Thursday, December 8, 2011

Website: Facebook

Really, do I even need to explain what Facebook is?

I will not be linking to my personal profile, per the stuff in my introductory post about privacy and the Internet. I mention Facebook here because I do have some friends on Facebook who are very politically involved and will post links to interesting news stories or op-ed pieces, as well as statuses and comments supporting one point of view or another.

The former, of course, I can comment on like I'll be commenting on any other news story, with perhaps a brief note that someone mentioned this on Facebook.

The latter are more problematic. While blogs generally are regarded as posting things for the entire world to see, the general perception seems to be that Facebook is supposed to be more private. Therefore, in the event that I decide to comment on a Facebook post of any type, I will not be mentioning the name of the original commenter, even if the original post was marked public, and I ask that anyone commenting on this blog do the same, in the (probably unlikely) chance that you know the original commenter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Website: Conservapedia

The only reason I'm mentioning Conservapedia at all is because it got mentioned in my RationalWiki post.

This site was originally created to counter perceived liberal bias in Wikipedia. The apparent method is to create a wiki so overwhelmed with conservative bias that no liberal influence is even possible.

I will not be using Conservapedia at all, barring exceptional circumstances. I'm not sure I could do much more than point and laugh at the obvious logical errors and blatant hypocrisy, which doesn't feel particularly useful. If you really want to know more about Conservapedia, I recommend looking at the relevant pages on RationalWiki.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Website: RationalWiki

If I were to check my browser history, RationalWiki would probably be sitting somewhere near the top in terms of number of visits over the past few months.

RationalWiki was originally formed as a counter to Conservapedia, a heavily right-wing version of Wikipedia. Since then, its mission has expanded to supporting rational thought and the scientific method against pseudoscience and in some cases religion. It is superficially similar to Wikipedia, as is any website based on the MediaWiki engine; however, RationalWiki mostly focuses on topics of interest to scientists and skeptics. It also abandons any attempt to write from a neutral point of view and often will be very sarcastic towards ideas which the editors regard as foolish. One of its other unique features is the set of "WIGO" (What Is Going On?) pages; these list recent happenings in Conservapedia, the mainstream news media, and various blogs the editors monitor.

I regard it as an extraordinarily useful and generally trusted resource, particularly with regards to researching sources and whether I can trust them to at least try to be unbiased. The WIGO pages in particular are a good place to find new and interesting blog posts and news stories. Politically, I would say there is a general left-wing slant, although RationalWiki's mission, like my own standards, is accepting of any point of view that can defend itself with a proper argument.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another delay - and, the real purpose here...

Sorry for the second delay since I've started this blog. I got distracted with another project (anyone heard of NaNoWriMo?) and didn't really have time. (Better yet, I kind of failed at that project too. Maybe next year.)

But, I'll make up for it by actually starting the posts which this blog was created for - analyzing other people's arguments... well, they're coming shortly. I've got a couple things I might be able to talk about - mostly Facebook posts at this point, but I'm working on finding more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Decision Logic

Per the title, I'll be discussing my own ways of thinking in this post.

If I had to sum it up briefly, I would call myself a moderate liberal rule utilitarian thinker with some empiricism, logic, and methodological naturalism thrown in. That, of course, combines political, ethical, and philosophical ideas, so I'll go ahead and analyze each separately, starting with the last.

The latter half of that last is most closely connected with philosophy, specifically with asking ourselves how we can be certain that what we know matches the actual nature of reality. Logic is the simplest thing I listed, but also the most important. I believe that when it comes down to it, we defend our assumptions about how the world works with logic and evidence, and that we go with the best assumption we have until new evidence comes along. And, given that I mentioned empiricism and methodological naturalism, it is probably obvious that I believe those are currently most supported. I would not, categorically, say that nothing supernatural exists, since it is difficult to say that with certainty. I do, however, believe it is unlikely, with our current understanding, that such things exist, and I believe we can be justified in acting as if that assumption was true, so long as our minds remain open to conflicting evidence.

Next up is the ethical philosophy of utilitarianism. In its most basic form, it focuses on bringing the greatest good to the greatest number. One of its variations is called rule utilitarianism; this theory, instead of focusing on what is right in any specific situation, focuses on creating duties or rules that will promote the greater good overall. Following those rules is then considered good, even if the immediate effect is negative. As with many such ideas, utilitarianism has some problems; in its case, it permits hideous atrocities if the end result brings greater benefit to more people. I, personally, solve this problem by including some details taken from Aristotle's virtues and Kantian ethics, and defining some situations in which the importance of a given duty overrides all potential negative consequences, not just some.

My political philosophy is next. Honestly, there's not too much to say here; I tend to sympathize more with the left as opposed to the right, but I also tend to prefer questioning other people's ideas and ensuring a good debate over defending my own ideals. I'll gladly defend any position I believe I can defend, and I'll gladly argue against any position I think is unsound.

Finally, I'll discuss my own weaknesses. Chief among them is that I am an amateur philosopher at best, and am no better than anyone else at coming up with solid, internally consistent sets of ideas. (Probably the section on my ethics, above, could be taken apart by any actual ethical philosopher.) I am also no better than anyone else at admitting when I'm wrong, and have occasionally realized that I'm being stupid or contradictory in an argument and kept going anyway.

Anyway, that should do for a brief summary. Hopefully it will provide some insight into why I come to the conclusions I draw about others' arguments.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's try this again...

... Isn't it interesting how quickly the initial surge of interest in a new project fades?

Well, if I'm being honest with myself than I'll admit I don't think anyone has actually seen this blog yet anyway.

I'm going to try to actually keep going with the blog this time, though. The plan from my initial post hasn't been changed, despite the gap of almost two months. We'll just see how long this lasts...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello World

Hi everyone. Welcome to my blog.

You can call me Meirai (not my name, but I'm kind of paranoid about using my real name on the Internet, so it will have to do). What I will say about myself is that I'm a young adult in the US Navy, with some fairly diverse interests including computer programming, Japanese media, ethics, and philosophy.

As far as my reason for starting a blog goes, I don't really have a particularly strong one. Between moderate political views and a... diplomatic, to put it kindly, approach to dealing with things that annoy me (read as: I ignore them to the best of my ability), I'm not exactly out to rail against the evils of the world and proclaim my own clearly obvious solutions.

What I can do is examine the people who say they have their own. It is a fairly - I believe some would call it merely - reactionary position to take, one which relies on my opponent to set the argument and mostly denies me the opportunity to defend a position of my own.

I am aware that this is not usually considered a good thing, but I don't think I mind all that much. My approach to debate and argumentation tends to focus on developing my own ideas and learning about the ideas of the opposition, as well as examining how both of us think and reason. It's not a goal which requires defending a specific idea - I won't deny that this policy can make things easier for me, but I hold it to be a legitimate goal nonetheless.

So as far as what you can expect out of this blog - I'll spend the first few posts on describing my own personal philosophy in a bit more detail. After that, I'll just be picking out blog posts and news articles and commenting on them as I see fit. There will also be random posts about my interests (computers and Japanese, mostly) scattered around, probably.

I hope you enjoy reading my random thoughts, if nothing else.

One final note - since I'm in the US Navy, I should make sure to emphasize the standard disclaimer: the opinions posted here are my own and do not reflect the opinions or policy of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or the Department of the Navy in any way. You might have seen that at the bottom of the page already, but it probably bears repeating.