I'm asked lots of questions. Writing great answers for all of them would take too long.

I prioritize writing answers I consider interesting or important.

Sometimes I give a short answers or a link. Sometimes I suggest that a friend answer a question. But I still don't answer some questions at all.

My first priority is what I want to answer. Secondarily, I'd like to answer questions that the asker cares more about, puts more effort into, and gets more value from.

Sometimes people ask careless questions. Sometimes they barely care what the answer is. Sometimes they lose interest in the topic a couple days later but don't share this fact. Sometimes they could have easily found the answer with Google, but they don't respect my time. Some questions are dead ends where they have no comment on the answer and no followup questions.

I have limited information about how important a question is to you. You can help with this problem by writing better questions. Here are some things you can do to get more attention:

  • Ask on the Fallible Ideas discussion group. That's my preferred place to take questions and I give it priority. But don't use it unless you read the guidelines and format your post correctly.
  • State steps you already took to find the answer yourself, and why they didn't work.
  • Write well. Use short, simple words, sentences and paragraphs. Clearly mark quotes. Emphasize key points. Do an editing pass to make it clearer and easier to understand. Keep things organized and limit repetition.
  • Make it really clear what the question actually is.
  • Give specifics. I don't have a solution to "I am sad". That describes millions of different problems. (If you want a very general purpose answer like "Then do problem solving." you can state that you want a general case answer with no specifics.)
  • Mention relevant background knowledge you have. If you ask about altruism, I may suggest you read Ayn Rand. If you've already read her, you should have told me!
  • Say what kind of answer you're looking for. What are you looking for? What sort of information would you consider an adequate answer?
  • Say why you want an answer to this question and what problem it will solve for you. Say why the question is important.
  • Use relevant quotes and make sure they are 100% accurate (use copy/paste) and give the source. E.g. if the question has to do with something I've written, link and quote it.
  • Keep it short. If some detailed information is important for reference, put it in a footnote after the question.
  • If you refer to something, and it's important to your question, then provide a link. For books you generally want to give the Amazon link. If it's long, say which section is relevant and explain what information the reference has and how it relates to the question.
  • Sending money, even just $5, sets your question apart from others.
  • I strongly prefer ebooks over paper. They don't have page numbers and do allow searching for quotes. And if you really want me to look at a book and can't find a free link, then buy me the ebook. But it's usually better to just quote a lot instead.
  • If your question isn't answered, look at it from another angle or make some progress on it, then ask another question. Having a question unanswered is no big deal. It's not a negative response or a rebuke. No answer is neutral. If it's important, just reread this guide and try again after a few days.
  • If you have followup questions or arguments that depend on my answer to the question, especially criticism of my ideas, let me know.
  • If you think I need to address this question for Paths Forward reasons, explain that.
  • If you want me personally to answer, say why. Otherwise write your question in a generic way that other people could answer, too.
  • If you think I'll get value from the question or a followup, tell me what's in it for me.
  • Don't be or act helpless or needy, don't act like you deserve free answers, and don't rush and write carelessly.

If this sounds like too much effort to you, then understand that answering your questions is not my problem. But note that you will benefit from these steps too because they'll guide you to do better thinking. They'll help you understand your problem better, make some problem solving progress, and sometimes answer your own question.

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Reactive People

How do you judge (ASAP) when someone is talking to you because they are triggered or reactive instead of out of interest?

People usually respond because they are reacting to something. They feel pressured, they don't like something, or even they do like something. Positive reactions are still reactions, instead of the person being a self-starter who controls their own life. Being passive and reacting to stuff is different than deciding what to do yourself. It's only people who decide to pursue something, because they're interested, who learn much.

There are degrees. More reactive people are worse people.

People do chain reactions. E.g. first they react to an event or situation with an emotion. Then they react to their emotion.

If you ask people, they frequently don't understand the question and give an answer anyway (lie they understand the question and know the answer) or lie (lie they're not being reactive/triggered when they are).

If you interact with someone over time, you can see patterns like they don't bring a topic up themselves, they only talk about it when you bring it up.

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This is adapted from a Fallible Ideas discussion called "How to help someone find their motor".

How do you tell the difference between genuine vs. cargo culting interests? You don’t give up / lose interest in a genuine interest just because it gets hard or when some passing
distraction comes up and catches your attention.

that describes a big, strong interest.

lots of interests are genuine but small and/or weak.

it's good to have lots of small interests where you finish quickly. you should have more small interests than big ones. that's part of creating lots of interests. not everything has to be or should be a giant quest.

and it's fine to have lots of weak interests where, if you realize the price is higher than you initially estimated, you drop the project. that's efficient. most of your interests should be sensitive to the time/effort/money/resources involved in a project. you can have a few things where you're like "whatever it takes, i wanna do this" but you shouldn't have that attitude all the time (also you should always be willing to reconsider goals, change interests, etc). it often makes sense to have some weak interest in 20 projects and then actually do the 3 you find to be most cost efficient and drop the other 17. (don't lose track of what you actually like looking for what's cost efficient, though! use cost efficient as a tiebreaker between different things you like about equally.)

small projects often lead to new problems and projects, which are often small themselves, and lead to even more.

people should be interested in problems more than topics. topics are only an approximation of rational interests. super dedicated chess players don't actually like everything about chess, they are more interested in some aspects than others. some chess problems interest them and some don't. saying they are interested in the topic of chess is a reasonable approximation because they are interested in a wide variety and large number of chess problems.

