"Overcoming Bias" is a nifty title, but what if it were "Overcoming Prejudice" instead? How many people would instantly associate it with being the racial kind? I once shared Einstein's quote: “What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.” -- followed by: "The prejudice in Einstein's era pales in comparison to today." Some guy replied, "By any objective measurement, that is completely wrong."

I politely corrected him by explaining that Einstein's quote is about prejudice in all its forms. Prejudice is an ugly term -- and that's precisely why it needs to be used to define the ugliness it applies to. Most of America is prejudiced by definition. As a friend perfectly put it: "It's not 'Pride & Bias.'"

It seems like there's a lot of thoughtful people in here discussing the "meaning of life" -- but it's all in broad strokes. It's so much more interesting and demanding when you get granular.

"Bias" and "prejudice" is not simply semantics. For decades, I've been practically spit on for telling the truth. That's not bias -- that's full-blown prejudice. Bias would be inclined not to believe at first but still having a willingness to consider the information.

But you can be politely dismissive and be just as prejudiced as being belligerent.

I have an idea that could turn the tide -- and it doesn't get any more granular than the irrefutable evidence of mathematical certainty at the center of it.

Tolstoy’s Not Talkin’ About Me — He’s Talkin’ About You:https://onevoicebecametwo.l...

As M. Scott Peck put it: "Why do we learn anything? The answer is simply that it is far better – both more fulfilling and constructive – to have some glimmer of understanding of what we are than to flounder around in total darkness. We can neither comprehend nor control it all, but as J.R.R Tolkien said:

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years when we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

"uprooting the evil in the fields that we know" . . .

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I like Nathan Taylor's answer. Meaning is something an individual finds in their individual life. Similarly it wouldn't make sense to ask, "What is the meaning of books?" By reading a book you only find out the meaning of that book. I don't know my meaning, but I've always found the question intriguing and suspect.

People seem compelled to wonder about it as in an absurdist play: some characters find themselves in a strange setting and start asking "What is the meaning of this!?" As if we had already existed, but were kidnapped and placed here. And maybe there's an expectation that whoever places us here is supposed to have given us assignments or to have gathered us here for a purpose. Or else it's pretty presumptuous, wouldn't you say!? And in any case, if it wasn't for a purpose, why go to the trouble!? Relating to the status of being someone with a reason to be here. William Bartley did a great job on the strong old cultural habit of looking, on the assumption of a need, for justification.

The closest I come to thinking there's a real meaning to "meaning of life," is experiences that provoke feelings one wants to call "meaningful," "deep," or "profound"-- whatever those feelings mean. When something seems to connect the dots in ones life, make things seem to "come together," or one sees a pattern, or the meaning of grand things others have said about life in a way that crosses a lot of experience and motivation of one's own. Or if one finds what feels like a mission or thing that feels important to be doing for a while. The fact that there are these global emotional indicators like deep or important "for its own sake," suggests they're evolved for something. I think human brains are motivated to connect or unify experiences, viewpoints, ideas, etc., if not as a bias then as a natural dynamic of mental redundancy versus economy. Stumbling across a unification feels like something one should do again.

(Minsky said, on the contrary, finding distinctions is the important thing.)

Another way to see the global indicator is to think of doing something that "feels meaningless."

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Wouldn't the meaning be the standard goals we have as great apes? Love, friendship, sex, knowledge, power, status and so on? This doesn't seem like a hard question. Figuring out how to get those things-that's a hard question. That's so hard we spend our entire lives trying to do it better, and even on our deathbeds we don't know as much as we'd like. But the top-level goals seem like basic biology.

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There's a pretty basic language problem in this: to say an action ”gives life meaning" is not the same as saying that is is the "meaning of life". These phrases just mean different things in English. You're not increasing clarity by conflating them.The idea of a "meaning of life" that is a brief logical expression is one thing; some religions or philosophical systems do claim to provide such a thing, but not all.The idea of having meaning or being meaningful is a different concept, related but separate. Pursuing meaning in this sense does not mean attempting to find a brief logical "meaning of life". It's often probably something more like emotional satisfaction, but there are lots of possibilities for what meaning in life might be.

