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lukeprog comments on Why is Mencius Moldbug so popular on Less Wrong? [Answer: He's not.] - Less Wrong

9 Post author: arborealhominid 16 November 2012 06:37PM

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Comment author: lukeprog 18 November 2012 03:22:18AM 8 points [-]

If Condensed Moldbuggery is a sympathetic summary of his views like it appears to be, and if the one long post of his I read is representative, then Mencius Moldbug seems to be a very confused thinker, lacking in precision and curiosity.

Comment author: Konkvistador 18 November 2012 08:35:00AM *  9 points [-]

then Mencius Moldbug seems to be a very confused thinker, lacking in precision and curiosity.

In this he doesn't seem obviously worse than most of the political scientists, pundits or philosophers I've read. Politics is the mindkiller and all that. I'm much more interested in object level appraisal of his ideas.

Do you find anything in the summary interesting or correct? What do you find wrong? What do you find not even wrong? What you think about his map of how democracy works in practice? Namely that opinion making institutions bias public opinion in favour of opinion making institutions which translates into political power, while the actual operation and policies of government are mostly determined by civil servants rather than politicians. I'm interested in that primarily because I'm convinced it is correct and seek counterarguments. I'm also particularly interested in what you think about his arguments that the distinction between religion and ideology isn't as useful as is normally assumed since both operate under very similar memetic pressures, are transmitted in similar ways and even have similar adaptations (inbuilt fully general counterargument defences for example).

Comment author: Konkvistador 21 November 2012 05:19:32PM *  7 points [-]

The problem with the Condensed Moldbuggery post is that it just states the outrageous opinions and omits the interesting-but-possibly-insufficient arguments for them which can cause the reader to mis-infer what the arguments must have been.

My original guess was that it isn't worth Eliezer's time to read Moldbug, but that's because it isn't worth Eliezer's time to form a good picture of politics, not because Moldbug doesn't help you form a good picture of politics. So I was surprised he had a formed opinion, the same argument applies to him not yet responding to say Michael's comment asking for specifics. I'm still hoping for it though.

From your previous comments I'm guessing you think a good picture of politics might be valuable. I'm interested in a good picture of politics as well. I just wanted to point out that I'm open to private correspondence if perhaps the bad signalling of such discussion is a concern, I don't mean to rush or coax out of you a response to my other up voted comment asking you for specifics.

Comment author: lukeprog 22 November 2012 12:33:07AM 3 points [-]

I think it's very, very difficult to get a good picture of politics, both due to human psychology and the intrinsic complexity and non-repeatability of the domain. It's almost certainly not worth my time to get a good picture of politics, because that would require my entire life. But if I wanted a good picture of politics, Mencius is very far down on the list of places I would look, given all the red flags his writing raises for me. If I wanted a good picture of politics I would start by hitting up Carl Shulman, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and lots of other sources. I would probably never even make it down to Mencius Moldbug.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 22 November 2012 01:36:11AM *  7 points [-]

very far down on the list of places I would look, given all the red flags his writing raises for me

Although as Steven Kaas suggested in 2007, some thinkers might be crazy and inaccurate overall (and thus rightfully raise lots of red flags), and yet also have a few genuine insights not easily found elsewhere: if the most all-around-reliable thinkers also make some systematic mistakes (perhaps ideologically- or culturally-motivated), then we would expect some fringe thinkers to have some good ideas simply because they're exploring regions of ideaspace that the more reliable thinkers are neglecting. (I'm not necessarily claiming this applies to Moldbug in particular; this comment is only to point out a consideration to be taken into account when constructing a list of who to read.)

Comment author: lukeprog 22 November 2012 02:13:42AM 7 points [-]

That's a good point, though there are still lots of "fringe" thinkers (not including fringe thinkers already in contact with my community, like Robin Hanson and Patri Friedman) that I would turn to before Moldbug, e.g. Michael Albert, David Benatar, and Noam Chomsky.

Comment author: MichaelAnissimov 18 November 2012 04:53:53PM 7 points [-]

"Condensed Moldbuggery" is a very poor overview of Moldbug's ideas, and I would say that it deeply mischaracterizes many of them. Moldbug never said "progressivism always wins in the long run", or that "progressives are dangerous and creepy maniacs", or that progressives "try to bring down the military through proxy wars". As far as I can tell, this is all nonsense that comes from the conservative blog post author biasing his account of Moldbug's views in his own desired political direction.

"An open letter to progressives" is not the best place to start with Moldbug. It's unusually circumlocutory, even by MM's standards, and contains a large helping of off-topic rambling. I recommend "A formalist manifesto" for a clearer and less hyperventilated introduction to his views.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 19 November 2012 12:20:32AM 2 points [-]

Are you sure? I'm guessing you've read all of his output. Those statements seem to match my memories of his material.

Comment author: MichaelAnissimov 19 November 2012 12:41:08AM *  6 points [-]

I haven't read all of his output but a fair amount of it. I realize that I misinterpreted the last one to mean actual wars when he must have meant propaganda wars against the military, which Moldbug has probably actually claimed. The first two seem really odd as 1) Moldbug repeatedly refers to progressivism as the default modern Catholicism and doesn't imbue mania on progressives, just status quo thinking, 2) I've never seen him have an attitude defeatist towards his own ideas like "progressivism always wins in the long run". If it always wins, then what would be the point of writing hundreds of pages about the possibility of moving towards other systems? I am also drawing from the experience of having met and talked to Moldbug in person.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 19 November 2012 12:49:14AM *  1 point [-]

I thought R.A.G.E. was a gedankenexperiment meant to demonstrate the actual extent of power of the cathedral. If he really believes it is a plausible path he is farther down the crackpot path than I thought.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 22 November 2012 01:20:08AM 2 points [-]

and if the one long post of his I read is representative

Huh. That's an interesting post. There's a core idea that might be valid but it is lost in claims like:

Its core beliefs are claims about the spirit world, which no Catholic (except of course the Pope) has experienced firsthand.

Which is such a confused claim about Catholic doctrine that I'm not sure where to begin.

Comment author: Sewing-Machine 25 November 2012 03:24:24AM 1 point [-]

There's a core idea that might be valid but it is lost in claims like:

Its core beliefs are claims about the spirit world, which no Catholic (except of course the Pope) has experienced firsthand.

Which is such a confused claim about Catholic doctrine that I'm not sure where to begin.

I think an accurate summary of Catholic doctrine is this: all Catholics, the Pope not excepted, have only one channel of communication to God, namely prayer. However, when speaking in his role as Universal Pastor, the Holy Spirit prevents him from teaching error. Lay Catholics are occasionally admitted to have spiritual experiences of a different kind, called charisms. However "discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds". In other words, the Catholic hierarchy treats lay "firsthand spiritual experiences" skeptically.

That is, it seems to me that your quoted passage is mistaken (or taking liberties) in a routine, understandable, and easily corrected way. Is it a mere "gotcha", or does it really poison the rest of the essay?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 25 November 2012 03:28:12AM *  0 points [-]

It is at best a massive oversimplification of both official and practical theology in the Church (decisions about whether a charism is genuine or not are often decided at levels well below the Pope). But yes, this wasn't the only example in the essay, just the first one in chronological order.

Comment author: Sewing-Machine 25 November 2012 03:34:34AM 1 point [-]

Since Catholic theology is massively specious to begin with, I think you should have a higher threshold for what kinds of simplifications count as oversimplifications. Anyway I do.