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Rationality Quotes 13

5 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 September 2008 04:00PM

"You can only compromise your principles once.  After then you don't have any."
        -- Smug Lisp Weeny

"If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power."
        -- John McCarthy

"If you’re interested in being on the right side of disputes, you will refute your opponents’ arguments.  But if you’re interested in producing truth, you will fix your opponents’ arguments for them.  To win, you must fight not only the creature you encounter; you must fight the most horrible thing that can be constructed from its corpse."
        -- Black Belt Bayesian

"I normally thought of "God!" as a disclaimer, or like the MPAA rating you see just before a movie starts: it told me before I continued into conversation with that person, that that person had limitations to their intellectual capacity or intellectual honesty."
        -- Mike Barskey

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."
        -- Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Comments (24)

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Comment author: TGGP4 02 September 2008 04:37:49PM 6 points [-]

I question the bit about the soldier. For example, which wars actually did anything to preserve our freedoms rather than fiddle with other countries?

Comment author: Justin_Corwin 02 September 2008 04:55:57PM 4 points [-]

whether or not one agrees with the soldier quote, what does it have to do with rationality?

Comment author: denis_bider 02 September 2008 05:44:48PM 9 points [-]

Looks like the soldier quote is gonna be big in comments. I think it's out of place too, and as opposed to most other quotes that Eliezer comes up with, it doesn't make a lot of sense. In the same way as: "It is the scalpel, not the surgeon, or the nurse, that fixed your wounds!"

Soldiers are tools wielded by the structure in power, and it is the structure in power that determines whether the soliders are going to protect your rights and take them away.

Perhaps, "The One" might argue, it is a different kind of person who becomes a soldier in an army that "protects freedom" rather than an army that oppresses its countrymen. There are probably more such idealists among the soldiers in the US army, than among troops commanded by the Burmese generals.

Even so, though, the idealist soldier does what he's commanded to do, and whether that which he does actually protects freedom or not, is largely determined by the structure of power, not the idealist soldier. He remains a tool, a hammer wielded by someone else's will.

Comment author: Ben_Jones 02 September 2008 07:18:26PM 1 point [-]

#3 has blown my mind hole. Black Belt Bayesian is going in my Google Reader on the strength of that quote. Great stuff.

#5 is also great. Rationality Quotes 1-11 have made me fairly confident that if I can't see the link to rationality here, I usually need to think harder.

Comment author: Floccina2 02 September 2008 07:41:10PM 1 point [-]

The soldier giveth and the soldier taketh away.

Comment author: Ryan4 03 September 2008 02:29:56AM 0 points [-]

You can say the soldier is nothing without all the rest of the infrastructure. Still, since the soldier is the one who takes the most risk of personal harm or death, its easier to imagine replacing any of the other jobs in the larger scheme of things. If everyone in your group decides its too risky to be a soldier, you are vulnerable to another group which thinks differently.

Guess that's the obvious part, how it is a rationality quote I'm not sure. Maybe its rational to put soldiers in a special and revered category given how important they are, for now at least.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 03 September 2008 02:38:02AM 1 point [-]

The soldier is the answer to "no moral argument will convince a rock" as applied to rival optimizers.

Comment author: Hopefully_Anonymous 03 September 2008 03:08:34AM 2 points [-]

I'm not saying the irony is intentional (although I would claim it if I was Eliezer) but note who the soldier quote is from, and also note the content of the quote it succeeds.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 03 September 2008 03:51:03AM 2 points [-]

The arrangement was intentional, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I endorse the negation of the quote.

Comment author: John 03 September 2008 03:53:20AM 1 point [-]

>"If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power." - John McCarthy

Except for technologies with catastrophic potential (nanotech, biotech.)

Comment author: mtraven 03 September 2008 04:28:34AM 5 points [-]

Rationality fights on the side with the heaviest artillery. -- Napoleon Blownapart

Comment author: pdf23ds 03 September 2008 05:54:22AM 0 points [-]

I heart McCarthy's wikiquotes page.

Comment author: Caledonian2 03 September 2008 01:22:20PM 0 points [-]

The soldier quote is ludicrous, unless you consider refraining from shooting someone performing an action to be enabling that action.

Soldiers do not make any of those things possible. At most, they prevent external forces (and a few internal ones) from interfering with them - they can just as easily be used to prevent the exercise of those freedoms.

They are neither sufficient nor necessary.

Comment author: Lightwave2 03 September 2008 01:50:38PM 0 points [-]

The soldier protects your rights to do any of those actions, and as there always are people, who want to take them away from you, it is the soldier who is stopping them from doing so.

Comment author: RobinHanson 03 September 2008 03:42:33PM 3 points [-]

The soldiers would have defended the current government and its rules, no matter what those rules had been. Had the government opposed free speech against rebels who wanted to install free speech, the soldiers would have defended that government just as energetically. You might as well credit the sun with free speech, since without the sun we'd all be dead.

Comment author: Jay3 03 September 2008 08:59:00PM 1 point [-]

"I normally thought of (insert political part) as a disclaimer, or like the MPAA rating you see just before a movie starts: it told me before I continued into conversation with that person, that that person had limitations to their intellectual capacity or intellectual honesty."

Comment author: Nominull3 03 September 2008 09:36:56PM 0 points [-]

You can make a pretty cool society, but it's meaningless unless you can protect it from disruption, that's the point of the quote. Of course the converse also holds, you can protect your society from disruption, but it's meaningless unless it's pretty cool.

Comment author: komponisto2 04 September 2008 12:05:36AM 0 points [-]

Robin, the underlying point of the soldier quote (and others like it) is that the liberal society we enjoy comes at a (military) cost. Freedom, as the saying goes, isn't free. If we really want freedom of speech and the like, we had better be prepared to enforce it (ironic though that may seem).

Comment author: Caledonian2 04 September 2008 12:23:26AM 1 point [-]

Robin, the underlying point of the soldier quote (and others like it) is that the liberal society we enjoy comes at a (military) cost.

Except that it doesn't. Without a military, we could be taken over by a 'liberal' nation as easily as an illiberal one. We did not become a 'liberal' nation through the actions of soldiers.

The quote is just an extention of the secular religion particular to the American nation, one of the many religions began to provide a focus for the meme of Nationalism.

Comment author: Zubon 04 September 2008 01:47:50PM 2 points [-]

Jay has a good point about the Hated Enemy. To recast the quote for our audience: "I normally thought of "Bayes!" as a disclaimer, or like the MPAA rating you see just before a movie starts: it told me before I continued into conversation with that person, that that person had limitations to their intellectual capacity or intellectual honesty."

And as much as I enjoyed the quote from #12 I am about to gut, if we are engaging in Take That!, the Hated Enemy will respond: "Your denial of the importance of God amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say."

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 04 September 2008 03:59:07PM 1 point [-]

Sure, others can turn the phrasing against you, but that doesn't mean theism isn't Bayesian evidence of bad things. It just provides a game-theoretic reason to avoid using that argument in public, maybe.

Comment author: Anonymous42 06 September 2008 09:44:11AM 0 points [-]

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study POLITICS AND WAR, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain. -John Adams (emphasis mine)

Comment author: DaveInNYC2 23 September 2008 09:18:49PM 0 points [-]

I always found it strange that the most vocal supporters of flag-burning amendments are military types. Why bother risking your life "for freedom" if you are just going to come home and try to eliminate that freedom?

Comment author: Paul_Murray 15 October 2008 05:17:04AM -2 points [-]

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press."

An obvious lie. Soldiers are always owned and paid for by the establishment. We owe our freedoms to the insurget, the freedom fighter, or if you perfer - the terrorist.