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Vladimir - I'm puzzled about your book recommendation! It looks more like a self-help book for struggling couples rather than something addressing the concepts of (to use Cyan's terms - thanks Cyan) explicit and implicit understanding.

A lot of people posting in this thread, and similar ones, seem to have an explicit understanding of sex (biological) and gender (cultural) differences, yet still offend and/or take offense when discussing them. To me that suggests that they don't have implicit understanding, and that being able to articulate the differences isn't much use to them.

Q#3, then:
If there really are two different types of "understanding", exlicit and implicit, how do you turn the useless one in the useful one?

First, can you clarify what you mean by "everything is permissible and nothing is forbidden"?

In my familiar world, "permissible" and "forbidden" refer to certain expected consequences. I can still choose to murder, or cheat, blaspheme, neglect to earn a living, etc; they're only forbidden in the sense of not wanting to experience the consequences.

Are you suggesting I imagine that the consequences would be different or nonexistent? Or that I would no longer have a preference about consequences? Or something else?

To clarify, Q#1 is querying what constitutes "understanding", using Sarah (not Mike) as an example. If a person can articulate information but can't, for whatever reason, make use of the information, is that "understanding"? (And doesn't that happen a lot around here?)

Q#2 is querying just how useful it is to endlessly analyse and explain gender differences, when you can just accept that there are differences and get on with talking to each other.

An anecdote, followed by a question:

My friend (call her Sarah) explained to me how she and her boyfriend (Mike) were different: she was "tactile" and liked to get presents - just something to keep and hold - to make her feel loved; he was "auditory" and liked to hear her say that she loved him.

Then Valentine's Day came round. Sarah bought Mike a present. She didn't phone him. He phoned to tell her he loved her. He didn't buy her a present. Both felt seriously disappointed, and it took a little outside flirting and jealousy to kick-start the relationship again.

Did Sarah understand Mike? She could articulate important differences, but seemed unable to act accordingly, to accept his actions, to communicate her needs to him, or even to understand why V-Day went sour.

Anecdote #2:
My partner and I are both introverts, by the strict definition (i.e. introverts recharge their batteries by time spent alone, extroverts by time with other people); yet we have both lived and worked together for the past 9+ years without argument or regret, and can't imagine wanting to separate.

I know that's rare, and is partly due to good luck; but the really crucial thing is that Nic has never criticised me - not even by an impatient sigh or lift of the eyebrow - and I pay him the same compliment. We both have faults, but we're neither worse than the other, so it's easy to accept any annoyances and irritations without taking it personally. Our brains work in quite different ways. That seems positive rather than negative; it makes for interesting discussions, and we still puzzle, amuse or surprise each other sometimes.

Question #2: How far does understanding need to go? Some understanding of differences is helpful, but only when it's followed by acceptance of the differences. That's an attitude rather than an exercise in logic.

Eliezer - "an opportunity to help people think differently"?

But what for?

And: "a moral choice about whether human beings should modify themselves in certain ways"?

Again; what for? Enjoyment of life increases physical and emotional health. Each person's enjoyment is a matter of individual taste. Why mess with it?

Aren't you just biased against people who have different tastes from yours? Please note my comments above on imagination as part of the natural world.

Further on reality:

A poem or story about ghosts or dragons is a product of a human mind, made possible by the evolution of imagination in humans, and influenced by that human's experiences and cultural heritage.

In other words, it's just as much a part of the natural world as the song of a bird.

People who enjoy the products of others' imaginations are enjoying an aspect of reality, just as much as those who like watching the play of light on water, or admire how a tree grows according to natural law.

Eliezer, you seem to be deeply offended by the fact that many people enjoy fantasy over reality, or don't get a kick out of science. As you put it, they don't have the scientific attitude that "nothing is mere".

Yet why should you expect people to be different from the way they are?

You said it yourself: "Part of binding yourself to reality, on an emotional as well as intellectual level, is coming to terms with the fact that you do live here."

That means accepting the reality that people like the things they like, not wishing for a fantasy world where people magically like the things you think they ought to.

"The mathy posts appeal to people who are serious about moving this burgeoning field forward, and the non-mathy posts appeal to people who are more casually interested in the concepts" - (Snappycrunch)

Beware of mistaking mathematical thinking for rational thinking; math is a tool like any other, to be used rationally or irrationally. Nassim Taleb demonstrates this very well in his book "Fooled by Randomness".

There's nothing casual about being interested in the concepts of rational thinking; even the mathematically minded (who will naturally be more interested in the mathy posts) need the concepts to understand what framework to put the math into.

Very sensible. I never could understand why people made such a fuss about whether the tree made a sound or not. (The best answer I saw was a cartoon of the fallen tree saying quietly to itself, "Oh, shit.")

Perhaps this also has relevance to the classic omnipotence paradox - "Can an omnipotent being (or God) create a rock so heavy that that being can't lift it?" Since few people want to redefine omnipotence (if we did, we'd soon want another word that meant what "omnipotent" used to), the answer is simple: the omnipotent being will be able to create such a rock, and then just lift it anyway, while still being unable to.

It doesn't make sense, but the thing is, it doesn't have to. The words "omnipotent", "rock", "heavy", "can't", still mean what we understand them to mean. And we understand pretty well what "paradox" means, too. A paradox is obviously a problem for human reason, but would be no problem at all for divine omnipotence.

"The point is that given this information, rationality picks choice 2." - Posted by: GreedyAlgorithm

Sorry, no. Given this information, rationality says that there is not enough information to make an appropriate decision, and demands to know the context. If contextual information isn't available, rationality will say that either option 1 or 2 may be right, depending on circumstances.

Rationality never dismisses context as irrelevant just because it isn't known. If unknown factors make the right answer uncertain, then you must accept that it is uncertain.

Context can change what you're trying to achieve. Many people seem to assume that the point (re Circular Altruism problems) is to save as many lives as possible, but this might have to be balanced with other goals - e.g. setting a limit to acceptable risk (as in not risking destruction of the entire human population, whatever their number), or spreading risk instead of marking certain people for death (as in putting the last few people from a sinking ship in the lifeboat, not leaving them behind to make a crowded lifeboat safer).

Making assumptions is one of the danger pitfalls for rational thinkers. So is a reluctance to say "I don't know the answer" when appropriate.

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