This week we will talk about a few philosophical concepts that I think can help us with considerations such as the "Fine Tuning" meme which is currently popular in some circles. There are people who seem impressed that, "The laws and constants of physics are on a 'knife edge', finely tuned to create a universe that can support 'life' and 'consciousness'." They claim to think that, "If any of these quantities or laws were altered in the slightest degree the universe as we know it could not exist." etc.
My current opinion is that this entire line of thinking is deeply flawed, to the extent that I find it curious that "smart" people could be impressed by these considerations. Presumably some of you disagree with this position. So this week we will talk about a small list of philosophical concepts that I think are important for thinking in general, and we will use the "Fine Tuning" debate as an entry point and a touchstone for the discussion to anchor an understanding of the following:
Counterfactual (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterfactuals) reasoning: "It is not the case that x, but if it were the case that x then..."
Ceteris Paribus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceteris_paribus): "All (other) things equal..."
Mutatis Mutandis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutatis_mutandis): "With only the necessary modifications...", "Changing only those things which need to be changed..."
The map/territory distinction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map%E2%80%93territory_relation): To "confuse the map with the territory" would be to treat the contents of models as though they were contents of the real world.
Anthropic Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle) + Universal Darwinism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_darwinism): If one finds replication, heredity, and scarcity one will find an evolutionary process.
Additionally you can expect some talk of the concepts, "identity", "uniqueness", "analogy", and more.
For an example of a "smart" person speaking in a way that I find objectionable about the topic of fine tuning, check out the video below. We can discuss whether or not Susskind and others who have been impressed with "fine tuning" considerations may be making some philosophical errors.