Re: Why read philosophy?

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Tue, 05 Oct 1999 09:21:47 -0500

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 10:16 PM 4/10/99 -0500, Eliezer wrote:
> >> You're using the word "anthropomorphic" in a manner quite different from
> >> how I normally see it used. Could you flesh that out a little more?
> >
> >Anthropomorphic: Shaped by man. Any pattern caused by features which
> >are unique to humanity
> This is a contrary usage, Eli, almost the opposite of the standard.

Your definition is better, anyway, but let me try to explain mine: There are some cases where anthropomorphic explanations - explanations caused by features which are unique to humanity - are correct; for example, an anthropomorphic explanation of human culture. In other cases, where the forces are presumably preexisting to and external from humanity, such as the laws of physics, "anthropomorphism" is a legitimate criticism. You're probably right in that something needs to be added about anthropomorphism referring to perceptions or mental constructs rather than realities.

> Anthropomorphic: `Shaped like man'. Any pattern deformed by a human
> percipient into a construct that resembles something human. E.g., imposing
> the face of Jesus on a bean or a biscuit and declaring this a miracle. E.g.
> (maybe, maybe not) Sagan and Druyan telling the story of an ape troop in
> terms appropriate to a bunch of feeble-minded gangsters (in SHADOWS OF
> Anthropocentric? Still not quite right...
> Damien Broderick

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way