Rationality Quotes Thread August 2015

by bbleeker1 min read3rd Aug 2015226 comments


Rationality Quotes
Personal Blog

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
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can we have a moratorium on the suggestion that, in order to fix the system, “people have to get more involved”? This is not a solution, it is a restatement of the problem. (Saying that a problem requires massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action in order to be resolved is equivalent to saying that it cannot be resolved. We need to think institutionally about social problems.)

--Joseph Heath

3Sarunas6ySimilarly, I often remind myself that, as a general rule, I should avoid using third person imperative mood in my thinking and speech.
327chaos6yI agree with the sentiment that there are cases where people are lazy about problem solving, asserting essentially that the solution is that the problem ought to spontaneously solve itself. So this quote is a useful approximation. The following is just a nitpick. Empirically, are there not cases of broad-based semi-spontaneous decentralized collective action that have solved problems? I think they're rare, but real, especially as you get closer to the microlevel. Even within the macrolevel, it's important, because good macro depends on micro. Thinking institutionally would not work, unless individual decentralized people would act in certain useful and/or predictable ways, for example in ways that make institutional action a possibility in the first place, like being willing to cooperate sometimes. And formal institutions are really just a special case of more general things, other things which are not institutions can nonetheless take advantage of similar things to what institutions take advantage of. A sports team can behave somewhat institutionally, and so can a church, or a community, or even a nation. Even without enforcement mechanisms, this is somewhat true - for example, miraculously enough, a non negligible percentage of the population is willing to vote in elections, even without good individual incentives for their marginal vote.
2Good_Burning_Plastic6yHave there ever been no problems actually solved by massive, broad-based, spontaneous, decentralized collective action? (I can think of none off the top of my head and I agree it's extremely unlikely to happen, but have there even been coutnterexamples?)
7Sarunas6yEven if there were problems that were solved by such collective action, you should not create plans that rely on things like that happening (by definition, you cannot create a spontaneous action). Your plans should not rely on the problem having to solve itself. Edit: unless the type of spontaneous collective action you need is known to happen often or the problem you want to solve is of the type that are known to often solve themselves. Actions of the crowd during the fall of the Berlin Wall [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Wall#The_fall] seems to be an example of an event that fits the description, as it wasn't centrally organized, many people simply tried to make use of opportunity that suddenly appeared due to actions of East German government and other circumstances.
6VoiceOfRa6yAn interesting property of that example is that each individual was taking an action, attempting to escape to the west, that would benefit him personally. This is different from typical examples of "collective action" that have mass prisoners' dilemma/free rider problems.
2Good_Burning_Plastic6yIf the words are interpreted broadly enough then the non-existence of a free online encyclopedia is an example of a problem that was solved in such a way.
-2Lumifer6yThe defeat of the Evil Empire, aka the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics :-D
1[anonymous]6y... is often an excuse to avoid pointing out the institutions who could actually take action and the reasons they don't want to.

ShanksTheTruthSeeker: "Back in the days, what motivated you to decide to cure aging ?"

Aubrey de Grey: "The correct question is, what the hell is wrong with everyone else that stops them from being motivated to cure aging? It's responsible for the overwhelming majority of global suffering. WTF?"

From a Reddit AMA.

