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I'm that IP. Serene (talk) 03:01, 27 March 2021 (UTC)

I can prove it, too. (talk) 03:01, 27 March 2021 (UTC)

No more CAPTCHAs[edit]

Because of your edits to and time on the wiki, wizard Sysop has been added to your user rights. Feel free to let your newfound ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ course through your veins. Once the high wears off, see RationalWiki:Sysop guide for more information. If you have questions, bleat ask away.

Christopher (talk) 16:46, 27 March 2021 (UTC)

@Christopher I think you may have used the wrong template. You made me autopatrolled, not a sysop. Serene (talk) 18:03, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
They’re actually the same template, I’ve corrected my mistake. Christopher (talk) 18:08, 27 March 2021 (UTC)

A friendly question about your views[edit]

Hi Serene, I've recently noticed some of your edits. I find your edits interesting and sophisticated, I was wondering if you'd care to share any info about your philosophical positions (or intellectual positions? I know it's a really broad question... but I'm just interested in having a casual friendly-discussion. LeucippusTalk 13:02, 19 April 2021 (UTC)

I'll get back to you on this. I haven't got a lot of time to spare at the moment. Serene (talk) 03:05, 22 April 2021 (UTC)
  • Ethically, I'm noncommittal; every ethical system under the Sun has problems, and I haven't figured out which I find most plausible. I find Rule-Utilitarianism more plausible than Act-Utilitarianism. Virtue ethics is appealing, but vague, although that might be attributable in part to relative underdevelopment, and it might be a more pragmatic system in everyday life. One of utilitarianism's greatest strengths is that it tends to provide clear and unambiguous recommendations for the resolution of moral dilemmas. I do not believe that reason in-itself is a sufficient motivating force, but rational examination of moral problems is beneficial and allows motivated action to be better informed. I am not a nihilist.
  • Rationalism (as opposed to empiricism) tends to produce pretty crazy ideas. Such pure reflection has its place, but it doesn't seem that great as a means of understanding the external world.
  • The scientific method is extremely powerful, but not invulnerable to abuse. Peer review and replication are just as important. Taking the method as hypothesis, experiment/observation, analysis, conclusion (as is typical), virtually every step has some vulnerability to the experimenter's biases. Human bias can influence what is chosen to study, the experimental setup that is used, the statistical tools employed in analysis, the interpretation of the results, and the final conclusion. Fortunately, systems are in place to encourage objectivity and reduce the influence of human biases, which helps keep science reliable. Related problems, like the file-drawer effect, are significant.
  • Science is good, scientism (by which I mean the belief that the scientific method can be fruitfully applied to solve all possible problems) is silly.
  • An understanding of abstract logic is useful, but communication should be tailored to the audience. Since people typically don't spend most of their time engaged in reading highly technical works, communicating in ordinary language tends to be a good practice. Field experts often deal with highly technical things for which there is no precise substitute in ordinary language, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless, pretty much everybody has an easier time interpreting ordinary language than jargon-heavy stuff.
  • Epistemologically: Technically, only extreme skepticism is wholly justified. Nevertheless, pragmatically, I am a materialist. The mind is conceptually separate from the brain, but the brain (and whatever is going on inside) is sufficient to produce a mind. Mind is derived from material and cannot exist independently of material. The external world exists. Empirical research (i.e. experiment) is the best way to learn about it.
  • Aesthetically: art has intrinsic value. It does not need to be practical. Art may help to express novel ideas or perspectives, and this can add to its aesthetic.
  • I've never read anything written by anybody commonly labelled a postmodernist. I have no idea if any of their ideas are any good in-themselves, but insofar as they motivate novel ideas and lines of inquiry, they may still produce value.
If there are any other particular stances you are interested in, let me know. It's difficult to answer such a broad question, so I know I'm missing lots of things. 𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 22:25, 23 April 2021 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thanks for the detailed response Serene.

