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shminux 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: shminux 31 October 2012 12:05:23AM 4 points [-]

Maybe you missed EY's point, or maybe I'm missing yours. Politics definitely can be discussed rationally, but it is really really hard to keep your identity small while doing so. Every participant in a political discussion has to be constantly aware of their own emotions fueled by a cached arguments associated with a specific wing/party/position, and be skilled at modeling how potential readers would inadvertently misinterpret one's statement, causing them emotional upheaval. And it only takes a small misstep to get people riled up about the issue.

The rule of thumb is "if you identify with any political party/group/movement, you are not qualified to have a rational discourse about politics". Example: if you want to start your reply with "as a libertarian, I ...", you have failed. Another example of a false start: "Republicans do not understand that ..."

Comment author: chaosmosis 31 October 2012 12:46:33AM 1 point [-]

Gokhalea's point is largely that political analyses are so difficult that attempting to apply rationality to them will still produce biased and nonsensical results. You didn't really address that.

Gokhalea, I agree that rational analyses of politics are difficult. You seem to believe that they're functionally impossible. Can you explain why? Also, I don't understand why you feel that avoiding politics on LessWrong is a form of rationalization. What's motivating this rationalization? Finally, I don't understand why you feel that a model of politics which seeks to understand different political positions rather than resolve them is useful.

Comment author: gokhalea 01 November 2012 06:36:56PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, I tried to explain above. Less Wrong's conclusion on analyzing politics is flawed because it is based on the assumption that rationality with respect to politics requires an ideal answer. Pointing out that biases/emotions/etc. are ever present is used to protect the idea that rationality in its purest form always results in a normative answer. "Our model of rationality is always correct -- its just the people are flawed!!!" -- I disagree. The model is wrong. The people are playing their role as members of a social dynamic -- rationality in politics is dependent on their biases, not to be avoided because of them.

The value is awareness -- that is the true goal. To have an understanding of what is going on around you without confusion, anger, unwanted emotions. Rationality is about seeing the world "as it is." The world is social, and I want an understanding of how the world works, with its participants and their various viewpoints, perspectives, beliefs, and actions. I'm not trying to be "right" -- frankly i have political positions but don't really care -- they are a secondary concern to understanding the social dynamic.

Comment author: gokhalea 01 November 2012 06:22:58PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, and I appreciated Paul's article -- very interesting and insightful.

Let me try to clarify --

One of the issues causing confusion is that the definition of rationality is not commonly accepted/subject to some dispute. My understanding of EY's perspective on the definition of rationality is based on his article: What do we mean by rationality

EY is saying that applying rationality yields a normative answer -- and that LW is not receptive to a different idea, such as a model where an argument can be rational but still not be the "correct"/"true" answer. My argument is that rationality, as EY defines it, does not work with respect to politics because political issues do not have correct answers (i'll get to why shortly). So I don't disagree with your point that politics can be discussed rationally -- i just have a different definition of rationality when it comes to politics.

I read Paul's article -- it was very good -- i have previously considered the idea that in politics or religion, everyone is an "expert" and the idea of identities intertwined with people's positions -- no doubt insightful, but i think its incomplete. (i also note that his argument that politics has definite answers sometimes is baffling -- the cost of government policy is NEVER certain -- simply because people can't predict the future or how people will behave in the future).

The issue and uniqueness of politics is NOT that everyone is an expert -- its that everyone is a participant, in a real and legitimate way -- as a voter or policy maker or government leader. As such, politics is truly a social issue -- analytical analysis is possible, but you NEVER going to get a clear answer -- the social issues are forever intertwined with policy. Remember, regardless of how much weight you may put on ideal policies/laws/regulations, the ability of any leader to implement these policies is WHOLLY CONTINGENT on winning an election, thus drawing in all potential voters in the discussion/decision. Another way to think about this is trying to answer the question -- "how to be a good mother" -- this is a social issue among a mother and her kids within the context of their familial unit/environment. You may have high level guidance, but no one can answer this question -- its a dynamic issue that is forever unique in ways that can never yield an answer. I believe politics is the same.

Again, i think politics can be discussed rationally, but in a different context -- it should be analyzed like any other social issue. For example, when there is a personal conflict, there are theories on how to handle this -- you have an approach, but part of it depends on how the other person reacts, their positions, their biases, and WHY they have the particular perspective. RIght/Wrong is sometimes irrelevant because in social issues, being correct is a secondary concern to managing the social relationship (including biases/emotions/identities). Rationality is more subjective when it comes to politics -- and it is very possible to have two positions that are "subjectively" rational but contradict each other with respect to a particular issue -- in the same way you and your friend can disagree on whether you should study x or y or whether you should date a or b -- both can have valid arguments but ultimately a decision must be made. Focusing on the "right" answer is fruitless -- rationality is based on having the emotional intelligence to understanding the dynamics and uncertainty of this particular social relationship.

You may disagree, and thats fine -- I'm trying to learn and this is an exercise that is not easy -- however i point out that it provides an explanation for why rationality (as EY defines) has not yielded a clear answer and thus is a "mind killer." I think the model definition of rationality used here is simply wrong when applied to politics.