Quotes Repository

post by Dorikka · 2015-02-10T04:36:19.814Z · score: 1 (12 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 87 comments

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Quotes are a unique enough medium of expression that I'm interested in viewing quotes that people have found collectable, emotionally impactful, useful, memorable, or otherwise noteworthy - perhaps others are similarly interested. To clarify, these need not be even remotely related to rationality. I'm hijacking the mandates traditionally used for the Rationality Quotes thread, with a few modifications:

Please post any meta discussion in the top-level comment named "Meta".

87 comments

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comment by WalterL · 2015-02-10T19:48:19.033Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I've always loved the initial exchange between Gregory and Syme in "The Man Who Was Thursday".

Context: Gregory is an anarchist poet, Syme is claiming to be a poet of respectability, which Gregory maintains is impossible.

....The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway."

"So it is," said Mr. Syme.

"Nonsense!" said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. "Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!"

"It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!"

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-10T21:58:55.288Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

[pollid:819]

comment by Manfred · 2015-02-11T17:47:17.273Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

As the ancient saying goes, "just because two of you are arguing, does not mean that one of you is right."

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-11T02:02:21.119Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If I were riding, say, the orange line in Boston and I suddenly found myself in Times Square - or even in Alewife (the terminus of the Red line), 'eyes like stars and soul again in Eden' isn't exactly how I'd put it. 'Pretty scary' is. If it happened to everyone in the train, it would be exceptionally scary.

But, one might make good poetry about the event.

comment by AlanCrowe · 2015-02-10T20:27:48.280Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The quote is easier to understand if you are familiar with Bradshaw.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-02-11T11:55:32.240Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like they're using rather strained analogies to talk about subjective preferences in poetry as if they were objective truths. Am I missing/misunderstanding something?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-11T14:07:50.040Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's Chesterton. It's the way he writes, and as always, he is not writing about subjective preferences, but about the true and the good.

Or, as he might put it, with a little anachronism, such rhetorical exaggeration is not a flight of fancy detached from reality; on the contrary, it is exactly because it is such a flight of fancy that it is exact. It is the dull empiric carrying out the sort of work that fills the pages of Psychological Science who (as Ioannidis has shown) is, whether he knows it or not, blown on the wind of subjective folly, and the writer of fantastic stories of sitting on a beam of light who has grasped an objective truth.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-02-11T14:11:39.587Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I take it you're not a fan of Chesterton? Or am I really missing something?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-11T14:17:06.786Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Chesterson is the high verbal low math failure mode.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2015-02-11T20:00:04.744Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but his failure mode is low math precisely because it is high verbal!

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T02:55:56.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's Žižuku!

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-11T14:33:36.849Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the passage quoted here is magnificent (and my vote is on Syme's side). I can read Chesterton for entertainment, and it's good that he's writing about the true and the good, whereas LessWrong recites passwords of facile cynicism as badges of rationality the moment the subject comes up. On the other hand, his method is a set of templates that can be wound up and set walking in any direction. Despite his intentions, I do not learn from him anything that he persuades me is true, but he does provide entertaining ways of looking at things.

And this.

And what IlyaShpitser said.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-14T21:12:18.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yet is not the whole book about man and man's intent? Why should poetry be limited and measured by how it reflects intent (or man)? (Also, I just thought 'confirmation bias' about Syme:) it would be horrible to arrive at a different station, yet it would be a crucial piece of data, since 'the scientific method still stands'.)

comment by RedErin · 2015-02-10T18:21:52.083Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

This one should help you empathize with other people more.

"Everyone has a secret world inside of them. All the people in the whole world, no matter how dull they seem on the outside, inside them they've got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds."

-Neil Gaiman

comment by Jiro · 2015-02-10T22:56:50.700Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like typical mind fallacy. Especially since the quote comes from a writer, who is used to having lots of worlds in his head and may be especially prone to making unwarranted assumptions that his mind is thus typical.

comment by crazy88 · 2015-02-11T08:38:41.213Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is an uncharitable reading of the purpose of Gaiman's quote. His quote isn't really meant to be a factual claim but an inspirational one.

Now obviously some people will find more inspiration from quotes that express a truth as compared with those that don't. Perhaps you're such a person (I suspect that many people on LW are). At risk of irony, however, it's best not to assume that everyone else is the same as you in that regards.

Evaluating something with an emotional purpose in accordance with its epistemic accuracy (instead of its psychological or poetic force) is likely to lead to an uncharitable reading of many quotes (and rather reinforces the straw vulcan stereotype of rationality).

