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Is FI Discussion Mean?

People coming to FI need to recognize they are learning about different ideas and dealing with people who don’t share all their assumptions, culture, and expectations. They must therefore be patient and tolerant. They must expect clashes, misunderstandings, conflict, disagreement, and problems. They must have some strength and tolerance to deal with the Other, to challenge themselves, to move past some minor quibbles, to discuss instead of give up when faced with some major conflict, etc.

People who find FI too mean are simply intolerant of people with a different style than them. They are expecting all discussion of bold new ideas to follow their existing ideas about what patterns of discussion are acceptable or unacceptable. But FI proposes that criticism is crucial to learning, and a helpful gift, rather than mean. If people want to deal with something which is grand, special and different, they can’t also expect it to perfectly fit into their existing life with little effort to understand a different world than what they're used to.

People also need to use judgement. FI discussion isn't a guided tour of the key ideas. Not every reply you receive, from every participant, will be great. It's an open place where anyone can join and talk without gatekeepers trying to decide who is worthy. That lets you in the door and it also lets others who aren't all amazing thinkers or even, necessarily, kind people. So what? Judge which responses have value and respond productively to those. Guide your own discussion by having some goals in mind and pursuing them, rather than getting distracted by whatever happens to come up and offended or disappointed that your aimless discussion hasn't achieved a great aim. And if you don't know how to guide your own activities, or what some good goals would be, ask. If you aren't even willing to talk about problems and ask for help, then you should expect to fail.

Making requests is a good strategy. If you want something, ask for it instead of expecting it by default. Do you want replies to you to be written in a particular style you consider "nice", and not to include some types of statements you find "mean"? Tell us what you want instead of expecting us to read your mind. If you can't figure out and write down what you consider nice or mean, you can't very well expect us to accurately guess it. You are used to dealing with people very similar to you in a tiny social circle who have lots of the same poorly-considered assumptions about life that you do. If you want to be exposed to the broader world, you'll have to think about and communicate your ideas more instead of just taking them for granted.

If you think something's mean, instead of getting offended, quote it and say what you think the problem is. You could be right. Perhaps the author could learn from you. Don't assume they are doing it on purpose out of malice. Ignorance and error are common. And misunderstandings are common. Maybe they were trying to say something else that's different than your interpretation. Maybe they'll apologize, admit they were in a bad mood, and try to do better. Maybe they'll point out and challenge some of your philosophical assumptions that you didn't think about. Find out what happens when you discuss a problem instead of thinking your conclusions (e.g. that something is mean and bad) go without saying.


Elliot Temple on August 5, 2017

Comments (9)

People are used to school where they aren't even supposed to use judgement. If they think some of the school material is bad, they'll be punished for ignoring it and focusing on the part they think is valuable. Schools also punish people for questioning the teacher's ideas and disagreeing. So people aren't very used to rational discussion and they're bad at it. *This is all the more reason for them to be super tolerant and patient, and expect some things to go wrong, and be willing to keep trying!*

Anonymous at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2017 | #8893
It's not very common for people to believe that we're all fallible and it's ok to make mistakes. That we should seek out finding mistakes and delight in finding them and making progress.

Instead, many people believe you should feel bad/ashamed when you make mistakes (especially big ones like those discussed on FI). They also think: when you're having discussions with someone who is focused on criticism / pointing out mistakes, they might very well want/expect you to feel bad, as you would want of them.

It might also work something like this:

Step 1: Someone points out a potential mistake you're making.
Step 2: You become worried (often subconsciously) that the mistake might be true, which is something you should feel bad/ashamed about.
Step 3: Not understanding the ideas behind these emotions, you blame the other person as being mean, to explain why you're having these bad feelings.

Thoughts?

Anon69 at 4:22 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8922
#8922

Some people, after step 1, don't think they *should* feel bad, but feel bad anyway. And they don't blame others. And they stop thinking about the issue so they stop feeling bad.

Anonymous at 4:45 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8923
yeah, I think that happens too.

> People who find FI too mean are simply intolerant of people with a different style than them

So I think this misses the mark for the type of person I described above.

> If you think something's mean, instead of getting offended, quote it and say what you think the problem is.

