Optimal Fallible Ideas Post Size and Style

Here are some thoughts on how to write well for the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group. I think people could benefit from using them at other forums, too.

i suggest most of you should try writing most of your posts with the following format:

1-2 sections. (a quote and a reply is one section)

80-400 words per section.

quote at most the same amount as you write, plus 200 words. (not counting attributions. the number of people quoted should usually be kept to 3 or fewer, but sometimes more is ok.) try to think about quoting like you were writing a blog post and consider what quotes you would actually copy into it.

try not to quote partial thoughts from other people. as a loose guideline, a thought is typically around one medium sized paragraph. generally avoid breaking up their text mid sentence or mid paragraph. or if they write several short paragraphs that go together, leave them together. let them say their thought. then reply to the thought overall.

if you want to make a small detail point, you can break in in the middle of their thought. try to keep the break in on the shorter side, and only one break in per thought they have.

some people will take a thought i write and then break it up into 4 pieces and write a bunch of little detail replies. the forest gets lost for the trees. what i was saying gets lost, and the replies don't have a big picture to them.

if you have a lot to say about an email, reply multiple times.

if your thoughts are separate, they don't need to be in the same email. if they are related, but exceed 2 sections of 800 total words, then it's hard to put them together. you're now trying to write something a bit longer, and make it fit together. generally i recommend you don't try that. think about how to separate or shorten your points.

if you want to write something too short, like a one sentence question, or i "yes i agree, go on", then consider what you can add to make it better. replies like that are often boring to everyone except the one person you're replying to.

you can add some extra thoughts on the topic. you can add an explanation of why you're asking a question or why you agree. you can add some additional questions. you can add some clarification of what you agree with or what your question means. you can add an argument you think is true, or one you're unclear about. you can add a statement about why this topic is important and you want to discuss it. you can add a statement about why the audience should care and join in.

don't give up. think about the topic more and make your post better. getting up to 80 words for your section shouldn't be that hard. if you get really stuck, just write that you couldn't think of anything else to say, and maybe a guess at why or how you got stuck. ask for advice how to think of stuff to say, or examples of what you could have said, or whatever you think would be helpful.

also, if you have at least one meaty section of general interest, then having one (or even several) really short sections is way better than if they were the whole post.

FYI this post is around 500 words. 400 words is pretty long. most of you should usually end a section by 250 words.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Donald Trump is a Protectionist

Today, presidential candidate Donald Trump published another policy paper: Reforming the U.S.-China Trade Relationship to Make America Great Again.

I already knew Trump was a protectionist from reading his book:
Fourth, it’s time to get tough on those who outsource jobs overseas and reward companies who stay loyal to America. If an American company outsources its work, they get hit with a 20 percent tax. For those companies who made the mistake of sending their businesses overseas but have seen the light and are ready to come home and bring jobs with them, they pay zero tax. Bottom line: hire American workers and you win. Send jobs overseas, and you may be fine, but you will pay a tax. Also, I want foreign countries to finally start forking over cash in order to have access to our markets. So here’s the deal: any foreign country shipping goods into the United States pays a 20 percent tax. If they want a piece of the American market, they’re going to pay for it. No more free admission into the biggest show in town—and that especially includes China. [emphasis added]
Trump has now both denied and reiterated his protectionism in today's policy paper:
America has always been a trading nation. Under the Trump administration trade will flourish. However, for free trade to bring prosperity to America, it must also be fair trade. Our goal is not protectionism but accountability. America fully opened its markets to China but China has not reciprocated. Its Great Wall of Protectionism uses unlawful tariff and non-tariff barriers to keep American companies out of China and to tilt the playing field in their favor. [emphasis added]
And what will Trump do because China hasn't reciprocated American free trade policies with their own? His clearly written policy is to impose protectionist duties:
On day one of the Trump administration the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China as a currency manipulator. This will begin a process that imposes appropriate countervailing duties on artificially cheap Chinese products
This is a bad idea, as was explained in 1845 by Claude Frédéric Bastiat. I find it interesting that would-be economic leaders, seeking to "make America great again", do not bother to read economics and find out why their plans will actually harm America, as a Frenchman already explained 170 years ago. This is old news – but Trump doesn't know it. Why not? Something's really going wrong here.

Bastiat's explanation is well done. It's clear, easy to read, makes sense, and covers the issue. What more do people want? He actually has a lot of material of this quality which the modern world is ignoring. Here is the specific essay, in full, which Trump's ignorant and destructive policy plans reminded me of. Look how exactly Trump is advocating the same mistake Bastiat addresses. (And Trump has no counter argument to Bastiat, no better ideas to offer. Just ignorance.)

Note that Bastiat has already explained why protective tariffs or duties are bad in previous essays. And Trump claims to know those are bad in general, which is why he denies being a protectionist. The reason Trump advocates protective duties against China is that China doesn't practice free trade itself. Trump claims that free trade is good, but it needs to be mutual. This issue is exactly what Bastiat addresses:

The Bastiat Collection, Part VI, chapter 10, Reciprocity:
We have just seen that whatever increases the expense of conveying commodities from one country to another— in other words, whatever renders transport more onerous—acts in the same way as a protective duty; or if you prefer to put it in another shape, that a protective duty acts in the same way as more onerous transport.

A tariff, then, may be regarded in the same light as a marsh, a rut, an obstruction, a steep declivity—in a word, it is an obstacle, the effect of which is to augment the difference between the price the producer of a commodity receives and the price the consumer pays for it. In the same way, it is undoubtedly true that marshes and quagmires are to be regarded in the same light as protective tariffs.

There are people (few in number, it is true, but there are such people) who begin to understand that obstacles are not less obstacles because they are artificial, and that our mercantile prospects have more to gain from liberty than from protection, and exactly for the same reason that makes a canal more favorable to traffic than a steep, roundabout, and inconvenient road.

But they maintain that this liberty must be reciprocal. If we remove the barriers we have erected against the admission of Spanish goods, for example, Spain must remove the barriers she has erected against the admission of ours. They are, therefore, the advocates of commercial treaties, on the basis of exact reciprocity, concession for concession; let us make the sacrifice of buying, say they, to obtain the advantage of selling.

People who reason in this way, I am sorry to say, are, whether they know it or not, protectionists in principle; only, they are a little more inconsistent than pure protectionists, as the latter are more inconsistent than absolute prohibitionists.