even a very broad problem like being interested in winning chess games is more of a specific problem than chess as a topic. winning chess games covers a lot of material, but chess as a topic includes even more stuff that doesn't actually help you win games.

looking at it abstractly, out of all possible information related to chess in some way, most is not useful to any problem a human cares about. most information about all topics is boring. selecting interesting problems to guide you is crucial to making good decisions about which information to focus on and which to ignore.

anyway, one doesn't just sit down and "study chess". that's either an approximate statement (no big deal normally, but imprecise) or wrong. one studies a chess related problem, e.g. on a particular day one sits down and studies how to win games against the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian defense, which fits into one's broader interest of being prepared to play aggressive e4 openings in order to win rather than draw more games with white and play to one's strengths of fast, open positions. which will help solve the problem of winning chess tournaments, not the problem of knowing every fact, no matter how pointless, about chess just b/c "i'm interested in chess" (no you're not, you're interested in lots of chess stuff, but not all of it!). people often do this is a semi-reasonable way in practice, but don't understand it in words very well, and could make some improvements if they knew what was going on more accurately.

so: find projects to solve problems, preferably usually small ones you can finish. do them successfully. do more. don't look for a whole huge quest from the start if you don't have one. bigger projects may develop naturally as you do lots of small projects successfully and develop various skills and gradually increase the size of project you can confidently complete and handle. those skills include time organization and resource management skills, understanding your interests and what you'll actually do or finish, general purpose get-shit-done skills, and much more.

it's better if small problems you work on relate to a larger interest, even if it's one you're unsure about. e.g. you might find a chess opening interesting to learn about on its own, and it'd also have the additional big-picture benefit of helping your chess game. or if you think you might potentially like to learn some physics stuff, then you could look for little projects with some connection to physics. like anything to do with science, learning, writing or computer skills could come in handy later for learning physics.

What if my interest leads to a dead end?

suppose theoretically you did follow an interest to a dead-end. dead-ends are bad so that means you made a mistake. that leads somewhere: you could investigate why you made that mistake, what went wrong, how to find, fix and avoid mistakes in the future, what kinds of methods and ideas that requires, what errors and error correction are, etc... so it's led to lots of great stuff. so it wasn't actually a dead-end in the bigger picture.

broadly: solutions lead to new problems. in the alternative, lack of solutions is a problem. there's always more problems to work on. there are no dead ends except irrationality (which shouldn't be blamed on the interest/topic, irrationality is about how people approach stuff badly and e.g. create dead ends).

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Sous Vide

i recommend getting a sous vide machine for cooking steaks. it cooks other things too.

a sous vide machine heats a pot of water and circulates the water with a small pump. it has a very accurate thermometer and keeps the water the desired temperature.

you put the steak in a ziploc bag (or use a vacuum sealer, but that's unnecessary).

you put seasoning on the steak in the bag. i used salt, pepper, dried minced onions (sold like a spice), tiny garlic bits (i used a metal presser) and butter.

they are great because you set the exact temperature and it cooks the steak perfectly.

it cooks the whole steak the same amount, instead of cooking the outside more and the inside less.

cooking isn't time sensitive. it's hard to fuck up. i read you can stop cooking your steak up to around 4 hours after it's done and it doesn't matter.

you can't overcook the steak on temperature because it can't get hotter then the water. if you overcook on cooking duration (which takes hours) then it gets mushier apparently.

i read you can put in frozen steak without defrosting.

you don't lose any juices to the pan or grill. they are in the bag for you to pour out after.

sous vide can do some other stuff too. there are recipies where you cook something for days. however all i've done is cook steaks which only takes like 90 minutes.

a downside is no sear unless you briefly sear the steak in a pan after which is an extra step. even with the sear step, sous vide still compares well to other cooking methods in terms of effort.

the main reason i highly recommend sous vide is cooking the steak correctly without fucking it up. i often cooked steaks poorly when using other methods (like pan or grill) that didn't have a computer controlling the temperature for me. sous vide makes it really easy to cook it really well. plus even if you grill a steak perfectly it still cooks the outside more than the inside. and you don't have to worry about going and doing something else and getting distracted, the cook timing is very lenient.

i recently got the Anova Bluetooth Model. the one i almost bought instead is the Joule.

the Joule has a magnet on the bottom, is smaller, costs more, and has more watts (doesn't really matter if you start with hot water from the tap, but saves time if you start with a pot of cold water). but you can only use it with your smartphone. the Anova works with your smartphone (which i haven't actually tried) but also has a display, an on/off button and a physical wheel you spin to set the temperature. i chose the Anova so my iPhone wouldn't be required. other than that issue i would have gotten the Joule.

i have also pre-ordered a Cinder which is a computer-controlled grill that's also supposed to make it easy to cook steaks (and other foods) really well and hard to fuck them up.

i also have an instant pot pressure cooker which i would also recommend.

(btw if you use my amazon links above and buy a sous vide cooker – or anything else – amazon will give me money. also in general if you go to the Fallible Ideas website and click the Popper or Rand link at the bottom before buying on Amazon then i will get money. thanks!)

