I had heard good things about this book, sort of. It has been cited a lot. Enough that I would be wiling to read it, given that the author has written at least one interesting paper (Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science). Generally, it is written in popsci style, very few statistics making it impossible to easily judge how much certainty to assign to different studies mentioned in the text. Generally, I was not impressed or learned much, tho not all was necessarily bad. Clearly, he wrote this book in an attempt to appeal to many different people. Perhaps he succeeded, but appeals that work well on large parts of the population rarely work well on me.

In any case, there are some parts worth quoting and commenting on:

The results were as clear as could be in support of Shweder. First, all four of my Philadelphia groups confirmed Turiel’s finding that Americans make a big distinction between moral and conventional violations. I used two stories taken directly from Turiel’s research: a girl pushes a boy off a swing (that’s a clear moral violation) and a boy refuses to wear a school uniform (that’s a conventional violation). This validated my methods. It meant that any differences I found on the harmless taboo stories could not be attributed to some quirk about the way I phrased the probe questions or trained my interviewers. The upper-class Brazilians looked just like the Americans on these stories. But the working-class Brazilian kids usually thought that it was wrong, and universally wrong, to break the social convention and not wear the uniform. In Recife in particular, the working-class kids judged the uniform rebel in exactly the same way they judged the swing-pusher. This pattern supported Shweder: the size of the moral-conventional distinction varied across cultural groups.

Emil’s law: Whenever a study reports that socioeconomic status correlates with X, it is mostly due to its relationship to intelligence, and often socioeconomic status is non-causally related to X.

Wilson used ethics to illustrate his point. He was a professor at Harvard, along with Lawrence Kohlberg and the philosopher John Rawls, so he was well acquainted with their brand of rationalist theorizing about rights and justice.15 It seemed clear to Wilson that what the rationalists were really doing was generating clever justifications for moral intuitions that were best explained by evolution. Do people believe in human rights because such rights actually exist, like mathematical truths, sitting on a cosmic shelf next to the Pythagorean theorem just waiting to be discovered by Platonic reasoners? Or do people feel revulsion and sympathy when they read accounts of torture, and then invent a story about universal rights to help justify their feelings?
Wilson sided with Hume. He charged that what moral philosophers were really doing was fabricating justifications after “consulting the emotive centers” of their own brains.16 He predicted that the study of ethics would soon be taken out of the hands of philosophers and “biologicized,” or made to fit with the emerging science of human nature. Such a linkage of philosophy, biology, and evolution would be an example of the “new synthesis” that Wilson dreamed of, and that he later referred to as consilience—the “jumping together” of ideas to create a unified body of knowledge.17
Prophets challenge the status quo, often earning the hatred of those in power. Wilson therefore deserves to be called a prophet of moral psychology. He was harassed and excoriated in print and in public.18 He was called a fascist, which justified (for some) the charge that he was a racist, which justified (for some) the attempt to stop him from speaking in public. Protesters who tried to disrupt one of his scientific talks rushed the stage and chanted, “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”19

For more on the history of sociobiology, see: www.goodreads.com/book/show/786131.Defenders_of_the_Truth?ac=1

But yes, human rights bug me. There is no such thing as an ethical right ‘out there’. Human rights are completely made up. While some of them are useful as model for civil rights, they are nothing more. Worse, human rights keep getting added which are both inconsistent, vague and redundant. See e.g. www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139598/jacob-mchangama-and-guglielmo-verdirame/the-danger-of-human-rights-proliferation

I say this as someone who strongly believes in having strong civil rights, especially regarding freedom of expression, assembly, due process and the like. However, since pushing for new human rights attracts social justice warriors, this of course means that the new rights not only conflict with previous rights (e.g. freedom of expression), but also obviously concern matters that should be a matter of national policy (e.g. resource redistribution), not super-national courts and their creeping interpretations. See e.g. this document: www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf or even worse, this one: A EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK NATIONAL STATUTE FOR THE PROMOTION OF TOLERANCE. The irony is that tolerance consists exactly in letting others do what they want: Wiktionary: The ability or practice of tolerating; an acceptance or patience with the beliefs, opinions or practices of others; a lack of bigotry.