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T02:57:46.723Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I interpret his statement as contradicting the typical mind fallacy. He invites us to consider that others' conceptions of the world might be "unimaginable" to us.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-11T02:24:11.137Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Given that his meaning by "worlds" is ambiguous, it seems unfair to claim he is making a mistake; unless you're suggesting that people don't have private thoughts or that you know what Neil Gaiman would and wouldn't find interesting.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-02-11T12:17:36.818Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Jiro that the typical mind fallacy is likely a large factor here, but I only see it as affecting the quantity/sophistication of worlds-inside-head, and not the quality that most people have them (I won't go as far as the quote's claim that all people have them, though.). I still agree with the sentiment that it's important to remember that people's inner lives are often much more complex and subjectively rational than we may see from the outside.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-10T09:23:07.899Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The usual touchstone, whether that which someone asserts is merely his persuasion -- or at least his subjective conviction, that is, his firm belief -- is betting. It often happens that someone propounds his views with such positive and uncompromising assurance that he seems to have entirely set aside all thought of possible error. A bet disconcerts him. Sometimes it turns out that he has a conviction which can be estimated at a value of one ducat, but not of ten. For he is very willing to venture one ducat, but when it is a question of ten he becomes aware, as he had not previously been, that it may very well be that he is in error. If, in a given case, we represent ourselves as staking the happiness of our whole life, the triumphant tone of our judgment is greatly abated; we become extremely diffident, and discover for the first time that our belief does not reach so far. Thus pragmatic belief always exists in some specific degree, which, according to differences in the interests at stake, may be large or may be small. - Immanuel Kant , The Critique of Pure Reason

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T02:33:16.532Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It is easy to believe; doubting is more difficult. Experience and knowledge and thinking are necessary before we can doubt and question intelligently. Tell a child that Santa Claus comes down the chimney or a savage that thunder is the anger of the gods and the child and the savage will accept your statements until they acquire sufficient knowledge to cause them to demur. Millions in India passionately believe that the waters of the Ganges are holy, that snakes are deities in disguise, that it is as wrong to kill a cow as it is to kill a person - and, as for eating roast beef…that is no more to be thought of than cannibalism. They accept these absurdities, not because they have been proved, but because the suggestion has been deeply imbedded in their minds, and they have not the intelligence, the knowledge, the experience, necessary to question them. We smile…the poor benighted creatures! Yet you and I, if we examine the facts closely, will discover that the majority of our opinions, our most cherished beliefs, our creeds, the principles of conduct on which many of us base our very lives, are the result of suggestion, not reasoning… Prejudiced, biased, and reiterated assertions, not logic, have formulated our beliefs. - Dale Carnegie

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T02:51:16.244Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I like Dale Carnegie in general and think his intentions are good, but disagree with this quote. A different user posted this link a couple weeks ago, I find it relevant: http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=eng_faculty_pubs

Naive believing is easy, but not sophisticated believing. This is similar to how naive doubt regularly fails.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T03:12:23.774Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Consider this specific example... Does Elizabeth Warren Know What Keeps You Running?

How would you characterize the belief/doubt as expressed in that exchange?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-14T00:19:41.968Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Using a rationality quote discussion to jump off into an opportunity to plug your blog with your pet issue is at best mildly annoying. Please don't do it.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T03:19:59.734Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am frustrated when reading that article because it tells me I should doubt a certain set of assumptions but doesn't describe in detail the assumptions it wants me to use to replace those assumptions. "Doubting" in a vacuum is pretty difficult to do well, it's better to create many different ideas and then compare and contrast their strengths and weaknesses.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T03:37:59.365Z · score: -5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Doubt... or test? My assumption/belief is that Elizabeth Warren doesn't know what keeps people running. Your assumption/belief is that she does know what keeps people running. If we can test our assumptions/beliefs... then shouldn't we? Or is the possibility of being right better than the possibility of being proved wrong?

Really this is where betting comes into play..

A bet instantly raises the marginal private cost of error, which leads to a sharp increase in rationality. Faced with financial consequences, people suddenly - if temporarily - admit to themselves that they know a lot less than they like to believe - and bet accordingly. - Bryan Caplan, Beating the Odds: Why Do People Insist on Even Bets?

... which brings us back to Carnegie...

Yet you and I, if we examine the facts closely, will discover that the majority of our opinions, our most cherished beliefs, our creeds, the principles of conduct on which many of us base our very lives, are the result of suggestion, not reasoning… Prejudiced, biased, and reiterated assertions, not logic, have formulated our beliefs.

