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HughRistik comments on Love and Rationality: Less Wrongers on OKCupid - Less Wrong

19 Post author: Relsqui 11 October 2010 06:35AM

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Comment author: HughRistik 13 October 2010 11:49:52PM *  13 points [-]

Perhaps I made a mistake in addressing honesty and attractiveness separately, because you're not the first person to assume that my advice about honesty precludes attempting to make your profile seem attractive.

To be fair, you did talk about a balance between attractiveness and honesty. But when you put so much more of an emphasis on honesty over impression management, I couldn't tell how you thought that people should find that balance, and I felt motivated to add some caveats.

It's just a roundabout way of saying "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are." I assumed that "show your best side" was understood; clearly it isn't.

Ah... but who are you?

A lot of conventional advice on dating references notions of identity and selfhood, such as the famous "just be yourself." The problem with such advice is that identity is itself a hard problem. As a result, for many people figuring out their identities (and who isn't?), identity isn't a very useful concept for figuring out how to behave socially. Actually, that notion may be backwards: learning social behavior is far more useful for figuring out one's identity.

These conventional notions of self are a lot more simplistic and static than how contemporary philosophy and psychology think about the self.

In The Self as a center of narrative gravity, Daniel Dennet argues:

The chief fictional character at the center of that autobiography is one's self. And if you still want to know what the self really is, you're making a category mistake.


I propose that this imagined exercise with Updike, getting him to write more novels on demand to answer our questions, is actually a familiar exercise. That is the way we treat each other; that is the way we are. We cannot undo those parts of our pasts that are determinate, but our selves are constantly being made more determinate as we go along in response to the way the world impinges on us. Of course it is also possible for a person to engage in auto-hermeneutics, interpretation of one's self, and in particular to go back and think about one's past, and one's memories, and to rethink them and rewrite them. This process does change the "fictional" character, the character that you are, in much the way that Rabbit Angstrom, after Updike writes the second novel about him as a young man, comes to be a rather different fictional character, determinate in ways he was never determinate before. This would be an utterly mysterious and magical prospect (and hence something no one should take seriously) if the self were anything but an abstractum.

By Dennett's account, the self is simply the average of one's current narratives (i.e. "narrative center of gravity"), and those narratives can change. It's difficult to see how Dennett's concept of the self could be prescriptive. "Don't present yourself as someone other than who you are" would then reduce to "don't present a narrative of yourself that is something other than your current narrative center of gravity."

But why not? As Dennett shows, sometimes you can reconceptualize a narrative of yourself to be substantially different from a previous narrative, yet there is no basis to say that either of those narratives are "untrue." Even by conceptualizing a new narrative of yourself, you shift your narrative center of gravity. If you think about your identity differently, you change your identity. I would hazard a guess that at least a large minority of statements people would make about their identities are true only in virtue of being believed (e.g. "I'm not the kind of person who goes to parties"), and that people could just as easily abandon such self-fulfilling prophecies without disrupting the rest of their narratives (e.g. "I'm a person who is learning to enjoy parties, even though I historically haven't enjoyed them").

If you mean something like "don't present a narrative of yourself that is completely disjoint from your previous narratives, or that factually contradicts the available evidence," I would agree, but such advice would allow for a lot more freedom than what I think people in our culture will understand from "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are."

People's notions of selfhood are far too biased by cultural and gender socialization, in addition to self-esteem issues and fear of leaving one's comfort zone; I generally see notions of "self" playing a function similar to "caste," and keeping low status people from attempting to raise their status.

Because narrative allows so much freedom when it's unfettered by limiting beliefs, it's just not a very good guide to action. Just as there are multiple directions that a work of fiction could go in at any point, there are multiple directions your action and narrative of your action could go. A concept of a character influences the future of the character, yes, but that concept isn't enough to determine the character's future; you need additional criteria for where you want the story to go. Same thing with identity and self-characterization.

If you got rid of the philosophy of self and said "present yourself in way such that people who get to know you will still want you", I would also agree, but that is critically different from "don't try to present yourself as someone other than who you are." The former is testable; the latter is philosophical. Furthermore, the former only requires that you behave in a way that is consistent within each interaction with one person, rather than you must behave in a way that is consistent with some philosophical concept you haven't figured out yet.

Maybe that's what you were trying to say in the first place, but I need to nitpick because I don't consider the language of selfhood to be very useful for personal development. Your traits? Yes. Preferences (of you, or of other people)? Yes.

Even with traits, things can get complex. While human psychological traits show some degree of stability, many also show some degree of malleability, or depend on the situation.

I suggest that people stop trying to constrain their social behavior by notions of identity, and it may even be a good idea to try to push the limits of your traits. Your actual traits, capabilities, and values are a sufficient constraint. The resulting pattern of behavior you show will give people all they need to decide if/how to interact with you. Let other people decide what kind of person you are; stop trying to decide for them.

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 October 2010 02:11:37AM 2 points [-]

Ah... but who are you?

The Vorlon Question!

Comment author: William 22 October 2010 01:41:44AM 3 points [-]

Of course, in a dating context, it's at least as important to know the answer to the Shadow Question: "What do you want?"

Comment author: AdShea 22 October 2010 02:09:01AM 2 points [-]

Depending on your philosophy on dating the Shadow Question could be more important. Lorien's First Question "Why are you here" would also be a good thing to know in reference to the dating site itself.

Comment author: taryneast 10 March 2011 10:01:15AM 0 points [-]

And sometimes you need to strip it all back to fundamentals and ask the first-ones question: "do you have anything worth living for?" Once you've figured that out, you can proceed with the other two.

Comment author: erratio 15 October 2010 02:21:47AM 2 points [-]

You don't look like a Vorlon question ;)

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 October 2010 02:46:18AM 3 points [-]

Just wait until he takes off his encounter suit.