Feb 17 • 3M

Alien Abductions

or, the philosophy of space soccer

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Anti-laconic philosophical addenda to the main Wise Hypocrite podcast. @wisehypocrite everywhere
Episode details

Hello. Here’s a little trailer for the upcoming episode in my podcast series on The 10 Questions of Human Existence. These are the perennial questions that have shaped every single choice, action and interaction of every human that has ever lived. Yes, I said it! For details, check out Episode 0, wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anyway, here’s a thought: if an alien landed in a theatre, would it know how to behave?

Of course not.

There's nothing about the mere fact of red curtains, a raised stage or velvet chairs that tells us about the norms regulating the theatre experience. In fact, unless the alien already came to the theatre armed with some basic assumptions about how humans use chairs and stages, they (this alien’s non-binary) wouldn't even know what a theatre is for.

So the general idea is this - brute facts tell us very little about what matters in a given context.

Philosophers have long discussed the gap between facts and values, or as David Hume famously put it,* the "is / ought" gap.

*(spoiler: he didn’t actually put it that way. It is famous though.)

The fancy way of putting it is "should" statements about values cannot logically be derived from "is" statements about facts. Just like a factual description of beetroot and Nicky Minaj can’t tell you which is more horrible, without there being underlying value judgments at play about what constitutes "horrible" (other spoiler: it’s a draw).

The less fancy way of putting it is - the magnificent Wise Hypocrite podcast is moving from descriptive questions (Who Am I?, What Is Real?, How Do I Know?) to prescriptive questions (What Should I Do? How Do We Live Together? etc.). But that's a bit of a leap. Because we can't go from descriptive questions to prescriptive questions, without first dealing with evaluative questions.

So in the next episode, we're taking a little pit stop along the way from "is" to "should". I’d love it if you subscribed to the podcast and joined me for a little think about “What Matters?