  • R.e. Ethics: I don't know much about ethics, so I'm similarly noncommittal. When it comes to debates concerning whether ethics is either cognitive or noncognitive: here 'cognitive' means either (1) being truth-evaluable, or (2) referring to a state of affairs — and thus in either case, being objective; here 'noncognitive' means being the negation of the former "cognitive" positions — in short, being subjective. However, the idea that there is a sharp distinction separating cognitive/noncognitive, is akin to the is/ought distinction — and both of these positions are (I think) mistaken. For instance, the scientific method investigates the natural world i.e. what-is but it also tells us what we ought to do i.e. if we want to learn about nature we ought to use the scientific method; if we want to reliably predict the future we ought to use the scientific method. If we want to learn about the 'is' part of the 'is/ought' distinction, then we ought to do certain things. Similarly with the 'cognitive/noncognitive' distinction, I believe that noncognitive moral statements that express something subjective, e.g. "I'm happy" are identical with objective natural states which are shared by all humans (e.g. c-fibres firing) — and thus, these states of affairs are truth-evaluable — the state of "being happy" is capable of being true or false, right or wrong. However, the point I want to stress, is that ethics involves both objective and subjective elements and that these elements cannot be sharply-separated. You also mention "nihilism", which I can only comment: is rightly ignored by the majority of academics.
  • R.e. epistemology: I'm a naturalist (in the sense of W.V. Quine). Naturalism is the final-stage of empiricism. I don't have much love for pre-analytic philosophy, the majority of it being incoherent, with perhaps the exception of Hume. Skepticism, as a part of the scientific method, is fine. Skepticism, as saying we can never have knowledge or that nothing is justified, is a pronouncement made from outside science — a vantage point I don't accept.
  • R.e. the scientific method: I believe the time-honoured hypothetico-deductive method to be the best tool humanity has for describing, explaining, and identifying reality. And of course as you mention "human bias" can, and does, contaminate every step of the process; it is precisely this fallibility which makes it so interesting.
  • R.e. scientism: your description of scientism matches my own and I also think it to be silly and a boon for unsophisticated minds e.g. Dawkins, Dennett, and Sam Harris.
  • R.e. the use of "abstract logic": the precise methods of formal logic cannot be reasonably imposed upon the working scientist, this indeed, would make discourse all-but impossible. Indeed my view of scientific language is as an extension of commonsense language i.e. the sub-atomic particles of theoretical physics are a sophisticated extension of the commonsense notions of sticks, stones etc. For me, when using ordinary language to convey ideas, we should try to optimise its simplicity and clarity, in short — its elegance.
  • R.e. postmodernism: unlike in physics where astrology can easily be dismissed as crankery; in philosophy, it is much harder to separate crank ideas from noncrank ideas Postmodernism, like any philosophical school, will have its share of crank and noncrank ideas, it cannot simplistically be dismissed. Like you, I believe that insofar as postmodernism can help produce novel and fruitful lines of inquiry —it is valuable. In addition, since we cannot easily weed out bad philosophy, it would be extremely unwise to dismiss something due to some procrustean urge (here I'm thinking of the procrustean urge of Dawkins when he tried to dismiss Derrida's work).
  • I believe "intellectual positions" (and ideology for that matter) to be necessary evils, helpful in the same way music genres are helpful and convenient. The only position that I am truly willing to identify with is that of 'naturalism' (in Quine's sense). Like Hume and Quine, I see grey in most things; reality is a grey fabric, for me.

Thanks again for your detailed response. And sorry again for the breadth of the question. tbh I wasn't expecting the range and scope of your response (even tho I asked of it). LeucippusTalk 18:43, 24 April 2021 (UTC)

