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Emile comments on Philosophical Landmines - Less Wrong

83 [deleted] 08 February 2013 09:22PM

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Comment author: Emile 08 February 2013 02:34:21PM 22 points [-]

If it happens, which it does, as far as I can tell the only effective damage control strategy is to abort the conversation.

My ideal approach (not that I always do so) is more to stop taking sides and talk about the plus and minuses of each side. My position on a lot of subjects does boil down to "it's really complicated, but here are some interesting things that can be said on that topic". I don't remember having problems being bombarded with slogans (well - except with a creationist once) since usually my answer is on the lines of "eh, maybe". (this applies particularly to consequentialism and deontology, morality, rationality, and QM).

I also tend to put the emphasis more on figuring out whether there is actually a substantial disagreement, or just different use of terms (for things like "truth" or "reality").

Comment author: Cthulhoo 08 February 2013 02:50:06PM 8 points [-]

I use a similar approach, and it usually works. Make clear that you don't think you're holding the truth on the subject, whatever it means, but only that the information in your possess led you to the conclusion youre presenting. Manifest curiosity for the position the other side is expressing, even if it's cached, and even if you heard similar versions of it a hundred times before. Try to drive them out of cached mode by asking questions and forcing them to think for themselves outside of their preconstructed box. Most of all, be polite, and point out that it's fine to have some disagreement, since the issue is complictaed, and that you're really interested in sorting it out.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 08 February 2013 10:56:51PM 5 points [-]

This is especially important in the particular case mentioned in the OP - it's easy to jump from seeing someone saying that the truth exists to thinking that they think they have that truth.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 February 2013 03:22:00PM 6 points [-]

My ideal approach (not that I always do so) is more to stop taking sides and talk about the plus and minuses of each side.

Right. I suppose refusing to chant slogans is a good way to avoid the supercritical slogan ping-pong.

I lean towards abort mostly out of learned helplessness, and because if I think about it soberly enough to strategize, I see little value in any strategy that involves sorting out someone's confusion instead of disengaging. Just my personal approach, of course.

Thanks for bringing up alternate damage control procedures; we'll need as many as we can get.

Comment author: loup-vaillant 12 February 2013 12:12:44PM *  3 points [-]

I also tend to put the emphasis more on figuring out whether there is actually a substantial disagreement, or just different use of terms (for things like "truth" or "reality").

Even that can fail, especially with "truth" and "reality". I have a concept behind "truth", and I'm sometimes not even allowed to use it, because the term "truth" has been hijacked to mean "really strong belief" instead (sometimes explicitly so, when I ask). I do try to get them to use "belief", and let me use "truth" (or "correctness") my way, but it's no use. I believe their use of a single word for two concepts mixed them up, and I never managed to separate them back.

Also, they know that if they let me define words the way I want, I'll just win whatever argument we're having. It only convince them that my terminology must somehow be wrong.

Finally, there is also a moral battle here: the very idea of absolute, inescapable truth whether you like it or not, reeks of dogmatism. As history showed us countless times, dogmatism is Baad™. (The Godwin point is really a fixpoint.)

Comment author: MugaSofer 20 February 2013 11:55:47AM -1 points [-]

Maybe I have a different strategy in mind to you, but when I try this, I just end up sitting there trying ineffectually to have an actual conversation while they spew slogans at me.