🤔💭Justin’s Comments on Yes Or No Philosophy, Part 1👨🏻‍💻📝

(These are comments on the first 30 minutes of the longest/”main” video in the Yes/No educational product. This is a selective summary/discussion of items and will omit many points and details, which you will have to pay for the whole product to get!)

Elliot describes the standard view, which is that ideas have amounts of goodness. These amounts can be described numerically or with words. Favorable args or evidence increase support, and crits reduce it. But no one knows how to measure an idea’s goodness.

Elliot says people use the idea of criticism reducing idea goodness/support in order to ignore crit. That’s bad!

Elliot mentions that there’s various words for idea goodness people use and specifically mentions authority, which is controversial. Some people reject it and try to think for themselves, but then their method is to look at support!

J’s Comment: a good example of how people can fall into an “intellectual trap” without the right epistemology. People can rightly reject authority but then switch to a method which makes the same sort of epistemological mistake. They might still improve their ideas and understanding, but their efforts could be more successful if they had more philosophical perspective on the issue.

On the issue of words for goodness, some I would not have recognized as “goodness” terms before watching the video were educated guess and myth.

Elliot discusses how the support approach leads to people having different, irreconcilable conclusions due to assigning things different “weights.” The weights are not the process used to determine the truth of the matter in their mind — the weights are an argument technique.

J’s Lengthy Comment: in US law there is frequent use of “balancing tests.” The idea is you consider a list of factors and “weigh” them somehow to come to a conclusion.

So for instance, when considering what procedures are required to deprive someone of life, liberty, or property, a court will supposedly weigh

(1) The importance of the private interest affected.

(2) The risk of erroneous deprivation through the procedures used, and the probable value of any additional or substitute procedural safeguards.

(3) The importance of the state interest involved and the burdens which any additional or substitute procedural safeguards would impose on the state.

Justice Scalia once said of a balancing test:

This process is ordinarily called “balancing,” but the scale analogy is not really appropriate, since the interests on both sides are incommensurate. It is more like judging whether a particular line is longer than a particular rock is heavy.

And I think that’s a very good way to put it. In coming up with an idea of what (for example) procedural due process you need in some circumstance, you can’t take a bunch of criteria and “weigh” their relative importance in order to come up with an idea. How many super important private interests equals a moderately important state interest? There’s no answer.

Elliot says that one reason people like talking in terms of numbers is even if they give a very high number for their “certainty” level on an idea being true, they give themselves a built-in excuse if they say 99% and they’re wrong. Basically, people don’t like dealing with fallibility, unlikely stuff, etc.

J’s Comment: People might say its like 99.999999999999% certain the sun will rise tomorrow. They think talking about the sun rising is pretty safe, but wanna cover their bases in case a giant asteroid hits us and knocks us out of orbit or something wacky like that. But really what’s going on is we have an explanatory model of reality which says events will happen that we call the sun rising under certain conditions. And as long as our explanatory model is true and those conditions hold, then the sun will rise, 100%. And when those conditions don’t hold anymore or our theory turns out to deviate from reality in some relevant respect, then the sun definitely won’t rise.

And also as a side note, I bet there’s modeling for things like the statistical chance of SURPRISE SNEAKY ASTEROID KNOCKING US OUT OF ORBIT, and it has actual numbers, not arbitrary tiny percentage guesses.

Elliot says people think support works cuz people think they do it and attribute lots of successful progress to it. But they’re wrong about how their thinking works.

Elliot talks about the relationship between authority and support. Basically, prestigious people believing an idea adds to its support. Elliot makes the good point that if you aren’t judging the idea itself, you’re left with authority (fame/prestige/academic degrees of speaker, popularity of idea).

J’s Comment: One thing I bring up a lot when talking about prestigious people is … they disagree! You can find people with fancy Harvard and Yale degrees who think all sorts of stuff. So what do you do with that situation? Do you go by number of people? What about if more prestigious people (who are numerically fewer) think something on some issue, and numerically more less prestigious people think something else. Do the more prestigious people count more? How much more?

Seems like a big, impossible mess to try and sort that out, just to avoid thinking about issues directly!!!

Here’s an example: CNN ran a whole big hit piece on Sebastian Gorka (who just left the White House) basically saying he’s not considered prestigious enough by other experts in the field:

That’s what authority-based approaches lead to…fighting over credentials instead of ideas.

