Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Theoretical Taxonomy: Wussy and Badass

Via Jeremy Alder comes this taxonomy of philosophical views as Wussy or Badass. I agree with the comments about the wussiness of semantic tricks and win-win situations. I agree about the badassness of bullet-biting and Buffy (at least, in seasons 1-3). But this, surely, is false: "whenever a view compromises metaphysical commitments for epistemological reasons, it's totally wussing out."

What's more wussy than a view that gains all its resources by begging them off of an overly permissive epistemology? What's more wussy than the self-indulgence that refuses to do without even the most theoretically expensive metaphysical comfort? The badassness of epistemically rigorous, ontologically simple theories is the badassness of MacGyver. Remember MacGyver, who would outwit his enemies by building a bazooka out of a toaster, a 9-volt battery, and some dental floss? Deny him all but the weirdest, most unlikely resources, and he'd still defeat you. Such is the badassness of David Hume, the Logical Positivists, and Nietzsche. They charged into battle naked as woad-painted Celts, and the bards will sing of their boldness forevermore. While David Lewis loses big points for epistemic rigor, he gains them back by resourcefulness and a strange sort of simplicity. Here's a man who built accounts of modality, value, and the mind using nothing but concrete objects. Sure, he used way more concrete objects than anyone had ever seen fit to use before, but he didn't help himself to any abstracta or any irreducible properties of the normative or mental kind. It's quite an exercise in bazooka-building!


Rousseau said...

I rmeember a while ago we had a disagreement re: compatibilism. Basically I said I remembered it being something that cuts at the foundation of the determinism v indeterminism argument to prove both are wrong (that causation != coercion), and tries to save free will. You stated that compatibilism meant something else entirely, and I wasn't really able to come up with references where I had gotten my definition. This guy seems to be mentioning compatibilism in a way that goes along with what I was saying.

But hey, you may have forgotten about all of this.

Neil Sinhababu said...

In philosophical contexts, compatibilism is the view that we have free will even though determinism is true. That kind of compatibilism also can be attacked with the anti-wussiness critique.

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

Semantic tricks aren't wussy. Paradoxically, accusations of semantic tricks are intrinsically wussy, but semantic tricks can be badass. It all depends on how good the trick is.