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Vaniver comments on Sapiens - Less Wrong

31 Post author: Vaniver 08 April 2015 02:56AM

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Comment author: Vaniver 21 April 2015 08:21:22PM 1 point [-]

Firstly, I think you mean "strictly more fit".

Indeed, fixed. Thanks for pointing that out!

(For one thing, this presupposes that no priest of Zeus ever really believed that thunderstorms came by the hand of a god.)

It does not presuppose that. By "fiction," he's talking about a class of claims removed from reality by some significant number of conceptual steps. A monkey saying "ground threat nearby!" is roughly one conceptual step away from sensory perceptions, but a person saying "Epimenides is a priest of Zeus" is some large number of conceptual steps away from sensory perceptions.

Whether or not those claims are "really believed" is different. A monkey can falsely cry "ground threat nearby!" to cause another monkey to flee, allowing the first monkey to eat food the second monkey discovered. That's communication that the communicator does not believe--but that's not what Harari means by 'fiction.' Both Epimenides and I can believe that he's a priest of Zeus; he can really believe that Zeus is the cause of thunderstorms because of long-standing tradition, and I can believe that thunderstorms are caused by moisture, unstable air, and lift because that's what Wikipedia says.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 April 2015 12:08:01AM 0 points [-]

I think I now understand what you're saying Harari means by "fiction", but I still think that's an abuse of the word, at least in present-day English. Zeus is not only different from direct sensory experience, but also from scientific explanations, yes. But he's also, and this is the key distinction usually wrapped up in the word "fiction", very different from Harry Potter.

Comment author: Vaniver 22 April 2015 01:29:53AM 2 points [-]

See legal fiction. I agree that it's not the word I would have chosen for it: something like "constructed fact" as opposed to "measured fact" seems like a cleaner distinction, but is longer to type.

Comment author: MakoYass 06 July 2016 02:56:17AM *  0 points [-]

If you dislike the way Harari abuses terms for myth, you're going to really dislike the way he abuses "religion". His definition is a very reductive "a system of human norms and values that is founded on a belief in a superhuman order". He also has a very reductive, non-theistic sense of Buddhism. He observes that Buddhism is considered a religion, so he overextends his sense of religion until it encompasses all political philosophies

Just as a Buddhist could worship Hindu deities, and just as a monotheist could believe in the existence of Satan, so the typical American nowadays is simultaneously a nationalist (she believes in the existence of an American nation with a special role to play in history), a free-market capitalist (she believes that open competition and the pursuit of self-interest are the best ways to create a prosperous society), and a liberal humanist (she believes that humans have been endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights). Nationalism will be discussed in Chapter 18. Capitalism – the most successful of the modern religions – gets a whole chapter, Chapter 16, which expounds its principal beliefs and rituals. In the remaining pages of this chapter I will address the humanist religions.

Wittgenstein would kick his ass over these abuses.