2[anonymous]6yMost people can't imagine what a world without ageing would be like, and they can't want what they can't imagine.
4passive_fist6ySpeaking personally, I'm motivated to cure aging for obvious reasons, but demotivated by the immense complexity of the task. To cure aging we need to essentially devise a way to remove most forms of decay from an extremely complicated system. Remove some forms of decay and other forms arise. The body has natural mechanisms to fight decay but the mechanisms themselves suffer from decay.
027chaos6yI don't understand why brain transplants don't seem to be a high priority for anti-ageists. It seems putting an old brain into the head of a clone would solve like half of all medical issues all at once. The other half would be extremely messy to deal with, maybe impossible, but first things first, no? Is there any serious work that's been done on this that I've overlooked? If not, why? Ethics boards, maybe?
8Lumifer6yLook at the prevalence of Alzheimer's as a function of age: Until you solve that particular problem, transplanting brains seems to be pointless.
2IffThen6yThis is consistent with 27chaos's statement, though. If you get a body transplant at 65, you have solved a number of medical problems, and the chance of living the next 30 years without having to worry about Alzheimer's is ~70%. Of course, Alzheimer's disease accounts for only 60-80% of cases of dementia. But still, I think there would be a market. It is also worth noting that cardiovascular factors, physical fitness, and diet contribute to the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's. These are not the greatest risk factors (as you might have guessed, age is the greatest risk factor), but these can be managed if you are motivated to do so -- in fact, getting a new body should be a fairly effective way of managing cardiovascular fitness.
0ChristianKl6yYou also add additional medical issues that come up with transplantation. Likely you won't get all nerves to be perfectly lined up.
0Lumifer6yI am sure there would be a market. And if someguy just showed up and said "Hey, look, I can do brain transplants, this is how it works, ain't it great?", everyone would go Yeah! That's great! Huzzah! But the issue is with two words in the (grand)+parent post: "high priority". Given limited resources, are brain transplants what people should be working on?
1Username6yWhy are USA and Brazil higher than China and Europe? Is something different about Western Hemisphere? Indian curses or something.
4Lumifer6yI suspect that China underreports the prevalence ("My uncle Xi who lives in a remote village became a bit strange as he got old, but it's OK, there is no need to take him to a doctor in the city..."), but I have no idea why Europe is different from US/Brazil. I think it would be easy to google up more data if you want to explore this further.
1Vaniver6yIf you could clone yourself, you would kill your copy for spare parts? I think more than just ethics boards have trouble with that. (I also get the sense that brain transplants are neither feasible nor projected to be before uploading, basically.)
-2Dagon6yIf I could clone myself (including brain-state), I'd of course pre-commit to roshambo amongst myselves for organs. And then clone more. If the clones didn't include brain-state, I'd probably look for ways to make brain-free partial clones to avoid the question of who I'd be killing to live extra years.
2tut6yOk, the answer to OPs question is that action flick "clones" are not possible with near future technology, and most likely making them (with Drexlerian nanotech or something) is strictly more difficult than just fixing your present body. Your real world clone would take 20 years to "make" and be a separate person, like you would be if you grew up when they did.
1IffThen6yThis is partially missing the point. The goal is to make a separate body, compatible with your biology. There is no need to grow a clone with a functioning brain -- any medical science sufficient to clone a human would be able to clone an acephalic human [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly] (WARNING, NSFL, fetus with head damage), and growing a clone with a fully functioning brain (i.e., not driven insane by being grown in a de facto sensory deprivation chamber) would be much more expensive, even if you kept education to a minimum. Still, all this is ethically questionable, something that would need a lot of advance planning, and will be a long time in the future. It is true that fixing your body piecemeal will almost surely be a better option -- even if it does end up involving some limited form of cloning organs.
3James_Miller6yMost people do want to live forever in heaven
2[anonymous]6yAnd they can't really imagine what that would be like.
1NancyLebovitz5yThere's a quote I haven't turned up about people praying for eternal life in heaven when they don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy afternoon.
3[anonymous]5yThe downvote isn't mine. On the other hand, my reply to that quote is that I can pretty easily keep myself occupied on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Susan Ertz
0NancyLebovitz5yThank you. It may be worth noting that the quote is from before the internet. It's a lot easier to have something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon than it used to be.
-1[anonymous]5yI have shelves. They hold books, and board-games, and occasionally even DVDs. I live with my girlfriend and another friend. At last resort, we have alcohol.
1Lumifer6yWhy not? That seem to be a very trivial exercise of imagination.
5[anonymous]6yReally? What are the trivial demographic trends? Also, it's emotionally threatening to say that they're suffering the ravages of ageing meaninglessly.
1IffThen6yI have to agree with Lumifer -- most people can imagine (and want) a world without aging, because they would not bother to think about the demographic trends. I would compare this to asking someone to imagine a world in which no one was living below the average income level; I think most people would agree that this is easy to conceive of, and desirable. It's only the select few who would think this through and wonder how the powers that be are going to achieve this without doing something very drastic to a lot of people.
1David_Bolin6y"Imagine a world in which no one was living below the average income level." This is a world where everyone has exactly the same income. I don't see any special reason why it would be desirable, though.
-1IffThen6yThat was sort of my point. Most people are going to imagine it as a more perfect world. But if they were to think through all of the implications, they would see that it probably involves massive taxation and a very very strong central government, with less motivation for people to do dirty and difficult jobs. They want something they can't, or don't, accurately imagine.
1Lumifer6yYes, really. We're talking about imagining a world, not about writing a paper on the likely consequences.
4[anonymous]6ySo what are the trivial demographic trends?
0Viliam6yLess ageing, people still dying from starvation, diseases, wars -- should be easy to imagine. Ironically, if you would cast a magic spell that makes everyone on the whole planet stop ageing at 30, the situation in undeveloped countries would probably remain similar. It's the developed countries that would have a problem.
0James_Miller6yIn the long run, Malthus wins.
2ChristianKl6yWith birthrates of 1.5 children or less per woman that might not be true.
2James_Miller6yIf a population has an average birthrate of 1.5 children but a small subset, say Amish or Hasidic Jews have a much, much higher birthrate, then in the long-run the population birthrate will likely be much higher than 1.5.
3ChristianKl6yThe Amish are a problem that's quite separate from curing aging. They likely wouldn't use it.
2DanArmak6yA population with a high birth rate grows exponentially even without curing aging.