Psychopaths do have some emotions. When Hare asked one man if he ever felt his heart pound or stomach churn, he responded: “Of course! I’m not a robot. I really get pumped up when I have sex or when I get into a fight.”29 But psychopaths don’t show emotions that indicate that they care about other people. Psychopaths seem to live in a world of objects, some of which happen to walk around on two legs. One psychopath told Hare about a murder he committed while burglarizing an elderly man’s home:
I was rummaging around when this old geezer comes down stairs and … uh … he starts yelling and having a fucking fit … so I pop him one in the, uh, head and he still doesn’t shut up. So I give him a chop to the throat and he … like … staggers back and falls on the floor. He’s gurgling and making sounds like a stuck pig! [laughs] and he’s really getting on my fucking nerves so I … uh … boot him a few times in the head. That shut him up … I’m pretty tired by now so I grab a few beers from the fridge and turn on the TV and fall asleep. The cops woke me up [laughs].30


This is the sort of bad thinking that a good education should correct, right? Well, consider the findings of another eminent reasoning researcher, David Perkins.21 Perkins brought people of various ages and education levels into the lab and asked them to think about social issues, such as whether giving schools more money would improve the quality of teaching and learning. He first asked subjects to write down their initial judgment. Then he asked them to think about the issue and write down all the reasons they could think of—on either side—that were relevant to reaching a final answer. After they were done, Perkins scored each reason subjects wrote as either a “my-side” argument or an “other-side” argument.
Not surprisingly, people came up with many more “my-side” arguments than “other-side” arguments. Also not surprisingly, the more education subjects had, the more reasons they came up with. But when Perkins compared fourth-year students in high school, college, or graduate school to first-year students in those same schools, he found barely any improvement within each school. Rather, the high school students who generate a lot of arguments are the ones who are more likely to go on to college, and the college students who generate a lot of arguments are the ones who are more likely to go on to graduate school. Schools don’t teach people to reason thoroughly; they select the applicants with higher IQs, and people with higher IQs are able to generate more reasons.
The findings get more disturbing. Perkins found that IQ was by far the biggest predictor of how well people argued, but it predicted only the number of my-side arguments. Smart people make really good lawyers and press secretaries, but they are no better than others at finding reasons on the other side. Perkins concluded that “people invest their IQ in buttressing their own case rather than in exploring the entire issue more fully and evenhandedly.”22

Cite is: Perkins, D. N., M. Farady, and B. Bushey. 1991. “Everyday Reasoning and the Roots of Intelligence.” In Informal Reasoning and Education, ed. J. F. Voss, D. N. Perkins, and J. W. Segal, 83–105. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

From Plato through Kant and Kohlberg, many rationalists have asserted that the ability to reason well about ethical issues causes good behavior. They believe that reasoning is the royal road to moral truth, and they believe that people who reason well are more likely to act morally.
But if that were the case, then moral philosophers—who reason about ethical principles all day long—should be more virtuous than other people. Are they? The philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel tried to find out. He used surveys and more surreptitious methods to measure how often moral philosophers give to charity, vote, call their mothers, donate blood, donate organs, clean up after themselves at philosophy conferences, and respond to emails purportedly from students.48 And in none of these ways are moral philosophers better than other philosophers or professors in other fields.
Schwitzgebel even scrounged up the missing-book lists from dozens of libraries and found that academic books on ethics, which are presumably borrowed mostly by ethicists, are more likely to be stolen or just never returned than books in other areas of philosophy.49 In other words, expertise in moral reasoning does not seem to improve moral behavior, and it might even make it worse (perhaps by making the rider more skilled at post hoc justification). Schwitzgebel still has yet to find a single measure on which moral philosophers behave better than other philosophers.

Oh dear.

The anthropologists Pete Richerson and Rob Boyd have argued that cultural innovations (such as spears, cooking techniques, and religions) evolve in much the same way that biological innovations evolve, and the two streams of evolution are so intertwined that you can’t study one without studying both.65 For example, one of the best-understood cases of gene-culture coevolution occurred among the first people who domesticated cattle. In humans, as in all other mammals, the ability to digest lactose (the sugar in milk) is lost during childhood. The gene that makes lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) shuts off after a few years of service, because mammals don’t drink milk after they are weaned. But those first cattle keepers, in northern Europe and in a few parts of Africa, had a vast new supply of fresh milk, which could be given to their children but not to adults. Any individual whose mutated genes delayed the shutdown of lactase production had an advantage. Over time, such people left more milk-drinking descendants than did their lactose-intolerant cousins. (The gene itself has been identified.)66 Genetic changes then drove cultural innovations as well: groups with the new lactase gene then kept even larger herds, and found more ways to use and process milk, such as turning it into cheese. These cultural innovations then drove further genetic changes, and on and on it went.

