This is a podcast largely about the work of David Deutsch and his books "The Beginning of Infinity" and "The Fabric of Reality".
Ep: 95 Steven Pinker‘s ”Rationality” Chapters 1 & 2 Remarks and Analysis
1:43:08This video and associated podcast are about Steven Pinker's new book "Rationality". I read a small number of brief excerpts from the book itself, alongside commenting, criticising and reviewing the content of the first two chapters. There are a number of images and videos in the Youtube version which may help with particular concepts as we go along. I compare Pinker's vision of rationality with what might be interpreted about that same topic from the work of David Deutsch and Karl Popper. In summary: I found the book highly entertaining in places and an excellent overview of this topic as it might be taught in an Ivy League University in The United States (indeed Pinker says that such a course that he taught was part of the impetus for the book). In terms of being a good substitute for those who might never have been able to afford due to chance, location or cost actually attending such an institution and taking on a course such as one on "Critical Thinking" and "Rationality" the book could readily serve as a series of well written university lecture notes. To that end, it is certainly worth the cost for anyone interested in these topics. In Chapter 2, Professor Pinker not only agrees with the "justified true belief" conception of knowledge but uses it in practise to explain what might be called the "rational" and "irrational". I thus spend a good portion of the second half of this video suggesting ways in which that very conception of knowledge itself leads to irrationality and explain a better way of understanding concepts like "knowledge" as compared to "belief" and how to understand the phrase "I know". I intend to cover 2 chapters per episode. 00:00 Introduction 03:30 “Enlightenment Now” and praise for "The Beginning of Infinity". 07:50 Timeless errors, timely examples. 13:05 “Rationality” in “The Beginning of Infinity” sense. 17:15 Do ancient-type tribal people have a “scientific mindset”? 25:00 Explanatory Universality & Anti-rational memes 34:34 Skill with logic puzzles and *being* logical/rational 42:00 The Wason Selection task 51:25 The Monty Hall Problem 1:02:50 The Linda Problem (& remarks on uses and misuses of probability) 1:11:42 Popper and theory laden observations 1:14:20 Knowledge as Justified True Belief - Why Popper matters 1:27:00 Objective truth 1:32:30 Reason is fun 1:38:18 Closing remarks about chapter 2
Ep 94: Wealth and the Conflict of Ideas
35:04I recommend this episode be viewed in its video format here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfuQI_LgDBE or here https://odysee.com/@BrettHall:c/wealth-and-the-conflict-of-ideas:1 as it's got lots of nice images and videos...some of which I constructed myself. That said, the actual "message" can be appreciated fully with audio only. Although I do not explicitly mention it, this entire episode was motivated by a Sam Harris “meme post” found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-sWqk5n1... The claim that appears there (which reads “The free market is not producing effective responses to our most important problems” is emblematic of an intellectual culture that now holds sway not only in the academy but broadly in public discourse and, of course, it is readily consumed by people hungry for simple solutions and perversely promoted by business people afraid of their left-leaning customers. In this episode I spend time on a very brief historic analysis of the motivation for such rejections of freedom and capitalism (which we must admit are relatively new creations when put beside ancient tribalism) and I look at some of the failures of central planning or rejection of the free market. I agree with those who say “there is no actual capitalism” there are merely degrees of socialism in existence. Where there is freedom in a socialist framework, to the degree there is freedom: wealth grows. And to the degree there are top down controls: poverty increases. I regard this as an opportunity cost to some extent. It should not be necessary to defend the fundamentals of economic systems that allow for wealth creation and problem solving. But we live in a time where, for various reasons, a neo-Marxist move is on the ascendency. On that: I also voice concerns I have about allies on the side of liberty turning on one another rather too often out of concern this or that “capitalist” is not sufficiently “capitalist”. I see this as a wonderful way for socialists to continue to gain ground in institutions at all levels of government. A partial script for this episode can be found here: https://www.bretthall.org/our-most-im... This video and ones like it take many days (sometimes weeks) of production from research and reading for the script through to filming and audio recording, searching libraries of stock videos and music, organising copyright issues and finally editing - because I work alone. If you would like to support this effort, you may donate at www.bretthall.org where there is a "Donate" button for one off or monthly donations. On the same page are links to my Patreon accounts where you can also support me. Thankyou :)
Ep 93: David Deutsch answers a question about the nature of mind. A question for David number 9.
10:02In this answer David provides some unique insight into the mystery that remains the nature of the mind. We are constrained by some of what we already know (like computational universality, among other things) and so given this, what can we say about the mind?
Ep 92: David Deutsch answers a question about observations. A question for David number 8
8:01In this “question for David” number 8 we speak about direct observation - “empiricism” and how that was progress over what came before even if it is false. More than anything else this question serves as a “teaser” for the content of question 9: some of David’s views on the nature of mind. Ways to support my work can be found at www.bretthall.org via Patreon or the "Donate" button. Visit https://nav.al and subscribe.
Ep 91: David Deutsch‘s ”The Fabric of Reality” Chapter 3 “Problem Solving” Part 2
41:36In this podcast we cover a universal scheme for problem solving and then focus in on the special case of problem solving in science and compare this to outdated and refuted attempts to explain how knowledge was supposed to be "justified". Popper wrote that "all life is problem solving" - so I discuss that briefly and throughout we consider that if problems are indeed soluble (as they are) how it is that problems eventually get solved. It takes effort, it takes creativity, the process can be messy and there is no single method: but there are ways to be right about what's going on and ways to be wrong. Credit to: David Deutsch for writing "The Fabric of Reality" Naval Ravikant for his ongoing support of this project. My other Patrons and supporters at Patreon. If you would also like to support this podcast, please head over to either https://www.patreon.com/tokcast to sponsor me per episode. Or per month here: https://www.patreon.com/BrettRHall Or click on the "Donate" button at www.bretthall.org where you can send me a one off or monthly donation. Though this has always been and will remain a "labour of love" I thankyou everyone for any and all support which will allow me to continue to improve the sound, presentation and delivery of this series.
