Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Mon Aug 26 2002 - 02:08:39 MDT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Ben Goertzel wrote:
>> Eliezer, you're using the word "rational" to mean "anything that works".
> Actually, I'm using it to mean "Anything knowable to a Bayesian
> reasoner" and am then making the nontautological statement that
> "everything that works noncoincidentally" is equivalent to "everything
> knowable to a Bayesian reasoner".

It will take a while to untangle exactly how, but I think
Eliezer is guilty of Bayesian abuse.

>> For instance, a bird, acting purely on instinct, is acting rationally
>> when
>> it mates with another bird, because it's acting in a way that "works" in
>> terms of achieving its goal of reproducing itself.
> In what way does this have nothing to do with reasoning? It is a
> product of evolution's version of induction. Furthermore, the fact that
> acting in this way will increase the probability of reproduction is
> quite knowable to a Bayesian reasoner. A perfect Bayesian reasoner
> might use a more optimal method of reproduction, but an imperfect
> Bayesian reasoner might end up employing exactly this method. Because
> evolution *is* that kind of imperfect reasoner.

Heh, it doesn't have anything to do with reasoning. It was you
who earlier claimed that everything that works is "rational".
It is you who claimed that evolutionary products are by
definition rational.

Can you directly support the implied claim that all real
reasoning (substitute your doubtless better phraises here) is
bayesian or covered by BPT? I see you asserting this but it
does not strike me as obviously true or yet directly argued for
much less proved.

>> I generally have been using the word "rational" to mean something
>> narrower.
>> Basically, to mean "following a process of logical inference", meaning a
>> process inside some mind in which premises are represented,
>> conclusions are
>> represented, and processes for getting from the premises to the
>> conclusions
>> are carried out. Note that this sense of "following a process of logical
>> inference" is implementation-independent; it applies to neural nets
>> and so
>> forth as easily as to minds embodying some sort of explicit
>> symbol-manipulation component.
> Yes. And because you use "rational" to denote only this kind of
> thought, you can get away with telling yourself that "both 'rationality'
> and 'irrationality' are necessary to thought", thereby avoiding the
> necessity of getting rid of comforting irrational thoughts.

This talk of "getting away with" and avoiding getting rid of
"conforting" irrational thoughts is an invention out of whole
cloth. It begs the question of whether some of the definitions
of "rational" used or implied are in fact rational and whether
some things some speakers claim are irrational or at least
arational are not essential aspects of
thinking/learning/knowing. It may be your opinion but you have
not justified it nor justified that persons arguing these claims
are doing it because they find them "comforting". I find this
line distasteful as it seems to border on ad-hominem or some
kind of more rational than thou thrust.

- samantha

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