# [SEQ RERUN] "Arbitrary"

2 29 July 2012 06:19AM

Today's post, "Arbitrary" was originally published on 12 August 2008. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

When we say that something is arbitrary, we are saying that it feels like it should come with a justification, but doesn't.

Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Abstracted Idealized Dynamics, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go here for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.

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Comment author: 30 July 2012 08:26:10AM 2 points [-]

I think this is an important problem.

First, I would say that "things" are not arbitrary. I don't think that makes any sense to say "my sock is arbitrary."

Arbitrariness is a property of hypotheses, and in other contexts, decisions. In fact, maybe that's it - decisions may be arbitrary, and usually the kind of decision being referred to as arbitrary is one that privileges a certain hypothesis over others that seem to have just as much validity.

I've been trying to work in Jaynes concept of a transformation group for a problem into the concept. If there is a transformation group for the problem that leaves you with the same problem, but making different selections, then your selection method is arbitrary.

I don't know if I'm getting much better than "without justification". Oh well, time for bed.

Comment author: 30 July 2012 09:08:04PM -1 points [-]

"Enough of this buck-passing tomfoolery!" you may be tempted to cry.

That temptation arises the most for me in this instance: the claim that everything has a cause, and the cause of everything is God, but God doesn't have a cause, but God is part of 'everything.' Tomfoolery indeed.