Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Viliam_Bur comments on The Useful Idea of Truth - Less Wrong

77 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 October 2012 06:16PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (515)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 October 2012 10:33:20AM *  6 points [-]

If I say "Alice has a false belief that she should two-box in Newcomb's problem" it doesn't seem like I'm saying that her map doesn't correspond to the territory.

The problem with Alice's belief is that it is incomplete. It's like saying "I believe that 3 is greater than" (end of sentence).

Even incomplete sentences can work in some contexts where people know how to interpret them. For example if we had a convention that all sentences ending with "greater than" have to be interpreted as "greater than zero", then in given context the sentence "3 is greater than" makes sense, and is true. It just does not make sense outside of this context. Without context, it's not a logical proposition, but rather a proposition template.

Similarly, the sentence "you should X" is meaningful in contexts which provide additional explanation of what "should" means. For a consequentialist, the meaning of "you should" is "maximizes your utility". For a theist, it could mean "makes Deity happy". For both of them, the meaning of "should" is obvious, and within their contexts, they are right. The sentence becomes confusing only when we take it out of context; when we pretend that the context is not necessary for completing it.

So perhaps the problem is not "some truths are not about map-territory correspondence", but rather "some sentences require context to be transformed into true/false expressions (about map-territory correspondence)".

Seems to me that this is somehow related to making ideas pay rent, in sense that when you describe how do you expect the idea to pay rent, in the process you explain the context.

Comment author: Bluehawk 26 November 2012 11:52:11AM 1 point [-]

At the risk of nitpicking:

"Makes Deity happy" sounds to me like a very specific interpretation of "utility", rather than something separate from it. I can't picture any context for the phrase "P should X" that doesn't simply render "X maximizes utility" for different values of the word "utility". If "make Deity happy" is the end goal, wouldn't "utility" be whatever gives you the most efficient route to that goal?

Comment author: Chrysophylax 15 January 2013 08:01:00PM -1 points [-]

Utility has a single, absolute, unexpressible meaning. To say "X gives me Y utility" is pointless, because I am making a statement about qualia, which are inherently incommunicable - I cannot describe the quale "red" to a person without a visual cortex, because that person is incapable of experiencing red (or any other colour-quale). "X maximises my utility" is implied by the statements "X maximises my deity's utility" and "maximising my deity's utility maximises my utility", but this is not the same thing as saying that X should occur (which requires also that maximisng your own utility is your objective). Stripped of the word "utility", your statement reduces to "The statement 'If X is the end goal, and option A is the best way to achieve X, A should be chosen' is tautologous", which is true because this is the definition of the word "should".