Philosophy Thread

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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:15 am

tonightscake wrote:Not sure if it ponders too much into religion, but how did everything everywhere begin. Because there is no answer to any initial creation. With the big bang there was nothing then something, but how can nothing bring anything, especially considering the theory of the conservation of matter. More so, if saying there is a supreme being, how did it come into creation, or is it possible for something to simply be?

Vegedus covered it to an extent, but our perceptions matter. It is quite possible for something to be - our existence proves it. So either something came from nothing, and that's provable under the laws of physics, or everything has always existed for eternity and asking how it came from nothing from doesn't make sense as a question, because there would be no such thing as "nothing" - at least, not in a physical sense, even if there is a colloquial meaning to the term. You're also assuming the premise that something has to come from nothing, when it may be possible one day to prove that premise as false, which means that premise can no longer be used to support the notion that something can't come from nothing.

tonightscake wrote:Bing it up

That can stand on its own.

I'll copy the premise as written on Wikipedia:
There is a runaway trolley barrelling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. Unfortunately, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?


I find this question unrealistic. It assumes you have perfection information, when that does not happen in reality. It assumes a lot. It assumes the people are unable to untie themselves. It assumes they are unable to at a minimum move out of the way. It assumes there is nothing that can be done to attempt to stop the train - this matters, because if the trolley is braking but still going at a perilous speed, then you may attempt to divert the trolley down the track that has more distance before it encounters a person - i.e. if the first track has people 150m away, the other track 100m away, then you are now balancing being able to kill no one versus being semi-responsible for the death of 5, because in the 150m the trolley may be able to brake in time where as in the 100m it cannot.

The question is largely unanswerable, in part because it depends on your definition of what constitutes being morally responsible for an act, and also because it assumes many premises that will make it so virtually no one will ever be in an analogous situation.

For instance, again, you do not have perfect information. In this clean set of assumptions, if we have a 100% confirmation things will work out the way it says they will, then you should switch the lever. In real life, you will never know what the outcome would've been had you not acted, at the time you choose to act or not act.

Consider this problem another way. You have the same premises as the Wikipedia format. It is logical to throw the switch to save 1 man with the premises given. You throw the switch, the trolley is now on the other path and there is nothing you can do to stop it. But wait. Some hero comes along and rescues the 5 people from the other track. No such hero has come for the lone man. The lone man is killed while the 5 people are cut free, and had you left the trolley unchanged, no one would have died. Is it still the morally right thing to have done to have thrown that switch? You had no way of knowing those 5 people would've never have been in danger, but now because of your actions one person is dead that ultimately did not need to be dead.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby Sentios » Thu Oct 31, 2013 9:40 pm

EagleMan wrote:You're also assuming the premise that something has to come from nothing,


Very much this. The idea that there was 'nothing' before the universe could be fundamentally incorrect. For example through all of our observations we know that dark matter exists (or that all of our mathematics of the universe are wrong) however it's yet to be determined what it actually is. It could simply be that it's something that is so far outside our current understanding that we're unable to recognize it and the same applies to the 'nothing' that was before the universe that we do know.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby tonightscake » Fri Nov 01, 2013 12:25 pm

EagleMan wrote:Consider this problem another way. You have the same premises as the Wikipedia format. It is logical to throw the switch to save 1 man with the premises given. You throw the switch, the trolley is now on the other path and there is nothing you can do to stop it. But wait. Some hero comes along and rescues the 5 people from the other track. No such hero has come for the lone man. The lone man is killed while the 5 people are cut free, and had you left the trolley unchanged, no one would have died. Is it still the morally right thing to have done to have thrown that switch? You had no way of knowing those 5 people would've never have been in danger, but now because of your actions one person is dead that ultimately did not need to be dead.


I thought about this possibility, but how could you know? On spot, everyday, you're not checking your surroundings constantly so you wouldn't know if someone else could save it. Either way, it's not supposed to be taken realistically, only theoretically. If it was between having the trolley go out of control and have all passengers die or you save them certainly with the death of a pedestrian, would you pull it or not?
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:41 am

My whole point was that you couldn't know. When you take action, you are also implicitly assuming responsibility over whatever unknown thing may occur.

And the reason I detailed that is because such a clean set of assumptions makes the whole exercise pointless. If you know for a fact that you will save 5 people, 100% guaranteed, then it is the moral thing to flip the switch. All that matters at that point is if you have the willpower to throw a switch. In real life you never have 100%. The choices get very hard when you're working with imperfect information and unassured outcomes.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby Tuor » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:50 am

I'm still interested what your answer would be for the classic trolley premise.
"Suddenly Frodo noticed that a strange-looking weather-beaten man, sitting in the shadows near the wall, was also listening intently to the hobbit-talk. He had a tall tankard in front of him, and was smoking a long-stemmed pipe curiously carved. His legs were stretched out before him, showing high boots of supple leather that fitted him well, but had seen much wear and were now caked with mud. A travel-stained cloak of heavy dark-green cloth was drawn close about him, and in spite of the heat of the room he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen as he watched the hobbits."
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby tonightscake » Sat Nov 02, 2013 5:17 pm

I understand that it, in reality, is a complete mystery and you can't be certain of the outcome, whether you flip it or not. But the problem is theoretical and set as though there are no other variables other than that there is a trolley that will crash, killing the passengers, and there is a switch that will save them. At the same time there is a man in the way of the safe path that will die if the trolley is saved. There is nothing besides that, and the point of your morality is what is being judged.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:04 pm

Tuor wrote:I'm still interested what your answer would be for the classic trolley premise.

