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Comment author: gjm 01 February 2017 06:33:37PM 0 points [-]

All the options you explicitly list imply disrespect

Well, the one I'm actually proposing doesn't, but I guess you mean the others do. I'm not sure they exactly do, though I certainly didn't make any effort to frame them in tactfully respect-maximizing terms; in any case, it's certainly not far off to say they all imply disrespect. I agree that there are situations in which you can't explain something without preparation without any disrespect to the other guy being called for; but that's because what happened was

  • jimmy says some things
  • gjm response
  • jimmy starts saying things like "Before engaging with why you think my argument is wrong, I want to have some indication that you actually understand what my argument is, that's all, and I haven't seen it."

rather than, say,

  • jimmy says "so I have a rather complicated and subtle argument to make, so I'm going to have to begin with some preliminaries*.

When what happens is that you begin by making your argument and then start saying: nope, you didn't understand it -- and when your reaction to a good-faith attempt at dealing with the alleged misunderstanding is anything other than "oh, OK, let me try to explain more clearly" -- I think it does imply something like disrespect; at least, as much like disrespect as those options I listed above. Because what you're saying is: you had something to say that you thought was appropriate for your audience, and not the sort of thing that needed advance warning that it was extra-subtle; but now you've found that I don't understand it and (you at least suspect) I'm not likely to understand it even if you explain it.

That is, it means that something about me renders me unlikely -- even when this is locally the sole goal of the discussion, and I have made it clear that I am prepared to go to substantial lengths to seem mutual understanding -- to be able to understand this thing that you want to say, and that you earlier thought was a reasonable thing to say without laying a load of preparatory groundwork.

Is there a reason you haven't addressed the possibility that [...] my disinterest [...] isn't predicated on me concluding that you're stupid/blinkered/crazy/otherwise-unworthy-of-respect?

See above for why I haven't considered it likely; the reason I haven't (given that) addressed it is that there's never time to address everything.

If there is a specific hypothesis in this class that you would like us to entertain, perhaps you should consider saying what it is.

The thing is, that does presuppose that my belief that [...] is wrong.

No, it presupposes that it could be wrong. (I would say it carries less presumption that it's wrong than your last several comments in this thread carry presumption that it's right.) The idea is: It could be wrong, in which case giving it a go will bring immediate benefit; it could be wrong but we could be (mutually) reasonable enough to see that it's right when we give it a go and that doesn't work, in which case giving it a go will get us past the meta-level stuff about whether I'm likely to be unable to understand. Or, of course, it could go the other way.

I'm not sure what your plan is for dealing with the possibility of object-level blind spots

When one is suspected, look at it up close and see whether it really is one. Which, y'know, is what I'm suggesting here.

if you're writing all these words because you actually want to know how the heck I see it [...] I expect it to take a decent amount of work

What I was hoping to know, in the first instance, is what I have allegedly misunderstood in what you wrote before. You know, where you said things of the form "your description doesn't even contain my actual reason for saying X" -- which I took, for reasons that still look solid to me, to indicate that you had already given your actual reason.

If the only way for you to explain all my serious misunderstandings of what you wrote is for you to write an effortful lengthy essay about your general view ... well, I expect it would be interesting. But on the face of it that seems like more effort than it should actually take. And if the reason why it should take all that effort is that, in essence, I have (at least in your opinion) understood so little of your position that there's no point trying to correct me rather than trying again from scratch at much greater length then I honestly don't know why you're still in this discussion.

I'm sure I'd have a bunch of questions on how you see things, if you'd have any interest in explaining your perspective

I am happy to answer questions. I've had it pretty much up to here (you'll have to imagine a suitable gesture) with meta-level discussion about what either of us may or may not be capable of understanding, though, so if the questions you want to ask are about what you think of me or what I think of you or what I think you think I think you think I am capable of understanding, then let's give that a miss.

Comment author: jimmy 01 February 2017 11:09:22PM *  0 points [-]

rather than, say, jimmy says "so I have a rather complicated and subtle argument to make, so I'm going to have to begin with some preliminaries*.

I suppose I could have said “so I have a rather complicated and subtle argument to make. I would have to begin with some preliminaries and it would end up being kinda long and take a lot of work, so I’m not sure it’s worth it unless you really want to hear it”, and in a lot of ways I expect that would have gone better. I probably will end up doing this next time.

However in a couple key ways, it wouldn’t have, which is why I didn’t take that approach this time. And that itself is a complicated and subtle argument to make.

EDIT: I should clarify. I don't necessarily think I made the right choice here, and it is something I'm still thinking about. However, it was an explicit choice and I had reasons.

When what happens is that you begin by making your argument and then start saying: nope, you didn't understand it -- and when your reaction to a good-faith attempt at dealing with the alleged misunderstanding is anything other than "oh, OK, let me try to explain more clearly" -- I think it does imply something like disrespect; at least, as much like disrespect as those options I listed above.

Right, and I think this is our fundamental disagreement right here. I don’t think it implies any disrespect at all, but I’m happy to leave it here if you want.

