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gokhalea comments on Politics is the Mind-Killer - Less Wrong

71 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 February 2007 09:23PM

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Comment author: gokhalea 22 April 2012 07:51:25PM *  3 points [-]

If rational thinking is about understanding and seeing true reality, how can you avoid politics as a discussion issue? It is a social practice in which every person participates. A rational analysis can take into account that "people go funny in the head" and still result in well thought out conclusions.

Comment author: dlthomas 22 April 2012 09:09:43PM 1 point [-]

The problem is that 1) there's no one to do a rational analysis if everyone goes funny in the head, and 2) "people go funny in the head" too easily becomes a fully general counterargument when one tries to take it into account.

Comment author: gokhalea 22 April 2012 11:14:33PM 1 point [-]

i guess that depends on your definition of rational analysis. I think the fully general counterarguments you mention are very valuable in terms of understanding your ideological opponents (but of course not in achieving your agenda). their handicap makes it significantly easier to understand their motivations and actions, which i think is related to understanding and seeing true reality -- their irrationality is tied into your reality.

Comment author: dlthomas 23 April 2012 03:47:19AM 2 points [-]

You forget that you are attempting to run this rational analysis on corrupted hardware. Remember that you have gone funny in the head, and will ascribe it to your opponents but not your allies and you won't notice you're doing it. Or at least, you have to assume that that's likely, because from the outside view that's how people tend to work, including being unaware of it.

Comment author: gokhalea 23 April 2012 05:44:14AM *  1 point [-]

I think personal biases are more of an issue if you are drawing particular conclusions about political issues. The beauty of politics is that there is just enough uncertainty to make every position appear plausible to some portion of the public, even in those rare cases where there is definitive "proof" (however defined) that one particular position is correct. Rationality in some ways is meant to better understand reality, however, politics puts pressure on the meaning of "reality." People's beliefs on political reality rarely match up among others because perspectives, values, and thought processes often fill in for the inability to nail down or prove any one answer from a traditionally rational perspective. Perhaps the "rational" solution is focusing instead on the inherent uncertainty underlying any and every position, ignoring what may be or is "right," and use that knowledge to get better worldview. A better understanding of the uncertainty in politics could in some ways provide a level of certainty rationalists can normally only achieve (i think) by drawing rational conclusions.

I hear your point, hopeful for a solution.

Comment author: Hul-Gil 24 April 2012 01:25:21AM *  0 points [-]

The beauty of politics is that there is just enough uncertainty to make every position appear plausible to some portion of the public, even in those rare cases where there is definitive "proof" (however defined) that one particular position is correct. [emphasis added]

Well, that doesn't sound very beautiful.

Comment author: gokhalea 24 April 2012 02:02:33PM 0 points [-]

its beautiful in its complexity. its amazing (not in a critical sense, but as an observer) that no can be definitely right in a valuable way about anything. As a reality of life that we must accept and deal with, i think its fascinating, a seemingly impenetrable issue.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 April 2012 09:18:20PM 0 points [-]

I heartily encourage you to perform such analyses, as well-thought-out conclusions are very useful things to have.
That said, given what I've seen of the attempts to do so here, I don't endorse doing so here unless you have a good model of why it fails and why your attempt will do better.

Comment author: David_Gerard 22 April 2012 10:19:43PM *  1 point [-]

This would be the local dilemma in a nutshell, yes. People are interested in winning at real life as they see it, and, if you tell them "rationalists should WIN" then they'll say "OK" and try to apply it to what they presently see as their problems ... but actually discussing anything political on LessWrong has gone badly enough that quite a lot of the community now behaves phobically even to allusion to politics, going so far as to euphemise the word to "mindkilling." It's not clear how to get past this one. (I have a vague idea that worked examples of success in doing so might help.)

edit: hrm. Reason for downvote?

Comment author: gokhalea 22 April 2012 10:58:27PM 0 points [-]

OK, understood. I wasn't asking we broaden the discussion here, as it is very good, just curious as to the thinking. Thanks.

sorry, what are you referring to in your last paranthetical?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 23 April 2012 09:02:58AM 1 point [-]

actually discussing anything political on LessWrong has gone badly enough that quite a lot of the community now behaves phobically even to allusion to politics

Why do you judge that the past history has made us irrationally averse to discussing politics, rather than rationally averse?

Comment author: David_Gerard 23 April 2012 09:09:20AM *  2 points [-]

Because the responses look to me more like conditioned reaction than something considered.

If it is, as you hypothesise, rational to avoid even slightly politically-tinged discussion to this degree, then that greatly reduces the hope of raising the sanity waterline. Because very few problems people want and need to solve are going to be free of such a tinge.

As I've noted elsewhere, this doesn't mean I think we should dive headfirst into it on LW. I don't have a handy solution. But I do think it's a problem.

Comment author: gokhalea 23 April 2012 01:56:58PM 2 points [-]

i'm a bit new to all of this, but its oddly convenient to conclude that it is rational to ignore a topic that doesn't lend itself to classic rational thought.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 23 April 2012 02:59:44PM 0 points [-]

It's a question of whether to respond to a track record of failure by going off and doing something else instead or persevering. When is it best to attend to developing one's strengths, and when to attend to remedying one's weaknesses?

Comment author: gokhalea 23 April 2012 03:32:07PM 2 points [-]

what is your focus, i.e. what would be the ideal goal that you are saying is difficult or impossible to achieve and so it is rational to avoid -- what goal do you find elusive here -- personal understanding of the correct "answer" in spite of biases, "raising the sanity waterline" as someone mentioned above, or something else?

Both these items suggest a need for an definitive answer to political questions and I'm not sure that is the correct focus.

If applying rational thought to politics has a track record of failure and we agree politics is a part of everyone's reality, do you think rational thought cannot explain politics and is an inherent shortcoming of the theory? (this is other way of saying we should move on to things). We talk about rationality like its the way to live life. its troubling that it cannot answer or explain political issues, which shape our government, laws and community. The value of the a theory should partially be tested based on issues and questions it cannot answer. If there are things rational thinking cannot solve, that is an issue/problem with rational theory, not the particular subject matter.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 23 April 2012 04:11:18PM 0 points [-]

do you think rational thought cannot explain politics and is an inherent shortcoming of the theory

No, merely a contingent failure of people almost everywhere and always.

Comment author: gokhalea 23 April 2012 05:03:56PM 0 points [-]

so its a problem of the individual, not the theory. not sure how you conclude that if no one can apply the theory to prove it.