A bit more hit-and-run weblogging tonight.
Although in retrospect I really don't like that image.
First we'll get
latest Sims story out of the way
(there it is, out of the way).
Then we'll note
Google Mars just
because we're not sure whether or not we've noted it
before, and it's noteworthy.
(Google Mars! Whoa!)
Group Selection to the Human Behavioral Sciences,
which we hope to finish reading one of these days
(and which contains the important phrase
"As soon as we make vehicles the center of our analysis"),
and a Dawkins reply
the Vehicle which is much shorter and easier to read, and
suggests (quite convincingly) that we shouldn't
make vehicles the center of our analysis, because they aren't
all that real.
Group selection is interesting stuff, and the thing that I
realize from reading about it is that group selection doesn't
strictly speaking happen, but then neither does individual
What natural selection really applies to is genes; everything
above that is just shorthand.
(Actually, for extra credit, demonstrate that gene selection
doesn't, speaking really really strictly, happen either.
Give a hypothetical example.)
It's easy and fun to ridicule Dan Brown's writing
(see for instance
author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence).
And it's equally easy and fun to ridicule the technical content!
"Besides, if the key is a standard sixty-four bit -- even in
broad daylight, nobody could possibly read and memorize all
(Insert witty comment about one-bit characters here.)
would shiver with ecstasy. For now, as I saw it, he had a long way to go. He
the fishing boats were specks in the flat blue water, Breakfast Flock was
can stick your hand in them, or even your head, if you're so knocked out by
Gradually, in the night, another circle formed around the circle of
"Got it. Are you looking for graviconcentrates?"
place as heaven?"
"I'm not going into the Zone. What instructions do you have?"
"What instructions do you have?"
And finally our Something o' the Day:
You Can Learn From a Computer Virus,
by Rabbi Aron Moss.
Today's Good Deed Opportunity:
BOIL + KANT = LOVE!
Now if you can do that for n=20, say, rather than n=4, you can
the happy couple's day.
First Amendment Center on the Pornography Exception.
From the reflog, we find that we have provided
third funniest joke (well, one of them).
koans en ander Zen-puin.
(I like "Zen-puin".)
And in a little trip down Memory Lane, let's see what you
were thinking awhile ago:
What do you think?
Have you read A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius,
by Dave Eggers yet? You should...
for uplifting nondenominational photography.
Ok, ok, here's something uplifting and non-Catholic:
I think I'll have some more coffee before unpacking in order to pack
I was wavering over "collective" or "community"
I think I need a stiff drink.
It is heavy to push the rock.
God may be in the details, but the anti-Christ is in the minutae. Perfectionism is the death of me.
It's especially strange when I keep getting appeals from WNYC. I can't really hear them down in Florida, but still I can't shut off the appeals. They even phone & I tell them that WUFT gets my pbs money now. But it doesn't shut them off!
Still haven't read Eggers, and at least one of those links is broken,
Nostalgia is where you find it...
Over in an interesting
Ask Metafilter thread
started by someone wondering about how (and whether) to become less of
a geek, someone (not me, I swear) wrote
"Try reading David Chess's weblog.
He muses a lot about how one should live one's life".
Which was gratifyin' to read, and also got me musing a bit
about how one should live one's life.
So I will now go on at great and probably disorganized length
about that, because after all this is just a weblog.
I turns out that, technically speaking, Kant was wrong:
there is no categorical imperative.
There is no answer to "what should I do?" that does not
hinge on some answer to "what do I want?".
That is, you should get a certain amount of exercise
if you want to be healthy, you should drink water if
you're thirsty, you should be nice if you want people
to like you.
Those are all conditional or hypothetical imperatives; Kant thought
there was also a categorical imperative, and that you
should (roughly) act the way that you'd like everyone
else to act, regardless of what you want or anything
else about you.
But (questions of what exactly that could mean aside), it
seems to me pretty clear that that (like any other candidate
categorical imperative) is actually a conditional imperative,
and it's compelling only because the wants that it's
conditioned on are wants that pretty much everyone (or
everyone sane enough to discuss the matter with) in
fact shares (for contingent evolutionary reasons).
I have to pause for a moment
here to contradict myself.
