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Rationality Quotes 4

6 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 January 2008 05:00PM

"Altruistic behavior: An act done without any intent for personal gain in any form. Altruism requires that there is no want for material, physical, spiritual, or egoistic gain."
        -- Glossary of Zen

"The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him."
        -- Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

"You can win with a long weapon, and yet you can also win with a short weapon. In short, the Way of the Ichi school is the spirit of winning, whatever the weapon and whatever its size."
        -- Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

    "Well," Rowlands said carefully, turning the Land-Rover into the road. "I am not at all sure what it is that is going on all around us, Will bach, or where it is leading. But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else. You are like fanatics. Your masters, at any rate. Like the old Crusaders -- oh, like certain groups in every belief, though this is not a matter of religion, of course. At the centre of the Light there is a cold white flame, just as at the centre of the Dark there is a great black pit bottomless as the Universe."
    His warm, deep voice ended, and there was only the roar of the engine. Will looked out over the grey-misted fields, silent.
    "There was a great long speech, now," John Rowlands said awkwardly. "But I was only saying, be careful not to forget that there are people in this valley who can be hurt, even in the pursuit of good ends."
    Will heard again in his mind Bran's anguished cry as the dog Cafall was shot dead, and heard his cold dismissal: go away, go away... And for a second another image, unexpected, flashed into his mind out of the past: the strong, bony face of Merriman his master, first of the Old Ones, cold in judgment of a much-loved figure who, through the frailty of being no more than a man, had once betrayed the cause of the Light.
    He sighed. "I understand what you are saying," he said sadly. "But you misjudge us, because you are a man yourself. For us, there is only the destiny. Like a job to be done. We are here simply to save the world from the Dark. Make no mistake, John, the Dark is rising, and will take the world to itself very soon if nothing stands in its way. And if that should happen, then there would be no question ever, for anyone, either of warm charity or of cold absolute good, because nothing would exist in the world or in the hearts of men except that bottomless black pit. The charity and the mercy and the humanitarianism are for you, they are the only things by which men are able to exist together in peace. But in this hard case that we the Light are in, confronting the Dark, we can make no use of them. We are fighting a war. We are fighting for life or death -- not for our life, remember, since we cannot die. For yours."
    He reached his hand behind him, over the back of the seat, and Pen licked it with his floppy wet tongue.
    "Sometimes," Will said slowly, "in this sort of a war, it is not possible to pause, to smooth the way for one human being, because even that one small thing could mean an end of the world for all the rest."
    A fine rain began to mist the windscreen. John Rowlands turned on the wipers, peering forward at the grey world as he drove. He said, "It is a cold world you live in, bachgen. I do not think so far ahead, myself. I would take the one human being over all the principle, all the time."
    Will slumped down low in his seat, curling into a ball, pulling up his knees. "Oh, so would I," he said sadly. "So would I, if I could. It would feel a lot better inside me. But it wouldn't work."
        -- Susan Cooper, The Grey King

Comments (5)

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Comment author: Alan_Gunn 20 January 2008 05:47:47PM 1 point [-]

A couple of these remind me of an old fighter pilots' motto: "Second place dies; cheat to win."

Comment author: Timothy_Scriven 21 January 2008 02:47:57AM 0 points [-]

"Altruistic behavior: An act done without any intent for personal gain in any form. Altruism requires that there is no want for material, physical, spiritual, or egoistic gain."

"Personal gain" is a very vague concept so this is not the best definition. Is the warm fuzzy feeling I get after helping someone personal gain? ( it sounds like "Spirtual" or "egoistic" gain to me.) Is fufilling any desire whatsoever personal gain? ( If so it' hard to see that there are very many things which are not selfish.) These questions need answering just as much as the intial question so I don't think this quote is a satisfactory answer.

Comment author: anonymous_coward3 21 January 2008 03:42:40AM 2 points [-]

These quotes seem to have little to do with rationality. What's the connection?

Comment author: PlacidPlatypus 06 August 2011 05:17:53AM 8 points [-]

The last, long one is basically saying shut up and multiply. Going with your gut intuitions might make you feel better about your decisions, but it won't really get you a better outcome. In your own life, if you want to pay a premium for that feeling of (unjustified) confidence that's one thing, but when other people's lives are at stake you have to be cold about it if you want to do what's really right.

The second and third are about how rationality for its own sake is futile. Rationality is good because it makes you better at what really matters. Your goal is to win; being rational is just the best way to do that.

The first one I believe relates back to the last. The point of altruism is not to make yourself feel warm and fuzzy, it's to help others. So don't go saving the cute puppies that you can see when you can get utils much cheaper somewhere else.

This is all my own opinion, I apologize if I misinterpreted any of it.

Comment author: Senthil 21 January 2008 09:52:18AM 1 point [-]

Another one on rationality... "When proper temperament joins with proper intellectual framework, then you get rational behavior." - Warren Buffett