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RichardKennaway comments on Explain/Worship/Ignore? - Less Wrong

38 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 September 2007 08:01PM

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Comment author: RichardKennaway 19 January 2010 12:31:51PM 4 points [-]

The only good metaphor is a dead metaphor.

Comment author: Mycelia 20 January 2010 10:09:32PM -2 points [-]

I assume you're joking... Otherwise this statement is incredibly ignorant. I guess art is worthless to you?

Comment author: RobinZ 20 January 2010 10:32:24PM 0 points [-]

I'm going to guess that Kennaway was criticizing argument by analogy, not rhetoric.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 January 2010 11:56:56PM 0 points [-]

Actually, I'm wary of any sort of rhetoric. The simple truth should be simply said.

Comment author: RobinZ 21 January 2010 12:31:13AM 4 points [-]

Simple speaking is harder to abuse, as Orwell noted in "Politics and the English Language", but I would prefer not to make a categorical ban on imagery. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, a true metaphor (such as, I don't know, "the map is not the territory") is no less true because it is not literal. The problem lies when speech departs from reality, not in the fashion of speaking which does so.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 21 January 2010 01:19:42AM 9 points [-]

On further consideration, I have changed my view of this. Even simplicity can be a rhetorical device, and for its use by the Dark Side, just look at any political advertisement. The thing to be wary of is language that sounds like an argument without actually being one.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 January 2010 10:54:08PM *  3 points [-]

Not joking, but speaking to a specific context, that of discourse whose purpose is to arrive at the truth of things. I can appreciate literary art in its place, but its methods tend to obscure the facts.

"Sky spirits" are not a good metaphor for rain, they are a bad explanation. At some time in the distant past it might have been the only explanation that anyone had come up with, but we know better now. There are no sky spirits and there never were. To teach people falsehoods because they cannot understand the truth does them a disservice. The truth is a rock, and though the rain come down, and the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against a house builded on that rock, yet it does not fall, because it hath a sound foundation. But to understand things by fictions and myths, is like a foolish man who build his house on sand. The rain shall come down, and the streams rise, and the winds blow and beat against that house, and lo, it falls with a great crash, because it hath no foundation. (Ahem. Metaphor. Shamelessly repurposed from another source.)