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Harry Binswanger Refuses To Think

Harry Binswanger banned me – an active-minded philosopher who studies and loves Ayn Rand – from his Objectivist discussion forum.

Binswanger is a well known Objectivist. He knew Rand and Leonard Peikoff. He's affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute and has been involved with some Objectivist books like the second edition of Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology and the Ayn Rand Lexicon. He wrote a book on epistemology, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation. He published and edited The Objectivist Forum journal. Binswanger now runs an online paid Objectivist discussion forum, The Harry Binswanger Letter (HBL), which he started in 1998.

I participated at HBL for the last month. My contributions are publicly available (link).

Binswanger banned me, without warning, because he didn't like my ideas. I wasn't banned for violating any written rule. He didn't try to solve the problem. He hid the problem until the breaking point.

Subjective moderation makes discussion forums bad. Having discussions unpredictably shut down discourages anyone from putting effort into them. (Before banning me he shut down discussions about epistemology, because some readers didn't like them. And he shut down discussion about psychiatry, for no reason given.)

The unwritten HBL moderation policies disallow publicizing any mises.org webpage or George Reisman's Capitalism: A Treatise On Economics, but allow publicizing the evil, anti-capitalist huffingtonpost.com and Paul Krugman.

I advise members to find a better forum.

The announcement banning me, which hides the issue behind the title "Administrative note", reads (bold added, except in the first line):

One-line summary: I have removed Elliot Temple’s posting privileges

After much consideration, I decided to remove Elliot Temple’s posting privileges. His posts were not adding value to HBL, and they were: 1) coming from an alien context, 2) nearly always filled with wrong ideas–sometimes startlingly wrong (your eyes are, he says, “opinionated”)–ideas not well argued for, 3) combative, and 4) skating on the edge of violating our etiquette policy. They also were often too long.

All in all, I began to cringe when I saw his name on a post. Instead of the question “Is anything he’s written actually bad enough to take away his posting privileges?” I realized the question was more, “Why do I want him posting on my list, if almost every post brings me grief?”

After I made the decision, but before he knew of it, he posted a piece charging our dismissal of many of his “criticisms” as evasion–the cardinal sin for Objectivism. But, again, I read that only after reaching my decision.

In private email, he asked me to post the following for him:

1) I’ve been banned from posting to HBL, so don’t expect me to reply anymore.

2) It’s not my choice to end the discussions. I didn’t give up.

3) If anyone wants to continue a discussion, email me ([email protected]). I’m happy to continue any of the discussions and respond to outstanding points, but only if people choose to contact me.

Binswanger considers critics "combative". He cringed each time I'd post a new criticism. He wants passive participants who drop unresolved issues without trying to pursue them to a conclusion. He isn't interested in different perspectives on Ayn Rand's ideas. After thinking about his feelings, he realized he wanted me gone, whether I'd done something wrong or not. He shut down discussion because of his emotional states of cringing and grief.

He says my ideas are wrong. He selected one example to present, but it illustrates his own dishonesty. I said that eyes can see green but not infrared, Binswanger replied accusing me of primacy of consciousness, I clarified again, and Binswanger dropped the topic.

My point, which Binswanger evaded, is that eyes have an opinionated design in the same sense an iPhone camera does. Apple engineers formed opinions about what types of photos are good and designed their camera to produce those photos. They chose lenses according to their judgement of what photos have value to their customers. They run software algorithms to adjust photos to better please their customers. The iPhone doesn't try to show you raw data, they try to show you (Apple's opinion of) a good photo. (This is not a criticism of Apple's photography opinions, which I consider objectively good. The point is that Apple's judgement is present in the photo you see.)

I don't know what Binswanger thinks about opinionated camera designs or evolution's design of human eyes. He refused to discuss it.

It's dishonest for Binswanger to use this example to say I was wrong. He took my words out of context to imply I think eyes are conscious (which is ridiculous), rather than fairly presenting my actual views about opinionated designs. And this was the best attack he could come up with to excuse banning dissent.

No one made a complete case that I was mistaken about any idea I presented on HBL. No one pointed out a mistake I made and then argued the point to a conclusion. Nothing got resolved. They did hit-and-run attacks and then didn't address my counter-arguments. Or they'd misunderstand something, then drop the issue when I clarified.

Seeing how our initial discussions weren't reaching resolutions, I started to post about the topic of how to have a discussion. How to resolve debates is a difficult skill worth discussing. I expected discussing our differences to take time, but Binswanger was already out of patience. I talked about how to pursue issues to conclusions. Rather than reply, Binswanger banned me.

HBL is for Objectivists. I'm an Objectivist. I've extensively studied and discussed Objectivism, including over 50 readings of books by Ayn Rand. I agree with Rand more than most, perhaps all, HBL members. I've also studied other Objectivist thinkers, like Peikoff and Binswanger, but I disagree with them more (e.g. regarding induction and their leftwing political sympathies.)

Philosophical Detection

To get into more detail, I'll analyze Ayn Rand's Philosophical Detection, from Philosophy: Who Needs It. I'll compare her views to mine and to Binswanger's. Italics are from Rand, bold is from me.

A detective seeks to discover the truth about a crime. A philosophical detective must seek to determine the truth or falsehood of an abstract system and thus discover whether he is dealing with a great achievement or an intellectual crime.

Ayn Rand (AR) says philosophical detectives "must" figure out what's true and false. That means taking issues to conclusions, not just making a few arguments and stopping before anything is resolved.

The layman’s error, in regard to philosophy, is the tendency to accept consequences while ignoring their causes—to take the end result of a long sequence of thought as the given and to regard it as “self-evident” or as an irreducible primary, while negating its preconditions. ...

As a philosophical detective, you must remember that nothing is self-evident except the material of sensory perception—and that an irreducible primary is a fact which cannot be analyzed (i.e., broken into components) or derived from antecedent facts. You must examine your own convictions and any idea or theory you study, by asking: Is this an irreducible primary—and, if not, what does it depend on?

Binswanger said some his ideas, like 2+3=5, were unquestionable. He said they were too simple to analyze, criticize, or be mistaken about. He maintained this even after two ways to break 2+3=5 down into components were discussed in detail. (One way involves computer circuits, the other involves Peano Axioms.) Binswanger objected to analyzing the components of arithmetic because he thought consciousness just adds and it's trivial. He treated a long sequence of learning math at school as an irreducible primary.

"2", "+", and "3" are components! Are they too trivial to misunderstand? Binswanger himself makes claims about integers that most people disagree with. Either he's mistaken, or others are, so someone misunderstands integers. Binswanger says infinity is a mistake and even says that very large numbers don't exist, like 10100100.

In modern history, the philosophy of Kant is a systematic rationalization of every major psychological vice. ...

... The wish to perceive “things in themselves” unprocessed by any consciousness, is a rationalization for the wish to escape the effort and responsibility of cognition

Binswanger was consistently hostile to my statements about how we don't perceive things in themselves, and have to actually think to figure out what's in reality. We have to take steps like understanding the physical properties of our eyes, the algorithmic information processing done by our visual system, the physical properties of photons, etc... We have to interpret what we see, taking into account many complex factors. This was the issue he chose to highlight when banning me. AR considers his attitude Kantian.

Perception is one of the areas where Binswanger openly disagrees with AR. He says he disagrees with her in footnote 22 on page 64 of his book How We Know.

Correspondence to reality is the standard of value by which one estimates a theory. If a theory is inapplicable to reality, by what standards can it be estimated as “good”?

