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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
Recent Activity
Thrilled to report that the blog is not dead, it is just under pressure from conventional social media. I have recently been enjoying my greatest extent of cross-blog conversations since the previous decade – and I’m loving it! Here’s what’s... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at ihobo
Thrilled to report that the blog is not dead, it is just under pressure from conventional social media. I have recently been enjoying my greatest extent of cross-blog conversations since the previous decade – and I’m loving it! Here’s what’s... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Only a Game
Hi petermx, Thanks for returning to conclude our discussions on this short serial! I had been exploring these ideas for a while now, but finally decided I'd have a go at writing them down - even though I might not have worked out all the details in this approach! But one of the great things about blogs is that you can throw ideas out into the world and get help from others to 'kick the tyres'. :) Private Knowledge: "The first is very personal, for even if they receive instruction, each individual has to develop their own practice which is not quite like anyone else's." I agree with your characterisation: the actual practices of knowledge are never standardized, even in cases where it might seem they would be. The mathematical practices of people, for instance, vary considerably - despite the fact that the actual mathematical methods are logically static and unchanging. Characteristic of knowledge as a practice seems to be that what is common is only what can be produced or achieved - the how (and how we think about the how) are radically different in all cases. This, for me, points to a significant flaw in the subjective-objective split we have inherited from Kant. But public knowledge of scientific theory is, for the most part, merely factual knowledge - it is just repeating, as I suggest in part II. Although actually, it is frequently *less* than this, as I will endeavour to explain with a specific example. As I discuss in "The Mythology of Evolution", it is not that evolutionary theories are incorrect that creates the variations in the mythos that attach to it. It is rather that in order to propagate the theories, a metaphor (a mythos) is created that purports to explain the theory's meaning, but that always exceeds the claims of the original theories. So to 'know' the scientific theories comes to mean to imagine a mythic story that purports to characterise the private knowledge. Inevitably, the creation of the mythos imports certain assumptions - and then those who hear the mythos export other assumptions. No aspect of this should properly be considered knowledge! Someone who 'knows' that "genes are selfish" imagines a mythos that mostly misleads them. The gene-centric view it attempts to characterise is a very different kind of knowledge to the mythos that attaches to it. Similarly, someone who 'knows' that "mass bends space-time" imagines a mythos that Einstein attached to the formulas of general relativity. Whitehead was unconvinced by this interpretation - and in fact reworked Einstein's equations to show that it was perfectly possible to produce Euclidean geometry from the same postulates. (Whitehead never lost sight of the fact that we have no a priori reasons to accept one geometry over another). So my suggestion is that 'public knowledge' of science is mythology of science. There may well be a knowledge-practice in learning, repeating, and interpreting such mythology. But it is more akin to theology than mathematics. I might, however, make an exception for those cases where all we are dealing with is repetition of the claims of spokepeople about their reliable witnesses (i.e. the lithium ions): this is factual knowledge, which is just repeating... although with enough such factual knowledge, we begin to contextualise these reports into another kind of knowledge (parallel to that of historians, discussed above), a set of relations between facts that allows us to reason about the sciences and their likely present and future findings. However, this knowledge is not 'public' in any significant sense: it has the same variation in personal content as 'private knowledge', for indeed it is private. It is also informed and affected by the mythology of science - but this, I suppose, does not discount it as knowledge. These are my raw thoughts on the matter. Alas, I have no time to examine them further, but I welcome your feedback on this. Thanks again for your comments! There would be no point to my blogging were it not for people such as you who are willing to discuss it with me. All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented yesterday on Knowledge as a Practice at Only a Game
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Over on ihobo today, my response to Jed Pressgrove’s recent criticism of 2001’s Silent Hill 2. While I concede many of his points, it is substantially to defend the game (and the team behind it) that I wrote this reply.... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Only a Game
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Dear Jed, I can sympathise with your position in Silent Hill 2: Horrible Survival, Not Survival Horror, in that many of your criticisms are justified. Nonetheless, I shall defend Silent Hill 2 as one of the few times that commercial... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at ihobo