Because what you're saying is: [...] That is, it means that something about me renders me unlikely [...] to be able to understand this thing that you want to say, and that you earlier thought was a reasonable thing to say without laying a load of preparatory groundwork.

I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think arguments with subtle backing always need that warning, nor do they always need to be intended to be fully understood in order to be worth saying. This means that “I can’t give you an explanation you’ll understand without a ton of work” doesn’t single you out nearly as much as you’d otherwise think.

I can get into this if you’d like, but it’d just be more meta shit, and at this point my solution is starting to converge with yours: “do the damn write up or shut up, jimmy”

See above for why I haven't considered it likely; the reason I haven't (given that) addressed it is that there's never time to address everything.

I agree that you can’t address everything (nor have I), but this one stands out as the one big one I keep getting back to - and one where if you addressed it, this whole thing would resolve pretty much right away.

It seems like now that you have, we’re probably gonna end up at something more or less along the lines of “we disagree whether “mutual respect” and “knowably unable to progress on the object level” go together to a non-negligable amount, at least as it applies here, and gjm is uninterested in resolving this disagreement”. That’s an acceptable ending for me, so long as you know that it is a genuine belief of mine and that I’m not just trying to weasel around denying that I've been showing disrespect and shit.

No, it presupposes that it could be wrong.

I thought I addressed that possibility with the "err, or this" bit.

When one is suspected, look at it up close and see whether it really is one. Which, y'know, is what I'm suggesting here.

I was talking about the ones where that won’t work, which I see as a real thing though you might not.

If the only way for you to explain all my serious misunderstandings of what you wrote is for you to write an effortful lengthy essay about your general view ... well, I expect it would be interesting.

If I ever end up writing it up, I’ll let you know.

But on the face of it that seems like more effort than it should actually take. And if the reason why it should take all that effort is that, in essence, I have (at least in your opinion) understood so little of your position that there's no point trying to correct me rather than trying again from scratch at much greater length then I honestly don't know why you're still in this discussion.

:)

That’d probably have to be a part of the write up, as it calls on all the same concepts

Comment author: gjm 31 January 2017 11:30:24PM 0 points [-]

I just honestly don't know how to square these things.

Whereas I honestly don't know how to help you square them, because I don't see anything in what I wrote that seems like it would make a reasonable person conclude that I think it's impossible to be on your "step 2" honestly, or that I think you "must be trying to hide from engagement" (as opposed to might be, which I do think).

If [...] I honestly believe that [...] you would likely prematurely assume that you get it [...] what's your prescription? [...] What could I do to make clear that I am arguing in good faith [...]?

My general prescription for this sort of situation (and I remark that not only do I hope I would apply it with roles reversed, but that's pretty much what I am doing in this discussion) is: proceed on the working assumption that the other guy isn't too stupid/blinkered/crazy/whatever to appreciate your points, and get on with it; or, if you can't honestly give that assumption high enough probability to make it worth trying, drop the discussion altogether.

(This is also, I think, the best thing you could do to make it clear, or at any rate markedly more probable to doubtful onlookers, that you're arguing in good faith.)

If you can tell me where to start that doesn't presuppose that my beliefs are wrong or that I've been arguing in bad faith, I would love to. Where would you have me start?

The same place as I've been asking you to start for a while: you say I haven't understood some important parts of your position, so clarify those parts of your position for me. Adopt the working assumption that I'm not crazy, evil or stupid but that I've missed or misunderstood something, and Sure, it might not work: I might just be too obtuse to get it; in that case that fact will become apparent (at least to you) and you can stop wasting your time. Or it might turn out -- as, outside view, it very frequently does when someone smart has partially understood something and you explain to them the things you think they've missed -- that I will understand; or -- as, outside view, is also not so rare -- that actually I understood OK already and there was some sort of miscommunication. In either of those cases we can get on with addressing whatever actual substantive disagreements we turn out to have, and maybe at least one of us will learn something.

(In addition to the pessimistic option of just giving up, and the intermediate option of making the working assumption that I've not understood your position perfectly but am correctible, there is also the optimistic option of making the working assumption that actually I've understood it better than you think, and proceeding accordingly. I wouldn't recommend that option given my impression of your impression of my epistemic state, but there are broadly-similar situations in which I would so I thought I should mention it.)

Comment author: jimmy 01 February 2017 05:40:50PM *  0 points [-]

My general prescription for this sort of situation [...] is: proceed on the working assumption that the other guy isn't too stupid/blinkered/crazy/whatever to appreciate your points, and get on with it; or, if you can't honestly give that assumption high enough probability to make it worth trying, drop the discussion altogether.

All of the options you explicitly list imply disrespect. If I saw all other options as implying disrespect as well, I would agree that “if you can't honestly give that assumption high enough probability to make it worth trying, [it’s best to] drop the discussion altogether”.

However, I see it as possible to have both mutual respect and predictably counterproductive object level discussion. Because of this, I see potential for fruitful avenues other than “plow on the object level and hope it works out, or bail”. I have had many conversations with people whom I respect (and who by all means seem to feel respected by me) where we have done this to good results - and I’ve been on the other side too, again, without feeling like I was being disrespected.

