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Praise from David Deutsch

These quotes give some information about what David Deutsch thought of me and why. They help explain why he chose to spend thousands of hours having discussions with me, primarily one-on-one. I’m providing the quotes to help set the record straight because some people have spread misinformation.

2003: “I'm sure you can do it as well as I”. The context here was writing a reply to someone about physics.

2003: “Yes you did [get it right]. Excellent.” Context is that DD and I had disagreed regarding our mental models of a person in a philosophy discussion. Their new messages made it clear that I was right.

2005: “The reason I liked you right away is that you have a mind like a racing car.”

2006: “as I told you, you remind me of Feynman.” And elaborating on one of the ways I reminded DD of Feynman: "He [Feynman] did have huge energy. But, despite winning the Nobel prize and starting off many fruitful projects, I have the feeling that his mind was like an engine that was never engaged to drive anything worthy of it. Was shaking itself to pieces.”

2007: “he [Feynman] was basically in the same position [as you are regarding boredom]. He had this industrial strength meat grinder in his brain, which was designed to grind up entire oxen every few seconds, but he seldom had any oxen.”

Paraphrase from memory (maybe from 2006-8 range): “You’re the second faster learner I’ve ever met, after Feynman.”

Paraphrase from memory (this was early, maybe 2003): “Are you using software to calculate those derivatives?” Me: “No, I’m doing them in my head.” DD: “I’m surprised you could do them so quickly and accurately.” Context: Derivatives are calculus and DD has seen some of the best physicists calculate (and he’s top tier himself).

2010-03-03 IM: "The way you're thinking about the Feynman lectures is very good. Just right, if I may say so."

2010 email. DD asked me some stuff about Burke and Godwin, and I wrote a short essay explaining it for him. He replied: "Thanks. Very helpful. [new paragraph] You should write that paper." DD routinely encouraged me to write academic papers and said I had plenty of both skill and domain knowledge (including in areas outside my philosophy speciality, like Godwin and Burke history). Similarly, earlier in 2010 DD wrote (following many positive comments about some info about Godwin I'd written): "As I have said many times, you ought to write a paper that takes a baseball bat to all those bad pitches re Godwin and knocks them out of the stadium so hard that they'll never come back."

Regarding DD writing The Beginning of Infinity, for years he sent me draft chapters of the book and highly praised my responses, saying they improved the book. I don’t want to share what he said about other people or give specifics, so paraphrasing his highest and broadest praise statement: “Your comments on BoI are much better and much more useful than anyone else’s.” This is one of the reasons DD asked me to create and own the BoI website and BoI Forum (BoI Forum discussion was later merged into the FI Forum, which is still active today). It’s also why he wrote “especially” before my name in the book’s acknowledgements.

2010 email about my ~250 pages of BoI editing comments: "Nearly all your comments are helpful or very helpful, and some are making the summaries, and hence the book, significantly more comprehensible."

These quotes are all from one-on-one, private, written conversations. I’ve shared them, only after careful consideration, because some of DD’s associates have been engaged in a many-year campaign to undermine and attack my reputation with lies, smears and gossip. Part of the false narrative is to downplay the extent of my association with DD, how much he liked me, and why. DD has not publicly contradicted the misinformation nor attempted to set the record straight. So I’ve provided some factual information about the matter. Relevant to that, DD said in 2010: “I am not mad [at you] and do not hold a grudge.” He has never made a contrary statement or withdrawn any of the praise.

Note: Due to extensive interaction for over a decade, DD and I had complex, non-standard, personalized, private policies for handling privacy and permissions. I’ve taken that into account (but won’t explain the policies to protect our privacy). I’ve minimized the quotes to a few that contradict the false narrative.

FYI, the amount Feynman comes up is unrepresentative. Searching for Feynman was an easy way to find quotes.

The purpose of this post is to provide some information that was not previously available and to counter misinformation. For a broader summary see e.g. The History of Taking Children Seriously.

Elliot Temple on April 18, 2020

Messages (8)

I created a David Deutsch blog category. Suggestions for posts to add to the category would be appreciated.

curi at 5:24 PM on April 18, 2020 | #16389 | reply | quote

I just ran into an old email where DD calls me his "colleague" in 2011.

curi at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2020 | #18011 | reply | quote

As some additional documentation of my relationship with DD, here are the dates for the first 50 chat logs between DD and I after we switched from IRC to iChat:

Today I found an app capable of opening these old logs: https://zeezide.de/en/products/past/

Previously, my only way to read them was to use an old computer (a pre-intel Mac).

curi at 9:14 PM on March 14, 2021 | #20172 | reply | quote

#20172 I mean they're the first 50 chats using iChat. We still chatted on IRC some, too.

curi at 9:16 PM on March 14, 2021 | #20173 | reply | quote

I edited the post to add

> "Nearly all your comments are helpful or very helpful, and some are making the summaries, and hence the book, significantly more comprehensible."

and the quotes about writing an academic paper.

curi at 12:58 AM on March 20, 2021 | #20222 | reply | quote

Edited to add

> The way you're thinking about the Feynman lectures is very good. Just right, if I may say so.

curi at 11:24 PM on March 21, 2021 | #20239 | reply | quote

#20239 A few minutes later from the same chat:

18:07:28 oxfordphysicist: Reading Feynman and asking me to clear up snags and misconceptions is a really good plan!

18:07:53 oxfordphysicist: (Not everyone could follow that plan, and I'm not about to invite them to!)

curi at 11:26 PM on March 21, 2021 | #20240 | reply | quote

#20240 I guess that's a bit unclear out of context. He meant that *my* plan was good and was complimenting it/me.

curi at 12:21 AM on March 22, 2021 | #20241 | reply | quote

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