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Your life has meaning just in case there is some objective that you ought to attain; the meaning is to attain that objective. If there were no such objective, your life would be meaningless (though it would have other qualities—perhaps even being pleasant).

I propose, as the objective you ought to attain, producing maximal expected net good, where good is something like happiness. People do not actually attain this objective; they differ in their amount of shortfall.

Any other questions?

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I spent quite a while writing a comment, successfully submitted it, and Disqus deleted it! I don't feel like doing that again, but the curt summary is that Huemer deals with those objections in the book. That link was one chapter excerpt.

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“The aspirational accounts are true” should be one of your options, for completeness sake, even if you don’t believe it. Many people do, myself included, and have benefitted from and found meaning in it/them. (Christianity specifically in my case)

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> "Well, if you don't want to be a skeptic--you don't, do you?--then you basically have to accept intuitionism."> asserting baldly that it's either skepticism or intuitionism

Other chapters in the book argue against other philosophies (other than skepticism): "There are five broad views about the nature of morality: non-cognitivism, subjectivism, naturalism, nihilism, and intuitionism. [All but ethical intuitionism] face grave difficulties." The linked excerpt is chapter 5 after some of such chapters, so I recommend reading the entire book.

As far as skepticism, he wrote a whole book on that, Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, although I'm less familiar with it.

In short, my interpretation is that moral or meaning intuitions might be no more bald assertions than all other sense faculties. Unless one questions all senses (general skepticism), then we do start somewhere. Perception is the basis of science. I think a good analogy to the arguments against objective meaning and objective ethics is the argument against free will. I intellectually sense that I sometimes make choices. This could be a complete delusion (as with any other sense) but I start with accepting my observation until proven otherwise. For some reason, modern science-minded people accept observation as the basis of atomic and quantum theory, but not of choice, and they interpret choice through the lens of atomic and quantum theories. If the theories don't fit the observations, then, in general, the theories should be questioned, not the observations.

This is not to say that Dr. Huemer necessarily has all the answers, and one should certainly read various different philosophers; just that I think there's much more nuance than your quoted assertions.

> why intuitions actually resolve the problem

He certainly does state one attempt at why, so I don't that's correct. Perhaps he's wrong, but I think one would need to quote a particular argument of his and state a flaw or counter-argument.

> to wit: very, VERY few ethical intuitions are universal across cultures, and other than some vague ideas about fairness I strongly suspect that all of them are pretty much invalid.

He covers this counterargument in the book. He has a long, four part answer, but this is a snippet of one of the parts: "While there is widespread disagreement about such issues as abortion, affirmative action, and capital punishment, there are no serious disputes about the desirability of such things as murder, rape, and armed robbery. The former sort of issues receive much more attention than the latter, simply because we don’t normally discuss what everyone already knows. This leads to an exaggerated view of the prevalence of controversy."

It may be that there are very few moral intuitions that we have strong observations of (partly summarized in what he calls at some point, the Non-Aggression Presumption). This may entail things such as a presumption against force, which he covers in another great essay, "In praise of passivity".

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Right, I know, and Dr. Huemer's ideas are, while much (MUCH) more coherent and well-thought-out, are basically the same intuitionist ideas I had developed.

But in the end, it's still kicking the can down the road a bit. I read the chapter twice, to make sure I was understanding it more or less fully, and it seems to me to basically state, "Well, if you don't want to be a skeptic--you don't, do you?--then you basically have to accept intuitionism." And--this part was new to me--"If we accept intuitions at all, we should be able to accept ethical intuitions." But since the whole appeal is a way to avoid skepticism, it seems that he's not so much avoiding it as simply asserting baldly that it's either skepticism or intuitionism, while not actually explaining why intuitions actually resolve the problem. So in the end--like all more or less pragmatic philosophies--it's vaguely unfulfilling but probably a good idea.