I'm actually a moral realist, and I think that things like
"you shouldn't torture children" are true facts about the
universe; that is, if someone thinks "I should torture
that child a bit because it's annoying me, and it will
be fun, and my fun is more important than anyone else's
suffering", that person is mistaken (among other things),
in just the same way that someone who thinks the Sun
rises in the west, or that five squared is fifty-five,
This moral realism can (I think!) be reconciled with my
"there is no categorical imperative" by noting that,
although "you shouldn't be mean" is true of everyone
regardless of any other facts about them, I don't
think there's any chain of purely objective evidence
that I could use to convince anyone of it.
That is, I could argue objectively for "being mean
has property X", and then say "and you shouldn't do
things that have property X", but if my interlocutor
were to say "why not? things with property X can be
fun!", I would have no objective response that didn't
depend on some shared wants (as in "they may be fun,
but they make it more likely that people will frown at you,
and you don't want people to frown at you!").
So, although it's a fact about the universe that you
shouldn't be mean, I can't prove this to you objectively
unless we share certain desires or values.
And that's the sense in which there's no categorical
Did you hear a noise just then?
Anyway, it turns out that the lack of a categorial imperative
doesn't have all that much practical impact in the realm of
We all live in society, we all want to stay out of prison
and not be universally hated and do things in concert with
other people and stuff like that, and it turns out (here I
resist a tangent on the subject of "it turns out") that if
you want to do all that stuff you pretty much have to be
So it's easy (in principle) to argue objectively for a
widely-applicable conditional imperative for basic
But what kind of moral life should I live?
Should I geek out for years playing with all the latest
Should I get into a life-long committed relationship,
riding into the future in slow similar familiar years with
Should I, instead, flit from continent to continent and
job to job and partner to partner, drinking shallowly
from numberless wells?
Should I be wealthy and influential, should I work hard
or take it easy, should I take seriously the standards
of the business world, or the academic world, or the
invisible college of dreamers who find eternity in a
grain of sand?
Or should I just play The Sims 2 alot?
Well, there are no categorical imperatives here, either.
And it seems like there's also not nearly as much in the way
of almost universally shared hypothetical imperatives.
So what should you do, of all the morally-permissible
things you might do?
Well, what do you want?
But that's "what do you want?" broadly construed, in a
sense in which few of us actually know what we
want in sufficient detail.
The flitty hedonist has it easy; he can do what he wants
in the obvious sense at any given instant (within moral
and financial and practical constraints).
But for the rest of us, who want in the broad
sense something more than the fulfillment of each
instant's immediate want, it's harder.
This has something to do with the principle of radical freedom
that I mentioned in passing a
year ago next Tuesday: there's no objective sense in which
playing The Sims 2 (and by the way,
Hermes Zoom has graduated
from college, and
Jen Danvers has enrolled)
is any less worthwhile than studying Constitutional Law or
learning the theory of algorithms, or painting the house.
Of course there may be some not-quite-objective senses, having
to do with keeping one's neurons alive, earning an income, or
having a nicely painted house...
Quote o' the Day:
He gave an imperceptible sign, and the gate swung open.
The idea of an imperceptible sign is beautifully
A sign, qua sign, exists only to be perceived;
an imperceptible one has an irresistable appeal.
(The quote is from Dan Brown's "Digital Fortress",
I don't imagine Brown intended exactly this effect.)
In general "Digital Fortress" is going to involve alot of
wincing; I'm just on page 28, and already we have the
absurdity of "rotating cleartext".
Have to supress my actual knowledge of the subject matter
here, and just enjoy the fictional world (and its
(Oh, and note: there's something wrong with
the CGI scripts on davidchess.com at the moment,
so you probably won't be able to send in reader input or
anything via the usual forms.
The problem is being addressed, and things should be working
north by northwest
Write a book one sentence at a time:
Oooo: flickr spam!
flying spaghetti monster on google maps!
one of the thousand
he wants, to some poob or other where no doubt he'll dhrink
himself into foolishness. So instead I torrns him around and
sends him off in tha way of our local weedio imporium. The
latest Chacon is a grand solace on a dull night in. I told
him to tellem what to give him. The real Irish Chacon, I says.
It gives me pleasure when you say that these days aren't bad either.
It gives me hope.
I'm very, very glad to hear it...