« Regret is a form of mental time travel | Main | You have options. In religions. In everything else. »

May 14, 2021

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Beautiful Talk from Julia Galef!!!

Synchronicity! Brilliant post.

I just saw this video from Vsauce yesterday, β€˜The Future of Reasoning’ and love the the way he breaks down our reasoning processes and biases.

https://youtu.be/_ArVh3Cj9rw


Hate to be contrarian, but my immediate reaction was: WTF is this?! Sure, being a "scout" is better than being a "soldier", but why must one be either?

Thing is, the scout, as much as the soldier, is someone with a vested interest. A scout isn't an independent entity, the scout's very reason for existing, qua scout, is to further the ends of the side he's on. The soldier does that by fighting, the scout by scouting. They differ in how they go around doing what they do, but the actual end goal they have, the both of them, is to somehow, anyhow, ensure that their side wins.

To that extent, the scout mentality is one of corrumption, disingeniousness, venality, dishonesty. If their side requires genocide, then what the scout will do will find the best way to bring about that genocide. Even if their side is squarely in the wrong, the scout will do his damnedest to ensure that side wins. All of his rationality, to the scout, is merely the means to an end.

(To take Galef's own example: It had been the French army's goal, in that instance, to catch the actual spy. That rest of them went about it in soldierly fashion and got the wrong man. That colonel person, I forget his name, starts with a 'P', went about it in scoutly manner, and exonerated Dreyfus. So far so good. But had it been in the French army's interests to deliberately frame Dreyfus, and had it been the colonel's orders to see to it that Dreyfus was framed, then in acting like a scout he'd merely have found the most effective way of doing that. That's rationality, and better than closed-mindedness, sure, but that's half-assed rationality.)

To the person who holds critical thinking above all else, the end is, equally as much as the means, the function of what they see and understand and evaluate. That is, emphatically, not what being a scout is about.

------

I realize the scout thing's just an analogy, as Galef uses it. Well, IMNSHV -- in my not so humble view! -- that analogy is, like I said, half-assed. Galef has her heart, and her head, in the right place; and she's kind of cute too; and the case she makes is well worth making, and well enough made too; but she'd have been better off making that case directly.

-------

To be clear, that's more like a nitpick off a theme that I'm otherwise entirely in agreement with. More and more people need to come out and make a case for clear critical thinking. So that things like Trumpism -- which, unfortunately, is getting more and more common, and in more lands than the orange horror personally infests -- might be eradicated from their roots, for ever.



Real-world example?

Seen the recent CDC guidelines on masks and distancing? And Biden's foolish parroting and amplifying of that position?

It's idiotic, because, as the CDC itself mentions, elsewhere on its own website, whether vaccines act on transmissibility, and how much, hasn't been conclusively evidenced yet. It's likely, sure, but not quite in the bag yet. Besides, given that efficacy, whether for transmissibility or for severe illness, while high, isn't cent per cent. To say that effficacy is 94% is to also say that there's a 6% risk. Given that most people can do most things the economy requires while still wearing masks and while still observing distancing, I'd say that it's premature, and foolish, to do away with these measures until such time as a much higher percentage has been vaccinated.

So, if you're a soldier for Biden, you'll defend this policy nevertheless. If you're a scout for Biden, you'll point to Biden, privately, the idiocy of his policy direction, but in public refrain from criticizing him. And if you're a truly independent, rational human being, you'll not worry about Biden's image overly much, or even whether he himself stays or goes, or even for that matter his party. Biden himself is only the means to an end, and not the other way around.

(And of course, one can take that down as many levels as one needs to. Not limit it just to Biden, or the polity he represents, or for that matter country he represents. And regardless of what polity and what country you yourself represent. Because in the end, while you do inhabit a certain polity and a country, you don't actually "represent" it, in that sense. Not in the final analysis.)

-------

That's what I meant. The truly rational human being is no one's agent. He's no one's "scout".

Which isn't just semantics. I've called my criticism of Galef's motic nitpiciking; and in a way it is; but it's not just a semantic disagreement, it does go deeper than that.


Sorry, typo: 'motif', not "motic".

Appreciative Reader, you seem to be mixing together truth and morality, is and ought. Yes, the truth of what-is can be used as the basis for a moral should-be judgement. But the emphasis of the Scout is on learning the truth.

How that truth is used is a different thing. An army scout could truthfully report on the situation outside a besieged city, information that then could be used by a general to bomb the city and kill many innocent civilians.

