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Francoamerican
01-06-2010, 11:48 AM
H. Allen Orr reviews The Evolution of God.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23537

Well worth reading.

osmium
01-06-2010, 01:55 PM
I find that the New York Review is fantastic for actually trying to understand and engage with the thesis of a book.

From a first pass, I can't help but wonder if the abolitionist question mentioned in the article is explained by a society benefiting even if individuals gain nothing--a cultural group selection, if I understand "group selection" well enough to use it in a metaphor.

claymisher
01-06-2010, 03:17 PM
Thanks for the link. sprandrel linked to some of Orr's NYRB pieces (http://www.nybooks.com/authors/9368) a while ago. Orr's reply to Pinker is especially interesting.

Francoamerican
01-07-2010, 10:47 AM
I find that the New York Review is fantastic for actually trying to understand and engage with the thesis of a book.

From a first pass, I can't help but wonder if the abolitionist question mentioned in the article is explained by a society benefiting even if individuals gain nothing--a cultural group selection, if I understand "group selection" well enough to use it in a metaphor.

Orr's point, though, is that the abolitionists were acting selflessly to "expand the moral circle." Freeing the slaves didn't benefit them personally, even if in the long run an "outgroup" was brought into the ingroup (not very successfully as it turned out).

I think this is a valid criticism of Wright; indeed it is a valid criticism of all Darwinian accounts of morality. Wright's "non-zero sumness" is basically utilitarianism in evolutionary garb. We act morally for one reason and only one reason: for our own pleasure or happiness, which just so happens to coincide with the happiness of others....most of the time.

What about the other times?

AemJeff
01-07-2010, 11:24 AM
Orr's point, though, is that the abolitionists were acting selflessly to "expand the moral circle." Freeing the slaves didn't benefit them personally, even if in the long run an "outgroup" was brought into the ingroup (not very successfully as it turned out).

I think this is a valid criticism of Wright; indeed it is a valid criticism of all Darwinian accounts of morality. Wright's "non-zero sumness" is basically utilitarianism in evolutionary garb. We act morally for one reason and only one reason: for our own pleasure or happiness, which just so happens to coincide with the happiness of others....most of the time.

What about the other times?

But he (Wright) isn't mounting a one-to-one cause to effect argument, is he? The argument is that if it's true that "non-zero sumness" (we need a better adjective) is a good description of the preponderance of a certain type of interaction, then - through positive feedback - that sort of interaction will tend to be reinforced. If behaving "morally" also tends to improve the conditions of the lives affected by that behavior, then "moral" behavior will have a tendency to become widespread.

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 07:25 AM
But he (Wright) isn't mounting a one-to-one cause to effect argument, is he? The argument is that if it's true that "non-zero sumness" (we need a better adjective) is a good description of the preponderance of a certain type of interaction, then - through positive feedback - that sort of interaction will tend to be reinforced. If behaving "morally" also tends to improve the conditions of the lives affected by that behavior, then "moral" behavior will have a tendency to become widespread.

I confess that I have not read Number 27's book, just gathered from his comments and the comments of others in this forum that "non-zero sumness" means something like the utilitarian "greatest happiness of the greatest number." I imagine that he arrived at his idea via the idea of "reciprocal altruism" developed by evolutionary biologists--Hamilton Trivers et al.-- and frequently invoked by Darwinist philosophers (imo "reciprocal altruism" is an absurdity, besides being a solecism, but let's pass over that.)

If what you say is true, Wright must be some kind of Lamarckian, i.e. a believer in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. As far as I know, evolutionary biologists pride themselves on not being Lamarckian. The evolution of "reciprocal altruism" by natural selection is one thing; the evolution of "reciprocal altruism" in historical time by the reinforcement and propagation of non zero sum interactions sounds to me like Lamarckianism.

And if it isn't Lamarckianism, what is it? I would say it is probably like one of those vast 19th-century philosophies of history (Comte, Hegel, Marx) which always end well: All's well that ends well. But perhaps I should read the Evolution of God and find out if the story ends well or not.

AemJeff
01-08-2010, 09:48 AM
I confess that I have not read Number 27's book, just gathered from his comments and the comments of others in this forum that "non-zero sumness" means something like the utilitarian "greatest happiness of the greatest number." I imagine that he arrived at his idea via the idea of "reciprocal altruism" developed by evolutionary biologists--Hamilton Trivers et al.-- and frequently invoked by Darwinist philosophers (imo "reciprocal altruism" is an absurdity, besides being a solecism, but let's pass over that.)

If what you say is true, Wright must be some kind of Lamarckian, i.e. a believer in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. As far as I know, evolutionary biologists pride themselves on not being Lamarckian. The evolution of "reciprocal altruism" by natural selection is one thing; the evolution of "reciprocal altruism" in historical time by the reinforcement and propagation of non zero sum interactions sounds to me like Lamarckianism.

And if it isn't Lamarckianism, what is it? I would say it is probably like one of those vast 19th-century philosophies of history (Comte, Hegel, Marx) which always end well: All's well that ends well. But perhaps I should read the Evolution of God and find out if the story ends well or not.

You should read "Non Zero," actually. I don't want to try to condense a long argument too glibly; but I think thesis is really about learned behavior and feedback. If an action is beneficial to you, you might be more likely to do it again. If that's true of all parties in a given transaction then they all have a motivation to behave similarly in future. These sorts of positive feedback mechanisms inform our cultural choices and thus become part of what drives history.

Caveat: I don't want to defend that capsule, and Bob Wright might object to my simplistic construction. It's just an attempt at a stick figure.

ledocs
01-08-2010, 10:43 AM
Non-zero sumness comes not from biology but from game theory. It simply means a game in which the outcomes are not exactly counterbalancing for the players. If the possible outcomes are, of necessity, exactly counterbalancing, the expected value of the game is zero. For example, in a typical options trade, one party's gains are exactly offset by the counterparty's losses. That's a zero-sum game. Wright's use of non-zero sum is approximately equivalent to saying "win-win," all parties to the game can come out winners, even if only very marginally so. It's not that they must come out winners, but they can. It's a question of what the possible outcomes of the structure of the game are. It's a mathematical calculation based upon probability and expected value.

The first really popular use of this terminology, to my knowledge, was Lester Thurow's book called "The Zero-Sum Society," I think. The most recent really famous theorist in game theory is someone named Robert Axelrod at U. Michigan. It happens that my father was an early investigator into zero and non-zero sum games within the field of psychology. He was influenced by a psychologist named Anatol Rapaport. My father's research was largely funded by the Department of Defense. Another famous game theorist is Kenneth Arrow, who did work on the applications of game theory to nuclear strategy.

Essentially, this whole area of study has to do with the application of probability theory to human behavior. We have now exhausted my sketchy knowledge of game theory.

There appears, as often, to be a pretty comprehensive introduction to the subject in Wikipedia:

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory>

I haven't read the Orr review yet. I just got this NYRB in the mail. There is a pretty strange article about Afghanistan in this issue, which I read, strange because it's not so easy to figure out what the author is saying. It doesn't fit into the NYRB's usual style.

bjkeefe
01-08-2010, 10:53 AM
I confess that I have not read Number 27's book, just gathered from his comments and the comments of others in this forum that "non-zero sumness" means something like the utilitarian "greatest happiness of the greatest number."

