This is from a Fallible Ideas email.
I wrote (Sept 2017):
but i also did NOT just accept whatever DD said b/c he said it. i expected him to be right but ALSO challenged his claims. i asked questions and argued, while expecting to lose the debate, to learn more about it. i very persistently brought stuff up again and again until i was FULLY satisfied. lots of people concede stuff and then think it's done and don't learn more about it, and end up never learning it all that well. sometimes i thought i conceded and said so, but even if i did, i had zero shame about re-opening any topic from any amount of time ago to ask a new question or ask how to address a new argument for any side.
i also fluidly talked about arguments for ANY side instead of just arguing a particular side. even if i was mostly arguing a particularly side, i'd still sometimes think of stuff for DD's side and say that too. ppl are usually so biased and one-sided with their creativity.
after i learned things from DD i found people to discuss them with, including people who disagreed with them. then if i had any trouble thoroughly winning the debate with zero known flaws on my side, zero open problems, zero unanswered criticisms, etc, then i'd go back to DD and expect more and better answers from him to address everything fully. i figured out lots of stuff myself but also my attitude of "DD is always right and knows everything" enabled me to be INFINITELY DEMANDING – i expected him to be a perfect oracle and just kept asking questions about anything and everything expecting him to always have great answers to whatever level of precision, thoroughness, etc, i wanted. when i wasn't fully convinced by every aspect of an answer i'd keep trying over and over to bring up the subject in more ways – state different arguments and ask what's wrong with them, state more versions of his position (attempting to fix some problem) and ask if that's right, find different ways to think about a question and express it, etc. this of course was very useful for encouraging DD to create more and better answers than he already knew or already had formulated in English words.
i didn't 100% literally expect him to know everything, but it was a good mantra and was compatible with questioning him, debating him, etc. it's important to be able to expect to be mistaken and lose a debate and still have it, eagerly and thoroughly. and to keep saying every damn doubt you have, every counter-argument you think of, to address ALL of them, even when you're pretty convinced by some main points that you must be badly wrong or ignorant.
anyway the method of not being satisfied with explanations until i'd explained them myself to teach others and win several debates – with NO outstanding known hiccups, flaws, etc – is really good. that's the kind of standard of knowledge people need.
Anne B replied (Sept 2017):
Is this a model you recommend for the rest of us to learn? I can give it a try but I don't think it'll be easy for me for two reasons.
1) I've spent decades trying to be a person who DOESN'T argue. What I usually do when someone says something I don't agree with is stop talking about it. I don't want to rock any boats or get anyone mad at me, especially if I'm wrong.
2) I don't really believe that I could very often reach a point of understanding something so well that I could easily refute any competing arguments. I picture myself asking a question here, someone giving an answer I don't fully believe or understand, then doing a bit of arguing back and forth but never reaching a point where we both understand and agree. I'd give up long before that, not wanting to press the issue, and just "agree to disagree" in my mind. Out loud I might concede. Do you really think I could succeed at this kind of arguing? (By succeed I mean fully convince myself of anything?)
Why can I write decent sentences but Kate and most people are bad at it? (See the "Running your own life" discussion from today.)
Because I found thousands of flaws with my writing in the past (including by listening to criticism) and made efforts to fix those flaws.
I did thousands of error corrections. That's what it takes to be good at something which is moderately difficult.
doing thousands of error corrections requires an attitude towards life and learning. you have to be interested in mistakes, including small mistakes, and make changes to address them.
it also requires being able to make changes without it being a huge cost. if changing anything is super expensive, you'll only do it for BIG fixes. you need changing to be cheap to do it thousands of times.
there's no other way to build up skill. you need to be able to make changes cheaply and do thousands of them. and the changes should focus on error correction.
anyone could do this but most people don't want to. and many people have lots of anti-change stuff in their minds getting in the way. but the disinterest in error correction is problem number one. if people cared enough, then they could start a series of enthusiastic attempts to do something about their change-is-expensive problem.
The last two paragraphs you quoted me as writing were not written by me.
What are some ways to set up your life so that changes are cheap?
I'm thinking about stuff like avoiding long-term commitments or other restrictions on your freedom.
Also, don't tie "being right" to your self-image. Having to deal with defensive emotions whenever you are wrong is a cost to changing your mind.