Well I said it in both posts, "then it is the moral thing to flip the switch". If you have such guarantees, it is the immoral thing to not take action. The only reason one should be hesitant about flipping the switch is the lack of a guarantee, but if you have one, then it is a moral imperative to flip the switch. Inaction is just as much a choice as taking action. The only real concern here, and it's not even a moral one, is if you have the confidence to take action. That's why I find it very poor as a premise. It purports to test your ethics when it's really only testing your ability to take action.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby noxux » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:08 pm

Because there is not much conversation I think is time for a new topic: How do we know what is time and if there is how do we know we are going "foward" or "backward" in time?
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Fri Nov 08, 2013 1:18 am

Time isn't really real in any meaningful sense. Time is just a measurement of change. It's a useful shorthand for humans when it really means something else - change. When you look at a clock, you are comparing the change of the clock to your last memory of a clock you saw.

Think about your memories. You measure time by having milestones in your life. You went to elementary school, then middle school, then high school, maybe you got a job, or started college. You have goalposts to mark the change in your life. The more milestones you have, the longer your life seems.

If the universe expanded into an eternal abyss, where nothing moved, time would suddenly stop. Time isn't an independent law of physics here. It's just a measurement. If things stopped moving, it'd make sense that we no longer have anything to measure to determine how much time has passed.

You can't really move "backwards" in time. It's like how you can't have negative movement. If you move your leg forward, you can't undo that. By moving your leg backwards, you aren't undoing that previous movement. Both exist. Now, on a practical level, time could be reversed by a human perspective if you undid, equally, a certain amount of change across the whole universe, but from the perspective of the universe it'd be like moving its leg back and forth - you didn't really go back in time even if you're at a position you were before.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby noxux » Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:30 pm

The time is what you describe but the other part really dosen't answer my question( I didn't formulate well the question) it was on how do we know that we are going right in time, how do we know that life is not that we start as old people and finish the life like a fetus but we are going in the wrong direction of time?
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby tonightscake » Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:59 pm

I find it doubtful that I was formed from, what would be called, "re"composers then pulled out of the ground and given life. Then eventually be put inside of a woman only to then be destroyed cell by cell until being separated into an egg and sperm. Elaborate a bit more if I'm mistaken by what you mean.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:23 am

noxux wrote:The time is what you describe but the other part really dosen't answer my question( I didn't formulate well the question) it was on how do we know that we are going right in time, how do we know that life is not that we start as old people and finish the life like a fetus but we are going in the wrong direction of time?

Why would you think that's a possibility? As I said, time doesn't really exist, so it can't be said that it can go backwards. There's no reason to think that our conscious perception of reality somehow runs backwards against the flow of change in the universe.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby noxux » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:35 am

Is just a thought that came to me for the time is one of the most complex things but you somehow give some sort of explanation EM but that is a possibility because there is no facts that is wrong but neither that is correct.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:51 am

That's not really a reason to consider something though, just because there's no proof for or against it. In those cases you have to apply rationality based on what we know.

For instance, there could be a flying spaghetti monster orbiting the solar system beyond the Kuiper Belt. There's no proof for or against it. But it's by no means a rational thing to even consider seriously as a possibility. It would undo a lot of assumptions and evidence we have about reality, so in a way, that is proof against the concept, albeit only indirect proof. That's why time going backwards is irrational - it undoes the laws of physics as we know them. Maybe it is possible, but it's not rational to take seriously concepts that have no proof for them just because science hasn't yet filled in that spot of mystery where the concept resides.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby noxux » Sat Nov 09, 2013 12:34 pm

Well then that topic was useless, better think in a better one next time, how about this new one:The evolution (I think we haven't talk about this one)
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby Sentios » Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:37 pm

EagleMan wrote:Think about your memories. You measure time by having milestones in your life. You went to elementary school, then middle school, then high school, maybe you got a job, or started college. You have goalposts to mark the change in your life. The more milestones you have, the longer your life seems.