Your responses have all been consistent with acting like I must be framing you as stupid/blinkered/crazy/otherwise-unworthy-of-respect if I don’t think object level discussion is the best next step. Is there a reason you haven’t addressed the possibility that I’m being sincere and that my disinterest in “just explaining my view” at this point isn’t predicated on me concluding that you’re stupid/blinkered/crazy/otherwise-unworthy-of-respect? Even to say that you hear me but conclude that I must be lying/crazy since that’s obviously too unlikely to be worth considering?

The same place as I've been asking you to start for a while: [...] clarify those parts of your position for me. Adopt the working assumption that I'm not crazy, evil or stupid but that I've missed or misunderstood something, and Sure, it might not work: I might just be too obtuse to get it; in that case that fact will become apparent (at least to you) and you can stop wasting your time.

The thing is, that does presuppose that my belief that “in this case, as with many others with large inferential distance, trying to simply clarify my position will result in more misunderstanding than understanding, on expectation, and therefore is not a good idea - even if the other person isn’t stupid/blinkered/crazy/otherwise-undeserving-of-respect” is wrong. Er.. unless you’re saying “sure, you might be right, and maybe it could work your way and couldn’t work my way, but I’m still unwilling to take that seriously enough to even consider doing things your way. My way or it ain’t happenin’.”

If it’s the latter case, and if, as you seem to imply, this is a general rule you live by, I’m not sure what your plan is for dealing with the possibility of object level blind spots - but I guess I don’t have to. Either way, it’s a fair response here, if that’s the decision you want to make - we can agree to disagree here too.

Anyway, if you’re writing all these words because you actually want to know how the heck I see it, then I’ll see what I can do. It might take a while because I expect it to take a decent amount of work and probably end up long, but I promise I will work at it. If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to do an extremely thorough job at making it clear that you’re not closed to my arguments, then I’d be happy to leave it as “you’re unwilling to consider doing things my way”+”I’m unwilling to do things your way until we can agree that your way is the better choice”, if that is indeed a fair description of your stance.

(Sorta separately, I’m sure I’d have a bunch of questions on how you see things, if you’d have any interest in explaining your perspective)

Comment author: gjm 31 January 2017 03:21:53AM 0 points [-]

On "being seen as rude": I beg your pardon, I was misremembering exactly what I had written at each point. However, I still can't escape the feeling that you are either misunderstanding or (less likely) being deliberately obscure, because what you actually say about this seems to me to assume that I was presenting "being seen as rude" as a drawback of doing what I called "external #2", whereas what I was actually saying is that one problem with "external #2" is that it forces someone who disagrees to do something that could be seen as rude; that's one mechanism by which the social pressure you mentioned earlier is applied.

To the extent that it actually seems we can come to the bottom of our disagreement, I am interested in continuing.

Except that what you are actually doing is repeatedly telling me that I have not understood you correctly, and not lifting a finger to indicate what a correct understanding might be and how it might differ from mine. You keep talking about inferential distances that might prevent me understanding you, but seem to make no effort even to begin closing the alleged gap.

In support of this, in the other half of your reply you say I "seem to be acting as if it’s impossible to be on step two honestly and that I must be trying to hide from engagement if I am not yet ready to move on to step three"; well, if you say that's how it seems to you then I dare say it's true, but I am pretty sure I haven't said it's "impossible to be on step two honestly" because I don't believe that, and I'm pretty sure I haven't said that you "must be trying to hide from engagement" because my actual position is that you seem to be behaving in a way consistent with that but of course there are other possibilities. And you say that I "should probably make room for both possibilities" (i.e., that you do, or that you don't, see things I don't); which is odd because I do in fact agree that both are possibilities.

So. Are you interested in actually making progress on any of this stuff, or not?

Comment author: jimmy 31 January 2017 07:18:54PM 0 points [-]

In support of this, in the other half of your reply you say I "seem to be acting as if it’s impossible to be on step two honestly and that I must be trying to hide from engagement if I am not yet ready to move on to step three"; well, if you say that's how it seems to you then I dare say it's true, but I am pretty sure I haven't said it's "impossible to be on step two honestly" because I don't believe that, and I'm pretty sure I haven't said that you "must be trying to hide from engagement" because my actual position is that you seem to be behaving in a way consistent with that but of course there are other possibilities. And you say that I "should probably make room for both possibilities" (i.e., that you do, or that you don't, see things I don't); which is odd because I do in fact agree that both are possibilities.

Right. I’m not accusing you of doing it. You didn’t say it outright, I don’t expect you to endorse that description, and I don’t see any reason even to start to form an opinion on whether it accurately describes your behavior or not. I was saying it as more of a “hey, here’s what you look like to me. I know (suspect?) this isn’t what you look like to you, so how do you see it and how do I square this with that?”. I just honestly don’t know how to square these things.