The following apologue will demonstrate this:


There were, no matter where, two towns called Stulta and Puera. They completed at great cost a highway from the one town to the other. When this was done, Stulta said to herself: “See how Puera inundates us with her products; we must see to it.” In consequence, they created and paid a body of obstructives, so called because their business was to place obstacles in the way of traffic coming from Puera. Soon afterwards Puera did the same.

At the end of some centuries, knowledge having in the interim made great progress, the common sense of Puera enabled her to see that such reciprocal obstacles could only be reciprocally hurtful. She therefore sent an envoy to Stulta, who, laying aside official phraseology, spoke to this effect: “We have made a highway, and now we throw obstacles in the way of using it. This is absurd. It would have been better to have left things as they were. We should not, in that case, have had to pay for making the road in the first place, nor afterwards have incurred the expense of maintaining obstructives. In the name of Puera, I come to propose to you, not to give up opposing each other all at once—that would be to act upon a principle, and we despise principles as much as you do—but to lessen somewhat the present obstacles, taking care to estimate equitably the respective sacrifices we make for this purpose.” So spoke the envoy. Stulta asked for time to consider the proposal, and proceeded to consult, in succession, her manufacturers and agriculturists. At length, after the lapse of some years, she declared that the negotiations were broken off.

On receiving this intimation, the inhabitants of Puera held a meeting. An old gentleman (they always suspected he had been secretly bought by Stulta) rose and said: The obstacles created by Stulta injure our sales, which is a misfortune. Those we have ourselves created injure our purchases, which is another misfortune. With reference to the first, we are powerless; but the second rests with ourselves. Let us, at least, get rid of one, since we cannot rid ourselves of both evils. Let us suppress our obstructives without requiring Stulta to do the same. Some day, no doubt, she will come to know her own interests better.

A second counselor, a practical, matter-of-fact man, guiltless of any acquaintance with principles, and brought up in the ways of his forefathers, replied: “Don’t listen to that Utopian dreamer, that theorist, that innovator, that economist, that Stultomaniac. We shall all be undone if the stoppages of the road are not equalized, weighed, and balanced between Stulta and Puera. There would be greater difficulty in going than in coming, in exporting than in importing. We should find ourselves in the same condition of inferiority relatively to Stulta as Havre, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lisbon, London, Hamburg, and New Orleans are with relation to the towns situated at the sources of the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, the Tagus, the Thames, the Elbe, and the Mississippi, for it is more difficult for a ship to ascend than to descend a river. (A Voice: Towns at the mouths of rivers prosper more than towns at their source.) This is impossible. (Same Voice: But it is so.) Well, if it be so, they have prospered contrary to rules.” Reasoning so conclusive convinced the assembly, and the orator followed up his victory by talking largely of national independence, national honor, national dignity, national labor, inundation of products, tributes, murderous competition. In short, he carried the vote in favor of the maintenance of obstacles; and if you are at all curious on the subject, I can point out to you countries where you will see with your own eyes Road-makers and Obstructives working together on the most friendly terms possible, under the orders of the same legislative assembly, and at the expense of the same taxpayers, the one set endeavoring to clear the road, and the other set doing their utmost to render it impassable. [emphasis added]
Trump is that second counselor. He still hasn't thought of an answer to the old gentleman. And who, exactly, is asking him to?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (9)

Angry, Violent Racists

An Ivy League Lynch Mob:
Meanwhile, Yale's Divinity School is now home to Black Lives Matter movement agitator DeRay Mckesson who was awarded a sinecure to promote the violent racist movement.

“Looting for me isn’t violent, it’s an expression of anger,” the guest lecturer recently preached to students. “The act of looting is political. Another way to dissolve consent. Pressing you to no longer keep me out of this space, by destroying it.”
what a world! here's a teacher at major US university inciting criminal violence. and denying violence is violent on the basis that it also has the purpose of expressing anger.

he advocates destruction, which he claims will help get invites into the kinds of spaces that are attacked.

and he's not getting fired for this stuff. he got hired for it!

this is very dangerous. people are getting hurt. more will be hurt. and not very many are doing a good job of standing up against it.

two standout organizations defending civilization are Front Page Magazine and Breitbart News.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Write To Move Discussion Forward

I just sent this to the Fallible Ideas Discussion Group (which is the best place to discuss philosophy. and everyone needs philosophy. so you should join!) I'm putting it on my blog because it's of general interest. It gives some pointers on how to write at FI which also apply to other forums. And it has ideas for making productive contributions to discussions.

in general, some of the recent threads have had some boring parts. that is ok so far. it's ok to try posting different ways and see what happens. i'd like to suggest some adjustments. i don't expect everything to change immediately and that's fine. but people can start discussing whether there's better ways to post and, if persuaded, start making some changes.

keep in mind that every email gets sent to over 100 people, plus people read on the website. and some people are bad at organizing lots of emails, or deciding what to read. people can get overwhelmed people can click on posts somewhat at random and read a post they aren't interested in rather than a much better post they would have loved. sending out posts has costs. it affects people.

so try to make each post count. try to make it have some interesting point anyone would be glad to have read (at least if they cared about the topic – if you're posting about psychiatry and someone isn't interested in psychiatry, that's no problem, and they ought to just recognize that and read a different post.) or at minimum, keep your post short (including quoting) and have it move the discussion forward in some way. if you need to post some clarifying question that doesn't have an interesting point, that can be ok. try to make a point if possible. try to say something about your thinking. it's possible to ask bad or boring questions. but now and then, only occasionally, a question without an interesting point can be OK. but really look for a point you can make, something you can say, to go with the question, to share some of your thinking on the topic or help explain why the question matters or something. there's usually something worth saying.

and please pay attention to what you quote. pretend you're writing a blog post and then think about what you'd actually copy into a blockquote on your blog. just quote that – the text you're actually replying to that people need to read. if necessary, do some paraphrasing so you can keep the amount of quoting small, like you would do on a blog. if your post is short, e.g. only a few paragraphs of quoting, then you don't worry about this. because like one computer screen worth of quoting doesn't get in the way, that isn't a hassle for people. but once it's a couple screens full of quoting for people to scroll through, then you should definitely be trimming it and just quoting the relevant part.

when you quote a ton, people are going to just skip it. they won't know which is relevant, and won't trust you that it's necessary for them to read all of it. (and they'll almost always be right – they didn't need to read everything you quoted. so that's your fault). please don't do this to people. there's no point having text in your email which no one is going to read (or a few beginners might waste time reading). and what if someone does need some context? what if they need to read some quoting to follow it? then you aren't telling them what quotes to read. if you quote the right amount, the communicates what they can read to catch up. if you quote the wrong amount, they have to figure that out themselves without your help.

and please stop being overly ambitious with posts that have 10 different sections which aren't related. almost all of you you aren't that good at organizing long posts. and most people aren't that good at reading long posts either. try to keep your posts to 1-4 separate sections. 1 and 2 should be the most common, sometimes 3, and rarely 4.