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Social Awkwardness Example

i had to stand in front of a cashier to read the menu at mcdonalds b/c i didn't have my glasses. when you walk up to them they think you're gonna order. so i had to explain.

i believe a lot of ppl find things like that so socially awkward they would prefer to just not read the menu and order something from memory, or even look at online menu on phone. and a lot of people don't talk about this kind of thing, either, because they find it embarrassing or shameful, so you may underestimate how common it is.

i usually don't wear my glasses b/c i can see fine to get around and do stuff. reading menus i can't hold in my hand (the kind behind the counter) is actually the only problem i run into much when walking around without glasses, and i don't want to wear glasses in general just for that one thing.

i might have looked online on my iphone if it was reliable b/c even standing at the closest point in the store to the menu it was still somewhat difficult to read. and the menu is computer displays that keep changing instead of static text. it's also very badly organized. i find it strange that mcdonalds uses technology to make their menu way worse than a regular menu. they could have some regular menus available you could hold, or just post one on the wall somewhere, but they don't. if it's because they want to change their menu often and feel they need computer screens instead of just printing out updates, they could put a computer screen on the wall with menu text that doesn't changing during the day so people could actually browse their entire menu (it could even be a touchscreen where you can flip through the pages if they want to be fancy and their menu is very long). however, i don't think you can reliably look up the exact menu of a particular mcdonalds location online so i didn't try that even though the store menus suck.

the reason i wanted to read the menu is i ordered jalapeno doubles from postmates (delivery people service) from mcdonalds a couple days ago. and they said mcdonalds doesn't carry them anymore. so i was trying to check the menu for them. i didn't see them on the menu but the menu is so confusing i didn't think i'd actually viewed a complete list. so i asked the cashier. they do have them. yay! but what the fuck is with the incompetence of the postmates person who said they were at mcdonalds and they no longer carry jalapeno doubles? they just do. :/

in addition to jalapeno doubles, which are great and i recommend them, i also ordered the daily double which i hadn't had before and didn't see on the menu, but had seen online. it was pretty good. i only knew about the daily double item because i saw it on the mcdonalds menu on the postmates website when ordering there, which shows menus are useful! i like to read menus sometimes to browse. similarly i occasionally like to visit grocery stores to browse. (when not browsing, it's mostly better to order stuff online and have it delivered, which saves time and effort. safeway will deliver large orders for cheap or free. and walmart will deliver non-perishables for free if you order $50 and they also have generally have better prices than stores around here. amazon also sells some foods with free delivery.)

anyway my main point was about the social awkwardness of going and standing by a cashier and explaining about not having glasses. i think a lot of people wouldn't do that, or would really dislike doing it. i think a lot of people put substantial effort into avoiding that kind of thing and don't realize they have a problem. but it's really no big deal. you should learn to do it. it's not hard. i grew up very shy, and i can do it just fine. just try it, no one is going to hurt you for wanting to read their menu and making a short, reasonable statement about where you're standing in the zone of the store for customers.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (14)

Fallible Ideas Email: Figuring out what you want from a discussion

In a previous post I wrote:

you have a problem. e.g. you want an answer to a question like whether the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is true.

Further quotes are PAS's reply. PAS is a pseudonym meaning "problems are soluble".

How do you effectively generate and resolve criticism of ideas about what you want? How do you figure out what you actually want from a discussion, instead of just going with the first idea about what you want that you become consciously aware of?

Look for problems with wanting it. Look for bad things about it. Stuff that'll go wrong.

A good place to look for problems, if you haven't developed anything better (and still worth checking even if you have) is looking at ways it clashes with your culture's idea of a good, normal life. As a first pass, if pursuing this want/preference/interest is compatible with having a life your society thinks is good, (and you don't see any other problem), then it's alright. And if you do see a way it'll screw up your life (by normal cultural standards), then there's a problem to consider and don't proceed with it unless you come up with some solutions (e.g. ways to adjust the interest and pursue it better so it doesn't screw up life by normal cultural standards, and/or some criticisms of why those standards are bad in general, or wrong for you personally, and you don't need them in this case.)

As you live a life using traditional knowledge, if you're thoughtful you'll notice some other problems (things go wrong when living traditionally), and learn about some problems from non-traditional sources, and you'll work on solving those problems and learn other things besides your culture's standard, default ideas.

All the while you should try to get advice, criticism, insight, etc, from others. They will know things you don't about your culture's standard ideas (which no one has a perfect conception of, and everyone's conception of it varies some). They will see some things as bad you don't realize. They will notice some things about life you don't (b/c life has so much information and everyone rightfully pays selective attention to what they deem important, and different people have different ideas about what's important even if they are similar.) and they'll have different specialities, areas they've studied more than you, skillsets, etc

When you raise the concern of people using the first idea they are consciously aware of ... you're right. You've identified a problem (i don't mean that it's original, just that you see it yourself, which is good). You have a criticism of many possible actions because they rush into things when thinking a bit longer first would have been worthwhile. Great. This will be very useful when using the general pattern of acting on your ideas barring knowing bad things, but not acting on ideas you know bad things with.

(The English word "problem" is ambiguous between referring only to bad stuff, or including stuff that isn't bad too. I changed the last sentence of the previous paragraph to use the term "bad things" for clarity".)

In the example above, it’s possible you want just what was said (an answer to a question like whether the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is true). But there are alternate explanations for the idea that you want that - you might actually want something else. Such as:

  • You want an intellectual self-image, so you are lying to yourself about wanting to know MWI because wanting that fits the image you’re after.
  • You want to be able to impress people, so you just want to know arguments about MWI that will impress people.
  • You want to be entertained, and you find discussing MWI entertaining even if the discussion never resolves.
  • You want to defeat a particular person in an argument, and you know the person you want to defeat is an MWI skeptic, so you want to know arguments he can’t answer.
  • You want to participate in an FI discussion, and MWI is just a topic that you think FI will highly approve of discussing.
  • etc.