This is another area where Binswanger and I disagree. Like AR, I value reality (meaning physical reality!) and I care about how theories correspond to reality. Consequently, I was interested in connecting my claims about epistemology to physics (the science which studies reality). And I spoke about what is and isn't physically possible (possible in reality).

Binswanger didn't care about the project of understanding epistemology in terms of physical reality and physical processes. He was content to treat intelligent consciousness as an irreducible primary without concern for the physical components. And he's a dualist! (That means he thinks consciousness is separate from physical reality.)

Rather than consider topics like evolution and computation which relate epistemology to physical reality, Binswanger treats consciousness as a starting point and believes it has special characteristics unrelated to physical reality. He just wants to do philosophy without worrying about physics too. Why dual major in both like John Galt?

Human brains, being physical objects (and computers in particular), do (physical) information processing. This computation replicates, varies and selects information. It's evolution, literally, and that's how humans are able to learn in physical reality. But Binswanger isn't interested in ideas like these. He'd rather divorce consciousness from the physical world.

The problems Binswanger is trying to address, which drive him to dualism, include dealing with the reality of abstractions and understanding emergent properties. David Deutsch has explained these issues in his books. Binswanger won't read the books which explain better views than he has, nor does he know of any refutation of the books by anyone, nor does he care that the books contain unanswered criticism of his positions.

You must attach clear, specific meanings to words, i.e., be able to identify their referents in reality. This is a precondition, without which neither critical judgment nor thinking of any kind is possible. All philosophical con games count on your using words as vague approximations. You must not take a catch phrase—or any abstract statement—as if it were approximate. Take it literally. Don’t translate it ... Take it straight, for what it does say and mean.

Binswanger repeatedly treated words and explanations approximately. He was unable or unwilling to discuss what Popper and I literally said. His attacks were routinely against unsaid conclusions he jumped to, which we denied. He translated our statements into approximate gists and got confused by narrow, limited statements.

Instead of dismissing the catch phrase, accept it—for a few brief moments. Tell yourself, in effect: “If I were to accept it as true, what would follow?” This is the best way of unmasking any philosophical fraud.

Binswanger used tactics like saying his ideas were unquestionable, and smearing critics as skeptics, rather than carefully and literally considering their arguments. Rather than consider and try to unmask philosophical errors, he spent his time presenting excuses for not thinking about criticism.

Since an emotion is experienced as an immediate primary, but is, in fact, a complex, derivative sum, it permits men to practice one of the ugliest of psychological phenomena: rationalization. Rationalization is a cover-up, a process of providing one’s emotions with a false identity, of giving them spurious explanations and justifications—in order to hide one’s motives, not just from others, but primarily from oneself. The price of rationalizing is the hampering, the distortion and, ultimately, the destruction of one’s cognitive faculty. Rationalization is a process not of perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.

Binswanger spent more effort rationalizing why not to engage with my ideas than considering my ideas. He felt grief and cringed when I wrote about ideas. He blamed me for his bad feelings. He says he doesn't like my ideas because I'm wrong. He says he dropped out of every discussion because I'm wrong. He came up with rationalizations for his negative emotions about my criticism.

Binswanger didn't win a debate on any point. He dropped out every time. And when I kept talking about ideas, he banned me.

Binswanger didn't make a rational case that I was ruining debate and preventing any conclusion from being reached. He didn't even try. He didn't know of some error I was making that would prevent him from from showing I was mistaken about one point. He just wasn't interested in being challenged. He has a passive mind.

I approached discussion in an active way. When one thing didn't work, I'd try something else. I demonstrated patience and perseverance. For example, I asked people to point out any errors in my methods, but no one had anything to say. And I made a long video where I thought out loud and recorded my writing process. I hoped someone could use the video to point out an error in my approach, but no one did.

I saw Binswanger approach discussion badly in a way which prevented reaching conclusions. He'd make a few arguments, hear a few counter-arguments, and just stop there. He'd refuse to read books. He'd refuse to answer questions. He'd refuse to answer criticisms. He'd misunderstand the same point in the same way, repeatedly, even after multiple clarifications. When I brought this up, I was banned instead of answered. I could deal with all those flaws if he'd continue to engage in discussion, but he won't.

I've developed an approach I call Paths Forward for how to take discussions to conclusions. One can always take discussions to conclusions and address all criticism in a timely manner! Isn't that great? Binswanger wasn't interested. He doesn't want to write down his views in public, endorse good writing by others, expose all this to public judgment, and then work to improve his system of ideas to deal with critical challenges. He's content to think he's right, according to his own system of rationalizations, and refuse to deal with mistakes that people point out.

I have an epistemology which gives absolute yes/no answers instead of concluding with the vague maybes that Binswanger favors. Binswanger, like Peikoff, says ideas have a status like possibly, probably or certainly true, rather than dealing decisively with absolutes like true or false. I explained how we can always achieve an up-or-down verdict on an idea in a timely manner. Binswanger wasn't interested.

I say one must address every criticism of one's ideas. I talk about how this can be done without taking up too much time. Binswanger wasn't interested. He felt bad and banned me. What does AR say?

At their first encounter with modern philosophy [like Kant], many people make the mistake of dropping it and running, with the thought: “I know it’s false, but I can’t prove it. I know something’s wrong there, but I can’t waste my time and effort trying to untangle it.” Here is the danger of such a policy: ...

Even if I was advocating Kant (the worst of the worst), AR would say to answer my arguments!

Why bother dealing with criticism? Because you have no way to know which ideas are true or false if you don't. And:

What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an “open mind,” but an active mind—a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically.

Critical discussion is just what I advocated and emphasized, and Binswanger banned me to avoid. I was eager to examine ideas; Binswanger was unwilling.

An active mind does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them.

AR is saying to pursue ideas to the point of actually reaching answers! Don't just stop in the middle! That's what I attempted. Binswanger faked it. He announced some conclusions (I'm wrong!) that he hadn't rationally reached. (What was I wrong about? He declared I was wrong in the middle of the discussion, then didn't allow me to speak further.)

Since it is able to prove its convictions, an active mind achieves an unassailable certainty in confrontations with assailants—a certainty untainted by spots of blind faith, approximation, evasion and fear.

This is what I do and have achieved. I deal with all criticism, and have no fear of it. I have no need to dismiss ideas without answering them because I have answers.

People are welcome to try to assail my ideas. That helps me learn. I've now become familiar with all the common assaults. I learned answers to them or, in some cases, changed my mind.

I wish I could find critics with ideas that would take more effort to answer. Unlike Binswanger, I'd love that. It's one of the things I hoped to find at HBL. I seek out criticism that will require effort for me to address. I seek out challenging ideas.

If you keep an active mind, you will discover (assuming that you started with common-sense rationality) that every challenge you examine will strengthen your convictions, that the conscious, reasoned rejection of false theories will help you to clarify and amplify the true ones, that your ideological enemies will make you invulnerable by providing countless demonstrations of their own impotence.

That's been exactly my experience. But Binswanger banned me rather than deal with a challenge.

No, you will not have to keep your mind eternally open to the task of examining every new variant of the same old falsehoods. You will discover that they are variants or attacks on certain philosophical essentials—and that the entire, gigantic battle of philosophy (and of human history) revolves around the upholding or the destruction of these essentials. You will learn to recognize at a glance a given theory’s stand on these essentials, and to reject the attacks without lengthy consideration—because you will know (and will be able to prove) in what way any given attack, old or new, is made of contradictions and “stolen concepts.”