If, hypothetically, I’m on step two because I honestly believe that if I tried to explain my views you would likely prematurely assume that you get it and that it makes more sense to address this meta level first, and if, hypothetically, I’m even right and have good reasons to believe I’m right… what’s your prescription? What should I do, if that were the case? What could I do to make it clear that am arguing in good faith, if that were the case?

So. Are you interested in actually making progress on any of this stuff, or not?

If you can tell me where to start that doesn’t presuppose that my beliefs are wrong or that I’ve been arguing in bad faith, I would love to. Where would you have me start?

Comment author: jimmy 31 January 2017 03:38:15AM 2 points [-]

Polled.

I don't read much here anymore, and comment less (7 comment threads in the last year). I'm commenting now mostly because you specifically mentioned appreciating any response, and because of having known and respecting you personally, not because I'd normally read and comment on something like this.

I'm not aware of any other place with more shellingness on this stuff than here, but I am also skeptical of recent efforts to bring more discussion back to LW.

Comment author: gjm 31 January 2017 03:24:16AM 0 points [-]

I don't think this is fair to take away gjm's entire reputation based on one disagreement or even one confirmed counterexample.

I would just like to mention that I see what you did there.

In any case, I am not greatly worried that snark from Yet Another Eugine Sockpuppet is going to "take away gjm's entire reputation".

Comment author: jimmy 31 January 2017 03:36:19AM 0 points [-]

I'm guessing that you think I'm passive aggressively hinting that this more of a confirmed counter example than an honest disagreement? I promise you that is not my intent. My intent is that it applies even if it were confirmed, since I suspect that user:math might see it that way, while saying nothing about how I see it. To clarify, no, I see it as a disagreement.

I was also not aware that it was Eugine. (and of course, even if it wasn't, that wouldn't remove your reputation in anyone else's eyes, and I was talking about it as an internal move)

Comment author: math 31 January 2017 12:11:51AM 1 point [-]

I also think it's premature to conclude that satt is biased here due to tribal beliefs, because I think the comment satt made is perfectly consistent with a low to nonexistent amount of tribal bias, as well as consistent with a good ability to acknowledge and correct for tribal biases when pointed out. It's consistent with the alternative too, of course, but I'd want to see some distinguishing evidence before making a point of it.

Well, sat's reply to my comment should make it clear something, quite possibly tribal bias, it preventing him from being able to argue in good faith.

Comment author: jimmy 31 January 2017 12:36:19AM *  0 points [-]

I think that "tribal bias" is the norm, not the exception, and accusing someone of having their reasoning messed with, to some extent, by tribal biases is a little like accusing them of having shit that stinks. I'd much rather hold off and only criticize people when they deal with visible bias poorly, and It's legitimately hard enough to see your own tribal biases and how they affect your thinking that I'm a little hesitant to accuse someone of being blatantly dishonest because they don't see and correct for what looks like a bias to me. Especially since sometimes what looks like a bias is actually just noticing that they're using a valid heuristic that you don't understand because you're not part of their tribe.

That said, it's clear that satt wasn't offering Lumifer the amount of charity that I think Lumifer deserves, and was more focused on finding holes in Lumifer's relatively (albeit intentionally and not overly, in my opinion) imprecise arguments than on finding the merits of Lumifer's arguments, which I'd argue is a much better way of going about things, in general.

Comment author: satt 29 January 2017 05:49:13PM 2 points [-]

Just in case anyone other than us is reading this,

For whatever little it's worth, I read the first few plies of these subthreads, and skimmed the last few.

From my partial reading, it's unclear to me that Lumifer is/was actually lying (being deliberately deceptive). More likely, in my view, is/was that Lumifer sincerely thinks spurious your distinction between (1) criminalizing disbelief in global warming, and (2) criminalizing the promulgation of assertions that global warming isn't real in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage in a marketplace. I think Lumifer is being wrong & silly about that, but sincerely wrong & silly. On the "crimethink" accusation as applied to the paper specifically, Lumifer plainly made a cheap shot, and you were right to question it.

As for your disagreement with jimmy, I'm inclined to say you have the better of the argument, but I might be being overly influenced by (1) my dim view of jimmy's philosophy/sociology of argument, at least as laid out above, (2) my incomplete reading of the discussion, and (3) my knowledge of your track record as someone who is relatively often correct, and open to dissecting disagreement with others, often to a painstaking extent.

Comment author: jimmy 30 January 2017 11:12:18PM *  0 points [-]

I, also, appreciate this comment.

I would like to quibble here that I'm not trying to argue anything, and that if gjm had said "I don't think the authors are doing anything nearly equivalent to crimethink and would like to see you argue that they are", I wouldn't have engaged because I'm not interested in asserting that they are.

I'd call it more "[...] of deliberately avoiding argument in favor of "sharing honestly held beliefs for what they're taken to be worth", to those that are interested". If they're taken (by you, gjm, whoever) to be worth zero and there's no interest in hearing them and updating on them, that's totally cool by me.

Comment author: math 29 January 2017 07:27:36PM 2 points [-]

(1) criminalizing disbelief in global warming, and (2) criminalizing the promulgation of assertions that global warming isn't real in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage in a marketplace.