No, ledocs (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=145640#post145640) has it right: it's a game theory idea.

I imagine that he arrived at his idea via the idea of "reciprocal altruism" developed by evolutionary biologists--Hamilton Trivers et al.-- and frequently invoked by Darwinist philosophers (imo "reciprocal altruism" is an absurdity, besides being a solecism, but let's pass over that.)

Let's.

If what you say is true, Wright must be some kind of Lamarckian, i.e. a believer in the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

I have not read all of his books, but from everything of his I have read and everything I've heard him say, I have no reason whatsoever to think so.

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 11:58 AM
No, ledocs (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=145640#post145640) has it right: it's a game theory idea..

The psychological underpinnings of game theory are utilitarian in the broadest sense: human beings are pleasure or benefit maximizers. Wright could never have arrived at his idea of non-zero sumness without assuming that evolution has brought about a species capable of altruism. Game theory is notorious for making incorrect predictions about human behavior precisely because it ignores the existence of altruism.

I have not read all of his books, but from everything of his I have read and everything I've heard him say, I have no reason whatsoever to think so.

Maybe not. But if you are going to talk, as Wright constantly does, of a progressive, purposeful movement in history that is nevertheless "materialist," as Wright also insists, then you have to have a physical mechanism for it, i.e. it cannot be something like culture or religious beliefs.

bjkeefe
01-08-2010, 12:08 PM
The psychological underpinnings of game theory are utilitarian in the broadest sense: human beings are pleasure or benefit maximizers. Wright could never have arrived at his idea of non-zero sumness without assuming that evolution has brought about a species capable of altruism. Game theory is notorious for making incorrect predictions about human behavior precisely because it ignores the existence of altruism.

I guess I can agree with that, mostly, although as you know, I am far more sympathetic than you are to the idea that altruism is itself a selfish tendency at base, in the "selfish gene" sense. I'm not qualified to say whether it's completely scientifically solid, but to my mind, the notion that altruism is an evolved trait is at least a hypothesis consistent with the rest of evolutionary theory as I understand it.


Maybe not. But if you are going to talk, as Wright constantly does, of a progressive, purposeful movement in history that is nevertheless "materialist," as Wright also insists, then you have to have a physical mechanism for it, i.e. it cannot be something like culture or religious beliefs.

I won't even attempt to play devil's advocate when it comes to defending the mystical part of Bob's thinking. I do not have any reason to believe that there is any sort of directing force pushing things in a direction of universal improvement, or whatever it is he believes. I think he is attributing to agency things that just are; i.e., are in existence and get reinforced (biologically and/or culturally) just because they tend to work.

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 12:10 PM
Non-zero sumness comes not from biology but from game theory. It simply means a game in which the outcomes are not exactly counterbalancing for the players. If the possible outcomes are, of necessity, exactly counterbalancing, the expected value of the game is zero. For example, in a typical options trade, one party's gains are exactly offset by the counterparty's losses. That's a zero-sum game. Wright's use of non-zero sum is approximately equivalent to saying "win-win," all parties to the game can come out winners, even if only very marginally so. It's not that they must come out winners, but they can. It's a question of what the possible outcomes of the structure of the game are. It's a mathematical calculation based upon probability and expected value.

The first really popular use of this terminology, to my knowledge, was Lester Thurow's book called "The Zero-Sum Society," I think. The most recent really famous theorist in game theory is someone named Robert Axelrod at U. Michigan. It happens that my father was an early investigator into zero and non-zero sum games within the field of psychology. He was influenced by a psychologist named Anatol Rapaport. My father's research was largely funded by the Department of Defense. Another famous game theorist is Kenneth Arrow, who did work on the applications of game theory to nuclear strategy.

Essentially, this whole area of study has to do with the application of probability theory to human behavior. We have now exhausted my sketchy knowledge of game theory.

There appears, as often, to be a pretty comprehensive introduction to the subject in Wikipedia:

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory>

I haven't read the Orr review yet. I just got this NYRB in the mail. There is a pretty strange article about Afghanistan in this issue, which I read, strange because it's not so easy to figure out what the author is saying. It doesn't fit into the NYRB's usual style.

Thanks ledocs. I know that Wright refers to game theory, I suppose I should read the book first, but game theory presupposes completely egoistic players who calculate, and often calculate badly, to maximize their advantage---as in the famous case of the prisoner's dilemma. Wright seems to be arguing for something else when he talks about non-zero sum interactions, which involve altruism or reciprocal altruism.

The Rory Stewart article on Afghanistan was I agree a bit obscure. He had a much better article in the London Review of Books.

ledocs
01-08-2010, 12:17 PM
Game theory is notorious for making incorrect predictions about human behavior precisely because it ignores the existence of altruism.


I suspect that all theories of human behavior are notorious for making incorrect predictions. But here, I would think that the problem is that it's difficult for one player to plan on the altruism of others. That's not a good survival strategy. So there is a broad movement to structure games in such a way that such planning is unnecessary, thus a non-zero sum game that favors cooperative, but not altruistic behavior. I also have the vague impression that game theory has been extended to include games that allow for self-sacrifice.

bjkeefe
01-08-2010, 12:23 PM
I suspect that all theories of human behavior are notorious for making incorrect predictions. But here, I would think that the problem is that it's difficult for one player to plan on the altruism of others. That's not a good survival strategy. So there is a broad movement to structure games in such a way that such planning is unnecessary, thus a non-zero sum game that favors cooperative, but not altruistic behavior. I also have the vague impression that game theory has been extended to include games that allow for self-sacrifice.

Speaking of vague impressions, which describes the extent of my knowledge of game theory, I have a sense that part of the thinking behind nonzero-sumness suggests that you look for a solution where the other player or players will perceive a gain, too, perhaps (likely, actually) at the expense of this choice not being best for you when considering only your desire to maximize your own gains. I have a feeling that is what Bob means when he talks nzs-ness in the geopolitical realm.

osmium
01-08-2010, 12:45 PM
Maybe not. But if you are going to talk, as Wright constantly does, of a progressive, purposeful movement in history that is nevertheless "materialist," as Wright also insists, then you have to have a physical mechanism for it, i.e. it cannot be something like culture or religious beliefs.

Why not? Genetic material transmits physically (and is non-Lamarckian), but ideas can be passed from living person to living person.

bjkeefe
01-08-2010, 12:58 PM
Why not? Genetic material transmits physically (and is non-Lamarckian), but ideas can be passed from living person to living person.

And from dead people to living people, to boot, thanks to clay tablets, etc. But I think FA's impatience is with the blurring of cultural with physical transfer mechanisms.

popcorn_karate
01-08-2010, 01:01 PM
Thanks ledocs. I know that Wright refers to game theory, I suppose I should read the book first, but game theory presupposes completely egoistic players who calculate, and often calculate badly, to maximize their advantage---as in the famous case of the prisoner's dilemma. Wright seems to be arguing for something else when he talks about non-zero sum interactions, which involve altruism or reciprocal altruism.

No, the whole point of win-win is that you don't need altruism for cooperation.