Of course! If criticisms get repetitive, come up with counter-arguments which address entire categories of criticism at once. Then write them down and re-use them. Learn to recognize when ideas make known errors which already have a written refutation, then give a reference instead of writing something new. This is what I advocate and do, but Binswanger couldn't or wouldn't do it.

Philosophical rationalizations are not always easy to detect. Some of them are so complex that an innocent man may be taken in and paralyzed by intellectual confusion.

I agree. But Binswanger finds it offensive to say you think someone is rationalizing or evading, and explain your reasoning. What's offensive about trying to share useful information about a difficult problem? He doesn't want criticism to tarnish his reputation and he doesn't want to reconsider his ideas.

if the false premises of an influential philosopher are not challenged, generations of his followers—acting as the culture’s subconscious—milk them down to their ultimate consequences.

I challenged Binswanger, who is influential in Objectivist circles, and he banned me for challenging him. One of his excuses was that some of his followers had been complaining. He's attracted followers who don't like challenges, and he tries to please them. (Several people contacted me with positive messages. I think they're too intimidated to tell Binswanger what they think.)

If, in the course of philosophical detection, you find yourself, at times, stopped by the indignantly bewildered question: “How could anyone arrive at such nonsense?”—you will begin to understand it when you discover that evil philosophies are systems of rationalization.

AR's position is like my position, which Binswanger opposed: Rational thinking centers around error correction!

How's it the same? AR says "evil", I say "irrational" and consider irrationality evil. AR says "systems of rationalization", and I know those prevent correcting errors.

AR and I agree: it's the blocking of discussion, the refusal to think about criticism, that's really evil and irrational. That's how people not only arrive at nonsense, but keep believing it over time.

I'd be happy to forgive Binswanger a thousand misconceptions. What ruins him is that he approaches philosophy with an elaborate system for refusing to deal with criticism. He's set things up so that when he's wrong, he stays wrong.

A “closed mind” is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices—and emotions. But this is not a “closed” mind, it is a passive one. It is a mind that has dispensed with (or never acquired) the practice of thinking or judging, and feels threatened by any request to consider anything.

Binswanger has a passive mind. Rather than be curious about new ideas, he bans them. Rather than actively consider challenging ideas, Binswanger passively, stubbornly clings to a mix of unwarranted assumptions, catch phrases, prejudices, mistakes – and emotions. Binswanger doesn't pursue ideas to conclusions, so he's missing out on the limitless possibilities of The Beginning of Infinity.

Binswanger Quotes

Here's a brief sample of what Binswanger said on his forum over the last month. (His italics, my bold.)

There's no computation done anywhere outside the human mind. Even computers don't actually compute. In philosophy, we have to speak literally, not metaphorically.

He refused to explain what he means.

I think that it is unquestionable that counting is a simple operation. And it is unquestionable that an adult who adds, with reasonable care, 2 to 3 cannot be mistaken about what the answer is.

(He clarified that he declares it irrational to question the ideas he declares "unquestionable".)

Counting is a physical process which occurs in reality, so how simple it is depends on the laws of physics (and the method used). Physics is not only questionable, it's highly controversial.

it is impossible that I could be mistaken in saying “Two plus three is five.”

The obvious fact is that ... “2 + 3 = 5” cannot be wrong.

That's a tiny sample of his many infallibilist claims. Meanwhile he cast doubt on his own understanding of numbers:

it is widely believed that there’s a number like: 10^100^100. There isn’t.

He also has a problem with infinity.

[The claim that] You can’t guarantee that you reached your decision rationally. [That claim is] false. You can and had damn well better be sure you reached your decision rationally.

He thinks he can't be mistaken about whether his thinking is rational. He claims an infallible guarantee letting him ignore all criticism of his rationality.

Although I hesitate to use terms from an alien context, the closest, of the conventional terms, for the Objectivist semi-position on the mind-brain issue is “property dualism.”

... I’m not sure, myself, whether or not the issue is exclusively scientific.

What I'm resisting is the idea that on the subconscious side there is some unconscious equivalent of computing, judging, deciding. There isn't and couldn't be.

Addition is an action of consciousness.

He thinks the subconscious is like a hard drive that doesn't do any thinking or even compute any algorithms like addition.

Mr. Temple raises the question of how knowledge arises from non-knowledge. It doesn’t.

Also, when you write that you are not “afraid” of the arbitrary, I think you should be. If arbitrary assertions are good until refuted, nothing can be refuted.

positive support comes down to sameness; non-contradiction comes down to difference.

A child pushes a ball and sees it start to move. That is positive support for “Pushing balls makes them move.”

He's a naive inductivist. You look at the world and you see what causes what (somehow).

Now what can epistemology say about the [process of selecting ideas]? Several things, but none that will result in an algorithm, i.e., a mechanically applicable formula replacing judgment.

He presupposes an intelligent consciousness using intelligent judgment as the base of his epistemology. We know by using our intelligent judgment to know! He has no answers to how an intelligent consciousness actually works.

Conclusions

Ayn Rand wrote in The Virtue of Selfishness, How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?:

One must never fail to pronounce moral judgment.
...
to pronounce moral judgment is an enormous responsibility. To be a judge, one must possess an unimpeachable character; one need not be omniscient or infallible, and it is not an issue of errors of knowledge; one needs an un-breached integrity, that is, the absence of any indulgence in conscious, willful evil. ...
... A judge puts himself on trial every time he pronounces a verdict. ... a man is to be judged by the judgments he pronounces.
...
The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.”
...
When one pronounces moral judgment, whether in praise or in blame, one must be prepared to answer “Why?” and to prove one’s case—to oneself and to any rational inquirer.
...
Moral values are the motive power of a man’s actions. By pronouncing moral judgment, one protects the clarity of one’s own perception and the rationality of the course one chooses to pursue. ...
Observe how many people evade, rationalize and drive their minds into a state of blind stupor, in dread of discovering that those they deal with—their “loved ones” or friends or business associates or political rulers—are not merely mistaken, but evil. Observe that this dread leads them to sanction, to help and to spread the very evil whose existence they fear to acknowledge.

I judge Harry Binswanger to be immoral. He lacks patience, curiosity, honesty and precision. He wants to tell others what to think and be admired, but doesn't want to learn. He has a system of rationalizations instead of an active mind. He calls his ideas obvious and unquestionable, and claims infallibility, to evade critical debate. He doesn't know how to resolve disagreements, judge ideas, or reach conclusions. He bans dissent that he emotionally dislikes.

If you have questions, criticism, or doubts, write them in the comments below. Don't just tell yourself that I'm mistaken and evade my counter-arguments. Either pursue the issue to a conclusion or don't judge it.

I'll close with Atlas Shrugged (my bold):

There were people who had listened, but now hurried away, and people who said, "It's horrible!"—"It's not true!"—"How vicious and selfish!"—saying it loudly and guardedly at once, as if wishing that their neighbors would hear them, but hoping that Francisco would not.

"Senor d'Anconia," declared the woman with the earrings, "I don't agree with you!"

"If you can refute a single sentence I uttered, madame, I shall hear it gratefully."

"Oh, I can't answer you. I don't have any answers, my mind doesn't work that way, but I don't feel that you're right, so I know that you're wrong."

"How do you know it?"

"I feel it. I don't go by my head, but by my heart. You might be good at logic, but you're heartless."

"Madame, when we'll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won't be of any earthly use to save them. And I'm heartless enough to say that when you'll scream, 'But I didn't know it!'—you will not be forgiven."

Update: I've been banned from reading HBL for writing this post. Binswanger offered no explanation or reply.


