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TheOtherDave comments on Explaining vs. Explaining Away - Less Wrong

46 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 March 2008 01:59AM

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 November 2010 07:41:15PM 5 points [-]

If I see our relationship as a status contest, and you are doing analysis and are better at it than I am, I might attempt to move the contest away from analysis and onto, say, aesthetics, or professions of faith, or rhetoric, or athleticism, or cooking, or some other area where I feel stronger.

I usually interpret objections like Keats' (and, more famously if more elliptically, Whitman's Learn'd Astronomer) as a status move along these lines.

I sometimes refer to this as "choosing to reign in Hell." If I can't win at a game worth playing, the temptation to play a game I'm better at rather than accept my loss is enormous.

Of course, if there is no reason to choose one game over another, then this is a perfectly sensible strategy: I get to play a game I can win, and I lose nothing of value by doing so.

On the other hand, if it turns out that there are good reasons to analyze a system rather than, say, hit it with a stick, or worship it, or sing about it... well, in that case I am losing something of value.

In those cases, it is often useful to re-evaluate my original framing of the relationship as a status contest.