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Paths Forward Summary

trying to summarize Paths Forward: there should always be a way that if you’re mistaken, and someone else knows, you can find out. if no one knows a mistake, it’s hard to blame you too much, let’s not worry about that case right now. but it’d be really sad if someone does know, and they are willing to share the info, but you keep making the mistake anyway. that’s such an avoidable mistake.

this is important because of fallibility – people do make lots of mistakes (often without realizing it – any of your ideas could be mistaken and you don’t know which. none of them are safe ideas that couldn’t be mistakes, which would be infallible). so because people make mistakes a lot, a main issue in epistemology is how to find and correct mistakes. being able to be told what other people already know is a really useful way.

but there is a problem because you can’t read everything or debate with everyone or debate with every idea.

people don’t know how to deal with that. so they end up ignoring people with low social status, and ignoring ideas that sound “crazy” to them. and ignoring things they regard as off-topic. that’s a very very bad way to handle it. it blocks off learning about any BIG mistakes – because they mostly talk to similar people and talk about ideas with only limited differences from their own.

the way to deal with ALL ideas that disagree with you is you either 1) write a refutation or, most of the time, 2) refer to a refutation already written by someone else or you. (you must take responsibility for it. if it’s wrong you don’t just blame the author, if you used it and it’s wrong, then you were wrong).

it's also necessary to write down your positions (or refer to writing by someone else). otherwise people don't know what you think and can't point out mistakes they know. making your ideas public lets people check if they disagree (and lets them learn from you). if your ideas are hidden, no one is going to tell you criticism in the first place.

each rival, disagreeing idea only needs to be answered once by one guy, if it's written down in public. so people can work together to address all the ideas arguing with their view, instead of just ignore lots.

then there’s a path forward: someone can point out a mistake in what’s written down.

and also a path forward for the people who disagree with you: they can read your answer and learn why you’re right.

if there is an idea that disagrees with your thinking, that NO ONE has answered (in writing, in public) ... why not? someone ought to answer it and actually deal with the details of it, and give the opportunity for counter-arguments. if no one has done that, how do you know it’s wrong? you shouldn’t be ignoring ideas that no one refuted thoroughly, correctly, seriously.

if your ideas are unpopular so not many people help argue them, that’s not a good excuse for ignoring lots of arguments against your position. if you want to have unpopular ideas, it will take more time to check them for errors, because other people help less. you should put in that time. unpopular ideas are more risky in that way.

if your ideas are popular and something “everyone knows”, then someone really ought to have addressed every known criticism, since you have so many people to do it. if you have so many people and not a single one of them will answer an argument adequately, that’s a big problem there! if a new criticism is thought of, and you don't want to answer it, and you can't get anyone else to deal with it either, then apparently your entire large popular group of people is irrational, so having a big group doesn't really count for anything in that case (and don't even try to claim all 20 million of you are too busy).

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2015


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