Re: Books on rationality

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Jun 07 2002 - 17:43:21 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> In this view, debates over the real meaning of truth, beauty, rationality,
> etc. are not terribly useful. There are going to be many overlapping
> conceptions of such things, and the human language term is going to be a
> fuzzy mixed-up combination of them (furthermore a combination that shifts
> over time).

Only if you start from the fixed idea that Rationality is Good and then
argue over the precise definition of Rationality, which is by definition
Good. Admittedly this is the usual course of events in such arguments, but
by no means the only possible one.

When I select out a certain set of ideas and label them as "macho
rationality" rather than "real rationality", I am not arguing from some
fixed, central definition of Rationality. I just try to show that if you
use macho rationality as your guide, you'll end up being wrong half the
time, where real rationality would have done better.

Simply because we are differentiating certain kinds of mental patterns into
"macho rationality" and "real rationality", or into "rationality" and
"irrationality" and "arationality", does not imply that we are doing so via
the standard, sterile philosophical means of arguing from definitions. You
can call "macho rationality" oobleck and "real rationality" fizzbin and it
won't change my argument, which is not that fizzbin is "more rational" than
oobleck but that fizzbin "works better for uncovering the truth" than
oobleck. I thus see no reason to call it "arguing over definitions".

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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