OK, and how is this distinction supposed to manifest in practice? First it's not entirely clear how the whole "promulgation of assertions that global warming isn't real in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage in a marketplace" is supposed to work, but in any case when (2) happens who exactly will be forbidden to assert that global worming isn't real? Does it matter if they believe it is in fact not real, does it matter if they have evidence? Note that the people doing the prosecution haven't presented any evidence of "promulgation of assertions that global warming isn't real in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage in a marketplace" beyond the fact that the people in question are asserting that global warming isn't real. Thus it is clear that (2) is little more than a fairly transparent excuse to do (1).

As for your disagreement with jimmy, I'm inclined to say you have the better of the argument, but I might be being overly influenced by (1) my dim view of jimmy's philosophy/sociology of argument, at least as laid out above, (2) my incomplete reading of the discussion, and (3) my knowledge of your track record as someone who is relatively often correct, and open to dissecting disagreement with others, often to a painstaking extent.

Given that gjm has just demonstrated that (3) is false, I'm inclined to believe the real reason for your bias is that you belong to a tribe where agreeing with gjm's conclusion is high status.

Comment author: jimmy 30 January 2017 10:59:34PM *  1 point [-]

I upvoted you because I think your explanation of Lumifer's point there is correct and needed to be said.

However, I'd like to comment on this bit:

Given that gjm has just demonstrated that (3) is false, I'm inclined to believe the real reason for your bias is that you belong to a tribe where agreeing with gjm's conclusion is high status.

I don't think this is fair to take away gjm's entire reputation based on one disagreement or even one confirmed counterexample.

I also think it's premature to conclude that satt is biased here due to tribal beliefs, because I think the comment satt made is perfectly consistent with a low to nonexistent amount of tribal bias, as well as consistent with a good ability to acknowledge and correct for tribal biases when pointed out. It's consistent with the alternative too, of course, but I'd want to see some distinguishing evidence before making a point of it.

Comment author: gjm 28 January 2017 09:53:25PM 0 points [-]

"gish galloping"

I did not accuse you of that. I don't think you've done that. I said that Lumifer did it because, well, he did: I said "no one is proposing X", he said "what about A and B", I pointed out that A and B were not in fact proposing X, and he posted another seven instances of ... people not proposing X. A long sequence of bad arguments, made quickly but slower to answer: that is exactly what a Gish gallop is. I don't think you've been doing that, I don't think Lumifer usually does it, but on this occasion he did.

I am generally unenthusiastic about this sort of attempt to seize the intellectual high ground by fiat, not least because it is unanswerable if you choose to make it so;

Can you explain what you mean by “attempt to seize the intellectual high ground” and “it is unanswerable”, as it applies here?

"Attempting to seize the intellectual high ground" = "attempting to frame the situation as one in which you are saying clever sensible things that the other guy is too stupid or blinkered or whatever to understand. "Unanswerable if you choose to make it so" because when you say "I don't think you have grasped my argument", any response I make can be answered with "No, sorry, I was right: you didn't understand my argument" -- regardless of what I actually have understood or not understood. (I suppose one indication of good or bad faith on your part, in that case, would be whether you then explain what it is that I allegedly didn't understand.)

Am I allowed to believe that I'm probably right [...]?

I am greatly saddened, and somewhat puzzled, that you apparently think I might think the answer is no. (Actually, I don't think you think I might think the answer is no; I think you are grandstanding.) Anyway, for the avoidance of doubt, I have not the slightest interest in telling anyone else what they are allowed to believe, and if (e.g.) what I have said upthread about that paper about global warming has led you to think otherwise then either I have written unclearly or you have read uncharitably or both.

For example, “being seen as rude”, itself, is so not what it’s about.

The problem here is unclarity on my part or obtuseness on yours, rather than obtuseness on my part or unclarity on yours :-).The bit about "being seen as rude" was not intended as a statement of your views or of your argument; it was part of my initial sketch of the class of situations to which those views and that argument apply. The point at which I start sketching what I think you were saying is where I say "Your principal point is, in these terms, ...".

The reason I do think they’re making a mistake is not present in your description of my views.

Well, I was (deliberately) attempting to describe what I took to be your position on the general issue, rather than on what the authors of the article might or might not have done. (I am not all that interested in what you think they have done, since you've said you haven't actually looked at the article.) But it's entirely possible that I've failed to notice some key part of your argument, or forgotten to mention it even though if I'd been cleverer I would have. I don't suppose you'd like to explain what it is that I've missed?

This is a very understandable reading of what I said, but no. I do not agree that what you call "external #2" is ever a good thing to do either.

Just in case anyone other than us is reading this, I would like to suggest that those hypothetical readers might like to look back at what I actually wrote and how you quoted it, and notice in particular that I explicitly said that I think your position probably isn't the one that "on the face of it you've suggested". (Though it was not previously clear to me that you think "external #2" is literally never a good idea. One reason is that it looks to me -- and still does after going back and rereading -- as if you explicitly said that you sometimes do it and consider it reasonable. See here and search for "A small minority".)


