Claim Ownership


Subscribed: 0Played: 0


#39 - The Enigma of Reason

#39 - The Enigma of Reason


The most reasonable and well-reasoned discussion of reason you can be reasonably expected to hear. Today we talk about the book The Enigma of Reason by Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier. But first, get ready for dogs, modern art, and babies! *We discuss * - Reason as a social phenomenon - The two roles of reason: To justify our actions, and to evaluate the reasons of others - Reason as module of inference, and how that contrasts with dual-process theories - The "intellectualist" vs the "interactionist" approach to reason - Nassim Taleb's notion of "skin in the game" - The consequences of reason having evolved in a particular (social) niche - The marshmallow test and other debunked psychological findings Quotes: The interactionist approach, on the other hand, makes two contrasting predictions. In the production of arguments, we should be biased and lazy; in the evaluation of arguments, we should be demanding and objective— demanding so as not to be deceived by poor or fallacious arguments into accepting false ideas, objective so as to be ready to revise our ideas when presented with good reasons why we should. EoR (pg. 332) In our interactionist approach, the normal conditions for the use of reasoning are social, and more specifically dialogic. Outside of this environment, there is no guarantee that reasoning acts for the benefits of the reasoner. It might lead to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This does not mean reasoning is broken, simply that it has been taken out of its normal conditions. EoR (pg. 247) References Dan Sperber's talk ( at the Santa Fe Institute Image credit: Social media everywhere Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Check us out on youtube at Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Send a reason, any reason, any reason at all, to
We cover the spicy showdown between the two of the world's most headstrong philosophers: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. In a dingy Cambridge classroom Wittgenstein once threatened Popper with a fireplace poker. What led to the disagreement? In this episode, we continue with the Conjectures and Refutations series by analyzing Chapter 2: The Nature of Philosophical Problems And Their Roots In Science, where Popper outlines his agreements and disagreements with Mr. Ludwig Wittgenstein. We discuss: - Are there philosophical problems? - Why are scientific disciplines divided as they are? - How much of philosophy is meaningless pseudo-babble? (Hint: Not none) - Wittgenstein's background and feud between him and Popper - Wittgenstein 1 and 2 (pre and post Tractatus) - The danger of philosophical inbreeding - Two of Popper's examples of philosophical problems: 1. Plato and the Crisis in Early Greek Atomism 2. Immanuel Kant's Problem of Knowledge. - Musica universalis - The Problem of Change - How is knowledge possible? Quotes My first thesis is that every philosophy, and especially every philosophical ‘school’, is liable to degenerate in such a way that its problems become practically indistinguishable from pseudo-problems, and its cant, accordingly, practically indistinguishable from meaningless babble. This, I shall try to show, is a consequence of philosophical inbreeding. The degeneration of philosophical schools in its turn is the consequence of the mistaken belief that one can philosophize without having been compelled to philosophize by problems which arise outside philosophy—in mathematics, for example, or in cosmology, or in politics, or in religion, or in social life. In other words my first thesis is this. Genuine philosophical problems are always rooted in urgent problems outside philosophy, and they die if these roots decay. C&R p.95 His question, we now know, or believe we know, should have been: ‘How are successful conjectures possible?’ And our answer, in the spirit of his Copernican Revolution, might, I suggest, be something like this: Because, as you said, we are not passive receptors of sense data, but active organisms. Because we react to our environment not always merely instinctively, but sometimes consciously and freely. Because we can invent myths, stories, theories; because we have a thirst for explanation, an insatiable curiosity, a wish to know. Because we not only invent stories and theories, but try them out and see whether they work and how they work. Because by a great effort, by trying hard and making many mistakes, we may sometimes, if we are lucky, succeed in hitting upon a story, an explanation, which ‘saves the phenomena’; perhaps by making up a myth about ‘invisibles’, such as atoms or gravitational forces, which explain the visible. Because knowledge is an adventure of ideas. C&R p.128 If you were to threaten us with a common household object, what would it be? Tell us at, or on twitter: @VadenMasrani, @BennyChugg, @IncrementsPod.