So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status.

Tyler Cowen

4Username6yWhat else would you debate if not distribution of limited resources? And there are better ways to gain wealth than politics.
4DanArmak6yMost policy issues are not about allocation of resources, but about rights and duties, what is allowed and forbidden, rewards and punishments. Should we imprison murderers for 10 years or 15? Should the minimum wage be set at $10 or $15 per hour? Should same-sex marriage be legalized? Should churches be tax-exempt? Should the NSA be allowed to spy on citizens? Should the Iran nuclear deal be accepted? Should a profession or a market or a monopolist be regulated, and how? When and how should people be allowed to keep pets, build houses, design gardens, prepare food, take medications, copy books, have sex? What are people legally allowed to say and do and how should transgressors be punished? What is good art, and when is art illegal? These are all random examples off the top of my head of issues referring to (recent) matters of political debate; they are probably not very representative. None of them seems to have a simple framing in terms of resource allocation. Resource allocation is also debated, of course. But even then, some of the time, the different sides don't have different viewpoints on correctly balancing resources, e.g. with one party wanting 40% to go to medicine and 60% to welfare, and another 50% to medicine and 50% to welfare. Instead, one party wants (ideally) 100% to go to medicine, another wants 100% to go to welfare, and the actual split is determined by the political balance between them and not by object-level quantitative considerations.
3Lumifer6yHow the world works, for example.
4Username6yThat is something usually better settled by experimentation than by argument.
7Lumifer6yYou usually need both. Experiments need a conceptual framework and besides in some cases (e.g. politics or macroeconomics) running experiments is pretty difficult.

When something impossible happens, there are only two possibilities. Either your assumptions are wrong or you have gone crazy.

Psycho Pass S02E07

[-][anonymous]6y 15

A shorter, though narrower heuristic is 'if a horse tells you that you are crazy, you are.':)

4[anonymous]6yThat's not a very helpful test. I know I'm crazy. I'm crazy even when my assumptions are right and only ordinary things are happening.
3knb6yPsycho Pass is a pretty good show, definitely on my "recommend list." Also a pretty good example of something Yvain mentioned recently, a dystopia that isn't necessarily as bad as it is depicted.

I think one of the most important rules of ethics is that you might be the baddies.

Ozymandias who links to this YouTube comedy clip.

The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.

Thomas Huxley, Collected Essays Volume 3 Science and Education A Liberal Education (p. 82)

027chaos6yHow are you liking the book, assuming you're reading it at the moment?
8WalterL6yAh, the temptation not to correct a favorable impression. I haven't read the original source, I saw the quote in a Batman comic and thought it sounded cool so I Googled it.