Elliot Temple on November 20, 2016

Comments (47)

> I've developed an approach I call Paths Forward for how to take discussions to conclusions. One can always take discussions to conclusions and address all criticism in a timely manner!

I agree that all discussions can be taken to conclusion and all criticism can be addressed.
I'm unsure about it always being done in "a timely manner!"

There's a lot of things that can make it take a long time, even when everyone involved is actively trying to pursue discussion and not evading. Maybe there's a lot of points of disagreement. Maybe some of the people discussing doesn't know how to state what they think precisely (I think this is often the case when someone has a "feeling" that something is wrong).

Anonymous at 2:28 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7684
I think some of the language Rand uses is (taken out of context) compatible with infallibility (such as talking about absolutes, like A is A).

I don't think she is infalliblist, she often refers to fallibility and error-correction. But if someone doesn't read her very carefully or doesn't make the connection that advocating both absolutes and fallibility means she can't be talking about infallible absolutes, a mistake like infalliblism could slip in.

And once that seed of infallibility is sown, it becomes hard to correct because it protects itself from criticism as Binswanger demonstrates.

Could be useful to have a clear Rand source, focused specifically on fallibility, for arguments like that.

But that would be pandering to their need for their idea to come from a source they consider "right". If they'll only take the idea seriously from her and not from someone they don't like, is it worth trying to get through to them like that?

Anonymous at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7685
> Maybe some of the people discussing doesn't know how to state what they think precisely

it's never a good idea to act on an idea you have a criticism of. not knowing what your idea is is a criticism.

timely means a variety of things including that dealing with criticism isn't a waste of time. and that rational people, who know the right methods, can find mutually agreeable ways to proceed, without fighting, fast enough they aren't like "that would take too long, let's fight instead". think a few minutes, not a few years.

Anonymous at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7686
I think Rand is a fallibilist but:

- she often uses terminology that normally refers to infallibilism in our culture, such as "certain", "prove" and "self-evident". even the word "knowledge" is infallibilist in our culture (the standard "justified, true belief" meaning is infallibilist).

- she emphasized fallibility considerably less than some other points such as that we *can* know.

- yeah, Rand's comments relating to error correction are easy to miss, or not understand in depth, for someone who doesn't know about it another way

- in our culture, more or less everyone is an infallibilist so it takes a huge effort (e.g. Popper's level of emphasis, or naming your website "Fallible Ideas") to be interpreted as a fallibilist. at which point many people will be confused about what fallibilism is or call you a skeptic.

- Binswanger and some others redefine the word "fallibility" to a non-standard, limited meaning. I don't think Rand did that. They also redefine the word "possible". stuff like this made discussions take longer and then they got impatient with problems they caused!

- clear Rand fallibilism quotes: http://fallibleliving.com/essays/epistemology/135-rand-and-fallibilism (i don't think posting these great quotes at a permalink constitutes pandering!)

- Rand was sloppy about fallibilism sometimes.

http://www.peikoff.com/courses_and_lectures/philosophy-of-objectivism/

lecture 12

in the Q&A, Rand said her husband could "infallibly" know what music or art she'd like, but please no one else send her stuff, they get it wrong so much.

Anonymous at 3:05 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7687
> not knowing what your idea is is a criticism.

Knowing how to explicitly state your idea is not the same as knowing what your idea is.

Babies don't know how to state their ideas explicitly. That doesn't mean they don't know what their ideas are.

> timely means a variety of things including that dealing with criticism isn't a waste of time.

Ah, so it's timely as in a good use of time, even if it takes a lot of time.

Anonymous at 3:06 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7688
> - clear Rand fallibilism quotes: http://fallibleliving.com/essays/epistemology/135-rand-and-fallibilism (i don't think posting these great quotes at a permalink constitutes pandering!)

Fairly good link. But:
"how to validate his conclusions"
Validate is also connected to trying to prove things. Could also be easily taken to mean to validate them *after* reaching them, ie rationalisation.

I'm not sure what validation means in a falliblist context. I guess something like: thoroughly test them and understand them, compare with competing conclusions. So if they survive reality and criticism, they're valid.

> http://www.peikoff.com/courses_and_lectures/philosophy-of-objectivism/
From the link:
"This course on Objectivism was originally given in 1976, with Ayn Rand’s endorsement and in her presence. But it has now been superseded by my book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand."

Why do you link to the course rather than the book? Does the course have significant added content?

Anonymous at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7689
it can take a lot of time to learn new stuff, e.g. new scientific discoveries. but you don't need to learn those to act in your life now.

it doesn't take so long to deal with criticism people have that you already know enough to answer.

if you're an adult who is fluent in language and you don't know how to state your idea, that's a criticism of acting on the idea or believing you're right. in the case of a baby, there is a counter-criticism available that he can't state anything in language so that's no reason to reject this particular idea. in some circumstances with adults, there are counter-criticisms too.

and you can make meta ideas you do precisely understand, e.g. "i don't have a clear idea of what to do about X, and i don't have time to consider it more, so i'll do Y which vaguely seems plausible". and have no criticism of that.

Anonymous at 3:58 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7690
> Why dual major in both like John Galt?

huh?

Anonymous at 4:01 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7691
> > Why dual major in both like John Galt?

> huh?

John Galt dual majored in physics and philosophy. So did Francisco d'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjöld.

curi at 4:14 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7692
> Why do you link to the course rather than the book? Does the course have significant added content?

Because I was giving a source for something which is from the course, not the book. AR didn't speak in a Q&A period in the book.

Anonymous at 4:15 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7693
> if you're an adult who is fluent in language and you don't know how to state your idea, that's a criticism of acting on the idea or believing you're right.

I don't see how. How does the lack of explicit form of the idea make it bad?

Flaws with an idea such as some way it is ineffective, or some harm it does to you or some way it violates your principles, are reasons not to act on it. Not having an explicit form doesn't guarantee any of those flaws.

Yes, error-correction is easier with explicit forms. It defines them more clearly, helps others criticise them. It's worth making them explicit to help error-correction.

But unless there's some problem the idea causes, I don't see the lack of explicit form as a reason not to act on it.

Do you explicitly define the way in which you use your muscles to swallow? Or is it not worth it, because the way you swallow seems to work fine and doesn't cause you any problems?

Anonymous at 4:32 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7694
> How does the lack of explicit form of the idea make it bad?

it makes it much harder to expose to criticism from other people. also yourself. also much harder to coordinate with other people about it. in many (not all) contexts it's a bad idea to proceed using ideas like that, especially contexts where something is problematic (unlike the swallowing thing).

Anonymous at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2016 | #7695
I agree, but that depends on judging *which* contexts it's a bad idea in, *which* contexts are problematic.

I would definitely say legal ideas should be made explicit. The potential harm if the lawmaker doesn't make them explicit is huge. As covered in Atlas Shrugged.

Anything involving dangerous equipment, toxic chemicals, warfare would also be a problematic.

But eg if playing a video game, it's faster to just try ideas and see what happens. Then if problems come up, a strategy doesn't work or seems inefficient, making it explicit helps to improve it.

Anonymous at 3:42 AM on November 21, 2016 | #7696

update: banned from reading HBL

i updated to post to add that, after writing this post, i've been banned from reading HBL too.

curi at 10:54 PM on November 21, 2016 | #7699
> update: banned from reading HBL
> i updated to post to add that, after writing this post, i've been banned from reading HBL too.

Is that a loss for you? Would you still find value in continuing to read?

HB might have considered your post hostile since you called him immoral, etc.

Anonymous at 10:04 AM on November 22, 2016 | #7700

Your thoughts on Stefan Molyneux's views on parenting?