(what's a section? if you quote something and reply, then quote something else and reply, that's two sections. a section is each time you have some quoting and then an area where you reply.)

it's also important not to put 20 hours into each post. don't get prevented from discussing because each post takes you forever. you should try to find a reasonable way of writing where your posts aren't a big burden for you, aren't too heavyweight, and you get feedback frequently. but your posts are also pretty good quality and say something (even if short. short is fine.)

to keep writing time down, keep your posts short but high quality. put a bit more time into quality, but less into length.

try to make your posts focus more on interesting issues and less on back and forth arguing. try not to get lost in arguing details that just aren't that important in the big picture.

in some threads, i've noticed people argue back and forth but the discussion isn't really going anywhere. it lacks a clear purpose and goals. discussions should either keep saying interesting stuff (about topics like economics or parenting or whatever) or else should have some kinda reasonably clear purpose or goal that is being moved towards. don't discuss aimlessly. either try to talk about an interesting topic or else state what your goal is (like to get someone to understand a specific point) and try to have each post move a step towards the goal. try to have somewhere the discussion is going, something it's trying to accomplish (and, often, share what that is).

don't argue just because someone is wrong about something. consider if it's important. consider if it will be useful for you, for the other person, or for the audience. and if you do argue, try to either be clear about why you think it's worth arguing or have your arguments say generally interesting content. (like you can argue by just saying a bunch of cool knowledge on the topic. great. or if you wanna argue with the details of what a specific poster said, that has less general interest, informs people about the topic less, so think about and maybe state why it's worth doing in this case, what you're trying to accomplish, etc)

try to watch out for when a discussion isn't being productive, or when a particular post didn't work well. sometimes you get a reply and you think, "umm, this basically leaves me with the same information as before. it doesn't help me say something better than i could have in my last post". try to watch out for when other people will react that way to your own posts.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (6)

Disliking Gays

People don't like homosexuals because they violate gender roles. That's the reason.

Homosexuals are rebels against society. Deviants who don't conform. Outsiders who resist social pressure. Threats to tradition. (Don't conform to what? Gender roles.)

The group (society) disapproves of disobedience towards the group. Our culture offers certain roles in society for people to live. Society is unkind to people who don't choose and live one of these offered social roles. Other lifestyles are considered illegitimate and receive negative treatment. To be treated well, live in a way the collective approves of.

Disliking homosexuals is a small part of a much broader problem. Conformity – and the ways it's enforced – goes well beyond gender roles.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (19)

Single Pushback Discussions

If you're a parent and your kid wants something, common preference finding usually doesn't mean you have a long discussion. Most things kids want are small and immediate, and can be done faster than a big discussion.

If you think it's a good idea, just do it. If you think it's a bad idea, say this:
I'd rather not do that because [short reason]. If you still want me to, then I will.
Optionally, you might say briefly what you could do instead. Especially if it's a bigger issue, rather than a really little one. But only if you think your kid would want to hear it.

This way, there won't be a long discussion. There won't be a big back and forth. This strictly limits how much your disagreement delays your kid getting what he wants. It keeps transaction costs low.

But the kid does get advice. He does find out why the thing he's asking for might not be good. You wouldn't just want to do whatever he asked without sharing your useful knowledge about it. But you don't want to block him from getting what he wants by arguing a lot.

Suppose your kid wants something and you're busy. Don't ask if it'd be ok to wait 20 minutes, and then he says he's not sure, and then you ask if 10 minutes would be ok. Then you're getting into a discussion that takes too long and is too unclear how your kid can get what he wants (now, if necessary).

Instead, say something like this:
I'm busy. Can you wait 20 minutes? Otherwise I'll stop and do it now.
This keeps it simple. You make one short objection. You give the kid some clear and immediate options. He can have what he wants right now with no further discussion. Or if he doesn't mind waiting, then you can finish what you were doing.

It's important to say stuff like this because the kid may prefer your alternative option. Sometimes he won't mind waiting. You wouldn't want to drop what you were doing every single time, even if the kid could have waited half the time. It's better for both of you if he sometimes prefers for you to finish, when it won't be a problem for him. But you also don't want to put a big obstacle between your kid and getting the help he's asking for.

A reason child may prefer to wait is that parental help is a limited resource. The child will benefit by using it efficiently. Interrupting the parent will use up a bit of the parent's energy, and it'll take some extra time to switch tasks and switch back (like to find his place again, and remember the context, if he was reading). In general, parent will be able to help more with other things if he's got fewer demands on him.

In the examples, the parent does a single pushback on what the kid wants. This gives one opportunity for the kid to get new information (parent currently in the middle of something) or criticism (a reason it's a bad idea), and then change his mind. That's good because it allows for improvement, and without it a worse outcome would happen frequently. But multiple pushbacks is frequently too many and burdens the kid. A single pushback is a good amount to use for most everyday events.

If child agrees to wait, he may change his mind, or parent may be busy longer than expected. If child comes back and asks a second time, parent should help immediately. Don't repeat that you're busy or make a second request for child to wait. This keeps it to a single pushback for the issue and makes it safer for child to agree to wait.

Every single pushback or back-and-forth or layer of negotiation is a big deal. People don't have enough respect for how much that needs to be minimized. You can discuss back and forth more when your kid wants to, that's fine when everyone's interested in doing it. But there are going to be a lot of times when he doesn't want to.

Notice how these statements are structured to limit the amount of times the parent and kid go back and forth talking. Kid makes request. Parent does one pushback. Kid chooses to either get his request immediately or accept the pushback. That's it. And the parent clearly states these options to the kid, so he knows he can get what he wants, right now, without any further arguing or pushback. The kid does not have to argue back against the parent. And the kid does not have to have a discussion where the parent speaks several times.

