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brian_jaress comments on Recommended reading for new rationalists - Less Wrong

27 Post author: XFrequentist 09 July 2009 07:47PM

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Comment author: brian_jaress 10 July 2009 09:35:05AM -2 points [-]

I recommend any collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould.

I know, I know. Yudowsky [hates him][Yudkowsky], John Maynard Smith [thinks everyone else hates him][Smith], Dawkins [gave him his due but disagreed][Dawkins], etc.

But, if you read his essays with an eye toward the workings of the mind, specifically how humans think when they theorize (which I consider his main topic) you will find useful things there that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Comment author: Document 04 September 2013 02:15:13AM 0 points [-]

If you come back here, I hope you fill in the links you apparently meant to include (or else remove the placeholders).

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 11 July 2009 08:35:53PM 0 points [-]

you will find useful things there that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Could you give some examples?

Comment author: brian_jaress 12 July 2009 09:42:12AM 0 points [-]

The analyses I mentioned in another comment, saying they might be dangerous, are also quite useful. The specific ideas he analyzes are often hard to find even mentioned elsewhere.

What's useful about the analyses is that they are fairly detailed case studies. They weren't written just to show that the ideas were wrong, or warn of making similar mistakes, but to give a feel for how the ideas seemed to the people who came up with them.

Comment author: Annoyance 10 July 2009 03:20:00PM 0 points [-]

But, if you read his essays with an eye toward the workings of the mind, specifically how humans think when they theorize (which I consider his main topic) you will find useful things there that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

I disagree. His logical errors are quite common; he serves as a good example of failure, yes, but such is rarely hard to find.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 10 July 2009 03:24:42PM 1 point [-]

And given that we believe everything we're told, it's a dangerous experience.

Comment author: brian_jaress 10 July 2009 06:03:09PM 0 points [-]

You definitely don't want to read Gould if you believe everything you're told. In his essays you will find many explanations and analyses of old, discredited ideas in terms of the mental models behind them and the personal and social factors that influenced their conception and reception, with little or no discussion of whether they are true.

At the sentence and paragraph level, he often uses the technique of explaining and critiquing an opinion by paraphrasing it. You have to stay on your toes just to keep track of what Gould is asserting and what he's attributing.

You may be right that his essays are dangerous to read.

But, if you want to protect yourself from exposure to logical flaws, a reading list won't do it. I suggest a blindfold and ear plugs.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 10 July 2009 06:12:52PM *  1 point [-]

But, if you want to protect yourself from exposure to logical flaws, a reading list won't do it. I suggest a blindfold and ear plugs.

And never leave your room.