I too am a fan of the MechWarrior games (well, of mecha stuff in general, really)! In fact, I made my Boy's Night friends play MechWarrior 4 multiplayer not that long ago, since I'd never had the chance. Was surprised to discover it still had a multiplayer community - albeit only just! :) *waves*
Toggle Commented 3 days ago on How to Run Discworld Noir at ihobo
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Hi Luke, Thanks for extending our conversation here! It is true that geek forums descend all too rapidly into pissing contests and extreme comparisons, although when I started blogging there was a lively exchange of ideas between the blogs that I thought heralded something significant. Alas, Big Money moved in with social media platforms, and the blogs have become the refugees of the internet... "Staple authors it seems (though not for my generation), but it beats most of the stuff on the shelves in Asda." *laughs* Since your interest is in (and around) science fiction, I recommend having a go at some of the cyberpunk authors. The typical references are William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, John Shirley, and Rudy Rucker. I highly recommend Rucker's sequence "Software", "Wetware", "Freeware" and "Realware" (although I'm not certain I've read the last one). The first two were both Philip K. Dick Award winners. Also, even though it may seem like a hill to climb, Frank Herbert's "Dune" is outstanding. The full sequence is a slog, although it is worthwhile in the end, but the first one (which one a Hugo and Nebula - actually, the very first Nebula award) is essential reading. "Change is something we all strive for I guess, but its value differs. Western society currently lives in the instant satisfaction era. I suppose that is why change isn't as longed for right now, its not instant. Technology gets faster, communications, but not ideas. Nothing personal, because it all requires time. I suppose I'm genralizing a lot there, but its hard not to think that." This is a generalisation, of course, but it's one that I would support. I would make the same observation, but in a slightly different way: we are addicted to our technology. We have sacrificed a great deal of the human experience to it, in order to live in a world of easy gratification. But such a world is never satisfying, because the quick fix rapidly fades. Everything worthwhile requires effort. When we forget this, we forget the value of life itself. All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented 3 days ago on The Merit of Letters at Only a Game
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The philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers famously declared that there was one aspect of consciousness that was especially difficult to explain. In “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness”, he writes: It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Only a Game
Some six years back, when I still had a good cadre of people discussing things with me here at Only a Game on a regular basis, I opened discussions about which area of philosophy I should move into next in... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Only a Game
Hi Luke, Thanks so much for your comment! It's hard to get people to submit thoughtful comments these days, so I appreciate it every time someone does so. You say 'you wish you could write that well' - well don't forget I have twenty more years of practice than you! :) I've spent a lifetime practicing how to write, getting slowly better at it. It took commitment. If you want to write well, read more and write more - it really is the not-so-secret secret of good writing! :) I agree that your generation falls too easily into shrugging their shoulders and saying they can't change the way things are (as you say) and also, similarly, into denying their own responsibility for things that they could actually change. I think we've fallen into making excuses for not changing the world and ourselves. Can't we at least give it a try? It would be better than the alternatives! :) Thanks again for commenting - you are welcome to share your thoughts with me whenever you like. All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented 6 days ago on The Merit of Letters at Only a Game
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Dear Chris, For such a short missive, your previous blog-letter has taken rather a long time to mull over. The essential question I have been pondering is whether your viewpoint of the relationship between principles, policy, and practice is something... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2015 at Only a Game
Why the Wikipedia Knows Nothing or An Enquiry into Knowledge as a Practice was a short three-part serial that ran on Only a Game in February 2015. The three (unnumbered) parts were as follows: The Wikipedia Knows Nothing Factual Knowledge... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2015 at Only a Game
Hi petermx, The distinction I am marking with the term 'trivia' isn't between significance and triviality, but between isolated facts (trivia) and knowledge as a practice (see the final part). The knowledge a child acquires is seldom trivia, but simple practices for living in the world they find themselves in. There is genuine (trivial) knowledge here. :) My only point about the satisfying meal was that satisfaction is not de facto evidence of knowledge. But I suppose we could find (trivial) knowledge in how to feed ourselves - although there is far more impressive knowledge in how to cook! Surely no-one would consider the gourmand to be a better example of knowledge than the chef? "A focus on ‘mature’ learning is really a focus on rationalized or language-mediated learning." I suppose. I don't believe I have this bias towards mature learning, though. I am always interested in how my children learn about the world, and the knowledge they acquire is rarely if ever in the form of isolated facts (and when it is, the facts are usually presented to me as nonsense!). It is what they can do that shows what they have learned, not what they can repeat. See what you make of the final part, anyway... ;) Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2015 on Factual Knowledge at Only a Game