All of those are good problems to be aware of. In addition to what you say here, it's important to have some understanding of how to identify when these problems are and aren't happening. That can start simple and crude, and be refined as you learn more and get better at stuff.

High level, I think resolving this to figure out what you actually want from the discussion fits in the general category of introspection.

But how should the lower level details of it work?

Being mistaken about what you want, or lying to yourself or others about what you want, is a common problem. Dealing with this problem occurs in the general context explained above. It also occurs in the general context of using conjectures and refutations to think. And some other general contexts.

There are lots of useful more-specific approaches to this problem such as:

  • Seeking out information about what's wrong with our culture from questioning type people who have already worked lots of things out. Such as TCS, PUA, the anti-superstition stuff like James Randi, various criticism of religion, Szasz's criticisms regarding "mental illness" and medicalization of everyday life, and Ayn Rand's criticism of altruism.
  • Living normally but being on the lookout for problems. And when you find problems, try to understand what went wrong, figure out what mistakes led to it. This can lead to introspection.
  • Learning to think, argue, judge ideas, etc, very well and objectively (non-introspectively). The better you get at it, including catching lies, the easier it will be to use apply to yourself. This can be approached many ways, one is reading and discussing Popper.
  • Learning to spot other people's common flaws and lies in our culture. Get better at this and it's easier to see some of the same mistakes in yourself. An example way to approach this is to take advice articles and stories (movies, books, tv show plots, etc) about romance and criticize flaws. like fisking it or like this critical post: 23 Ways To Keep Your Romance Alive (and part 2).

if you develop your skill to the point it's really easy for you to write something like that about a wide variety of articles and stories -- you can just rattle off lots of criticisms quickly without much effort -- then that'll go a long way towards dealing with such problems in yourself. but be warned, many people have found developing the skill more modestly isn't very effective though. that is, by an effort they manage to write a couple critical pieces like that which are broadly pretty decent (though worse, more simplistic, more naive, etc, in many subtle ways). and then they find they are still a romantic at heart, and nothing much has changed besides adding a little inner conflict to deal with (though that usually doesn't last too long, they come up with some rationalizations and shut their mind closed).

this gets into a common theme: people really skimp on skill development. if they'd develop skills to much higher expertise -- until they have the skill for things to be pretty easy -- instead of stopping the moment they think they have enough skill to maybe barely succeed -- their life would be far more efficient and successful.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Discussion Basics

you have a problem. e.g. you want an answer to a question like whether the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is true. or you want to know how to build a submarine. or you want to know how to win Overwatch games. or you want to know how to treat your children.

this leads to other problems:

  • how do you ask a question?
  • how do you read the answer to a question from someone else and understand it?
  • how do you judge if an answer is good or bad?

and working on this leads to other problems, e.g.:

  • how do you take one or more answers with some value, but some flaws, and improve them into one good answer?
  • how do you know if you understood an answer well enough or should ask clarifying questions?

and working on those leads to other problems, e.g.:

  • how do you communicate effectively instead of ineffectively?
  • what info should you include or not include in communications?
  • what are examples useful for?
  • how and when should you use examples, and how do you make them effective?
  • what topics should i be interested in and talk about and ask questions about?
  • how do you use abstract ideas in your life? what do you do with them besides remember them and occasionally mention them in conversations?

(and you need to be able to come up with questions like these on your own, and come up with more detailed ones and come up with your own thoughts about it, not just ask a really broad generic question with none of your own thinking in it. don't use my list. make your own list. this is a demo, not something you should copy. pursue your own questions, not my questions.)

lots of these problems involve basic stuff that comes up over and over when dealing with many different problems.

things like asking questions and communicating are skills that you'll use over and over. that's why they are basic. they are so important to so many things that people figure you need to learn them early on so you can be reasonably effective in life. everyone is expected to know them.

but most people are awful at lots of basic stuff like this.

and then they keep trying to have discussions while fucking up the basics, and so the discussions fail.

and they never find their way from the discussions to the basics. they don't, on wanting to ask a question, wonder about how to ask questions. they don't, on wanting to communicate something, wonder about how to communicate. they don't take an interest in the skills they are trying to use.

this is horribly broken and is a huge part of how people suck so much and stay so shitty.

you need to learn basic skills. you need an understanding of how to discuss, how to communicate, how to ask and answer questions, how to judge ideas, etc.

if you aren't interested in this, you should become interested in it by seeing how it's needed for dealing with more or less all of your actual interests. your interests lead to these basics (this needs to be an active process of you finding and following leads, not a passive process of being led). unless you're blocking and sabotaging, or passive and helpless.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

iMessages Scammer

An unknown stranger messaged me on Apple iMessages today. I found it funny. My messages are in blue.

That's the entire conversation. I think I triggered him...

Definitely a scammer. Didn't get to find out what type though.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Lying CNN

CNN posted a fake news headline:

Berlin Christmas market: 9 dead, at least 50 injured in truck crash

(Lated updated to "Berlin Christmas market: 12 dead, 48 hospitalized in truck crash")

A major terrorism attack is not a "truck crash". CNN is dishonestly trying to make it sound like a traffic accident.

This is like the fake news headlines that report crimes by illegal immigrants with intentionally non-descriptive terms like "man". Ann Coulter explains:

As described in excruciating detail in Adios, America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, our media already have a totally "open mind" about incest and child rape -- and murder! -- when it's committed by immigrants.

Thus, for example, where I would have chosen the headline: "Illegal Alien Convicted of Incest, Child Rape," The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press went with the less catchy: "Man guilty in case of human smuggling.”