Elliot says we should reject the whole support model and use yes or no/boolean judgments instead. Support doesn’t work and can’t solve the problem of how to believe good ideas and reject bad ideas.

Under this new approach, we can believe good ideas (“yes” ideas) and reject bad ones (“no” ideas). But we can’t directly compare two ideas we currently think are good. We have to come up with criticisms that will allow us to reject one of the ideas.

J’s Comment:

If people go by authorities, they still have to pick which authorities to go by. They are still making a judgment and still responsible. But it seems much easier for people to not feel responsible when they rely on other people’s thinking. To explicitly and consciously take responsibility for one’s ideas is a big deal and a hard step for many people. So I think this would be an objection many people would have to moving away from support to a YES/NO approach.

Elliot points out that when you decide between a “good” idea and a “great” idea, you’re choosing, you’re picking aside, you’re saying yes to one and no to the other one. So just admit that!

Ideas are “yes” by default, and “no” if you refute them. So all ideas can be categorized this way.

NOTE: Elliot Temple replied here

Yes/No “Check Your Understanding” questions and replies

Comments on the Yes or No Philosophy educational philosophy material (BUY IT TODAY!)

What is the standard view about how to judge ideas? What’s wrong with it?

The standard view is that you can judge arguments according to amounts of support the idea has, weight of the evidence, that kind of thing.

There are some problems here
1. All actual decisions involve choosing to act on one theory and rejecting others. Pretending you are doing otherwise is faking the reality of what’s going on
2. There’s infinite theories compatible with any given set of evidence, so in a sense they are all equally “supported” by the evidence

What is Karl Popper’s view about how to judge ideas? What’s wrong with it?

Popper is thoroughly against authorities in epistemology. He thinks you should judge ideas according to the merits of the idea itself, not the source. He emphasizes how science began with the criticism of myths.

There are some issues with Popper’s views of how to judge ideas though.

One issue is that Popper thinks arguments can be weighty though inconclusive. So he thinks there are medium strength arguments. This contradicts Yes-No epistemology, which says that either an argument decisively refutes an idea, or fails to refute it. So there’s always conclusiveness.

Other things: Popper thinks you can rationally prefer one non-refuted theory over another. But how, without a criticism which refutes one of the ideas?

From the Karl Popper Commentary in Yes/No:

Confirmations shouldn’t count at all, because the purpose of an idea is to solve a problem. A confirmation (a piece of evidence which fits with an idea) neither tells us that an idea solves a problem, nor does it refute a competing idea as unable to solve the problem. So confirmations accomplish nothing.

Question: Wasn’t Popper specifically thinking about situations where a “confirmation” would consist of a “risky prediction” which would refute a competing idea? So like, his focus on it being a confirmation was wrong, but in context it seems like a reasonable point.

Why are all successful criticisms decisive?

Either an argument refutes an idea or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, the idea isn’t refuted by that argument. If it does, then the idea is totally refuted in the context the idea was addressing.

What can only have a binary evaluation, and what can have amounts? (“Binary” means two-valued, e.g. yes-or-no.)

Key issues in the philosophy of knowledge are binary. Things like whether an idea solves a problem, whether its refuted, etc.

Other stuff can have amounts. You can talk about how heavy something is or how original it is. That’s fine.

How are observations, facts, and attributes of ideas used?

They can be referred to in talking about ideas, criticisms, problems, solutions.

Like you could observe that socialism leads to mass death and chaos and use that to criticize socialism.

Or a common example is using observations from a scientific test to refute a theory.

How do you choose between two ideas that both solve the same problem?

If you feel like you could act on one of the ideas and it’s not an important issue (like if you have multiple good ideas for where to go to lunch) you could choose randomly.

If you’re feeling stuck between the yes ideas then they’d actually aren’t good enough for acting in the situation. That’s a criticism! So they’re all refuted, and you need to brainstorm new ideas.

You could also reconsider the problem and try and act on a less ambitious one.

Why shouldn’t you act on a criticized idea?

Because a criticism is a reason the idea won’t work for the problem you want to solve!!

How do decision charts work?