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What does it mean to suggest that all knowledge is a practice? Despite knowledge usually being understood either as the recall of facts, or as the application of skills, I have cast doubt on this by suggesting that every fact... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2015 at Only a Game
Hi petermx, Thanks for your commentary here. You anticipate the final part of this short serial in some respects. "If a skill is understood as the application of a set of facts relevant to the object of that skill (taking 'skilled mechanic' to mean 'knowing a lot about car engines', for instance) then we are going around in circles." Aye, it is for this reason that next week I present the view of 'knowledge as a practice' that motivates this whole enquiry. The equation of facts with knowledge is an unproductive way of understanding all the fields that exercise or generate knowledge. What I am exploring here is the extent to which we can completely ditch this view. (And it was convenient that, after drafting the three pieces, I realized that Wittgenstein's purpose in the Tractatus might actually have been parallel to mine! It's the first time I've been able to conceptually connect the Tractatus to Wittgenstein's later work, actually). "It is in the development of habits that can be relied upon to usually give the feelings of satisfied contentment that the individual's real knowledge lies." I quite agree. Even in cases where the knowledge *could* be expressed as propositions, converting the skill into factual claims is not exporting the skill at all: it is merely recording some outcomes in relation to it. "Another thing I've gained, however, is the satisfying feeling that I know something I can say in certain contexts that can make me sound knowledgeable." For the purpose of the claims I was making, I decided not to defend the claim that remembering trivia was in itself a practice that could be considered knowledge. I think this is the safest approach to this small point. I don't think we should reason from the claim that learning trivia can be satisfying to the claim that trivia-learning is a skill, in the sense that the other examples given are skills. Satisfaction is not evidence of a skill, per se - consider the satisfying meal. Trivia is a way of participating in knowledge at its periphery; after it has been translated into mere factual knowledge. That kid of information may be an ingredient in knowledge practices - your diagnosis case is a good example of this - but in all such cases remembering the trivia is not enough to qualify for having knowledge. Hope you enjoy the final piece tomorrow! Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 16, 2015 on Factual Knowledge at Only a Game
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In the wake of the terrible events in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week, I hear once again the cries of disgruntled atheists declaring that “atheism isn’t a worldview,” as if this was a way of shrugging off some important... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at Only a Game
Hi Peter, Thanks for the additional suggestion. However, I ceremoniously burned all my Windows 98 disks when XP came out. >:D *waves*
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2015 on How to Run Discworld Noir at ihobo
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Dirk HK, "And maybe the only disagreement we might have is that I am more content with having a good 'trivia aggregator'." Not even this! I too value a good trivia aggregator: if I did not, I would not waste my time editing the Wikipedia! :) As I say in the concluding paragraph above, I 'appreciate its remarkable virtue as a public database.' As for speed of updating - this is both a plus and a minus, of course! Certainly you can expect certain data to be revised far more rapidly in the Wikipedia. But this comes with the commensurate risk of it being sabotaged both more rapidly and more easily than a paper encyclopaedia. ;) "Basically this boils down to the statement that you should carefully distribute your trust. (And obviously that 'trust' is not boolean, but a gradient)." This is wise advice for any situation. Thanks for continuing our discussion, Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2015 on The Wikipedia Knows Nothing at Only a Game
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Since the welcome defeat of Windows 98, my first game as lead designer and writer – Discworld Noir – has been virtually impossible to run. Until now! Friend of ihobo, Adam Sirrelle, has this video and text description of how... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2015 at Only a Game
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Since the welcome defeat of Windows 98, my first game as lead designer and writer – Discworld Noir – has been virtually impossible to run. Until now! Friend of ihobo, Adam Sirrelle, has this video and text description of how... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2015 at ihobo
Peter Crowther: *grins* That was worth waiting to get the link sorted out. :D