Thank you for the detailed reply in turn.
RE: Is-Ought:
The argument is, roughly:
P1: The scientific method is the best way to learn about nature.
P2: We want to learn about nature.
P3: If you want to achieve X, and the best way to achieve X is via method Y, then you should use method Y.
C1: If you want to learn about nature, then you should use the scientific method. (P1, P3)
C2: We should use the scientific method. (P2, C1)
The problem is P3, which introduces an ought as a premise. There's also a subtler problem with P2. This is in essence a value claim: we value understanding nature. If somebody wanted to challenge this premise, claiming that we have no reason to value such understanding, it may be impossible to justify this value without an ought statement and appeal to further values. For instance:
P1: Understanding nature allows us to lead happier lives.
P2: If something leads allows us to lead happier lives, then we should value it.
C1: We should value understanding nature.
We might claim understanding nature as a basic premise, one without any need for further justification. In that case, however, we will likely be unable to persuade anybody who does not value understanding science that they should do so. They merely reject P2 and substitute something else. For instance:
P1: Accepting the literal truth of the Bible requires rejecting findings that rest on the scientific method.
P2: Accepting the literal truth of the Bible is the only way to attain eternal happiness in Heaven.
P3: If something is necessary to attain eternal happiness in Heaven, we should accept it.
C1: We should accept the literal truth of the Bible (P3, P2)
C2: We should reject findings that rest on the scientific method (P1, C1)
Of course, at some point we have to take certain things as given, and we might reject that we are at all interested in being persuasive. Personally, I am happy to accept the value of understanding nature, and that the scientific method is the best way to do this, and that we should follow it as a result. Perhaps I am missing something, but my intuition tells me that certain evaluative statements must be accepted as fundamental to get anywhere with ought statements generally.
RE: Ethics more generally:
I take ethics as seeking to answer two basic questions. First, what should we value? Second, what is the best way to go about living in light of these values? I question whether or not something like "we should value understanding nature" can be taken as an objective fact about the universe. It might be taken as a fact about human nature or the human experience (a sort of phenomenological fact). Alternatively, it might be possible to root this claim in some other value claim. Perhaps understanding nature increases human happiness, and it is a fact about human nature that "we should value happiness," or maybe it is just that "we do value happiness, whether we should or not". In any case, figuring out values is only the first half of the story, the second half is proposing what should be done given certain values. We might justify, say, utilitarianism by something like:
P1: Humans value human happiness.
P2: The system known as Utilitarianism is the system most compatible with the value of human happiness.
P3: If a system X is the system most compatible with value Y, then those who have value Y should accept system X.
C1: If humans value happiness, then they should accept utilitarianism. (P3, P2)
C2: Humans should accept utilitarianism. (P1, C1)
(Of course, each of the premises could be justified more carefully, and utilitarianism is not monolithic, but the example is illustrative). Can the objective and subjective be cleanly separated? Perhaps not, but we may still be able to reach some kind of truth, whether it be about rational beings in general (which could probably be defined with greater precision) or about human beings in general, or just about some human beings (or just about me, which isn't very exciting, but maybe it's still healthy or good to know what I value and want).
RE: the analytics: my investigations of the analytic school have not been very thorough as of yet. At some point, I'll dive deep, but for now I'm mostly busy with the essential tasks of life (and recently, I've been spending disproportionate free time here). Regrettably, I'm not familiar enough with Quine to really comment on his ideas.
RE: pre-analytics: I wouldn't say the earlier philosophies are incoherent, though I disagree with much of the metaphysics. I've read a bit of Spinoza, for instance, and his claims are not so much incoherent as just implausible. He tries to argue deductively from a set of premises that I am prepared in advance to reject. Whether his deductions are valid from there is admittedly not always clear. We can charitably grant that his metaphysics is deductively valid without accepting it, though, and without thinking that it has any plausible bearing on the real world. Ultimately, the great tragedy of the rationalists was their commitment to avoiding induction, and their accompanying belief that they could deduce the ultimate nature of reality without ever actually examining it.
Re: grey: Grey is a good color. I know that even now, perhaps subconsciously, I am committed to some variety of ideological positions. In my past, though, I have believed my fair share of things to be irrefutable, which I now recognize to be rather silly. To think that I have now figured it all out would be awfully hubristic, but I would like to think my thinking is becoming more reasonable over time.
𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 17:45, 26 April 2021 (UTC)
RE 'Is-Ought':
My point was that, what distinguishes 'is' from 'ought' is a matter of degree —not kind. The 'is' can also — be or imply — an 'ought'. I then proceeded to provide some examples of this. One of my examples (which you used) was "if we want to learn about nature, we ought to use the scientific method"; in this example I aimed to highlight the following:
  1. The scientific method assumes methodological naturalism i.e. it only investigates nature (no supernatural entities, processes, or causes).
  2. "If we want to learn about nature" was intended to have a conditional structure (if-then): I wasn't saying that we want to learn about nature, just that "if we want to learn then". Also, my argument was meant to be in the indicative mood since its content was based on contingent facts about the scientific method.
  3. The scientific method is one way of "learning about nature". NB: I would agree, as per my naturalism, that the scientific method is the best way to learn about nature.
  4. The scientific method gathers data about the 'is' side of the distinction.
  5. To learn about nature you have to do certain valid things i.e. use the scientific method OR an alternative valid method. Corollary 4.1: To learn about nature you can't do things that are the negations of (4), that is, you can't use telepathy Or soothsaying Or witchcraft ... etc., to learn about nature.
  6. The 'is' (consists of AND implies) an 'ought': the data consists of an 'ought' because it reinforces OR causes certain beliefs (and not others) — and behaviour that conforms to those "beliefs" (and not others). These "beliefs" must be at least be partially adequate to nature i.e. beliefs that are at least approximately true of reality. If it didn't reinforce OR cause certain — beliefs and behavioural conformity (and not others) — humanity wouldn't have survived! Even the biblical literalist must have, at least, some beliefs that are partially adequate to nature. If the 'is' wasn't suffused, even a little, with 'ought' then there would be little chance of evolutionary success i.e. the ideas and theories of man would be random, and have little traction with the data.

