Category Archives: Philosophy

Truth Telling Under Uncertainty

“Thou shalt not lie.” Perhaps the most misquoted commandment of them all is actually not that broad:

Read more of this post

Your Utility Function Does Not Compute

Last week, I wrote about some of the ways that we show that we don’t truly value everyone equally, despite the prevalence of such principles in popular discourse and the Declaration of Independence that we celebrated on Tuesday.

This week, I’d like to take a look at a couple more aspects of modern life that don’t make any sense to me from this perspective. Read more of this post

What if we actually valued everyone equally?

I’ve previously written about the less commonly examined consequences of believing the life, with all of its dignity and worth, begins at conception. This week, I’d like to examine another common belief that tends to be voiced on the other side of the political spectrum: that we should value everyone, not just people we know or who are similar to us in some way. If I didn’t know better, I’d summarize this by saying “all lives matter,” but somehow that phrase has come to mean something closer to the opposite notion.

Without a convenient handle, I don’t have a relevant survey statistic to cite. Instead, we find this notion in how our country’s first revolutionaries justified their actions:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (Preamble to the Declaration of Independence)

Beautiful language, which would form the basis of the grand experiment of the US. At the same time, I know some of you are thinking: “Just men? What about women?” Or perhaps you readily think of the already-widespread pattern of slavery and marvel that it took at least another 80 years and a civil war to overcome what some have called America’s original sin. But if your mind is drawn in those directions, it probably means that you think you believe in the equality of humanity even more than the Declaration signatories did.

The only problem is, you don’t act like it. How would we all behave if we actually valued everyone equally? Read more of this post

How’s Married Life?

Grace and I will be celebrating our first anniversary this coming Sunday, June 11th. While it’s difficult to grasp it’s been a whole year already, it’s also becoming harder and harder to remember our lives before it.

Happily ever after, right? No, life’s ups and downs continue to go on, and we thought we’d share some reflections on our one year of marriage so far.

Read more of this post

The Virtues of Living in a Small Apartment

In Empires, the tenth and latest expansion to the game Dominion (one of my favorite games), there is a Landmark called Wall that changes the rules of the game to penalize every player by a point for every extra card in their deck beyond the 15th.

Wall

If you’ve played Dominion before, you probably recognize that this makes any cards that trash cards from your deck super valuable, like Chapel:

Chapel

And people wonder why religious conservatives support Trump… ­čśŤ

Chapel is already widely considered the strongest card in the game for its cost, because trashing the relatively bad initial cards can dramatically increase the average value of your deck. But with Wall, it becomes even more important to cut down on the low-value cards, since they actually start hurting you.

There are other types of trashing cards that give you some sort of benefit depending on what you trash. A classic from the Seaside expansion is Salvager:

Salvager

Salvager isn’t quite as powerful as Chapel when playing with Wall, but it does let you keep your deck lean as you keep improving┬ácards. These so-called “trash-for-benefit” cards tend to make it even more reasonable to exchange your best non-victory cards in the late game, since this way, you get some added value out of them, and with Wall, an extra point from not having them in your deck anymore.

Events, another new innovation from the last two Dominion expansions, also allow you to improve your deck in some way without adding cards, which is more valuable when playing with Wall. If there aren’t any Events or trashers, though, playing Wall becomes especially interesting. Every player who doesn’t sit on their hands will be losing points to it, but it’s still not enough to offset those 6-point Provinces or 3-point Duchies, so perhaps your strategies might look similar on the surface.

With Wall, though, you are forced to consider tradeoffs in a different way: maybe it isn’t worth the 1-point loss to buy anything if you only have $3 or $4, even as early as the mid-game. Estates (which only give 1 point) are now completely useless, so you might as well ignore them. In other words, your standards for what is worth buying go up, as your calculation is no longer about whether a card would improve your deck, but whether it would improve your deck by enough.

Why do I bring up the strategy around this one particular card in Dominion? Well, I’ve realized that living in a relatively small apartment has very much the same feel, and we’ve found ourselves adapting all of these strategies from time to time. Yes, this is another post where I derive life lessons from a board game.

Read more of this post