And where I would have used the headline, "Illegal Alien Repeatedly Raped 14-year-old Girl at Job Site," The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, Mississippi, went with the more subtle, "Columbus resident charged with molestation.”

Donald Trump did much better than CNN:

Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin. Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.

I wrote a CNN-style version of Trump's statement:

Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying truck crash in Berlin. Innocent pedestrians died in the streets adjacent to the crash as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Drunk and other bad drivers continually slaughter motorists and pedestrians in their communities and this needs to change. These unsafe drivers and their memes must be educated to drive safely, a mission we will carry out with all safety-loving partners.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (4)

Ideas Matter

My new newsletter is out! It's a philosophy essay which you can read below. (Sign up here to receive newsletters!)

Explaining Philosophy Is Hard

There's several important ideas about philosophy to explain first. But you can't talk about them all at once. That's difficult to deal with. The issues are:

1) Explain that philosophy is the most important thing in the world, and in your individual life.

2) Explain specific philosophy ideas, e.g. how to discuss rationally, how to judge ideas, and how to treat children decently.

3) Explain how to learn philosophy instead of just reading a little bit and thinking it sounds nice.

4) Explain what philosophy is (ideas about how to think well and effectively, which is necessary for solving problems). And explain that everyone uses philosophy (the type of philosophy mentioned in previous sentence, not all types), and it's better to know what you're doing.

If I talk about (1) first, people often won't listen and claim it's false without understanding what it means. And even if they'll listen, they don't yet know how to judge ideas rationally. They don't know what to make of it or how to have a rational discussion to a conclusion. So their judgement and discussion of (1) are bad. And even if they decide philosophy is important, they still don't really know what to learn or how to learn it.

If I talk about (2) first, people generally like that better and agree more. But they treat it as a fun diversion or hobby, not something of the utmost importance. They don't study it seriously and learn it in depth, they only pursue a superficial understanding (which they overestimate because they don't realize what high quality of ideas is achievable).

If I talk about (3) or (4) first, people don't care because they don't see philosophy as really important. They'd rather learn something about philosophy (2) than something about how to learn philosophy (3). A learning method (3) only gets anywhere if you also care (1) and have some things you want to learn with it (2).

The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power.

The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them—from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default.

-- Ayn Rand

Reaching Actual Conclusions

In each case, people usually don't learn philosophy and don't discuss the disagreement to a resolution. They silently ignore rational philosophy, or silently judge it's false. Or occasionally they argue back and forth a couple times, then quit without the discussion reaching a conclusion.

People don't know how to pursue issues to conclusions. And generally don't want to. They think it's too time consuming, and don't make the effort to learn how to do it faster (which they often think is hopeless because the methods taught at schools, and which are well known, don't work). The reason it takes too long (or usually never reaches a conclusion at all) is because they're doing it wrong and are ignorant of the correct methods.

People think that's just how life is. You disagree, everyone has their own opinions, and so what? Answer: whenever two people have contradictory ideas, at least one – and often both – are mistaken and could learn better ideas.

Chronic disagreements often cause misery in families and elsewhere. Disagreements become chronic because people don't discuss them to a conclusion, so issues don't get resolved. This misery is due to having no idea how to resolve disagreements rationally, rather than being a necessary fact of life.

There is a way to reach conclusions about ideas, and discuss disagreements, in a timely manner. I call it Paths Forward. It addresses all criticism in a time-efficient way so that if you're mistaken, and a better idea is known, you won't ignore it and stay mistaken unnecessarily.


Lots of people say they care about ideas and care about the truth. Maybe not the majority. But many people think they are rational people with good ideas who think about things. That's pretty common. They have some respect for thinking, truth, and reason. These people ought to learn about how to think (philosophy) and how to discuss (philosophy) and specifically how to reach conclusions in discussions. But they usually either want to do something else or think they already know how to think and discuss.

To some extent, people are lying about their interest in the truth (lying to themselves even more than to others). They bicker and treat intellectual debate as a game. They don't systematically pursue ideas in a way that gets anywhere – produces actual conclusions. And they don't address all criticism of their positions. They ignore many known reasons they're mistaken which someone is willing to tell them, which isn't how you find the truth.


Note: Reaching conclusions in one's own mind is fundamentally the same issue as reaching conclusions in discussion. It uses the same methods. Self-discussion – thinking over issues in your head alone – works the same as discussion with others. In both cases, there's multiple contradicting ideas and you need to sort out what's true or false.

The main difference with self-discussion is people are biased and pick a side without actually knowing the answer. They don't have someone else arguing against them to pick up the slack for pointing out flaws in the ideas they are biased for, and good aspects of ideas they are biased against. (And when they do have someone arguing with them, they usually find it frustrating and want the guy to concede without actually figuring the issues out.)

I Address All Criticism

I have a different approach. I've addressed every criticism of my positions. There are exactly zero outstanding criticisms of my views. And I've energetically searched for criticism, I'm well read, and I've written tens of thousands of discussion contributions – so this isn't from lack of exposure to rival ideas. I seek out critics and will talk to anyone in public. But, sadly, I find other people don't want to understand or address my criticisms of their ideas.

Many people think this sounds impossible. How could I address every criticism? But when you're able to actually reach conclusions, there's no reason you can't do that on every common issue related to your thinking. Reaching conclusions one by one adds up. If you reach two conclusions per week, you'll have over 1000 in 10 years. And once you know what you're doing, in a good week, if you focus on thinking, you could figure out 20+ things, not just 2.

And some ideas and arguments are able to address dozens of criticisms (or more) at once because they involve a general principle. Good arguments usually address many criticisms, not just one, which conveniently saves a ton of time.