As to the other things you've said (e.g., asking whether and where and why I disagree with your position), I would prefer to let that wait until you have helped me fix whatever errors you have discerned in my understanding of your position and your argument. Having gone to the trouble of laying it out, it seems like it would be a waste not to do that, don't you think?

You've made specific mention of two errors. One (see above) wasn't ever meant to be describing your position, so that's OK. The other is that my description doesn't mention "the reason I do think they're making a mistake" (they = authors of that article whose title you've read); I don't know whether that's an error on my part, or merely something I didn't think warranted mentioning, but the easiest way to find out would be for you to say what that reason is.

Your other comments give the impression that there are other deficiencies (e.g., "It is far enough off that I can’t endorse it as “getting” where I’m coming from." and "It looks like you understand the one I do not hold, but do not realize that there is another, completely different, reason to not want to do #2 externally.") and I don't think it makes any sense to proceed without fixing this. (Where "this" is probably a lack of understanding on my part, but might also turn out to be that for one reason or another I didn't mention it, or that I wasn't clear enough in my description of what I took to be your position.) If we can't get to a point where we are both satisfied that I understand you adequately, we should give up.

Comment author: jimmy 30 January 2017 10:43:32PM *  0 points [-]

(comment split because it got too long)

I am greatly saddened, and somewhat puzzled, that you apparently think I might think the answer is no. (Actually, I don't think you think I might think the answer is no; I think you are grandstanding.)

It’s neither. I have a hard time imagining that you could say no. I was just making sure to cover all the bases because I also have a hard time imagining that you could still say that I’m actively trying to claim anything after I’ve addressed that a couple times.

I bring it up because at this point, I’m not sure how you can simultaneously hold the views “he can believe whatever he wants”, “he hasn’t done anything in addition that suggests judgement too” (which I get that you haven’t yet agreed to, but you haven’t addressed my arguments that I haven’t yet either), and then accuse me of trying to claim the intellectual high ground without cognitive dissonance. I’m giving you a chance to either teach me something new (i.e. “how gjm can simultaneously hold these views congruently”), or, in the case that you can’t, the chance for you to realize it.

The bit about "being seen as rude" was not intended as a statement of your views or of your argument; it was part of my initial sketch of the class of situations to which those views and that argument apply. The point at which I start sketching what I think you were saying is where I say "Your principal point is, in these terms, ...".

Quoting you, “Your principal point is, in these terms, that [...] and that "externally" #2 is something of a hostile act if in fact B doesn't share A's opinion because it means that B has to choose between acquiescing while A talks as if everyone knows that P, or else making a fuss and disagreeing and quite possibly being seen as rude.” (emphasis mine)

That looks like it’s intended to be a description of my views to me, given that it directly follows the point where you start sketching out what my views are, following a “because”, and before the first period.

Even if it’s not, though, if you’re saying it as part of a sketch of the situation, it’s one that anyone who sees things the way I do can see that I won’t find it to be a relevant part of the situation, and the fact that you mention it - even if it were just part of that sketch - indicates that either you’re missing this or that you see that you’re giving a sketch that I don’t agree with as if my disagreement is irrelevant.

Well, I was (deliberately) attempting to describe what I took to be your position on the general issue, rather than on what the authors of the article might or might not have done.

Right. I think it is the correct approach to describe my position in general. However, the piece of my general position that would come into play in this specific instance was not present so if you apply those views as stated, of course you wouldn’t have a problem with what the authors have done in this specific instance.

(I am not all that interested in what you think they have done, since you've said you haven't actually looked at the article.)

I am also not interested in what (I think) they have done in the article. I have said this already, but I’ll agree again if you’d like. You’re right to not be interested in this.

I don't suppose you'd like to explain what it is that I've missed?

Honestly, I would love to. I don’t think I’m capable of explaining it to you as of where we stand right now. Other people, yes. Once we get to the bottom of our disagreement, yes. Not until then though.

This conversation has been fascinating to me, but it has also been a bit fatiguing to make the same points and not see them addressed. I’m not sure we’ll make it that far, but it’d be awesome if we do.

notice in particular that I explicitly said that I think your position probably isn't the one that "on the face of it you've suggested".

Yes, I noticed that qualification and agree. On the face of it, it certainly does look that way. That’s what I meant by “a very understandable reading”.

However, the preceding line is “You've made it explicitly that you're not claiming that external #2 is always a bad idea”, and that is not true. I said “A small minority of the times I wont [...]”, and what follows is not explicitly “external #2”. I can see how you would group what follows with “external #2”, but I do not. This is what I mean when I say that I predict you will assume that you’re understanding what I’m saying when you do not.

As to the other things you've said (e.g., asking whether and where and why I disagree with your position), I would prefer to let that wait until you have helped me fix whatever errors you have discerned in my understanding of your position and your argument.

This seems backwards to me. Again, with the double cruxing, you have to agree on F before you can agree on E before you can agree on D before you can even think about agreeing on the original topic. This reads to me like you saying you want me to explain why we disagree on B before you address C.

Having gone to the trouble of laying it out, it seems like it would be a waste not to do that, don't you think?