We're joined today by Matt Bateman, one of the founders of Higher Ground Education, to discuss the Montessori method of education and how it compares to other teaching methodologies. Get ready for tiny furniture, putting on your jacket upside down, and teaching your toddler to make eggs benedict. We discuss: Maria Montessori What is a Montessori education (besides tiny furniture)? How Montessori classrooms differ from regular ones Why long periods of interrupted problem solving is important for a child's development How Montessori integrates with technology Drawbacks of traditional methods of testing and grading, and how they might be amended The importance of cultivating a love of work How Matt wants to reform high school education Bio: Matt is one of the founders of Higher Ground Education (, a worldwide Montessori network. He runs Montessorium, Higher Ground’s think tank. He holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, where he focused on the philosophy of science. Make sure to follow him on twitter ( for some golden education nuggets References: Matt on the Where We Go Next ( (formerly New Liberals) podcast. Montessorium ( Vocational Training for the Soul: Bringing the Meaning of Work to Schools ( Matt's History of Education Course ( Social media everywhere Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Check us out on youtube at Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Special Guest: Matt Bateman.
In what is hopefully the last installment of Vaden and Ben debate Effective Altruism, we ask if EA lies on the cultishness (yes, that's a word) spectrum. We discuss: The potential pitfall of having goodness as a core value Aspects of Effective Altruism (EA) that put it on the cultishness spectrum Does EA focus on good over truth? Ben's experience with EA Making criticism a core value How does one resist the allure of groupthink? How to (mis)behave at parties How would one create a movement which doesn't succumb to cult-like dynamics? Weird ideas as junk food Error Correction intro segment - Scott Alexander pointing out that Ivermectin works indirectly via: There’s a reason the most impressive ivermectin studies came from parts of the world where worms are prevalent, he says. Parasites suppress the immune system, making it more difficult for the human body to fight off viruses. Thus, getting rid of worm infections makes it easier for COVID-19 patients to bounce back from the virus. See full post below and summary news article here ( Czechoslovakia was not a part of the USSR @lukeconibear pointing out some climate models and data are publicly available. See for instance Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) Chem model: Community Earth System Model (CESM): Energy Exascale Earth System model: @PRyan pointing out we were confused about the difference between economic growth, division of labour, and free trade Join the movement at Follow us on twitter at @IncrementsPod ( and on Youtube (
Come experience the thrill of the shill as we discuss the somewhat-controversial natural resource called "fossil fuels". In this episode, we drill deep into opto-pessimist Vaclav Smil's excellent book Oil: A Beginner's Guide, in what is possibly our only episode to feature heterodox Russian-Ukrainian science, subterranean sound waves, and that goop lady - what's her name? It's unbelievable, right? We discuss: The science behind fossil fuels: How they're made, found, processed, and used Energy transitions and the shale gas revolution Global oil dependence and human rights The environmental costs of fossil fuels Will we reach Peak Oil? Why natural resources aren't milkshakes The future of fossil fuels (Note to Big Oil: Please send shilling fees to References - Vaclav Smil: We Must Leave Growth Behind ( - Vaclav Smil: Growth must end. Our economist friends don’t seem to realise that ( - Oil: A Beginner's Guide ( - Abiogenic petroleum origin - Wikipedia ( Social media everywhere Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Check us out on youtube at Come join our discord server! DM us on twitter or send us an email to get a supersecret link Quotes Modern life now begins and ends amidst the plethora of plastics whose synthesis began with feedstocks derived from oil - because hospitals teem with them. Surgical gloves, flexible tubing, catheters, IV containers, sterile packaging, trays, basins, bed pans and rails, thermal blankets and lab ware: naturally, you are not aware of these surroundings when a few hours or a few days old, but most of us will become all too painfully aware of them six, seven or eight decades later. And that recital was limited only to common hospital items made of polyvinylchloride; countless other items fashioned from a huge variety of plastics are in our cars, aeroplanes, trains, homes, offices and factories. Oil: A Beginner's Guide, p.10 A free market has not been one of the hallmarks of the 150 years of oil’s commercial history. The oil business has seen repeated efforts to fix product prices by controlling either the level of crude oil extraction or by dominating its transportation and processing, or by monopolizing all of these aspects. The first infamous, and successful, attempt to do so was the establishment of Standard Oil in Cleveland in 1870. The Rockefeller brothers (John D. and William) and their partners used secretive acquisitions and deals with railroad companies to gain the control of oil markets first in Cleveland, then in the Northeast, and eventually throughout the US. By 1904 what was now known as the Standard Oil Trust controlled just over 90% of the