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 01:03 PM
Why not? Genetic material transmits physically (and is non-Lamarckian), but ideas can be passed from living person to living person.

True, but ideas aren't physical, are they?

Whether you are an orthodox Darwinian, or an unorthodox Lamarckian, you believe that there is a material, i.e. physical mechanism of evolution. Lamarck believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics; Darwin both did and didn't. Contemporary biologists scorn the whole idea, but both schools thought (and think) that evolution is a physical process.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the importance of ideas and even of religious ideas. But then I am not a materialist.

claymisher
01-08-2010, 01:09 PM
I used to think game theory was pointless. Daniel Davies has a funny bit about how game theory is only useful for predicting the behavior of other game theorists. But Herb Gintis warmed me up to it (the preface of his book here (http://books.google.com/books?id=an9MXLCYgw8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=bounds+of+reason&ei=LnBHS7GRCIjENYf3pJEO&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false) and his lecture on the unification of the social sciences (http://videolectures.net/cvss08_gintis_fpubs/). Keefe, I was supposed to remind you to watch that a while ago). If you think of game theory just as a notation for describing strategic interaction and behavior it's actually really useful.

A lot of the non-zero stuff Bob talks about isn't predicting that we're destined by the forces of history to choose cooperate but that if we had any brains we really should choose cooperate.

Fun fact: Rousseau is an acknowledge pioneer in game theory because of his illustration of the stag hunt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stag_hunt) (also known as the assurance game and the coordination game). You hear a lot about the prisoner's dilemma but stag hunt dynamics are everywhere too. Somebody even wrote a book about it, which Gintis has reviewed here (http://www.amazon.com/review/R2JQQA3ASN1UUN).

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 01:34 PM
I used to think game theory was pointless. Daniel Davies has a funny bit about how game theory is only useful for predicting the behavior of other game theorists. But Herb Gintis warmed me up to it (the preface of his book here (http://books.google.com/books?id=an9MXLCYgw8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=bounds+of+reason&ei=LnBHS7GRCIjENYf3pJEO&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false) and his lecture on the unification of the social sciences (http://videolectures.net/cvss08_gintis_fpubs/). Keefe, I was supposed to remind you to watch that a while ago). If you think of game theory just as a notation for describing strategic interaction and behavior it's actually really useful.

A lot of the non-zero stuff Bob talks about isn't predicting that we're destined by the forces of history to choose cooperate but that if we had any brains we really should choose cooperate.

Fun fact: Rousseau is an acknowledge pioneer in game theory because of his illustration of the stag hunt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stag_hunt) (also known as the assurance game and the coordination game). You hear a lot about the prisoner's dilemma but stag hunt (dynamics are everywhere too. Somebody even wrote a book about it, which Gintis has reviewed here (http://www.amazon.com/review/R2JQQA3ASN1UUN).

Thanks claymisher for the references. I read up a little on the subject one bright week in July while vacationing in Provence, falling asleep to the chirping of insects and the smell of lavender while trying to concentrate on unreal dilemmas. It left little impression on me.

I had no idea that Rousseau is considered one of the ancestors of game theory. But it is true that in his "state of nature," men are natural egoists, so I suppose it must follow that in a stag hunt there would naturally be defectors.

But we left the state of nature long ago. Except in economics departments.

osmium
01-08-2010, 01:53 PM
True, but ideas aren't physical, are they?

Whether you are an orthodox Darwinian, or an unorthodox Lamarckian, you believe that there is a material, i.e. physical mechanism of evolution. Lamarck believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics; Darwin both did and didn't. Contemporary biologists scorn the whole idea, but both schools thought (and think) that evolution is a physical process.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the importance of ideas and even of religious ideas. But then I am not a materialist.

Understood. I wonder how many discussions of "evolution" get hung up on definition of the system. Like, evolution of species is a physical process, but then evolution of a society or evolution of *everything* opens it up to more mechanisms. One of which is evolution by natural selection. Because ideas certainly have consequences.

Here's the question though: would that make you not a materialist? I would say materialist means you think everything can be synthesized from physics, even if it's impractical to do so yourself. Provided you believe that the ideas in people's heads are physical at some level, then you'd still comfortably be a materialist.

EDIT: somehow i glanced over your opening sentence. Sure, ideas are physical. Unless you're a "dualist." Which is legit, but then you're a dualist, i.e. mind and body, different rules, different physics.

Francoamerican
01-08-2010, 02:09 PM
Understood. I wonder how many discussions of "evolution" get hung up on definition of the system. Like, evolution of species is a physical process, but then evolution of a society or evolution of *everything* opens it up to more mechanisms. One of which is evolution by natural selection. Because ideas certainly have consequences.

Here's the question though: would that make you not a materialist? I would say materialist means you think everything can be synthesized from physics, even if it's impractical to do so yourself. Provided you believe that the ideas in people's heads are physical at some level, then you'd still comfortably be a materialist.

EDIT: somehow i glanced over your opening sentence. Sure, ideas are physical. Unless you're a "dualist." Which is legit, but then you're a dualist, i.e. mind and body, different rules, different physics.

If you can explain to me how ideas and thoughts are physical, I will grant you that mind/body dualism is an illusion. Until then, I remain a dualist. So will anyone who knows what he is talking about.

Physics may succeed one day in showing that mind or consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. I am not holding my breath. Homo sapiens will be extinct before physics succeeds.

look
01-08-2010, 02:28 PM
If you can explain to me how ideas and thoughts are physical, I will grant you that mind/body dualism is an illusion. Until then, I remain a dualist. So will anyone who knows what he is talking about.

Physics may succeed one day in showing that mind or consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. I am not holding my breath. Homo sapiens will be extinct before physics succeeds.I'm highly sympathetic to dualism, but what would the stuff of thought be made of?

osmium
01-08-2010, 02:31 PM
If you can explain to me how ideas and thoughts are physical, I will grant you that mind/body dualism is an illusion. Until then, I remain a dualist. So will anyone who knows what he is talking about.

Physics may succeed one day in showing that mind or consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. I am not holding my breath. Homo sapiens will be extinct before physics succeeds.

Who knows what he is talking about? Quite provocative, Franco.

I believe there is one physics, for both mind and body. However, I (characteristically) can fully understand someone being a dualist, even though I think that belief is mistaken.

Thoughts and ideas are physical phenomena, having to do with how you switch neurons on and off, just like the data on your hard drive. They are transmitted, not by genes, but by light, sound, touch, etc.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there are very many modern dualists, even though you kind of make it sound like it's a universal consensus. Is Chalmers one? (And Francoamerican, I now know.)

ledocs
01-08-2010, 07:07 PM
I just cited this article by Thomas Nagel in another context, but it works equally well here on the question of mind-body dualism. There are some passages in this article that I do not understand, I have to confess.