Why is this anyway? Why don’t we just keep expressing this gene? Is there any reason?

In an interview in 2000, the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that “natural selection has almost become irrelevant in human evolution” because cultural change works “orders of magnitude” faster than genetic change. He next asserted that “there’s been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.”77

I wonder, was Gould right about anything? Another thing. Did Gould invent his Punctuated Equilibrium theory because it postulates these change-free periods which can be conveniently claimed for humans the last 100k years or so in order to keep his denial of racial differences consistent with evolution or?

Religion is therefore well suited to be the handmaiden of groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism. To take one example, religion does not seem to be the cause of suicide bombing. According to Robert Pape, who has created a database of every suicide terrorist attack in the last hundred years, suicide bombing is a nationalist response to military occupation by a culturally alien democratic power.62 It’s a response to boots and tanks on the ground—never to bombs dropped from the air. It’s a response to contamination of the sacred homeland. (Imagine a fist punched into a beehive, and left in for a long time.)

This sounds interesting. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_Attack_Database

The problem is not just limited to politicians. Technology and changing residential patterns have allowed each of us to isolate ourselves within cocoons of like-minded individuals. In 1976, only 27 percent of Americans lived in “landslide counties”—counties that voted either Democratic or Republican by a margin of 20 percent or more. But the number has risen steadily; in 2008, 48 percent of Americans lived in a landslide county.77 Our counties and towns are becoming increasingly segregated into “lifestyle enclaves,” in which ways of voting, eating, working, and worshipping are increasingly aligned. If you find yourself in a Whole Foods store, there’s an 89 percent chance that the county surrounding you voted for Barack Obama. If you want to find Republicans, go to a county that contains a Cracker Barrel restaurant (62 percent of these counties went for McCain).78

This sounds more like assortative relocation + greater amount of relocation. Now, if only there were more local democratic power, then people living in these different areas could self-govern and stop arguing about conflicts that would never arise. E.g. healthcare systems: each smaller area could decide on its own system. I like to quote from Uncontrolled:

This leads then to a call for “states as laboratories of democracy” federalism in matters of social policy, or in a more formal sense, a call for subsidiarity—the principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest competent authority. After all, the typical American lives in a state that is a huge political entity governing millions of people. As many decisions as possible ought to be made by counties, towns, neighborhoods, and families (in which parents have significant coer­cive rights over children). In this way, not only can different prefer­ences be met, but we can learn from experience how various social arrangements perform.



Years ago when i used to study filosofy, i came across Joshua’s website. On the site i found his phd thesis which i read. It is probably the best meta-ethics writing ive come across. He seems to have removed it from the site “available by request”, however i still have it: Greene, J. D. (2002). The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Truth About Morality and What To Do About It. Anyway, this thesis is what apparently turned into the book. The book is clearly written for a mass market, so it has only a few notes and is very light on statistics. I think it is basically sound. The later chapters were somewhat annoying to read due to excessive repetition and unclear language. I suppose he added to appeal more to laymen and confused people.

In he introduction, he is so nice as to lay out the book:

In part 1 (“Moral Problems”), we’ll distinguish between the two major kinds of moral problems. The first kind is more basic. It’s the problem of Me versus Us: selfishness versus concern for others. This is the problem that our moral brains were designed to solve. The second kind of moral problem is distinctively modern. It’s Us versus Them: our interests and values versus theirs. This is the Tragedy of Commonsense Morality, illus­trated by this book ‘s first organizing metaphor, the Parable of the New Pastures. (Of course, Us versus Them is a very old problem. But histori­cally it’s been a tactical problem rather than a moral one.) This is the larger problem behind the moral controversies that divide us. In part 1, we’ll see how the moral machinery in our brains solves the first problem (chapter 2) and creates the second problem (chapter 3).

