Wiki Contributions



Exposition... disinformative?... contradiction... illogical, illogical... Norman, coordinate!


I'm not sure it's important that my conclusions be "interesting". The point was that we needed a guideline (or set thereof), and as far as I know this need has not been previously met.

Once we agree on a set of guidelines, then I can go on to show examples of rational moral decisions -- or possibly not, in which case I update my understanding of reality.

Re ethical vs. other kinds: I'm inclined to agree. I was answering an argument that there is no such thing as a rational moral decision. Jack drew this distinction, not me. Yes, I took way too long coming around to the conclusion that there is no distinction, and I left too much of the detritus of my thinking process lying around in the final essay...

...but on the other hand, it seemed perhaps a little necessary to show a bit of my work, since I was basically coming around to saying "no, you're wrong".

If what you're saying is that there should have been no point of contention, then I agree with that too.

"How can a terminal value be rational?": As far as this argument goes, I assert no such thing. I'm not clear on how that question is important for supporting the point I was trying to make in that argument, much less this one.

I have another argument for the idea that it's not rational to argue on the basis of a terminal value which is not at least partly shared by your audience -- and that if your audience is potentially "all humanity", then your terminal value should probably be something approaching "the common good of all humanity". But that's not a part of this argument.

I could write a post on that too, but I think I need to establish the validity of this point (i.e. how to spot the loonie) first, because that point (rationality of terminal values) builds on this one.


Yes, I agree, it's a balancing act.

My take on references I don't get is either to ignore them, to ask someone ("hey, is this a reference to something? I don't get why they said that."), or possibly to Google it if looks Googleable.

I don't think it should be a cause for penalty unless the references are so heavy that they interrupt the flow of the argument. It's possible that I did that, but I don't think I did.


Yes, that is quite true. However, as you can see, I was indeed discussing how to spot irrationality, potentially from quite a long way away.


Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna go eat worms...

I suppose it would be asking too much to just suggest that if a sentence or phrase seems out of place or perhaps even surreal, that readers could just assume it's a reference they don't get, and skip it?

If the resulting argument doesn't make sense, then there's a legit criticism to be made.


For what it's worth, here are the references. I'll add a link here from the main post.

  • "Spot the Loonie!" was a Monty Python satire of a game show. I'm using it here to refer to the idea of being able to tell when someone's argument doesn't make sense.
  • "How to Identify the Essential Elements of Rationality from Quite a Long Way Away" refers to the title of a Monty Python episode whose title was, I think, "How to Identify Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away".
  • "Seven and a Half Million Years Later" refers to the length of time it took the computer Deep Thought, The Second-Greatest Computer in All Time and Space, to calculate The Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, And Everything (in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, aka H2G2).
  • "I really have no idea if you're going to like it" refers to Deep Thought's reluctance, seven and a half million years later, to divulge The Answer: "You're really not going to like it." "is... is..." refers to this same dialogue, where Deep Thought holds off actually giving The Answer as long as possible.
  • "The Question to the Ultimate Answer" refers to the fact that, having divulged The Answer, it pretty quickly became clear that it was necessary to know what the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, And Everything actually was, in order for the answer to make any sense.
  • "So, have we worked out any kind of coherent picture... Well no..." refers to a scene in H2G2 where usage of The Infinite Improbability Drive gives rise (quite improbably) to the existence of "a bowl of petunias and a rather surprised-looking sperm whale", the latter of which immediately begins trying to make cognitive sense of his surroundings. After assigning names (amazingly, they are the correct English words) to several collections of perceptions in his immediate environment, he pauses to ask "So, have we built up any coherent picture of things? Well... no, not really"... or something like that.
  • "you know what I am saying, darleengs?" is a catchphrase used by Billy Crystal's SNL parody of Fernando Lamas. (Note: comedian Billy Crystal should not be confused with evil neoconservative pundit Bill Krystol.)
  • "A Theory About the Brontosaurus" refers to a Monty Python sketch in which a talk show interviewee has a theory (about the brontosaurus) which she introduces many times ("This is my theory. (cough cough) It goes like this. (cough) Here is the theory that I have (cough cough cough) My Theory About the Brontosaurus, and what it is too. Here it goes.") before finally revealing her utterly trivial and non-enlightening conclusion.
  • "ahem ahem" refers to the interviewee's repeated coughing-delays in the above sketch.

I can certainly attempt that. I considered doing so originally, but thought it would be too much like "explaining the joke" (a process notorious for efficient removal of humor). I also had this idea that the references were so ubiquitous by now that they were borderline cliche. I'm glad to discover that this is not the case... I think.


I finally figured out what was going on, and fixed it. For some reason it got posted in "drafts" instead of on the site, and looking at the post while logged in gave no clue that this was the case.

Sorry about that!


The subjective part probably could have been shortened, but I thought it was at least partly necessary in order to give proper context, as in "why are you trying to define rationality when this whole web site is supposed to be about that?" or similar.

The question is, was it informative? If not, then how did it fail in that goal?

Maybe I should have started with the conclusions and then explained how I got there.


They were references -- Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy and Monty Python, respectively. I didn't expect everyone to get them, and perhaps I should have taken them out, but the alternative seemed too damn serious and I thought it worth entertaining some people at the cost of leaving others (hopefully not many, in this crowd of geeks) scratching their heads.

I hope that clarifies. In general, if it seems surrealistic and out of place, it's probably a reference.

Load More