The Linear Model for Richies

Not long ago, Richie contended that sticking to presenting true information and letting otters decide what to do, given that information, was “the neatest little summary of the linear model.” This short note should suffice to show that this claim is far from being true and that a whole fleet of Gremlins may have infiltrated communication channels between Richie and AT.

First, let’s point at this:

Then let’s point at this:

Spot the outlier:

[RG1] I’ll stick to presenting true information and letting otters decide what to do.

[LM1] Doing basic research will turn into applications that will in turn benefit society.

[LM2] Achieving agreement on scientific knowledge is a prerequisite for a political consensus to be reached and then policy action to occur.

[LM3] Specific knowledge or facts compel certain policy responses.

It’d be hard to reconcile RG1 with LM3 or even LM2.

So I see three versions of the misnomered linear model (the label was already taken and sequentiality ain’t linearity), not two. Since our Honest Broker claims there’s a stronger version, let’s assume they belong to a hierarchy of versions, even if the progression is far from being obvious. This assumption doesn’t matter much, as the only version that matters here is LM2, as the word “consensus” indicates.

All version (especially the second one) should imply something that ClimateBall ™ players now know as the deficit model, i.e. the idea that people would make better decisions with better information. This idea is as old as Plato, and as young as how Scott Adams would like to be:

[W]hen my knowledge of proper eating reached a good-enough level I dropped ten pounds without using any extra willpower whatsoever. Now I eat as much as I want, of anything I want, all day long, and I don’t gain a pound. The secret was learning how to manage my cravings. I can eat anything I want because I no longer want unhealthy foods. Knowledge replaced my need for willpower. For example, I now understand that eating simple carbs for lunch kills my energy for the rest of the day. It doesn’t take any willpower to resist doing something I know will make me feel like hell in an hour. But before I knew simple carbs were the culprit, I assumed eating in general was the problem, and I couldn’t avoid eating during the day. Knowledge solved a problem that willpower could not.

That’s crap, of course. Willpower is a bit more complex than that. Every non-hyperrational human being has his own stock of examples as to why we don’t act according to our best judgment, starting with chain smokers. This knowledge is so old there’s even a Greek name for it: Akrasia.

As one can read in that Stanford entry, our ClimateBall quandary already divided platonists and aristotelians. At least insofar as we like staging debates, because it’s easy to find some common ground between the two stances. Both positions still require that we value knowledge, truth, and rationality. Otherwise both positions would become caricatures of themselves.

Truth, truthfulness, and trust should matter to everyone, or at least to the ATs and the Richies of this world.

* * *

How to build truth, truthfulness, and trust looks like a more interesting question than Richie’s Gremlins. To that effect, the discussion sparked by Doug McNeal over the tweeter may be worthwhile to mention, in particular that clarification:

Everyone should at least agree that declarative knowledge is less actionable than procedural knowledge: that egg shells can break is less useful than to know how to make an omelet. The vividness of the second kind of knowledge lies in the storytelling: being told that scientists agree over AGW should be less powerful than to see scientists explaining us how they reached their conclusions.

There are many other ways to cut our knowledge into kinds. You already know that beyond the what and the how, there’s the why, i.e. explanations. But I’d like to finish this note by mentioning the who question: who will be telling people how some scientific knowledge has been reached?

That question matters here because by appealing to an unidentified group of scientists, consensus messaging, whatever that means, may fail to make us see scientists in action. Perhaps this is why the 97 hours of consensus reached millions. To be able to identify with whom’s talking is crucial to build trust.

As a ninja, I ought to know. My play style needs to adapt to the distrust my character brings. As someone who likes to read citations, when I see an Honest Broker talk about unidentified “scholars,” my ninja senses tingle. As a fan of Kurt Vonnegut Jr, I also ought to know that the mirror image to the Pure and Noble Scientist is a disinterested and disembodied freak who builds Ice Nine remorselessly. As a fan of Kate Marvel, I finally ought to know that there are marvelously likable climate scientists.

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About Willard

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53 Responses to The Linear Model for Richies

  1. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Oh, well – he wasn’t going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony anyway.

  2. Willard says:

    You must admit that Richie dear’s incorrect mansplanation of the linear model points toward a version of the deficit model that would deserve diligence, Rev.

  3. wmconnolley says:

    > letting otters decide what to do
    🙂

  4. Since we’re talking otters, here’s a picture of one I took when in the Shetlands a few years ago. I also saw one playing in the surf on Coll last week, but it had gone by the time I’d got my camera.

  5. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    As a fan of Kate Marvel, I finally ought to know that there are marvelously likable climate scientists.

    Thanks for the Kate Marvel link. I was already a fan, now I want her to run for POTUS:

    Someday I must tell my son what I have done. My comfortable, safe life is in large part a product of the internal combustion engine. Fossil fuels power the trains that take us to the beach, the factories that make his plastic bucket and spade, the lights I switch off when I kiss him good night. We can make small adjustments: recycling, buying reusable bottles for our water and ice coffee, foregoing the occasional plastic bag. But these small things, even multiplied by a large population, are still small in the end.

