Robot Philosopher, “Brent,” who did not know what “philosophy” meant until I told him

Brent imagines that the reason I no longer want to respond to him is because I am in awe of his mental prowess.

There is a kind of informal fallacy called “mind-reading” where you imagine that you know what I am thinking and my hidden motivation for what I say or do. Guess what? You cannot! You do not even know me. I am not faux outraged and trying to distract you from my inability to think. I am actually annoyed and have had enough of the abuse and contempt, and reached my limit.

You might be surprised that I do not think I have an inability to think? I know, right? Where did I get such cajones? Some people I highly respect, have respected me and read what I write. That will have to do. I will name Thomas F. Bertonneau, the smartest most well-informed person I ever met, Max Leyf, and pbw, and next to Tom, my sentimental favorite as a Berdyaev fan, Sofia Androsenko.

There was some lady on Facebook who said, after an interaction, “I bet you weren’t expecting to interact with someone so smart and logical.” I’m like, WTH? You were barely coherent.

I had an office mate once who lied and contradicted himself. It was pretty much the only time in my life when I got red in the face and shouted. He pretended he was Native American (he thought he probably was not but played the part) and got hired at a community college in Minneapolis. What a jerk. In arguing with him, I contradicted my own dictum not to argue with someone who contradicts himself. He would coax me into it, starting with the weather!

You: “You’re just frightened. You can’t take my total brilliance and that’s why you’re running away.” What total narcissism!! Haha. It is true that my wife is away right at this moment (teaching in Austria), and the friend who did not die is not around at the moment, so my capacity for abuse and contempt is a bit limited. I am not used to this style of interaction. I guess you are. Good for you. More power to you. (Thomas F. Bertonneau’s grandmother’s saying). May you gaslight and mindread for many decades to come. And may God have mercy upon your soul.

The idea that I refuse to interact with your totally brilliant ideas does not seem to be consistent with my behavior. I have taken pretty much every sentence, and certainly every paragraph you have written, and responded tenfold. No stone has been left unturned.

It seems that I was right about the preference topic; that that was going to be the cornerstone of your argument. It was YOU who kept inviting me to name a preference that I did not follow. I did. I would prefer not to teach Zoom classes. If you put a gun to my head, I will do it. That is called duress, not “following my preferences.” Do we follow duress? Absolutely. Does that mean we do not have free will? It does when I am following duress! The legal system even recognizes that as a legal defense. I am no longer responsible for my actions. Having a gun to your head is considered no longer having free will.

I would prefer that my wife was not ten years older than me because we will not die at the same time (probably). Did I “follow my preference?” No. I married her anyway.

This is all normal English usage. Live by the dictionary, die by the dictionary.

You can make it true by definition that I follow my REAL preference, but that is called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Or, the self-sealing fallacy.

If you make it true by definition that “I follow my preferences,” then we are no longer talking about the world as it is empirically experienced.

I do argue that you can tell someone’s real BELIEFS by his actions. Determinists act like free will is true. Many of them admit this. So, they ACTUALLY believe in free will, as judged by their actions. However, you cannot judge my PREFERENCES from my actions. Sometimes, I do what I feel I need to do. That does not mean I would prefer to.

I think you might be misled by all the seemingly smart people who adopt determinism. Sam Harris as exhibit number one. They are forced to by their materialism. Funnily enough, they have no choice! if they want to be logically consistent with their unprovable metaphysics.

I have a functioning left hemisphere, otherwise I would not have completed my PhD. But, I also have a functioning right hemisphere. That is not a requirement for a PhD in analytic philosophy. I have the impression that you have not been exposed to the RH point of view. I am used to you. I said once that I felt like I had an MA in lying because I had to deal with philosophically retarded people from the University of New Zealand, or Cambridge, and Oxford, just to pass my MA.  But, I take it from our interaction, you are not used to me. From your experience, the smart guys are all materialists.

I have been trying to add intuition, emotion, metaphor, humor, lived experience to our discussion, to no avail. The right hemisphere deals with reality. The LH with theory. “It says on this piece of paper…” If your theory obviously contradicts lived experience, revise your theory. My experience is that when I have screwed up morally, and let someone down, it was really my fault. I once made a promise to proctor someone’s exam, and got caught up in a bureaucratic mess trying to get my driver’s license renewed. Because of that, I arrived too late, and all the students had left. That was on me. I still feel bad about it. If determinism were true, I would be off the hook. Yay! So, there is plenty of BS emotional crap supporting determinism. Kant introduced the notion of a transcendental argument. If x is true, what does that imply? I am morally culpable for letting that professor down. I recognize that. I am not trying to evade the issue by appealing to determinism. Sorry! Please forgive me! I made a mistake and it was not malicious. But for this to be true, determinism must be false.