If you're not willing to bet that Elizabeth Warren knows what keeps people running... then this leads me to believe that you really haven't examined your belief.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T03:46:53.755Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think there's a lot of work within the concept of "know what keeps people running" that needs to be elaborated on before I can even evaluate the question in a coherent way. I think Warren probably understands the politics of Washington DC than I do. I think she better understands working with constituents and negotiating tradeoffs between different goals than I do. I think she better understands quite a lot of policy better than I do. She also has better working familiarity with it than I do.

There's not any clear way to evaluate whether or not Elizabeth Warren knows better than I do how to keep people running. Not taking an ill formed necessarily impossible hypothetical to win bet doesn't prove anything. You're acting like you're extremely rational and you've got skin in the game so you're more trustworthy and have thought things through better, but you're dealing with hypotheticals just as much as I am here. What "test" is it that your beliefs pass that the other beliefs fail?!

Also, I never even said that I am on Elizabeth Warren's side of the question you asked. You sort of just assumed. I don't really feel much enthusiasm for either option presented, however.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T04:24:28.057Z · score: -6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Congresspeople either do, or they don't, know what keeps people running. If they don't know what keeps people running then they really shouldn't be spending our taxes.

If, in a pragmatarian system, people choose to allocate their taxes themselves, rather than give them to their congresspeople, then this would indicate that there was insufficient evidence for people to believe that congresspeople know what keeps them running.

By comparison, when you give your money to a baker it's because he knows what keeps you running... bread! Is this the only thing that keeps you running? Nope. There are plenty of things that keep you running... and you allocate your money/time accordingly. For example... here you are!

Everybody wants to keep themselves running. So if people allocated their taxes themselves, rather than give them to congresspeople, then it really wouldn't seem like congresspeople were doing anything that keep people running.

Right now we give a lot of money to congresspeople... which is a huge problem... if they don't do anything that keeps people running. It should be pretty straightforward that we have plenty to gain and nothing to lose by giving people the option to directly allocate their taxes.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-13T13:26:04.638Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Congresspeople either do, or they don't, know what keeps people running.

Wrong. It's not binary.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T05:23:23.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are you suggesting a direct democracy? Citizens vote directly on policies, rather than electing a representative to vote for them? Or are you saying that individual citizens should choose where their individual tax dollars go? Because that second option seems to defeat the point of raising taxes at all, which is that it helps overcome collective action problems. Wouldn't each citizen just choose to have their tax dollars given back to themself, through either direct or indirect means?

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T08:13:10.957Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm suggesting is that we create a market in the public sector. Individual citizens would choose where their individual tax dollars go.

Citizens would only be able to choose to give their taxes back to themselves if this option was available. But why, if the public sector is about overcoming collective action problems, would this option be available? Is putting money back into your pocket a collective action problem?

So far not a single person has made a donation to my blog. Maybe it's because nobody values my blog? Naw, that can't be right! It's because of the free-rider problem! People guess that I'm going to continue blogging whether or not I get any money... so why should they contribute if they don't have to?

With this in mind I can pretend there are gazillions of people who derive value from my blog. But what if you wanted to challenge my belief? One way you could do it would be to create a blog sector. Everybody would get "taxed" $5 a month but... they could choose which blogs they gave their money to.

With this system in place, what would I be able to say if I still didn't receive any contributions? Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to blame it on the free-rider problem. I'd have to come up with some other rationalization.

Well... maybe I'd give myself $5 a month for my own blog. Why not? Do you think everybody would start a blog so that they could put their $5/month back in their own pockets? If so, then you'd probably have to figure out some sort of threshold. Maybe something like... any blog that 30 or fewer people contributed to would be booted from the blog sector.

Now let's apply this logic to the public sector. If too few people contributed to a public good then we would say that it has insufficient demand breadth. If it has insufficient demand breadth then it's not an adequately large enough collective action problem to warrant inclusion in the public sector. Therefore, people wouldn't be able to spend their taxes on helping to overcome it.

With that under our belt.. we can get back to congress. If people have to pay taxes anyways, but they don't give any of their taxes to congress... then congress wouldn't have sufficient demand breadth. Perhaps congress creates some value (just like my blog) but clearly people derive more value from other public goods.

A blog sector makes perfect economic sense. There's plenty of studies on the free-rider problem. But if you wanted people to elect a small group of representatives to allocate everybody's blog "taxes"... then I'd ask you to cite the economic justification for the additional step. And you wouldn't be able to because it doesn't exist.