You use them to organize the problems you want an idea to solve, and the propose solutions for that problem. And then for each proposed solution, you fill in yes or no for whether it solves a given problem. And you can use this technique to assses whether you have any idea that solves all the problems you wanna solve, or no ideas, or more than one such idea.

What’s wrong with weighing the evidence?

Sometimes people talk about weight and don’t use actual numbers. So their determines of what’s a more important argument to get greater “weight” is based on their own intuitive, pre-existing sense of what’s right. Thus the “weighing of the evidence” just winds up rationalizing decisions that have been made according to some (unstated) arguments.

What’s a library of criticism?

It’s a stock of criticisms you’ve accumulated in your mind, that you can use in assessing some idea you hadn’t heard before.

Example: some people are saying maybe govt should regulate the internet as a PUBLIC UTILITY so that companies will stop censoring speech. I have some crits from my STOCK OF CRITS relevant to this idea, like:

1) it violates property rights

2) getting govt involved in some area will just give more power to the other political party to do stuff you don’t like next time they have power (and you will have partially sanctioned this!)

3) govt regulation tends to decrease quality and increase price of a service

4) people should take initiative to solve problems themselves instead of asking for govt force to help them (especially the side that says its for freedom and individual responsibility). This could include stuff like trying to start or support businesses that respect free speech

5) public utilities are some of the lamest, least-customer-responsive entities we have, and we shouldn’t try and force more stuff into that model

How are ideas organized in a tree with footnotes and summary ideas?

Ideas are connected to other ideas. Like an idea about wanting to buy a camera could have a bunch of reasons for why you want to buy the camera, what it’d be useful for, the fact that you have enough money to buy a camera, etc.

The footnotes can get into a lot of detail and complexity, but you can only deal with so much at one time, so when thinking about some footnotes you think in terms of simple summaries. That is, unless an issue comes up and you need to get into details.

Here’s a simple example of building up some abstractions and turning a concept into a “footnote” to another concept:

Suppose you’re in a supermarket. There’s tomatoes bundled up in packages of 2. You want to buy a bunch of tomatoes. You’re gonna get four packages. How many tomatoes is that?

2 tomatoes + 2 tomatoes + 2 tomatoes + 2 tomatoes = 8

That’s not just true of tomatoes, though. You can add stuff together in general, and drop the tomatoes:

2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8
You can bring up tomatoes as an example for this if you want, but you can just think about adding numbers directly.

But you could also think of it this way:

2 x 4 = 8

Multiplication is repeated addition. If you need to think about the underlying addition you can — its a footnote to multiplication — but you can just multiply the numbers directly.

But we can represent it another way too:

2^(1) x 2^(2) = 8
(then using exponent product rule)
2^(3) = 8

Exponents represent repeated multiplication. If you need to think about the underlying multiplication you can — its a footnote to exponents — but you can just think about exponents of numbers directly.

And now there’s a whole chain of footnotes for the exponent idea, leading all the way down to statements about how many tomatoes 2 to the third power of tomatoes is!

Note: lots of math problems people have are because they learn each bit of math in a disintegrated way and don’t actually have a tree of footnotes in their mind they can refer to when an issue comes up.

What’s important to know when naming solutions and problems?

You want to keep names unambiguous, instead of attaching a having a bunch of memes attached to the same word and therefore having a bunch of confusion from that. You can give something a more specific name (like “laissez-faire capitalism”) when a more general name (like “capitalism”) has become ambiguous.

Under what circumstances should you change your mind about a previous judgement?

Ideally you should change an idea’s status from non refuted to refuted and that’s it. If you screw up, decide an idea is refuted, and miss a footnote to that idea explaining why your alleged refutation doesn’t succeed as a refutation, you can change your judgment of that ideas status back to non refuted np. But that should not happen a ton and if it does you should examine your methods for judging ideas!!!

What’s an idea? A criticism? A problem?

An idea is any thing you think up, including wrong stuff, nonsense, etc. As distinct from say knowledge which is an idea that solves a problem.

A problem is anything we might try to know or do.

A criticism is an explanation of a mistake in an idea. It says why an idea won’t work to solve the problem it’s supposed to.

Why can’t one idea solve a problem better than another?

Because it either solves some problem or it doesn’t. Multiple ideas can solve some problem (like, what to get for lunch according to some criteria, or a job that pays at least $1000/week), but they either do or don’t. When people speak of ideas solving some problems better than others, what they are doing is grouping different problems together and evaluating various ideas against different sub-problems of that problem, and then saying that a problem which solves more

What’s wrong with arguments having an amount of strength?