This doesn't seem like great advice (in the case I describe). It's possible this will eventually lead to them learning about the ideas/issues behind their emotions and mistaken assessment that FI is mean. If the person is very proactive and able to survive the emotional rollercoaster along the way without giving up. But it would be better to focus on ideas related to the main problem: that making mistakes make them feel bad (for various reasons mentioned above, and more).

Sometimes I think that FI is generally going to be a bad time for most people. It's treacherous like going rock climbing without any experience...you'd expect most people to get hurt. There's a bunch of these core ideas and hangups people need to master before participating in freeform / opened ended FI-style discussion.

Anon69 at 6:07 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8924
> Sometimes I think that FI is generally going to be a bad time for most people. It's treacherous like going rock climbing without any experience...you'd expect most people to get hurt. There's a bunch of these core ideas and hangups people need to master before participating in freeform / opened ended FI-style discussion.

it's not that hard. people are bad at it basically on purpose. they don't want to learn those skills. they resist learning those skills. you can offer to explain it and they don't want it. that's why they are bad at them.

Anonymous at 6:40 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8925
> > People who find FI too mean are simply intolerant of people with a different style than them

> So I think this misses the mark for the type of person I described above.

but what you described is an intolerant person. there are other things involved, as usual, but the intolerance is front and center. they think something (criticism) is bad – for some reason – and then they are intolerant of it.

i'm guessing you're just so used to the PC concept of tolerance and intolerance that you didn't think about what the words mean.

Anonymous at 6:43 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8926

FI discussion, Google memo

> Sometimes I think that FI is generally going to be a bad time for most people. It's treacherous like going rock climbing without any experience...you'd expect most people to get hurt. There's a bunch of these core ideas and hangups people need to master before participating in freeform / opened ended FI-style discussion.

So do you think the women who stayed away from their work at Google cuz of the memo were acting correctly? They were offended by criticism of their ideas and stayed away rather than discussing stuff.

oh my god it's turpentine at 10:44 PM on August 9, 2017 | #8927
> it's not that hard. people are bad at it basically on purpose. they don't want to learn those skills. they resist learning those skills. you can offer to explain it and they don't want it

I'd say it's pretty hard if you have an emotional issue related to learning and you don't know how to address/improve the emotions. It's quite an unfortunate catch-22 situation.

If someone worries about making mistakes and feels bad when making them, and they don't want to feel bad, then telling them that they're making a mistake about mistakes is going to be tricky.

> > > People who find FI too mean are simply intolerant of people with a different style than them

> > So I think this misses the mark for the type of person I described above.

> but what you described is an intolerant person. there are other things involved, as usual, but the intolerance is front and center. they think something (criticism) is bad – for some reason – and then they are intolerant of it.

My point was that this sentence and the post in general isn't accounting for what I suspect is a major reason that some people think FI is mean: that people have mistaken ideas and emotional issues related to worrying-about/noticing/making mistakes.

> So do you think the women who stayed away from their work at Google cuz of the memo were acting correctly?

I saw some headlines this week about the google memo thing, but don't really know much about it. I can go read up and come back and/or you can summarize if interested.

Anon69 at 10:16 AM on August 10, 2017 | #8928
> I'd say it's pretty hard if you have an emotional issue related to learning and you don't know how to address/improve the emotions. It's quite an unfortunate catch-22 situation.

It's hard if you're really bad at it. It's not objectively that hard. Those are different things. There are lots of things that are hard even if you're really good at them, like curing cancer or setting up a colony on Mars.

People get stuck. Getting unstuck can be hard. But the difficulty isn't inherent in the field of philosophy, the method of rational, critical discussion, etc. It's important to be clear about the difference between having a hard time with external stuff or internal stuff. A hard time dealing with the world, or a hard time dealing with your messy self.

> that people have mistaken ideas and emotional issues related to worrying-about/noticing/making mistakes.

that wouldn't cause nearly so much trouble if they weren't intolerant about the matter as well.

----

A guy at google got fired for writing a memo saying he values diversity of ideas and free discussion of issues, and making considered arguments regarding biological differences between the sexes. He was called sexist for trying to understand the relevant science and considering non Politically Correct views. The reaction proved his point about Google's PC culture suppressing truth-seeking, open debate, etc.

curi at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2017 | #8929

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)