Sometimes you need to revise conclusions you reached in the past. Most people have such shoddy thinking that more or less all of it needs revision. But if you do more error-correction in the first place then less is needed later on.

Parents and Teachers Destroy Children's Minds

I possess ideas that would change the world if people cared to think. But they don't want to learn ideas or address criticism of their status quo beliefs.

One example: Current parenting and educational practices destroy children's minds. They turn children into mental cripples, usually for life. They create helpless followers who look to others to know what to do.

This is an opportunity to stop destroying your children, and also explains much of why it's so hard to find anyone who will discuss rationally or learn philosophy. Almost everyone is broken by being psychologically tortured for the first 20 years of their life. Their spirit is broken, their rationality is broken, their curiosity is broken, their initiative and drive are broken, and their happiness is broken. And they learn to lie about what happened (e.g. they make a Facebook page with only happy photos and brag that their life is wonderful). Occasionally a little piece of a person survives and that's what's currently considered a great man.

When I use words like "torture" regarding things done to children or to the "mentally ill", people often assume I'm exaggerating or speaking about the past when kids were physically beaten much more. But I mean psychological "torture" literally and they won't discuss the matter to a conclusion. It's one of many issues where the opposition refuses to think.

Typical parenting and educational practices are psychologically worse than torture in some ways, better in other ways, and comparable overall.

Parenting more reliably hurts people in a longterm way than torture, but has less overt malice and cruelty. Parenting is more dangerous because it taps into anti-rational memes better, but it also has upsides whereas torture has no upside for the victim.

Parents follow static memes to get obedience and pass on various ideas whether the child likes it or not. When children react with things like heavy crying and "tantrums", parents don't even realize that means they're hurting their child badly (much like torturers ignore the screams of their victims). And when the child stops crying and "throwing fits" so much because he learns he'll only be punished more for it, parents take that as evidence their child loves them. Stop and think about that for a minute. Everyone knows parents make their children cry hundreds of times and throw dozens of "tantrums". Everyone knows children often go through a "rebellious phase" (fighting with their hated parents) when they're age two, and when they're a teenager, and often during any or all of the years in between as well. Everyone knows there routinely are massive conflicts between parents and their children.

If you're blind to children being psychologically tortured, it's because you went through it too and rationalized it. Your parents hurt you and hurt you and crushed you until you became obedient and started thinking what you were told to think. Including believing, as demanded, that they were kind and gentle and loved you.

Punishments hurt children. That is their only purpose. Parents punish children to beat obedience into them. Period. And why do schools have tests and grades? So they can find and punish the children who didn't do as they were told (learn to repeat some ideas they aren't interested in and aren't allowed to disagree with).

It's so sad to watch after you see what's going on. But people don't want to learn to change. People would rather deny the world's problems than seriously consider – and discuss to a conclusion – ideas like these (which strike them as extreme and out of bounds).

You Could Be A Great Thinker

If you wanted to, you could ask a thousand questions, read everything you could get your hands on, and energetically pursue a better life with rational ideas. And you could pretty quickly be one of the world's best philosophers, since there isn't much competition. The world needs more thinkers very badly. You could help. (All people without major brain damage are plenty capable because innate degrees of intelligence and innate talents are a nasty myth. That's one of the things you could learn about.)

Or you could think I'm wrong, and not say anything in order to prevent me from pointing out the holes in your reasoning. Or you could think I have good points and then do little or nothing, but console yourself by pretending you intended to and telling yourself you appreciate most of what I write. Or you could think you're doing something else that's even more important, and never discuss which is actually more important. That's up to you.

I'll Continue Regardless

What's up to me is to continue improving the cutting edge ideas in philosophy, even if I must do it alone. And to seek out anyone who cares to think and learn, even though I live in an irrational, anti-intellectual culture. Whatever you do, I'll continue. I, for one, know that good ideas are the most important thing on Earth.

If you're interested, act like it. Read, learn, think, discuss.

A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation—or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.

You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are?

-- Ayn Rand


The Pursuit of Happiness.

No One Else Discusses Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand Quotes Discussion.

Critical Review of Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature.

Paths Forward links. These talk about how to rationally discuss to a conclusion instead of dropping out of discussions while not addressing some criticism.

Rationally Resolving Conflicts of Ideas. If you genuinely want to learn, it involves reading multiple links and books, and discussing them to clear up misunderstandings, find out details, get questions answered, etc...

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Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Follow Your Interests

To a first approximation, follow your interests. If you see a problem with that, take an interest in fixing your (other) interests.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

Super Mario Run

Super Mario Run is a fun new iOS game.

It has regular 2d Mario levels. It plays a lot like a regular Mario game, but you automatically run right and tap to jump. You can also spin (tap in air), wall jump (tap on an edge), jump different heights (hold tap jump for longer or shorter), and pull back while in the air (slide left during a jump). The controls are well done and the game is designed for them. This isn't a console game ported to bad iOS controls. Every level is designed to work well with the controls. And they added some stuff to work well with the controls, like pause blocks. On pause blocks, Mario stops moving until you tap, which lets you decide the timing for when to run past some obstacles, just like in a regular Mario game where you control movement.

The game has 24 levels but a lot of replay value. Replay levels to try to get all 5 pink coins in one play through. Then you get to play a second version of the level (a few things get moved around or added) with 5 purple coins. Get the purples to play the black coin version of the level.

