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  1. I was going to read your Quantum Frames paper, but for some reason I ended up reading this one instead, which ends up being strangely very relevant to some things I’ve been thinking about, writing about, and arguing about lately with a coworker.

    We’ve been trying to resolve some tricky issues of self identity that come up in the Everett Interpretation of quantum mechanics, as well as in teleportation and cloning thought experiments, and cases of memory erasure or amnesia such as the Sleeping Beauty thought experiment. We’ve been arguing about whether there is a separation between truth and utility in the context of these thought experiments. There are certain types of questions we keep bumping up against, like… when should you consider an exact or nearly-exact clone of yourself to be a valid successor of your present self to the extent that you would expect that the clone’s experiences might be the next thing you will experience. We’ve come up with all difference scenarios involving placing bets where you don’t collect on the bet until different numbers of copies of you are destroyed or not destroyed. I won’t go into the details, but the end result of it is that my coworker is convinced that truth in this context can only be derived from utility, whereas I’m not quite willing to concede that yet (although I think it’s possibly right). So reading about this belief/acceptance dichotomy is very interesting.

    I don’t think I understand Dewey’s pragmatic view of truth (or how it differs from what you call “vulgar pragmatism” or the bumper sticker version) well enough to say much about it. But something strikes me as immediately wrong with the wedge strategy you’re attacking as you describe it. Your description of the belief/acceptance dichotomy makes no mention of the Bayesian view of belief which I subscribe to, and I think most of the science world subscribes to (I don’t know if this has been as widely adopted by philosophers yet). That is, it assumes that belief is a binary thing, you either think something is true or you don’t. But my understanding of belief is pretty different–I see each belief as coming with a credence or strength. So if I think there’s an 80% likelihood of something being true, then I might say I “believe” it, but when it comes to action the important thing is not just the belief but what my level of credence is, as well as how bad the consequences are if that 20% chance that I’m wrong comes to pass. So I don’t buy there’s a belief/acceptance dichotomy (at least, as you describe it), but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up a value-free view of science either. It seems to me that all that’s necessary in most cases to separate action from belief is the knowledge that it’s possible you’re wrong in your beliefs because you’re not infinitely confident in them. In other words, we act to maximize expected utility, which is a function not just of beliefs but of the level of credence attached to them and the positive and negative consequences of being right or wrong about them as well.

    I think for the same reason, Dewey’s notion of judgement seems to final to me. I’m fine with acting on partial information and not coming to any final judgment ever. Why does Dewey think all ambiguity has to be resolved in order to act?

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