<http://records.viu.ca/www/ipp/pdf/2.pdf>

There is a fairly long discussion between me, a dualist, and a wavering materialist concerning mind-body dualism on my blog. To consult my blog, click on my signature.

cragger
01-08-2010, 08:18 PM
Game theory is a powerful tool for rational planing, and for examination of the results that will likely occur in situations in which actors persue their interests rationally. There need be no claim that everyone will always act rationally which we know is not the case, market theologians notwithstanding. As with many tools, it may well be misunderstood or misapplied. (e.g. see statistics) Similarly, like many other things there may be enthusiasts who, having learned one true thing, think it is the only true thing and the descriptor of all behavior. The blind do love to insist they entirely understand the elephant.

Despite the "known payoffs for each actor" conditions used in order to simplify the study of various types of "games", the theory allows for any conceivable condition including that one may include altruism among one's motivations, thus affecting one's payoffs for taking various strategies. Like most disciplines, simplifying assumptions are made in most classroom cases though a claim which I believe valid can be made that if one could somehow quantify how you, for example, value both, say, material gain and the well being your fellow actors would attain if you limit your material gain, and then act rationally so as to maximize your satisfaction from whatever that combination might be, the theory would point to how you might best achieve that result in a particular situation.

One of the many interesting and important implications of game theory is that it points out that even if everyone acts rationally and choses strategies that are best suited to maximize their individual results, the situation may be such that those choices can lead to bad results, potentially highly sub-optimal results for all actors. It points out, again contra the free market fetishists, in many situations achieving good results requires intervention to effectively change the rules of the game, altering the payoffs for strategic choices so that as actors do act rationally, better results are obtained.

There is an excellent series of online lectures available from Yale for anyone interested. The presentation is very accessable.

Game theory - don't play cards for money without it!

uncle ebeneezer
01-08-2010, 09:00 PM
I would enjoy a full diavlog on game theory. Maybe with implications on psychology, economics and of course actual games.

claymisher
01-08-2010, 09:03 PM
I would enjoy a full diavlog on game theory. Maybe with implications on psychology, economics and of course actual games.

I think you'll enjoy this a lot. All of the above plus sociology:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gideFt9gLLw&feature=SeriesPlayList&p=34FBAB97197AB401

bjkeefe
01-09-2010, 12:42 AM
I used to think game theory was pointless. Daniel Davies has a funny bit about how game theory is only useful for predicting the behavior of other game theorists.

We have no workable theory that can describe how it is that one person can contain so many bon mots. Man, I love that guy.

But Herb Gintis warmed me up to it (the preface of his book here (http://books.google.com/books?id=an9MXLCYgw8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=bounds+of+reason&ei=LnBHS7GRCIjENYf3pJEO&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false) and his lecture on the unification of the social sciences (http://videolectures.net/cvss08_gintis_fpubs/). Keefe, I was supposed to remind you to watch that a while ago).

And thanks very much for doing so. I will try to get to it soon, if the ADHD wears off.

A lot of the non-zero stuff Bob talks about isn't predicting that we're destined by the forces of history to choose cooperate but that if we had any brains we really should choose cooperate.

I get that sense, too, and also share that wish. Borders on an ought/is, though. I give you Greater Wingnuttia's general response to the Underpants Bomber as the latest example -- as a mob, we do not have very many brains, especially the kind that will recognize the truth that cooperation beats demonization, especially on a crowded planet.

Fun fact: Rousseau ...

Thanks for that, too. And LOL @ FA's (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=145681#post145681) last line.

Francoamerican
01-09-2010, 07:01 AM
Who knows what he is talking about? Quite provocative, Franco.

I believe there is one physics, for both mind and body. However, I (characteristically) can fully understand someone being a dualist, even though I think that belief is mistaken.

Thoughts and ideas are physical phenomena, having to do with how you switch neurons on and off, just like the data on your hard drive. They are transmitted, not by genes, but by light, sound, touch, etc.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there are very many modern dualists, even though you kind of make it sound like it's a universal consensus. Is Chalmers one? (And Francoamerican, I now know.)

I am a dualist by nature, not by choice.

Chalmers isn't a materialist monist, that much I know. His discussion of the various species of materialists, and their war on consciousness, is valuable. I would make a distinction between metaphysical materialists, who have existed since antiquity, and methodological materialists, who merely suppose, without proof, that all explanations must be in terms of "matter in motion." All modern scientists are methodological materialists, without necessarily being metaphysical materialists.

The problem, as I see it, is that metaphysical materialists constantly issue promissory notes on an eventual future materialist science of mind, but in the meantime all they can do is argue against dualists, who for their part spend most of their time arguing against materialists.

Thus turns the merry-go-round of philosophy.

ledocs
01-09-2010, 02:32 PM
The problem, as I see it, is that metaphysical materialists constantly issue promissory notes on an eventual future materialist science of mind, but in the meantime all they can do is argue against dualists, who for their part spend most of their time arguing against materialists.

Thus turns the merry-go-round of philosophy.


Let's see if I can take issue with this. I think dualists do an awful lot of philosophical work in which the dualism is tacit, implicit, and assumed. One writes what one thinks, on the assumption that what one thinks will never be explained in terms of neurobiology or physics. That's what I do, anyway. The whole idealistic tradition in European philosophy makes no sense if the materialistic explanation of consciousness is right. That is, why try to describe what is happening in your head in terms of illusory units of meaning? Let's just look at a brain scan or something, or at a very complex equation. On the other hand, one does sometimes have to take issue with the promissory note materialists (PSM). The problem is, that can very easily become a life's work.

I'm reading a book called "The God Theory" by an astrophysicist named Bernard Haisch. I think he can be described accurately as a dualist, but maybe not. It's a weird little new-agey kind of tome. But he's got some interesting anecdotes in the book, one in particular about how dogmatic the PSM can be. He's got a passage in which he talks about the fundamental intuition which assures him that the PSM are wrong. I'll be citing it in my blog (TM) at some point.

Francoamerican
01-09-2010, 03:08 PM
Let's see if I can take issue with this. I think dualists do an awful lot of philosophical work in which the dualism is tacit, implicit, and assumed. One writes what one thinks, on the assumption that what one thinks will never be explained in terms of neurobiology or physics. That's what I do, anyway. The whole idealistic tradition in European philosophy makes no sense if the materialistic explanation of consciousness is right..

J'abonde dans ton sens. On the other hand, the whole idealistic tradition in European philosophy means fuck-all in the US.

That is, why try to describe what is happening in your head in terms of illusory units of meaning? Let's just look at a brain scan or something, or at a very complex equation. On the other hand, one does sometimes have to take issue with the promissory note materialists (PSM). The problem is, that can very easily become a life's work..

I know. And materialists write so badly.

I'm reading a book called "The God Theory" by an astrophysicist named Bernard Haisch. I think he can be described accurately as a dualist, but maybe not. It's a weird little new-agey kind of tome. But he's got some interesting anecdotes in the book, one in particular about how dogmatic the PSM can be. He's got a passage in which he talks about the fundamental intuition which assures him that the PSM are wrong. I'll be citing it in my blog (TM) at some point.