country’s crude oil production and 85% of all sales. Oil: A Beginner's Guide, p.32 Photochemical smog was first observed in Los Angeles in the 1940s and its origins were soon traced primarily to automotive emissions. As car use progressed around the world al] major urban areas began to experience seasonal (Toronto, Paris) or near-permanent (Bangkok, Cairo) levels of smog, whose effects range from impaired health (eye irritation, lung problems) to damage to materials, crops and coniferous trees. A recent epidemiological study in California also demonstrated that the lung function of children living within 500m of a freeway was seriously impaired and that this adverse effect (independent of overall regional air quality) could result in significant lung capacity deficits later in life. Extreme smog levels now experienced in Beijing, New Delhi and other major Chinese and Indian cities arise from the combination of automotive traffic and large-scale combustion of coal in electricity-generating plants and are made worse by periodic temperature inversions that limit the depth of the mixing layer and keep the pollutants near the ground. Oil: A Beginner's Guide, p.50
In this episode Ben convinces Vaden to become a degrowther. We plan how to live out the rest of our lives on an organic tomato farm in Canada in December, sewing our own clothes and waxing our own candles. Step away from the thermostat Jimmy. We discuss: - The degrowth movement ( - The basics of economic growth, and why it's good for developing economies in particular - How growth enables resilience in the face of environmental disasters - Why the environment is in better shape than you think - Availability bias and our tendency to think everything is falling apart - The decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions - Energy dense production and energy portfolios And we respond to some of your criticism of the previous episode, including: Apocalyptic environmental predictions been happening for a while? Really? Number of annual cold deaths exceed the number of annual heat deaths? Really? Your previous episode was very human-centric, and failed to address the damage humans are causing to the environment. What say you? Are we right wing crypto-fascists? (Answer: Maybe, successfully dodged the question) Social media everywhere Follow us on Twitter at @IncrementsPod, @BennyChugg, @VadenMasrani Check us out on youtube at Come join our discord server! DM one of us on twitter, or send an email to to get a link References Two natural experiments on curtailing economic growth. Energy Crunch (, and the effect of Covid-19 on developing countries (world bank) ( 10x more cold deaths than heat deaths. Original study ( in the Lancet. Chilling Effect ( by Scott Alexander. Decoupling of economic growth and pollution ( by Zeke Hausfather of the Breakthrough institute. Air Pollution Trends data (EPA) ( Number of deaths from natural disasters ( (Our World in Data). Original data taken from the EMDAT Natural Disasters database ( Increase in global canopy cover ( 99 Good News Stories in 2018 you probably didn't hear about ( ...and 2019 ( ...and 2020 ( (also sign up for the FutureCrunch newsletter!) The Environmental Kuznets curves ( Quotes On Degrowth This would be a way of life based on modest material and energy needs but nevertheless rich in other dimensions – a life of frugal abundance. It is about creating an economy based on sufficiency, knowing how much is enough to live well, and discovering that enough is plenty. In a degrowth society we would aspire to localise our economies as far and as appropriately as possible. This would assist with reducing carbon-intensive global trade, while also building resilience in the face of an uncertain and turbulent future. Wherever possible, we would grow our own organic food, water our gardens with water tanks, and turn our neighbourhoods into edible landscapes as the Cubans have done in Havana. As my friend Adam Grubb so delightfully declares, we should “eat the suburbs”, while supplementing urban agriculture with food from local farmers’ markets. - Samuel Alexander, Life in a 'degrowth' economy, and why you might actually enjoy it ( It would be nice to hear it straight for once. Global warming is real, it’s here, and it’s mind-bogglingly dangerous. How bad it gets—literally, the degree—depends on how quickly the most profligate countries rein in their emissions. Averting catastrophe will thus require places like the United States and Canada to make drastic cutbacks, bringing their consumption more closely in line with the planetary average. Such cuts can be made more or less fairly, and the richest really ought to pay the most, but the crucial thing is that they are made. Because, above all, stopping climate change means giving up on growth. That will be hard. Not only will our standards of living almost certainly drop, but it’s likely that the very quality of our society—equality, safety, and trust—will decline, too. That’s not something to be giddy about, but it’s still a price that those of us living in affluent countries should prepare to pay. Because however difficult it is to slow down, flooding Bangladesh cannot be an option. In other words, we can and should act. It’s just going to hurt. - Daniel Immerwahr, Growth vs the Climate ( On Perennial Apocalypticism My offices were so cold I couldn't concentrate, and my staff were typing with gloves on. I pleaded with Jimmy to set the thermostats at 68 degrees, but it didn't do any good. - Paul Sabin, quoting Rosalynn Carter in The Bet ( Mostafa K. Tolba, executive director