Monday, January 18, 2010

The effectiveness of “Copenhagen 2009”

I have never seen never seen an international conference that has been as effective as the Climate Conference in Copenhagen one month ago. People have criticized this conference and called it a failure because no substantial decisions have been taken there. However, hardly had the conference ended or Europe and other parts of the world have been hit by a cold wave.


argumentics said...

post hoc ergo propter hoc!

HbdW said...


Simon said...

Yes but I would imagine most if not all philosophers and lay people think in general that when given a strong argument or 'convincing' evidence that they will know the 'truth' when they see it.

Logically that isn't happening, so if other people don't know what is a strong or convincing argument or put another way have their own biases, why should we think we are any different in all instances?

HbdW said...

Simon, thank you for your reaction. It is true, most people think that way. It seems that already some people have become sceptical about the global warming because of this cold winter (although climatologists say that cold winters are still possible now and then; but they'll happen les frequently).
I think that philosophers are not fundamentally different from other people. It is one of the merits of Knobe and Nichols with their experimental philosophy to have shown that. However, philosophers are supposed to make fewer philosophical and logical mistakes because of their professional knowledge and training.

Simon said...

Henk my thesis is that most philosophers are on average no better when the subject at hand is connected to their in group identity, in other words they fall prey to their identity conformity bias.

I check out a atheist social group and overall atheists like to think they are more rational overall but you will find they like everyone else on average split off into their groups conservative, progressive, Libertarian and you can predict in most cases where they stand on issues like climate change, abortion, the environment.

I would argue the same is for philosophers. Take abortion, pretty quite easy to predict where a philosopher will stand on this, & if you your side is the right one it still leaves a large % of trained philosophers on the other who cannot overcome their cultural bias. This also true historically if you think of it. I think it is time we had a philosophy of bias.

Someone has probably already also come up with a underdetermination like stance where at certain times the evidence is inconclusive and people think that with hindsight that their orignal stance or certainty was justified when it wasn't.

HbdW said...

Philosophers are as human as humans are. But professionalism brings their discussions on a higher level, I think. Some types of mistakes are not made any longer then. But especially in philosophy much is subjective and a matter of taking standpoints that are a matter of choice in the end. And everywhere you have optimists and pessimists. People who take risks and people who don’t. And so on. All this influences your analyses and your view on the world. But maybe it is a good idea to discuss that also from the philosophical point of view and not only from the psychological point of view. A philosophy of bias, as you call it.

Simon said...

Henk I agree but I would maintain that even when trained pro's are involved if a topic is strongly connected with their identity they cannot tell the differecen between a rationlisation and valid argument. ( related our identity interest, in this respect you aren't a separate individual identity but are part of a group identity as what the group thinks locks the way you think, at least on some subjects)

Again if there is a correct/consistent position on abortion and or strong/valid arguments that 'prove' this there are plenty of trained dividuals who cannot tell when they are wrong.

Having looked at both lay and pro arguments, you will find the very same arguments both dismissed out of hand and used as justifications by different philosophers. Logically if one is correct the other trained pro cannot see it even often with backup argumentation.

What I take from this in philosophy and in general if we have a strong cogntive bias in an area that individual cannot tell when they are under it and no evidence or argumentation will change their mind. This blog post deals somewhat with why I think this is important.

I take your last point and I think a philosophy of Bias would go hand-in-hand with a philosophy of Disagreement and Epistemology. Bacon started with his Idols of the Mind but I think mostly all philosophers since then have taken the stance they see a good or bad argument thy will know it but that isn't happening.

My stance is that I take it as granted that I'm biased on at least some subjects and cannot see it, and all I can hope that acknowledging this will at least be the first step in trying to overcome it.

Simon said...

I could get even more complicated in that maybe some personality types are less prone to bias but that won't help them as their arguments won't be able to convince the majority. Like depressed perosnalities on average having a better grip on reality, it could be only certain personality types rising above their personal or cultural bias.

It would appear those that question the prevailing norms of their social griup are overwhelingly in the minority.
Only a handful of Ancient Romans advocated equality for women better treatment or the end of slavery, respect for manual labour and were against infanticide but look at how long it took to overcome these.
Not to forget we still had philsophers during these and latter times. Which seems to tell me that for the overwhelming number of all philsophers, they cannot overcome the socialisation of their culture.

I not saying I have the Ishmael effect, I think it highly unlikely that any one person can be 100% correct on everything,-not even socrates overcame his slavery socialisation- but I do think overall like the other blog post author, that this is a glaring problem for philosophy which doesn't seem to be getting the attention it deserves.

HbdW said...

Hello Simon,
Thanks again for your reactions. Basically I agree with you. I want to remark only this. What you say questions also whether something like a universal logic exists, or at least whether there is a kind of true intuition that some "facts" are basic, as is often (implicitly) supposed by philosophers in their resonings.