I know this is a non-sequitur, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on Stefan Molyneux's views on parenting and how they differ significantly from Taking Children Seriously.

Abe at 3:21 AM on December 5, 2016 | #7801
#7801 is not me.

FF at 3:23 AM on December 5, 2016 | #7802

deFOOing

Alan replying to Lulie on TCS list:

> What is the TCS position on deFOOing?
>
> To 'deFOO' is a word Stefan Molyneux (Randian/libertarian thinker) invented, meaning to cut off ties with one's parents. ('FOO' stands for 'Family Of Origin'.) The argument goes:
>
> 1) Family interaction should be voluntary. (So far, so good.)
>
> 2) Some/most/almost all parents do psychological damage to their children. (Between memes, coercion, and conventional parenting methods, this seems pretty plausible. Even relatively good parents probably do to some extent.)
>
> 3) In situations where the psychological downsides are greater than the upsides of the interaction, one should cut off communication with one's parents.
>
> (Seems non-gradualist, and reminds me of romantic breakups. In most cases, it's not necessary to formally sever contact -- it's better to just not interact with them in particular instances you don't want, and naturally drift apart.)
>
> But what if the parents continue to cause you psychological pain? What if every interaction with them contains unpleasantness? What if they will keep trying to interact with you unless you request them to stop explicitly?

Right. So first the child might try to make suggestions about the issues on which they are unpleasant. Then the child might try not interacting with the with respect to those issues. Then if the parents insist on trying to interact with the child, the child should explain that he doesn't want to interact with them on that issue. Then finally the child might deFOO the parents if they don't stop.

Now a subtlety. I think telling them that as a way of trying to get them to stop the bad behaviour is not a good idea, and the child should try to avoid giving them the impression that it is any sort of punishment. It's not. They're just horrible people and the child doesn't want to deal with them. Punishment doesn't solve problems. If the parent doesn't understand why the child regards X as unsatisfactory then he can't stop doing X because he doesn't know how to work out where the line is between X and non-X.

One reason why Molyneux recommends deFOOing is that he has a non-fallibilist streak where he thinks it's obvious what constitutes coercion and bad behaviour and that the parent should just stop doing it if the child asks them.

Also, it muddies the issue by giving the parents an apparent grievance against the child by his own lights. ("You don't think punishment is good, but you punished me to get me to stop telling you that you're an old hag and you'll soon be a rotting corpse every time you have a birthday.")

> Also, if you're a parent and get deFOOed, what should your reaction be? What is the rational way of thinking about it?

If the parent wants to continue to interact with his child he might ask why he was deFOOed. This should be done in a non-intrusive way (probably e-mail) without any kind of aggression, including passive aggression. If the parent has trouble with this he should ask somebody else to look over what he was planning to write.

The rational way of thinking about it is that the child thinks that he has a valid grievance and that if you want to interact with him you have to address that problem. The parent acted wrongly at least to the extent that he didn't explain his actions in a way that made the child want to remain FOOed.

curi at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2016 | #7804

molyneux vs. privacy and mouth-consent

Jonathan Archer's post on "A Bit of Stefan Molyneux on Parenting etc" on TCS list:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZlt9GA4x04&feature=player_embedded

Some interesting things:

1) first, there's the huge violation of privacy that Stefan is engaging in by broadcasting the details of his daughter's life to the planet. But that's fairly common for parents to do so not worth detaining ourselves much here.

2) It's interesting how he talks about brushing teeth. He's mentions that he's tried explaining the importance a bit, but that he has to coerce her sometimes by threatening to deny her the ability to watch TV shows which give her happiness. On the one hand he's like "she's been perfectly content to brush her teeth", but then mentions how she sometimes complains or objects. Um, why does he think he knows his daughter's pref better than she does, over her repeated and strenuous objections which require force to overcome?

3) overall tho he notes that coercion/discipline isn't needed and that that fits within his philosophical understanding pretty well. that seems good, but, if he takes his philosophy seriously, and as a professional philosopher he seems to, why doesn't he come to the conclusion that it's a bad idea to use force to make kids brush their teeth? he doesn't think its a good idea to use force to pay for like the military! but tooth-brushing necessitates force/violence?

4) he makes the cool point that if a kid works 12 hours a day at figuring out a language, like kids do, its unsurprising they get so good at it. This goes against the standard, non-Popperian view that there's something in kids brains that makes them better at figuring languages out, and thus this point is a good and much-appreciated one that lets of people reject.

Molyneux seems okay, but someone should tell him about TCS! :-)

curi at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2016 | #7805

what if a child wants to stay at a park?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtDjrOxvGbI

molyneux is a big fan of promises. TCS isn't! http://fallibleideas.com/promises

i do agree with some things he said like the parents in lots of these conflicts with their child didn't prepare well and made lots of mistakes in the past.

but then his "solution" to getting a child to leave a park, a toystore, etc, is get the child to promise to leave before you go. this, combined with previous preparation to teach child to obey his promises, will get him to leave. he says this is a way to have "leverage" to get child to leave when parent wants to leave.

this is nothing like common preference finding. it's a way to get child to obey.

one thing TCS would look at is why child is so *deprived of parks in general* that he wants more park right now so badly. TCS would see this child who wants to stay for long periods of time at the park and be like: ok so how can we get the child more park time? e.g. can we start going for 10 hours a day, every day, until child gets his fill of parks and chooses to go less often? (which i'm guessing will only take a few days, but so what if it's longer? parent can easily bring a laptop and iphone to the park.) child likes parks. parent should be looking to go more instead of focusing on how to get child to leave.

TCS would also wonder if child is latching onto park from lack of other good options. maybe child would be less interested in the park if he had an ipad, netflix, and unlimited screen and TV time. and more of a million other good things in his life.

there is a broad issue where parents see a child likes something and then think it's bad and put their effort into limiting it. they do it with parks, toystore visits, candy, video games, TV, etc, etc, etc. and so children end up really starved of good stuff in their lives and often push for more of a good thing when they do get something they like. which brings them into conflict with parents who are focused on limiting stuff child likes.

---

i'm done for now. if you want comments about a particular issue, please state it and give a link (to text over video if that's an option).

curi at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2016 | #7806

Force versus non-enabling.

>3) overall tho he notes that coercion/discipline isn't needed and that that fits within his philosophical understanding pretty well. that seems good, but, if he takes his philosophy seriously, and as a professional philosopher he seems to, why doesn't he come to the conclusion that it's a bad idea to use force to make kids brush their teeth? he doesn't think its a good idea to use force to pay for like the military! but tooth-brushing necessitates force/violence?

Why do you consider not letting the child watch TV force? I can't watch the video, since it's not available anymore, but I would agree with you that something like that could be a kind of manipulation, but I don't think it's force in the same sense as taxation or the military draft.

Abe at 12:37 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7809

Common Preference Finding

> but then his "solution" to getting a child to leave a park, a toystore, etc, is get the child to promise to leave before you go. this, combined with previous preparation to teach child to obey his promises, will get him to leave. he says this is a way to have "leverage" to get child to leave when parent wants to leave.

> this is nothing like common preference finding. it's a way to get child to obey.

Isn't it ahead-of-time common preference finding? You want to go to the park, I don't want to spend all day there, but we're both okay with spending some time there?

Abe at 12:39 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7810
> Why do you consider not letting the child watch TV force?

more or less the same way it'd require force for you to prevent me from watching TV.

