How to Think

The philosophers’ thoughts

Socrates and Categorizations – Socrates, the first philosopher, developed a method to refine definitions and eliminate internal contradictions in thought. But his method has limitations.

Aristotle and logical systems – Aristotle was a brilliant man who insisted that the world make sense to him. So he developed a way of making it so.

Francis Bacon and observations – Deduction is useful in many ways, but it can’t produce new knowledge. Only induction can do that, but it’s a tricky process. Francis Bacon tried to refine the method, and ended up being the first philosopher of science.

Descartes and radical skepticism – If skepticism is a hammer, Descartes saw all of philosophy as a wall of glass. And he was eager to start smashing.

Hume and the problem of induction – Induction is super useful. It’s a pity, therefore, that Hume showed it can never be justified. In short, nothing can ever be said to cause anything.

Immanuel Kant and intuition – According to Kant, thinking about thinking is like using a microscope to examine itself. It can’t be done. Why? Intuition, or “pre-processing”.

Wittgenstein and the limits of language – Right now, I’m attempting to use language to convey meaning. Is it working? Wittgenstein will tell us.

Karl Popper and falsificationism – Science is what allows men to fly, control electricity, and cheat death. It’d probably be a good idea to figure out what exactly it is, then. Karl Popper is on the case.


My own thoughts

Recommendations for improving teaching in Brazilian jiu jitsu – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a sport that I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the last year and a half, and I think it’s fantastic. But I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in the teaching of BJJ, and I’ve outlined those recommendations here. This essay also serves as a brief summary of my philosophy and practices as an educator, as applied to BJJ.

The limits of argumentation – Philosophers (and everyone else) have traditionally used argumentation to determine truth. But this doesn’t always work. Using the recent presidential debates, I’ll explore when exactly argumentation breaks down.

Probability, Bayesian theory, and causation– Many philosophers have discussed the difficulties of saying that some event caused another event. The answer that most scientists have adopted is to say some event probably caused another event. Does this work? Not entirely.

Hard science, soft science, and pseudoscience – Some people say that Aristotle was the last man to know all the knowledge available in his time. The rest of us are forced to rely and even trust our lives on theories that we cannot understand or evaluate. This is a difficult problem, but it can be approached philosophically.

Thinking about big numbers – We read in the news every day about thousands, millions, and billions, but these numbers are never put in context. This essay discusses a method of grappling with big numbers and making them understandable.

How to valuate a company – One of humanity’s favorite uses for our money is to use it to make more money, and one of our favorite ways of doing that is to invest our money in companies. This essay compares and contrasts two methods of doing that from a philosophical standpoint: Warren Buffett’s and Andreesen Horowitz’s.

The flow of money – It must be nice to be a bank. People just give you money and you can do whatever you want with it until they ask for it back. Fortunately, banks aren’t the only ones who get to play with other people’s money, and I’m not even talking about kids with rich parents.