The ought arises from the 'is' due to the consistent association of (the scientific method with sound information about nature -- about what is)

For the moment this is all I can muster. I want to return, however, to the argument form you presented, since I would like to make some adjustments ... I'm still working out what those "adjustments" would look like though. I've been struggling to think clearly today, so I apologise for my incomplete offering.

Informal argument[edit]

P1: The scientific method provides information about what 'is' in nature [Ec (Ic)]
P2: Some subset of what 'is' (i.e. I'm not asserting that all that 'is' contains or implies an ought) causally reinforces some behaviour more than other behaviour. [Ez (Ey) (zCt))]
P3: In particular this "subset of what 'is'" reinforces behaviour associated with the scientific method more than other behaviour such as soothsaying [Ey Ey (cCy)]
P4: In the long run, the result of this reinforcement is that, if the condition (we want to learn about nature) is satisfied, then there will be a general expectation that the scientific method will cause the conditions' fulfilment [Ex (Fx ⊃ Gx)], more so than other methods AND in the long run the consistent fulfilment of this expectation increases the strength of the inductive argument, for the scientific method being the best method for learning about nature.
P5 The strength of this expectation AND the strength of the inductive argument for the scientific method, causes a strong incentive or "pull" towards the scientific method over other methods.
P7: Natural selection causes humans to have a stronger drive towards certain behaviours over others; these "behaviours", that we have a stronger drive towards, become our norms.
P8: To be adequate to nature is to be adaptive to our environment
P9: Natural selection causes us to develop suitable means to the following end: being suitably adapted to our environment, being adequate to nature.
P10: Humans are driven by instinct to (want, value, desire, etc) continuing to (exist, propagate our genes to future generations etc.). There is no question of ultimate value; there is only the question of having suitable means to the general end — survival — and this is caused by instinct and deterministic processes.
P11: The normative supervenes on the non-normative: there is no difference in the normative without a corresponding difference in the non-normative.

you should use the scientific method since, in comparison with other methods, the expectation that it will provide us with sound information about nature has been reinforced more. The ought arises due to the expectation that (not using the scientific method) i.e. using soothsaying is more likely to lead to something negative viz. not providing info about nature. it warns us of this.

LeucippusTalk 22:03, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

AI and suffering[edit]

While there would likely be ethical concerns, in your opinion would it be objectionable to create an AI that can at least feel emotional pain and suffering, so as to allow it a greater capacity of empathy with humans? If not, why not? ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 01:41, 30 April 2021 (UTC)

