Liam Bright Profile picture
Aspiring philosopher; tolerable human; "amusing combination of sardonic detachment & literally all the feelings felt entirely unironically all at once" [he/his]
4 Aug
I think there's a fairly common (among mathematicians and theorists) understanding of mathematics wherein its truths are just something-like-definitional-consequences of choices we make when looking at axiom systems or measurement frameworks. ...
... so when someone says "2+2 always equals 4" it's natural to think this is something like saying "The symbols "2", "+", "=", and "4" are always such that "2+2 = 4" is a consequence of their proper application", in which case the natural thing to do is check other frameworks...
... and then it turns out that this is not true, since it turns out there are settings where we use these symbols in something-like-but-not-identical-with their typical use and "2+2 = 4" comes out false therein. Maths nerds then get excited about talking about these frameworks...
Read 7 tweets
31 Jul
Ok I've been thinking more about why it the culture war periodically generates heated disputes about, like, correspondence theory of truth or non-standard models of arithmetic - intensely abstract things related to formal science that don't seem to be of political relevance...
... one aspect of it (far from the only thing going on, but just what I am thinking about here) is surely the gap in expectations about what the pertinent questions are between people who work on those topics and IDW people who primarily experience them via online discourse...
... so, like, when as Enthusiastic Nerd you see suddenly everybody wants to talk about your weird pet topic, it's like: great! You're excited about all these surprising little known facts you can share, or to see people passionate about complex debates you find fascinating...
Read 10 tweets
26 Jul
One thing people say a lot which is just uncomplicatedly false is that philosophy of science makes no impact on actual science. With tolerable frequency ideas or concepts from philosophy of science make the leap over to scientific investigation. Some examples then a moral.
Sometimes it's because a philosopher does technical work which is followed up on by scientists. So Carnap seems to have been influential on early work in AI or machine learning by multiple paths, largely through his work in logic and probability.

Sometimes it's because disciplinary boundaries are porous and a philosopher is also directly working in the sciences. A rather illustrious example is Suppes en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_S… but this sort of thing still goes on. This is a lovely paper, for instance: cailinoconnor.com/wp-content/upl…
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12 Jul
I think the role of mathematics in various culture war arguments is regrettable. It often seems to me that team SJ are treated as peddling the most absurd and laughable relativistic position for suggesting that there could be cultural difference in theorems (2+2=4 often used)...
... whereas I think this is a perfectly comprehensible position and would be fascinating to think about. For instance, it seems to me a total contingency, something actually true but which evidently could have been otherwise, that we never encountered the following situation...
... Three civilisations developed mathematics to a high level in relative isolation from one another. One of them developed constructive mathematics, one of them developed classical mathematics, and the other actually developed a dialethic mathematics based on naive set theory...
Read 12 tweets
11 Jun
Ok a more serious opinion on this - prominent on this list (but not totally so; what I say here does not go of New Jim Crow or Just Mercy, say) are, like, racial self-help books. This to me just seems very inadequate to the moment, a quite wrong approach being widely adopted...
... what prompted the present moment are a renewed bubbling to a head long standing complaints about police brutality and the general relationship between the justice system and black America. This has evidently been expanded to include some concern with historic monuments...
... this, to be frank, just doesn't seem appropriately addressed, at all, by quasi-therapeutic interventions on the psyche of individual white people. It's not even just not likely to work, it is the wrong sort of thing, it's not even (or barely) pertinent to the topic at hand...
Read 5 tweets
12 May
Here's a pet sociological theory about culture warring, followed by a quasi-black-nationalist call to rid ourselves of it. There is, at present, some sort of internal fight among many white people in parts of the West going on about their own attitudes to race and their past...
...One side, the Penitents, desperately wants to do things that will relieve them from a sense of guilt. The other side, the Repressors, desperately wants to do things that will hold guilt at bay. Each has an anti-guilt strategy which exacerbates what the other flees from...
...Penitents want to read books about white complicity and how to struggle against it, employ black people whose almost-explicit job is to say "there's lots of racism and racists, here's what the bad whites do" creating an implicit contrast class to be part of, etc...
Read 10 tweets
1 May
Extremely informal something-I-just-think-not-properly-researched long thread on the recent history of analytic philosophy, according to what I think the standard myth is (not necessarily something I endorse in all points, and it obviously misses out loads)...
...so the origin myth of analytic philosophy has it emerging from a kind of melding of an anti-Hegelian school in British philosophy, logicians working on the foundations of mathematics in Germany and Poland, and the Vienna Circle group's reflections on science and meaning...
...these were, per the myth, all very exciting intellectual movements; propelled on by rejections of what had been established dogmas, in close connection with the advanced scientific work of their day, and in Vienna and through Russell tapped into progressive social movements...
Read 19 tweets
23 Feb
Many say South Park was the worst recent cultural influence since it spread cynicism and the "lols take a joke" style justification for 4chan esque bigotry. I disagree. I think the worst influence has been the continuation of the Magical Negro tradition...
...I think contemporary incarnations of the genre, films like The Help or Green Book, ruined bourgeois white liberals as political reasoners (but one edgy take I have is that I actually think Song of the South is a good film, so I don't totally hate the genre)...
... in that they have very greatly encouraged this image of black people (and that's just salient to me for personal reasons, I am sure there are other incarnations of this with other non-white ethnic groups) as people who, like, basically just perfectly embody their politics...
Read 8 tweets
13 Dec 19
I like this write up re recent White Empiricism drama. Lindsay's initial critique was incorrect and ill informed, and that matters. But while I did point that out I also was careful not to really endorse the arguments of the paper - and this gets at why.

ordinary-times.com/2019/12/13/the…
If choice were presented plainly wouldn't agree to give one's enemies power to direct your opinions. Yet always instinctively opposing one's culture war opponent's conclusions grants them just that power over your mind. However its tempting to do this, so must be guarded against.
My most Kantian opinion is that true freedom is found in being able to apply and abide by one's own standards, rationally discerned and endorsed.
Read 4 tweets
21 Sep 19
Ok! Day 2 of Rethinking Formal Methods in Philosophy #RFMP2019 - today we're talking metaphilosophy, and some concrete examples of formal tools in philosophy. We're starting with a talk by Branden Fitelson (@fitelson) How to Model Epistemic Probabilities of Conditionals
Literal galaxy brain take? Not so, #RFMP2019 host Samuel Fletcher assures us - that’s just what Massachusetts looks like.
His paper is on Lewis work on Probabilities of Conditionals: Fitelson says in early work Lewis made a subtle mistake about what how formal methods can fruitfully interact with philosophy, and so misled a generation into rejecting Adam's Thesis (philsci-archive.pitt.edu/15208/1/gigo8c…)
Read 97 tweets
20 Sep 19
Ok about to kick off the Rethinking Formal Methods in Philosophy #RFMP2019 conference, gonna livetweet it in this thread today. First talk by Joshua Knobe, discussing what Formal Methods are Most Used in Philosophy? - empirical evidence about what we're actually doing!
Why care what formal methods we should actually use? Knobe says he is thinking in particular about what we should teach students, maybe especially graduate students given that they will go on to shape the field #RFMP2019
He used to think this was just a bureaucratic question about how we organise our departments - but he now thinks it is important that we think what sort of knowledge will be best for our students as they go on in life, and how we answer this changes what knowledge they will have.
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