Archives

This is a collection of old blog posts of mine. I often disagree with the views of my past self, so don't take their existence here as an endorsement.

2018

Disagreeing with content and disagreeing with connotations

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It’s possible to agree with the content of a piece of writing but but to think that the conclusions that many readers might draw from it are wrong. I think it’s useful to distinguish between these before criticizing the writing of others.

2017

Impossibility reasoning

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It’s typical to teach and use sequential reasoning, but all sequential arguments can be reforumalted as impossibility results. Thinking and presenting arguments in terms of impossibility results rather than sequential arguments can be more fruitful than sequential reasoning.

Keep others’ identities small

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I really like Paul Graham’s advice to “keep your identity small” - to avoid making groups or positions part of your identity if you want to remain unbiased. But I often want to add to it “and keep other people’s identity small too”.

Infinity and the problem of evil

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Some fictional dialogues in which I explore whether God should create all good worlds and how this relates to the problem of evil.

Transmitting credences and transmitting evidence

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There is a longstanding debate about whether deliberation prevents us from making any predictions about actions. In this post I will argue for a weaker thesis, namely that deliberation limits our ability to predict actions.

Against jargon

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It’s sometimes useful to introduce new terms into discourse, but new terms can increase communication efficiency but at the cost of accessibility and sometimes precision. In this post I outline the pros and cons of introducing new, domain-specific terms.

Some noise on signaling

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I ask what signaling is and argue that it’s a bad idea to simply accuse people of “signaling” because signaling can mean a lot of things. I also argue that not all signaling is bad.

2016

Vegetarianism, abortion, and moral empathy

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When people disagree about moral issues, they often fail to treat the moral beliefs of those that they disagree with as genuine moral beliefs. They instead they treat them like mere whims or mild preferences. This shows a lack of what I call moral empathy. I argue that lacking moral empathy can be harmful and can prevent fruitful discussion on divisive topics.

Can we offset immorality?

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People offset bad actions in various ways. The most salient example of this is probably carbon offsetting, where we pay a company to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by roughly the same amount that we put in. But there are arguably more mundane examples of acts that are intended to offset immoral behavior. In this post I ask what moral offsetting is and whether it is something we should be in favor of.

2015

Prison is no more humane than flogging

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Many people believe that corporal punishmenthas no place in a modern criminal justice system. Imprisonment is seen as a more humane form of punishment, and it is one that is employed in most modern criminal justice systems. In this post I ask why we think that imprisonment is humane while corporal punishment is not. I think this should cause us to question the ethics of imprisoning people.

Is the born this way message homophobic?

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The message of “born this way“ is that your sexual orientation is something you’re born with rather than something you choose. This is considered an important point in the justification of gay rights. I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, but I realised just over a year ago that something about this slogan didn’t sit right with me. I’m now pretty confident that basing gay rights on the “born this way“ message can be pretty harmful to LGBT people and other oppressed groups.

2012