I promise to pay your blog a visit in the near future.

ledocs
01-09-2010, 03:11 PM
I've read the Orr review. His basic take is that "The Evolution of God" is a good history book but that the theoretical apparatus of pseudo-Darwinism and game theory that gets grafted onto the history is superfluous and unconvincing. As far as a scientifically materialist explanation of history goes, we'll have to await the fulfillment of the PSM project, I would think, which means that we'll be waiting a very long time. I would infer from the review that Orr, if pressed, would turn out to be a tacit dualist. I infer this from the paragraph he wrote about St. Paul. To paraphrase: "It's more likely that St. Paul traveled a lot because he believed in brotherly love than that he believed in brotherly love because he traveled a lot." It sounds like Wright's book also has a vaguely Hegelian kind of character, in that history is marching towards an end of a just and rational abstract universal religion, but this vaguely Hegelian aspect is completely at odds with what Wright refers to as his materialism, the pseudo-scientific theoretical apparatus. I don't think I would have guessed that this review had been written by a biologist.

Francoamerican
01-09-2010, 04:32 PM
I've read the Orr review. His basic take is that "The Evolution of God" is a good history book but that the theoretical apparatus of pseudo-Darwinism and game theory that gets grafted onto the history is superfluous and unconvincing. As far as a scientifically materialist explanation of history goes, we'll have to await the fulfillment of the PSM project, I would think, which means that we'll be waiting a very long time. I would infer from the review that Orr, if pressed, would turn out to be a tacit dualist. I infer this from the paragraph he wrote about St. Paul. To paraphrase: "It's more likely that St. Paul traveled a lot because he believed in brotherly love than that he believed in brotherly love because he traveled a lot." It sounds like Wright's book also has a vaguely Hegelian kind of character, in that history is marching towards an end of a just and rational abstract universal religion, but this vaguely Hegelian aspect is completely at odds with what Wright refers to as his materialism, the pseudo-scientific theoretical apparatus. I don't think I would have guessed that this review had been written by a biologist.

I agree with you. Hegel and Darwin are a very odd couple!

And it is also very odd that it is a biologist who pointed this out.

ledocs
01-09-2010, 05:56 PM
To be clear, Orr doesn't mention Hegel. That's my gloss.

ledocs
01-10-2010, 05:50 AM
Is it too late to substitute the acronym PNM for PSM? PNM = "promissory note materialists," a very felicitous phrase, in my opinion. The interest rate on the materialists' bonds, at least insofar as the financing of the consciousness project is concerned, is much too low. There is a speculative bubble of unimaginable proportion in the US as regards this whole project. And continued financing of the project at interest rates of close to zero is assured for the foreseeable future.

What I foresee is people walking around with computers that connect directly to their brains, only because implantation seems more remote, more technically difficult, and more dangerous. Although a wireless connection to a chip implant seems feasible. So there is a chip implanted in the brain that connects wirelessly to a device that the erstwhile human controls, a Blackberry kind of thing. Is this something that so-called transhumanists imagine? Anyway, this kind of thing is the logical conclusion of the materialist project as regards consciousness. An alternative would be a political decision to make chip implantation illegal. Computer-aided consciousness is then confined to cyborgs, which are under the political dominion of humans, who continue to operate without any direct connection between biological brain and computer.

Obviously, computer-assisted brain technology will have to be excluded from casinos and televised poker tournaments, which become bigger and better than ever. Indeed, the political class of the future is dominated by professional poker players. In this society, zero-sum games replace religion.

bjkeefe
01-10-2010, 06:57 AM
H. Allen Orr reviews The Evolution of God.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23537

Well worth reading.

Finally got around to this. Thanks. I share your recommendation.

I particularly liked this part, as it says what I have been trying to find the words for since I first heard Bob talking about his ideas:

Although Wright offers these ideas tentatively, it's hard to see how they're supposed to work. He has offered a materialist account of moral progress. If that account succeeds (and he thinks it does), it provides evidence neither for nor against anything transcendent. Indeed Wright's use of the word "transcendent" seems gratuitous. Consider an analogy that has little or nothing to do with morality. Economists argue that the non-zero-sum game of trade—i.e., exchange in which both sides benefit—gives rise to a direction in history: the expansion of trade and the growth of wealth. But no one is tempted to conclude that this directionality suggests a higher purpose. The invisible hand is a metaphor, not a transcendent appendage. Conversely, if Wright's materialist account of moral progress fails, this also provides evidence neither for nor against anything transcendent: maybe God drives moral progress or maybe a different materialist account could explain the facts.

Similarly, Wright sometimes suggests that the entire history of biological and cultural evolution on Earth—from single cells to multicellular colonies to human beings capable of moral thought and the elaboration of high technology—might imply the existence of a higher purpose. But again, if a materialist account of this history suffices—and for its biological parts, Darwinism does—this history neither confirms nor disproves anything transcendent.

Oddly, I suspect that Wright might concede some of this. His efforts to discern a higher purpose reflect, he hints, more an intuition or conjecture than a real argument. Taken as such, I would have no particular problem with them. But by articulating his thoughts in the language of science, Wright risks representing his thinking as something it is not.

"A metaphor, not a transcendent appendage." That's just lovely.

Francoamerican
01-10-2010, 01:09 PM
Is it too late to substitute the acronym PNM for PSM? PNM = "promissory note materialists," a very felicitous phrase, in my opinion. The interest rate on the materialists' bonds, at least insofar as the financing of the consciousness project is concerned, is much too low. There is a speculative bubble of unimaginable proportion in the US as regards this whole project. And continued financing of the project at interest rates of close to zero is assured for the foreseeable future.

What I foresee is people walking around with computers that connect directly to their brains, only because implantation seems more remote, more technically difficult, and more dangerous. Although a wireless connection to a chip implant seems feasible. So there is a chip implanted in the brain that connects wirelessly to a device that the erstwhile human controls, a Blackberry kind of thing. Is this something that so-called transhumanists imagine? Anyway, this kind of thing is the logical conclusion of the materialist project as regards consciousness. An alternative would be a political decision to make chip implantation illegal. Computer-aided consciousness is then confined to cyborgs, which are under the political dominion of humans, who continue to operate without any direct connection between biological brain and computer.

Obviously, computer-assisted brain technology will have to be excluded from casinos and televised poker tournaments, which become bigger and better than ever. Indeed, the political class of the future is dominated by professional poker players. In this society, zero-sum games replace religion.

Do I get partial credit for the melifluous coinage "promissory note materialist" or PNM? I like it, and I love your literalization of the metaphor.

It is indeed time to pop the PNM speculative bubble by raising interest rates, but I fear that American academics are immune to the usual laws of supply and demand. And besides this bubble has been growing for several centuries.

ledocs
01-10-2010, 02:10 PM
Do I get partial credit for the mellifluous coinage "promissory note materialist" or PNM?

No, you get full credit. How do we monetize this thing?

