Thursday, July 4, 2013

Elevator Pitch on Philosophy, Psychology, and Society

As a failed social scientist, I find questions about society more interesting than any others. 
Those questions depend heavily on philosophical answers that in turn depend on principles of psychology. Here are the elevator pitch versions of my ideas about each. 
  • Social questions depend on values and reality. 
  • Both moral philosophy (theory of values, what is good and what is bad) and epistemology (what do I know about reality, how do I know it, how certain can I be) depend on psychology. 
  • Human psychology makes us vulnerable to bias, to a degree that makes total certainty unattainable. Instead, I seek a sort of pseudo-Bayesian perspective where I adopt a working hypothesis that guides my actual actions in the world, but I attempt to remain aware of and open to the other possible hypotheses that are available and update them on the basis of new evidence. 
  • Psychology indicates that moral reasoning is usually rationalization after the choice has been made. Instead of thinking and then choosing, we tend to choose and then make excuses.
  • Were the US founding fathers correct in thinking that it is possible to limit the power of the state?
  • If they were correct, how do we discover the technique they sought, since clearly they themselves failed?
  • If they were not correct, does that mean we are doomed at best to choose the lesser of evils, or is there a way to replace the state with something (or somethings) less flawed?
  • Given where we are and where I'd like for us to be, what next step will take us in the right direction? 

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