    I cannot deny my son or myself the ease of modern life, and I have no wish to isolate him from friends and family by insisting on radical changes. A carbon-free life seems a solitary one: no travel to see grandparents, awkward refusals of invitations, precious time with friends replaced by gardening, canning, mending, building, working. I search for political solutions, an advocacy muted by the cowardice of my personal choices. In the end, I am responsible for the gases that are changing the climate and, in raising my son in comfort and convenience, am passing on that responsibility and guilt to him.

    This is, so to speak, the Mother of all Tragedies of the Commons: the heritable impulse to leave more copies of your genes than your conspecifics do, unto the Nth generation (whence my nom du clavier, an allusion to my voluntary failure to reproduce ;^o).

    Dr. Marvel is as aware of the origins of AGW as anyone in the world, and she feels her share of our collective guilt. She keeps private her reasons for bearing a child, yet she acknowledges that for a chance to have more great-great-grandchildren than other women, she has knowingly socialized her son’s marginal climate-change costs and those of his (i.e. her) descendants in addition to her own.

    She’s not fooling herself: even if she raises her son to live as lightly on the Earth as possible, while he lives he will socialize marginal costs. And what about his children, who will be her grandchildren? She’s aware she has doomed everyone in the world, including her own descendants, to a small but finite increment in the common pool of tragedy; she bore her child willingly nevertheless.This is the Tragōidia that Hardin chose for his title.

    IMHO, it took a lot of courage for her to post this on the Internet. Unfortunately, with that kind of commitment to honest self-disclosure, she’s well-advised not to enter politics.

  6. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Where do otters come from?

    Otter-space.

    [EDIT. Corrected the link. – Willard]

  7. Magma says:

    LM2 applies broadly to knowledge and policy in organizations of any size.

    Few executives or senior managers faced with an important decision would be happy taking action if their staff/experts/consultants/etc. had failed to reach any sort of consensus on the issues and recommended solutions involved. They would send it back (outside the academic world, possibly forcefully) until a working consensus was hammered out.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    Tarka Dal – one of the ‘otter curries.

    [stolen from ISIHAC]

  9. Willard says:

    > They would send it back (outside the academic world, possibly forcefully) until a working consensus was hammered out.

    Oh, but this isn’t possible in the linear model because, you know, it’s linear.

    Any kind of back-and-forth would rather imply a stockholder model, or so our Honest Broker suggests.

    To see the absurdity of it all (as if Richie dear’s performance wasn’t enough), let’s introduce the Brokering Window fallacy:

    (1) We already know enough about AGW to take action.

    (2) Taking action is not about consensus.

    Now, ask yourself: how the hell can you say that you know enough about something S without having reached some kind of consensus about that S?

    Philosophers studying the embodied mind might have been into something when they held that humans were made to catch freesbees more than to do logic.

  10. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >> …humans were made to catch freesbees more than to do logic.

    Somewhere in between catching things, and doing logic, is ninpo.

    Two ninja were spying on an estate when they were seen. The guard yelled for help and the ninja started to run off. One of the ninja stopped and decided to climb a tree, hoping that the guards would rush off into the darkness looking for them, and when it was safe they would make their escape. His companion felt is was better to run while they could and urged the ninja to come down from the tree. The ninja refused, so the one on the ground yelled out to the guards, “Hey, there’s a ninja in the tree!” The ninja in the tree was forced to come down and the two fled into the night, chuckling about the situation.

  11. Willard says:

    Nice one, Rev.

    Speaking of ninjas, contrast the “linear model” with this other one:

    Versions of the “predictive brain” hypothesis rank among the most promising and the most conceptually challenging visions ever to emerge from computational and cognitive neuroscience. In this paper, I briefly introduce (section 1) the most radical and comprehensive of these visions—the account of “active inference”, or “action-oriented predictive processing” (Clark 2013a), developed by Karl Friston and colleagues. In section 2, I isolate and discuss four of the framework’s most provocative claims: (i) that the core flow of information is top-down, not bottom-up, with the forward flow of sensory information replaced by the forward flow of prediction error; (ii) that motor control is just more top-down sensory prediction; (iii) that efference copies, and distinct “controllers”, can be replaced by top-down predictions; and (iv) that cost functions can fruitfully be replaced by predictions. Working together, these four claims offer a tantalizing glimpse of a new, integrated framework for understanding perception, action, embodiment, and the nature of human experience. I end (section 3) by sketching what may be the most important aspect of the emerging view: its ability to embed the use of fast and frugal solutions (as highlighted by much work in robotics and embodied cognition) within an over-arching scheme that includes more structured, knowledge-intensive strategies, combining these fluently and continuously as task and context dictate.

    https://open-mind.net/papers/embodied-prediction

    By appealing to the “core flow of information,” are cognitive scientists falling for the linear model? Not at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    The linear model doesn’t look very model-like to me.