To a first approximation, we care much more about whether theories are interesting than whether they are true

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

2[anonymous]5yHow many people do you know order thier theories about things in subsets of decreasing explanatory power of the variance of observed physical and mental behaviour in the universe? The truth value of a theory is just incidental.
1PhilGoetz5yThough this varies by culture. It's more true in France than in England. EDIT: Now that I've read that part of the essay, I see he meant scientifically interesting, and was speaking mostly prescriptively. I thought he was speaking in condemnation, and meant the irresponsible "we" care most whether a theory is entertaining.
3NancyLebovitz5yTetlock's work on whether pundits lose respect for making inaccurate predictions suggests that there's at least a bias towards being interesting rather than being right, at least in America. I'm not sure whether Tetlock was tracking British pundits.

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudice.


I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I needn't be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence or argumentation. In hindsight, I'm very grateful this was my view, unlike so m... (read more)

1Stephen_Cole6yHave you read Nietzsche? I read Beyond Good and Evil. He seemed like a misogynist asshole, but perhaps just a product if his time.
627chaos6yHis real attitudes weren't exactly modern, but some of the things he said are intended to be interpreted symbollically, interacting with the abstract idea of Woman rather than with all women as a group of human beings. In that sense, he might be interpreted as criticizing their culturally specific gender role more than their sex-imposed characteristics. He probably wasn't all that interested in distinguishing between those, because he views people who are controlled by their culture as contemptible anyway. I think that lack of interest in understanding or sympathizing with (apparent) weakness is a common flaw of his work. Fundamental attribution error, basically. Similarly, he only rarely praises those who try to cultivate strength in others, which is unfortunate if he really despises weakness so much. I think he might have cut himself off from empathy due to feeling as though it overwhelmed him, some of his writings on Schopenhauer hint at this. In my opinion, if someone views women's behavior within 19th century gender roles as admirable they're in a way more misogynistic than someone who views it as ugly and broken. Had he sympathy or understanding in addition to his contempt though, or if he'd been more willing to distinguish between a person's internal states and their external behavior, then the balance of his attitudes would have been far better calibrated. It's also worth keeping in mind that using caveats and qualifiers wasn't Nietzsche's rhetorical style and arguably would have ruined his impact. He sometimes deliberately exaggerates and is inflammatory; he is writing to people's hearts as much as their minds, since one of his main beliefs is that people have broken value systems. Overall, I think he's misogynist, but I don't think he's as extreme a misogynist as he is sometimes perceived. A product of his times, who only partially transcended them. If he saw the way women tend to behave today in Western countries, I like to think he'd be much happier w
2NancyLebovitz5yFor me, some of this is personal. I remember reading Nietzsche when I was a teenager or possibly early twenties. I got to "When you go to women, forget not your whip", and closing the book because I'd just read a recommendation that people like me should be physically attacked.

It is better to solve one problem five different ways, than to solve five problems one way

George Pólya, or at least attributed to him, as I am unable to find the exact source, despite its being widely quoted in texts related to mathematics education or problem solving in general.

2RolfAndreassen6yNot sure that generalises outside of math. Is it really better to solve one problem really, really thoroughly, than to have a good-enough fix for five? Depends on the problems, perhaps - but without knowing anything else, I'd rather solve five than one.
4SolveIt6yI think the point of the quote is that in the first case you have five methods you can use to attack different problems. In the second case you only have one method, and you have to hope every problem is a nail.
9HungryHippo6yIndeed, this story from Polya emphasises the necessity of trying different angles of attack until you have a breakthrough (via squeak time.com):
2RolfAndreassen6yNu, but a method that has already been used on five problems seems to be pretty good at converting problems into nails. :)
0Sarunas6yI don't know the exact context of this particular quote, but George Pólya wrote a few books about how to become a better problem solver (at least in mathematics). In that context the quote is very reasonable.
0btrettel6yIt might be from Pólya's book How to Solve It. I skimmed my copy and could not find this or anything similar. A search on Google Books [https://books.google.com/books?id=X3xsgXjTGgoC] also was unsuccessful for this exact quote any some variations I tried. I must admit I have not read the book in full, but when I do I'll post back here with what I found.
0DanielLC6yThe first is certainly good for teaching math, but in general they both have advantages and disadvantages. It's good to have a lot of methods for solving problems, but it's also important to have general methods that can each solve many problems.
0DanArmak6yIf you create a novel way of solving problems, you should spend some time solving lots of previously unsolved problems with it, rather than trying something new every time. Only start looking for new solutions after exhausting the low-hanging fruit.

