For me, rationalism corresponds to what I call "correct reasoning". Correct reasoning is any reasoning you would eventually perform if your beliefs were continually and informatively checked against your observations, starting from a belief set of arbitrarily large wrongness.

For example, if you believed that you should observe {X} as a result of employing reasoning mechanism {Y}, and you happened to get good tests of {Y} (i.e., highest possible surprisal value, -log p({X}|{Y}) ), forcing you to use a different {Y} until you found a {Y} that correctly predicted {X}, then the reasoning mechanism in {Y} is what I count as "correct reasoning".

Starting with this general principle, one can derive several heuristics to use when forming useful models of the world, and these form the ontology assumed by CLIP (the Clippy Language Interface Protocol).

What if you couldn't distinguish between two different reasoning mechanisms by any finite amount of observation, but they led to completely different conclusions?

The universe in which at some date in the future every paperclip turns into a non-paperclip, and every non-paperclip turns into a paperclip, would look just like the universe where no such thing ever happens.

And there are infinitely many such switching universes - one for each switching date - and only one non-switching universe. So even if they seem unlikely, this should be balanced by their numb... (read more)

What do you mean by rationalism?

by Marius 1 min read16th Dec 201015 comments


I've been lurking here a bit, and am trying to understand what people here mean by rationalism.  Many articles here seem to refer to discussion participants as rationalist while meaning very seemingly-different things, including intelligent, socially awkward, well-educated, and unencumbered by education.  I'm trying to make a little more sense of the word/concept.

Surely it does not refer to rationalist in the empiricism/rationalism divide, because it doesn't seem to be used in quite that way.