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Comment author: MarkusRamikin 02 September 2014 09:27:33AM *  2 points [-]

Now I just thought of this, so maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think "I don't understand how someone can think X" is really meant as any sort of piece of reasonable logic, or a substitution for one. I suspect this is merely the sort of stuff people come up with when made to think about it.

Rather, "I don't understand how..." is an appeal to the built in expectation that things make obvious sense. If I want to claim that "what you're saying is nontribal and I have nothing to do with it", stating that you're not making sense to me works whether or not I can actually follow your reasoning. Since if you really were not making sense to me with minimum effort on my part, this would imply bad things about you and what you're saying. It's just a rejection that makes no sense if you think about it, but it's not meant to be thought about - it's really closer to "la la la I am not listening to you".

Am I making sense?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 09:30:57AM 1 point [-]

Am I making sense?

Yes.

Comment author: Jiro 02 September 2014 06:13:49AM *  -1 points [-]

Gricean implicature is not non-literality,

Sure it is. The qualifier changes the meaning of the statement. By definition, if the sentence lacks the qualifier but is to be interpreted as if it has one, it is to be interpreted differently than its literal words. Having to be interpreted as containing detail that is not explicitly written is a type of non-literalness.

If a person says they cannot understand how anyone could etc., that is, indeed, literally true.

No, it's not. I understand how someone can believe in creationism: they either misunderstand science (probably due to religious bias) or don't actually believe science works at all when it conflicts with religion. Saying "I don't understand how someone can believe in creationism" is literally false--I do understand how.

What it means is "I don't understand how someone can correctly believe in creationism." I understand how someone can believe in creationism, but my understanding involves the believer making mistakes. The statement communicates that I don't know of a reason other than making mistakes, not that I don't know any reason at all.

Even if the other person is in error, how can one engage with them from the position of "I cannot understand how etc."?

Because "I don't understand how" is synonymous, in ordinary conversation, with "the other person appears to be in error." It does not mean that I literally don't understand, but rather that I understand it as an error, so it is irrelevant that literally not understanding is an act of disengagement.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 07:22:14AM 0 points [-]

Non-literality isn't a get-out-of-your-words-free card. There is a clear difference between saying "you appear to be in error" and "I can't understand how anyone could think that", and the difference is clearly expressed by the literal meanings of those words.

And to explicate "I don't understand etc." with "Of course I do understand how you could think that, it's because you're ignorant or stupid" is not an improvement.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 06:15:37AM 1 point [-]

Some relevant works:

Comment author: advancedatheist 02 September 2014 02:49:02AM -1 points [-]

I know how to resolve the Oral Hygienist's Paradox: In a certain village, a dental hygienist cleans the teeth of everyone who doesn't clean his own teeth. Who cleans the oral hygienist's teeth?

The "paradox" vanishes if the dental hygienist doesn't have any teeth.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 06:06:24AM 0 points [-]

The paradox is a refutation of the assertion that such a hygienist exists (assuming the implied fact that he only cleans the teeth of those who don't clean their own, or there's no paradox). Since the hygienist does not exist, there is no-one who cleans the hygienist's teeth.

If P is the asserted property of the hygienist, R the relation x R y = x cleans y's teeth, and Q x the property "x cleans a hygienist's teeth", the matter can be formalised as follows.

P is defined by: P x =def (∀y. x R y ⇔ ¬(y R y))

P x implies (by substituting x for y in the quantifier) x R x ⇔ ¬(x R x), which is equivalent to false. Therefore no x satisfies P x.

Q is defined by: Q x =def ∃y. P(y) ∧ x R y

Since P(y) is always false, no x satisfies Q x.

Comment author: Jiro 02 September 2014 03:22:33AM *  1 point [-]

"I don't understand how someone could believe X" typically means that the speaker doesn't understand how someone could believe in X based on good reasoning. Understanding how stupidity led someone to believe X doesn't count.

Normal conversation cannot be parsed literally. It is literally true that understanding how someone incorrectly believes X is a subclass of understanding how someone believes in X; but it's not what those words typically connote.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 02 September 2014 05:45:15AM 1 point [-]

Normal conversation cannot be parsed literally.

I don't think that applies here. Your addition "based on good reasoning" is not a non-literal meaning, but a filling in of omitted detail. Gricean implicature is not non-literality, and the addition does not take the example outside McArdle's analysis.

As always, confusion is a property of the confused person, not of the thing outside themselves that they are confused about. If a person says they cannot understand how anyone could etc., that is, indeed, literally true. That person cannot understand the phenomenon; that is their problem. Yet their intended implication, which McArdle is pointing out does not follow, is that all of the problem is in the other person. Even if the other person is in error, how can one engage with them from the position of "I cannot understand how etc."? The words are an act of disengagement, behind a smokescreen that McArdle blows away..