We come up with ideas to solve some problem we have. It either does solve that problem, or it doesn’t. A criticism either refutes an idea, or it doesn’t. So on a 0-100 scale all ideas are 100 or 0. So there’s no room for degrees of strength, and talking about strength doesn’t add a ton.

A Discussion of Elliot Temple’s Essay on Emotions

(adapted from an email exchange on the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group)

My initial email (with quotes from the essay being analyzed)


Comments on this essay: http://fallibleideas.com/emotions

Emotions

Emotions embody traditional knowledge which we don’t have a full, conscious understanding of. Emotions are also fallible and possible to change.

If we feel good or bad about something, we might be mistaken. But it’s not irrelevant. There is, in general, some reason the tradition causes people to have that emotion in that situation. When in doubt, it’s better to use traditional knowledge, which has been criticized and improved a lot, than to make something new up from scratch.

Is it even really viable to try making up a new emotional reaction from scratch, as a conscious policy? If so what does that look like? What are some examples of people doing it?

I would think what tends to happen is something like: people try and suppress their existing emotional stuff, badly, but lack any alternatives cuz they haven’t created any knowledge of replacements. And then they suffer later down the road when the suppression fails.

Here is a rational way to use emotions in argument: “If doing that would be good, why do I feel bad about it? Do I have any ideas to change it slightly so that I’ll feel good about it? If there is no way to change it to be more emotionally appealing, why isn’t there?” This doesn’t assume the emotion is true.

This argument notes the violation of the traditional knowledge behind the emotion and uses that as a criticism. Any idea which violates an emotion needs to have an answer to this kind of questioning and criticism. If there’s no answer that’s bad; if you have a good answer then it’s OK.

This would apply to even like very mild emotional reactions such as: trying to read something part of you thinks would be good to read, but then you feel bored while trying to read it. Don’t assume the solution is that your boredom reaction is wrong, and try and power through anyways. Instead try and address the boredom. This could be as simple as taking a short break and coming back.

Here are two ways to resolve emotional conflicts. First, if following an emotion would cause a problem, then you shouldn’t want that. That’s a good reason to change your mind and look for an unproblematic alternative (possibly a different way of following the emotion, or not).

I think somewhat philosophically aware people get stuck following certain behaviors (like doing romance say) cuz they like the emotions they have from doing them. They have some crits of romance but have a hard time remembering the crits and integrating those crits into their thinking on the issue. So there’s on ongoing conflict.

What specific advice do you have for this issue?

BTW I think part of what may get some people stuck is, there whole life is oriented around having certain emotional reactions and building a lifestyle to accommodate having those emotional reactions. So it’s like very scary to reconsider these things cuz they literally don’t know what else they would do, and it threatens a lot of their existing stuff. And people don’t wanna like reconsider their lifestyle about as much as they don’t want to reconsider certain emotions they currently like having so…. yeah

Second, if you have extensive knowledge about the issue and have a really good idea, which you’ve scrutinized extensively, you could be happy to try it (and not conflicted).

Sometimes we find our emotions are unhelpful or cause problems in a repetitive way. In those cases, it’s important to change our emotional makeup so that stops happening.

Sometimes we find we make decisions while emotional and regret them later. This is a flaw, but we can improve and fix it.

Sometimes people get angry and then they assume that if they are angry the other guy must have done something to make them angry. They take their anger as justification of their own anger, which is invalid. Worse, some people believe they had no choice but to be angry. It’s not their decision, it’s just anger which is a natural, biological force. Thus they bear no responsibility for their anger, only the victim of their rage is to be blamed.

Yeah.

This comes up a lot with people claiming to be offended and using that as an excuse to want to control others.

You can shirk responsibility but you can’t completely evade it. If you don’t take responsibility for your own reactions, you give that responsibility to other people (not morally — you’re still responsible morally — but in terms of how you think about the issue and lead your life. You’re not the actor anymore — you’re a REactor).

Can We Change Emotions?

Some people are pessimistic about their ability to change their emotions. They think that emotions are biological or natural, and that emotions aren’t ideas, knowledge or traditions. They think it follows that emotions can’t be changed anymore than we can change our hair color.