If you’re doing it right -- if what you’re doing is real communication – you should be hearing NO a lot more than you used to. And some things should become more complicated than they were before.

The blog realsocialskills in an article titled Social Skills Considering Communication an Obligation

-127chaos5yOf course, this should probably be true for both people in the conversation.
[-][anonymous]6y 5

I am in competition with no one, I run my own race, I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way, shape, or form. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before. That's me and I'm free.

source, reminds me of this nike ad about measuring yourself on hours of hardwork, and ordinariness, and this other ad with Melo Anthony talking about being your A-game 24/7 (an ad that's really hard to find, but out there on youtube somewhere!)

Only in mathematics is it possible to demonstrate something beyond all doubt. When held to that standard, we find ourselves quickly overwhelmed.

-- Max Shron, Thinking with Data, O'Reilly 2014

0Stephen_Cole6yBeyond all doubt sounds fairly dogmatic, no? Godel proved in 1931 that Hilbert's program for a solid mathematical foundation (circa 1900) was impossible.
7ike6yNot everything can be proven, but those that are are proven beyond (virtually all) doubt.
2Jayson_Virissimo5yWhile I don't quite agree with your claim about what Gödel accomplished, 'beyond all doubt' is an overstatement. The history of mathematics provides many examples of apparent proofs accepted by the profession later being rejected for containing devastating errors. Even a single instance of this occurring would, strictly speaking, rule out a literal 'beyond all doubt' claim.
2[anonymous]6yWell no, Goedel proved that nonstandard models of the natural numbers exist. Chaitin went on to prove that any formal axiomatic system, only containing a finite amount of axioms, will eventually face true theorems it cannot prove, for lack of information in its axioms. That doesn't mean proven mathematical theorems are actually wrong, and unfortunately, Goedel's Platonism has resulted in most of society thinking about mathematics and proof in the wrong way.
0PhilGoetz5yMaybe you should write a post about that.
0[anonymous]5yI've got a bunch of, let's call them, philosophical intuitions and positions that I got from reading this book [http://lesswrong.com/lw/mf7/harpers_fishing_nets_a_review_of_platos_camera_by/] . I've been meaning to do at least one post explicitly about Hierarchical Bayesian inference as a way to express what it is that keeps banging through my head. First, though, I want to get Venture up and running to actually implement and train such a model, in progress, to make sure that my thoughts about the way it "should" work accord at all with how it actually does work.


I notice that recent -- all? -- rationality quotes threads have been in Main. Have they officially been demoted to Discussion?

We name things based upon how we feel about them. We also feel about things based on how we've named them ... Language manages attitude.

Ken White of Popehat

Aestheticized theory resembles these institutional spheres because connoisseurship thrives best in settings where judgment is frequent but measurement is hard.

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat.

Arturo Rosenblueth and Norbert Wiener, "The Role of Models in Science".

0PhilGoetz5yHow is this helpful?

"But listen to me, because I saw it myself: science began poor. Science was broke and so it got bought. Science was scared and so did what it was told. It designed the gun and gave the gun to power, and power then held the gun to science's head and told it to make some more."

-- from Galileo's Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson

The problem with corruption of science is not Power holding a gun to Science's head and saying "make more", it's Power holding a gun to Science's head and saying "declare my claims to be true".

With the former, presumably Power wants the new gun to actually work and doesn't care how it works, thus satisfying Power's requested has the positive externality of increasing human knowledge. On the other hand, the latter has the consequence of polluting the human knowledge pool with falsehoods and polluting epistemology with the anti-epistemology used to justify said claims.