In part 2 (” Morality Fast and Slow”), we’ll dig deeper into the moral brain and introduce this book’s second organizing metaphor: The moral brain is like a dual-mode camera with both automatic settings (such as “portrait” or “landscape”) and a manual mode. Automatic settings are efficient but inflexible. Manual mode is flexible but inefficient. The moral brain’s automatic settings are the moral emotions we’ll meet in part 1, the gut-level instincts that enable cooperation within personal relationships and small groups. Manual mode, in contrast, is a general capacity for practical reasoning that can be used to solve moral problems, as well as other practical problems. In part 2, we’ll see how moral thinking is shaped by both emotion and reason (chapter 4) and how this “dual-process” morality reflects the general structure of the human mind (chapter 5).

In part 3, we’ll introduce our third and final organizing metaphor: Common Currency. Here we’ ll begin our search for a met amorality, a global moral philosophy that can adjudicate among competing tribal moralities, just as a tribe’ s morality adjudicates among the competing inter­ests of its members. A metamorality’s job is to make trad e-offs among competing tribal values, and making trade-off s requires a common cur­rency, a unified system for weighing values. In chapter 6, we’ll introduce a candidate metamorality, a solution to the Tragedy of Commonsense Morality . In chapter 7, we’ll consider other ways of establishing a common currency, and find them lacking. In chapter 8, we’ll take a closer look at the metamorality introduced in chapter 6, a philosophy known (rather unfortunately) as utilitarianism. We’ll see how utilitarianism is built out of values and reasoning processes that are universally accessible and, thus, how it gives us the common currency that we need.*

Over the years, philosophers have made some intuitively compelling arguments against utilitarianism. In part 4 (” Moral Convictions”), we’ll reconsider these arguments in light of our new understanding of moral cognition. We’ll see how utilitarianism becomes more attractive the better we understand our dual-process moral brains (chapters 9 and 10).

Finally, in part 5 (” Moral Solutions”), we return to the new pastures and the real-world moral problems that motivate this book. Having de­fended utilitarianism against its critics, it’s time to apply it-and to give it a better name. A more apt name for utilitarianism is deep pragmatism (chapter 11 ). Utilitarianism is pragmatic in the go o d and familiar sense: flexible, realistic, and open to compromise. But it’s also a deep philosophy , not just about expediency. Deep pragmatism is about making principled compromises. It’s about resolving our differences by appeal to shared values-common currency.

So, TL;DR, morality is an evolved mechanism to facilitate cooperation. It does this well, but not always. Typical moral disagreements are confused due to relying on rights-talk. Rights-talk is fundamentally useless even counter-productive to resolving conflicts. Utilitarianism (aka cost-benefit analysis in moral language) is the only game in town, so even if it is not technically true, it is still the most useful approach to moralizing.

I was looking for something else.. and found this instead… From here: able2know.org/topic/151812-1


I think a 9 year old killing himself is a good representation of suicide as a whole. Selfish,short-sighted, and always looking for an escape. Although it seems insensitive for me to say this, I think we just need to realize that those things are apart of deciding to end your life.


It is funny that people who stay alive because they want to, call people “selfish” who kill themselves because they want to. (It is like those who have children because they want children calling childless couples selfish for not having children because they don’t want to have children.)

And it is absurd to call a solution to all of life’s problems forever a “short-sighted” solution. The 9 year old could not possibly have come up with any other solution to his problems that would have been so complete and long lasting.


The impact of genetic enhancement on equality found via another paper: The rhetoric and reality of gap closing—when the “have-nots” gain but the “haves” gain even more (Stephen J. Ceci and Paul B. Papierno), which i was reading becus i was reading varius papers on Linda Gottfredson’s homepage.


There apparently  is a genuine  possibility  that  genetic and non-
genetic mechanisms eventually will  be able to  significantly  en-
hance  human capabilities and  traits generally.  Examining
this prospect  from the  standpoint  of equality considerations  is
one  useful way  to  inquire  into the  effects  of such enhancement
technologies. Because of  the nature and  limitations  of compet-
ing ideas  of equality, we are  inevitably led to  investigate  a very
broad  range  of issues.  This Article considers matters  of distri-
bution and withholding of scarce enhancement resources and
links different versions of  equality to different modes of distri-
bution.  It  briefly  addresses the  difficulties  of defining  “en-
hancement”  and  “trait”  and  links  the idea  of  a “merit  attribute”
to that of  a “resource  attractor.” The role of disorder-based  jus-
tifications  is related  to  equality considerations,  as is the possi-
bility  of  the  reduction or “objectification”  of persons  arising
from  the  use  of enhancement resources.  Risks of  intensified
and more entrenched  forms of  social  stratification  are outlined.
The Article also considers whether the notion of merit can  sur-
vive,  and whether the stability  of democratic  institutions  based
on  a one-person, one-vote  standard is  threatened by  attitude
shifts given  the new  technological  prospects.  It  refers to  John
Stuart Mill’s “plural  voting” proposal to  illustrate one  chal-
lenge to equal-vote  democracy.