    Damn “scholars”!

  12. “starting with chain smokers. This knowledge is so old there’s even a Greek name for it: Akrasia.”

    Addiction isn’t about a weak will.

  13. Willard says:

    > Addiction isn’t about a weak will.

    “Weakness of the will” is the oldest explanation for addiction:

    While it is true that addicts often state that they regret the consequences of their drug use and wish to reduce their consumption, and while it is true that they frequently make failed attempts to reduce their drug use, neither of these facts is enough to establish that addictive behaviours are compulsive rather than merely weak-willed, as non-addicted people engage very frequently in weakwilled behaviours which are harmful, regrettable and unplanned. In the philosophical study of action, weakwilled actions are defined as those which run contrary to an agent’s better judgement. The study of weakness of will is one of the oldest topics in philosophy—some 2400 years ago, Plato struggled with the problem of how a person could choose willingly to pursue bad or regrettable outcomes. This problem is still undergoing vigorous debate in the current philosophical literature, because it is not clear whether weak-willed behaviours are chosen freely or whether they are the symptom of a loss of self-control.

  14. “Few executives or senior managers faced with an important decision would be happy taking action if their staff/experts/consultants/etc. had failed to reach any sort of consensus on the issues and recommended solutions involved. They would send it back (outside the academic world, possibly forcefully) until a working consensus was hammered out.”

    huh.

    too funny

  15. Joshua says:

    =={ In the philosophical study of action, weakwilled actions are defined as those which run contrary to an agent’s better judgement. }==

    Thank goodness I never engage in actions that run contrary to my better judgement, and have no addictions.

  16. angech says:

    Willard,
    Having been a victim of Akrasia many times,
    Mainly while playing bridge, I was pleased to finally find a name for it.
    Reading the discussion I found the philosophers stemmed to have an old fashioned notion of a singular rational being acting irrationally (presumably themselves).
    Weakness of the will would seem to be evidence of a split personality, that is someone would do a rational thing in one circumstance and frame of mind but another in the same type of circumstance and a different frame of mind.
    Even using smokes or alcohol surely changes the rationality of a person, let alone the self subjected stress of a card game.
    Bridge, not for money , is a lot less stressful than Texas poker.

  17. angech says:

    Thanks, by the way.

  18. too funny, a philosopher arguing with neuroscientists on the defintition of disease.

    Even Coffee rewires your brain.

    I smoke. I mean, my body smokes. It carries me to the store to get what makes it happy.
    I tell it not to, but it has a will of its own that is very strong.

    I will to fly. I really want to. It’s my intention to fly. No matter how hard I try I cannot fly.
    It must be a weak will.

    Put another way, ‘willpower’ isnt a very useful concept, neither for the treatment or moral question.

    Its old philosophy that needs to change it’s addictions

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech, you may find “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman interesting (I did), which is in a sense about our “split personality” (cognitive systems).

  20. Willard says:

    > ‘willpower’ isnt a very useful concept, neither for the treatment or moral question.

    Moral questions are hard to discuss without assuming some kind of agency. Also note that the concept of addiction as we understand it is fairly new:

    Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in the current literature on alcohol (8-10), I am suggesting that post-Prohibition thought (about the progressive character of alcoholism, the experience of the alcoholic, including loss of control over drinking, and the necessity for abstinence) is of a piece with a major strand of 19th-century thought – the ideology of the temperance movement. The most important difference between temperance thought and the “new disease conception” (8) is the location of the source of addiction. The temperance movement found the source of addiction in the drug itself – alcohol was viewed as an inherently addicting substance, much as heroin is today. Post-Prohibition thought locates the source of addiction in the individual body – only some people, it is argued, for reasons yet unknown, become addicted to alcohol. Although that change represents a major development in thought about addiction, the post-Prohibition ideas are still well within the paradigm first established by the temperance movement. Insofar as Alcoholics Anonymous and temperance advocates share the concept of addiction, and recommend abstinence as the only solution for the afflicted individual, their differences remain in-house or intra-paradigmatic.

    How we conceive addiction matters to those who’d like to treat it, to the point some say we’re addicted to rehab:

    For decades, Americans have clung to a near-religious conviction that rehab — and the 12-step model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous that almost all facilities rely upon — offers effective treatment for alcoholism and other addictions.

    Here’s the problem: We have little indication that this treatment is effective. When an alcoholic goes to rehab but does not recover, it is he who is said to have failed. But it is rehab that is failing alcoholics. The therapies offered in most U.S. alcohol treatment centers are so divorced from state-of-the-art of medical knowledge that we might dismiss them as merely quaint — if it weren’t for the fact that alcoholism is a deadly and devastating disease.

