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g comments on The Meditation on Curiosity - Less Wrong

36 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 October 2007 12:26AM

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Comment author: g 07 October 2007 12:10:49AM 0 points [-]

I've only been reading OB for a month or thereabouts myself, but I had a little trawl through the archives looking for interesting things.

If epistemologists-as-a-class take any particular stand on whether a general willingness to doubt all one's beliefs is courageous, then that's the first I've heard of it. But I'm not an expert on epistemology, still less on epistemologists, so maybe that wouldn't be too surprising. Anyway: What epistemological ideas, generally rejected by epistemologists these days, are being relied on by those who say things like "It is courageous to be prepared to revise any of your ideas, if the balance of evidence turns out to be against them"?

(I expect a lot of epistemologists would insist that you probably have some ideas for which you'll never be able to find yourself in that position, because they're so firmly built into the structure of your brain or of the reasoning processes you're using. But that's quite separate from whether a willingness to doubt anything you *do* get good evidence against is either courageous or wise, and doesn't seem to me to have anything much to do with what Eliezer is saying here.)

Isn't your explanation of why Bricker dismisses "the option [I] advocate" just "If I adopt this policy then I'll have to do a lot of judgement-suspending, and I don't want to"? Or does he (or do you) have some specific problems in mind, that one would run into by doing this? (Being uncertain about some questions one would rather be confident about isn't, in my view, a "problem".)

For the avoidance of doubt: I am not proposing (though I think there are contributors here who would) that when considering any philosophical problem it's illegitimate to have opinions of one's own that differ from the majority view among philosophers. (Or among the very best philosophers, or whatever.) But I do think it's a sign of something probably wrong if you find yourself in disagreement with others who (at least on the face of it) are better placed to understand the matter clearly, and *don't have anything to say in favour of your position other than that it seems right to you*. Because when you do that, you're basically appealing to the quality of your intuition, and ex hypothesi those disagreeing others have intuitions likely to be at least as good as yours.