I think my actual concern with this line of argumentation is: if you have a norm of "If 'X' and 'X implies Y' then 'Y', EXCEPT when it's net bad to have concluded 'Y'", then the werewolves win.

The question of whether it's net bad to have concluded 'Y', is much, much more complicated than the question of whether, logically, 'Y' is true under these assumptions (of course, it is). There are many, many more opportunities for werewolves to gum up the works of this process, making the calculation come out wrong.

If we're having a discussion about X and Y, someone moves to propose 'Y' (because, as it has already been agreed, 'X' and 'X implies Y'), and then someone else says "no, we can't do that, that has negative consequences!", that second person is probably playing a werewolf strategy, gumming up the works of the epistemic substrate.

If we are going to have the exception to the norm at all, then there has to be a pretty high standard of evidence to prove that adding 'Y' to the discourse, in fact, has bad consequences. And, to get the right answer, that discussion itself is going to have to be up to high epistemic standards. To be trustworthy, it's going to have to make logical inferences much more complex than "if 'X' and 'X implies Y', then 'Y'". What if someone objects to those logical inference steps, on the basis that they would have negative consequences? Where does that discussion happen?

In practice, these questions aren't actually answered. In practice, what happens is that social epistemology doesn't happen, and instead everything becomes about coalitional politics. Saying 'Y' doesn't mean 'Y is literally true', it means you're part of the coalition of people who wants consequences related to (but not even necessarily directly implied by!) the statement 'Y' to be put into effect, and that makes you blameworthy if those consequences hurt someone sympathetic, or that coalition is bad. Under such conditions, it is a major challenge to re-establish epistemic discourse, because everything is about violence, including attempts to talk about the "we don't have epistemology and everything is about violence" problem.

We have something approaching epistemic discourse here on LessWrong, but we have to defend it, or it, too, becomes all about coalitional politics.

Comment section from 05/19/2019

by habryka 1 min read20th May 2019139 comments


I moved the big meta-level comment thread from "Yes Requires the Possibility of No" over to here, since it seemed mostly unrelated to that top-level post. This not being on frontpage also makes it easier for people to just directly discuss the moderation and meta-level norms.