Sunday, July 9, 2017

Doing metaethics like Judit Polgar

Judit Polgar's swashbuckling chess style is sort of a philosophical inspiration to me. I watch more chess than I play, because I'd rather see great players make beautiful moves than make mediocre ones myself. Her game against Alexey Shirov, narrated here by friendly chess uncle Mato Jelic, is a perfect example.

On move 10, Polgar makes a pawn sacrifice that looks bad at first glance. But there's a whole world of possibility behind it that nobody else had previously explored. She plunges into that world, and makes a bunch of other weird-looking awesome moves. Eventually she emerges into a conventional endgame with a massive advantage, and Shirov resigns.

My feeling about the philosophical literature in metaethics today is that a bunch of smart people are carefully mapping out a narrow subset of options. There are moves out of this literature that are dismissed because they initially look bad. And it's true that lots of the initially bad-looking moves are just bad.

But there are a few bad-looking moves that open up awesome new opportunities. People stop exploring these moves too quickly because the path to victory really is hard to see. But if you do see the precise weird moves to follow up with, you could come out far ahead of the possibilities discovered in the existing literature.