↑ comment by MarkusRamikin ·
2013-03-04T08:53:54.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm going to continue to oppose "rationality quotes" where the strategic message is obfuscated by or represented by bullshit.
I agree with you in principle. Whenever I see a quote that needs to be read very charitably before it can be interpreted as a rationality quote, I feel we're scraping the bottom of the barrel. But, sometimes, a statement can be a poor choice as words of wisdom for a modern audience, and yet have value in its original context or domain. And by value I don't mean popularity, I mean successfully conveying an intended message.
I'm all for promoting a preference for clarity, directness, and penalising obscurantism. I've said it before, but reading Less Wrong in particular had a strong impact on my own standards of deciding that the author even has anything to say. But not every useful message in history, at all times and in all cultures, was conveyed with those kinds of standards in mind. It's one thing to say "this is unclear and seems out of place here". It's quite another to state with great confidence that a statement must be bullshit just because I happened not to have the background knowledge to understand it.
A bit of an aside: while we have this "cached thoughts bad" meme here, relying on pattern matching and cache lookups isn't automatically bad. It's a necessary part of saying something non-literal, without which human communication would be very flat and boring.
To my understanding, what this statement brought to the table, above the thoughts already cached by the students, was the iconoclastic shock. Especially in a culture where there's an expectation of deference and not questioning of teachers and authority, it would be all too easy for students to be told "don't get stuck on worshipping the Buddha and the patriarhs, that's not the point", and nod sagely and continue with the same idolatrous attitude as before. But when one teacher says "you must kill the Buddha!", or another, as traditions have it, spits on a statue, it's not as easy to convince yourself nothing happened. (One wonders if anyone ever responded by asking why they had all those statues around in the first place.)