Looking at the cultural differences in how people react to things seems like it should be enough to refute the idea that emotions are biological.

Like one super sad example is the stuff that goes on in Palestine e.g. this

But people either are very unaware of what life is like outside a tiny circle of people they interact with, or they systematically deny that anybody else is much different.

This prevents them from seeing some evidence which contradicts the “emotions are biological” theory (and causes other problems too).

Being at least a bit familiar with a variety of cultures and ways of thinking about life is pretty important, I think.

Of course, although hair color is genetically determined we can change it: it just takes dye. Similarly, if one is born without legs that is a big problem. But it’s also a changeable, improvable situation. One can get prosthetic legs or a wheel chair. Genetic causes do not mean we’re helpless.

In general, genetically determined problems are actually easier to deal with than problems of knowledge and ideas because they are a fixed target. Genetically determined problems don’t change or get harder over time. They have a limited amount of complexity and only need to be solved once and they stay solved.

When it comes to ideas, things can be harder. Sometimes we unconsciously use creativity to maintain our current personality. Trying to change it may not just involve working against a static obstacle. It may be an adaptable obstacle that tries to avoid being changed.

This is a very big/important point.

I think one implication is that if you don’t use the right approach/methods, you can basically be stuck forever, since you’ll be unconsciously self-sabotaging yourself.

Another outcome might be making veeeeeeeeeery slow progress on dealing with some emotion for a long time. Which is also not optimal given the goal of making progress in general and also given current lifespans! :/

In any case, nature or nurture, there is no reason for pessimism. There are reasons why we can expect to be effective at changing our emotional makeup, our passions, and our habits, if we make an effort. Here are some reasons:

Many people think sexual lust as something they have almost no hope to change because they can’t imagine being in control of it (compared to, say, getting angry, sad or happy, which they know that sometimes people manage to have some control over). But William Godwin explained that sexual lust is a matter of ideas that we can make choices about. He pointed out that sexual pleasure is actually fragile — people will go to great lengths to avoid being disturbed because it ruins the pleasure and they “lose the mood” (in modern terminology).

Yeah. There’s a lot of ritual in sex. It’s a very fragile thing.

Is the fragility and ritual involved any sort of indication of irrationality?

Cuz on the one hand, I would maybe think that if someone is motivated to do something by like, enjoyment of the use of their rational faculty, the creative process, etc., then maybe their interest in whatever they are doing would be less fragile.

But OTOH there’s counterexamples of people who do creative work but are very picky about the conditions under which they can work, stuff like that.

He also pointed out that if someone is having sex, and as immersed in that experience as can be, he will still forget about it and sober up, in seconds, if you just inform him that his father has died, or anything he considers significantly more important than sex. He will stop in the middle if his reason tells him something else matters more.

I had someone flat out deny this once! People believe very strongly in the overwhelming power of sexual desire. It’s a very strong view central to how they think about life.

While sexual lust is a fragile thing, easily defeated by reason, most emotions are much more so. People will stop being angry if they see clearly that they were in the wrong (I don’t mean you give them what you consider to be a decisive argument, but rather what they consider a decisive argument so that in their own opinion they were clearly in the wrong.)

Lots of people don’t really discuss ideas much, and don’t know that there’s much of a difference between what they consider to be a decisive argument, and what should convince other people. So they think if other people are not convinced, maybe they are dumb or stubborn or something. That there could be a deficiency in their argument doesn’t really occur to them…

Happiness is fragile if you just tell someone about a sad event. Sadness is fragile if you inform someone that they won the lottery.
People sometimes make changes in their life — such as becoming more optimistic or becoming a Christian — and then find they are happier more often. That is another well known example of taking control and changing one’s emotional personality.

Yes.

Though it seems like there’s not a widespread movement about trying to improve your life and get happier with rational philosophy.

And there’s also a lot of BS like self-esteem movement.

Some people say they aren’t responsible for emotions, and have no control over them, because they are scared of taking responsibility and failing. But the truth about whether our emotions can be changed does not depend on how much we’d like to dodge responsibility.

Emotions, genetic or not, must go through multiple layers of interpretation before they are meaningful to complex, high-level world views. Whatever the origin, the final result, as manifested in human behavior, is going through some layers of interpreting in one’s mind. That means that even if the initial emotion is never changed, how one interprets it, reacts to it and uses it can all be changed within one’s mind.

