Saturday, February 5, 2011

Against Moore

So I was reading this, and then this, and then this, etc. Having spent most of my academic career (and now career) in male-dominated fields, I'm well aware of many of these gender issues. The problem is probably intractable until we reach a post-gender society where reproduction is either unnecessary or controlled by the state.

My issue is with philosophy. (Still.) And particularly Moore:
... it would be better for a beautiful planet to exist than an ugly one even if there were no one around to see it ...
 Let's replace beautiful/ugly and better/worse with positive/negative (gets us away from that whole gender morass). It would be more positive for a positive planet to exist than a negative one even if there were no one around to see it. The first half is a tautology; the second half states the tautology is true (duh) regardless of the existence of a choice function and hence independent of the axiom of choice. But definitions are independent of the axiom of choice. That I am unable to select a planet from a set does not mean given a planet and a function that assigns each planet onto the set {-1, +1} I can't find its image in that space.

It would be interesting if Moore considered the consequences of the axiom of choice, whether we can see it or not does have an effect in mathematics (and quantum mechanics, depending on who you talk to). But usually weird ones, like the Banach-Tarski paradox.

And this:
It's raining but I don't believe that it is raining
Under most circumstances, I believe this means the speaker is surprised it is raining. It is an emotional utterance; it is not weird or nonsensical in any way. People do not contain within them fully consistent sets of heuristics.  Supposedly Wittgenstein considered this Moore's greatest contribution to philosophy. This is another example of the fallacy of the preeminence of human thought that philosophy falls for so often.