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Comment author: tanagrabeast 28 August 2015 04:12:28AM *  0 points [-]

Hmm. I see your points. I'll try to structure future articles so that an above-the-fold abstract structure will work better, but I'm not convinced that my present post is long enough or self-evident enough to support it -- at least not without an extensive rewrite. What I think I'll do this weekend is add an Exercises section at the bottom with the techniques in concise form. Thanks!

Comment author: PhilGoetz 28 August 2015 03:16:03AM *  0 points [-]

First of all, I'm not sure what measure you're using for "rigorous thought". Is it a binary classification? Are there degrees of rigor? I can infer from some of your examples what kind of pattern you might be picking up on, but if we're going to try and say things like "there's a correlation between rigor and volume of publication", I'd like to at least see a rough operational definition of what you mean by rigor.

The important thing is that I categorized people as rigorous or non-rigorous first, then found a difference between the groups. That suggests there's some relevant distinction in my mental model

If I'd made an operational definition, I'd have been testing the operational definition, not my mental model, and the definition might not have matched very well. Better to consult the oracle in my head.

I agree that what I'm saying would be more clear to you if I'd tried to define rigor afterwards. Certainly not being well-liked or influential. Zizek, Derrida, and Lacan are all well-liked and very influential today. Spinoza is not as influential as Nietzsche.

I consider Nietzsche not rigorous because he's upfront about not being rigorous, about not even considering it an issue. The Superman doesn't stop and try to figure out if he's correct. Nietzsche does philosophy by telling stories, not by defending propositions.

I consider Freud not rigorous because he made hypothesis but didn't test them (AFAIK). He told a lot of just-so stories, without contrasting them with alternative explanations. Similar thing with Marx. More a storyteller than a scientist.

I consider Lysenko not rigorous because instead of arguing with his opponents, he had them sent to Siberia and got a law passed saying it was illegal to argue with him.

I consider Hegel not rigorous because nobody can figure out what a lot of the stuff he wrote means, or if it means anything.

I also consider Stein not rigorous because nobody can figure out what she meant. She wrote like a stroke victim. Her book How to Write begins with 3 untranslated sentences in French, then says:

When he will see When he will see When he will see the land of liberty. The scene changes it is a stone high up against with a hill and there is and above where they will have time.

George Steiner is a curious case. He's very rigorous in considering the meanings and connotations of his words. But he doesn't believe in reality, so he has no interest in whether anything he says is true.

I consider Spinoza rigorous because he wrote in the 17th century, and yet confined himself to meaningful statements and inferences that he could draw based on evidence. His reputation is not very high IMHO because he was so rigorous that he said mainly things we now take for granted and consider obvious.

I consider Robert Penn Warren rigorous because he looks at a story as something that communicates the author's opinions about life through the logical relationships between the different components of the story, and he illustrates this by going through dozens of stories and showing what the intended communication is and how the components interact to support it.

I consider I. A. Richards rigorous because he took stories, showed them to students, asked them to interpret them, and astounded everybody by demonstrating that university literature students understood much less of what was generally thought to be meant in those stories than literary critics believed the general public did.

Jon von Neumann was either rigorous in his thought, or magical.

I don't think I had any good justification for listing Minsky. I think I meant to contrast him with somebody else from MIT from some of the sloppy "look how cool my robot / simulation is" work done there, but was too lazy to put in the time to justify a choice.

Wiles wrote a humongous proof that has withstood (with some provisos that I don't understand) the scrutiny of many mathematicians.

Robert Frost is probably the most controversial. I listed him because his work is very tight. His poems have a surface meaning and one or more deeper meanings, and they communicate clearly enough to bring you to contemplate that deeper meaning, rather than (as most modernist poetry does) merely enough to let you contemplate what that deeper meaning might be.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 28 August 2015 02:16:58AM 2 points [-]

And hopefully it means you won't have to.

Comment author: jimrandomh 28 August 2015 12:13:18AM 1 point [-]

If rigorous thought significantly reduces publication rate, we should find that the rigor of a field or a person correlates inversely with words per person-year. Establishing that fact alone, combined with the emphasis on publication in academics, would lead us to expect that any approach that allowed one to fake or dispense with intellectual rigor in a field would rapidly take over that field.

This is an excellent observation and model-fragment. There are many other things going on which also influence WPY, messing up any naive strategy for assessing things this way, but this is clearly a thing that happens. Well spotted!

Comment author: satt 27 August 2015 11:33:30PM *  0 points [-]

But norms, guidelines, heurisitics, advice, lie on an orthogonal axis to true/false: they are guides to action, not passive reflections. [...]