Me&theboys
01-19-2010, 08:57 PM
My sense of Bob’s thesis in EOG (and in Non-Zero) is NOT that non-zero-sumness must in any way equate to or approach or even aim for the greatest good for the greatest number. Rather, as long as any 2 entities engage in an interaction that permits both of them to benefit in some capacity, they are engaged in a non-zero-sum interaction and such is laudable. (Technically, if both parties suffer from an interaction, they are also engaged in a non-zero-sum relationship, though Bob does not address this situation or its implications much). The fact that this benefit may come at the expense of a 3rd, 4th, 5th or however many other parties is, apparently, irrelevant in making the non-zero-sum attribution - a kind of ends justifies the means stance, something that makes Bob’s argument quite uncompelling to me on a moral level. Two male dolphins ganging up on a lone female for the purpose of raping her is a non-zero-sum interaction for the males. They trade off an exclusive but unlikely opportunity to reproduce for a non-exclusive but more likely opportunity to do so. Too bad about the female's interests. Corporate price fixing is a form of non-zero-sum interaction. Too bad about the consumer's interests. Non-zero-sumness is in the eye of the beholder. Or not. Not quite sure why such behaviors are indicative of moral progress, but if they are not, then it is entirely unclear how Bob would go about labeling some non-zero-sum behaviors as good and others as bad. Conveniently, Bob does not tackle the third party/other perspective question as that would torpedo the moral aspect of his thesis. Any interaction can be portrayed as a non-zero-sum one indicative of moral progress when one employs the advantages of hindsight and a very selective lens. This is also what makes Bob’s thesis quite uncompelling to me on an intellectual level. It's utilitarianism without the math. It’s very hard to achieve non-zero-sumness, or to designate an interaction as a non-zero-sum one, when the impact of an action on all stakeholders must be considered. As such, it strikes me as a pretty poor guide and as even poorer evidence of "god".

look
01-20-2010, 01:35 AM
My sense of Bob’s thesis in EOG (and in Non-Zero) is NOT that non-zero-sumness must in any way equate to or approach or even aim for the greatest good for the greatest number. Rather, as long as any 2 entities engage in an interaction that permits both of them to benefit in some capacity, they are engaged in a non-zero-sum interaction and such is laudable. (Technically, if both parties suffer from an interaction, they are also engaged in a non-zero-sum relationship, though Bob does not address this situation or its implications much). The fact that this benefit may come at the expense of a 3rd, 4th, 5th or however many other parties is, apparently, irrelevant in making the non-zero-sum attribution - a kind of ends justifies the means stance, something that makes Bob’s argument quite uncompelling to me on a moral level. Two male dolphins ganging up on a lone female for the purpose of raping her is a non-zero-sum interaction for the males. They trade off an exclusive but unlikely opportunity to reproduce for a non-exclusive but more likely opportunity to do so. Too bad about the female's interests. Corporate price fixing is a form of non-zero-sum interaction. Too bad about the consumer's interests. Non-zero-sumness is in the eye of the beholder. Or not. Not quite sure why such behaviors are indicative of moral progress, but if they are not, then it is entirely unclear how Bob would go about labeling some non-zero-sum behaviors as good and others as bad. Conveniently, Bob does not tackle the third party/other perspective question as that would torpedo the moral aspect of his thesis. Any interaction can be portrayed as a non-zero-sum one indicative of moral progress when one employs the advantages of hindsight and a very selective lens. This is also what makes Bob’s thesis quite uncompelling to me on an intellectual level. It's utilitarianism without the math. It’s very hard to achieve non-zero-sumness, or to designate an interaction as a non-zero-sum one, when the impact of an action on all stakeholders must be considered. As such, it strikes me as a pretty poor guide and as even poorer evidence of "god".Oh, Me&, you're such a nit-picker.

I don't suppose you want to re-chew this cabbage, but I think pk made an excellent point here:

It is only through the advance of culture, and the monopoly on violence by the state, that you are advanced and protected. when culture and institutions break down - who suffers the most? women, children, and old people. civilization is largely the process of harnessing male power and aggression into activities that help the entire society rather than hurt it.

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=130252&postcount=209

Me&theboys
01-20-2010, 09:08 AM
Oh, Me&, you're such a nit-picker.

I don't suppose you want to re-chew this cabbage, but I think pk made an excellent point here:



http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=130252&postcount=209

???? I didn't think I was picking nits. This has been a bad month and my brain's exhausted, rendering me temporarily unable (unwilling to expend the effort?) to read between the lines and try to figure out what you mean. Sorry.

look
01-20-2010, 07:17 PM
???? I didn't think I was picking nits. This has been a bad month and my brain's exhausted, rendering me temporarily unable (unwilling to expend the effort?) to read between the lines and try to figure out what you mean. Sorry.I'm sorry, Me&, I was just teasing about the nit-picking. That is, you finding the feminist flaw in the non-zero concept. But I wonder how often in the development of culture men were also the losers in the non-zero game.

I brought up pk's old post because I think it's relevant that although cultural progress through non-zero was often made at the expense of women, it is that same culture that has improved the plight of women, over time.

Me&theboys
01-21-2010, 01:23 PM
I'm sorry, Me&, I was just teasing about the nit-picking. That is, you finding the feminist flaw in the non-zero concept. But I wonder how often in the development of culture men were also the losers in the non-zero game.

I brought up pk's old post because I think it's relevant that although cultural progress through non-zero was often made at the expense of women, it is that same culture that has improved the plight of women, over time.

OK. That my brain can deal with. For the record, I think of it as a general flaw, not a feminist flaw. And I think it's all about perspective - what appears, on a global/group level to be a non-zero-sum interaction, can be a highly zero-sum one on a local/individual level, for example. If almost any interaction can be construed as non-zero-sum depending on one's frame of reference, perspective, group affiliation, personal preferences, time frame, knowledge, level of empathy, etc., then what's so admirable about non-zero?

I get the rising tide floats all boats arguments, but that still leaves the question of how to assess the relative good of one so-called non-zero-sum interaction versus another (since not even Bob considers them all equal). And that brings us to some form of utilitarianism (which is hugely complicated by the above listed factors) or other moral philosophy. There are lots of arguments that can be made to defend the unacceptable as better than the even more unacceptable, and if one uses only the non-zero logic as I understand Bob to have expressed it, the number of such arguments increases exponentially because the broader utilitarian calculations get thrown out the window and we're down to a simple, "if it's good for me and good for that guy over there (even though it sucks for you), it's good". Not much of an improvement over "if it's good for me, it's good". I can't help but wonder if Bob (or anyone else) would be so enamoured of the potential non-zero-sum ends if he and what he cared about were on the wrong side of some very real zero-sum means.

popcorn_karate
01-21-2010, 02:11 PM
My sense of Bob’s thesis in EOG (and in Non-Zero) is NOT that non-zero-sumness must in any way equate to or approach or even aim for the greatest good for the greatest number. Rather, as long as any 2 entities engage in an interaction that permits both of them to benefit in some capacity, they are engaged in a non-zero-sum interaction and such is laudable.

Corporate price fixing is a form of non-zero-sum interaction. Too bad about the consumer's interests. Non-zero-sumness is in the eye of the beholder. Or not.

by your reasoning, team sports are "non zero sum" (because more than one person is on each team and they are cooperating in a joint venture) - but that is a classic example of a zero sum interaction - one team wins , the other loses. This seems to be a truly fundamental misunderstanding of the concept on your part.