The kid is welcome to ask for a larger discussion if he wants. He might ask if there's any other options, or can the parent explain more. He might ask a question about what the parent said. He should be told, in general, that he has options like that. But don't state those options every time. Stating two options is enough for small everyday events – with one option being the kid's initial preference, and the other being the parent's alternative suggestion.

Parents should get good at making appealing alternative suggestions without having to question and argue with the kid for 10 minutes and then have 5 tries at telling him alternatives. Parent needs to get skillful at this to reduce the burden on the kid.

It's important the parent be happy. So parents should also get good at being happy to help their kid. And get good at being interruptible during most activities. And get good at thinking, "I got to say why I thought it wasn't the best idea. I got to express myself. But my kid still disagreed, so it must be important to him, and I better help."

It's important for the parent to remember that if he negotiated with his kid more, it'd interrupt what he was doing anyway. Or if he argued with his kid more about a decision (e.g. whether kid can stay up late tonight), then he's making it harder for the kid to be his own person. Parents need to stop having agendas they are trying to push on their kids, and instead understand their role as helpers. Parents should only pushback more than once if they really, truly think the kid will regard it as helpful and thank them for it (right now, not later).

This will not solve every problem parents have. If kid wants a yacht (which is unusual), parent can't just say "I think that's too expensive, but if you still want it I'll buy you one." But it will help with a lot of small interactions.

If you don't know dozens of concrete, practical parenting interactions like this, you could be a much better parent.

And if you didn't know this one, try to understand that you still don't know it after you read this post. It's not going to just instantly work in your life. You might be able to immediately do something better than you used to do. But you're not done yet. Remember it, try it out, see what goes wrong, ask some questions about it, make some adjustments, etc. Then you'll form a real, thorough understanding.

You can find out ideas like this by discussing your parenting and getting tips from other people. And other people can point out some problems you didn't see with your parenting (and you can point out some of theirs, since you'll have different perspectives). And you can ask for ideas like this to help with your life, instead of passively waiting for me to post them unprompted. Take some initiative to get better parenting knowledge!

If you already have some really useful parenting knowledge like this, share it. Other people need it and can offer you refinements. If you have none, your parenting could be way better! Start actively seeking out more knowledge right away!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Skepticism vs. Infallibilism vs. Critical Rationalism

skeptics have the idea you can't be sure of anything. maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong. men can't have knowledge, it's kinda hopeless to figure things out.

this is weird because how did they figure it out?

then their opponents, the infallibilists, say they are sure of things.

but sometimes the stuff they are sure about turns out wrong later

both sides have the same hidden idea: that ideas should be proved or established or supported to make them sure or more sure.

and one side is saying we can do that, and the other side says it doesn't work so we're screwed.

the majority think we can be sure. because people do have knowledge. we build computers that work. we figured out how to make airplanes and bicycles.

but the doubters have some good points. there are logical reasons that the sureness stuff doesn't work. no one has ever been able to answer those logical arguments.

another approach is that we don't need to be sure. we can make an iPhone without being sure of anything, and it can still work. sureness was the wrong thing to look for. we should be looking for other stuff instead. so the whole debate was missing the point.

everyone was stuck on this issue for over 2000 years. Karl Popper got it unstuck like 50 years ago.

being sure is like trying to say "this idea is good because..." and then it scores points for every argument you give. people then compare how much sureness or points different ideas have.

the alternative is to look for problems with your ideas. try to figure out what's bad about them. if you can't find any problems, it's a good idea to use for now.

we don't have to be sure, but we can improve our ideas. if we see a problem and make a change to fix it, now we have a better idea than before. we don't know if it's true. we don't know if it has a bunch more problems. but we learned something. we made progress.

if an idea has a problem that isn't fixed, then we shouldn't use it no matter how sure anyone is. sureness isn't relevant.

and if there's no problems anyone knows of, then why wouldn't you use it? there's no objections. so sureness doesn't matter here either.


so there's a cow farmer, and he says he's sure he has 3 cows. but a skeptic says "how do you know you have 3 cows? you can't be sure of anything. maybe you've been hallucinating and have goats"

the cow farmer is saying how sure he is when actually he shouldn't be sure. maybe he DID hallucinate. or lots of other things. there's ways he could be wrong. it's POSSIBLE.

it turns out some wolves ate one of the cows last night, and he didn't check yet. so actually he has 2 cows. he was wrong. he shouldn't have been so SURE.

the skeptic is dumb too b/c he just doubts everything. except not really. it's kinda random. he didn't point out that maybe the cow farmer didn't exist and he (the skeptic) was hallucinating. he didn't worry that maybe he hallucinated his dinner.

the skeptic didn't know the wolves attacked. he didn't have any information that there weren't 3 cows.

he wasn't saying something useful. there wasn't any way the cow farmer should act differently once he finds out the skeptic's idea.

so the guy who was sure was risking being wrong. he can't be SURE there were no hallucinations or wolves. but the skeptic is bringing up hallucinations without seeing any LSD lying around, without seeing any goats outside, without any reason to suspect a hallucination in this case.

this whole thing is silly and is pretty much how everyone thinks.

the cow farmer should say:
i'm not sure i have 3 cows. but i think i do. i saw 3 cows yesterday, and the day before. my family and i harvest their milk and it fills up the right number of bottles for 3 cows. it takes my son 3 times longer to clean up their poop than when we had 1 cow. they eat pizza like normal cows, not sushi like goats always want.

do you have any argument i'm hallucinating? do you know something i don't, which should change my view? do you have a criticism of the idea that i have 3 cows? not a reason it isn't guaranteed, but a reason it's actually wrong?
this way he's explaining why he thinks he has 3 cows, and asking for new information or criticism that would let him change his mind to a better idea.

if the skeptic doesn't have any info or criticism like that, then 3 cows is the best guess (idea). even if the wolves attacked and they don't know that, it was still the best guess given the information available.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Short Sighted

I have an idea about why people are short-sighted.

it's often seen as kinda just being a bad person. this bad thing that doesn't make sense and isn't in one's self-interest, and people should just stop doing it.

but i thought of a reason it'd happen and way it makes sense. i think this helps explain it.

my theory is people chronically fail to get their preferences met, especially longer term ones. when they try to plan ahead, it doesn't work. this is due to lack of skill. eventually, after many failures, they stop trusting their ability to get good things later. they stop having any confidence that planning for the future will end up working out well.

so they try to get short term preferences met. because it's the only way they get preferences met at all. due to lack of skill.

given the context, being short sighted makes sense. if u only have the skill to get short range preferences met, it makes sense to pursue them and not pursue other types of preferences you're not able to succeed with.

just trying to think more long term wouldn't solve this problem. it wouldn't make them have skill. so the standard advice people get about being short sighted won't work. what's really needed is to improve their skill at managing longer term projects. they need to gradually build up the ability to plan further ahead successfully.

building it up by working on slightly longer range preferences is one of the ways to work on this. keep increasing the time a little bit. plan 20min ahead. then 25min. then 30min. etc. get a track record of success and confidence, and build up the time to longer times. this isn't a full solution though. some of the problems will be related to specific topics, not the amount of time involved.

