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Error comments on Noble excuses - Less Wrong Discussion

3 Post author: Elo 13 March 2017 11:29PM

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Comment author: Error 14 March 2017 07:12:34PM *  3 points [-]

I like that name for the phenomenon.

I'm not sure exactly when, but I seem to have developed a five second habit of noticing a noble excuse and thwarting it. That is, my brain will float up some noble rationalization for action X, and I'll notice it sounds noble, and that seems to be enough for me to stop and say "wait a sec, this probably isn't the real reason behind my actions."

Sometimes I can do this before I've even offered up an excuse, skip past "I'm late because traffic" and move directly to "yeah, I'm late because I'm insane and don't develop a sense of urgency about anything until it's already too late."

I don't know exactly how the habit formed, but I think it's something to do with my social anxiety. My mental model of others says that my excuses are totally transparent, that everybody around me knows perfectly well I'm feeding them bullshit; and that they view it the same way as, say, a teacher views a kid who claims that the dog ate their homework. The image is humiliating, and the only defense is to be totally up front about underlying reasons.

In theory this should lead me to lie to myself about my motivations to make the noble excuse appear true, but that doesn't seem to happen all the time. The same alief applies; I feel like others will see through the excuse even if I don't -- again, like a kid insisting that what the bullies say on the playground doesn't matter because "I don't care what they think." So I had better get my motivations correct and honest, or else suffer the contempt of anyone who hears my transparently self-serving excuses.

The second step appears to fail more often than the first; I've sometimes caught myself in webs of "reasoning" arguing that I have one motivation when the outside view suggests I have another.

The habit is moderately effective and I endorse it, but I'm not sure it's reproducible for anyone without my specific neuroses.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 14 March 2017 08:17:34PM 0 points [-]

Learning about epistemics has helped me do something similar, and I endorse this as being helpful.