Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Song in the Key of WTF???

Erran Baron Cohen (Sacha's brother) just released a bunch of Hanukkah songs and videos. I have to admit I kind of enjoy the new twist on the old tunes, but can someone please explain the following two things:

1) Why are they using an Israeli dreidel in (what I presume is) England?
2) Why are they spray-painting Yeshua (Jesus) on the wall in the background of the video? (Is there another meaning or an inside joke I don't get?)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moore's paradox (With a(n evil) twist)

I just thought about the following:

Here is an ethical version of Moore's paradox, or more precisely an ethical instance of Moore's paradox:

Consider the following:

1. P
2. I am morally barred from believing that P
3. If I am aware of P, psychologically, I must (believe P or believe not P)
4. I believe not P (from 2-3)
5. Moore's paradox(from (1) and (4))

(Moore's paradox is what results from saying "P, but I don't believe it.")

The above argument holds with the assumptions (1)-(3). I do not think that they are difficult to argue for. (1) claims that some P is true. Easy enough.

(2) is a bit trickier, and may be where the weak point here is. Are there some facts that are so immoral that one should not believe in them even with evidence?

There are some beliefs X such that if you believe them you are evil. Consider a sentence of the form:
#=Members of race x are all liars in virtue of their being members of race x.
Presumably believing # makes one a racist. Racism, let's say, is evil. So believing # makes you evil. One is morally barred from doing things that make one evil. So one is morally barred from believing #.

(3) is a Jamesian Epistemic-Moral Law of Excluded Middle (JEM-LEM). William James argues, I think convincingly, that as a matter of rational psychology it is impossible to be agnostic about certain things. I take it that there are #-like Ps that are susceptible to the JEM-LEM.

Hence the paradox. Here, we have a case of "P, but I am not allowed to believe it". Can this happen?

Note as an aside that if you deny (4) because you don't accept (2) then you may be committed to cases like the following:

There are also also arguments that I take seriously that claim that there is some knowledge that compel moral action in the same way that some knowledge will compel rational belief. Let us say that you know that your neighbor is dying and with negative effort, cost and risk, you can call an ambulance and save his life. (That is to say that you know that you will be rewarded for doing so after the fact.) It is hard to argue that you are under no moral obligation to help.

So beliefs can compel actions. And if you deny that you may have certain true beliefs P, you can get a situation where you have an action that you are obligated to do (from the fact that P is true and you believe it) but may be barred for moral reasons from doing it because it is immoral.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes we can

I never understood the Shabbatai Zvi phenomena . . . until now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The voting place in my hood was totally run by morons. There were essentially two lines, and zero signs, except for the ones that said "vote aqi". The first line was long and only for people in election district 111. the second line was for all others who did not know which election district they were in. If you were not in 111, you went on the other one, or looked for someone to show you the secret line for people in 112, 113, and 130. There were only two people doing this and they were way overwhelmed. They spent most of their time asking people if they were in Election district 111 or "other". So most people ended up on the 111 line, only to find out that they were on the wrong line and had to talk to someone to find out which election district they were in. A little sign that said "111 - this line, don't know - that line, and all others - inside", would probably have saved the average voter in my election district about 10-15 minutes this morning.

Moreover, at least 20 percent of the people on line, and in the polling building were wearing Obama shirts or buttons. I really thought that was illegal.