Edit: added text emphasizing lack of skill point.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Benevolent Universe

The Early Ayn Rand, in a story preface by Peikoff:
“Good Copy” reminds us of another crucial aspect of Ayn Rand’s philosophy: her view that suffering is an exception, not the rule of life. The rule, she held, should not be pain or even heroic endurance, but gaiety and lighthearted joy in living. It is on this premise that “Good Copy” was written.

... Their objection was not to the story’s flaws but to its essential spirit. “It is so unserious,” the criticism went. “It doesn’t deal with big issues like your novels; it has no profound passions, no immortal struggles, no philosophic meaning.”

Miss Rand replied, in effect: “It deals with only one ‘big issue,’ the biggest of all: can man live on earth or not?”

She went on to explain that malevolence—the feeling that man by nature is doomed to suffering and defeat—is all-pervasive in our era; that even those who claim to reject such a viewpoint tend to feel, today, that the pursuit of values must be a painful, teeth-clenched crusade, a holy but grim struggle against evil. This attitude, she said, ascribes far too much power to evil. Evil, she held, is essentially impotent (see Atlas Shrugged); the universe is not set against man, but is “benevolent.” This means that man’s values (if based on reason) are achievable here and in this life; and therefore happiness is not to be regarded as a freak accident, but, metaphysically, as the normal, the natural, the to-be-expected.

Philosophically, in short, the deepest essence of man’s life is not grave, crisis-ridden solemnity, but lighthearted cheerfulness.
This particularly stood out to me:
even those who claim to reject such a viewpoint [malevolent universe] tend to feel, today, that the pursuit of values must be a painful, teeth-clenched crusade, a holy but grim struggle against evil.
lots of people are scared of embracing FI/reason/etc, they think of it like a holy but painful struggle. that's so very wrong. there's nothing to be afraid of. values do have a chance in this world. try for it.

reminds me of The Virtue of Selfishness, "How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?":
And then, on some gray, middle-aged morning, such a man realizes suddenly that he has betrayed all the values he had loved in his distant spring, and wonders how it happened, and slams his mind shut to the answer, by telling himself hastily that the fear he had felt in his worst, most shameful moments was right and that values have no chance in this world. [my emphasis]
values do have a chance. and like the tramp who steals a ride on Dagny's train says in Atlas Shrugged, make a try for it:
I think that it's a sin to sit down and let your life go, without making a try for it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (10)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (93)

Blocked by @Krauserpua

I saw some really awful tweets, unfollowed @Krauserpua, and voiced my objections. He blocked me for daring to criticize his advocacy of cruel violence and ugly irrationalism. Fuck him. I think ideas like his are worth standing up to, so here's his tweets (in red), my replies, and a few bonus comments.
If you don't want to look like a whore, don't act like one. http://tinyurl.com/pnf2g3l
unfollowed this asshole for this nasty victim shaming. he makes SJWs look like they have a point.
The article he linked is about minors being victims of revenge porn, then being told to go fuck themselves by revenge porn help hotlines, and sometimes by their teachers/schools, too.

This borders on legitimization of under-18 porn, and all he wants to do is blame the underage victims who had their rights violated.
If we'd just let HIV run it's course, we'd have corrected about 50% of the problems in the West.
unfollowed this asshole who wishes death on gays. he makes SJWs look like they have a point.
we solve problems with ideas, not death.

you are an anti-scholar and a thug.
What kind of person thinks that a bunch of people he doesn't like being dead is how to make the world a better place?
If you illegally jump the border, you shouldn't have any protection under the law. Including from assault, rape and murder.
unfollowed this asshole who is pro-murder. WTF. he makes shitlibs look like they have a point.
If you miss your flight and overstay a visa, should everyone be allowed to murder you, too?

And what happened to due process? Shouldn't they at least get a trial before they are raped for their alleged crimes?
"You are blocked from following @Krauserpua and viewing @Krauserpua's Tweets. Learn more"

someone sure couldn't take criticism...
I expected to be ignored. I did not expect to be blocked. What a thin skin he has for a guy who advocates raping and murdering people for a non-violent crime.

This is a guy who advocates changes to medical research policy for the express purpose of more homosexuals dying than Hitler managed to murder. For his own twitter description, he wrote "Horrible bastard" (that's the whole thing). But he can't take being called an asshole and being unfollowed.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (13)

Ann Coulter's Worst Article

The Problem Isn't Guns or White Men [all emphasis mine] is the worst Ann Coulter writing I've seen (and I've read a lot of articles, plus all her books). I think most of her writing is really good, so this stood out to me.
Since the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s, civil commitment in the United States almost always requires a finding of dangerousness -- both imminent and physical -- as determined by a judge.
Coulter wants to take away the freedom of people whom she considers dangerous in a non-imminent, non-physical way.

For non-imminent, I understand what that means. It means there's no immediate danger, but there's fear a person might be dangerous in some way at some future date. That sounds to me like it applies to everyone. The future is not predictable like this – at least not well enough to ruin someone's life and lock them up without a jury trial.

This is an ridiculous standard for jailing someone – not just for a crime they didn't commit, but for an imaginary crime that may or may not happen one day.

For non-physical, I don't really know what Coulter is talking about. Is she saying that in addition to locking people up who are potentially dangerous in the sense of physical violence, we should also lock up people we're concerned are mentally ill enough to commit wire fraud? I disagree.