Consider drunk people. They often claim the alcohol gives them a new personality. That’s ridiculous. Beer doesn’t have much information in it. The new way of acting was already in the person himself and all the beer could have done was activate it in some way. In fact, people sometimes take on their drunk personality without actually drinking — beer isn’t necessary to activate it. This illustrates that significant changes in demeanor are not only possible but commonplace.

Yeah this is a good example.

People literally don’t understand how complicated and nuanced various human behaviors are. They lack perspective on their culture and their life.

They also have the influences model of behavior. Like, they think something like, maybe you’d only very rarely get into barfights or dance on tables at the bar if you were sober (like 2% of the time) but somehow alcohol pushes that percentage way higher.

How is never explained.

Nobody really considers that maybe it’s just a (responsibility-shifting) ritual.

How To Change Emotions

Here is my advice about how to change one’s emotional makeup:

First, be calm. Take your time, there isn’t as much rush or pressure as it feels like. Emotional reactions are often immediate. Instead, act thoughtfully and slowly; think things through; don’t react until you’re ready.

Second, be self-aware. Pay attention to, and keep track of, what you do and think and feel, and compare it to your values and how you want to be, and whenever it doesn’t match then think about what would match and at least form a quick guess at how to do better next time. Replay conversations and events in your head and look for things you could have done better, and things you wish you hadn’t done. Look for emotions you felt, and any problems they caused. You can also look for emotions you didn’t feel but would have liked to. Don’t worry too much about changing; just notice everything, pay attention, and form some ideas about what’d be better and guesses at how to do it, and try imagining yourself acting in the new way.

I think lots of people avoid doing these steps cuz they want to fool themselves about being better than they are. Ironically this leads to them being stuck forever.

Very sad!

With practice you’ll learn to notice things faster. Instead of hours later while reflecting, you’ll notice minutes later. You’ll have ideas what to do better, and spot things you wish you didn’t do or feel. Then with more skill, you’ll start to notice in seconds.

If you can notice within seconds, and you act and feel slowly, you’ll be able to notice before you’ve done or felt anything. Then you can do something else! Now you have better control over your life.

That is great progress. But it’s not the end of the journey. Now you can think of new policies for how to live, and how to react to things, and you can actually try them out to see how they work. And many won’t be great, but a few will be improvements. Now you’re learning. You’re conjecturing how to live better, and trying out the conjectures. You can also consider your conjectures critically, that way if you notice a problem with one you won’t have to try it out. Over time, the old bad habits and emotional reactions that you didn’t want will fade with disuse, and new ones will form as you find ways of acting that you don’t see anything wrong with.

There’s a strong contrast here with some cultural stuff that tries to help people get better.

For example lots of people do stuff to help with alcohol/drug “addiction.” But the approach of these things is very different than something compatible with the above (which might be like — gradually try and find drugs/alcohol boring and figure out better stuff to do with your life). The more conventional stuff typically treats drugs/alcohol as super dangerous/seductive things and resisting them as a lifelong struggle.

None of this is disrespectful to emotions. It doesn’t assume they are all wrong, or worthless, or don’t contain knowledge. It’s the same sort of approach one should take to ideas in general: criticize their flaws, conjecture ways to improve them, and gradually move forward. Sometimes people go wrong by trying to ignore their emotions without replacing them. People sometimes do the same thing with ideas. This doesn’t work because we have ideas and emotions for a reason. They solve some problem. At the least, a certain emotional reaction gives guidance about what to do in a certain category of situation. Some replacement is needed which solves the same problem by giving you an idea of what to do instead in those situations.


Elliot’s reply


Comments on this essay: http://fallibleideas.com/emotions

In any case, nature or nurture, there is no reason for pessimism. There are reasons why we can expect to be effective at changing our emotional makeup, our passions, and our habits, if we make an effort. Here are some reasons:

Many people think sexual lust as something they have almost no hope to change because they can’t imagine being in control of it (compared to, say, getting angry, sad or happy, which they know that sometimes people manage to have some control over). But William Godwin explained that sexual lust is a matter of ideas that we can make choices about. He pointed out that sexual pleasure is actually fragile — people will go to great lengths to avoid being disturbed because it ruins the pleasure and they “lose the mood” (in modern terminology).