of the United Nations environmental program, told delegates that if the nations of the world continued their present policies, they would face by the turn of the century ''an environmental catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible, as any nuclear holocaust.'' - New York Times, 1982 ( A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of "eco-refugees", threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP. He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control." - AP News, 1989 ( On Environmental Conservation It’s not the case that humankind has failed to conserve habitat. By 2019, an area of Earth larger than the whole of Africa was protected, an area that is equivalent to 15 percent of Earth’s land surface. The number of designated protected areas in the world has grown from 9,214 in 1962 to 102,102 in 2003 to 244,869 in 2020. - Michael Shellenburger, Apocalypse Never, p.75 Thanks to habitat protection and targeted conservation efforts, many beloved species have been pulled from the brink of extinction, including albatrosses, condors, manatees, oryxes, pandas, rhinoceroses, Tasmanian devils, and tigers; according to the ecologist Stuart Pimm, the overall rate of extinctions has been reduced by 75 percent. - Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now, p.160 On Environmental Optimism Following China’s ban on ivory last year, 90% of Chinese support it, ivory demand has dropped by almost half, and poaching rates are falling ( in places like Kenya. WWF ( The population of wild tigers in Nepal was found to have nearly doubled in the last nine years, thanks to efforts by conservationists and increased funding for protected areas. Independent ( Deforestation in Indonesia fell by 60%, as a result of a ban on clearing peatlands, new educational campaigns and better law enforcement. Ecowatch ( See the remaining 294 good news stories here (, here (, and here ( Set your thermostats to 68, put those gloves on, and send an email over to
Galileo vs the church - whose side are you on? Today we discuss Chapter 3 of Conjectures and Refutations, Three Views Concerning Human Knowledge. This is a juicy one, as Popper manages to simultaneously attack both philosophers and physicists, as he takes on instrumentalism and essentialism, two alternatives to his 'conjecture and refutation' approach to knowledge. We discuss: The conflict between Galileo and the church What is instrumentalism, and how did it become popular? How instrumentalism is still in vogue in many physics departments The Problem of Universals The essentialist approach to science Stars, air, cells, and lightning "What is" vs "How does" questions The relationship between essentialism and language, and its influence on politics. Viewing words as instruments See More: - Instrumentalism: - Essentialism: - The problem of universals: Quotes: Few if any of the physicists who have now accepted the instrumentalist view of Cardinal Bellarmino and Bishop Berkeley realize that they have accepted a philosophical theory. Nor do they realize that they have broken with the Galilean tradition. On the contrary, most of them think that they have kept clear of philosophy; and most of them no longer care anyway. What they now care about, as physicists, is (a) mastery of the mathematical formalism, i.e. of the instrument, and (b) its applications; and they care for nothing else. -- C&R, Page 134 Thus my criticism of essentialism does not aim at establishing the non-existence of essences; it merely aims at showing the obscurantist character of the role played by the idea of essences in the Galilean philosophy of science (down to Maxwell, who was inclined to believe in them but whose work destroyed this belief). In other words my criticism tries to show that, whether essences exist or not, the belief in them does not help us in any way and indeed is likely to hamper us; so that there is no reason why the scientist should assume their existence. -- C&R, Page 141. But they are more than this, as can be seen from the fact that we submit them to severe tests by trying to deduce from them some of the regularities of the known world of common experience i.e. by trying to explain these regularities. And these attempts to explain the known by the unknown (as I have described them elsewhere) have immeasurably extended the realm of the known. They have added to the facts of our everyday world the invisible air, the antipodes, the circulation of the blood, the worlds of the telescope and the microscope, of electricity, and of tracer atoms showing us in detail the movements of matter within living bodies. All these things are far from being mere instruments: they are witness to the intellectual conquest of our world by our minds. But there is another way of looking at these matters. For some, science is still nothing but glorified plumbing, glorified gadgetmaking—‘mechanics’; very useful, but a danger to true culture, threatening us with the domination of the near-illiterate (of Shakespeare’s ‘mechanicals’). It should never be mentioned in the same breath as literature or the arts or philosophy. Its professed discoveries are mere mechanical inventions, its theories are instruments—gadgets again, or perhaps super-gadgets. It cannot and does not reveal to us new worlds behind our everyday world of appearance; for the physical world is just surface: it has no depth. The world is just what it appears to be. Only the scientific theories are not what they appear to be. A scientific theory neither explains nor describes the world; it is nothing but an instrument. -- C&R, Page 137-8. What's the essential nature of this podcast? Tell us at
