[Draft] An Introspective Practice of Rationality

The core of "rationalism" or "rationality" could be codified in many different ways. Here, I take the view that:

  1. Rationality is a practice: a set of behaviors, not a set of beliefs. These behaviors are something we can get better at through deliberate practice.
  2. This practice is introspective: it is a practice of thinking, and it is best stated in phenomenological terms. It is further developed through self-awareness, because the best way to improve thinking patterns is to notice them as they work.

This is offered as a possible way to think about rationality, not as something I would call the "right" approach to rationality. This sequence was inspired in part by Duncan Sabien's idea that aspiring rationalists would be better off if they held on to something as the core of what rationality was about. Yes, it's true that any one something leaves you open to Goodhart. And there are real objections to just about any something you can name. But there's something far more functional about a group of people who get together with a clear purpose, and a clear criterion for success as opposed to a bunch of people unified by thinking a lot of the same ideas are cool.

I don't think the aspiring rationalist community could or should choose one criterion. I think there should be several core groups which plant different flags. The instrumentalist club could work on winning. The epistemicist club could work on crafting better shared maps of the territory. And these aren't competing clubs -- the two could have a big overlap in membership. But at map-making club we make maps; at winning club we win. That way we know what we're about.

Anyway, in that spirit, I offer my take on an introspective practice of rationality. This may not be your personal favorite brand of rationality; take it or leave it as you will.