Nevertheless, it is conceivable that, despite rigorous division of

labor, there may be political and social equality of a sort. Different

professions, trades, and occupations and the varying aptitudes un-

derlying them might be viewed as equally worthy. The “alphas”

may be held equal to the “betas,” though their augmentations (via

the germ line or the living body) and life-work differ. Perhaps

(paradoxically?) there will be an “equality of the enhanced” across

their categories of enhancement. But do not count on it.


sort of. at least one study showed that nootropics have greater effect the lower the intelligence of the population. so, in theory, it is possible that at some theoretical maximum M relative to drug D, the drug wud hav no effect. and everybody under that M wud be boosted to M, given adequate volumes of D.


i did come across another study with this IQ-drug interaction effect once, but apparently i didnt save it on my computer, and i cant seem to find it again. it is difficult to find papers about exactly this it seems.


below is a figure form the study i mentioned abov. it is about ritalin:


Effects of methylphenidate (ritalin) on paired-associate learning and porteus maze performance in emotionally disturbed children.



somthing similar seems to be the case with modafinil, another nootropic. it wud be interesting to see if ther is any drug-drug interaction between ritalin and modafinil, specifically, whether they stack or not.




here is the best study mentioned on Wikipedia: Cognitive effects of modafinil in student volunteers may depend on IQ


as for the topic of cognitiv enhancers in general, see this somewhat recent 2010 systematic overview. it appears that ritalin isnt a good cognitiv enhancer, but modafinil is promising for non-sleep deprived persons. Modafinil and methylphenidate for neuroenhancement in healthy individuals a systematic review



a. Enhancement and democratic theory: Millian plural voting

and the attenuation of democracy.

i. Kinds of democracy; is one-person, one-vote a defining char-

acteristic of democracy? Most persons now acknowledge that there

are stunning differences, both inborn and acquired, among individu-

als. Not everyone can be a physicist, novelist, grandmaster, astro-

naut, juggler, athlete, or model, at least without enhancement, and

those who can will vary sharply among themselves in abilities.


For better or worse, these differences make for serious social,

economic, and political inequalities. The question here is what ef-

fect these differences in human characteristics ought to have on

various matters of political governance. If we are not in fact equal

to each other in deliberative ability, judgment, and drive, why do we

all have equal voting power in the sense that, when casting ballots

in general elections, no one’s vote counts for more than another’s?

We are not equal in our knowledge of the issues, our abilities to as-

sess competing arguments, the nature and intensities of our prefer-

ences, our capacities to contribute to our social and economic sys-

tem, our stakes in the outcomes of particular government policies, or

even in our very interest in public affairs.



this topic was the primary reason i started reading this paper.


i also found som other papers dealing with Millian meritocracy, i suppose one cud call it. i came upon the idea individually, but was preceded by JS Mill with about 200 years.

his writing on the subject is here: John Stuart Mill – Considerations on Representative Government


another paper i found is this: Why Not Epistocracy




“It goes without saying that our contention that beautiful people are more intelligent is purely scientific (logical and empirical); it is not a prescription for how to treat or judge others. To derive a behavioral prescription (what one ought to do) from a scientific conclusion (what is) would be an example of what Hume (1964/1739) calls the ‘‘naturalistic fallacy.’’”

Why beautiful people are more intelligent

How annoying it is to read stuff like this is the scientific literature. The phrase mentioned was introduced by GE Moore, not Hume. Hume didn’t even call it “fallacy”. Besides, Moore’s use of the phrase is different from what the author is talking about, which is inferring is from ought, i.e. is/ought fallacy. And lastly, since Hume was an ideal observer theorist, he would be inconsistent to claim that “ought” can never be deduced from “is”, since that is precisely what he is claiming that it can. Although from a special kind of “is”.