After the immensely positive response to our previous episode on the Weinstein brothers - thanks @robertwiblin! - we thought we would keep giving the people what they want, and what they want is a long discussion on climate change. Specifically, the subject for today is: "The State of the Climate Debate". We touch on: The near perfect partisan split on climate change Will there be a climate apocalypse? The promise of nuclear energy as a solution The limitations of renewables Energy portfolios The rebound effect Degrowth economics Activist tactics and fear mongering Whether The Environment has become A Deity in environmentalist circles We expect very little pushback on this episode. References Apocalypse Never ( by Michael Shellenberger. Greta Thunberg encouraging you to panic ( Thunberg's double crossing of the Atlantic in sailboat ( The Rebound Effect ( Quotes But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users. -- Naomi Klein in the Nation ( Even if nuclear power were clean, safe, economic, assured of ample fuel, and socially benign, it would still be unattractive because of the political implications of the kind of energy economy it would lock us into. -- Amory Lovins, quoted from Forbes piece ( by Michael Shellenberger Send us panic-induced email at
Today we take your twitter questions before doing a deep dive into the Weinstein fiasco (Bret and Eric, not Harvey.) If you haven't heard of the Weinstein's before, then we suggest you run away before we drag you down into a rabbit hole filled with acronyms, anti-vaxxers, and theories of ... everything? anything? literally anything at all? Topics we touch: - We take your twitter questions! - Filos with a weird one: ( I have a weird one that could be fun. It seems to me that the idea that we could upload our minds to a computer is nonsense. I agree with Kastrup that what we would upload is a description of our minds and a description of something is not that something. And it seems this desire to immortality is the nerd's reinvention of God via AGI, and heaven via uploading a mind to a silicon substrate. Where do you fall in this mind uploading fantasy? possible? Religious impulse? Reasonable? - Dan would like us to talk about: ( The pervasive skepticism that seems to run through much the Popperian and Crit Rat communities regarding nonhuman animals’ capacity to suffer, particularly factory farmed animals. - Karl is interested in: ( I'm interested in the meta-question of why that issue seems to split the community in two. Why hasn't one view become the dogmatic truth yet as it seems to have in most other communities? - WTF is up with Bret and Eric Weinstein - The allure of reflexive contrarianism - The (horrible! awful! stop it!) tendency of academics to use convoluted language to impress their non-peers - The notion of "secular gurus" and what distinguishes a secular guru from a person with a large platform - And the special responsibility of researchers to communicate clearly. References: Animal Suffering - Bruce Nielson's blog post ( on whether animals experience qualia, and his second ( on animal emotions. We mostly discuss the first. Weinsteins - Eric Weinstein's excellent first appearance ( on Sam Harris's podcast - Geometric Unity website ( - Geometric Unity pdf ( - See Timothy Nguyen on the Wright Show ( and Decoding the Gurus ( for an excellent overview of the whole scandal - ... and check out Timothy Nguyen on Eigenbros ( for a deep dive into the technical nitty-gritty - Norbert Blum's original paper ( purporting to show that P is not equal to NP. - A nice answer ( on Stack Exchange detailing why Blum's proof was wrong. Quotes: Every intellectual has a very special responsibility. He has the privilege and the opportunity of studying. In return, he owes it to his fellow men (or 'to society') to represent the results of his study as simply, clearly and modestly as he can. The worst thing that intellectuals can do - the cardinal sin - is to try to set themselves up as great prophets vis-à-vis their fellow men and to impress them with puzzling philosophies. Anyone who cannot speak simply and clearly should say nothing and continue to work until he can do so. Karl Popper, Against Big Words ( What would you say to your half million twitter followers who want to know your opinion on everything? Tell us at
Christofer Lövgren, host of the marvelous Do Explain ( podcast and world's most famous Swede (second perhaps only to that Alfred fellow with the peace prize), joins us on the pod to teach us how podcasting is really done. And how to pronounce his last name. When we're not all sobbing, we touch on: Does Deutschian epistemology give us with Free Will? Should one identify as a critical rationalist? Does membership in a community, or identification with a label, affect our ability to give and receive criticism? How has reading Deutsch and Popper changed our lives? Can trauma get stored in the body? How often do we cry? Check out Chris on twitter (@ReachChristofer) and Do Subscribe to Do Explain ( References: The Beginning of Infinity ( by David Deutsch Behave ( by Robert Sapolsky Lecture on Depression ( by Sapolsky Do Explain episode ( with Chris and Matt Goldenberg on emotional processing Temple Grandin discussing ( the "black-hat" horse. Body Keeps the Score ( by Bessel van der Kolk Sir Peter Brian Medawar ( whom Richard Dawkins referred to as 'the wittiest of all scientific writers'. Blow your nose, dry your eyes, and send us a tear-stained email at Special Guest: Christofer Lövgren.