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2015 on The Wikipedia Knows Nothing at Only a Game
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Hi Dirk, Thanks for the corrected link, and for sharing your thoughts on this discussion. "I still fail to see why wikipedia is different here from classic encyclopedias, even though I agree that the "factual texture" is different. That the more loosely woven texture of wikipedia is necessarily a bad thing, this I don't understand." The key difference between the Wikipedia and a classic encyclopaedia is that because you have limited information about who authored or edited a Wikipedia page (and about whether it has been sabotaged), you can never have *justified* true belief from such a source, even if the content there is indeed 'true belief'. To put it another way, the trust we can have in the process of assembling an article in an encyclopaedia exceeds that of any Wikipedia page. This argument rests on the 'justification' part of 'justified true belief'. (Of course, if you distrust experts, my latter claim might not be true for you! But then, the Wikipedia will be in no better a position... :D) What might be tripping you up here is the implication that regular encyclopaedias are necessarily superior sources of knowledge. But I don't make this claim - I only assert that a conventional encyclopaedia is a superior source of *justification* for the claims it contains. If you follow the link here to part two of this enquiry, "Factual Knowledge", you'll see that I'm knocking regular encyclopaedia's out of contention for being sources of knowledge as well! The whole notion of knowledge as disembodied facts is the target of this enquiry. The 'justified true belief' construal confuses us as to what knowledge might be. The Wikipedia is just my first casualty, and admittedly largely because I wanted a punchy opening. :D Also, I think it is useful to discuss the epistemic values of the Wikipedia, especially since it claims to be an encyclopaedia, which I personally find to be a tenuous claim. I prefer the term 'trivia aggregator', personally - and it is the best of these we have! :) All the best, Chris.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2015 on The Wikipedia Knows Nothing at Only a Game
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What does it mean to say you have knowledge of something? Either that you know the facts, or that you know how to do something. In some cases that you know the facts, because you know how to do something... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2015 at Only a Game
Hi Peter, Sadly, I can't get that link to work, for some reason... I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts as this short series progresses. *waves*.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2015 on The Wikipedia Knows Nothing at Only a Game
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Thanks for your comments, Peters! I'll reply in turn. --- Hi Ptermx, Thanks for continuing our discussion! Aye, this is another danger of the Wikipedia, of course: that it is possible to willfully distort the information in ways that would not always be detectable. I'm not sure if this is worse than articles that draw erroneous conclusions from sketchy evidence though - many musical bands complain that their Wikipedia articles are bizarre, and it seems to be because interviews and press releases are used as a citation but then presented in terms of their implications. This usually stands because cross-moderation of the Wikipedia focuses on whether a claim has a reference - very little time is expended on checking that the referenced source does support the written claim! :) I think the essence of your position isn't epistemic, per se - you are assigning a new kind of value to sources that is not about knowledge as usually construed. We could perhaps characterise this as 'incitement to know' i.e. a value about epistemic value. It's an interesting take on this issue, and I suspect it points to a kind of person - those of us who are compelled to know. :) Hope you enjoy the next two pieces! --- Hi Peter, Nice to hear from you! This is a great question, and I think there is a strong claim that the edit and talk history does give you more information about the claims made in an article - but only when those claims are challenged. The information disclosed by talk is often about which claims are disputed - which is indeed something a conventional encyclopaedia is less efficient at uncovering! The majority of suspect claims within the Wikipedia are unnoticed, or undisputed by the cluster of nerds interested in that article, so I don't think this can entirely offset the problem. Although this piece is written as an attack on the epistemic quality of the Wikipedia, the three pieces as a whole question the idea of an encyclopaedia as a source of knowledge at all, but only because they question the concept of propositional knowledge (more on this next week!). I think in the question of 'encyclopaedia vs wikipedia', what we're looking at is a difference in factual texture, if you will. For me, the texture of information in an encyclopaedia is radically different from the texture of information in the Wikipedia - to the extent that I can name cases when I would prefer one over the other. Which kind of makes it a shame that the Wikipedia is putting encyclopaedias out of business. :) All the best, Chris. PS: did you get the invitation my wife sent?
Toggle Commented Feb 6, 2015 on The Wikipedia Knows Nothing at Only a Game
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