You have to look at both sides of the trade. Its not important that there may be more than one person on either side - you look at the TRADE. In your example it is clearly zero sum - more for corporate price-fixers and less for consumers (the people on the other side of the trade being made).

basically, you are looking at one side of an equation and trying to make sense of it when you need to look at what is on BOTH sides of the equal sign to make sense of it.

uncle ebeneezer
01-21-2010, 02:39 PM
The sports metaphor gets increasingly tangled because the teams have zero-sum interactions with each other but are both part of a league that benefits from them. So the Red Sox and Yankees try to kill each other in zero-sum competion but they both benefit from the ratings and the effects that their rivalry has on the league. However a good argument can be made that too much success by these teams on individual levels (whether by winning way more than other teams and making far more $ that is NOT shared), it actually hurts the other teams in the league.

Me&theboys
01-21-2010, 06:35 PM
by your reasoning, team sports are "non zero sum" (because more than one person is on each team and they are cooperating in a joint venture) - but that is a classic example of a zero sum interaction - one team wins , the other loses. This seems to be a truly fundamental misunderstanding of the concept on your part.

You have to look at both sides of the trade. Its not important that there may be more than one person on either side - you look at the TRADE. In your example it is clearly zero sum - more for corporate price-fixers and less for consumers (the people on the other side of the trade being made).

basically, you are looking at one side of an equation and trying to make sense of it when you need to look at what is on BOTH sides of the equal sign to make sense of it.

For a direct reply to your team sports example, see the PS at the bottom of this post. What I am trying to say (quite possibly poorly) is that a) in life, even if not in formal game theory, there are usually more than 2 sides to be considered in any given interaction and that b) how one defines a particular interaction determines in large part whether or not one interprets it as a non-zero-sum one. Seeing non-zero-sumness in an interaction often depends on one's perspective, frame of reference, etc. as I stated in my most recent post in reply to look.

To understand what I am saying requires looking beyond binary interactions because binary interactions are not representative of most of life's interactions, especially not the significant ones, and certainly not the ones in Bob's book EOG. When one goes beyond a binary perspective and considers the impact of an interaction upon more than 2 individuals or entities, the attribution of non-zero-sumness seems to me to become even more complicated and is less a matter of consensus than a matter of opinion. Which other individuals one takes into consideration also impacts whether one sees a particular interaction as zero-sum or non-zero-sum. You say that my corporate price fixing example is clearly zero-sum. But that is only true if you consider the interaction in question to be between consumers and companies. If you instead consider the interaction in question to be between the companies, then you have a non-zero-sum interaction (we'll forego trying to put each other out of business in favor of fixing prices together, who cares about the consumer). Bob's book EOG is diligent about seeing interactions from the non-zero-sum perspective, even though they are often very zero-sum when considered from another perspective. I find that an unpersuasive approach.

I suppose one can focus only on the TRADE and ignore the impact of the trade on those not party to the actual trade but subject to its consequences, but such a focus is exactly what I am objecting to. And how does one define the TRADE, anyway? You define price fixing as a trade between the company and the consumer, I define it as a trade between the companies. So the same interaction is both zero-sum as you define it and non-zero-sum as I define it; which interpretation of an interaction one promotes depends on one's perspective, etc.

Again, I am not talking about formal game theory, which undoubtedly has rules and calculations about all of this. I am talking about life, which is what Bob is talking about in his book.

PS - Do you think Frans de Waal is opposed to team sports because they promote a culture of competition (between teams)? Or do you think he's in favor of them because they promote a culture of cooperation (within a team)?

bjkeefe
01-21-2010, 07:47 PM
When I saw Me&'s PS in another thread, I merely snickered (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=147514#post147514) appreciatively, but I should add a more serious afterthought.

I have been quick to jump on the non-zero pony, and I do think the concept is a useful one. However, Me& is highlighting an important point here: when you think about the principle as applied to any practical situation, it quickly gets sticky -- there is a good chance that someone might not be deriving benefit from the exchange at hand.

Now, has she come up with a fundamental flaw that relegates the principle of non-zero-sumness to the trash heap? Maybe not, in a strict philosophical sense, and probably not, as a practical matter -- certainly, seeking a non-zero sum outcome to a situation where only zero-sum thinking is being deployed is likely to be preferable, if not perfect. But if we are to try to apply this principle In Real Life, it's good to be reminded of the thorns, too.

Me&theboys
01-21-2010, 08:34 PM
When I saw Me&'s PS in another thread, I merely snickered (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=147514#post147514) appreciatively, but I should add a more serious afterthought.

I have been quick to jump on the non-zero pony, and I do think the concept is a useful one. However, Me& is highlighting an important point here: when you think about the principle as applied to any practical situation, it quickly gets sticky -- there is a good chance that someone might not be deriving benefit from the exchange at hand.

Now, has she come up with a fundamental flaw that relegates the principle of non-zero-sumness to the trash heap? Maybe not, in a strict philosophical sense, and probably not, as a practical matter -- certainly, seeking a non-zero sum outcome to a situation where only zero-sum thinking is being deployed is likely to be preferable, if not perfect. But if we are to try to apply this principle In Real Life, it's good to be reminded of the thorns, too.

I'm not advocating the dumping of non-zero-sum aspirations and endeavors, just the dumping of the presumption that something portrayed by one as non-zero-sum is, in fact, such to all, a presumption I encountered repeatedly while reading EOG. And really, most of my comments are in reaction to Bob's books and his presentation of non-zero-sumness as some sort of unalloyed good, a view which I feel strongly needs to be tempered with a dose of alternate perspective.

look
01-22-2010, 12:30 AM
OK. That my brain can deal with. For the record, I think of it as a general flaw, not a feminist flaw. And I think it's all about perspective - what appears, on a global/group level to be a non-zero-sum interaction, can be a highly zero-sum one on a local/individual level, for example. If almost any interaction can be construed as non-zero-sum depending on one's frame of reference, perspective, group affiliation, personal preferences, time frame, knowledge, level of empathy, etc., then what's so admirable about non-zero?

I get the rising tide floats all boats arguments, but that still leaves the question of how to assess the relative good of one so-called non-zero-sum interaction versus another (since not even Bob considers them all equal). And that brings us to some form of utilitarianism (which is hugely complicated by the above listed factors) or other moral philosophy. There are lots of arguments that can be made to defend the unacceptable as better than the even more unacceptable, and if one uses only the non-zero logic as I understand Bob to have expressed it, the number of such arguments increases exponentially because the broader utilitarian calculations get thrown out the window and we're down to a simple, "if it's good for me and good for that guy over there (even though it sucks for you), it's good". Not much of an improvement over "if it's good for me, it's good". I can't help but wonder if Bob (or anyone else) would be so enamoured of the potential non-zero-sum ends if he and what he ca ed about were on the wrong side of some very real zero-sum means.Thanks, Me&. I read your point as something like, 'zero-sum isn't all that.' I'm thinking it's the only game in town, unless you're hoping for a Great Spirit to assign us to a strict program of fairness. And then we wouldn't actually be human, I guess. Was it Job who said this?


What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (New International Version)
(Did someone here recently say they like the NIV?)