Anonymous at 12:45 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7811
> Isn't it ahead-of-time common preference finding? You want to go to the park, I don't want to spend all day there, but we're both okay with spending some time there?

no, it's not a common preference, and there's no attempt to make it one. it's offering the child options the parent selects and pressuring the child to accept them. you can tell it's not actually the child's preference because he'd stay at the park more if he wasn't made to leave. he prefers more park time and doesn't get it. he doesn't see leaving when the parent wants as better in every way for him. the child only leaves early as a compromise, and only "agrees" to the plan, or "promises", in order to be allowed to go to the park some instead of none. the child is making the best of a situation that isn't what he wants.

Anonymous at 12:48 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7812

Promises versus Contracts

Do you believe in contracts? If so, how do they differ from promises? If not, how do you function in society and how would you see the ideal society functioning?

Abe at 12:51 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7813
contracts are fine. telling your child he can only go to the park if he signs a contract is not fine. he's owed basic resources like food, shelter, park time, TV access, internet access, etc without making any concessions.

Anonymous at 1:06 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7814

Common Preference

> no, it's not a common preference, and there's no attempt to make it one. it's offering the child options the parent selects and pressuring the child to accept them. you can tell it's not actually the child's preference because he'd stay at the park more if he wasn't made to leave. he prefers more park time and doesn't get it. he doesn't see leaving when the parent wants as better in every way for him. the child only leaves early as a compromise, and only "agrees" to the plan, or "promises", in order to be allowed to go to the park some instead of none. the child is making the best of a situation that isn't what he wants.

So what would be an example of a common preference in that situation?

Human desires are infinite; isn't "making the best of a situation that isn't what he wants," in that sense, what everyone is always doing?

Abe at 1:08 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7815
what's the problem with getting the child lots of park time in general?

usually parent is not actually focusing on helping child in general. this screws things up.

if parent actually was trying to get child plenty of park time in general (and other stuff child wants) then it'd certainly be possible to tell child about a particular reason parent can't be at the park at a particular time on a particular day. and child could see how it's better not to be at the park then. for example, say parent needs a dentist appointment. child doesn't want parent to be physically harmed. and child can go to the park plenty of other times. so he's happy not to go that one time there is a dentist appointment.

it's not like "i can't go to the park this one time" that children fight with parents over. it's when going to the park is the special exception and parent has a million other things interfering with it and child ends up starved of the park.

if the parent had some good reason not to go to the park a lot, he could explain that to his child, and child could see how it's best to go less often, and could be helped to find plenty of great alternatives.

but what commonly happens is parent simply doesn't want to spend much time at the park and doesn't pay much attention to what his child while there (or really at any time). and the parent doesn't have an alternative, his "solution" is for the child to be deprived of things the child wants. and the parent has no explanation of how this is best for everyone, and it isn't...

Anonymous at 1:15 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7816

Force

>more or less the same way it'd require force for you to prevent me from watching TV.

If the TV is password protected, then I can prevent you from watching my TV without using force against you. Or would you also consider that force? Sure, you could go and watch TV somewhere else, but when a parent stops their child from watching TV, in practice that usually just means stopping them from watching their own TV, as children often don't have other TVs that they have access to.

Abe at 1:17 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7817
you'd need force to prevent me from watching TV on any TV (e.g. mine).

children have a right to basic resources like a TV they have access to (their own TV is good, but if there is a shared TV they are able to use that's OK too). denying them basics like that is force just like denying them food. (there are exceptions for third world poor people and stuff. the context here is Americans who can easily afford TV.)

"no toys allowed" is child abuse, and force. i think people agree on this.

"no internet allowed" is child abuse and force, but people make excuses (especially when the internet is limited heavily, not banned entirely).

stuff like this doesn't let the child live his own life and severely handicaps his learning. it's the parent using his position of power to harm the child.

it's not even like the park issue where the parent wants to get a positive good for himself (e.g. more time elsewhere). no one benefits by denying the child TV, internet, etc. it's controlling the child to control him, not controlling him to try to get the parent something he wants for himself (like e.g. more money to spend on himself instead of child -- a parent wanting more of the budget for himself isn't malice, there's something reasonable and respectable about that. but there are also rich people who deprive their children on purpose, not to have more money for themselves, and that's disgusting and evil.).

Anonymous at 1:25 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7818

Basic Resources

> contracts are fine. telling your child he can only go to the park if he signs a contract is not fine. he's owed basic resources like food, shelter, park time, TV access, internet access, etc without making any concessions.

How do you determine what counts as basic resources? And how much are children owed without concession?

Abe at 1:29 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7819
it's hard to draw an exact line about what children are owed by right, but some things like food and TV are easy in the US today. it's a really basic societal resource with huge value, people can afford it, and someone without it is really deprived and at a large disadvantage in life and for being happy.

TV and internet are information sources and denying them is more or less equivalent to not letting your kid have books.

Anonymous at 1:44 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7820
if you think you have an argument against TV/internet/screens, share it. if you don't have any argument against their immense value, then i'd be a bit confused. like if you recognize they are great and cheap, why NOT provide them?

Anonymous at 1:45 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7821

Park Time

>what's the problem with getting the child lots of park time in general?

That's a separate question. I am just trying to understand how a common preference is, in principle, distinct from the "agreement" described.

> usually parent is not actually focusing on helping child in general. > this screws things up.
> if parent actually was trying to get child plenty of park time in general (and other stuff child wants) then it'd certainly be possible to tell child about a particular reason parent can't be at the park at a particular time on a particular day. and child could see how it's better not to be at the park then. for example, say parent needs a dentist appointment. child doesn't want parent to be physically harmed. and child can go to the park plenty of other times. so he's happy not to go that one time there is a dentist appointment.
it's not like "i can't go to the park this one time" that children fight with parents over. it's when going to the park is the special exception and parent has a million other things interfering with it and child ends up starved of the park.

> if the parent had some good reason not to go to the park a lot, he could explain that to his child, and child could see how it's best to go less often, and could be helped to find plenty of great alternatives.

> but what commonly happens is parent simply doesn't want to spend much time at the park and doesn't pay much attention to what his child while there (or really at any time). and the parent doesn't have an alternative, his "solution" is for the child to be deprived of things the child wants. and the parent has no explanation of how this is best for everyone, and it isn't...

This certainly could be, but I don't see how this helps us determine whether something is a common preference or merely the child making the best of a situation that isn't what he wants.

Abe at 3:37 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7822

Value of TV, etc.

> if you think you have an argument against TV/internet/screens, share it. if you don't have any argument against their immense value, then i'd be a bit confused. like if you recognize they are great and cheap, why NOT provide them?

If it comes down to this then your disagreement with Stefan isn't over parenting, per se, but over the value of TV in what quantities and what contexts. Does this seem accurate to you?

It seems to me that the value of watching television (and other "basic resources") could plausibly be context dependent. Stefan's parenting could easily be explained by him believing that watching television instead of brushing teeth is of so small (or even negative) value that he doesn't owe it to his children.

Abe at 3:52 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7823
a common preference is something everyone involved prefers. prefers means FULLY prefers -- no downsides, no compromises, etc. they think it's BEST, they have NO CRITICISMS of it.

going to the park for 2 hours b/c your mom wouldn't take you for 4 hours is a compromise, not something the child actually prefers. if mom said "actually we can go for 4 hours" then child would say "great". if 2 hours was actually a common preference, and mom said "actually we can do 4 hours" then child would say "why?" or "what about [the reason 2 hours was best]?" if 2 hours was a common preference, child would need to be given new information to want 4 hours other than 4 hours being allowed so he could see 4 hours is better than 2, cuz for 2 hours to be a common preference child has to actually think 2 hours is best.

