Thursday, 31 October 2013

Purpose of this blog

I'm starting this blog as an outlet for some critical thoughts I often have when following up my personal interests in politics and current affairs. I don't expect to be propounding any of my own opinions outside of a review context, for example of an online speech, article, or video that I come across. My guiding philosophy here is very much in line with Francis Bacon's advice on studies:
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. (source)
Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. (source)

My only hope is that I can stay true to these principles, both when engaging with the subject matter that I select, as well as when discussing these topics with readers who may disagree with me. I realise that there are very few certain things in human affairs, and will not muddy the waters even further by trying to discern motive for the people behind the arguments I am considering. I hope my self-discipline is up to the task of remaining as objective as possible whilst not losing touch with common sense.

I would like to use this blog as an intellectual exercise - to find out more about my own strengths and weaknesses in argumentation and analysis. In addition, if I am able to contribute in any small way to a wider discourse on the topics I address, that will be of no small gratification for me.

12 comments:

  1. If you would like to suggest any articles, lectures, vlogs, or podcasts that you think would make for interesting future posts on this blog, feel free to drop me a message in the comments section of the "Contents" page (see "Site map" box on the right hand side menu).

    Cheers,

    AJ

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  2. i am in a more embryonic stage of the same sort of development. or at least it feels more embryonic, since a) i haven't gone so far as to outline a cogent/compact mission statement such as this, and b) i am something of a dilettante when it comes to, well, more or less Everything. do you have an interest in something as relatively rarefied as http://lesswrong.com/ ? i've barely scratched the surface and fear i'll have to check out some dusty tomes sooner or later...

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  3. Hmm . . . I've not heard of Less Wrong before. It looks interesting. I'm aiming to go into cognitive science research myself at the PhD level, but this seems to be a bit too psychological for me. I am more attracted to philosophy of mind, computational neuroscience, and neurophilosophy.

    Frustratingly, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of our psyche as a species, so you're certainly not alone in feeling lost. As is usually the case with science, with each discovery comes a thousand other questions. I did enjoy Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow, but it didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know about my intellectual weaknesses just from introspection. I think we can consciously keep our minds open, fresh, and free of suffocating dogmatisms. Self-criticism is underrated in my opinion.


    This particular blog is concerned with my sociopolitical interests though. I think that following one's personal passions is all well and good, but there is a responsibility we have to each other as human beings, and part of that means getting stuck in to politics. Especially for people living privileged lives in 1st world countries such as myself.

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  4. i just noticed after posting that that you were in neuroscience. have you followed Sam Harris at all? my interest in his work has fluctuated over the last few years.

    i'm even wondering whether to start with something "pre-less-wrong" - yudkowsky (who is currently working in AI if i am not mistaken) was leading up to it for several years at one or more other sites and i suspect it could be easier to grasp from further back...


    i've scarcely stepped out of my own 1st-world bubble (at least in a material sense), and could not agree more about political apathy; it's increasingly hard to see it as anything other than insidiously toxic to any 'civilization' deserving the label (assuming the word is used with positive connotations to begin with).


    philosophy of mind and philosophy of science are high on my 'absorption list' these days. as far as the former (or at least touching on it, and certainly sociopolitically in any case) i highly recommend jonathan haidt's 'the righteous mind' or at least visiting YourMorals.org which is a continuing part of the same work; as far as the latter i have been looking into karl popper and thomas kuhn as i enroll in prerequisites for an associate degree (baby steps!).

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  5. I've not had much inclination to read Harris, I've always been put off by his (militant?) New Atheist associations, from what I hear, I'm not missing out on much. But I definitely do want to at least borrow one of his books to see what he has to say. Though, I do keep up with Daniel Dennett's writings, which may be a more worthwhile use of my time. It's an outright prejudice concerning Harris I know, but the lectures and interviews of his that I have seen don't endear me that much to him. And there's certainly plenty of exciting work in the field. I'm mainly interested in those continuing the work of David Marr in vision, and people like Randy Gallistel (http://goo.gl/gpvYyK) working on insect cognition. I think they're onto a more realistic approach of figuring out neuroscientific problems.

    I've not got that much of an interest in AI to be honest, I really don't see how much scope there is in the field beyond designing robots to take over some simple human functions (http://goo.gl/FfKmJJ; http://goo.gl/kdoFVm; http://goo.gl/vOB7lc). Though I expect my views on this to change as I continue in neuroscience academia.

    Need some more time to look through Less Wrong before I can comment on how easy it is to grasp.

    The Righteous Mind looks very similar to Moral Minds by Marc Hauser, if you've read that? Might give it a look if Haidt's got something substantively different to say.

    The Philosophy of Mind I was talking about really pertains more to the ontological and metaphysical side of things. I'm personally coming out of an Eastern philosophy perspective (Advaita, Upanishads) and have a lot of respect for the work of Leibniz, Spinoza and Schopenhauer in this respect (http://goo.gl/1qLEaS; http://goo.gl/OSLMiq). I'm not too interested in the ethics of morality to be honest. Rawls' justice is as far as I'll go in the theoretical sphere. On the whole I'd much rather get back to the real world and its problems. Although I am intrigued by the idea of humans having a unbounded moral faculty similar to the language faculty (http://goo.gl/rNUzE6), reckon approaching this from the computational perspective of Gallistel and Marr could well lead to fruition.

    I have a lot of respect of Popper, especially given my own anarcho-syndicalist/classical liberal tendencies.

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  6. the endpoints of Harris's views are indeed disturbing even when they aren't being 'spun' as it were (which occasionally happens to everyone with a notable public intellectual output, obviously we know this or we wouldn't be mucking about in threads ranting about chomsky's ostensible shortcomings ;) ), and lately i find myself siding more with Chris Hedges even when their exchanges are little more than acrimonious at this point.
    Dennett is definitely the 'Horseman' i would most like to chat with (as my understanding of biology develops over the next couple of years Dawkins will probably at least become a close second); i've enjoyed maybe a dozen 'youtube captures' of him.
    thanks much for the links, following up soon...
    'unbounded moral faculty - i believe haidt touches upon that when he veers into evolutionary psychology territory.

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  7. i remember testing very close to 'spinozan' on a fairly elaborate questionnaire some years ago, but have become somewhat more skeptical re: higher power(s) since then - and still haven't actually read any spinoza - was he also a monist? i hope to tackle Rawls eventually but so far am on the fence as to whether the veil of ignorance has broad enough utility when it comes to, say, legal enforcement powers being vested in faceless organizations that project the aims of hypocrites and PR obfuscators. sorry to ramble off, old habits die hard.

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  8. hoping that this won't inappropriately discolor a future reading of Hauser that i might undertake: http://daviddobbs.net/smoothpebbles/?s=marc+hauser

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  9. That is deeply disturbing news. My only hope is that since the earliest fraud seems to have been in September 2007 according to Dobbs, the material in Moral Minds (2006) has not been tainted. But I suppose the purely inductive arguments still stand. In any case, I do hope that someone does try to pick up his avenue of inquiry and pursue it properly.

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  10. Spinoza was indeed a monist, one of the most influential. I have huge respect for his thought, and so do others with whom I strongly disagree on many topics (http://goo.gl/lYJxkD).

    Reading Rawls directly has lead to many pitfalls (though perhaps for more understandable reasons than the pitfalls that befall Chomsky's detractors), you might find this book useful (http://goo.gl/HInO5s).

    " legal enforcement powers being vested in faceless organizations" - I don't think that organisations should be faceless. I actually prefer this description of the principle behind the veil idea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance#Examples

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  11. Very humble and diligent indeed.. we need more writers with this much compassion and meaning towards writing

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