I beat all the levels on my first day. The base levels aren't very hard. I'm over half way through getting the pink coins now, and I've done a couple purple and black coins. The pink coins usually take a few play throughs to get. Most of them aren't super hard, but a few are. And so far it looks like the later coins get a lot harder. 😄

There are 5 extra characters to unlock. Luigi can jump extra high. Yoshi has his flutter jump. Peach can float down gradually. Toad and Toadette run faster than Mario. Peach, Yoshi and Toad can't use extra characters can't use mushrooms like Mario, they just die in one hit without the chance to be big and become small when being hit. So everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Switching characters can help get difficult coins. I've used Peach and Yoshi to get some high up coins with their jumping mechanisms. Toad is my main character now since he runs faster. I used Mario to get a coin that was right after an enemy who was really hard to dodge without missing the coin, since he can take a hit. Mario is good in the ghost house levels too since you most often get hit there.

The game also features Toad Rally. This lets you run levels with a short time limit to collect coins and get applause from the crowd. You play against a real run a human did recently. Win and gain toads, lose and lose a smaller number of toads. There are 5 colors of toads and they let you build up a kingdom. You can place buildings and decorations depending on how many toads you have. There are also special buildings. Playing Toad Rally requires a ticket to enter, and the tickets are in short supply. Buying buildings costs coins, but you end up with tons of extra coins, they basically don't matter.

Here are some tips on getting a big kingdom with lots of toads quickly, which also lets you unlock more characters:

Beat all the regular levels before you play toad rally. You want to be a decent player so you can win the majority of the time.

You can rematch after you lose. Only do this if the opponent has a low score for the type of level and you feel very confident you'll win in one more try (you only lost because of multiple large mistakes). Don't rematch unless you think it's an easy win.

There are different types of levels. E.g. the sand levels for 3 red and 2 yellow toads. Cave levels for 3 red and 2 blue. Basic levels for 5 red. Ghost house levels for 3 red and 2 purple. Sky ships for 1 of each color.

Focus on one type of level at a time. And practice that type of level first, then play a bunch of rallies for it. E.g. replay all the ghost house levels several times each and work on gathering coins from them. Then play 3 red and 2 purple toad rallies which will be in ghost houses. The levels you play in the rallies aren't identical to the regular levels you can practice, but they're fairly similar and some parts are the same.

It's much easier to win a type of level you've practiced recently and then played a bunch of in a row. Only change types of levels when you reach a goal number of toads. You also occasionally don't get the right type of level from the 5 opponents you can choose. In that case, I'm not sure if waiting will change the opponents available or not. One way to continue is to play the red only levels because they're the easiest so they require less practice (just make sure you're Toad which will give you a significant advantage on those levels for a while until people catch on and also play Toad). And I did red only because losing red toads doesn't matter much, they're the easiest to get plenty of to meet the requirements for purchases (you'll get a bunch of reds while working on any other color). Alternatively, play the previous type of level you were working on which you still remember well.

In general, play the rallies as Toad. Going faster is a big advantage in most levels. Mario could be considered for ghost houses, and Peach or Yoshi could be considered for sky levels with a lot of jumping over empty space. Make sure to practice with a character a bunch on regular levels before using them in rally. They each take some getting used to, especially Yoshi. Playing only Toad in rallies is a reasonable strategy too. But dying is really punished and some other characters are safer on certain levels. (Mario can get hit by a ghost without dying if he gets a mushroom first, Peach and Yoshi can jump over pits more easily.) Also there's a cave level where coins appear in front of you in a line which you are meant to follow and get them as they appear. But Toad runs too fast, which is inconvenient. I think he needs to swipe left during jumps in order to stay with the coins better. I considered switching characters so the timings would work better, but Toad still seemed like the best on the other cave levels, and I didn't know which I'd get. So I plan to use the swipe left while jumping to slow down strategy next time I get the moving trail of coins.

To get more toad rally tickets, you need to unlock special buildings. Aim for the Yellow Bonus House and the Long ? Block first. So far (I've only used them a couple times) looks like you can get around 5 rally tickets every 8 hours from those. The blue bonus house I got coins once and nothing twice, but it looks possible to get rally tickets (don't know how many). The red bonus house appears to be a 50% chance of one rally ticket, and the regular ? block just gives 100 coins. I don't have the mega ? block unlocked yet so I don't know what it gives.

You get the red bonus house and the regular ? block pretty much right away, I forget exactly how. The game basically gives them to you just for getting started.

Then definitely focus on the yellow bonus house and long block, just play the rallies needed for those only. You might have to get the first rainbow bridge before they show up, but only do that first if they aren't showing up. (Once you get something you can't see the requirements to unlock it anymore.)

Unlocking things in the right order is important. Think of bonus houses and ? blocks as offering recurring income. The sooner you get your income, the more stuff you'll get from it. Would you rather get paid $100/week starting today or starting next month? You want to unlock the best rally ticket income right away because you will run out if you play much and be limited by tickets.

To unlock Toad, make a Nintendo account (or link it if you already have one). Do this early on so you can start getting used to Toad and use him for rallies. (You probably want to do your first play through of the regular levels with Mario, being able to take an extra hit is really useful when you're new, you aren't in a huge hurry, and the levels are designed to work well for Mario.) You get Peach for beating every level. Yoshi, Luigi and Toadette require unlocking toads. Yoshi you can get pretty early, but the other two require a lot of toads.

Here's my stats so far after the first 2 days:

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (11)


I've identified a common, huge problem people have. They struggle with indirection.

