Link: "You're Not Being Reasonable"

post by CronoDAS · 2010-09-15T07:19:46.694Z · score: 12 (15 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 9 comments

Thanks to David Brin, I've discovered a blogger, Michael Dobson, who has written, among other things, a fourteen-part series on cognitive biases. But that's not what I'm linking to today.

This is what I'm linking to:

You're Not Being Reasonable

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been getting myself into more online arguments about politics and religion lately, and I’m not happy with either my own behavior or others. All the cognitive biases are on display, and hardly anyone actually speaks to the other side. Unreasonableness is rampant.

The problem is that what’s reasonable tends to be subjective. Obviously, I’m going to be biased toward thinking people who agree with me are more reasonable than those lunkheads who don’t. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t objective standards for being reasonable.


I learned some of the following through observation, and most of it through the contrary experience of doing it wrong. You’ve heard some of the advice elsewhere, but a reminder every once in a while comes in handy.

Yes, much of it is pretty basic stuff, but as he says, a reminder every once in a while comes in handy, and this is as good a summary of the rules for having a reasonable discussion as I've seen anywhere.

And the rest of the blog seems pretty good, too. (Did I mention the fourteen-part series on cognitive biases?)


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Relsqui · 2010-09-15T20:42:21.800Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I once wrote a very similar list, composed of questions to ask yourself when in an argument. I don't remember most of it, but my favorite one was:

"Are you wrong?"

I think a lot of people are happy to spend a long time arguing a point, responding to rebuttals and forming their own, without ever honestly considering whether their point is not correct. It becomes a game of argument and counter-argument rather than an actual exchange of ideas. If you want to play that game, you're certainly allowed to--but be honest with yourself that it's a game, not a conversation (and don't play it with other people without their consent).

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T06:54:16.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I once wrote a very similar list, composed of questions to ask yourself when in an argument. I don't remember most of it, but my favorite one was:

This is yet another situation where my favorite question is "What do I want?" Being rational is the easy part - if and when I pull 'have an epistemologically rational conversation" goal into my self awareness. On the other hand if realize that social factors are more important to me I am a lot better at explicitly being social rather than just letting social signaling biases corrupt my epistemic reasoning while I pretend to be defending Truth.

comment by Relsqui · 2010-09-18T07:00:40.957Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is yet another situation where my favorite question is "What do I want?"

That seems sensible--and, actually, stating this explicitly might help avoid some types of conflict. When "I want to be entertained by having a nitpicky argument" meets "I want to convince you because I'm passionate about this," someone's going to wind up unhappy.

comment by apophenia · 2010-09-15T19:14:34.469Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A related link: Paul Graham's Disagreement Hierarchy

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-15T14:07:16.493Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like his rules for reasonableness--though there are exceptions to most of them, they are good heuristics overall.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T07:04:21.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In addition, reasonable people take the time to find out why their arguments are rejected, and in the future either use a different argument or at least address the identified deficiency.

Sometimes the deficiency that needs to identified is the intellectual capability of the people with whom you are arguing. You can be addressed that problem by speaking to different people or choosing a different subject. This isn't 'reasonable' but it is certainly practical and rational. Being reasonable is overrated.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-09-18T06:59:10.942Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Technical note RE: the linked article:

You don't know it if you can't prove it by empirical, external means.

I don't agree, at least as it applies to a strict definition of 'prove'. Some things are just ridiculously hard to prove and some things are not empirical.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2010-09-15T18:56:45.951Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Was this perchance motivated by the unpleasantness that developed in a recent thread? In any case, the point (3) in the article you link to seems highly pertinent in that context, and I would venture to say, the point (5) also.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-15T19:38:01.286Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A little, but it's mostly coincidence; I decided to make this post immediately after reading the linked article.