The danger Coulter repeatedly brings up in the article is mass murder. But she's using it to advocate initiating force against people who are dangerous in some non-physical way which isn't mass murder. She doesn't even mention which non-physical dangers she wants people to lose their freedom over. That's dishonest.
Most of the rest of the world has more reasonable standards -- you might almost call them "common sense" -- allowing family, friends and even acquaintances to petition for involuntarily commitment, with the final decision made by doctors.
The idea is: acquaintances plus doctors can have anyone locked up. Remember the idea of innocent until proven guilty? Remember the idea of a jury of your peers? Remember due process? Forget all that. Doctors, some of whom work for the government, are going to be judge, jury, and imprisoner. Sound fun? Sound like reasonable common sense?
The result of our laissez-faire approach to dangerous psychotics...
Why not force Democrats to defend the right of the dangerous mentally ill not to take their medicine?
Democrats won't be able to help themselves, but to instantly close ranks and defend dangerous psychotics...
Remember that when Coulter writes "dangerous" in these sentences, she means "non-imminently or non-physically dangerous". Otherwise the current laws would cover it.

She's complaining about a laissez-faire approach to people who aren't dangerous right now. But if there's no problem right now, leaving it alone makes more sense than locking someone in a thoughtcrime jail and then forcibly drugging them, without a trial, doesn't it?

Make no mistake about it. Involuntary commitment in a mental hospital is imprisonment the same as in a jail. Just without the defense lawyer, and without all the safeguards against abuse that our court system contains. This is an dangerous attack on liberty.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (333)

Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education

Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education

(these are paraphrases after the > unless in quotes, because it's from audio and he chose not to offer a transcript for better discussion.)

> (5min) presents a concept of reason and says purpose of education is to impart this to child so he can be a reason-using adult.

i disagree. there's no conception here of the child disagreeing, or of error-correction of the parent/educator's conception of reason. there's no concept of it being the child's life, and his decision what ideas to accept. the parent should offer these things, but rely on persuasion. the goal should be to help the child, not to decide before the child is born what ideas the child should have in his head when he's 20 and then figure out how to get that result. that kind of predetermined and not-open-to-disagreement parental agenda ends up meaning trampling all over the child as an autonomous individual with a mind and rights.

> advocates parents using force to limit TV, and takes that for granted as right. puts it in the same category of as helping child not get run over by a car or die from guzzling lighter fluid.

note the key difference: the child does want to watch TV, but does not want to be hit by a car or be poisoned by lighter fluid. the child is not actually trying to commit suicide and doesn't want that. but does want TV. so the examples are completely different. but Girn mixes them together as the same thing, as cases where he thinks parental force is clearly OK.

> says you can't compel THOUGHTS (as opposed to using compulsion for ACTIONS like drinking poison), can't force a child to have certain ideas, like how you shouldn't force people to read Atlas Shrugged


> Montessori idea is, instead of freedom, to offer the child prepared freedom – design an environment to channel and leverage child's nature (instead of using compulsion)

yeah, it's all manipulation for the predetermined parental agenda. no fallibilism, no error correction of parent's agenda, no full freedom for child, just (this is common today) trying to find ways to control child without it being force.

> (14min) quote "the child will receive a lesson from the adult, a demonstration of (this is probably a 2.5 or 3 yo child) this activity, and then will be left free to kinda explore and repeat at his leisure"

notice how the child is explicitly free AFTER the lesson – NOT free about whether he wants this lesson. that's not an accident of wording, it's the child being compelled. he goes on to say things like "children work through activities like these" – it's decided in advance before the child is born and he doesn't have a choice. that is force.

> nothing in the mind that doesn't come from the senses

emphasis on training senses

> various activities, like blocks and number rods

the numbers stuff is trying to connect sound, symbol, amount. the activity itself sounds just kinda painfully awful and unpleasant, something i would have hated. there's an element of taste here and some people would like it better, but it's not presented as this thing for 20% or even 50% of kids, it's presented as what the kids do at Montessori. (i'm sure they have some choice if they hate one particular activity, but i think they get offered a bunch of activities which, in certain ways, are all similar, are all coming from the same kind of design philosophy. choice is limited and someone who doesn't like one activity of this style could easily dislike most of them).

these activities aren't open ended. they are designed to have a single outcome, and if child does it a different way that he thinks is better, he gets corrected. it's not like real life where you're doing exploration and coming up with your own goals and it can lead to other things. it's all predetermined and setup to go a specific way, like people at regular school doing the science experiment in the textbook in order to get the already-known result they are told to get, rather than as part of following their interests.

like my friend's kid tried to make a train out of blocks at a Montessori school, and then got corrected cuz that wasn't how the blocks were supposed to be used. that's mean. and it's not just some aberration at that school, it fits the Montessori way of thinking. the audio lecture was just saying how the activities are self-correcting, the toys are designed to only work one way and if the child does something else it doesn't work. meaning the adult already has in mind his mind a specific way the stuff should be used, that's the intended point he's trying to ensure happens. so of course that kinda perspective isn't friendly to deviance or innovation. the whole prepared environment thing is trying to do things like take away distractions, and decide which things a child should learn, that's the whole design here, not to let the child pursue his own interests and goals (like making a train out of blocks instead of learning the adult's lesson).

> curriculum not offered by teacher but embedded in world the child explores

this is dishonest. the teacher set up the curriculum in an indirect way, then pretends it's just child exploring the world.

and it's so controlled. the child doesn't get any non-Montessori toys, isn't allowed to have other stuff he might want like iPads or legos. so then the child, given only Montessori stuff, ends up doing some of it, rather than nothing. then parents see that as evidence the kid likes the stuff.

> (22min) materials are selected by what's enticing to child, what child directly needs, what child indirectly needs to gain something else, and then they're all set in order. then it plays this clip of Maria Montessori saying the choice of what to do is up to the child and the teacher is in the background.

but the teacher is deciding what teacher thinks child needs to accomplish teacher's agenda that was set before child was born. teacher is deciding what teacher thinks entices children (not what they actually find enticing like more TV watching). teacher is totally controlling the child's environment to control the child, and this is all on purpose, and then at the same time teacher is claiming to merely be in the background.

> (23min) Maria Montessori says b/c the curriculum is embedded in the materials, whatever the child chooses he ends up working on the curriculum

so you see the child has no choice, it's work on the curriculum or work on the curriculum. he's heavily controlled.

then Maria Montessori elaborates that even that isn't enough control. for example, if the child chooses geography stuff over and over, then she'll come up and push math on him in a way where she doesn't feel like a thug but she makes sure to get her way...