Yeah. There’s a lot of ritual in sex. It’s a very fragile thing.

Is the fragility and ritual involved any sort of indication of irrationality?

Cuz on the one hand, I would maybe think that if someone is motivated to do something by like, enjoyment of the use of their rational faculty, the creative process, etc., then maybe their interest in whatever they are doing would be less fragile.

But OTOH there’s counterexamples of people who do creative work but are very picky about the conditions under which they can work, stuff like that.

I think the people who are really fragile about their work are pretty irrational. They have carved out this one thing they are good at. But they aren’t so good generally. And their narrow area of skill does NOT include everything relevant to doing their work. Like they aren’t great or rational about dealing with distractions.

There are costs for interruptions. But I don’t think being super fragile about it is related to being a creative, productive guy. I think that’s just that they are good at one thing, not two things.

With practice you’ll learn to notice things faster. Instead of hours later while reflecting, you’ll notice minutes later. You’ll have ideas what to do better, and spot things you wish you didn’t do or feel. Then with more skill, you’ll start to notice in seconds.

If you can notice within seconds, and you act and feel slowly, you’ll be able to notice before you’ve done or felt anything. Then you can do something else! Now you have better control over your life.

That is great progress. But it’s not the end of the journey. Now you can think of new policies for how to live, and how to react to things, and you can actually try them out to see how they work. And many won’t be great, but a few will be improvements. Now you’re learning. You’re conjecturing how to live better, and trying out the conjectures. You can also consider your conjectures critically, that way if you notice a problem with one you won’t have to try it out. Over time, the old bad habits and emotional reactions that you didn’t want will fade with disuse, and new ones will form as you find ways of acting that you don’t see anything wrong with.

There’s a strong contrast here with some cultural stuff that tries to help people get better.

For example lots of people do stuff to help with alcohol/drug “addiction.” But the approach of these things is very different than something compatible with the above (which might be like — gradually try and find drugs/alcohol boring and figure out better stuff to do with your life). The more conventional stuff typically treats drugs/alcohol as super dangerous/seductive things and resisting them as a lifelong struggle.

oh yeah that’s really bad. if you wanna get over alcohol/drugs/cigarettes you need the attitude that by quitting you aren’t giving up anything important. if you think they are a big deal, then quitting is a big loss, which is hard. if you think they aren’t so important, then quitting is easy.


My reply to Elliot’s reply


Many people think sexual lust as something they have almost no hope to change because they can’t imagine being in control of it (compared to, say, getting angry, sad or happy, which they know that sometimes people manage to have some control over). But William Godwin explained that sexual lust is a matter of ideas that we can make choices about. He pointed out that sexual pleasure is actually fragile — people will go to great lengths to avoid being disturbed because it ruins the pleasure and they “lose the mood” (in modern terminology).

Yeah. There’s a lot of ritual in sex. It’s a very fragile thing.

Is the fragility and ritual involved any sort of indication of irrationality?

Cuz on the one hand, I would maybe think that if someone is motivated to do something by like, enjoyment of the use of their rational faculty, the creative process, etc., then maybe their interest in whatever they are doing would be less fragile.

But OTOH there’s counterexamples of people who do creative work but are very picky about the conditions under which they can work, stuff like that.

I think the people who are really fragile about their work are pretty irrational. They have carved out this one thing they are good at. But they aren’t so good generally. And their narrow area of skill does NOT include everything relevant to doing their work. Like they aren’t great or rational about dealing with distractions.

There are costs for interruptions. But I don’t think being super fragile about it is related to being a creative, productive guy. I think that’s just that they are good at one thing, not two things.

I recently saw an article about how GRRM was dropping EVERYTHING ELSE until he finishes WINDS OF WINTER.

And then I thought about how Brandon Sanderson talks about how stuff like writing novellas or even 3-4 book series as SIDE PROJECTS to his HUGE EPICS is part of his “process.”

Is interesting. The GRRM stuff was written up as him like getting serious and “buckling down.” But compared to what Sanderson does, it seems like GRRM is failing badly.

People don’t like making those kinda judgments with regards to people’s “creative process” though, which is considered this super mysterious thing that you shouldn’t judge or criticize.