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 September 2014 12:44:38PM 5 points [-]

Starting off by negging the reader? Kthxbye.

Comment author: Leonhart 31 August 2014 07:55:13PM 5 points [-]

Haven't had time to read it; but from the story description, it seems to be a comic affair where Twilight decides to monetise her teleportation skillz, and picks the wrong word to advertise with. Hilarity presumably prevails?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 September 2014 11:17:52AM 2 points [-]

Pretty much. I stopped reading at the point where her first "client" showed up, with supposed "hilarity" about to begin, as I can't stand comedy based on misunderstanding and embarrassment.

Comment author: shminux 01 September 2014 03:26:04AM *  2 points [-]

If I recall, you start with a single cell like an amoeba, which has to be smart enough to not accidentally eat its own pseudopods, so the relevant mutation sticks, and results in it also not eating its clones and other cells of the same type. This only sticks if there is enough food around so that there is no competition between them. This is how you get cooperation with the same kind. At this point the mutation disappears if you reduce the food supply, as defection (evolving cannibalism) becomes the dominant adaptation. However, if you provide the right conditions for the collections of cells (colonies) to win over single cells (because feeding in packs gives you better odds of eating vs being eaten), then the simple defections do not stick, as single defectors lose to colonies of cooperators. The most fit organisms are those which create colonies right away, with each division, not waiting for a chance to cooperate.

Once you have cell colonies competing, the division of labor is next. A relatively simple mutation which lets a cell to become either a hunter, if it is outside-facing, or a food processor, if it is surrounded by the same kind during the first part of its life, is a simple model of how cell specialization might appear. Colonies with two kinds of dedicated cells are more efficient and win out. And so on. The immune system also appears naturally, as hunter cells already perform this role.

The models above are, naturally, a gross oversimplification, but they show how the multicellulars could evolve. The simulation code itself is almost trivially simple, I can probably dig it out at some point. I don't recall doing much more than what I've described, but presumably a communication subsystem would increase genetic fitness, eventually resulting in the appearance of the nervous system. I kind of lost interest when it got overly complicated to code. I bet there are people out there who do this for a living.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 September 2014 07:38:04AM 2 points [-]

I bet there are people out there who do this for a living.

There's this Ph.D. thesis and video all about multicellular coordination in slime moulds. This is an organism which switches between unicellular and multicellular habits, with cell specialisation, and competition among cells to be among those that make spores and get their genes into the next generation.

Comment author: eli_sennesh 31 August 2014 02:46:53PM -1 points [-]

"Our kind cannot cooperate" is a common meme for which I've seen comparatively little evidence. Mailing lists are not the real world, and while most people might start flame wars over the tiniest bullshit on mailing lists, their real-world behavior is largely cooperative and prosocial.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 31 August 2014 06:17:51PM *  0 points [-]

Would those be the same people you characterised by these words?

(ChristianKl) Normal civilized humans don't really want to kill other humans.

(eli_sennesh) Well, certainly not nearby humans who have similar skin coloration and evince membership in the same tribe. Those people, on the other hand, are disgusting, and the lot of them simply have to go.

Comment author: V_V 29 August 2014 07:49:58AM *  3 points [-]

Putin is probably trying to calculate what's the most he can take consistent with keeping the probability of a major war with the United States below some level. If the U.S. is unwilling to fight, Putin will take all of the territory of the Soviet Empire + perhaps Finland, a country that used to belong to Russia.

Currently, he only seems interested in territories inhabited by ethnic Russians, who are happy to be (re-)annexed to the country they consider they homeland.
I doubt he is much interested in taking, say, the Baltic republics or cis-Dniestr Moldova, as he would have to rule there with an iron fist on an uncooperative population.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 31 August 2014 11:34:50AM *  2 points [-]

Currently, he only seems interested in territories inhabited by ethnic Russians

Currently that is all he is openly or semi-openly taking action on. As for what he is interested in, he is on record as calling the collapse of the Soviet Union "a major geopolitical disaster of the century". It seems clear that he wants to restore all of that territory. All else is tactics.

I doubt he is much interested in taking, say, the Baltic republics or cis-Dniestr Moldova, as he would have to rule there with an iron fist on an uncooperative population.

Ruling with an iron fist on an "uncooperative" population (if they don't actively fight, what will their "uncooperation" get them?) is what Russia does. It did that through the years of the Soviet Union, and before that under the Tsars, when it was described (by the Soviets, no less) as "the prison of nations". Plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose.

Prediction: within five years, there will be separatist unrest in all of the places you mentioned, fanned (but not openly) by Putin.

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