We're back! Apologies for the delay, but Vaden got married and Ben was summoned to be an astronaut on the next billionaire's vacation to Venus. This week we're talking about how to forecast the future (with this one simple and easy trick! Astrologers hate them!). Specifically, we're diving into Philip Tetlock's work on Superforecasting ( So what's the deal? Is it possible to "harness the wisdom of the crowd to forecast world events" ( Or is the whole thing just a result of sloppy statistics? We believe the latter is likely to be true with probability 64.9% - no, wait, 66.1%. Intro segment: "The Sentience Debate": The moral value of shrimps, insects, and oysters ( Relevant timestamps: 10:05: "Even if there's only a one in one hundred chance, or one in one thousand chance, that insects are sentient given current information, and if we're killing trillions or quadrillions of insects in ways that are preventable or avoidable or that we can in various ways mitigate that harm... then we should consider that possibility." 25:47: "If you're all going to work on pain in invertebrates, I pity you in many respects... In my previous work, I was used to running experiments and getting a clear answer, and I could say what these animals do and what they don't do. But when I started to think about what they might be feeling, you meet this frustration, that after maybe about 15 years of research, if someone asks me do they feel pain, my answer is 'maybe'... a strong 'maybe'... you cannot discount the possibility." 46:47: "It is not 100% clear to me that plants are non sentient. I do think that animals including insects are much more likely to be sentient than plants are, but I would not have a credence of zero that plants are sentient." 1:01:59: "So the hard problem I would like to ask the panel is: If you were to compare the moral weight of one ant to the moral weight of one human, what ratio would you put? How much more is a human worth than an ant? 100:1? 1000:1? 10:1? Or maybe 1:1? ... Let's start with Jamie." Main References: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction - Wikipedia ( How Policymakers Can Improve Crisis Planning ( The Good Judgment Project - Wikipedia ( Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?: Tetlock, Philip E.: 9780691128719: Books - ( Additional references mentioned in the episode: The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives ( The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - Wikipedia ( Book Review: Superforecasting | Slate Star Codex ( Pandemic Uncovers the Limitations of Superforecasting – We Are Not Saved ( My Final Case Against Superforecasting (with criticisms considered, objections noted, and assumptions buttressed) – We Are Not Saved ( Use your Good Judgement and send us email at
Why do logic and mathematics work so well in the world? Why do they seem to describe reality? Why do they they enable us to design circuit boards, build airplanes, and listen remotely to handsome and charming podcast hosts who rarely go off topic? To answer these questions, we dive into Chapter 9 of Conjectures and Refutations: Why are the Calculi of Logic and Arithmetic Applicable to Reality?. But before we get to that, we touch on some of the good stuff: evolutionary psychology, cunnilingus, and why Robin is better than Batman. References: - Conjectures and Refutations, Chapter 9: Why are the Calculi of Logic and Arithmetic Applicable to Reality? - Ben on Do Explain with Christofer Lovgren ( - Debate ( between Spelke and Pinker - Very Bad Wizards discussing the paper "Oral Sex as Infidelity detection" (episode (, paper ( - Sturgeon's Law:,science%20fiction%20author%20and%20critic. - Eugene Wigner's paper ( The Unreasonable Effective of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. - Stoic versus Aristotelian logic. Here ( is a nice discussion of the differences between the two. - Rob Wiblin's tweet ( that all probabilities are subjective probabilities (in an otherwise very good thread). - Buhler's three functions of language: (i) Expressive, (ii) Signaling, and (iii) Descriptive. See the "Organon Model" ('s%20work%20influenced%20Roman%20Jakobson,the%20representation%20function%20(Darstellungsfunktion)). - Piece ( on Brett Weinstein and Ivermectin. Quotes: “The indescribable world I have in mind is, of course, the world I have ‘in my mind’—the world which most psychologists (except the behaviourists) attempt to describe, somewhat unsuccessfully, with the help of what is nothing but a host of metaphors taken from the languages of physics, of biology, and of social life.” “In so far as a calculus is applied to reality, it loses the character of a logical calculus and becomes a descriptive theory which may be empirically refutable; and in so far as it is treated as irrefutable, i.e. as a system of logically true formulae, rather than a descriptive scientific theory, it is not applied to reality.” Send us the most bizarre use of evolutionary psychology you've seen at