Not necessarily. I think it’s perfectly fine to be uninterested in helping you fix the errors I discern in the understanding of my argument, unless I had already gone out of my way to give you reason to believe I would if you layed out your understanding for me. Especially if I don’t think you’ll be completely charitable.

I haven’t gone out of my way to give you reason to believe I would, since I wasn’t sure at the time, but I’ll state my stance explicitly now. This conversation has been fascinating to me. It has also been a bit fatiguing, and I’m unsure of how long I want to continue this. To the extent that it actually seems we can come to the bottom of our disagreement, I am interested in continuing. If we get to the point where you’re interested in hearing it and I think it will be fruitful, I will try to explain the difference between my view and your attempt to describe them.

As I see it now, we can’t get there until I understand why you treat what I see as “privately holding my beliefs, and not working to hide them from (possibly fallacious) inference” as if it is “actively presupposing that my beliefs are correct, and judging anyone who disagrees as ‘below me’”. I also don’t think we can get there until we can agree on a few other things that I’ve brought up and haven’t seen addressed.

Either way, thanks for the in depth engagement. I do appreciate it.

Comment author: gjm 28 January 2017 09:53:25PM 0 points [-]

"gish galloping"

I did not accuse you of that. I don't think you've done that. I said that Lumifer did it because, well, he did: I said "no one is proposing X", he said "what about A and B", I pointed out that A and B were not in fact proposing X, and he posted another seven instances of ... people not proposing X. A long sequence of bad arguments, made quickly but slower to answer: that is exactly what a Gish gallop is. I don't think you've been doing that, I don't think Lumifer usually does it, but on this occasion he did.

I am generally unenthusiastic about this sort of attempt to seize the intellectual high ground by fiat, not least because it is unanswerable if you choose to make it so;

Can you explain what you mean by “attempt to seize the intellectual high ground” and “it is unanswerable”, as it applies here?

"Attempting to seize the intellectual high ground" = "attempting to frame the situation as one in which you are saying clever sensible things that the other guy is too stupid or blinkered or whatever to understand. "Unanswerable if you choose to make it so" because when you say "I don't think you have grasped my argument", any response I make can be answered with "No, sorry, I was right: you didn't understand my argument" -- regardless of what I actually have understood or not understood. (I suppose one indication of good or bad faith on your part, in that case, would be whether you then explain what it is that I allegedly didn't understand.)

Am I allowed to believe that I'm probably right [...]?

I am greatly saddened, and somewhat puzzled, that you apparently think I might think the answer is no. (Actually, I don't think you think I might think the answer is no; I think you are grandstanding.) Anyway, for the avoidance of doubt, I have not the slightest interest in telling anyone else what they are allowed to believe, and if (e.g.) what I have said upthread about that paper about global warming has led you to think otherwise then either I have written unclearly or you have read uncharitably or both.

For example, “being seen as rude”, itself, is so not what it’s about.

The problem here is unclarity on my part or obtuseness on yours, rather than obtuseness on my part or unclarity on yours :-).The bit about "being seen as rude" was not intended as a statement of your views or of your argument; it was part of my initial sketch of the class of situations to which those views and that argument apply. The point at which I start sketching what I think you were saying is where I say "Your principal point is, in these terms, ...".

The reason I do think they’re making a mistake is not present in your description of my views.

Well, I was (deliberately) attempting to describe what I took to be your position on the general issue, rather than on what the authors of the article might or might not have done. (I am not all that interested in what you think they have done, since you've said you haven't actually looked at the article.) But it's entirely possible that I've failed to notice some key part of your argument, or forgotten to mention it even though if I'd been cleverer I would have. I don't suppose you'd like to explain what it is that I've missed?

This is a very understandable reading of what I said, but no. I do not agree that what you call "external #2" is ever a good thing to do either.

Just in case anyone other than us is reading this, I would like to suggest that those hypothetical readers might like to look back at what I actually wrote and how you quoted it, and notice in particular that I explicitly said that I think your position probably isn't the one that "on the face of it you've suggested". (Though it was not previously clear to me that you think "external #2" is literally never a good idea. One reason is that it looks to me -- and still does after going back and rereading -- as if you explicitly said that you sometimes do it and consider it reasonable. See here and search for "A small minority".)


As to the other things you've said (e.g., asking whether and where and why I disagree with your position), I would prefer to let that wait until you have helped me fix whatever errors you have discerned in my understanding of your position and your argument. Having gone to the trouble of laying it out, it seems like it would be a waste not to do that, don't you think?

You've made specific mention of two errors. One (see above) wasn't ever meant to be describing your position, so that's OK. The other is that my description doesn't mention "the reason I do think they're making a mistake" (they = authors of that article whose title you've read); I don't know whether that's an error on my part, or merely something I didn't think warranted mentioning, but the easiest way to find out would be for you to say what that reason is.