@GrammarCommie (I ended up writing more than I expected, so I've bolded some of the more relevant parts; they aren't yelling.) That's a tricky question. I would say that, prima facie, it is wrong to deliberately create in a being a capacity to suffer that it would not otherwise have. However, I am also sympathetic to the view that, prima facie, it is good to create in an AI the capacity to empathize with humans. In a sense, this is like my example of the vaccination. Getting the shot is painful, but the immunity provided is so good that it outweighs the suffering caused by that pain, even when the risk of getting the disease in question is low. Considering the ways AI currently interacts with people, I think I would have to say that, all-things-considered, the capacity for empathy is likely to outweigh the suffering. Something that I wonder about, though, is whether the empathy could be achieved without the capacity for suffering. If it were discovered to be possible to make an AI that has an adequate capacity to empathize with humans without having a capacity to suffer, I would say that it should not be given the capacity to suffer. If it must be given the capacity to suffer, then it should be given the minimum capacity possible.
One point that sometimes comes up in discussions of the problem of evil is that it seems like God could have created people to have free will, but a strong disposition toward the Good. Following the same idea, it seems at least plausible that an AI could be created that would have a strong empathetic disposition without needing to suffer to develop it. This, of course, raises further questions. It strikes at the heart of what empathy is, and what is necessary for it. It also raises questions like: If we have the ability to create an AI that can empathize with people by giving it the capacity to suffer, but we expect that at some future point, we will be able to create an AI that can empathize equally well without suffering, can we ethically create the AI we can make now? Is it possible to have a painless deterrent?
One further question, that occurred to me while I was writing this, is whether we can justify creating an AI that can suffer if it will have the capacity to greatly reduce human suffering. I have mixed feelings about this. The utilitarian in me wants to say "yes, maximize utility". However, there is another part of me that thinks "One cannot justify bringing a being into a world of suffering by the fact that its existence will make others happier". This line of reasoning is easier to reach if you think only about people. In my reply to Alyssa, I brought up ethical fixed points; even if we could increase net happiness by enslaving some people, I still think it would be wrong to do so. It feels a bit hypocritical to say that "we cannot make some people miserable to make others happier, but we can create an AI that suffers in order to make others happier". I can't easily grant that it matters how much the AI will increase net happiness, because then, to be consistent, I think I would have to say that slavery would be ok so long as it increased net happiness enough. This is a point Rawls brings up in criticizing utilitarianism; in the original position, people wouldn't agree to set up a utilitarian society, because the organization with the most total utility might have some people living in utter depravity, who aren't compensated for their suffering by the good it brings others. On the other hand, each individual who can suffer has some moral standing, and must be taken into account.
I would say that these questions need to be considered: Is a capacity for empathy necessary for the AI to perform its function? If it is not necessary, would a capacity for empathy substantially improve the AI's ability to perform its function? Is it possible to give the AI the ability to empathize without giving it the capacity to suffer? If this is not possible, is there a reasonable expectation that it will be possible in the near future?
I feel I'm ranting at this point, but one final thing that occurs to me, is what other capacities the AI might be given. If the suffering AI is created in such a way that, if given the choice, it would prefer to exist as it is than not to exist at all, then that seems to help in justifying its capacity to suffer. In summary, I suppose my answer to your question is that it is conditionally non-objectionable to create an AI that suffers to empathize. 𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 02:23, 30 April 2021 (UTC)
An interesting answer, one which has given me food for thought. So, in short, the best sort of answer or opinion. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 02:40, 30 April 2021 (UTC)


You have two accounts.

Sock puppet.jpg This user is an announced sockpuppet of Serene

Kevs Ping! 08:32, 5 May 2021 (UTC)

Indeed, ever since I found my old password. 𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 12:39, 5 May 2021 (UTC)

Thank You[edit]

I just wanted to thank you for your contributions for the draft for the modal logic page I been working on. Just so you know that I noticed you and appreciate your edits. -Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 06:04, 6 April 2022 (UTC)

Kazitor's page[edit]

Hey Serene, Is there a reason you would want to allow some anonymous user to edit a registered LANCB editor? I was reverting to return the page to the state it was when Kazitor left. Am I missing something? --Bertrc (talk) 20:53, 3 May 2022 (UTC)

The BoN is Kazitor. He came back to adjust the archiver. At the time, his account was unblocked, but he refused to edit with it. 𝒮𝑒𝓇𝑒𝓃𝑒 talk 20:55, 3 May 2022 (UTC)
D'oh!! Sorry, I did not realize that. I thought somebody was just removing the rant. (And sorry, Kazitor . . . although you could have at least signed your edit description! :-P~ ;-) ) --Bertrc (talk) 13:08, 4 May 2022 (UTC)


Super minor, thanks for the help with that anarchism article. The only reason I didn't do a more in depth edit is because I didn't have the time to pick and choose what parts of that to keep, just that the edit that person made was unwarranted and had to be reversed. Thank you. ---Ozzyboo (talk) 21:58, 15 September 2022 (UTC)


Heh, I figure that my posts are difficult enough to follow, as is, given the verbosity I fail to edit out! [Note 1] :-P~ ;-) --Bertrc (talk) 21:03, 20 May 2022 (UTC)

  1. Can you imagine how much more incomprehensible I would become if I included every nuance and random thought that I feel needs to be put out there?! :-D


Nominated you for mod. GeeJayKWhere all evil dwells Where every lie is true 20:46, 5 November 2023 (UTC)