As i remarked to Maggie McNeill

Maggie McNeill I don’t believe in Hell, but I do believe in karma. And it’s going to be a long, long time before these savages work their way up into the range of full humanity. The important thing in the meantime is for the rest of us to stop giving them opportunities to exercise their bestial impulses on everyone else.

Emil Too bad about that, that is, believing in karma. Is that the only irrational domain of your beliefs? I have not noticed anything else. A few of my friends who are also readers also commented on this exact thing.

Luckily, karma beliefs are rather harmless by themselves, and seem to be an effect of the Just World bias. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

It seems spot on. The just world bias is exactly the reason why people believe in karma and other things?

I did write that karma beliefs by themselves are rather harmless, but i can easily think of a few ways that bad things can happen becus of people’s belief in karma/just world. For instance, if the world is just, then any observed suffering is deserved, and there is thus no reason to try to eliminate it. Irrational beliefs really are dangerous.

Falkvinge recently ran an article about the legalization of child porn possession. Either very foolish or very brave, perhaps both. Surely some reporters will pick up on this sooner or later and run headlines like “Pirates want to legalize child porn”, which even if true will damage the media image of the Pirate Parties. However, there is no way around this if one wants to discuss censorship and freedom of information. There is a reason why online censorship started with child porn, and ofc, the copyright people are happy about it.

I suggest that people read the comments as well, i also made some comments there as well.

Consider also reading this article which is making the basic point: if sexual orientation is something one is born with (it is), then the preference for children is as well. So, no law can make people become not pedofiles. Sad situation. Now comes the saddest part: Suppose one is born a pedofile. What to do? If one is a moral being, then one will avoid actually raping children. One can have sex with some rather young ones (say, any consenting child in puberty) without any moral problems, especially when one is young oneself.

For the rest, one is left to masturbate to porn, perhaps child porn (animated or not), and regular porn. That sucks, and there is nothing to do about it. Perhaps a compromise is having sex with a sleeping child without them knowing it (so, using sleeping medicine). If they dont notice it is difficult to see how they cud be harmed, even if it is rape. One must distinguish between rape becus the other was disconsenting (wanting to not have sex), and rape becus the other is not consenting, but not disconseting either (so, unaware of the action becus of sleep or coma or something like that). There is also the possibility of bodily harm that will be there after the person wakes up. This is especially the case with small children since their bodily openings are not large enuf for a regular sized male penis. To avoid this one shud not penetrate.

Oh, and perhaps the best solution to one who is exclusively aroused by very young children: castration, either medical or fysical. This will help reduce libido.



Vienna Circle

Despite its prominent position in the rich, if fragile, intellectual culture of inter-war Vienna and most likely due to its radical doctrines, the Vienna Circle found itself virtually isolated in most of German speaking philosophy. The one exception was its contact and cooperation with the Berlin Society for Empirical (later: Scientific) Philosophy (the other point of origin of logical empiricism). The members of the Berlin Society sported a broadly similar outlook and included, besides the philosopher Hans Reichenbach, the logicians Kurt Grelling and Walter Dubislav, the psychologist Kurt Lewin, the surgeon Friedrich Kraus and the mathematician Richard von Mises. (Its leading members Reichenbach, Grelling and Dubislav were listed in the Circle’s manifesto as sympathisers.) At the same time, members of the Vienna Circle also engaged directly, if selectively, with the Warsaw logicians (Tarski visited Vienna in 1930, Carnap later that year visited Warsaw and Tarski returned to Vienna in 1935). Probably partly because of its firebrand reputation, the Circle attracted also a series of visiting younger researchers and students including Carl Gustav Hempel from Berlin, Hasso Härlen from Stuttgart, Ludovico Geymonat from Italy, Jørgen Jørgensen, Eino Kaila, Arne Naess and Ake Petzall from Scandinavia, A.J. Ayer from the UK, Albert Blumberg, Charles Morris, Ernest Nagel and W.V.O. Quine from the USA, H.A. Lindemann from Argentina and Tscha Hung from China. (The reports and recollections of these former visitors—e.g. Nagel 1936—are of interest in complementing the Circle’s in-house histories and recollections which start with the unofficial manifesto—Carnap, Hahn and Neurath 1929—and extend through Neurath 1936, Frank 1941, 1949a and Feigl 1943 to the memoirs by Carnap 1963, Feigl 1969a, 1969b, Bergmann 1987, Menger 1994.)