    And the way we attempt to treat alcoholism isn’t just ineffective, it’s ruinously expensive: Promises Treatment Centers’ Malibu facility, where Lohan reportedly went for her second round of rehab, in 2007, has stunning vistas, gourmet food, poolside lounging and acupuncture. It costs a reported $48,000 a month.

    A criminologist I know tells me the success rates for such therapies are around 10%.

    ***

    Also note that addiction is characterized by three quasi-behavioral traits:

    There are three essential components of addiction:

    – intense craving
    – loss of control over the object of that craving
    – continued use or engagement despite bad consequences.

    Several studies have shown that people can exhibit all three of these in their relationships with food.

    http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-you-become-addicted-to-chocolate-201302145903

    Not sure how control is better defined than will.

    Is ClimateBall ™ addictive?

  21. Bruce says:

    The discussion above, not unsurprisingly, is dominated by W.E.I.R.D. nation’s perspectives (http://www.vdare.com/posts/weirdwestern-educated-industrialized-rich-and-democratic-societies-think-differently). “The WEIRDer you are, the more you perceive a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships, and the more you use an analytical thinking style, focusing on categories and laws, rather than a holistic style, focusing on patterns and contexts.”

    As someone living in a developing nation, the contrasts in the approach to thinking about AGW information application by my colleagues locally and internationally is always an unstated tension. In particular is a largely unexamined question of ethics involved in construction and communication of information (whose, ethics, by what authority, etc) (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/ya9ug5m3 and https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/call-ethical-framework-climate-services)

  22. “Weakness of the will would seem to be evidence of a split personality, that is someone would do a rational thing in one circumstance and frame of mind but another in the same type of circumstance and a different frame of mind.”

    Not split personality. Simple version

    basically you need to understand 3 areas of the brain
    dorsalateral pre frontal cortex : planning and higher cognition
    striatum : part of the motor system that gets us mamals going, gets us to chase goals
    ventral tegmental: Dopamine pump.

    So take the internet, or porn, or gambling, or cocaine.. and of those things.
    When they are used/consumed you get a reward (dopamine) for persuing that goal.
    Repeated enough and the wiring between your pre frontal cortex and the striatum
    is altered. In other words ( using marsups terms) your long range planning brain
    that would normally tell you to cut that shit out, is “unwired” from your motivational
    system. That motivational system ( the system that makes you act) is actually
    the will power. So rather than being weak willed, addicts are extremely strong willed.
    the pre frontal cortex doesnt get a vote.
    That’s why walk a mile for camel made sense to smokers

    Even the internet and cell phone use re wires your brain.

    So ya all those funny stories about people diving into sewage to get their phones, re wired brains.. and the part of the brain that would say.. dont do that, speaks, but the will in charge isnt going
    to listen. It knows exactly what it wants and knows how to get it.

    Put another way, the conscious system that thinks its in charge and has all the fancy philosophy, and thinks it represents will and choice, is basically bushwacked by the real will. That conscious system has no words for what is going on and happening to it

  23. too funny,

    Willard cites a paper that
    A) doesnt look like it was peer reviewed
    B) Doesnt cite a single relevant text about his main claims.

    Sorry. I’ll stick with the actual science

  24. izen says:

    i admit that seeing the title of this new thread before reading it, I made a foolish assumption.
    Missing the implication of the capitalised ‘R’ and the absence of a possessive apostrophe, I was expecting something on how WEALTH, or how rich we are is related to our carbon footprint.
    So I had arguments prepared about the carbon intensity of energy production…

    But if the object is to examine whether dialog should replace pure scientists imparting truth…

    The nature of any dialog depends on the relative status (wealth?) of the participants. In any attempt to change behaviour I think the rich are likely to be a more persuasive in a dialog. And given their carbon footprint, a target where change would have the most effect.

    Status may be granted to some by those who value the skill to discover truth more than riches.

    (Willpower is a fictive nonsense resulting from the egregious adoption of Platonic dualism. Bicameral mind is most often used as an excuse for falling short of social norms.)

  25. mt says:

    I believe that Tol was quoting [AT]. It’s unclear to me from a quick read whether he was advocating such a “linear model” or quoting it with disdain.

    Pondering that and the rest…

  26. Willard says:

    > doesnt look like it was peer reviewed

    See for yourself:

    http://www.jsad.com/

    As for the characterization of addiction, it’s straight from the DSM.

    ***

    > I’ll stick with the actual science

    Those who help people overcome addiction are not called scientists, but therapists.

    ***

    > I believe that Tol was quoting [AT].

    Yes, and when Richie dear pulled AT’s leg, AT went along.

    Billions upon billions of strawmen.