Ep 90: Fallibilism
10:18This is the audio only version of the video found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxeXbTv1dug and is one of my occasional episodes backed by some music. Inspired largely by the work of David Deutsch with underlying themes of Popperian critical rationalism: this is my exploration of fallibilism. The three music tracks were composed by Ketsa https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/ and are, in order: 1. "Mixed Up" 2. "Start of Something Beautiful" 3."Hear me out" and are used under a Creative Commons license. All videos are purchased from and used under license from "Storyblocks" https://www.storyblocks.com/
Ep: 89 ”Quantum Information” Chiara Marletto‘s ”The Science of Can & Can‘t” Ch 4 readings and discussion
1:15:05As the title suggests: this is about Quantum Information. It is “Quantum Information Theory” to be more precise. Now physics is sometimes regarded as strange by people who know little about it. And even for people who know a little more about it - well they might regard quantum physics as strange. And even those who know a little about quantum physics - they can regard quantum information theory as rather esoteric. This episode, following Chapter 4 of Chiara Marletto’s excellent book, begins from the ground up to explore how quantum systems can do more with information than classical systems (which is what all present day computers use). There is an excellent talk by David Wallace about the Mach Zehnder interferometer that I mention. It’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRJT9... Coupled with my own remarks about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu4HH... Anyone should come away with a good understanding of what is actually going on.
Ep: 88 Critically Creative (Critical and Creative Thinking 2.0).
1:25:28There is an article associated with this podcast episode here: https://www.bretthall.org/critically-creative-1.html I mention this article from the University of Sydney, Australia: https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/critical-thinking.html While recording this podcast, I had in mind teachers: they are my primary “target audience” so to speak. But this will, I hope be useful for anyone with a “stake” in the education system: so of course students, their parents, university lecturers, administrators - people in a position to make decisions about schools and curriculum. The topic is essentially “Critical Thinking” and what I think it is, in the Popperian tradition. As I will mention, unlike even just 15 years ago, “Critical Thinking” is now a fashionable term thrown around in schools, universities and among those charged with deciding what students are taught and how. Often “Creative Thinking” is thrown into the mix as well. All sorts of activities are devised for students to improve these “skills”: sometimes entire new subjects are created for students to take that are supposed to be about improving “critical thinking”. It’s all - from the education system’s point of view - very new. And because it’s new *there* they are, largely speaking, inventing things on the fly or designating certain techniques or rules or activities “critical and creative thinking”. It really is all the buzz in many places. The time stamps below will give you some better idea of the full content. Time Stamps 00:00:00 Introduction - and what should be in a school curriculum. 00:04:00 Educational buzz words and “lock in”. 00:07:55 Some initial thoughts about +the practical* uses of epistemology 00:10:30 Teaching vs Learning Strategies and “Student Engagement” 14:30 Criticisms - what are they? 15:30 What it takes to pass exams. 16:40 To be creative should you obey no rules? 18:30 A second pass on the practical applications of critical thinking 22:25 The Grass Eating cure for the 100th time ;) 25:20 “The Explanation Criteria” 28:30 Peer review (& double blind placebo controlled trials in medicine) and *when* it is we can say we know what we know. 32:45 Critical Thinking everywhere 33:00 Explanationless science, mathematics 35:30 What is “criticism” exactly? 36:00 As applied to history & music. 36:50 How to come up with good criticisms and some discussion of the possibility of heuristics for better critical thinking. 39:10 Constructive vs Destructive criticism. (& the distinction between ideas and people). 44:00 Popper - an introduction for those involved in education 45:30 The anti-rational hangup ballast. 48:35 A very general two-step process for framing any analysis that requires the use of “critical thinking”. 50:13 Some more specific explicit unpacking of some critical thinking “techniques” or heuristics. 52:09 A “fundamental” theorem of criticism or the chief principle of critical thinking. :) 56:27 Creative thinking: the little we know. 59:00 Remarks about economics and free vs regulated markets 01:01:27 How can we improve creative thinking? 01:01:03 Creativity and criticism in evolution by natural selection 01:04:07 How does human creativity work? Remarks on AGI. 01:09:09 How a child teaches us 01:14:38 Final “critically creative” thoughts. 01:18:00 Typical “critical thinking” as it is taught at university: https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/critical-thinking.html 01:20:00 The purpose of critical and creative thinking as taught at schools/universities.
Ep 87: David Deutsch‘s ”The Fabric of Reality” Chapter 3 “Problem Solving” Part 1
1:14:41This is the first part of a discussion about chapter 3 of "The Fabric of Reality". It is about...problem solving with a significant focus on science and how scientific theories are generated. It contains criticism of the prevailing "justificationist" and "inductivist" notions. I see it as a good companion to (perhaps an introduction to) my episode "The Aim of Science" which I would consider a little more "heavy". This was wide ranging and a lot of fun to produce!
Ep 86: The Aim of Science
1:13:23This is an "irregular" ToKCast which is all about a short essay by Popper titled "The Aim of Science". I read parts of the essay and comment on it and compare it to some more recent developments in the philosophy of science. Readings for this - like the paper itself - can be found here: http://www.bretthall.org/the-aim-of-s... The thing about the essay that is amazing is how certain paragraphs are as clear as anything one might say on this topic today: and yet he is breaking the ground in many ways with what he is saying. People struggled until Popper to even make a coherent case for what science was all about let alone how it managed to do it. There are only a few images in this "video" so you can easily get away with listening to the audio only version of this.