Guess what? Theists are, on average, less smart than atheists. Of course, I am at the “smarter” end of theists, according to me. Maybe atheists are “useful idiots.” Very smart morons.

Cynics have a rhetorical advantage. Cynics can say, with Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men,” “You can’t handle the truth.” It is also typical of the adolescent trying to establish a separate identity from his parents. Which is as it should be. However, you do not want to get stuck at a sixteen-year-old level of development. Plato recognized that defending morality against the cynic would be an uphill battle. That is why in “The Republic” he chose the hardest position of all, to be considered corrupt and immoral, but to actually be uncorrupted and moral, versus, corrupt and immoral but for everyone to think you are absolutely wonderful. Even in my limited life experience, I have hated to be admired for something I am not. How much worse for, say, Tom Cruise, to be admired based on his entirely fictional portrayals on film. The fact that he does most of his own stunts, surely ameliorating such feelings. Apparently, he really can do “stunt” helicopter flying down a ravine.

Hopefully, as you age, you will find out that people are not so bad. Yes, we have a tendency to consider ourselves first, what Kant called “the dear self.” Have a child and find out what happens to that! For my child to live, succeed, etc. I would forgo everything, including life itself. In fact, I would welcome it.

3 thoughts on “Robot Philosopher, “Brent,” who did not know what “philosophy” meant until I told him

  1. I don’t see how a robot could love anything, least of all wisdom, and so see nothing but nonsense in the phrase robot philosopher. I also remember once hearing a philosopher say that classical dialectics required a sort of love between the two interlocutors. The image that formed in my mind was of two men helping each other up a mountain they could not climb solo. I’m afraid there are many “philosophers” who prefer to imagine dialectics as a boxing match from which one emerges the champ, and the other the chump.

    I meet people with telepathic powers all the time. Whenever my reputation as a cranky reactionary precedes me, a pompous progressive will be waiting to inform me of my discreditable opinions on all manner of subjects. It may be that I am just a very sloppy thinker, and that I should thank these mind-readers for putting my thought in such neat and logical order.

  2. Thank you, JMSmith. I agree about the moniker ‘robot philosopher’ being an oxymoron. Even my mother, who is super smart (24th in the country [New Zealand] for the scholarship exam) but is allergic to metaphysics, knows that an autistic philosopher does not make sense. (You had to be invited to take that exam. It attempted to test you beyond the limits of any regular highs school exam, forcing you to extrapolate. Only 200 were. I was not!)

    RP is apparently offended by my posts. It is true that I claim he omits from his picture of the human being a great portion of what makes us human, in the manner of a schizophrenic or autistic person. But, I show my working! And, it happens to be accurate. The computational model of human intelligence is such an inadequate microcosm of an actual human being, what can I say!

    I accidentally read part of his parting shot (I was hoping to “unsubscribe”) claiming that I am dishonest. Another piece of mind reading. Like an autistic person, I have a bit of a fetish about honesty. The fact that I am relatively disagreeable probably contributes to this. I could possibly be misguided – my program of philosophical self-education is predicated on such – but I am not dishonest. Just ask anyone who knows me. Honest to a fault, I would accept. I try not to be rude (Germans seem to positively relish rude honesty) but am prepared to do so if you catch me on one of my pet peeves, such as the disparagement of all humanity (depending on the exact topic.)

    He asked me latterly if I am biased. Yes! I said. In a bit of a savior complex, I am trying to save humanity from a disparaging view of people as poor computers. The imaginary super intelligent Data from Star Trek Next Generation at least recognized what he might be missing. RP then wrote some post about how we must never be biased. Good luck with that one!

    It is always funny when someone tells me, as a recovering liberal, that I need to educate myself about the sad tale of women in history. I can recite that load of nonsense until the cows come home. Can you do the same for my position?

    • I like that line about “trying to save humanity from a disparaging view of people as poor computers.” I had never thought of it in just these terms, but I have the same impulse. In my own teaching as a geographer, this has come down to insisting that the beauty of the earth, and the love we feel for places, are an important part of the data. I don’t really like to use the word data, but you see what I mean. The grotesque anti-human scientism that is swallowing all scholarship either eliminates beauty and love as impurities that will gum up the intellect, or accepts them as trifling deserts that give pleasure but are really not nourishing. I also tell students that it is right for them to admire the physical courage of the great explorers, and that to stifle this admiration with artificial qualms about the grief they brought to the natives cripples one’s moral sense. Needless to say, I am alone and losing on all of these fronts.

      I know you have several times written that you are by nature relatively disagreeable. I can be blunt in speech, but I now look back on life with a sense that I have been too agreeable. It is not at all clear that my general willingness to make life easier for other people has ever done me much good, and it now seems to me that selfish egotists only get their comeuppance in novels. But I’ve also come to accept the fact that we cannot do much to change our nature.


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