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Nick_Tarleton comments on Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) - Less Wrong

110 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 July 2007 10:59PM

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Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 31 July 2007 03:03:22AM 10 points [-]

It's amazing how many forms of irrationality failure to see the map-territory distinction, and the resulting reification of categories (like 'sound') that exist in the mind, causes: stupid arguments, phlogiston, the Mind Projection Fallacy, correspondence bias, and probably also monotheism, substance dualism, the illusion of the self, the use of the correspondence theory of truth in moral questions... how many more?

I think you're being too hard on the English professor, though. I suspect literary labels do have something to do with the contents of a book, no matter how much nonsense might be attached to them. But I've never experienced a college English class; perhaps my innocent fantasies will be shaken then.

Michael V, you could say that mathematical propositions are really predictions about the behavior of physical systems like adding machines and mathematicians. I don't find that view very satisfying, because math seems to so fundamentally underly everything else - mathematical truths can't be changed by changing anything physical, for instance - but it's one way to make math compatible with anticipation.

Comment author: TsviBT 06 March 2012 08:08:06AM *  6 points [-]

I suspect literary labels do have something to do with the contents of a book, no matter how much nonsense might be attached to them

I think Eliezer's point was about the student. "Wulky Wilkinsen is a 'post-utopian'" could be meaningful, if you know what a post-utopian is and is not (I don't, and don't care). The student who learns just the statement, however, has formed a floating belief.

We might even initially use propositional beliefs as indicators of meaningful beliefs about the world. But if we then discuss these highly compressed beliefs without referencing their meaning, we often feel like we are reasoning when really we have ceased to speak about the world. That is, grounded beliefs can become "floaty" and spawn further "floaty" beliefs.

In my sociology class, we talk about how "Man in his natural state has liberty because everyone is equal". "Natural state", "liberty", and "equal" could conceivably be linked to descriptions of social interaction or something. However, class after class we refrain from talking about specific behaviors. Concepts float away from their referents without much resistance - it's all the same to the student, who only needs to make a few unremarkable remarks to get his B+ for class participation. Compare:

"Man in his natural state has liberty because everyone is equal"

"Man in his natural state is equal because everyone has liberty"

"When everyone has liberty and is equal, man is in his natural state"

These statements should express very different beliefs about the world, but to the student they sound equally clever coming out of the professor's mouth.

(Edit for minor grammar and formatting)