Your other comments give the impression that there are other deficiencies (e.g., "It is far enough off that I can’t endorse it as “getting” where I’m coming from." and "It looks like you understand the one I do not hold, but do not realize that there is another, completely different, reason to not want to do #2 externally.") and I don't think it makes any sense to proceed without fixing this. (Where "this" is probably a lack of understanding on my part, but might also turn out to be that for one reason or another I didn't mention it, or that I wasn't clear enough in my description of what I took to be your position.) If we can't get to a point where we are both satisfied that I understand you adequately, we should give up.

Comment author: jimmy 30 January 2017 10:43:09PM 0 points [-]

"Attempting to seize the intellectual high ground" = [...] any response I make can be answered with "No, sorry, I was right: you didn't understand my argument" -- regardless of what I actually have understood or not understood.

The first part I feel like I’ve already addressed and haven’t seen a response to (the difference between staking active claims vs speaking from a place that you choose to draw (perhaps fallacious) inferences from and then treat as if they’re active claims).

The second part is interesting though. It’s pretty darn answerable to me! I didn’t realize that you thought that I might hear an answer that perfectly paces my views and then just outright lie “nope, that’s not it!”. If that’s something you think I could even conceivably do, I’m baffled as to why you’d be putting energy into interacting with me!

But yes, it does place the responsibility on me of deciding whether you understand my pov and reporting honestly on the matter. And yes, not all people will want to be completely honest on the matter. And yes, I realize that you don’t have reason to be convinced that I will be, and that’s okay.

However, it would be very stupid of me not to be. I can hide away in my head for as long as I want, and if no matter how hard you try, and no matter how obvious the signs become, if I’m willing to ignore them all I can believe my believies for as long as I want and pretend that I’m some sort of wise guru on the mountain top, and that everyone else just lacks my wisdom. You’re right, if I want to hide from the truth and never give you the opportunity to convince me that I’m wrong, I can. And that would be bad.

But I don’t see what solution you have to this, as if the inferential distance is larger than you realize, then your method of “then explain what it is that I allegedly didn't understand” can’t work because if you’re still expecting a short inferential distance then you will have to either conclude that I’m speaking gibberish or that I’m wrong - even if I’m not.

It’s like the “double crux” thing. We’re working our way down the letters, and you’re saying “if you think I don’t understand your pov you should explain where I’m wrong!” and I’m saying “if I thought that you would be able to judge what I’m saying without other hidden disagreements predictably leading to faulty judgements, then I would agree that is a good idea”. I can’t just believe it’s a good idea when I don’t, and yes, that looks the same as “I’m unwilling to stick my neck out because I secretly know I’m wrong”. However, it’s a necessary thing whenever the inferential distance is larger than one party expects, or when one party believes it to be so (and if you don’t believe that I believe that it is… I guess I’d be interested in hearing why). We can’t shortcut the process by pointing at it being “unanswerable”. It is what it is.

It’d be nice if this weren’t ever an issue, but ultimately I think it’s fine because there’s no free lunch. If I feel cognitive dissonance and don’t admit that you have a point, it tends to show, and that would make me look bad. If it doesn’t show somehow, I still fail to convince anyone of anything. I still fail to give anyone any reason to believe I’m some wise guru on the mountaintop even if I really really want them to believe that. It’s not going to work, because I’m not doing anything to distinguish myself from that poser that has nothing interesting to say.

If I want to actually be able to claim status, and not retreat to some hut muttering at how all the meanies won’t give me the status that I deserve, I have to actually stick my neck out and say something useful and falsifiable at some point. I get that - which is why I keep making the distinction between actively staking claims and refusing to accept false presuppositions.

The thing is, my first priority is actually being right. My second priority is making sure that I don’t give people a reason to falsely conclude that I’m wrong and that I am unaware of or/unable to deal with the fact that they think that. My third priority is that I actually get to speak on the object level and be useful. I’m on step two now. You seem to be acting as if it’s impossible to be on step two honestly and that I must be trying to hide from engagement if I am not yet ready to move on to step three with you. I don’t know what else to tell you. I don’t agree.

If you don’t want to automatically accept that I see things you don’t (and that these things are hard to clearly communicate to someone with your views), then that’s fine. I certainly don’t insist that you accept that I do. Heck, I encourage skepticism. However, I’m not really sure how you can know that I don’t, and it seems like you should probably make room for both possibilities if you want to have a productive conversation with me (and it’s fine if you don’t).

The main test that I use in distinguishing between wise old men on mountain tops and charlatans is whether my doubt in them provokes cognitive signs of cognitive dissonance - but there are both false positives and false negatives there. A second test I use is to see whether this guy has any real world results that impress me. A fourth is to see whether I can get him to say anything useful to me. A fourth test is whether there are in fact times that I end up eventually seeing things his way on my own.

It’s not always easy, and I’ve realized again and again that even foolish people are wiser than I give them credit for, so at this point I’m really hesitant to rule that out so that I can actively deny their implicit claim to status. I prefer to just not actively grant them, and say something like “yes, you might be really wise, but I can’t see that you’re not a clown, and until I do I’m going to have to assign a higher probability to the latter. If you can give me some indication that you’re not a clown, I would appreciate that, and I understand that if you don’t it is no proof that you are”.

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