My friend Ed Gibney has written on each and every one of the thought experiments in Julian Baggini’s, The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher. He has also summarized his own 100 blog posts on Baggini’s 100 thought experiments in “What I learned from 100 Philosophy Thought Experiments.”
(Here is his summary of, and commentary on, Baggini’s thought experiments dealing with logic. It follows from a previous post on thought experiments about epistmology. I have added my own brief reflections at the bottom of the page.
From Ed Gibney’s blog, reprinted with permission.
First off, as seen in #42 Take the Money and Run, logic puzzles alone don’t always teach us much. However, #6 Wheel of Fortune helps us see that our guts are bad at statistics. And to solve any paradox, like the one in #70 An Inspector Calls, you must carefully define unclear terms. #64 Nipping the Bud shows that simple answers to complex situations are always wrong in some way. And via #49 The Hole in the Sum of the Parts, it’s a “category mistake” to treat concrete things and abstract ideas as if they both existed as singular entities.
In #85 The Nowhere Man, we see that “meaningless statements” whose meanings seem clear is a contradiction in terms, but this is the kind of problem that was solved in mathematics by the invention of the concept of zero. Just as “the present King of France” or “the round square” don’t refer to anything, neither does the number zero, and so such linguistic oddities might, therefore, be labeled xero, as in, they are neither true nor false, but technically xero.
In another problem for the application of logic, we see in #16 Racing Tortoises that time cannot be slowed to a halt. This then shows us in #94 The Sorites Tax that the concepts of TRUE and FALSE were built on an ancient’s view of the universe as an unchanging and eternal thing. Once we discovered evolution in 1859, and the Big Bang was confirmed by background radiation in the 1960s, our cosmological revolutions should have led to logical revolutions as well. You cannot impose eternal and unchanging TRUE/FALSE logic on an evolving and expanding universe. I call this the Static-Dynamic Problem of philosophy. One can only apply logic to a static picture where TRUE or FALSE definitions can remain valid. Once you move to the dynamic realm, classical logic breaks down.
Nonetheless, as in #61 Mozzarella Moon, when mutually exclusive ideas mingle, they must either adapt or go extinct, and it would be much better for all involved if the changes didn’t have to come from violent conflict (might doesn’t make right), so it’s vital we figure out how to root out truly maladaptive thoughts by using logical reason alone. Sadly, as seen in #24 Squaring the Circle, irrational beliefs in gods are unaffected by rational arguments. And so we, therefore, must move to the subjective realm to understand emotions and other views about the nature of one’s reality.
My Brief Reflections – There is a lot here but I agree that as long as there is time, as long as there is a tomorrow, we cannot claim to know something definitively. Still, I’d argue that if we can enhance our intelligence, merge with AIs, create a global brain, become transhuman, etc., then there is a possibility of adjudicating our disputes with reason alone.
(Next up – the thought experiments dealing with metaphysics.)
5 thoughts on “Summary of Julian Baggini’s, The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: Part 2 – Thought Experiments in Logic”
“irrational beliefs in gods are unaffected by rational arguments”
Have become sympathetic to limited belief in gods, as although I was brought up with the notion that escapism was wrong, it now appears escapism cannot be avoided. Whether the escapism is just say marijuana (cf soma in the Brave New World) or gods, how can anyone adjust to the wrenching dislocation, which has only begun, without drugs, religion, cheap entertainment, all the rest of it? The hedonistic imperative does appear to be justifiable.
“I’d argue that if we can enhance our intelligence, merge with AIs, create a global brain, become transhuman, etc., then there is a possibility of adjudicating our disputes with reason alone.”
Yes. Caveat is we want to be careful we don’t suffer from rapture of the future. The following link is to a conservative piece reminding the reader of what cavalier attitudes can easily do. Now, conservatives in the 21st century no longer conserve anything, it is not as if an Eisenhower were president; nor are we in such a decade as the 1980s when things were simplified.
Yet even if Istvan’s remarks were taken out of context; even if Istvan made his comments merely for effect– to shock an audience into paying attention– he was indeed being viciously anti-nature. The nature that whelped him and his family & friends.
We should cease terming doubters of high-tech ‘Luddites’. Ludd himself was protesting unemployment, and in the 21st century few protest tech: they protest burgeoning high tech and pollution. Today many other issues involving tech are legitimately to be worried about. (‘Concern’ is a polite way of saying worry.)
A given ‘Luddite’ might be more properly considered a nature-lover, rather than a tech-hater.
I’ll just point out that the author of the above link works for the Discovery Institute whose goal is to oppose the teaching of biological evolution and replace it with Christian creationism — in science classes. Naturally, the author thinks that humans are exceptional and not biological creatures. But look around the world and read history, how exceptional are humans?
“the author of the above link works for the Discovery Institute whose goal is to oppose the teaching of biological evolution and replace it with Christian creationism — in science classes. ”
No surprise for people who have lived in the Deep South. Unfortunately.
For us anyway– not for them. It does give their lives great meaning, but I would get more meaning from sincere Satanism than their dissembling. Recently, it appears perhaps robots will be the companions we will able to converse with, sans today’s deceit.
Progress works in mysterious ways.
The link was taken from The American Spectator, it was apparent before reading it that it was going to be Fox News unfair and unbalanced. My comment is criticism of the animus Zoltan Istvan harbors towards nature. Disproportionately visceral anger, considering how kind nature has been to him.
Still, not to be hypercritical of Istvan: he is much more tolerant than he seems– he wants to shock, obviously, to interest the public in transhumanism. He is very ambitious and ambition does not equal kind, it equals expediency/pragmatism. Learning that took my entire life. A confusion, as professional philosophers know, exists between ethics and aesthetics. When young we were told of good versus bad, and even now we confuse preferences with ethics; pleasure with happiness.
“But look around the world and read history, how exceptional are humans?”
Exceptionally destructive– WMDs, toxic wastes. At any rate, there’s great hope otherwise, enormous hope. But I scarcely can talk to anyone nowadays: the dislocation of post-2016 is what is unnerving. Watergate multiplied exponentially.
The reason I am pessimistic, in case there is any lingering microscopic doubt of why,
can be gleaned from the Discovery Institute’s article, and all around us. These people do not oppose transhumanism per se. Here is the locus of it all: they want their families & friends to live as long as possible. No matter if life is prolonged merely for a very brief time; no matter the cost, no matter who pays for it. They are opposed to transhumanism only if transhumanism does not benefit them.
The American Spectator’s new slogan is Quote, politics is too important to be taken seriously, Unquote. And what does it mean? Not a hard one to figure.
Thanks again John! Just a quick note from me to point out that you changed something in my text. I originally invented a new term “xero” that was meant to define a linguistic “zero”—i.e. a term for when words, rather than numbers, refer to nothing. So, in this sentence above….
“Just as “the present King of France” or “the round square” don’t refer to anything, neither does the number zero, and so such linguistic oddities might, therefore, be labeled zero, as in, they are neither true nor false, but technically zero.”
….I actually used my new term “xero” for those last two instances. I think that is bolder, perhaps ridiculously so, but it makes the point that this is a new idea as far as I am aware, and I am interested in hearing opinions about that.
ok, my bad, i thought it was a typo. I’ll change it back.