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Annoyance comments on Recommended reading for new rationalists - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: Annoyance 10 July 2009 03:16:07PM 4 points [-]

Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold.

It's a great story, but there's one scene in it that permanently changed my understanding of rationality: Leo Graf's first lecture to the engineering class where he discusses the relationship between engineering and ethics. The argument applies to all science and ways of applying scientific knowledge - really, to any and all attempts to interact with reality.

Comment author: kpreid 11 July 2009 02:28:50AM *  2 points [-]

I'm just rereading it due to your mention, and I found this passage at the point where Leo Graf is beginning to realize What Needs To Be Done:

[...] “How the hell should I know? At that point, it becomes Orient IV’s problem. There's only so much one human being can do, Leo.”

Leo smiled slowly, in grim numbness. “I’m not sure . . . what one human being can do. I’ve never pushed myself to the limit. I thought I had, but I realize now I hadn’t. My self-tests were always carefully non-destructive.”

This test was a higher order of magnitude altogether. This Tester, perhaps, scorned the merely humanly possible. Leo tried to remember how long it had been since he’d prayed, or even believed. Never, he decided, like this. He’d never needed like this before. . . .

Ignoring the religious content, for me-now this seems to be another occurrence of the idea that the universe is not adjusted to your skill level, and Graf is realizing he needs (to satisfy his morality) to do the impossible.

Comment author: Annoyance 14 July 2009 09:16:13PM 1 point [-]

Bujold sometimes appears to argue for theism, but a very peculiar form of it that doesn't really match what most people mean by the term.

In some ways she seems to be a theological consequentialist - suggesting that people are better for believing that other people have souls, or at least acting as though they believe that other people have souls, regardless of whether it's literally true.

Cordelia Vorkosigan's religious beliefs are rather... odd. This is particularly clear in one exchange from Mirror Dance:

It's important that someone celebrate our existence... People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large.

Cordelia claims to be a theist. How can that claim be reconciled with her statement above?