  27. Willard says:

    Here’s an interesting peer review:

    This article considers the ways in which Italian scholars conceptualized alcohol and drug addiction between 1860 and 1930. Based on the analysis of more than 40 books and 5 scientific journals (112 issues), it is argued that in the period 1860-1930, scholars were more interested in alcohol than any other substance. Indeed “alcoholism’ was the term used the most to describe alcohol problems, although its meaning changed over time. At the beginning of the period alcoholism was seen as a consequence of drunkenness, later on its definition became more precise, including both physical/pathogenic factors and the addictive power of alcoholic beverages. In contrast, the debate about drugs involved fewer scientists and their description of the topic was divided between poisoning and addiction. There was an evolution in the definition of addiction-related concepts and also a heated exchange of conflicting views among scholars. In the scientific debate experts with various backgrounds such as jurisprudence, forensic science, criminal anthropology, sociology and different medical specialties were all involved. This article highlights the vitality of interest among the Italian scientific community regarding addiction themes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

  28. mt,

    I believe that Tol was quoting [AT]. It’s unclear to me from a quick read whether he was advocating such a “linear model” or quoting it with disdain.

    He was quoting me, but claiming that what I had said was the “neatest summary of the linear model”. I think Willard’s point is that it is not; the linear model has many other aspect and isn’t simply “provide information, walk away”.

  29. Willard says:

    > the linear model has many other aspect

    Worse, Junior’s strawman doesn’t even include that aspect.

    For those who are not used to the tweeter, click on my tweet, then on the image. You’ll see Junior’s two versions in full.

    One thing I haven’t mentioned is that honest brokers oftentimes use the third version to discredit the model, even when addressing those who only maintain the first one.

  30. Willard says:

    > In particular is a largely unexamined question of ethics involved in construction and communication of information (whose, ethics, by what authority, etc) (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/ya9ug5m3 and https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/call-ethical-framework-climate-services)

    Indeed, Bruce, hence my who question. Thanks for the references, although I’m usually skeptical of MikeH’s positions. His positioning looks bogus to me.

    ClimateBall ™ is a race to credibility.

  31. russellseitz says:

    The Clobal Warming Policy Foundation seeems more interested in convoluting than linearizing its climate narrative

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/07/pielkes-gwpf-performance-further.html

  32. Bruce says:

    > although I’m usually skeptical of MikeH’s positions
    Fair enough … although I’d note MikeH wasn’t involved in either of the cited references (other than happening to be the editor-in-chief of the journal in the one case)

    🙂

  33. Willard says:

    > I’d note MikeH wasn’t involved in either of the cited references (other than happening to be the editor-in-chief of the journal in the one case)

    Yes, hence my “positioning.” I like the article and am glad we finally start studying information architectures [of climate websites]. My remark was meant to remind that he’s an author of the commentary that started our current episode.

    WarrenP, ReinerG, and MikeH – what can go wrong?

  34. Willard says:

    Because, otters may be too impersonal:

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    even more funny.
    this disease model is new.
    this climate science is still young.

    scientist:policy maker
    scientist:therapist.
    disease:pollution

    imagine a co2 therapist…a policy maker who fixes the problem…told you that this c02 as a pollution model was relatively new.

    zero emmissions.abstinence. This could get interesting.

    harm reduction.

    of course withdrawl from co2 can be deadly…short term risk..continued exposure also dangerous

    interesting too to point out that the science is more settled than the therapy. that doesnt make therapists who disagree irrational or anti science.

    there might be something interesting here if the ninja took a position.

  36. Willard says:

    > this disease model is new

    The disease model is actually quite old. Nowadays, addictions are disorders. Also, the science is far from being settled:

    This article presents the major issues and evidence considered by the work group, which included literature reviews and extensive new data analyses. The work group recommendations for DSM-5 revisions included combining abuse and dependence criteria into a single substance use disorder based on consistent findings from over 200,000 study participants, dropping legal problems and adding craving as criteria, adding cannabis and caffeine withdrawal syndromes, aligning tobacco use disorder criteria with other substance use disorders, and moving gambling disorders to the chapter formerly reserved for substance-related disorders. The proposed changes overcome many problems, while further studies will be needed to address issues for which less data were available.

    Sources tell me that the authors of the DSM VI are thinking about adding ClimateBall.

    ***

    > the science is more settled than the therapy

    Treating scurvy is not that hard and the solution to the AGW problem may look as simple as curing scurvy: stop dumping CO2 in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow. So perhaps the AGW problem could indeed be seen as a disease. But then I don’t see any real analogue to the climatological state of having scurvy. Moreover, the dumping part of the AGW problem is more akin to a scurvy epidemic, and treating epidemics is seldom as simple as treating a single patient.

    The way one ingests vitamin C is not that important – as long as the vitamin deficiency stops, all is well. By the same token, solving the AGW attribution problem is not that important. OTOH, while the cure to AGW is clear, the way we ought to stop dumping CO2 in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow is not. So even if the science is clear, we still have to work on our “addiction to oil,” to paraphrase Dubya.

    That being said, therapy works on behaviors or cognitions without having access to the neurology of the subject. This constrains both the diagnosis and the treatment. Just like substance abuse centers don’t carry CAT scanners, there doesn’t seem to be any need to solve the AGW attribution problem before risking a CO2 overdose.

