realistic, or fit with the idea that a psychological mechanism was at work. If some psychological mechanism was at work, then we would expect
- The probabilities of making mistakes would not be independent of each other, since they have a common source.
- There would be a much higher chance of irrationality at times when the psychological issue manifests itself.
One example of what I have in mind is the effectiveness of gamesmanship in sport. Gamesmanship is the art of getting into your opponents head and causing them to make mistakes. Consider this description of “furbizia” in Italian soccer by Andrea Tallarita:
Perhaps nothing has been more influential in determining the popular perception of the Italian game than furbizia, the art of guile… The word ‘furbizia’ itself means guile, cunning or astuteness. It refers to a method which is often (and admittedly) rather sly, a not particularly by-the-book approach to the performative, tactical and psychological part of the game. Core to furbizia is that it is executed by means of stratagems which are available to all players on the pitch, not only to one team. What are these stratagems? Here are a few: tactical fouls, taking free kicks before the goalkeeper has finished positioning himself, time-wasting, physical or verbal provocation and all related psychological games, arguably even diving… Anyone can provoke an adversary, but it takes real guile (real furbizia) to find the weakest links in the other team’s psychology, then wear them out and bite them until something or someone gives in – all without ever breaking a single rule in the book of football. (via)
If we try to explain the an instance of someone making an irrational play in a game due to gamesmanship/furbizia according to the trembling hand model, we run into difficulty. The decision tree according to the ‘trembling hand’ theory would have a series of decisions each with a low probability of making an irrational mistake:
Hence it cannot explain why someone would crack later in the game as opposed to earlier, since all the probabilities are equal. Nor can it explain why people make irrational decisions at higher rates when playing against a crafty opponent than they would make otherwise. Therefore the trembling hand model cannot explain the effectiveness of gamesmanship.
But the decision tree given linked, non-independent probabilities might have the chance of an irrational decision given by:
This model has an increasing chance of irrational action. As time progresses, it becomes increasingly likely that an irrational choice will occur due to the gamesmanship of the opponent.
I’ll refer to this model generally as induced irrationality. Induced irrationality occurs when the chance of making a rational decision decreases due to some factor, or when the chances of making irrational decisions over time change in concert, or both.
Other phenomena follow this pattern. Bullying comes to mind: it is similar to gamesmanship in its breaking or bending of ‘rules’ over time to get in someone’s head and thence get them to do things they would rather not do. The bullied will act irrationally in the presence of the bully and potentially more so as the bullying continues, perhaps even leading to “snapping”— doing something seriously irrational.
Phobias are also similar: for whatever reason a person has a phobia, and given the presence of that object or situation, the otherwise rational person will make different decisions.
Moreover this may have something to do with the Gambler’s Fallacy: By making a gambler associate a pattern to some random act, such as by showing the gambler all the recent values of a roulette wheel in order to convince the gambler to believe that the wheel likely will land on red (or losing a few bets to a shill in 3 card monte, or seeing a pattern in the stock market, etc.), the casino has planted a belief in the gambler. Hence, as time goes on and red is not landed upon, the gambler increasingly thinks it is ever more likely that red will hit (even though it has the same low chance as it always did). Hence the gambler will likely bet more later — more irrationally — as he expects red to be increasingly likely to hit.
Hence, though trembling hands may be a factor in irrational decision making, it does not seem like it is the only possibility or even the most significant in a number of interesting cases.
My brother beat the Tic Tac Toe playing chicken when the Chinatown Fair Arcade (NYC) still operated. I assume that there was a computer choosing the game moves and it happened to glitch when my brother was playing: though the machine claimed it won, if you looked at the Xs and Os, my brother had won. We asked the manager for our promised bag of fortune cookies. He said he didn’t actually have a bag since the chicken wasn’t ever supposed to lose.
[Sent to me by my brother. Thanks bro!]
If we try to represent tossing a coin or a die, or picking a card out of a deck at random, in logic, how should we do it?
Tossing a coin might look like:
Toss(coin) → (Heads or Tails)
Tossing a die might be:
Toss(die) → (1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6)
Picking a card:
Pick(52 card deck) → (1♣ or 2♣ or … or k♥)
This begs asking, do these statements make sense? For instance look what happens if we try to abstract:
such that ‘Toss’ represents a random selection of the given object.
But this is weird because Toss is a randomized function and x is not selected randomly in this formula. Perhaps if we added another variable, we could generate the right sort of function:
∀y ∃x Toss(yx)
Then x would be a function of y: we would select x with respect to y. The problem is still that a Toss involves randomness. So this setup is incorrect because treating x as a function of y is not randomized, because y is not random.
How can we represent randomness in logic?
As noted, functions alone will not work. Variables and interpreted objects cannot invoke randomness. Perhaps we can modify some part of our logic to accommodate randomness. The connectives for negation and conjunction haven’t anything to do with randomness either.
But, if we use the game theoretic interpretation of logic, then we can conceive of each quantifier as representing a player in a game. Players can be thought of as acting irrationally or randomly.
Therefore, let’s introduce a new quantifier: Я. Я is like the other quantifiers in that it instantiates a variable.
- Яx T(x)
However, Я is out of our (or anyone’s) control. It does instantiate variables when it is it’s turn (just like other quantifiers) but it instantiates randomly. So we have three players, Abelard, Eloise and Random (or the Verifier, Falsifier and Randomizer).
