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Comment author: RichardKennaway 03 September 2014 08:03:01AM 9 points [-]

We see what we see for adaptive reasons, not because it is the truth.


Nature cannot be fooled.

-- Feynman

One might even FTFY the first quote as:

"We see what we see for adaptive reasons, because it is the truth."

This part:

Nerds are the ones who notice that something is off - and want to see what's really going on.

is contradicted by the context of the whole article. The article is in praise of insight porn (the writer's own words for it) as the cognitive experience of choice for nerds (the writer's word for them, in whom he includes himself and for whom he is writing) while explicitly considering its actual truth to be of little importance. He praises the experience of reading Julian Jaynes and in the same breath dismisses Jaynes' actual claims as "batshit insane and obviously wrong".

In other words, "Nerds ... want to see what's really going on" is, like the whole article, a statement of insight porn, uttered for the feeling of truthy insight it gives, "not because it is the truth".

How useful is this to someone who actually wants "to see what's really going on"?

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 09 September 2014 01:43:21AM 0 points [-]

It's a useful sketch of a type of experience. The experience is given a name. Armed with that name, you can choose to avoid it or not.

Comment author: EGarrett 18 August 2014 09:20:07PM 0 points [-]

Hi Luke,

That explanation doesn't have much meaning to me. For example, I don't know what is meant by "a rush that is normally created by abstractions"), does this mean the rush of finding a new idea? We can certainly get a rush from learning something new, but I wouldn't always laugh in those circumstances.

One of my criteria when working on this was that I wanted something that was simple and logical. This of course, doesn't mean that it's automatically correct (or that a complex answer is wrong), but I always felt like things that were that common and widespread probably are the result of some widespread and common evolutionary pressure that we could recognize.

I also felt that the likely answer would have something in common with all the sayings and common understandings that we have about humor. Like that we "laugh AT" people, that sometimes people are offended by it, and so on. I thought there was valuable information there about how it functions and the roles it plays, and a "right answer" would probably jibe with those.

But I'm not entirely clear on how the Larson concept works and would probably have to see a lot more clear examples of demonstrations of how it works to be able to get a grasp for it.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 20 August 2014 01:17:10AM 1 point [-]

"a rush that is normally created by abstractions" = this

Comment author: shminux 29 January 2014 07:37:02AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: GabrielDuquette 30 January 2014 02:08:59PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 17 August 2013 08:57:01PM *  0 points [-]

My curiosity requests an update on outcome/progression of your considerations in this comment and its children. :)

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 20 August 2013 11:49:08PM 0 points [-]

I still have my health, more or less? Ask me again in five years.

Comment author: Ronak 17 June 2013 06:42:43PM *  0 points [-]

No. I wouldn't mind that, but those two are hardly the only things novels can do; and I can't provide an exhaustive list of what literature does and how it does it - if I could do such things I'd have written something worth reading by now.

I'm sorry, but I have no idea how to explain Mieville's statements to you. Lit people are often vague, and often because they aren't able to be clearer. Maybe if you had specific points of confusion I could help.
It might help to know that the litfic audience is a lot more like an academy than a fanbase, and that Mieville is a Marxist so he's using language from there.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 17 June 2013 08:14:16PM 0 points [-]

If you have no idea how to explain Mieville's statements, how do you know you understand what he's talking about?

Comment author: Ronak 17 June 2013 04:23:09PM *  1 point [-]

They're hard to pin down, and different people I know have different explanations.

The one in my head is basically that they pay too much attention to theme and perspective; while in many cases litfic is directly about perspectives (themes), lots of people tend to be reductio ad absurdums of this, focusing on these things in rather simplistic ways that sometimes ignore how the world works or the basic potentially interesting things in the setting**. This is made worse because it's less obvious to the unpractised eye by the very nature of what's being tackled what the difference between Nabokov and McEwan is than is that between Arthur C Clarke and a generic bad SF writer; and by the fact that the average litfic writer has been through a professional course in writing and therefore sounds very polished.

Here's China Mieville's explanation, since you shouldn't be limited by my account found in the Guardian (it's not a coincidence that he chose Saturday too, it's partly that it's too good an example and partly that he put it in my head back when I read this piece):
"Literary fiction of that ilk – insular, socially and psychologically hermetic, neurotically backslapping and self-congratulatory about a certain milieu, disaggregated from any estrangement or rubbing of aesthetics against the grain – is in poor shape." Miéville identifies Ian McEwan's Saturday, set around the 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war, as a "paradigmatic moment in the social crisis of litfic".
"In the early 2000s there was this incredible efflorescence of anger and excitement . . . It seemed to me that Saturday quite bolshily said, 'OK, you accuse us of a neurotic obsession with insularity and a certain milieu. I'm going to take the most extraordinary political event that has happened in Britain for however many years and I am going to doggedly interiorise it and depoliticise it with a certain type of limpid prose . . . It was a combative novel that met that sense of there being a crisis and de-crisised it through its absolute fidelity to a set of generic tropes."

*Another particularly appropriate example: Cormac McCarthy's *The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel involving, among other things, cannibals and an earth that can't grow food that, at page 300, suddenly reveals that it's about A Father's Concerns About Setting His Child Free and nothing else. I'm sympathetic to the theme, but not when it funges on everything else potentially interesting about the story.

Edit: I consider China Mieville more able to answer this question properly than Eliezer because he has read a lot of litfic and incorporates techniques from that side into his writing.
Also, I just realised that this whole thread must have been a bit frustrating to you because of my laziness. Sorry about that.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 17 June 2013 06:29:58PM 0 points [-]

Are you saying you like a higher vehicle-for-worldbuilding to vehicle-for-theme ratio?

I gotta say: I have no idea what Mieville is talking about.

Comment author: Ronak 16 June 2013 05:03:57PM 0 points [-]

It'd take me a while to explain it fully, but basically that the worst trends in litfic writing are manifested in his work.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 16 June 2013 08:21:56PM 1 point [-]

Can you at least say what those trends are, and why they're bad?

Comment author: Ronak 16 June 2013 04:34:05PM 0 points [-]


To be clear, I liked the book, though I otherwise don't like the guy's writing.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 16 June 2013 04:48:51PM 0 points [-]

What do you dislike about his writing?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 June 2013 01:49:09PM 3 points [-]

I have no "so bad it's good" gene, so I would usually stop reading such a work instantly, like a fanfic with multiple spelling errors in the first chapter. If I had to name a work I read all the way through, Lev Grossman, The Magicians. It's well-written along all other dimensions but I found the protagonists to be needlessly existential - the 'protagonists bored with everything' turned what could have been a great book into a merely good one. That is a literarily influenced SF&F story, of course.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 16 June 2013 04:17:31PM 2 points [-]

So there's "moral ambiguity because questions are hard and author smartly doesn't want to impose pat solutions" and "author is bad at that and is doing a 'grittiness of the gaps' thing." I don't know if we draw the boundary in the same place.

Comment author: Ronak 16 June 2013 12:00:47PM 1 point [-]

Genre people and litfic people love flinging shit at each other, and it rarely makes much sense to a person actually familiar with the writing. Far as I can make out, it's because of generalising from a little evidence - a lot of the insults make more sense when you look at the more-likely-to-be-recommended stuff (for example, Ian McEwan wrote a whole book which can be very easily strawmanned into "these poor people are really badly off; but you shouldn't give in to the temptation to therefore dismiss all rich people").

Even positive reviews that cross the divide are horribly condescending.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 16 June 2013 12:06:44PM 0 points [-]

Which Ian McEwan book are you referring to?

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