Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Dec 12, 2013

Yet Another Example of Bad Epistemology

I ran across this post today on Futility Closet and I just had to laugh, because the solution, which this UCLA professor claims he can't come up with, is so simple: have you ever encountered a fictional work that *created* a self-aware character?  No?  Then on what basis can you make the claim that you, a self-aware person, MIGHT be a fictional character in somebody else's work?

This is what bad epistemology will do to a person.  One little out-of-context bit of nonsense and they're thrown into total confusion, unable to grasp how any knowledge is arrived at or verified.  If it really were impossible to distinguish fiction from reality, we'd have no such concept as "fiction".  The two are clearly different.  Fictional characters don't do boring, pointless shit.  Their lives are full of action and adventure.  They don't have to wait in line at the DMV or do their taxes (or if they do, something interesting happens).  Does your life skip instantly from one moment of interest to the next with no boring bits or pointless detours or wasted time?  No?  Well, then.

This simple verification should convince anyone, but here's the bit of epistemology that throws many for a further loop: people have free will.  They are not automatons operated by arguments (or mystical authors), so they have the ability to still say "I'm not convinced" and claim that this demonstration, while brief, is somehow "insufficient".  That doesn't mean it is, merely that they've chosen to reject it on the basis of . . . nothing.

This is a form of reversal of the burden of proof.  Nobody is required to prove to you that reality exists or that it "really is" this or that.  If you posit that reality is an illusion, it's up to you to prove that it IS, not up to anyone else to prove that it is NOT.  I can sit here and spin nonsense all day but not one random utterance implies that someone has the responsibility to demonstrate that the moon ISN'T a magical egg laid by the Sun Goddess.  Reality is self-demonstrating.

Dec 1, 2013

Invitation Only

It's somewhat weird to me sometimes the way people circumlocute giving and accepting invitations.  Adam went up to his parents' house for Thanksgiving today.  He sort of invited me, but the way he did it made it sound like I was definitely not welcome, so I didn't go.  To me, if you're going to invite someone to something, you say something along the lines of "we're doing X, would you like to come?" or even, if you're REALLY gracious, "we'd like you to come if you feel like it".  Instead, Adam turns around (still on the phone with his mom, too) and demands "are you coming?"  So, what am I supposed to do?  Randomly invite myself along?  Seems rather rude to me.  That's the kind of question you ask someone when they've been dithering over their decision for 20 minutes.

That's another thing that baffles me sometimes--dithering.  This happens to me a lot when I'm playing DDO and I say to the guild "I'm going to run X, would anyone like to come?"  A large percentage of the time, nobody says anything, which is fine.  Sometimes someone will say "sure, party invite".  But more often, I get some sort of weird halfway response like "eh, maybe".  They then switch characters, go get a cup of coffee, read a novel, stretch, and then 20 minutes later I get a message saying "so, are you going to invite me for X or not?" to which I reply "I'm already done."

Of course, then there are the people who join you for X activity and then immediately ask if you can do Y instead.  This activity hijacking is also baffling to me, but from what I can tell it's the result of people who can neither lead nor follow.  They can't do things by themselves--they need or imagine they need someone to hold their hand--but they categorically refuse to put their own group together to get it done.  Apparently they think the LFM (looking for more) panel has some sort of voodoo curse and if they ever put up a group they will be struck by lightning.  Yet if you do bring them into the group they don't follow instructions, don't cooperate with the group, and basically contribute nothing.  This is probably why they believe in the LFM voodoo curse--every time they try to build a group it falls apart because they can neither give instructions nor follow them.  So the only option they're left with is to glom onto someone who is both competent and amiable.  I'm not particularly amiable.  If I advertise for help doing X, then I'm doing X.  If you want to do Y, form your own group.

I wonder if that's really all it boils down to--people not being clear in their own minds about authority, responsibility, or leadership.  You can't be decisive or get anything done if you don't know whether you're asking someone or telling them.