The ethical intuitions had their own special problem. to wit: very, VERY few ethical intuitions are universal across cultures, and other than some vague ideas about fairness I strongly suspect that all of them are pretty much invalid.

(Note: I'm a philosophy dilettante, and I want to state up front that I have a pretty low confidence level on my ideas here.)

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'But these truths are mostly ugly, and thus not one they are eager to own and tell to others'Indeed the truth is too depressing to admit so fantasize about abstract explanations. We are biological creatures and as all such our unending job is to thrive i.e. to keep growing, to not dissipate.But we are losing, undeniably slowly dying and at some level we are aware of that reality.If we must have an abstract goal it might be attain satisfaction . In other words convince yourself that your efforts have produced a good enough outcome given your circumstances.

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It's like a scratch-off lottery or an archaeological dig. I don't think I could have known how much I would prefer being a parent before having a kid. The action came first and the meaning afterward. It's not that the Meaning is ugly and should stay buried. It's that Not-Meaning isn't exactly a worthless lottery ticket or dirt. Not-Meaning can feel fine and busy and diverting. You found a great, eternal treasure? That's nice. I stumbled across a wild strawberry today and saw a friend in a crowd of strangers.

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I suspect meaning is not an all-or-nothing quality, i.e. not something you either have achieved or you haven't.

When you discover how to achieve a Meaning level of X, you immediately start hungering for achieving a Meaning level of X+1. And like you hypothesize, the info on achieving X should be spread quickly, so the value of achieving X is low cause everyone soon knows it. So everyone's always looking on the frontier for reaching X+1, and ignoring their previous achievement of having reached X.

In that case, what you're pointing out is that no one has figured out how to achieve a Meaning level of Infinity -- i.e. so satisfied and omniscient that there's no more knowledge or experiences to strive for.

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The most popular religions claim to have found the meaning of life (mostly not completely, but certainly significant parts of it), and have persuaded many people of that, and at the same time, these messages have often been perceived as objectionable and not pleasing. So you're questions don't seem well founded to me.

It seems you may really be wondering why "the meaning of life" isn't proven in a scientific or logical sense, despite science and logic having existed for hundreds or thousands of years.

If the purpose of the universe is to host individuals and morally challenge them (along the lines of what the major religions say), then there can not be an easily followed "recipe" for how to act, or else someone could deduce it and then the challenge would be significantly reduced and the purpose of the universe would be undermined. So the meaning of life must always be objectionable (at least in the sense of "do I really have to do that?"), or unclear, or some combination of the two.

Also, the meaning of life can not be so objectionable and unclear that no one has the slightest chance of following it. So it must be the situation that everyone has some limited access to the meaning of life.

So combining these two points, you'd expect the situation to be as it is for logic - i.e. for there to be some basic difficult to deny aspects but also for it to be incomplete and not provably consistent. So assuming that there is a challenging meaning of life implies that it will never be provable and is unlikely to ever be fully agreed on.

If there is an unchallenging meaning of life, then as you say why haven't we found it yet? And if there is no meaning of life, then why do people seem to readily find parts of it? Perhaps meaning is an emergent phenomena, and then why does it tend to take the forms it does? It could be both emergent and challenging.

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And Buddha and Confucius.

"What can we conclude from this key fact?" is a silly question if the fact isn't a fact.

A better question might be what do the various meanings that have become popular have in common, and what are the differences?

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I find your first option the most credible. Conceivable alternatives you did not list (which admittedly seem implausible to me) include that knowledge of life's meaning - the thing which causes people to make the choices they do - is simple and basically uniform across people, but does not spread because it is hard to discover, AND one or more of the following is true: a) it is a mood or feeling which must be learned through experience and is extremely hard or impossible to express in words b) it is, despite being true, very non-credible c) it loses utility once expressed in words d) it is inherently packaged with the meta-belief that it should not be communicated in words e) it is, despite being simple, very deep

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There is a difference between intuitions and beliefs. I recommend reading Dr. Huemer's whole book but here is a sample chapter for free: https://spot.colorado.edu/~...

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