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Valuing Criticism

I wrote to the Fallible Ideas discussion group:

this reminds me of a question: did you find many mistakes in Mises and others when reading them?

Zyn Evam replied (all green quotes):

not many :/

better discuss more!!!!!

and study critical thinking (a branch of philosophy) more!!

how should I do that? what is the best way?

write short posts to FI. daily.

there is no study guide or prepackaged life plan for this. no "learn this then this then this then this and then you're awesome" and you just follow the instructions. you have to lead yourself.

i can give examples of the kinds of things that are good to do. but don't just do my specific examples as if they were a curriculum.

you could talk about what you know and don't know already, and what problems you see with that and what you think is good about it, and ask what problems others see. you could talk about what if anything you think you might need to learn and why.

you could talk about what you think your problems in your life are and your current plans for improving and ask for any better ideas.

One problem I have is not writing much to FI, or writing sporadically, and then stopping. I believe I understand the value of others supplying criticism for my ideas, but I haven't integrated it much with my life. That is not enough. It is not like I feel urged to share my ideas so that others can find faults in them. I think that should be a thing to aim for. I should be excited about others pointing out I am wrong.

It helps to conceptualize "find faults" as "find opportunities for improvement".


It helps to value something highly. Some people value truth, but other values work too. Some people really want to win at video game or sports competitions and they form a good attitude to criticism to help them achieve that goal.

Valuing something highly handles layers of indirection better. If you care a ton about about D, that helps you care about A to help with B to help with C to help with D.

For example, consider a typical person who cares a little about their car and has no interest in paint. Then he won't want to learn about car detailing paints and brushes. He'll only do that if he feels pressured to by e.g. a highly visible scratch. But people who care a ton about their car often form some interest in car-related paint so they can improve their car. And the person who cares even more may learn about mixing custom paint or even manufacturing a new type of paint with different chemistry.

It helps to be interested in stuff in multiple ways. The guy who learns about paint chemistry and manufacturing generally either

1) already had some separate interest in science and business

or

2) he tried looking into them for his car. but once he got started on them, he found he liked them for some reasons independent of his car. so even if he stopped driving and sold his car, he still might continue with them.


It helps to slow down and pay more attention to your life. Try to be consciously aware of what you're doing and intentionally choose it according to some reasoning, rather than get "sucked in" to activities. If you can do that in general with your current activities, it will put you in a better position to make reasoned changes.

Don't try to change everything at once. If you can be more self-aware of your current activities, without changing them, that's a good step. Then you'll be in a better position to evaluate them and decide what, if anything, you actually want to change.


It helps to think about philosophical problems and connections in a regular basis, during your life. Like considering how philosophical issues are relevant to what you're doing and philosophical answers could help with it. You can do this intentionally if it doesn't come naturally to you. E.g. you can take regular 5 minute breaks to do it.

E.g. you could notice you're trying to do something difficult and you want it to work instead of not work, but you have a significant concern that it may not work. Then philosophy about errors is especially relevant. Is there a way to proceed so that error is impossible? Knowing the answer to that matters. If the answer is yes, it'd be good to find out the method. If the answer is no, then is there anything to be done about error besides fatalistically put up with it? etc

Or you could decide you need to learn a new skill for your project. Then philosophy about learning is relevant. Are there better and worse ways to learn? What causes some attempts to learn things to fail? How does one learn faster or better? That's all useful.

Are these kinds of things too abstract for you? You can concretize. The book Understanding Objectivism helps. You can find relevant sections if you search it for terms like "concretize", "concretizing" and "chewing".

Peikoff talked somewhere about his experiences learning from Ayn Rand. She'd tell him an idea, and then he'd go out in the world and notice it in a bunch of places and see it for himself and connect it to a bunch of concretes.


I thought my problem was finding the time. But it has more to do with preferences.

You have something like a prioritized list of stuff you want to do. You look at it and think the stuff above philosophy will take up all your time. You think if you could finish the short term stuff near the top of the list, then you'd have enough time for philosophy.

But you'll always add new things to the list. There's plenty of stuff you could do. So what matters most is how highly prioritized philosophy is. Raising philosophy's prioritization will make a bigger difference than freeing up some time by clearing some things off the list.

Specifically, if you prioritize philosophy above most incoming things being added to your list, then you'll do it often. As a loose approximation, you can think of the incoming new stuff to do as being on a bell curve with a mean of 100 priority and a standard deviation of 15. Then if you prioritize philosophy at 90, it doesn't have much chance. But if you prioritize philosophy at 130, then around 98% of the new additions to your list will be inserted below philosophy.


Elliot Temple on June 13, 2017

Comments (3)

>It helps to conceptualize "find faults" as "find opportunities for improvement"

this only works if you actually have some confidence that you can actually improve.

what if you don't think you will be able to improve? what if you just find problems, and don't have any ideas on how to improve them and make your life better?

Anonymous at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2017 | #8722
> It helps to value something highly.

what if you don't value anything highly? or you don't know what you value?

Anonymous at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2017 | #8723
> what if you just find problems, and don't have any ideas on how to improve them and make your life better?

ask for ideas.

> what if you don't value anything highly?

look around. find stuff. consider stuff. try stuff. see what you like some and try going deeper.

and think about what's worth valuing and why, and include that stuff in your explorations. also include lots of stuff other people value in your explorations.

Anonymous at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2017 | #8724

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)