    And speaking of attribution, there’s a consensus against naive reductionnism (op. cit.):

    Neuroscientists often appear to argue that, as we know that neurobiology underpins the addict’s recurring drugseeking behaviour, we may conclude that their behaviour is compulsive or involuntary. This argument could be seen to suggest that human behaviour can only be free if it has no identifiable biological cause. There was once a lively philosophical debate over whether we can be acting freely and responsibly when our actions have identifiable biological causes. Today, despite some notable dissenters, the debate has settled on the side of ‘compatibilism’, which claims both that free will and responsibility exist, and that they are compatible with our behaviours having identifiable and irresistible biological causes at their root. One of the implications of this progression in philosophical thinking is that it is no longer enough to suggest that a person acts compulsively or automatically just because the behaviour has some biological cause.

    Which leads us to the third version of our Honest Broker’s strawmen, refuted by the simple observation that there are many ways to derive many oughts from many ises. Just look at Bruce’s two proposals – most of the factual claims work as factual claims *because* they abide to a value system. What he’s asking for seems to be quite minimal, so minimal in fact they remind me of Grice’s maxims. I suspect it’s because I’m weird more than because I’m W.E.I.R.D.

  37. angech says:

    dikranmarsupial says:
    angech, you may find “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman interesting’ Thanks

    This was good, also.
    “Put another way, the conscious system that thinks its in charge and has all the fancy philosophy,
    and thinks it represents will and choice, is basically bushwacked by the real will. That conscious system has no words for what is going on and happening to it”

    One could perhaps argue that the two minds, conscious and unconscious, put in their votes and majority [percentage wise] wins which would partly go back to the idea that the overall good has been voted on even if the conscious part cannot rationalize it being good.
    I am sure most of us have had events in our lives where we have done things that we knew were not “right” at the time but had no “ability” to stop our actions at the time and regret them afterwards.
    As Steven says the real [unconscious/id] will wins when put into these primal and perhaps not even obviously primal situations.

  38. hard to keep ninja’s honest.

    is it knew as one of his cites says,
    or old?

    “Also note that the concept of addiction as we understand it is fairly new:

    Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in the current literature on alcohol (8-10), I am suggesting that post-Prohibition thought (about the progressive character of alcoholism, the experience of the alcoholic, including loss of control over drinking, and the necessity for abstinence) is of a piece with a major strand of 19th-century thought – the ideology of the temperance movement. The most important difference between temperance thought and the “new disease conception” (8) is the location of the source of addiction.”

  39. Haha too funny

    yes, the argument over which kind of disease it is contentious.

    who knew our ninja played for team contrarian

  40. Let’s see if I can negotiate an understanding with Willard.
    When we speak of a coffee addict of having a weak-will, what we really mean is that his conscious
    will is disconnected from his behavior will ( striatum) In short, his conscious reasoning and understanding tells him coffee is bad for him, yet his body reaches for it. The motivational circuitry
    ( the motor system and dopamine pump) will just go on exerting its will to achieve its goal.
    And that circuitry is reinforced.
    The talking part of his brain is saying no, he will even readily admit he knows it is bad for him
    and against his better judgement, his body will just does it anyway.

    My phone just went off. I didn’t even think. The hand had a will of its own and picked it up.

    Conversation with an old friend H.

    SM: So, you know you are killing yourself with this?
    H: Yes.
    SM: so stop.
    H: I can’t I’ll die.

    she did. That was a good motivator to study this phenomena.

  41. Actually Willard, I am a compatiablist.

    WRT, not having CAT scanners. huh? maybe an MRI or SPECT, or functional MRI or MRS.
    those are your 5 basic types. but CAT scan?

    As a therapist knowing that your patients brain has been re wired, is critically important.
    It’s why you would tell them to not try to quit on their own. deadly.

    The scurvy analogy doesnt work for me.

    I actually think the Bush analogy works pretty well.

    you want to take peoples FF away from them. All they can see is the short term pain
    of C02 withdrawl. There’s no talking to these folks. Unfortunately,
    everyone else will suffer as well. Even if they saw the long term risk for more pain,
    the short term discomfort is all they care about.

    And its really aweful for them because they see others, like Al gore, consuming FF with
    no consequences, preaching abstinance to them.

    A few decades from now they will need a support group.

  42. aporiac1960 says:

    Steve Mosher: “Put another way, the conscious system that thinks its in charge and has all the fancy philosophy, and thinks it represents will and choice, is basically bushwacked by the real will.”

    Aristotle evidently thought something very similar, and so recommended moral training through virtuous moral action in order to make acting virtuously habitual. He recognised that when human beings are faced with a choice they will always take the option that is most personally gratifying. The trick, therefore, is to develop a moral sensibility that delivers a greater reward for acting virtuously than acting basely. Aristotle’s notion of the moral faculty is much closer to the ‘muscular’ than the cerebral, i.e. it becomes strong through the right kind of exercise. Rather like if you want to learn to play tennis you have to get out on the court and actually do it – preferably under the direction of an experienced coach – rather than lock yourself away in a library swotting up on technique. The reward is the feeling of satisfaction that comes every time you zing the ball over the net and place it exactly where it needs to be.