OK, but [...]

Yes, but that's beside the original point.

You brought it up!

What you call a realistic guideline doesnt work as a guideline at all, and therefore isnt a a charitable interpretation of the PoC.

I continue to think that the version I called realistic is no less workable than your version.

Justifying that PoC as something that works at what it is supposed to do, is a question that can be answered, but it is a separate question.

Again, it's a question you introduced. (And labelled "the question".) But I'm content to put it aside.

noticing and throwing away any initial suspicion I have that a comment's wrong, and then forcing myself to pretend the comment must be correct in some obscure way.

Thats exactly what I mean.

But surely it isn't. Just 8 minutes earlier you wrote that a case where I did the opposite was an "example of PoC".

Cogent doesn't mean right.

See my response to CCC.

Comment author: oge 27 August 2015 11:27:07PM 0 points [-]

Here's an article that has an abstract in the first paragraph (although it'd be nice if it were called out as such), and a table of contents.


Comment author: satt 27 August 2015 11:18:11PM 0 points [-]

Mine implies a heuristic of "make repeated attempts at re-intepreting the comment using different background assumptions".

I don't see how "treat everyone's comments as though they were made by a sane , intelligent, person" entails that without extra background assumptions. And I expect that once those extra assumptions are spelled out, the "may .or may have been having an off day" version will imply the same action(s) as your original version.

As I have explained, it provides its own evidence.

Well, when I've disagreed with people in discussions, my own experience has been that behaving according to my baseline impression of how much sense they're making gets me closer to understanding than consciously inflating my impression of how much sense they're making.

Neither of those is much good if interpreting someone who died 100 years ago.

A fair point, but one of minimal practical import. Almost all of the disagreements which confront me in my life are disagreements with live people.

Comment author: satt 27 August 2015 10:27:47PM *  2 points [-]

If I may step in at this point; "cogent" does not mean "true".

Yes, and were I asked to give synonyms for "cogent", I'd probably say "compelling" or "convincing" [edit: rather than "true"]. But an empirical claim is only compelling or convincing (and hence may only be cogent) if I have grounds for believing it very likely true. Hence "treat all comments as cogent, even if they sound idiotic" translates [edit: for empirical comments, at least] to "treat all comments as if very likely true, even if they sound idiotic".

Now you mention the issue of relevance, I think that, yeah, I agree that relevance is part of the definition of "cogent", but I also reckon that relevance is only a necessary condition for cogency, not a sufficient one. And so...

As to what RomeoStevens said - it was cogent. That is to say, it was pertinent and relevant to the conversation at the time.

...I have to push back here. While pertinent, the comment was not only wrong but (to me) obviously very likely wrong, and RomeoStevens gave no evidence for it. So I found it unreasonable, unconvincing, and unpersuasive — the opposite of dictionary definitions of "cogent". Pertinence & relevance are only a subset of cogency.

The principle of charity (as I understand it) merely recommends treating any commenter as reasonably sane and intelligent. This does not mean he can't be wrong - he may be misinformed, he may have made a minor error in reasoning, he may simply not know as much about the subject as you do.

That's why I wrote that that version of the POC strikes me as watered down; someone being "reasonably sane and intelligent" is totally consistent with their just having made a trivial blunder, and is (in my experience) only weak evidence that they haven't just made a trivial blunder, so "treat commenters as reasonably sane and intelligent" dissolves into "treat commenters pretty much as I'd treat anyone".

Comment author: So8res 27 August 2015 09:47:12PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: cousin_it 27 August 2015 08:36:59PM *  0 points [-]

Just watch some videos of him on YouTube. He seems like a pretty energetic guy, and charming in his own way. And he can speak very simply and clearly when he wants to, which surprised me a lot.

Comment author: flexive 27 August 2015 07:37:50PM 0 points [-]

Thank you.

Nice paper. Signs are treated accurately there of course. However call to "formal functions" in the end of the proof seems wacky at best. Formalizing it looks harder to me than the initial statement. At this point it should be easier to just look at the smoothness degrees of the norm on x_i = 0 hyperplanes.

If anybody knows what was meant, however, please clarify.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 27 August 2015 07:02:31PM *  0 points [-]

It's a way to communicate with less analytical people without acting like a clueless sledgehammer that alienates people.

There are other ways to not be a clueless sledgehammer. Speaking of which...

Incorrect. You missed the point.


What is true, and what is needful to say to the person in front of you, are two different things. The difference between them is not necessarily, not even usually, one of truth and falsity, but of what truths to express, and how to express them in such a way that when the other person hears then, what they hear is true.