4WalterL6yIf we're rewriting the quote I'd say that Power's action doesn't even involve a gun. She glances at Science, sees that labcoat + talk = belief + status, and puts on a labcoat and starts talking. Because she is optimizing for status rather than truth the things that Power declares are much more comfortable to believe, and if pressed for proof she just points out that people who wear labcoats brought us prosperity, and who are you to question them?
8PhilGoetz6yMore scientists can wield a gun than a sword.

I'm very fond of this bit by Robin Hanson:

A wide range of topics come up when talking informally with others, and people tend to like you to express opinions on at least some substantial subset of those topics. They typically aren’t very happy if you explain that you just adopted the opinion of some standard expert source without reflection, and so we are encouraged to “think for ourselves” to generate such opinions.

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[-][anonymous]5y 1

“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.” -Denis Waitley google books

4entirelyuseless5yIt seems like most procrastination is just feeling that working right now would be painful. But it is true that there are times when you know that finishing one task will just give you several new tasks, so you put off finishing the one task in order to avoid the work of the new tasks.

We lose information by adding detail.

Fuck Nuance by Kieran Healy.

0PhilGoetz5yWhat's it supposed to mean? We sometimes lose information efficiency when we categorize something more specifically. Information efficiency (IE) = (bits that a proposition implies) / (bits it takes to make the statement or retrieve it from memory). I have hypothesized that Rosch's "basic level" is the level in an ontology where IE is maximized. For instance, it may take fewer bits to go from "mammal" to "cat" than from "cat" to "American Bobtail cat", yet you get many more bits of information from going from cat to mammal.
0NancyLebovitz5yI took it to mean that if we're trying to identify what's important, there's an optimum level of abstraction, and there's currently a push in the social sciences to add so much detail that the principle gets obscured.
[-][anonymous]5y 1

all the things i've been most proud of are the things upon which the threshold I felt most afraid

-female actor with singing background in a Libra ad

Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

Naval Ravikant

2Viliam6ySometimes you are born into an existing contract.
[-][anonymous]6y 0

Context: Randy has left his longtime girlfriend and now has a different girlfriend. They are a better match, but his old acquaintances are judgmental, with the following exception of one couple he knows:

Randy hadn't the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions.

To translate it into UNIX system administration ter

... (read more)
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[-][anonymous]6y 0

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Daybreak: Reflections on Moral Prejudice.


I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I needn't be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence or argumentation. In hindsight, I'm very grateful this was my view, unlike so m... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
[-][anonymous]6y 0

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Nietzsche in Dawn: Reflections on Moral Prejudice. http://www.lexido.com/EBOOK_TEXTS/DAYBREAK_.aspx?S=156

I wasn't aware of this quote at the time, but similar views were influential in my deconversion from Christianity. I decided that if I believed in God, that meant I should not be afraid to subject that belief to fair tests of evidence and argumentation. Surely God's might and glory would persuade even the most ske... (read more)

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Context (Hacker is Britain's Prime Minister, Sir Humphrey is his chief subordinate, the Russians are their enemy in the Cold War)

Double Context: This quote is from "Yes Prime Minister", a british comedy show.

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, what is the purpose of our defence policy?

Bernard: To defend Britain.

Sir Humphrey: No, Bernard. It is to make people believe Britain is defended.

Bernard: The Russians?

Sir Humphrey: Not the Russians, the British! The Russians know it's not.

0ChristianKl6yHow about adding the source?
[-][anonymous]5y -1

I'm very busy doing things I don't need to do in order to avoid doing things I'm actually supposed to be doing. - a funny ecard on procrastination you can just google for.

"Irrationality is intellectual violence against which the pacifism of rationality may or may not be an adequate weapon."

