News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 19, 2011 in News

Another post I wrote for Less Wrong: How to Be Happy.

Gold & Scasselati, “Using Probabilistic Reasoning Over Time to Self-Recognize.”

Before Common Sense Atheism, I created and ran a blog called Free Albums Galore, which reviewed and linked only to entire albums available for free. I then managed to hand it off to “Marvin” to run, and the blog is still going strong! Props to Marvin for running the site much longer than I did. The header image art is still the best graphic design I’ve ever done. :)

Quote of the day: “Being atheist is like being the only sober person in the car and no one will let you drive.”

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe March 19, 2011 at 9:11 am

I see that the title of your link to the National Geographic video is the same as theirs, so I wonder if you really do find it “Probably the best National Geographic video ever”?

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matth March 19, 2011 at 10:15 am

links so awesome, you should be paid for these posts

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Jacopo March 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

I’m slightly surprised not to see more emphasis on meditation and mindfulness practices rooted in (originally) Buddhist ideas, as a way to greater happiness. I know you mentioned them, but if you read someone like Sam Harris or Susan Blackmore, this approach is way more central to them.

I would say it’s almost like you’re a modern eudaimonist, with an empirical outlook I would suspect Aristotle would approve of. Whereas Harris and Blackmore are more secularized Buddhists.

I’m not entirely sure if eliminating unhappiness is necessarily good. That doesn’t seem to be your stated intention, but you’re not too far off that either. It can help you relate to the unhappiness of others, and sometimes it seems to me to be straightforwardly the right reaction to something. But that’s a tentative line of thought, open to a load of objections. I’d be interested to know if anyone has defended the utility of being unhappy, at least some of the time.

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Taranu March 19, 2011 at 10:49 am

Related to the Happiness post.
When you find out what it takes to change your personality in a way that will make you happier and you start implementing these theoretical notions into everyday life, aren’t you being deliberately disingenuous? Maybe your personality will change eventually and then your speech, your gestures, your clothes will be a genuine reflection of who you are, but aren’t you a hypocrite while you’re making that change?
I ask this because I had a discussion with a friend about dating and she said she wouldn’t want her date to pretend he’s a different person than he actually is in order to increase his chances of entering into a relationship with her. That relationship would not be built on trust but on lies.

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Charles R March 19, 2011 at 11:57 am

Alonzo and Carrier have disagreed in the past, but if there is a substantive difference between them, I can’t see it.

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Alexander Kruel March 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I really liked the post ‘Richard Carrier on moral ontology.’ Very clear and easy to understand.

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cl March 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Luke,

I then managed to hand it off to “Marvin” to run, and the blog is still going strong! Props to Marvin for running the site much longer than I did. The header image art is still the best graphic design I’ve ever done. :)

That’s cool. I actually really enjoy seeing other people’s creative expression.

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Luke Muehlhauser March 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Tshepang,

It’s a mystery! :)

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Luke Muehlhauser March 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Jacopo,

Certainly, many have said that unhappiness helps us understand the beauty of happiness. I’m not sure if that’s true. In any case, my post doesn’t argue for the value of happiness. It just says, “If you want happiness, here’s what some research shows you can do to get happiness.”

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Luke Muehlhauser March 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Carrier has slowly been adopting some more standard language, so that it sounds more like desirism (because desirism uses standard language). I recently heard that Carrier is still not a Humean about motivation, though. That’s a major difference. When I last spoke with Carrier, he also thought that it would (in some way) always be in each person’s best interests to act compassionately and charitably and so on. I disagree with that, also. But I suspect his positions on morality are still evolving, as are mine.

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Kevin March 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

When I last spoke with Carrier, he also thought that it would (in some way) always be in each person’s best interests to act compassionately and charitably and so on.

Does this rest on the assumption that everyone wants to think of themselves as moral (i.e. compassionate and charitable)? If so, then not doing actions that are typical of those characteristics would create cognitive dissonance which is counterproductive to thinking of oneself as moral, hence they ought to be charitable and compassionate.

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Jeff H March 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

That’s an interesting post on happiness. What I wonder, though, is how “happiness” is being defined in these different studies. Is it simply self-reported happiness, or some behavioural method, or something else? Is it long-term happiness (which seems more to do with mood) or situational happiness? If some of those suggested methods only increase happiness when one is doing that activity (like “flow”, for example), then perhaps it is not as beneficial as finding something to increase one’s general mood.

Nevertheless, for a fairly short article it seemed to summarize some important points. I was surprised that exercise seemed to be so far down (#11), as it has been shown to benefit those suffering from depression — in other words, it can serve to elevate one’s mood. Anyway, good stuff!

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Esteban R. (Formerly Steven R.) March 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Cl:

Luke,
That’s cool. I actually really enjoy seeing other people’s creative expression.  

QTF.

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Luke, just general props for these links and the discussion generated by them (like last week’s political discussion between Bebok and juhou which was interesting), which makes Saturday’s links and people’s thoughts on them something to look forward to. Goldmine of academia, interesting remarks and insights and some funny links. Great stuff.

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Scott March 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm

These are my favorite posts on the site. Consistently quality.

NB: Loftus just spoke at my college – very fun talk – at one point, a Christian (I believe a Thomist) began repeated yelling, “How do you explain a contingent universe!!!” until he stormed out, followed by his posse.

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Garren March 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Scott, I’m picturing that as an apologist’s bumper sticker!

(I love how Thomas Paine drew such a bright distinction and maybe even a contradiction between natural theology and Christian apologetics.)

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MarkD March 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

G&S paper: more HMMs. They are the hammer in the machine learning arsenal. The primary interest in the paper is that it supposes three distinct learning circuits that are adequate to learn in a nontrivial way. I wonder if there are clever ways to test if such distinctions show in two year olds?

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Luke Muehlhauser March 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Glad you like ‘em, Scott!

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Keith J. March 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I was initially excited about Khan. But after watching some of his Chemistry and Physics videos I was underwhelmed (I am a high school Chemistry and Physics teacher). Oh well.

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cl March 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Esteban,

What? I can’t leave a compliment?

Luke,

…desirism uses standard language…

Uh, not really. Nobody I know defines a “morally good desire” as “a desire that tends to fulfill other desires.” But you go on believing whatever makes you happy. ;)

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Ryan M March 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

CL,

I assume Esteban actually meant to put “QFT” as in “Quoted for truth”.

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Esteban R. (Formerly Steven R.) March 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Yeah, sorry, it was meant to be QFT though I suspect you knew that :P

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cl March 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm

No, I didn’t. I thought you meant to put QTF! I was like, “sheesh… ultimate haters!

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