We might both disagree with "Serbia is the greatest country in the world" but that's not a very good argument to communicate to a Serbian who holds that view as deeply true.

Why would I be arguing with him at all about that?

If you can get someone who asserts their opinion is "true" to grant it's true to them but not empirically true you've already won half the battle in helping them think and communicate better.

I am more interested in thinking and communicating better myself than in helping anyone else to. It is not that I do not care, but that I have no business doing so unless particular circumstances make it necessary. Just because I hear someone talking in terms I think mistaken is not a reason for me to jump in and start counselling them on epistemic hygiene. I do not play this person on the net or anywhere else.

Alternatively, do the Spock thing

If you regard valuing the simple virtue of truth as "the Spock thing", why are you here?

Comment author: Furcas 27 August 2015 06:57:53PM 6 points [-]

I donated $400.

Comment author: Lumifer 27 August 2015 06:41:21PM 1 point [-]

A fair point. I would guess that Žižek is well supplied with confidence, is noticeably lacking in enthusiasm, and I have no idea about energy :-)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 27 August 2015 06:29:45PM *  2 points [-]

Literally all photos of Zizek look like this.

Not literally literally, but close.

Truly, the face is the picture of the soul. I clicked on a rare cheerful picture and found an article headlined "Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots."

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 27 August 2015 06:14:30PM 2 points [-]

I was more concerned with the second sentence than the first. He may be ace at getting the girl (photo did establish that decently well), but that photo didn't exactly exude energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.

Comment author: 27chaos 27 August 2015 05:08:53PM 0 points [-]

Literally all photos of Zizek look like this.

Comment author: 27chaos 27 August 2015 05:07:16PM 2 points [-]

People I expect to be acceptably rigorous:

Sam Harris (atheistic morality & philosophy): .58, 7 books in 12 years.


Comment author: advael 27 August 2015 04:52:12PM *  7 points [-]

I suspect that your model has been built to serve the hypothesis you started with.

First of all, I'm not sure what measure you're using for "rigorous thought". Is it a binary classification? Are there degrees of rigor? I can infer from some of your examples what kind of pattern you might be picking up on, but if we're going to try and say things like "there's a correlation between rigor and volume of publication", I'd like to at least see a rough operational definition of what you mean by rigor. It may seem obvious to you what you mean, and it may seem like a subject many people on this site devoted to refining human rationality will have opinions on. That makes it more important to define your terms rigorously, not less, because your results shouldn't explain variation in everyone's definition of rigor.

For the sake of argument, we could use something like "ratio of bits of information implied by factual claims to bits of information contained in presented evidence supporting factual claims" if we want something vaguely quantifiable. It seems your initial set of examples uses a more heuristic approach, with the rigorous group consisting mostly of well-known scientists, artists, and philosophers who are well-liked and whose findings/writings are considered well-founded/meaningful/influential in our current era, and your non-rigorous group consisting of mostly philosophers and some scientists who are at least partially discredited in our current era. I suspect that this might not be a very predictive heuristic, as I think it implicitly relies on some hindsight and also would be vulnerable to exactly the effect you claim if your claim turns out to be true.

Also, I suspect that academic publication and publication of e.g. novels, self-help books, poetry, philosophical treatises, etc. would follow very different rules with respect to rigor versus volume of publication; there are structures in place to make them do exactly that. While journal publication and peer review rules are obviously far from perfect, I suspect that producing a large volume of non-rigorous work is a much better strategy for a fiction writer, philosopher, or artist than it is for a scientist who, if unable to sufficiently hide their non-rigor, will not get their paper published at all, and might start becoming discredited and losing grant money to do further research. In particular, I think the use of a wide temporal range of publishers is going to confound you a lot, because standards have changed and publication rates in general have gone way up in the last ~150 years.

Actually, I'm not even sure how a definition of "rigorous thought" that applies to scientific literature could apply cleanly to fiction-writing, unless it's the "General Degree of Socially-Accepted Credibility" heuristic discussed earlier.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 27 August 2015 03:16:50PM 0 points [-]

But not one that tells you unambiguously what to do, ie not a usable guideline at all.

I don't see how this applies any more to the "may .or may have been having an off day"" version than it does to your original. They're about as vague as each other.

Mine implies a heuristic of "make repeated attempts at re-intepreting the comment using different background assumptions". What does yours imply?

Understood. But it's not obvious to me that "the principle" is correct,

As I have explained, it provides its own evidence.

nor is it obvious that a sufficiently strong POC is better than my more usual approach of expressing disagreement and/or asking sceptical questions (if I care enough to respond in the first place).

Neither of those is much good if interpreting someone who died 100 years ago.

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