Anonymous at 4:16 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7824
> If it comes down to this then your disagreement with Stefan isn't over parenting, per se, but over the value of TV in what quantities and what contexts. Does this seem accurate to you?

no, it's both.

if child wants TV and you can afford it, then he gets to watch it. even if TV sucks. it's HIS LIFE, HIS CHOICE. he has a right to some money/resources, so anything that's cheap and child considers very important is something TCS says child should get. it doesn't even matter if TV is very good or not.

if parent thinks TV's bad, like with most things, he can give *advice* but it's not the parent's place to control the child. note the purpose of advice is *the child's benefit* -- it ought to be advice the child finds helpful from his own perspective, not lecturing/pressuring about the parent's goals.

there are no grey areas involved here, such as child wanting parent's help to break the law (some laws are stupid and minor and parent should help child, some illegal things parent should absolutely refuse, and some are rather grey/tricky and they'll have to come up with something to do in a discussion).

and TV doesn't even require much time/attention/help from the parent. it's not like going to the park with child where the parent has to go somewhere. it's so easy to provide and (most) children love it so much.

stefan's attitude is really unlike TCS's. he doesn't e.g. notice a child likes something and look for ways to provide more of it. he doesn't know anything about common preferences. he doesn't view children as full human beings with full rights who have lives of their own which the parent helps with.

Anonymous at 4:28 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7825

Transaction vs. CP

#7824
> going to the park for 2 hours b/c your mom wouldn't take you for 4 hours is a compromise, not something the child actually prefers. if mom said "actually we can go for 4 hours" then child would say "great". if 2 hours was actually a common preference, and mom said "actually we can do 4 hours" then child would say "why?" or "what about [the reason 2 hours was best]?" if 2 hours was a common preference, child would need to be given new information to want 4 hours other than 4 hours being allowed so he could see 4 hours is better than 2, cuz for 2 hours to be a common preference child has to actually think 2 hours is best.

I think this is a good contrast of the common preference (CP) with the transaction model. I want to give an example to see if I have it right.

Once in a transaction where negotiation is normal and expected, a seller was offering an item I was interested in for price X. I did some analysis and arrived at the conclusion that the item was worth about 0.9 X.

I offered to buy at a price of 0.8 X, expecting to negotiate and either arrive at 0.9 X or below, or if seller was not willing to go to 0.9 X or below, then I wouldn't buy the item.

Instead of negotiating, seller simply rejected my offer with no counter-offer. I guessed that maybe he had another higher offer already, or maybe he thought my offer was insultingly low, or whatever...just move on. This is also fairly common with items of this type if you're "doing it right".

6 weeks later, the seller re-lists the (exactly same) item for a price 0.7 X. Nothing appreciable had changed about the item or the market - it was still worth 0.9 X by my calculation. An important detail is that between acceptance and closing of the sale for this type of item there's an inspection period, so I was able to verify that indeed nothing had changed with the item from when I had assessed it before.

So I immediately made a full price offer of 0.7 X, was accepted by the seller and bought the item.

I didn't care or ask the seller why he refused my original 0.8 X price offer.

I didn't care or ask the seller why he didn't just come back to me when he decided to lower his price, with the offer that I buy at the 0.8 X price that I'd originally offered. If he had done so, I would have immediately accepted.

I didn't care or ask the seller what he thought changed between when he thought 0.8 X was too low to even bother negotiating with, and offering to sell at 0.7 X.

I of course cared, but didn't mention to the seller that by my calculations the item was worth 0.9 X.

...etc. I only cared about my end of the deal (how much I was paying and what I was getting). And my end was GREAT so I was happy.

I do think that the seller probably behaved stupidly. But maybe not, maybe something changed about his circumstances that he needed the quick sale to a highly motivated buyer that drastically underpricing the asset would cause.

Whether he behaved stupidly or not, I think this exemplifies the transaction model of interaction:
I try to do the best for me, let the other guy worry about what's best for him, and figure that combination will approximate what's "best" overall.

Whereas if I'd been trying to use the CP model, I would have originally offered and argued my case that 0.9 X was the right price, instead of offering less than I thought was right and expecting to negotiate to what I thought was right. I would have also cared about the seller's argument that the right price was actually X. And 6 weeks later I would have needed to be convinced that now the right price was 0.7 X before agreeing to it instead of 0.9 X. For example, I'd have wanted to know & understand & agree that seller's circumstances had changed and it was reasonable for it to be important to him to close quickly with a buyer who was motivated to do whatever it took to get the deal done.

Is that right?

PAS at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2016 | #7827
as far as you know, the purchase for .7x is a CP -- everyone involved prefers it.

if there's a problem he wanted your help with, it was his responsibility to express it to you. you'd then have options like to help, to tell him to deal with it on his own, or to walk away.

in general when dealing with strangers, you hold up your end (don't do anything you don't prefer) and they hold up their end.

when dealing with your own child, that's common too.

but there are situations like your child wants to go to the park for 4 hours, and you say no. and the child wants more information about how going for only 2 hours is better, so he can like it. so then you provide that information and persuade your child how great the 2 hour park visit is in this case. so then if you want to change it, you'd have to provide more information again. whereas if 2 hours was a compromise, then parent could change it back to 4 hours with no pushback.

this may be clearer with some specifics. for example, child knows parent isn't very busy and watches TV 5 hours a day. child knows parent has a laptop he could put most of his TV shows on, but parent is lazy. child thinks parent doesn't want to go to the park because he's bored at the park because he chooses not to bring his TV to the park. child sees that parent isn't making a reasonable effort (watch the same TV at a different location) to help child. so when parent says no to 4 hours of park on a particular day, child's initial guess is this is NOT BEST. so child isn't happy with it. parent then asks child to promise to leave after 2 hours. child knows he can either say he promises or get a lecture and no park, so he says he promises. child learns promises are a tool for those in power to control weaker persons in a way with one-sided benefit instead of mutual benefit. child finds himself helpless to fight back and get what he wants, and so he compromises and tries to cope.

in a common preference finding family, child is used to getting what he wants and expects it. when told only 2 hours of park today, not 4, he might just accept it and do one of the many other great options he has. but the scenario is about a park dispute. so we'll say child is especially enthusiastic about the park today, really wants to go for 4 hours, and expresses this to his parent. so parent is like "only 2 hours today, OK?" and child is like "actually i REALLY want to go to the park today. i spent all last night planning things i want to do at the park. i'm really excited to try them. i brainstormed so many great ideas. and i know it'll take way more than 2 hours. can you please adjust things so we can go for 4 hours?" and parent is like "ok wow, that sounds like a big deal, i can reschedule my dentist appointment." oh you want the child to be denied? ok fine, parent is like, "i'm really sorry but my brother was hit by a bus yesterday and we've organized shifts to stay at the hospital so he has someone watching the hospital staff to make sure they don't make some huge easily-detectable errors or forget about him." so child is like "wow that sounds so important, you better go, i don't want my uncle to die or be crippled for life because of a hospital mixup, and even without that it's good for him to have company now. can i go too? i'll think of some ways to entertain him!" and so then they go to the park in the morning because another relative is at the hospital. and they're planning to go to the hospital straight from the park, after 2 hours. and they are going to leave in 10 minutes, and parent says ... "actually want to stay here another 2 hours?" child does not fucking say "yeah, cool, i like the park, more park would be fun."

curi at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2016 | #7828
> but there are situations like your child wants to go to the park for 4 hours, and you say no.

Are there example situations with strangers it would make sense to discuss this about? Or does this sort of situation *only* occur with someone you have a close relationship to like spouse / child?