  • Jack Good, Good Thinking, page 25.
5Username6yViolence requires at least two people, you can be irrational even when you are alone.
6PradyumnGanesh6ySelf-harm counts as violence too, doesn't it? And it's not always accidental. The analogy stands.
1[anonymous]6yIt's a very noncentral example.
8PradyumnGanesh6yFrom Wikipedia: Note: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence#cite_ref-Loz2012_107-1\ [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence#cite_ref-Loz2012_107-1\]) So, not that noncentral. (Although, deaths aren't the only outcome of violence, I haven't read the cited study and there may be a huge availability bias here.) Also, how often are analogies backed up by statistics?
-1[anonymous]6yBut again: now you are equating irrationality with deliberate suicide. You're not really drawing a very strong connection here.
2Zubon5yIt wanders from the original quote, but "irrationality is slow suicide" is a great connection to make. (And if you want a quote, I'm sure you can find something like that from Rand.)
0satt5yWhether PradyumnGanesh is or isn't (though I don't think they are), that doesn't change their observation that self-inflicted violence is a relatively common form of violence, at least going by fatal violence.
0Stingray6yWould you call a cutter a violent person? You wouldn't.
1[anonymous]6yWhat would be an adequate weapon, then? Pavlovian training to follow the rationality to the best of one's abilities?
4Stephen_Cole6yGreat question. I believe Jack Good's answer was his "type 2 rationality", which implies a Bayes/non-Bayes synthesis, semiparametric statistics, and nondogmatism.

Context: Randy has left his longtime girlfriend and now has a different girlfriend. They are a better match, but his old acquaintances are judgmental, with the following exception of one couple he knows:

Randy hadn't the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions.

To translate it into UNIX system administration ter

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6ChristianKl6yChurches do serve that purpose but they aren't the only institutions that do so. A lot of personal development systems provide you with a series of how-tos and FAQ for dealing with various situations.
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"Do not subordinate fundamental principles to minor details." -[here](www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/fundamental-principles-versus-minor-details.html/_

It's like a lay bayes

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We wear a mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

This debt we pay to human guile

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile *

emotional honesty

0[anonymous]5yNot sure why this is getting downvoted, it's a great quote.
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The idea that you need to do anything is stupid. And people always used to tell me that, like “oh you need to grow up”. To do what?! To die? To fall into line? To follow a pattern?

You don’t need to do anything. Nobody needs to do anything. You need to breathe. You need to eat food. The rest of it is just a structure that we invented to give ourselves something to do when we wake up in the morning. “Oh it’s 9 am, time to go to work”. Work is not real! The car is not real. Life’s not real.

This is what’s real: heartbeats. And when they stop, all that shit yo

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0[anonymous]6yKinda curious what people don't like about this quote that it got so heavily downvoted.
6tim6yBecause it's a fully general counterargument against caring about or doing anything. That you shouldn't care about something because it is temporary is poison. I can't even imagine the hell we would live in if views like this were widely and earnestly adopted.
3bbleeker6yYou're right, of course (have an upvote). OTOH, I do like the start of the quote, because there is a difference between caring about something and believing you need to do something. I see the quote as a reminder that you don't have to do anything in an absolute sense. You have to do some things because you want some other things. 'I need to do ' should be short for 'I need to do because '. And it should be your reason, you shouldn't feel you have to do it just because others tell you to or because your parents told you when you were small. On the gripping hand, I didn't upvote the quote either, because I don't like the part that's saying 'nothing is real'.
3[anonymous]6yYeah, this is exactly how I understand it as well.
-1[anonymous]6yThanks for the explanation. Is atheism a fully general counterargument against being a moral person?
2Viliam6yMorality and belief in supernatural are mostly independent. (You can get Stage One [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development#Pre-conventional] morality from believing in God, but that's it.)
2[anonymous]6yUm, it was actually a rhetorical question, showing the absurdity of the given interpretation of the quote, specifically that saying the quote encourages not to care about something, is akin to making an argument that claiming morality is not objective encourages people to be amoral. Thank you for that link, though. That's a very nice framework.
1cody-bryce6y1. GP clearly thinks so to, which is why they presented the question, clearly trying to accuse GGP of a similar equivocation. 2. Your actual claim is ridiculous. It is most certainly not the case that believing in God can only connect to Stage One morality. Even in the face of a punishing god, this wouldn't be true, but not all gods are punishing anyway, making it even more off.
3ChristianKl6yIt's shallow. It's the kind of thing that get's shared on facebook. It doesn't propose a sensible way to think about needs and obligations but proposes a black and white solution.
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