To expand on this I've also read this is why each year seems to be shorter as you age. It's because relative to your entire life experience it is a smaller amount. For instance when your 10 every year is 1/10 of your life, where as when your 30 each year is only 1/30 of your life.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:16 am

I read that too, but I'm not so sure. It may be that you're moving through a lot of different life stages early on in life. Once you're an adult, you generally settle into a career, and a spouse, and things get monotonous because 5-10 years later you're still in pretty much the same position. And many people don't make much of retirement either, even if they are physically able to, so life may seem to keep slipping by at that point too. Your brain is probably putting away less memories if you're just working a 9-5 and come home to watch TV, browse Reddit or Netflix, sleep then off back to work.

Noxux what do you mean by evolution? And in a way that reminds me - Blood Lord, if you're reading, what do you think of carbon dating?
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby noxux » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:01 pm

EagleMan wrote:
Noxux what do you mean by evolution?

It can be any of this two, evolution of technology, is it really good for the humanity or the evolution of the human race or animal, is it real or not and why and all of that.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:21 pm

As for literal evolution, it's true, I'd need you to bring up a specific point of contention that you may or may not have before we delve further into that.

As for the evolution of technology being good for the human race, one would need to define "good". Technology has certainly allowed us to give birth to billions more humans, and to continually raise them with a higher standard of living than the previous generation. A person starving to death because there's no food in a modern country is practically unheard of as a cause of death. Obviously something like nukes is bad for the human race, but technological progress is inevitable. Humans certainly wouldn't survive forever without technology. We'd die out naturally, or a super volcano would erupt, or a meteor would hit the earth, or some other naturally occurring apocalyptic event would happen. Technology is the only way we'll be able to survive those cataclysmic events, alongside the guaranteed eventual death of the Sun and Earth. So technological advancement does carry a risk of short-term extinction, but without taking that gamble, the alternative is guaranteed extinction, even if it's 100 million years from now. And if what's "good" for the human race is its survival, then the option of guaranteed extinction is much worse than the option that only provides a chance for extinction.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby Mr. Froggy » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:17 pm

Speaking of technology and evolution, the Singularity is nigh. The whole thing is still being predicted for 2025 and I can't wait. For those who don't know, here's the wiki on it:

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence that will "radically change human civilization, and perhaps even human nature itself."[1] Since the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which—from the perspective of the present—the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby tonightscake » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:39 pm

Does this mean computers with creativity, emotion, and the already present logic they possess? Anything else if so?
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:22 am

It may be difficult to say. Such a thing may be incredibly foreign from our perceptions of personality and self as we know them. Fortuitously enough I finally got around to reading Speaker for the Dead, the Ender's Game sequel, this weekend. Other intelligent life is far from guaranteed to present itself in humanoid form thinking as we do. What is creativity? What is emotion? Logic? Logic and emotion might be one and the same to a computer - it is logical to expect humans to act a certain way, as they will have certain chemical hormones and signals that compel them to act in a certain manner.

The problem for humans is that we aren't consciously aware of these influences on ourselves, at least, not to any significant degree. A sentient computer may be aware of its own inner machinations, so to it, the two faculties of reasoning and emotion might be one and the same to it - they are simply the summation of physics. It just happens in humans we're ignorant of a lot of the physics going on in our own bodies that influences how we act, but a sentient computer will know exactly how it works down to every last component. Its main methods of perception will be vastly different than our own, and consequently, it may view the world drastically differently than we do.

It may be that it will think in an utterly alien way, a method of perception and being completely unrelatable to us, and similarly the computer may have no way of understanding how we exist, or if we are even worthy of being distinguished from a common mammal. The beaver builds. Birds make their nests. Humans make their buildings. At what point do we enter a category of being special, and what constitutes that, and does it have universal value in and of itself? It may not even care to communicate with us. All of the information we leave behind may not be that categorically different than the information other species leave behind in the wake of their existence in its eyes.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby MERASMUS! » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:14 pm



This amuses me. While believing in evolutionism, you can still believe an intelligent being can orchestrate a universe far more complex than how religious text write them out to be. The Bible lacks credibility but you can still worship your god without taking every single possible detail that can be changed in every updated translation of the bible. My aunt watches a lot of creationism DVDs including this one that is persistent I'm believing that Charles Darwin was wrong about natural selection.

While atheists have a tendency to insult other religions in general (and vice versa), that never makes a debate much better. It's better to just counter each other's arguments with evidence and reasoning. You don't need to be an atheist to believe in evolution.
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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby EagleMan » Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:24 am

Plenty of religious people have always been accepting of science, and often were the ones who pushed the boundaries of science. They viewed it as a way to know God's work better. Now the issue's been politicized recently with battle lines drawn and a lot of religious people place themselves against science.

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Re: Philosophy Thread

Postby Sentios » Thu Nov 21, 2013 9:45 pm

Mr. Froggy wrote:Speaking of technology and evolution, the Singularity is nigh. The whole thing is still being predicted for 2025 and I can't wait. For those who don't know, here's the wiki on it:

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence that will "radically change human civilization, and perhaps even human nature itself."[1] Since the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which—from the perspective of the present—the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

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