There are many overused internet keywords that could be associated with this conversation, but none of them quite seem right. So here's a poem instead: The Ogre does what ogres can, Deeds quite impossible for Man, But one prize is beyond his reach: The Ogre cannot master speech. About a subjugated plain, Among its desperate and slain, The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, While drivel gushes from his lips - August 1968, W H Auden ( Send us an email at Image from Audio updated: 05/07/2021
In a rare turn of events, it just so happened that one or perhaps both of your charming co-hosts spewed a bit of nonsense about Derek Parfit in a previous episode, and we had to bring in a heavy hitter to sort us out. Today we're joined by friend of the podcast Mr. Dan Hageman, immuno-oncologist by day and aspiring ethicist by night, who gently takes us to task for misunderstanding Parfit and the role of ethical theorizing, and for ignoring the suffering of pigeons. The critiques land, and convince Vaden that we should dedicate our resources towards providing safe and affordable contraception for Apex predators. We cover all sorts of ground in this episode, including: - Mistakes we made in our thought experiments episode - Is it possible to over-theorize? - Wild animal suffering - Don't fish eat other fish?! ( - Feline family planning - Antinatalism - Moral Cluelessness - Population ethics and the repugnant conclusion (Ha!) - Similarities and differences between theoretical physics and theoretical philosophy References: - Organization for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (,suffering%20of%20all%20sentient%20beings.) (OPIS) - Lukas Gloor's post ( on population ethics - Wild Animal Initiative ( - Pigeon Contraception ( (yes, really) - Hilary Greaves on moral cluelessness (talk+transcript (, paper ( - Better Never to Have Been ( by David Benatar. Dan Hageman is a biomed engineer who works in immuno-oncology, but in his not-so-free time strives to sell himself as an amateur philosopher and aspiring 'Effective Altruist'. He spends much of this time trying to keep up with impactful charities focused on the reduction and/or prevention of extreme suffering, and in 2020 helped co-found a hopefully burgeoning side project called ‘Match for More (’. He would like to note that the IPAs are to blame for any and all errors/misapprehensions made during his lively discussion with epic friends and podcast hosts, Ben and Vaden. How many insect lives are morally equivalent to one human life? Send us your best guess at We'll reveal the correct answer in episode 1000. Update 13/06/21: The original title of this episode was "Meta-ethics Cage Match (with Dan Hageman)" Special Guest: Dan Hageman.
We often talk of explanation in the context of empirical sciences, but what about explanation in logic and mathematics? Is there such a thing? If so, what does it look like and what are the consequences? In this episode we sit down with professor of philosophy Mark Colyvan and explore How mathematical explanation differs from explanation in the natural sciences Counterfactual reasoning in mathematics Intra versus extra mathematical explanation Alternate logics Mathematical thought experiments The use of probability in the courtroom References: - The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences ( by Eugene Wigner. - Proofs and Refutations (,characteristic%20defined%20for%20the%20polyhedron.) by Imre Lakatos. Mark Colyvan ( is a professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney, and a visiting professor (and, previously, Humboldt fellow) at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. He has a wide array of research interests, including the philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logic, decision theory, environmental philosophy, and ecology. He has authored three books: The Indispensability of Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 2001), Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow (Oxford University Press, 2004, co-authored with Lev Ginzburg), and An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mathematics (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Special Guest: Mark Colyvan.
