Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

ChristianKl comments on Epistemic Trust: Clarification - LessWrong

18 Post author: abramdemski 13 June 2015 07:29PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (8)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: ChristianKl 11 June 2015 01:10:18PM 1 point [-]

Intellectual honesty: being up-front not just about what you believe, but also why you believe it, what your motivations are in saying it, and the degree to which you have evidence for it.

If you have extensive knowledge about a topic it's often not possible to communicate all of that. Attempting to do so also means that you take up a lot of valuable speaking time. Especially in group discussions where only one person can speak at a time.

In that time that you take to speak about a subject it's also worthwhile to focus on arguments that the other person can evaluate. We believe a lot of things based on personal experience. When there's published scientific evidence for those beliefs it's better to appeal to the scientific evidence than appealing to one's personal experience even when that might mislead the other person about why one holds a certain belief.

I'm just reading Keith Stanovich book "How To Think Straight About Psychology". In it he makes the argument that scientists should not be open about personal beliefs they hold for which they have no scientific evidence.

Comment author: abramdemski 13 June 2015 07:40:26PM 1 point [-]

It's not possible to communicate all the reasons, agreed -- it's often not even possible to articulate all of one's reasons even given unlimited time. However, the difference I'm pointing at is larger than the time-allocation problem. It's the difference between agreeing with someone as a sign of social support vs as a sign that you have further evidence in the same direction. This changes the way conversational resources are allocated (often saving a lot of time, as I argued in my original post), but the reason for the change is due to a shift in the underlying goal of the conversation.

Comment author: ChristianKl 15 June 2015 01:07:37PM 2 points [-]

Communicating why you believe in A is a different goal than communicating reasons why it makes sense for another person to believe in A.

When it comes to the later, scientific evidence is more important than it is for the former.

Comment author: abramdemski 15 June 2015 06:29:36PM 0 points [-]

I somewhat agree, but I am a little confused about it.

Focusing on truth rather than status in a conversation tends to save time with respect to the goal of truth.

Conveying reasons is an important sub-goal of conveying truth, especially when we can't fully trust each other's rationality.

Conveying scientific reasons only rather than personal reasons, and therefore restricting to only scientifically established truths, sounds like a safeguard to keep science from being contaminated by weird beliefs held by compartmentalized thinkers or simply poor rationalists. (Is that the intention?)

It also sounds somewhat like the false humility which comes from trusting science above all other things; the kind of humility which would complain of Einstein's arrogance.

Being as honest as possible about the holes in evidence, the contrary findings, and any possibly doubts is an important part of scientific honesty.

Looking for the cause of belief, not only the justifications, seems a useful safeguard against the clever arguer.

Communicating why you believe A is different from communicating why it makes sense for other people to believe A. However, if the two are very different, something has gone wrong:

Therefore rational beliefs are contagious, among honest folk who believe each other to be honest. And it's why a claim that your beliefs are not contagious—that you believe for private reasons which are not transmissible—is so suspicious. If your beliefs are entangled with reality, they should be contagious among honest folk.

If your model of reality suggests that the outputs of your thought processes should not be contagious to others, then your model says that your beliefs are not themselves evidence, meaning they are not entangled with reality. You should apply a reflective correction, and stop believing.

It seems like what you are talking about applies to scientists speaking publicly about science, but does not apply very well to scientists speaking privately to each other.

Comment author: ChristianKl 16 June 2015 02:18:55AM 0 points [-]

Focusing on truth rather than status in a conversation tends to save time with respect to the goal of truth.

Those two aren't the only possible ways of having a discussion. There a lot more that goes into having discussions.

Communicating why you believe A is different from communicating why it makes sense for other people to believe A. However, if the two are very different, something has gone wrong:

Not at all.

At the LW-Europe Community camp I did a workshop on Focusing. There are two ways to provide evidence that Focusing works.

I personally choose mental techniques based on trying different techniques and experiencing what the techniques do. I can speak about my empiric personal experience.

I can also refer to Eugine Gendlin being a respected academic psychologist and the fact that there are many published studies that support Focusing.

Both arguments are entangled with reality but it's more useful to talk about the scientific evidence. It's more likely to convince my audience that Focusing is valuable.