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  1. L

    Axiom of Causality?

    I think a fairly innocuous version of that "axiom" is the claim that: "The state of the universe at time t in some sense depends on the state of the universe at some earlier time t-d." You'd have to be crazy to deny this much. The fact that I'm at my desk now in some sense depends on the fact...
  2. L

    Two different types of probability

    According to Bayesians, Bayes' theorem can be used to calculate how a rational agent should update her degree of belief in some proposition A, given some new evidence B. It says: P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B) The probabilities here are usually interpreted as subjective "degrees of belief". In...
  3. L

    How can we justify that one life is more important than Another's?

    Ahh... I see what you're getting at :wink:. I think you bias the question by saying a foetus counts as a person. To me it seems that it is reasonable to consider a 24-week foetus to be conscious, and emotional considerations of empathy and sympathy make good sense. On the other hand...
  4. L

    If the ultimate form of physics can simulate any future matter status without error

    There is a longstanding view (called compatibilism) that claims determinism has no effect on the question of free will. Look it up. I've never really investigated the free will issue - it seems to all be pretty nebulous. I am sure that human beings are able to act as agents in the world, in...
  5. L

    About the Eye

    The answer is obviously yes -- but I understand your concern. This was a major strand of Kant's work. In the world there are the "things in themselves", or noumena. But we only ever get access to sense experiences, or phenomena. So an interesting question presents itself - how much of the...
  6. L

    What is your favored interpretation of quantum mechanics?

    If anything this is even more metaphysically bizarre. The "worlds" in MWI are severely constrained. Normally philosophers take anything not logically impossible to be possible. But MWI cannot do this. For example, it is not logically impossible for the laws of quantum mechanics to be completely...
  7. L

    How can we justify that one life is more important than Another's?

    You could take a utilitarian standpoint and decide that in the long run person X's survival will do more good than person Y's, so person X is the one worth saving. Perhaps this is why secret service agents will take a bullet for the president, or parents will sacrifice themselves for their...
  8. L

    Human Nature

    What is a "nature"? Let me suggest two criteria: 1. Something possessed by all humans and only humans. 2. Something that explains some features of humans. So is there any such thing? I think their probably is - common ancestry. Our evolutionary history is unique to us and may explain features...
  9. L

    Would you consider yourself a determinist?

    I think determinism remains a "common sense" view. This is because interpretations of QM that view the world as indeterministic are notoriously controversial. It is very hard to account for what an indeterministic world has to be like - how we can ultimately account for the fundamental...
  10. L

    Ethics and empathy

    Can you give an example? I think you at least need some "first principles" and these have to be based on something. If not "empathy", then presumably some kind of utilitarianism: "the greatest health for the greatest number of citizens". Is this what you have in mind?
  11. L

    The infinite debate

    A frequentist intepretation talks about actual sequences, or the limits of actual sequences. As I see it, the problem is that the idea makes no sense for a single instance that does not fit any general class of instances (i.e. the single nucleus [of a new element] example).
  12. L

    About the meaning of words like is and are

    I'm not sure, but I don't think they have single technical definitions. They can appear in predicates. For example: grass is green. The predicate "is green" tells us a property of the grass. They can also appear in identity relations. "Water is H2O," "Cicero is Tully".
  13. L

    The infinite debate

    I'd prefer it if you specifically answered the single-case example. You have one nucleus, one measurement. I think a committed frequentist following the principle you just suggested has to say it makes no sense to talk of a single nucleus's probability of being found to have decayed in a single...
  14. L

    The infinite debate

    Sorry this has turned out long... You're talking about interpretations that claim QM is a complete picture? I don't think it is a complete picture. Well the main thing is that we're agreed probability does need an interpretation. You suggest a frequentist interpretation. I don't quite see...
  15. L

    Is there such thing as a truly selfless act?