That doesn't take away from the value of truth.

It's like saying scientists should never have conducted research into the nature of the atom because this could be used to make an atomic bomb. OK, but the truths learned have also saved countless lives through the creation of sophisticated medical diagnostic devices and such.

"Appreciative Reader, you seem to be mixing together truth and morality, is and ought."


I thought over this, after reading your response, to see if that might be the case. I don't think I am, as far as I can see.


---


"Yes, the truth of what-is can be used as the basis for a moral should-be judgement. But the emphasis of the Scout is on learning the truth."


It's also on using the truth for a certain purpose. You're a scout, and find out a bridge is beginning to give way. You don't go out and shout that out to the enemy, and warn them that that bridge might end up killing their men unnecessarily. You report your findings to your commanding officer. You're not a free agent. You are not your own master.

(Generic "you", obviously. And, like I'd said, I realize the scout thing was a metaphor, an analogy. That's why I said that I realize I"m nitpicking. Nevertheless the nit isn't quite insubstantial, is my point, given that that analogy seems to be the centrality of her book -- or at least, the central motif of your abstract, and her video talk, not to mention the title of her book.)


---


"How that truth is used is a different thing. An army scout could truthfully report on the situation outside a besieged city, information that then could be used by a general to bomb the city and kill many innocent civilians."


And the free agent, having seen what the scout has seen, may choose not to report what he's seen at all, realizing that this might end up killing people; or even report this to the enemy instead, if his rationality leads him to see that as the better course. The scout wouldn't do that.


---


"That doesn't take away from the value of truth."


Agreed. It doesn't, no. It doesn't, at all, detract from the value of truth.


---


"It's like saying scientists should never have conducted research into the nature of the atom because this could be used to make an atomic bomb. OK, but the truths learned have also saved countless lives through the creation of sophisticated medical diagnostic devices and such."


Nope, not saying that.

It's more like saying that the German scientist, who's employed by the Nazis, and who owes them his allegiance, sees that his research would lead to the atom bomb; and, using his rationality to guide not just his research, but more broadly to guide his larger purposes as well, chooses to turn that over, instead, to the allies.

My point was, the free agent is his own master, which the scout is not.

Sure, like I said, it's better to be a scout than a soldier; but there's no need to necessarily be the one or the other, it's better to be a free agent. In that sense the scout analogy -- while I realize it's just an analogy -- is, well, lacking, when seen as an ideal.

Just googled Julia Galef. She's doing great work, with that Center for Applied Rationality of hers.

Not too much publicly available stuff there, though, on the CoAR website, more of workshops and stuff is what'they're into, but still, they do have a few good talks there. Plus, Galef's Wikipedia page has some nice references and links to articles, that I know I'll enjoy checking out at leisure. I've bookmarked both.

---

Endeavors like these, organizations like these, are exactly what we need, to fight the pandemic of superstitious and irrational thinking that seems, somehow, to be swamping us of late, the world over.

@ It's more like saying that the German scientist, who's employed by the Nazis, and who owes them his
@ allegiance, sees that his research would lead to the atom bomb; and, using his rationality to guide not just
@ his research, but more broadly to guide his larger purposes as well, chooses to turn that over, instead, to
@ the allies.

I tend to agree. How to best serve truth is not always so clear or binary.
Claus v. Stauffenberg (Jul 20 plot to kill Hitler) was a soldier-scout hybrid
as was Col. Picquart of the Dreyfus affair. Both were patriotic and slightly
antisemitic at the same time. Stauffenberg reputedly was heard to make
an antisemitic remark but was still a fervent patriot who loved Germany
and supported Hitler's expansionist initiatives until shown evidence of
genocide.

Stauffenberg and Picquart could have resigned their commissions and
refused to accede to a soldier's mindset at all. They would have drawn a
bit of historical approval at least. Both choose more active opposition.
They suffered imprisonment and/or execution as a result. Predictably
though their more active roles resonate with us.

Our actions are colored by our emotions as Galef argues. It's not always
clear what the correct course is. Arguably, for instance, Stauffenberg might
alternatively have resigned when the evidence was clear and conducted a
more cautious, potentially more effective resistance from the sidelines.

It's certain that, as Galef (and mystics too by the way) have made a case,
that we need to be in touch with our emotions and what goes on within us
to best serve the truth.

Dungeness,
So true about emotions and feelings,we should not neglect them.
They are pointing the way to handle..
The outcome is mysterious ofcourse..that is lifeΕ› secret.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Welcome


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.