#24 - Popper's Three Worlds

#24 - Popper's Three Worlds


This episode begins with a big announcement! Ben has officially become a cat person, and is now Taking Cats Seriously. Vaden follows up with some news of his own, before diving into the main subject for today's episode - Popper's Three Worlds. In this episode we discuss:The TCS parenting movement Chesto's tweet to DeutschHow Popper's Three Worlds differs from Deutsch's Things/Qualia/Abstractions classificationWould prime numbers exist if humans didn't exist?What constitutes reality?The existence of non-physical entities and the reality of abstractions  Having a quick glance at the following wikipedia pages will help ground the conversation:Formal systems Formal languagesModular ArithmeticRules of inferenceAlternative LogicsErrata:Somewhere Vaden says English is a formal language. Nope definitely not - English is natural language, which is distinct from a formal language.  Send us your best guess for whether or not we're real at 
We are joined by the great Sam Kuypers for a conversation on physics, philosophy, and free will. Vaden spends most of the episode preparing for a huge debate on free-will, and Ben spends it worried about what alternate versions of himself are up to in parallel universes. Still, we manage to touch on a few topics: Realism and antirealist interpretations of quantum theoryThe advisory styles of Dennis Sciama and John Wheeler and the standardization of education Reconciling the Harris / Deutsch perspectives on Free WillRestorative and Rehabilitative justiceA universe in which Ben spontaneously explodes into dust while speakingLinks: Sam's recent paper with David DeutschFrom Micro to Macro, by Vlatko Vedral Hayek's Constitution of LibertySam Kuypers is a  DPhil student at the University of Oxford, where he researches foundational issues in quantum theory. He's also one of the founders of the Oxford Karl Popper Society, an Oxford-based student society created to facilitate discussions about science and philosophy.Follow him on Twitter at: us an email or explode into dust - your choice:  Special Guest: Sam Kuypers.
In this episode, we discuss Peter Singer's famous drowning child thought experiment, the role of moral theories, and the role of thought experiments in moral reasoning. From our perspectives, the conversation went something like this:  Ben's POV: Bravely and boldly trying to think through problems, Ben puts forward a stunningly insightful theory about the role of moral argumentation. Vaden, jealous of the profundity of Ben's message, tries to disagree but can't. Vaden's POV: What the eff is Ben talking about? I disagree. No wait nvm I agree. Let's change the subject. References in intro segment: Talk by Joseph AgassiRobert Sapolsky's book BehaveMilgram experimentsStanford Prison Experiments (see also: Radio Lab's The Bad Show)References in main  segment:Famine, Affluence, and Morality by Peter SingerThe Organization for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (OPIS) Reasons and Persons by Derek ParfitGalileo's thought experiment: Parts of Falling ObjectsEinstein's thought experiments Put on a suit and drown a child before sending your best moral theory to 
After a long digression, we finally return to the Conjectures and Refutations series. In this episode we cover Chapter 1: Science: Conjectures and Refutations. In particular, we focus on one of the trickiest Popperian concepts to wrap one's head around - the problem of induction.  References:Wiki on scientific laws Hume's dialogues concerning natural religion  Proof of the impossibility of probability induction One of the YouTube videos on induction. And in case you were wondering what happened to the two unfalsifiable theories Popper attacks in this chapter, you'll be pleased to know that they have merged into a super theory. We give you Psychoanalytic-Marxism: Sent us your favorite unfalsifiable theory at audio updated: 29/08/2021
Hello and sorry for the delay! We finally got together with Fin and Luca from the excellent HearThisIdea podcast for a nice roundtable discussion on longtermism. We laughed, we cried, we tried our best to communicate across the divide.  Material referenced in the discussion:- 80k Hours Problem Profiles- Jon Hamm  imprisons us in an Alexa- The Case for Strong Longtermism- A Case Against Strong Longtermism- Nick Bostrom's seminal paper on existential risksQuote:  "[Events like Chernobyl, Bhopal, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, draughts, World War I, World War II, epidemics of influenza, smallpox, black plague, and AIDS. ] have occurred many times and our cultural attitudes towards risk have been shaped by trial-and-error in managing such hazards. But tragic as such events are to the people immediately affected, in the big picture of things – from the perspective of humankind as a whole – even the worst of these catastrophes are mere ripples on the surface of the great sea of life.  (italics added)"- Nick Bostrom's "A survey of expert opinion" (errata: Vaden incorrectly said this paper was coauthored by Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord. It's actually authored by Vincent C. Müller and Nick Bostrom - Toby Ord and Anders Sandberg are acknowledged on page 15 for having helped design the questionnaire.) Send us a survey of expert credences over at Special Guests: Fin Moorhouse and Luca Righetti.
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store