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Comment author: AndySimpson 04 January 2011 07:01:56PM 11 points [-]

"...natural selection built the brain to survive in the world and only incidentally to understand it at a depth greater than is needed to survive. The proper task of scientists is to diagnose and correct the misalignment." -- E. O. Wilson

Comment author: AndySimpson 04 January 2011 06:56:41PM 4 points [-]

"Fanatics may suppose, that dominion is founded on grace, and that saints alone inherit the earth; but the civil magistrate very justly puts these sublime theorists on the same footing with common robbers, and teaches them by the severest discipline, that a rule, which, in speculation, may seem the most advantageous to society, may yet be found, in practice, totally pernicious and destructive." -- David Hume

More of an anti-fanaticism quotation, but it seems to belong.

In response to Pain
Comment author: AndySimpson 03 August 2009 05:45:05PM 1 point [-]

Pain is broadly not preferred. That is to say, an absence of cognition is preferred to the cognition of pain. This makes the question easy for a preference utilitarian, who holds there is nothing impeding the value of the preferences of subjects: Badness attaches to pain when a subject would rather not be feeling it. When a subject prefers pain for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong with it. For objective moral systems outside of preference utilitarianism, the question is a little more threatening.

Comment author: AndySimpson 24 July 2009 10:38:46AM 11 points [-]

I have no idea what I'm wading into here, but a few things occured to me reading this:

Taking offense to something relies on status and perhaps more significantly on interpellation. Interpellation and its inherent insistence on dignity create barriers to what I'll call effective communication and introduce a rhetoric of respect. If we wish to be rationalists, really and truly, it seems like we must have a discourse that avoids insisting on respect for anyone or anything. We must all get thick skins, be willing to hear ourselves treated as objects of outside analysis and be willing to be ignored when we have bad ideas. Unwise, "offensive" comments like the one that seemed to kick off this discussion can be assayed because they are examples of poor thinking rather than because they are causes of emotional distress. Here, when it gets down to serious business, we should each have no more merit or status than our own arguments give us.

However, I have no idea how to sum this up in a maxim or otherwise implement this. What I offer is not a solution but an objective. I hope others can flesh it out.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 July 2009 04:11:48PM 1 point [-]

costs you status because it makes you... weird

Pope's weird. Wouldn't have much status if he were normal, he'd just be Chair (not CEO) of a large international corporation.

Comment author: AndySimpson 06 July 2009 09:38:31AM 2 points [-]

The Pope is a good neutral third party. He has taken the consolation prize of being the World's Most Moral Man because he can't be Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama, both of whom have more friends and more power.

In response to Media bias
Comment author: AndySimpson 06 July 2009 09:15:41AM *  1 point [-]

Two corollary explanations come to mind. First, writing uses a wider variety of registers and styles than spoken language. Forms and usages that would sound exaggerated or affected in spoken language are socially appropriate in writing. Writing is constructed over time and predominately "for the record," so it uses precise, unforgiving language that suits the specific context of the writing. This is why the first line of a Wikipedia article on some topic in math, poetry, or physics is often indecipherable to a lay reader, even an educated one, without further reading. Spoken language, on the other hand, is first and foremost a form of communication from a speaker to a listener, and is composed and interpreted in real time, even if it's guided by notes. This makes it more fluid and colloquial, and more likely to employ a register that the speaker and listener will both understand readily. Since successful writers use the more precise, ossified language and successful speakers use the more fluid one, they diverge through memetic evolution, as suggested.

The second explanation has more to do with the way writing is taught. I don't know how much it applies to technical writing, maybe somebody can share their experience on that point. Since the Victorian era, prose has embraced brevity. The briefest explanation that still conveys the broad meaning of an author's idea is usually treated as the best stylistically. This sacrifices precision for a kind of clarity, but in a field like mathematics, precision is clarity. Typical admonitions about brevity of style, then, render useless attempts to explain big, scary concepts. Lecturers, however, have the opportunity to pursue digressions and explain minutiae in half-organized ways and still hold the attention of an audience because the lecturer can easily signal the importance of a difficult intermediate step to the wider narrative in a way that would be clunky and perhaps abrupt in writing.

Comment author: AndySimpson 10 June 2009 09:50:29AM 0 points [-]

Here is my question: Is there any payoff whatsoever for everyone drawing?

Comment author: jimrandomh 28 May 2009 09:31:46PM 4 points [-]

It's not the severity of the consequences that matters, but the distance. If a program or a motorcycle is broken, you can see that almost immediately. If a public policy is broken, it may take years for the problems to become clear, by which time the thought processes that lead to the bad decision will be long forgotten and cannot be connected to their consequences.

Comment author: AndySimpson 28 May 2009 10:17:02PM 0 points [-]

Understood. I should've made it clear I was responding specifically to

A large part of the satisfaction of motorcycle work that Crawford describes comes from the fact that such work requires one to confront reality, however harsh it may be. Reality cannot be placated by hand-waving, Powerpoint slides, excuses, or sweet talk. But the very harshness of the challenge means that when reality yields to the finesse of a craftsman, the reward is much greater.

Comment author: AndySimpson 28 May 2009 09:23:27PM 3 points [-]

Reality is not very harsh when all you're dealing with is a broken motorcycle or a program that won't compile. When you're dealing with public policy, which even in its best form is usually social triage, deciding who gets what and who will be left unemployed, poor, sick, in debt, unfunded, oppressed, or dead, the facts have a much greater sting.

And, as MichaelVassar points out, political success is usually pretty clear cut, at least in the long run. Just ask Walter Mondale or John McCain.

Comment author: David_Rotor 28 May 2009 02:16:16PM *  5 points [-]

In the same vein as newerspeak's reference to Proust, how about Joyce fans and their annual bloomsday celebrations?


Changing genres, I believe all of these references* have both fans and "conventions", and anyone would be hard-pressed to call any of them "bad" or flawed:

Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright

Jazz: Davis, Coltrane, Peterson, Brubeck

Toys: Lego, Barbie, and Play Mobil

Military aircraft: P51 Mustang

Racing: Volvo Ocean Racing, F1, World Rally, MotoGP

Cars: 1955 Gullwing, 1965 Shelby Cobra, Enzo Ferrari

Birding: The Great Horned Owl

  • and many many more.
Comment author: AndySimpson 28 May 2009 09:09:11PM 0 points [-]

This seems to broaden the discussion considerably from works of art with fandoms to anything with a following. I think you'll agree that there's a noticeable difference between the attitude of otaku toward anime and F1 followers toward F1 cars and races.

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