> freedom for child to engage in reasonable forms of activity, not anarchy

so it's: you have freedom as long as you don't deviate too much. you can disagree as long as it's within the scope of what the authority considers a reasonable disagreement and allows, but nothing more.

> (29min) ground rules

> can't interrupt unless you follow a politeness procedure

> only may use materials if you receive the presentation (b4 that, off limits)

and if the child wants to use a material but not receive the lecture? then the RULES are enforced by FORCE, right? gentle force if possible – trying to guide the child, ask him to stop, put subtle pressures on him. (just like the government doesn't send armed men to collect taxes, they just mail you some forms to start with, most people never see the guns)

(concretely, what they frequently actually do is kick kids out of the school to dodge the issue. if the kid is noisy, doesn't obey some rules about what materials he can use, stuff like that, and their pressure doesn't work, then the kid can just get kicked out, which is pretty common.)

> talks about uninterrupted time

actually there is a preset schedule which interrupts the children, even if they don't want to be interrupted, a few times a day. (how? what if child doesn't obey? you take it from there)

> says how adult is guide, comes in now and then (yes, during "uninterrupted" 3 hour work period), not directing the process, shows a learning period video

this is dishonest. the adult is controlling everything indirectly. does less directly. then talks about not directing things because his control is indirect. it's just a rationalization of control, and they keep talking about it like it isn't control.

> (41min) says how child is learning to be free in this citadel of knowledge where nothing is accidental, it's all lovingly selected. rich knowledge designed for purpose of "allowed" child to learn how to live well.

how to live well according to parent's concept of living well, which child is not free to disagree with.

> (44min) says to prevent 10 year old from playing video games all day or drinking a bottle of whiskey

prevent by force. why do those particular things justify force? what's so bad about video games? it's just convention, it's saying stuff lots of people believe, not doing philosophy. and there's an element of whatever children like is assumed to be bad: http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/video_games_a_unique_educational_environment

> says something about engendering curiosity

Girn has this concept that the child kinda sucks. he has to be carefully controlled to get good. he doesn't have curiosity at birth, you have to find some way to make him curious. he's not rational, you make him rational.

this contradicts my understanding of Atlas Shrugged where John Galt is a **normal man**, and the reason other people aren't like that is because they are broken. you don't have to do something special to get a John Galt, you just have to not break the kid. but Montessori isn't about making sure not to break the kid, it's trying to do all this special stuff.

> (48min) wonders how much education should emphasize transmission of integrated body of knowledge, deep knowledge of the "Western canon". Girn is unsure

> if child won't learn it voluntarily, it's our problem as educators (to figure out how to get him to learn it voluntarily). says stuff about cultures of learning, respect for intellect, role models, inspiration, resources, materials, lessons which give motivation

as long as the end result is predetermined and inflexible, no amount of trying to make it voluntary will ever make it actually voluntary.

> classical education prioritizes gaining knowledge, loses importance of it and applications

> progressive education ignores that child needs knowledge

> Girn advocates third way between classical and progressive. mentions that child is left "completely free"

i think it's notable this "third way" doesn't reject the existing continuum and reconceive of education, it's just, by his own account, in the middle, trying to get the good stuff from two different schools of coercive education.

> (60min) what about consent? Girn knows it's important but hasn't been able to figure out how it affects these topics.

sigh. yes, consent is a big deal when you're trying really hard to control human beings. if they'd respect consent at all times, they couldn't do lots of what they do.

10 year olds don't *consent* to be forcibly prevented from playing video games they want to play. kids don't *consent* to being forcibly prevented from watching TV they want to watch. kids don't *consent* to having access only to Montessori materials, not iPads. Kids don't *consent* to being forced to have to do a presentation thing before using some materials even if they'd rather use those materials now.

> (65min) questioner asks about explicit training in mind self management, and generally about updating Montessori to teach newer stuff. Girn says they do some stuff like that

the whole premise is the educator deciding what the child does, rather than offering things to child that child might want and can make a choice about. it's authoritarian.

> (68min) question about whether/how to teach Objectivism. Girn says he doesn't really have an answer. says if kid is exploring it on their own then they can do a bunch, but if you're imposing it be more conservative.

so, you can impose some stuff on child, at all, ever. he's fine with that.

at the beginning it was like everyone agreeing not to make Atlas Shrugged required reading. but here he is being OK with imposing some Objectivism on kids, if you're like careful or something he hasn't worked out clearly.

> (76min) Girn says how some people have Montessori preschool, then regular school, then at University it's like Montessori again with choice.

given my view of universities, this is damning.

big picture: the whole thing is how to control the child while also thinking you aren't a thug. there's lots of stuff like this today because many, many parents want both of those things. but they contradict and this whole thing is irrational – it assumes the educator is right, doesn't concern itself with disagreements or with any error-correction of educator's ideas, and it doesn't respect the child as a real person.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (18)

Silence vs. Stupidity

there's a huge, fundamental difference between silence and (very) low quality discussion.

silence totally blocks progress.

low quality discussion, if continued persistently, is actually fine.


in programming terms:

b/c the low quality discusser is exposing an API with various convoluted, messy, buggy, misnamed, falsely documented functions which people he's talking with can access.

but give a good programmer a shitty API and in general he'll find some kinda universality and make it do whatever the hell he wants. he'll find some way to get a NAND out of it, to manipulate bits and so some very basic tasks. and then he can define his own API on his own computer on top of the shitty API and use that. (i define on my computer a sequence of calls to your API which make it do some useful task. i repeat for several basic tasks. then i build up another layer of stuff on top of that. then i do what i want in that higher level meta-meta-API i made. so then i'm shielded by layers of abstraction from the low level mess. it's a lot like how some of x86 assembly is old messy backwards compatibility junk, but a javascript programmer never notices.)

universality is so easy to come by, even with a very limited array of bad functions.

another analogy is a hacker will simply find a buffer overflow in your API and then root your system and be able to install whatever software he wants.

what stops the meta-API approach or the security hole approach? silence. you can't get anywhere with an API that stops answering queries. you can't root a box that ignores all incoming requests.

if you're dumb but persistent, good discussers can figure out what you suck at and what can work, and start to focus in. they can try a variety of things, learn about how you block them, and then keep trying new workarounds (each time either discovering a new block or directly making progress). they have something to work with, like a puzzle to solve.

but if you're silent, they can't do a damn thing. if you keep dropping discussions, they can't help you.

persistent bad replies make a WHOLE WORLD of difference, vs silence.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (20)


Different standards is one of the primary reasons people don't like me. I have higher standards and expectations for them than they have for themselves. They can write explicit contradictions in the space of one paragraph and feel like they exceeded their standards and expect congratulations. Then I criticize instead. I think they should seek so much better in their lives. They don’t like that because they are trying to be content with what they are, or a little more, rather than striving for way better.