Never heard of that danish guy. A Google search revealed this: www.denstoredanske.dk/Samfund,_jura_og_politik/Filosofi/Filosofi_og_filosoffer_-_1900-t./Filosoffer_1900-t._-_Norden_-_biografier/J%C3%B8rgen_J%C3%B8rgensen. He is somewhat cool. I dislike his communist ideas, obviously, but at least he is more interesting than Kierkegaard.

The synthetic statements of the empirical sciences meanwhile were held to be cognitively
meaningful if and only if they were empirically testable in some sense. They derived their
justification as knowledge claims from successful tests. Here the Circle appealed to a meaning
criterion the correct formulation of which was problematical and much debated (and will be
discussed in greater detail in section 3.1 below). Roughly, if synthetic statements failed testability in
principle they were considered to be cognitively meaningless and to give rise only to pseudo-
problems. No third category of significance besides that of a priori analytical and a posteriori
synthetic statements was admitted: in particular, Kant’s synthetic a priori was banned as having
been refuted by the progress of science itself. (The theory of relativity showed what had been held
to be an example of the synthetic a priori, namely Euclidean geometry, to be false as the geometry
of physical space.) Thus the Circle rejected the knowledge claims of metaphysics as being neither
analytic and a priori nor empirical and synthetic. (On related but different grounds, they also
rejected the knowledge claims of normative ethics: whereas conditional norms could be grounded in
means-ends relations, unconditional norms remained unprovable in empirical terms and so
depended crucially on the disputed substantive a priori intuition.)

I like this idea. I generally prefer to talk about cost/benefit analyses with stated goals instead of using moral language. See also Joshua D. Greene’s dissertation about this.

Given their empiricism, all of the members of the Vienna Circle also called into question the principled separation of the natural and the human sciences. They were happy enough to admit to differences in their object domains, but denied the categorical difference in both their overarching methodologies and ultimate goals in inquiry, which the historicist tradition in the still only emerging social sciences and the idealist tradition in philosophy insisted on. The Circle’s own methodologically monist position was sometimes represented under the heading of “unified science”. Precisely how such a unification of the sciences was to be effected or understood remained a matter for further discussion (see section 3.3 below).

I agree with this. There is no principled distinction between natural and social sciences. Only matters of degree and areas of study, and even those overlap.

As noted, the Vienna Circle did not last long: its philosophical revolution came at a cost. Yet what
was so socially, indeed politically, explosive about what appears on first sight to be a particularly
arid, if not astringent, doctrine of specialist scientific knowledge? To a large part, precisely what
made it so controversial philosophically: its claim to refute opponents not by proving their
statements to be false but by showing them to be (cognitively) meaningless. Whatever the niceties
of their philosophical argument here, the socio-political impact of the Vienna Circle’s philosophies
of science was obvious and profound. All of them opposed the increasing groundswell of radically
mistaken, indeed irrational, ways of thinking about thought and its place in the world. In their time
and place, the mere demand that public discourse be perspicuous, in particular, that reasoning be
valid and premises true—a demand implicit in their general ideal of reason—placed them in the
middle of crucial socio-political struggles. Some members and sympathisers of the Circle also
actively opposed the then increasingly popular völkisch supra-individual holism in social science as
a dangerous intellectual aberration. Not only did such ideas support racism and fascism in politics,
but such ideas themselves were supported only by radically mistaken arguments concerning the
nature and explanation of organic and unorganic matter. So the first thing that made all of the
Vienna Circle philosophies politically relevant was the contingent fact that in their day much
political discourse exhibited striking epistemic deficits. That some of the members of the Circle
went, without logical blunders, still further by arguing that socio-political considerations can play a
legitimate role in some instances of theory choice due to underdetermination is yet another matter.
Here this particular issue (see references at the end of section 2.1 above), as well as the general
topic of the Circle’s embedding in modernism and the discourse of modernity (see Putnam 1981b
for a reductionist, Galison 1990 for a foundationalist, Uebel 1996 for a constructivist reading of
their modernism), will not be pursued further.


This also reminds me of the good book The March of Unreason. Written by a politician!