PAS at 5:47 PM on December 6, 2016 | #7830
problem solving for mutual benefit is often done with strangers.

for example, Harry Binswanger had a problem. he attracted an audience to his forum that doesn't like to manage their own reading, and instead wants their preferred portions fed to them with no extra for them to have to choose not to read. he didn't write any guidelines or rules about posting volume. i posted too much for his audience for a few days in a row. he contacted me about this problem, told me what the problem was, and proposed a solution -- that both of us reply to each other less frequently. i agreed. (most common preference finding only has a small number of steps and is pretty easy. when you discuss back and forth a bunch is the harder less common cases.)

i could have proposed a different solution i thought was better for both of us, had i thought of one, and he could have agreed to that. that could have been a good outcome too. this was worth some time and attention from me because i wanted to use the forum. it was worth some time and attention from Binswanger because he wanted some of my content on the forum and also wants to have reasonable policies and not just ban someone for posting a bunch with no warning, written rules, or problem solving attempts (which would alienate not just me but many other forum members.)

if it's like a total stranger, then we'd only talk about something if there was actually a reason to. normally we'd just go our separate ways b/c neither of us cares about any joint interaction.

curi at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2016 | #7831
> for example, Harry Binswanger had a problem. he attracted an audience to his forum that doesn't like to manage their own reading, and instead wants their preferred portions fed to them with no extra for them to have to choose not to read. he didn't write any guidelines or rules about posting volume. i posted too much for his audience for a few days in a row. he contacted me about this problem, told me what the problem was, and proposed a solution -- that both of us reply to each other less frequently. i agreed.

OK, let's push on this scenario a bit.

Suppose HB had started replying to you more frequently than agreed but still at a frequency at or below what you'd originally wanted.

You notice the increased frequency and...? I'm guessing you'd ask HB about the agreement to reply to each other less often.

Assume you did ask about that, and HB says something like "Oh, don't worry about that any more. Just reply as much as you want."

Do you press? Do you gotta know why HB changed his mind about the reply frequency?

Or do you just enjoy the fact that the frequency is back to more what you wanted in the first place?

PAS at 8:17 PM on December 6, 2016 | #7832
> You notice the increased frequency and...? I'm guessing you'd ask HB about the agreement to reply to each other less often.

no, i'd ignore it. (btw he actually did this, and i did ignore it.) i'd only talk about it more with someone i thought was better and more capable of productive, rational problem solving. with sucky people you don't know well, you have to use a lot of cultural defaults like trying to leave each other alone.

> Assume you did ask about that, and HB says something like "Oh, don't worry about that any more. Just reply as much as you want."

> Do you press?

if it was a reasonable person, who i was actually trying to talk to stuff about, i'd press that issue. their "nvm" statement wouldn't make any sense to me.

Anonymous at 8:46 PM on December 6, 2016 | #7833
> > Assume you did ask about that, and HB says something like "Oh, don't worry about that any more. Just reply as much as you want."
> > Do you press?
>
> if it was a reasonable person, who i was actually trying to talk to stuff about, i'd press that issue. their "nvm" statement wouldn't make any sense to me.

I was hoping to find out if we disagree about an aspect of how to treat strangers. Because if we do disagree, we can then talk about that disagreement without all of the extra baggage that goes along with family and parent/child relationships getting in the way.

I think such a discussion could go a lot better than one involving family.

I think your response here means that we do disagree. But it's still not clear. Mostly because I think in actual practice it's hard to find a more "reasonable person" than HB outside of FI, and if you weren't "actually trying to talk to stuff about" with HB I don't understand what you were doing. But I'm guessing those confusions don't matter a bunch to the question of whether there's a disagreement here.

Since I'm not clear on whether we disagree I'll state my position as if I were in your shoes, and then you can let me know if you disagree with it.

If it were me, I wouldn't need to press HB (or anyone else in the same position) for an explanation of him being OK with it before resuming the previous (higher) response rate.

I would, at most, have idle curiosity about the explanation. What I mean by idle curiosity is: I would be interested to know why HB changed his mind about the reply rate, in case he actually solved his problem some useful way that I could learn from. On the off chance that in the future I encounter the same or similar problem and might be able to apply that solution to it myself, knowing it could be useful. So I might ask about the explanation if the social vibrations of the situation seemed right to ask at some point.

What I absolutely would not do, and what I think (but am not sure) you advocate, is "internalize" HB's problem, make it in some sense my own problem, and require it to be solved before preferring to resume my original response rate.

I wouldn't need to know that HB had actually solved his problem before permitting the higher response rate. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. Maybe he noticed a downside to the lower response rate, decided that some problems just aren't solveable and this is one of those times, just gave up on solving it and said "do what you want".

Regardless of his reason, the fact that HB permitted a higher response rate would be enough for me to resume the higher rate.

My reasoning is that HB's response rate problem is not my problem. It never was, and didn't become my problem just because HB told me about it as the reason for requesting a lower response rate.

Accepting the lower response rate was merely my personal best known alternative (the other being, stop replying altogether) when HB said he was unwilling to continue at the higher rate. Once the constraint of HB's demand for a lower response rate was removed by HB himself, for WHATEVER reason (including giving up on problem solving), then my best known alternative resumes to the higher response rate.

Am I correct to assume that we have a disagreement here?

PAS at 8:40 AM on December 7, 2016 | #7834
> I think your response here means that we do disagree. But it's still not clear. Mostly because I think in actual practice it's hard to find a more "reasonable person" than HB outside of FI, and if you weren't "actually trying to talk to stuff about" with HB I don't understand what you were doing.

oh. i did actually try to talk to him *about philosophy*. but not about my list posting practices or schedule. in that case, he talked to me about that, i listened and agreed to something, but i didn't try to argue a disagreement about that topic or explain myself, which i don't think would have gone well.

---

if i care about a problem -- such as not harming a group i'm participating at or not causing problems that could get me banned other than dissent about Objectivism -- then i'm not going to accept "it's ok to do X" as an arbitrary assertion when i think doing X is NOT OK.

> My reasoning is that HB's response rate problem is not my problem.

it is if i want to continue using HBL. it is if he's mistaken that posting more is OK and quickly bans me for doing what he said was OK (not exactly an unpredictable or unexpected outcome when he says it's OK to do something and my best understanding is it will cause more than enough trouble for him to want to ban me.)

and i need a mental model of what HBL is like to participate there. when he said to post less, i updated my mental model. when he hypothetically says nvm post all you want, now my mental model *doesn't make sense*. i have to fix that to know how to proceed. i'm lost without a coherent understanding of what's going on.

curi at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2016 | #7835
HBL is not designed and set up in a way i agree with. but given it is a certain thing, i really did prefer to accommodate that. i wanted to make my posts fit the venue. i took a variety of steps to do this including making an effort to follow HBL's punctuation and quoting style guidelines and ethos.

i think it's reasonable and sensible to go along with existing cultural choices of a group that i go to, as long as it doesn't ruin discussion, rather than cause conflict over stuff of relatively minor importance. and i expect people coming to my groups to do the same, e.g. to use my quotation format.

there are some things i wouldn't accommodate. such as their apparent anti-criticism ethos. but lower posting volume doesn't cross some major line, i can accommodate that (as long as it means having the same discussions over a longer time period. if it's a covert way to change the nature and course of discussions, such as ending them after a smaller number of back-and-forths, then that wouldn't be OK and i would write meta-criticism of that.)

curi at 1:41 PM on December 7, 2016 | #7836

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)