  43. Willard says:

    > is it knew as one of his cites says, or old?

    The article has been written in 1978. It cites Michel Foucault and refers to “the essentials of the modern or post-Prohibition understanding of alcoholism.” Post-prohibition, get it? New and old are relative.

    Reading might help making better gotchas.

    ***

    > hard to keep ninja’s honest.

    You’re not trying hard enough.

    Try paragraphs.

  44. Willard says:

    Let’s try to reach an understanding with our in-house hyperrational.

    Say I want to lift my arm. I lift it. Success. Do I care to know how it happened? Most of the times, not at all. Now, suppose I want to lift my arm, but the arm stays there. Do I care to know what’s happening? You bet. So I go see a doctor. The doctor tells me that there’s a problem with the three systems that regulate my arm. All I need is some rewiring.

    Good, I say, how can I make my arm work again? The doctor, who is also an honest ninja, will say: no idea, but I know that with some training, your arm may lift again. Yes, he’ll say “may” because he knows that sometimes the training doesn’t work. Why sometimes it works and why sometimes it doesn’t remains a mystery to him. He could tell himself that it’s because of the Will or because of some specific re wiring he doesn’t know about. As a doctor, he knows he mostly plays scientist on TV.

    ***

    The moral of the story is that therapists don’t need to know that their patients’ brain has been re wired. They don’t even need to know their patients have a brain. What they need to know is if the maladaptive behavior stops.

    Sure, when the behavior stops, chances are that it’s because the brain has been re wired. That’s merely a way to explain (in a very loose sense) what happened. It’s a model and like all stoopid modulz it gives a rough picture of what is happening for real.

    What does really happen in each specific case, and how does the re wiring occur? Nobody knows for sure. Doesn’t matter much, as long as the maladaptive behavior stops and better well-being is being reported.

    There are many ways to make that behavior stop. While we don’t know which therapy leads to success, or if success is guaranteed, we know that we need to do something. We know enough about brains, behaviors and bloody humans in general to know when we need to try.

    That’s how we derive an ought from an is, to our Honest Broker’s dismay.

    ***

    So no, I don’t think contrarians should choose me as their champion, to borrow from MikeH’s symbology we can read about in CG 1. Why did our in-house hyperrational never mentioned MikeH in his CG book? Must be some bad wiring within the contrarian module.

  45. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    As a doctor, he knows he mostly plays scientist on TV.

    In a Chinese room full of philosophical zombies, the play’s the thing.

  46. Willard says:

    > the play’s the thing

    My sentiment too. Abstracting away the play could lead to a view from nowhere where billions upon billions of homunculii replace one that does a perfectly fine job:

    We speak of the soul as being pained or pleased, being bold or fearful, being angry, perceiving, thinking. All these are regarded as modes of movement, and hence it might be inferred that the soul is moved. This, however, does not necessarily follow. We may admit to the full that being pained or pleased, or thinking, are movements (each of them a ‘being moved’), and that the movement is originated by the soul. For example we may regard anger or fear as such and such movements of the heart, and thinking as such and such another movement of that organ, or of some other; these modifications may arise either from changes of place in certain parts or from qualitative alterations (the special nature of the parts and the special modes of their changes being for our present purpose irrelevant). Yet to say that it is the soul which is angry is as inexact as it would be to say that it is the soul that weaves webs or builds houses. It is doubtless better to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns or thinks and rather to say that it is the man who does this with his soul.

  47. Willard says:

    Perhaps I should add that I’m not against homunculi per se, as they can become therapeutic tools:

    ‘Homunculi’ in Latin means ‘little people’. In practical terms, the fold-out picture of a head provided with the pack depicts a drawing of the inside of a skull, the home of the Homunculi, that can flexibly contain, for example, an eye department, sleeping department, eating department or conference room. Children create their own characters and departments on the basis of problems they wish to solve. Each character is given a name and a job description or script of what that character can do.

    In the first case study, five main characters were created by the young person to deal with moods, sleep problems, friendships, communication and motor tics (Moody, Couch Potato, Gaffa, Chatterbox and Twitch, respectively). In terms of the job description or script, for instance, Moody helped him to stop shouting or being aggressive, to stop going into a bad mood and to stop hurting inside. Couch Potato helped him to get to sleep at night. Gaffa looked after facial expressions and also helped him to know when he should pause and let others speak. Chatterbox helped him to ‘know when to stop talking, take turns, be interesting and interested’. The job of Twitch was to stop nervous twitches and jumpiness.