But more is still needed. We need a random selection between specific options, be it between heads and tails, 1-6, cards, numbers, or anything else. One way of doing this would be to create a special domain just for the random choices. Я would only instantiate from this domain, and if there are multiple random selections, we will require multiple indexed domains.
Hence, given Di(Heads, Tails),
represents a coin flip since Я randomly instantiates out of the domain containing only Heads and Tails.
I prefer to use an artifact of Independence Friendly logic, the dependence indicator: a forward slash, /. The dependence indicator means that the quantifier only depends on those objects, variables, quantifiers or formulas specified. Hence
means that the variable x is randomly instantiated to Heads or Tails, since the only things that Яx is logically aware of are Heads and Tails. Therefore this too represents a coin flip, without having multiple domains.)
Now that we have an instantiation rule for Я we also need a negation rule for it. If some object is not selected at random, then it must have been individually selected. In this case the only other players that could have selected the object are ∀ and ∃. Hence the negation rule for Я is just like the negation rule for the other quantifiers: negating a quantifier means that a different player is responsible for instantiation of the variable. If neither player is responsible, it can be considered random: ¬Яx ↔ (∀x or ∃x). We can leave the basic negation rule for ∀ and ∃ the way it is.
Therefore, given the additions of the new quantifier and domain (or slash notation), we can represent randomness within logic.
See “Propositional Logics for Three” by Tulenheimo and Venema in Dialogues, Logics And Other Strange Things by Cedric Degremont (Editor) College Publications 2008, for a generalized framework for logics with 3 quantifiers. Since the above logic requires either indexed domains or dependence operators, Яandom Logic is a bit different, but it is a good discussion.
The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness by Joan Roughgarden
In The Genial Gene Joan Roughgarden seeks to replace the competitive understanding of evolution, known as sexual selection, with a cooperative one. The first sentence of her book reads, “This book is about whether selfishness and individuality, rather than kindness and cooperation, are basic to biological nature” (p. 1).
So what is the argument? Taking this first line, she wants to conclude something about basic biological nature. To do this, one can either define what basic biological nature is and then use that definition to derive conclusions, or else survey the natural world and find the best interpretation for whatever empirical results were found. She opts for the latter strategy.
To this end she first surveys and compiles examples of what people consider to be evidence for sexual selection and argues that this evidence has been misconstrued or simply does not support the theory of sexual selection. Then she offers a few logical arguments against sexual selection with the aim to highlight contradictions within the theory.
She then develops her alternative, called Social Selection. Social Selection is fundamentally based upon cooperation, not competition, and she proceeds to reinterpret the empirical research with respect to cooperation. Given the results of this reinterpretation, she concludes that the cooperative approach provides a more accurate picture of the empirical data than the competitive approach. Therefore social selection, not sexual selection, is fundamental to biological nature.
Can this argument be maintained?
Her argument fundamentally turns on the interpretation of the empirical research. (If her logical arguments were strong enough to undermine sexual selection on their own, she would have dedicated more space to them. At best, in my opinion, they could raise questions about sexual selection, but are not inherently damaging enough, even if they are accepted uncontested, to force a major revision to sexual selection.) She interprets the research in terms of cooperation and her opponents are those who interpret the research in terms of competition. Roughgarden claims her interpretation is the correct one.
Insofar as she is making an inference saying her interpretation is the best conclusion, her argument fails. She readily admits that the defenders of sexual selection are able to consistently create explanatory fixes for apparent contradictions in the empirical research. Since they are able to explain the data, the fact that she is unsatisfied by their explanations (and likes her own better) is no grounds for convincing her opponents to give up their explanations. After all, they have history and authority on their side. Her coming up with better numbers, that is, having formulas that (she says) more accurately represent the research, is not a sufficient reason for discarding a theory that has held up for many years, especially one that continues to be an area of active research. So, she has not successfully argued that social selection should replace sexual selection.
However, if we consider a more modest conclusion, then Roughgarden may be able to maintain part of her argument. She makes the point that the core Darwinian theory does not include sexual selection; it is a later contribution (ppg. 3-4). This suggest that there may be theoretical room for cooperation in addition to competition. But how much room?
Now the interpretive problem that she set up cuts the other way. Instead of her trying to convince us that her cooperative interpetation of the empirical research is the correct one, we ask the competitive interpretation why it is the best one. Empirical research alone cannot support one conclusion over another: the data must first be interpreted before a conclusion can be reached. As mentioned above, sexual selection has history and authority on its side, but age and endorsements are not arguments for being the sole fundamental methodology of biological nature. Without history and authority, sexual selection proponents only have their ability to explain bioogical research, which is no more than Roughgarden has. Therefore, advocates of sexual selection have no further theoretical resources to support their claim that sexual selection is the fundamental method working in evolution.
This means that Roughgarden does succeed in part. Based on the arguments she provides she is unable to maintain that kindness and cooperation underpin evolution, but she is able to cut sexual selection down to her size. She has shown that it is possible to reinterpret biological research in terms that do not rely upon competition and that sexual selection has no special theoretical privelege. Therefore sexual selection proponents can no longer claim to be fundamental biological reality: even though Roughgarden was unable to fell their theory, they won’t be able to down her either, and so she has established theoretical room for cooperation in Darwinian theory.