The Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Blogger


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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4 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    We’re always wrong. We’re never right. We only *may* be right. There is reality, and then there are our attempts to express things about it with sounds and scratchings. Step back one small step, and this should strike us immediately as absurd. I still believe relative closeness to or distance from reality in our expressions exists, but just barely. But “Truth” is certainly approximate, though not totally arbitrary. These things seem clear to me (proof of my commitment to some connection between reality, perception, and expression). From this perspective, then, I have a hard time relating to the experience of difference as astonishing, especially when it comes to ideas of justice. Who would choose to be wrong? The concept of choice, if it is to have meaning, rules that out as a conscious process. Because we can be wrong when we have chosen what we think is right. Our cognitive faculties are not perfect, and if there is wrongness in our thought at all, our awareness of it will likely be a lagging indicator. We must surrender when we are wrong, but Yudkowsky’s very point is that we also must be prepared to surrender when we think we are right, well before we are convinced we are wrong. We don’t have to surrender to the negative proposition, we can surrender just to, “It must be X or not-X, but I don;t know which it is.” And can surrender back to the previous position if we restore confident rightness. But we should easily, willingly surrender. Shorter Y is simply, ‘Be more flexible, less certain.’ You seem to be saying, ‘Yeah, that’s probably right, but I’m not going to.’ And that is perfectly fine, but it’s not impressive.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

      I wonder at the experience of difference, not because I expect similarity to myself and find myself disappointed, although I certainly do. I wonder instead at how inventive people appear to be. I wonder not merely at how they are different, but at how many differences there are, and at how wild they seem. (If you think I’m talking about you, I’m not. I’m talking about the Jansenists.)

      We also must be prepared to surrender when we think we are right, well before we are convinced we are wrong.

      Under what conditions? If we are not very careful about these, we run into the evil twin of the virtues, namely cultish thinking. We become convinced that our own conclusion of “I’m right” must give way to the extra-hyper-rational person next to us, or to the one who convinces us of his or her extra-hyper-rationality. Perhaps Ayn Rand, or even Eliezer Yudkowsky.

      As to your take on X and Y, do you mean them to correspond to the virtues and the Wiki, respectively? Because if that’s the case, you have misread the essay. I mean them only to refer to “what one group believes” and “what another group believes.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Sorry – Y was short for Yudkowski. Your responses are very fair.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Thanks for the clarification. With that in hand, I would actually backpedal a bit myself.

          We should of course be flexible when we are objectively wrong. We shouldn’t be flexible when we are objectively right, at least I think we’d agree to that. And then there’s a big gray area in between, with many things that feel like certainty but aren’t, and with lots of things that (reassuringly!) feel like exactly what they are — uncertainty.

          How do we navigate that gray area? The Great Wiki and Yudkowsky’s virtues are two interesting heuristic approaches, but they do stand in tension with each other.Report