Me&theboys
01-22-2010, 09:25 AM
Thanks, Me&. I read your point as something like, 'zero-sum isn't all that.' I'm thinking it's the only game in town...)
From a moral perspective, I disagree that non-zero is the only game in town, or even a very good one for all the reasons I've already detailed. From an evolutionary perspective, I think it's one strategy in a game where survival requires several different strategies. I'm happy to embrace it as part of the explanation of the latter. I think it has many weaknesses and vulnerabilities as a guide for the former, and thus object to the "ought from is" tone of EOG in which non-zero serves as evidence of the divine.

look
01-22-2010, 12:11 PM
From a moral perspective, I disagree that non-zero is the only game in town, or even a very good one for all the reasons I've already detailed. From an evolutionary perspective, I think it's one strategy in a game where survival requires several different strategies. I'm happy to embrace it as part of the explanation of the latter. I think it has many weaknesses and vulnerabilities as a guide for the former, and thus object to the "ought from is" tone of EOG in which non-zero serves as evidence of the divine.Will you please name a few so I know what you mean?

Me&theboys
01-22-2010, 03:09 PM
Will you please name a few so I know what you mean?

From an evolutionary survival standpoint? Well, here are a few alternative survival strategies that to mind: Parasitism. Narcissism. Tit for Tat. Tit for 2 Tats. Intimidation. Altruism. Reciprocal Altruism. Kin Atruism. Tribalism. Retaliation. Exploitation. Self-deception. Other-deception. Coercion. Flattery. In a world of differential fitness, there's no one-size fits all strategy.

See here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterated_prisoner%27s_dilemma#The_iterated_prisone r.27s_dilemma) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_Stable_Strategy) and here (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-evolutionary/) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Animal) for more.

bjkeefe
01-22-2010, 04:34 PM
I'm sorry, Me&, I was just teasing about the nit-picking. That is, you finding the feminist flaw in the non-zero concept. But I wonder how often in the development of culture men were also the losers in the non-zero game.

I brought up pk's old post because I think it's relevant that although cultural progress through non-zero was often made at the expense of women, it is that same culture that has improved the plight of women, over time.

I thought of this comment when reading a recent post by LGM's newest addition, Charli Carpenter (http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-to-read-on-gender-and-foreign.html), reposted below.

"What to Read on Gender and Foreign Policy"

Over the break, Foreign Affairs posted my picks on which gender literature the foreign policy community should take seriously. Here's how the piece begins:

Feminists have long argued that it is wrong to ignore half the population when crafting policies meant to secure a stable world order. Now foreign policy experts are beginning to grasp a different point: a "gender perspective" is relevant not only to those concerned with making the world better for women, but also to anybody who cares about military effectiveness, alliance stability, democracy promotion, actionable intelligence, the stem of pandemic disease, or successful nation building. The following sources are essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between gender relations -- norms and assumptions about men and women, masculinity and femininity -- and the practice of foreign policy.

You can argue with how I framed it or which works I chose (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/features/readinglists/what-to-read-on-gender-and-foreign-policy) out of the volumes of good scholarship on gender and IR. But if you ask me, it's fabulous that FA is starting to include gender issues among its must-reads - and, if the latest issue is any suggestion (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/issues/2010/89/1), mainstreaming them in its print edition. Go check it out and tell me what you think.

look
01-22-2010, 04:57 PM
From an evolutionary survival standpoint? Well, here are a few alternative survival strategies that to mind: Parasitism. Narcissism. Tit for Tat. Tit for 2 Tats. Intimidation. Altruism. Reciprocal Altruism. Kin Atruism. Tribalism. Retaliation. Exploitation. Self-deception. Other-deception. Coercion. Flattery. In a world of differential fitness, there's no one-size fits all strategy.

See here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterated_prisoner%27s_dilemma#The_iterated_prisone r.27s_dilemma) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_Stable_Strategy) and here (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-evolutionary/) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Animal) for more.Uncle! I'm sorry I asked, and I'm out of my league.

But I would like to read The Moral Animal. Thanks, I'll slink away now.

bjkeefe
01-22-2010, 04:58 PM
Uncle!

Mr. Ebeneezer is not going to come to your rescue.

;^)

look
01-22-2010, 04:59 PM
I thought of this comment when reading a recent post by LGM's newest addition, Charli Carpenter (http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-to-read-on-gender-and-foreign.html), reposted below.

Thanks, Brendan, those look like interesting books. I'd been interested in reading Half the Sky since I first heard about it here. Was it you who posted about it?

uncle ebeneezer
01-22-2010, 05:01 PM
Hell no. I've been schooled by Me&TB enough times to know to stay out of this one ;-)

PS- nice to see you back Me&.

bjkeefe
01-22-2010, 05:06 PM
Thanks, Brendan, those look like interesting books. I'd been interested in reading Half the Sky since I first heard about it here. Was it you who posted about it?

No.

Let's see ... who was that again? ... <clickety-clickety> ... oh, hey, wow, no one could have predicted (http://static.bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=129896#post129896)!

;^)

look
01-22-2010, 05:06 PM
Hell no. I've been schooled by Me&TB enough times to know to stay out of this one ;-)

PS- nice to see you back Me&. Ditto.

look
01-22-2010, 05:20 PM
No.

Let's see ... who was that again? ... <clickety-clickety> ... oh, hey, wow, no one could have predicted (http://static.bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=129896#post129896)!

;^)Cool.

Me&theboys
01-22-2010, 07:29 PM
Hell no. I've been schooled by Me&TB enough times to know to stay out of this one ;-)

PS- nice to see you back Me&.

Thank you. :)

Me&theboys
01-22-2010, 07:42 PM
Ditto.

Thanks, Look. Didn't mean to overwhelm with my earlier reply. I'm no expert - I just happen to have read a lot on the subject. :)

Me&theboys
01-22-2010, 08:30 PM
I thought of this comment when reading a recent post by LGM's newest addition, Charli Carpenter (http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-to-read-on-gender-and-foreign.html), reposted below.

Feminists have long argued that it is wrong to ignore half the population when crafting policies meant to secure a stable world order. Now foreign policy experts are beginning to grasp a different point: a "gender perspective" is relevant not only to those concerned with making the world better for women, but also to anybody who cares about military effectiveness, alliance stability, democracy promotion, actionable intelligence, the stem of pandemic disease, or successful nation building. The following sources are essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between gender relations -- norms and assumptions about men and women, masculinity and femininity -- and the practice of foreign policy.

That sounds a lot like what I think. A shock, I know. Thanks for the links. That's what I love most about bhtv - an excellent source of links to great info. I would add the following to the list: More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want by Robert Engelman and The Means of Reproduction by Michelle Goldberg (1st chapter is not so good - much better after that). Half the Sky was good, but more anecdotal than I imagine the others are. Kind of an intro to the issue. Bare Branches was full of the most appalling and disheartening facts, but nonetheless a very good and very short read. None of these are for the sensitive male ego, however. They're not about male-bashing, but the facts are the facts and they're not very flattering to men in many cases and in many parts of the world.

bjkeefe
01-22-2010, 11:18 PM
I would add the following to the list: [...]

I hope you'll pop over to LGM or FA and add your suggestions to the comments there. I bet CC would appreciate them.

look
01-23-2010, 12:03 PM
Thanks, Look. Didn't mean to overwhelm with my earlier reply. I'm no expert - I just happen to have read a lot on the subject. :)No worries, Me&, Game Theory looks fascinating, but as the man said so much to do, so little time...