In the first place, this liberalization meant the accommodation of universally quantified statements
and the return, as it were, to salient aspects of Carnap’s 1928 conception. Everybody had noted that
the Wittgensteinian verificationist criterion rendered universally quantified statements meaningless.
Schlick (1931) thus followed Wittgenstein’s own suggestion to treat them instead as representing
rules for the formation of verifiable singular statements. (His abandonment of conclusive
verifiability is indicated only in Schlick 1936a.) By contrast, Hahn (1933, drawn from lectures in
1932) pointed out that hypotheses should be counted as properly meaningful as well and that the
criterion be weakened to allow for less than conclusive verifiability. But other elements played into
this liberalization as well. One that began to do so soon was the recognition of the problem of the
irreducibility of disposition terms to observation terms (more on this presently). A third element was
that disagreement arose as to whether the in-principle verifiability or support turned on what was
merely logically possible or on what was nomologically possible, as a matter of physical law etc. A
fourth element, finally, was that differences emerged as to whether the criterion of significance was
to apply to all languages or whether it was to apply primarily to constructed, formal languages.
Schlick retained the focus on logical possibility and natural languages throughout, but Carnap had
firmly settled his focus on nomological possibility and constructed languages by the mid-thirties.
Concerned with natural language, Schlick (1932, 1936a) deemed all statements meaningful for
which it was logically possible to conceive of a procedure of verification; concerned with
constructed languages only, Carnap (1936–37) deemed meaningful only statements for whom it was
nomologically possible to conceive of a procedure of confirmation of disconfirmation.

This distinction between logical and nomological possibility inre. verificationism i have encountered before. I know a fysicist who endorses verificationism. We have been discussing various problems for this view. His view has implications regarding quantum mechanics that i don’t like.

First, black holes have only 3 independent fysical properties according to standard theory: mass, charge, and angular momentum. However, how does one measure a black hole’s charge? Is it fysically possible? My idea was that it wasn’t, and thus his verificationist ideas imply that a specific part of standard theory about black holes is not just wrong, but meaningless. However, it seems that my proposed counter-example doesn’t work.

Second, another area of trouble is the future and the past. Sentences about the future and the past, are they fysically possible to verify? It seems not. If so, then it follows that all such sentences are meaningless. My fysicist friend sort of wants to buy the bullet here and go with that. I consider it a strong reason to not accept this particular kind of verificationism. The discussion then becomes complicated due to the possible truth of causal indeterminism. Future discussions await! (or maybe that sentence is just meaningless gibberish!)

Also, i consider the traditional view of laws of nature as confused, and agree with Norman Swartz about this.

Logical Empiricism

Richard von Mises (1883–1953)
Born in what is now the Ukraine, Richard von Mises is the brother of the economic and
political theorist Ludwig von Mises. Richard was a polymath who ranged over fields as
diverse as mathematics, aerodynamics, philosophy, and Rilke’s poetry. He finished his
doctorate in Vienna. He was simultaneously active in Berlin, where he was one of the
developers of the frequency theory of probability along with Reichenbach, and in Vienna,
where he participated in various discussion groups that constituted the Vienna Circle.
Eventually it was necessary to escape, first to Turkey, and eventually to MIT and Harvard.

Another polymath that i hadn’t heard about before.

Hilary Putnam (1926–)
This American philosopher of science, mathematics, mind and language earned his doctorate
under Reichenbach at UCLA and subsequently taught at Princeton, MIT, and Harvard. He was
originally a metaphysical realist, but then argued forcefully against it. He has continued the
pragmatist tradition and been politically active, especially in the 1960s and 70s.

I keep thinking this is a woman. Apparently, however, the female version of this name is spelled with 2 L’s according to Wiki:

Hilary or Hillary is a given and family name, derived from the Latin hilarius meaning “cheerful”, from hilaris, “cheerful, merry”[1] which comes from the Greek ἱλαρός (hilaros), “cheerful, merry”,[2] which in turn comes from ἵλαος (hilaos), “propitious, gracious”.[3] Historically (in America), the spelling Hilary has generally been used for men and Hillary for women, though there are exceptions, some of which are noted below. In modern times it has drastically declined in popularity as a name for men. Ilaria is the popular Italian and Spanish form. Ilariana and Ylariana (/aɪˌlɑːriˈɑːnə/ eye-LAH–ree-AH-nə) are two very rare feminine variants of the name.

It also reminds me that i really shud get around to reading his famous paper: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is_logic_empirical%3F