They want Z. They find out that doing W will help them figure out X which will help them solve one problem with Y which is a component of Z. But they don't care about W much. They wanted to deal with stuff more directly related to Z. At every step in the chain of indirection, their motivation/interest/etc drops off significantly.

This ruins their lives.

Indirection is pretty much ever-present. Doing things well consistently requires doing some other stuff that's connected to it via several steps.

Say you want to be a great artist, but you're bad at English. This gets in the way of improving at art, e.g. by discouraging you from reading art books (reading is a difficult, slow struggle for you) and causing frequent misunderstandings of the content of art books and lecture videos. Do you then spend significant time and effort improving at English in order to improve your art? Many people wouldn't. They wanted to spend time working on art. They like art but not English. They're relatively rational about art, but not about English. And they suck at indirection. They do things like forget how working on English connects to their goal of making progress at art.

A lot more indirection than this is typical. When working on English, they will run into some other problems. While working on those, they'll run into sub-problems. While working on those, they'll run into sub-sub-problems. They'll need to solve some sub-sub-problems to make progress on the sub-problems to make progress on the problems in the way of English progress to enable making more progress with art books.

Sub-sub-sub-problems often get into philosophy and some other generic issues. They are bad at learning. They dislike criticism. They have problems with emotions. They aren't very precise or logical. They're biased rather than objective. They don't understand effective methods of problem-solving. They aren't persistent and just want things to be quick and easy or they give up and look for something they find more intuitive and straightforward. They are too "busy" or "tired". They are directing a lot of their effort towards their social life, and getting along with people, rather than to problem solving. etc, etc, etc

People are fine with indirection sometimes. They want a cookie, and they spend time reaching for a cookie jar and opening it, rather than only directly eating the cookie. That bit of indirection doesn't bother them.

One reason people have a problem with indirection is they have little confidence in their ability to complete long range projects. They don't expect to get to a positive conclusion they can't reach very quickly. They have a long history of giving up on projects after a short time if it isn't done yet. So any project with a lot of steps is suspect to them. Especially when some of the steps fall outside their primary interests. A physicist will work on a 20-step physics project, and if he doesn't finish it's ok because he was working on physics the whole time. But he won't work on learning philosophy of science in order to do physics better because if he doesn't complete that project (not only learn useful things about philosophy of science, but then also use them to make physics progress) he'll be unhappy because he enjoys physics but does not enjoy philosophy of science.

A major reason people suck at longterm projects is because their lives are overwhelmed with errors. Their ability to correct errors and solve problems is in a constant state of being overloaded and failing, and they end up having chronic problems in their lives. There are other reasons including that people have little clue what they want and that they have little freedom for the first 20 years of their lives so they can't reliably pursue longterm projects because the projects are disrupted by the people who control their lives (especially parents and teachers). After a whole childhood of only succeeding much with shortterm projects, people carry what's worked – and what they've actually learned how to do – into their adult life.

People also, frequently correctly, lack confidence in their own judgement. They think there is a chain of connections where they work on W to work on X to work on Y to get Z. But they don't trust their judgement. Often correctly. Often they're wrong over and over and their judgement sucks. It requires better judgement to deal with indirection. People with bad judgement (almost everyone) can have somewhat more success when focusing on limited, easy, short projects with fewer layers to them. But that's no real solution. The structure of life involves many connections between different areas (like English skill being relevant to being an artist, and philosophy skill being relevant to being a scientist) rather than being a bunch of narrow, separate, autonomous fields.

Pursuing problems in an open-ended way often takes you far afield.

One of the other issues present here is people have limited interests, rather than open-ended interests. That's really bad. People ought to have broader curiosity and interest in anything useful and important. One of the reasons for such limited interests is most people are really irrational with a few exceptions, so their interests are limited to the exceptions where they are less irrational. This gets in the way of open-ended problem solving where one seeks the truth wherever it may be found instead of sticking to a predetermined field.

a typical example of people sucking with indirection is they don't click on links much. they treat native content (directly in front of them) considerably differently than content one step removed (click a link, then see it).

this comes up in blog posts, newsletters, emails, forum discussions, on twitter, on facebook, in reddit comments, etc.

it's much worse when you reference a book. but even a link is such a big hurdle that most people won't click through and even check the length or see what sort of content it has.

this is pathetic and speaks very badly of the large majority of people who are so hostile to links. but there it is.

people do click more when you use crude manipulation, "link bait", cat pictures, etc. hell, a lot of people even click on ads. nevertheless the indirection of a link is often enough to kill a philosophy discussion. partly because their interest in philosophy is really fragile and limited in the first place, and partly because "do X (click link) to get Y (read more details on this point)" is actually a problematic amount of indirection for people.

another problematic kind of indirection for most people is discussing the terms or purpose or goals of a discussion, rather than just proceeding directly with the discussion itself.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (21)

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 webpage or George Reisman's Capitalism: A Treatise On Economics, but allow publicizing the evil, anti-capitalist 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, it tries 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 of 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 have dealt with all those flaws if he'd continued to engage in discussion, but he wouldn'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 reuse 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.


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. And remember that my HBL posts are publicly available to read, so you can fact check my claims.

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 (previously I was only banned from posting). Binswanger offered no explanation or reply.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (50)

Block Havoc Video

Block Havoc is a hard, fun game where you dodge obstacles by spinning two balls clockwise or counterclockwise. I made a gameplay video with commentary. You can see me die a ton of times and talk about what I'm doing and how I'm figuring the game out a little at a time.

Update: I made a second video! I play Hard, Dark (445 high score!) and Color mode. Lots more commentary!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (21)