    I assumed we were talking about people. It's doubtful that bees have a "self," whatever that is. We only apply the term to bees anthropomorphically. I think consciousness is a basic prerequisite (are bees conscious? Seems unlikely).You could equally say a bomb is terribly selfless, destroying...
  16. L

    The infinite debate

    I mentioned in another thread recently that I'm fond of Huw Price's "backward causation" interpretation. We can retain hidden variables, locality and one-world provided we are prepared to accept that our measurements causally influence the state of the system in the past. I'm not sure if it...
  17. L

    Has modern philosophy a modern perspective?

    Yes, I think they do. I'd be worried if they all subscribed to the "many worlds" view though. It would be interesting to do a survey. Why not take a look at this lovely book.
  18. L

    Has modern philosophy a modern perspective?

    One reason why they're anthropocentric is that, as far as we know, all philosophers are humans. Isn't it quite interesting, thinking about the experience of being human? Minds are surely worthy of attention. But of course different philosophers have different interests. There are lots of...
  19. L

    Is there such thing as a truly selfless act?

    1st point: You think I may indirectly gain from choosing option (1) because I will get grandchildren. Is this why I make the decision I make? No. If you like, we can add a bit to the example that says my children don't want any children and will never have any. 2nd point: As far as I can tell...
  20. L

    Has modern philosophy a modern perspective?

    I read a great book on the measurement problem recently called "Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point - Huw Price" Very readable. Price argues for a pretty mindbending (but actually lovely) "backward causation" interpretation - whereby the measurement you take causally influences the state of the...
  21. L

    Is there such thing as a truly selfless act?

    Mathos, I think my example refutes your point.
  22. L

    The Principle of Sufficient Reason and Incompleteness

    Thanks, the Schopenhauer passage is very interesting. The argument seems to be: ____________ (1) Every true sentence is provable, and only true sentences are provable*. Therefore (2) Demanding proof is a rational prerequisite to believing a sentence is true. Does (2) apply to (1)? For the...
  23. L

    The biggest obstacle of science is knowing before we know

    If and only if it is true that the universe is expanding. That's at least a working definition of a fact. Your next question will probably be: "How can we know that the universe is expanding? How can it be a known fact?" Answer: if we have epistemic reasons to believe that it is true that the...
  24. L

    Is there such thing as a truly selfless act?

    One day a demon pops up and gives me two choices. After I have made the choice, I will forget that the deal ever took place. The options are: 1) My children will be happy throughout their lives, but it will always seem to me as though they are suffering terribly. 2) My children will suffer...
  25. L

    Falsification and falsifiability

    This sounds good. I suppose Popper's response would be that your hypothesis is not very interesting - real science searches for universal laws. Incidentally "some ducks are brown" is not equivalent to "it is possible to find a brown duck." I think it is equivalent to "there is at least one x...
  26. L

    Is there any real difference between reality and a dream?

    Descartes did this first. The answer is, erm, yes. Of course there is a difference between reality and dreams. Think about it. But producing an argument to the conclusion that we can know we're not dreaming sounds kind of tricky, and therein lies the attractiveness of Descartes's argument.
  27. L

    Idiot question

    Entropy ~ number of ways in which a system can arrange itself. (Actually it's just related to this quantity... entropy = k*log(ways) ...) Picture a "way" as a particular arrangement of positions and momenta for all the gas particles in a box of gas. Gas confined to half a box ~ fewer ways...
  28. L

    Has modern philosophy a modern perspective?

    Yah. Especially in my specialist areas: philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of physics. It is a sad fact that most philosophers are dopily ignorant of modern science, but when you work in a particular area, you do your homework. Someone like Elliott Sober probably knows...
  29. L

    What is the meaning of life?

    Up to you dude.
  30. L

    Death is

    Death is one temporal extreme of your existence in spacetime. It is about as scary as being born, or going to Florida (which is the spatial extreme of my existence in spacetime). :smile: Of course it's also sad because of the consequences it might have for those you love.