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TimFreeman comments on You Can Face Reality - Less Wrong

53 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 August 2007 01:46AM

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Comment author: TimFreeman 12 May 2011 04:44:55PM 2 points [-]

The statement only refers to "what is true", not your situation; each pronoun refers only to "what is true":

"What is true" includes everything about my situation. Whether the truth is better or worse is a statement about my judgment of goodness of the truth, which surely includes my judgment of my situation. Whether I own up to the truth has immediate consequences on my situation, unless I can cheaply suppress behavior change deriving from that knowledge.

On the face of it, what you're saying seems to be obviously false. It's more likely that I misunderstand you somehow, but I can't imagine how right now.

Comment author: nshepperd 13 May 2011 01:47:30AM *  11 points [-]

"What is true" does not refer to the entire universe. In "owning up to it doesn't make it worse", it refers to the specific thing "what is true" that you are trying to change your mind about. "Owning up to P doesn't make P worse", because your state of mind is not causally connected to P. In the specific example of finding that X is false:

"X is false" is already true. Owning up to it doesn't make "X is false" worse.

Clearly whatever bad things are brought about by a state of affairs where X is false are already occurring -- because it is in fact false! Changing your mind about X should have no effect on these affairs. Your social situation, on the other hand, is a completely different thing.

The Litany of Gendlin is meant to neutralize fears like "but if god didn't exist, that would be terrible!" resulting in clinging to faith in a god, or "I can't be ill, that's too bad to imagine!" resulting in not going to the doctor.

Comment author: TimFreeman 13 May 2011 02:24:21AM *  2 points [-]

Makes sense, if the universe can be chopped up that way. If "what is true" overlaps enough with your social situation and you aren't good at lying, it might not make sense. I suppose the Litany of Gendlin was not meant to be universally applicable.

Comment author: shokwave 13 May 2011 05:51:36AM 1 point [-]

Take an example: coming out to a homophobic friend. Now, I'm gay - due to conditioning, I may feel bad about "I am straight" being false. Owning up to being gay won't make ""I am straight" is false" any worse, cause it's already true. This is the limit of the Litany of Gendlin, because my homophobic friend doesn't know I'm gay. So "X thinks I am straight" is true, not false, and owning up to it WILL make it worse, because it changes my friend's belief from true to false (and then they will act upon that belief).

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 13 May 2011 06:26:25AM 7 points [-]

Acknowledging the truth of ""I am straight" is false" doesn't make anything worse.

Acknowledging the truth of "X thinks I'm straight" doesn't make anything worse.

Telling X that you're gay could make things worse for you, but that's not the type of thing that the Litany of Gendlin applies to: It's taking an action, not acknowledging a truth.

(I think that's what you meant, but your wording seems to have gotten confused toward the end if so.)

Comment author: shokwave 13 May 2011 03:03:12PM 0 points [-]

(I think that's what you meant, but your wording seems to have gotten confused toward the end if so.)

Indeed it did.

Comment author: RRam 07 November 2015 08:03:34AM 0 points [-]

Case of management of truth

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 13 May 2011 02:25:22AM 9 points [-]

For example:

Say I live in a bad neighborhood, but I'm kind of clueless and don't really want to believe it. I hear gunshots sometimes, but rationalize that it must just be cars backfiring. I hear my neighbors fighting, but tell myself it must be a TV program that someone has on really loud. I see people hanging around outside, selling who-knows-what, but tell myself that it must just be the local culture, and it's not my place to say that other people can't spend time outside, that's just silly.

The probability of the police breaking my door down because someone taking anonymous tips about drug activity misheard an apartment number is not any better in that situation than in the one where I admit to what's going on; my beliefs don't change the police's behavior. And in the situation where I acknowledge what's going on, I can do something about it, like finding somewhere else to live.

Acknowledging it is less comfortable - being afraid of one's neighbors is not fun, and the first situation avoids that - but feeling less fear doesn't mean there's actually less danger.

Comment author: Caravelle 24 July 2011 04:30:37PM *  5 points [-]

I can see the objection there however, partly because I sort of have this issue. I've never been attacked, or mugged, or generally made to feel genuinely unsafe - those few incidents that have unsettled me have affected me far less than the social pressure I've felt to feel unsafe - people telling me "are you sure you want to walk home alone ?", or "don't forget to lock the door at all times !".

I fight against that social pressure. I don't WANT the limitations and stress that come with being afraid, and the lower opinion it implies I should have of the world around me. I value my lack of fear quite highly, overall.

That said, is it really to my advantage to have a false sense of security ? Obviously not. I don't want to be assaulted or hurt or robbed. If the world really is a dangerous place there is no virtue in pretending it isn't.

What I should to is work to separate my knowledge from my actions. If I really want to go home alone, I can do this without fooling myself about how risk-free it is; I can choose instead to value the additional freedom I get from going over the additional safety I'd get from not going. And if I find I don't value my freedom that highly after all, then I should change my behaviour with no regrets. And if I'm afraid that thinking my neighbourhood is unsafe will lead me to be a meaner person overall, well, I don't have to let it. If being a kind person is worth doing at all, it's worth doing in a dangerous world.

(this has the additional advantage that if I do this correctly, actually getting mugged might not change my behaviour as radically as it would if I were doing all that stuff out of a false sense of security)

Of course the truth is that it isn't that simple: our brain being what it is, we cannot completely control the way we are shaped by our beliefs. As earlier commenters have pointed out, while admitting you're gay won't affect the fact that you are gay, and it doesn't imply you should worsen your situation by telling your homophobic friends that you're gay, our brains happen to be not that good at living a sustained lie, so in practice it probably will force you to change your behaviour.

Still, I don't think this makes the litany useless. I think that it is possible when we analyse our beliefs, to not only figure out how true they are but also to figure out the extent to which changing them would really force us to change our behaviour. It probably won't lead to a situation where we choose to adopt a false belief - the concept strikes me as rather contradictory - but at the end of the exercise we'd know better which behaviours we really value, and we might figure ways to hold on to them even as our beliefs change.

Comment author: christopherj 13 December 2013 05:32:31AM 2 points [-]

Acknowledging it is less comfortable

Some people might view "less comfortable" as worse.