L did some political activism and got in a newspaper. (Something like a publicity stunt involving no serious or important ideas.) L got a brief quote included, in which she claimed to be for free expression and contradicted herself.

On Facebook, F saw this as a great and impressive accomplishment, despite admitting that L did indeed contradict herself and that there was room for improvement.

No one should be impressed. Here is some of the criticism I explained:
why so impressed by the prestige of a bad newspaper? what do you expect this stuff to accomplish?

Wynand owned bad newspapers, and you know how that worked out. you merely got an article in one. so what?

by designing a portion of your life so it could more easily be picked up by a bad newspaper, you lived their values. you let them have some control over you.

when Hayek won a nobel prize, that was not a symbol of success, it was a symbol of his depravity.
Rather than argue against any of this, L Facebook-liked the paragraph about Hayek which pointed out that getting into the newspaper was depraved by her. L also wrote a comment defending me against haters (not F) and asked them to stop.

F expressed the concept that higher standards would be nice, but are unnecessary. F thinks L’s message was good enough.

It has been claimed to me that F is an Objectivist. I wonder how she read, “PART I NON-CONTRADICTION” (Atlas Shrugged).

How can F accept contradictions – and expect me to accept them too and still be impressed? By having much lower standards in life than I do. By having lower points of comparison, lower expectations. F's standards are not low compared to the typical person, but they're low compared to mine or Ayn Rand's.

F compares L to something like a typical member of her social circle. In this, L exceeds expectations, despite the contradiction and other problems. So F is impressed.

I think that typical person is stupid and incompetent. F thinks of that more like average intelligence, or perhaps above average. This is a clash of standards and expectations – do you compare to your idea of the average person in society or to objective standards for what it takes to think well, be highly effective in life, etc?

F does not expect to ever meet a John Galt or Ayn Rand on Earth. F doesn’t look for that. F doesn’t compare people to that kind of standard. F has a circle of friends who contradict themselves regularly, and F contradicts herself regularly, and F thinks that’s all there is and that’s how life is. F is content with that. Greatness might be for some rare other person who is outside of F’s life.

F is by no means the worst example of any of this. Plenty of other people have similar ideas, and some of them are worse. And plenty of people have lower standards than F. This is not a comparison of F to her conventional people.

I compare to things like Ayn Rand or Howard Roark. Those are my standards. Why not? It’s good to aim high. L should aim high. People could be so much better than they are, but most won’t even try for it.

L is struggling to aim high. L has, like most people, some second-handedness. L likes and seeks praise like F and others hand out for L’s conventionally-impressive-but-actually-immoral “achievements”. F and many others are making this problem worse and are encouraging L to have low standards and to destroy herself.

This is a sad waste of potential, talent, and capability. F thinks she’s kind by never even imagining L in the same realm as great men. F praises mediocrity as if it was greatness because her standards are set that low. This does no moral person any favors.

“What is kinder—to believe the best of people and burden them with a nobility beyond their endurance—or to see them as they are, and accept it because it makes them comfortable? Kindness being more important than justice, of course.” (Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead)

Justice is what matters and what actually helps people. Expecting the best of people is the right thing to do. Encouraging them to take comfort in accepting mediocrity is depraved.

F, stop trying to drag L down (and stop dragging down everyone else too). Stop encouraging her to play in the mud, instead of do things that have any connection to greatness. When you do that, you are part of the irrational mob that plays a large role in the destruction of most human beings.

A big part of L wants to be great. Any friend of hers would encourage that. Criticism is helpful. Encouraging higher standards is helpful. Arguing with people who do that, in favor of standards so low L already meets them, discourages seeing greatness as the normal, natural and expected. It spreads a destructive sense of life.

Standards are not a matter of taste. Objectively, people like Mises and Popper are around the minimum necessary to accomplish much for the cause of reason. Even Rand wasn't very effective. E.g. ARI is bad. Where is any big positive influence by Rand on more than a handful of people? Rand helped a lot of people a little. It's something. It's not that much. It's nothing like making TCS or liberalism or reason actually be popular. L, and others, ought to aim for accomplishments more like that. (Or at least aim to learn enough to make an informed decision about whether to do that.)

L's recent political activism is not on the path to greatness. It’s going the wrong direction. It’s self-destructive. It’s making things harder in her future, not easier. She's taking time off learning ideas worth spreading to get some non-intellectual attention. She's on path to be a mini Gail Wynand – similar themes on a much smaller scale.

If you think some standard – e.g. non-contradiction – is too high or otherwise wrong for a situation, argue your case. Say why it's not achievable, and say what the standard should be (e.g. what contradictions are to be allowed).

Remember to look at standards in terms of whether they will achieve particular goals, not whether they are beating other people. You could easily do way better than your friend, but still fail badly at your goal.

People like F think if they agree with Ayn Rand that contradictions are bad, they are on her side. Then they set standards dramatically lower than Rand did – e.g. they accept many contradictions as good enough. That isn't agreeing with Rand. That is being Rand's opponent.

It's like when someone says "I like reading Rand, that's on my todo list," but they prioritize it low enough it doesn't happen. Then deny they are rejecting Rand.

Considering something (reason, non-contradiction, liberalism, TCS, etc) nice, but then not expecting much of it, is a way to pseudo-agree with its advocates, but not actually substantively agree. It's a way of evading disagreement and preventing learning the full issue. By sweeping conflict under the rug, it prevents the persuasive truth-seeking resolution of that conflict. This sort of irrationality is really common.

These people, who are half on the side of reason – but with low standards (like allowing explicit contradictions in a single paragraph) – are an example of the men in the middle that Rand spoke of in Atlas Shrugged. For example, people who won't chose to take non-contradiction seriously or to oppose it:
There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice.


"You, who are half-rational, half-coward, have been playing a con game with reality, but the victim you have conned is yourself. When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it's picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (330)