Re: Overconfidence and meta-rationality

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Mon Mar 14 2005 - 16:39:10 MST

--- "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>

> In retrospect, I learned the wrong lesson. I
> acted as if, just because
> my parents and rabbis said "experience is
> greater than intelligence", I
> could arrive to the truth simply by reversing
> their mistake. I was
> foolish to let foolish people define my
> question for me. The truth is
> very hard to find. Other people's mistakes
> have no power to tell you
> where the truth hides, even if you reverse the
> mistakes. You cannot
> attain the precise dance of the Way by
> reversing someone else's randomly
> wandering error. But human nature is to say
> "Nay" where your opponent
> says "Yea", to let yourself be defined by the
> positions you oppose...
This reminds me of a passage from some book by my
fave author, Robert Anton Wilson. He was talking
about this very issue, using the example of the
Double Cross. The Double Cross was a mindfuck
British military intelligence laid on the German
military intelligence during the Second World
War, IIRC. When the Brits would catch an Abwehr
spy working in England, they would 'turn' him if
possible, getting him to agree to continue as a
double agent and feed his bosses back in Berlin
bad data. About 20% of all Abwehr staff were
double agents, even including Admiral Canaris,
the head honcho! And the British added to the
mischief by using the double agents to tell the
Germans that "The British have turned a large
number of Abwehr agents and are using them to
feed Abwehr bad info." This nasty little
Epimenides trick was called the Double Cross, and
it created a double bind for the Germans. If
true, the Brits were feeding them lies, and if
not, then the Brits had fed them a lie, and who
were the doubles, and which info was bad? As RAW
points out, "the Double Cross could never be
penetrated by so crude an engine as simply
believing the opposite of what one was told."
And, as RAW has Aleister Crowley say to a
character in a completely different book, "Did
you think the truth was a dog, that would come
running when you whistled?"
> But the life lesson still holds. I don't much
> credit the beliefs of
> people whom I don't think are applying their
> actual intellects to a
> question. Nor would the modesty argument have
> served me well.
And one more pithy quote about truth:
The nearest each of us can come to God is by
loving the truth.
Buckminster Fuller
It doesn't take me long to tell whether someone
loves the truth or not, and that's pretty much
how I choose my friends (and regrettably my
Tom Buckner

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