    Special tools were allocated to each character: for example, Gaffa had a friendship repair tool kit. In addition, a Head Homunculus is in charge, whose job is to be always on patrol, to notice when problems arise by monitoring a ‘thoughts and feelings screen’ inside the Skull and responding to an early warning system of flashing traffic lights: ‘red = stop; amber = think; green = do’. He also has a ‘Good Rule Book’ that contains advice about problems written in the form of personal scripts (eg, how to get a good night’s sleep)

  48. izen says:

    @-SM
    “When we speak of a coffee addict of having a weak-will, what we really mean is that his conscious
    will is disconnected from his behavior will ( striatum) In short, his conscious reasoning and understanding tells him coffee is bad for him, yet his body reaches for it. The motivational circuitry
    ( the motor system and dopamine pump) will just go on exerting its will to achieve its goal.”

    This is a just-so re-write of the Greek bicameralism between the spirit of Appolo and the Dyonisian base instincts.
    Despite the adduction of some credible neuro-science of the mind has been split into a cortex, striatum and dopamine pump, you describe Autonomous Entities battling it out on some metaphorical field.
    With Pavlovian re-enforcement thrown in.

    Framing addictive behavior as a neurological battle between the angel of the cortex and the devil in the ventral tegmental area has narrative elegance, but that does not ensure it is useful.

    Human behavior is very variable and extremely plastic. Repetition works, as anyone who has learnt to play a musical instrument will attest. That does not preclude the possibility that the mind can be a unified system, shaped by historical contingency, and constrained by social/material limits, but like a bicycle, all the parts work together to get you around.
    Unless the chain comes off.

    Sourcing the causation of ethical error in reified neurological agents that as learning systems produce errors because the examples and internal weighting were biased might look like a man with a hammer thinking they have found a nail.

  49. izen says:

    @-“Perhaps I should add that I’m not against homunculi per se, as they can become therapeutic tools:”

    Or a movie.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2096673/

  50. Willard says:

    > Framing addictive behavior as a neurological battle between the angel of the cortex and the devil in the ventral tegmental area has narrative elegance, but that does not ensure it is useful.

    There is at least one context in which it would be useful:

    Levi-Strauss, in his discussion of shamanistic therapies innon-Western cultures, suggests that they work because they provide a way of understanding problems and the world. The patient is given a theory, a set of terms and relationships, that enable him to fit his experience into an intelligible order.

    The system is valid precisely to the extent that it allows the coalescence or precipitation of these diffuse states, whose discontinuity also makes them painful (p. 182). The song seems to have as its principal aim the description of these pains to the sick woman and the naming of them, that is, their presentation to her in a form accessible to conscious or unconscious thought (p. 195). That the mythology of the shaman does not correspond to an objective reality does not matter. The sick woman believes in the myth and belongs to a society which believes in it. The tutelary spirits and malevolent spirits, the supernatural monsters and magical animals, are all part of a coherent system on which the native conception of the universe is founded. The sick woman accepts these mythical beings or, more accurately, she has never questioned their existence. What she does not accept are the incoherent and arbitrary pains, which are an alien element in her system but which the shaman, calling upon myth, will re-integrate within a whole where everything is meaningful (p. 197).

    For Levi-Strauss the beliefs need not be true, because in so far as the problem is not understanding, any coherent story or theory will solve that problem (though, of course, it must not fail to correspond at key points with known realities) and so end the suffering which is a suffering from unintelligibility.

    Too funny.

  51. izen says:

    @-“Levi-Strauss, in his discussion of shamanistic therapies in non-Western cultures, suggests that they work because they provide a way of understanding problems and the world. The patient is given a theory, a set of terms and relationships, that enable him to fit his experience into an intelligible order.”

    It is not un-important in Western medical therapies.
    In diseases where causation and progression are NOT well understood, or are complex, multi-factored and uncertain, a simple, short comprehensive explanation is a useful and important part of medical management.

    Until the recent rise of genetics as the fashionable goto explanation, difficult diseases would be ascribed to ‘Stress’. More recently ‘auto-immune disorder’ has become popular. A story-line in which one of the defending angels of our better Nature is corrupted to become an internal daemon of destruction, warring against the very communality of cells it should guard against attack.

    97% CM suffers similar problems. It may have been intended as a neutral description of the level of scientific knowledge when that was called into question. A linear(?) transfer of information about the subject.
    However it has long since become a totemic chant. Invoking the quantity and quality of the scientific knowledge of climate as legitimate knowledge.
    It acts now as an ideological sieve, an ‘antigen’ that either elicits a positive response, or at least tolerance, or triggers a vigorous negative reaction.
    It divides people into those that recognise our understanding of the climate has scientific legitimacy, and those that reject climate science as valid part of that body of human knowledge.

  52. angech says:

    5 homonunculi.
    Seems like a rereun of Starking novels by Jack Vance.
    Read 3 and had to wait forty years for amazon to get the other two.
    Well worth the wait.
    Agree with Mosher, the subconscious is king.

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