Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbag Monday: The Simulation Argument


Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.

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zepfan5150 writes,
Hey Philosophy Bro,I've been hearing a lot recently on the simulation argument..any chance you wanna try and tackle it? You've explained everything else it seems like.
Oh man, the simulation argument. Alright, look. The simulation argument falls into the category of Cartesian Mindfucks, the sort of arguments that ask, "Is the universe really, truly the way we perceive it to be or are we somehow being deceived?" 


This particular argument proceeds by presenting three different propositions, at least one of which is probably true. Those three propositions are, in a nutshell: (1). We'll probably go extinct before we evolve past humanity, to what the original author calls "posthumanity", (2) If we do achieve posthumanity, we won't really care enough to run tons of simulations of our ancestors, or (3) We are living in a simulation.


At face value, it's easy to see how one of those has to be true. Let's say there's this race of superbros who are technologically way the fuck ahead of us. That's not hard to imagine - you're likely reading this on a computer that is thousands of times more powerful than the very first supercomputers, built only decades ago, and they stored those fuckers in entire rooms. Imagine the shit we'll have in a couple centuries - crazy fast computing. Ridiculous. So let's say these bros have that level of technology. They could, if they wanted to, run simulations of human evolution, right down to the very thoughts of each simulated person. In fact, they could run millions of these things. And if the did run these things, then the chances that we're a simulation, instead of a race that will eventually run simulations, is literally millions-to-one. Those are not good odds, kids. Either we're almost definitely a simulation, or these simulations just don't happen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Platonic Forms


Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.

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Evan writes,

Hey PB, I was wondering what the deal was with Plato's metaphysics- especially platonic absolutes. How is there a concept of desk-ness that neither my desk, nor any other can live up to? Isn't a desk a desk?
Thanks!
Oh man. Platonic absolutes. One of those things in philosophy that Plato came up with that leaves this absofuckinglutely resounding legacy.


So let's start with what the Forms are. Plato thinks the Forms are what really exist; they're true knowledge. When we're studying shit, we're really just trying to figure out when the Form of that shit is - for example, when we do geometry, we're really just trying to figure out what the Form of the triangle is really like. But it's not just cut-and-dry bullshit like triangles: political science is the study of how to best approach the Form of the city-state, epistemology is how to best approach the Form of knowledge, and so on. To Plato, everything, all study, is trying to get to the Forms. So everything we see, everything that we interact with? It's just random bullshit trying to approximate the Forms. In the Allegory of the Cave, the Forms are outside the cave, the real trees and stuff, and we're trapped in this world of shadows, trying to figure shit out.


Look, what makes your desk a desk? Is it how you use it? I took three pieces of wood, stacked one across the other two, and that's where my computer is. Nothing holds the wood together; it's free standing. When did this thing start being a desk? I'm using it as a desk, but I could just as easily use it as a dining table or as a frame for a blanket fort. Chicks dig blanket forts. Why a desk? Chicks don't dig desks. I mean, they're nice and all. But. They're no goddamn blanket fort.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mailbag Monday: The Euthyphro Dilemma


Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.

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John writes,
I'll be honest with you bro, I have a pretty strong antitheist bias. The Euthyphro dilemma seems a decent case for not basing your moral code on divine revelation but I'm sure smarter and more religiously minded bros than me have given it a lot of thought. Can you tell me where it all goes wrong?
Oh man, the fucking Euthyphro dilemma. Fucking classic piece of philosophy, and maybe reason enough on its own to study Plato. The ED (heh. Heh heh. C'mon guys. Grow up.) is a thought experiment about God's relationship to morality, and it runs a little something like this:
God commands us to do good things, right? Okay - are they good because He commands them, or does He command them because they are good?

Mind. fucking. blown. Thanks, Plato. And by that I mean, fuck you. It's such a simple question, right? Does God make shit good, or does He command it because He is good? In Genesis, He says that Creation is good after every day - was that because He commanded it to be good, or because He judged it good according to some other standard?