Monday, June 27, 2011

The Empathy Heuristic

The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Most people see empathy as being primarily concerned with the moral sphere. We should try to consider other people’s feelings before we act, so we’re not inadvertently assholes to them. We should imagine how other people might react to what we say before we say it, so that we don’t offend anyone. It’s framed as a benefit to others - it’s not that you’re doing it for yourself, it’s that you’re making someone else’s life easier.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Whose side are you on?

Like a lawyer, the human brain wants victory, not truth; and, like a lawyer, it is sometimes more admirable for skill than virtue. - Robert Wright

I have been in arguments on the internet (I can quit any time I like, I swear) in which I have spent a long time vehemently disagreeing with the other participants on the topic at hand, but then have agreed completely with them when the inevitable digression surfaces; when the argument on a carbon tax turns into an argument on nuclear power, for example.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Tribe Has Spoken

The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human. - Aldous Huxley

For most modern Westerners, our moral sphere - those we consider to have value, who we take into account when making moral choices - encompasses all human beings, regardless of their race, gender or social status. Many people include sentient non-humans, and to a certain degree some even go further and include non-sentient life forms into their moral sphere. But it wasn’t always the case.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Parable of the Good Point Guard

The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses - Francis Bacon

Just a short post today, but an important one.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Some housekeeping

Okay, it's been roughly a year since I started linking to the blog, so this is sort of an anniversary. I've got some actual posts coming up very shortly (got about four in the works at varying stages of completion) but today I just want to do some housekeeping.