I've been digging and debating this for several years and there's absolutely no economic evidence to support our current system. Yet, most people believe in it. This is why I like Carnegie's quote... it's painfully pertinent.

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-14T00:16:50.502Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, you're suggesting that the public should get to choose where their tax dollars go out of a list of preselected options. Who selects the options that go onto the list?

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-14T08:34:46.086Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Voters? Would they want a department of books to be added to the list? It stands to reason that if the list gets longer... congress would probably receive more positive feedback (money) if it raised the tax rate.

Initially I thought that, in a pragmatarian system, the government would be the perfect embodiment of unmet demand. But now I'm not sure whether the public sector would grow larger. This is because the public sector market would be different from the private sector market.

In the private sector market there would be prices and profits but in the public sector market there wouldn't be. But in both markets there would be consumer sovereignty. I don't think that both types of markets can be equally effective though. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Imagine that every vegetarian lied about their preferences. This would result in the destruction of value. They'd order steak that they really wouldn't want to eat! As a result of this increase in demand, more meat would be supplied and society's limited resources would be shifted accordingly. The supply would less accurately reflect the true demand. The lies of the vegetarians would create a distortion.

So the basic rule here is that more honesty equals more value. Getting back to my blog example... if people don't communicate (via money) the amount of value they derive from blogs... well... clearly this will result in less blogs being supplied and less value being created for consumers. Markets work because people have the opportunity to communicate what they value... and this helps guide production. But, as we can see from blogs, music and numerous other example... it's quite possible for people to not communicate their values.

So if the public sector market facilitates better communication of values... then it will create more value and expand accordingly.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-02-13T07:12:48.549Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nobody "knows what keeps people running", and it takes a huge organization with experts in many different fields to give us SNAFU instead of total disaster.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-13T08:23:37.055Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you're a fan of experts in many different fields then why aren't you a fan of pragmatarianism? Maybe you're under the impression that experts work for peanuts?

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-11T14:30:59.208Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The noble lord in this case, as in so many others, first destroys his opponent, and then destroys his own position afterwards. The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of parliamentary discussion: his charge is resistless, but when he returns from the pursuit he always finds his camp in the possession of the enemy.

Benjamin Disraeli, source, on the speeches of Lord Stanley. I often think of this quote regarding the effectiveness (or otherwise) of different kinds of rhetoric.

For context, Prince Rupert was a cavalry commander whose charges were extremely effective at shattering the opposing cavalry, but who was often unable to restrain his troops from going too far, and consequently lost a number of important battles in the English Civil War.

comment by habeuscuppus · 2015-02-11T17:59:22.412Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is of course, the same Prince Rupert for whom the Prince Rupert's Drop is named. Although this is ostensibly because he was the man who demonstrated it to the Crown, I always found some amount of schadenfreude in the fact that the man was known for cavalry charges that went too far and shattered his line as well as the enemy's.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-12T18:00:28.567Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

-Richard Hamming, You and Your Research

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2015-02-13T00:11:53.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former

I doubt this is literally true.

comment by lmm · 2015-02-13T19:31:00.463Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect it is in a research context. It feels literally true in a programming context.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T23:50:06.410Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The same critical concept in two different disciplines:

"Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other things being equal, be more firmly connected with the situation, so that, when it recurs, they will be more likely to recur; those which are accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal will, other things being equal, have their connections with that situation weakened, so that, when it recurs, they will be less likely to occur. The greater the satisfaction or discomfort, the greater the strengthening or weakening of the bond." - Edward Thorndike's Law of Effect, Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies, 1911

"Public services are never better performed than when their reward comes in consequence of their being performed, and is proportioned to the diligence employed in performing them." - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

comment by roystgnr · 2015-02-11T22:40:27.090Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The tersest phrasing I've seen was "You get more of what you reward, less of what you punish". Google finds a 1990 book calling it an "old adage" so I've no idea what the source is.

From what I've read there is one important exception, though: if you apply an extrinsic reward or punishment to a behavior, people can see this as a replacement for rather than a supplement to whatever intrinsic rewards or punishments they had previously associated with that behavior, and this can actually reduce the desired behavior.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-10T09:34:21.256Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But have you ever asked yourselves sufficiently how much the erection of every ideal on earth has cost? How much reality has had to be misunderstood and slandered, how many lies have had to be sanctified, how many consciences disturbed, how much "God" sacrificed every time? If a temple is to be erected a temple must be destroyed: that is the law - let anyone who can show me a case in which it is not fulfilled! - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-28T19:20:00.429Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Human laws aim to induce human beings to virtue little by little, not all at once. And so the laws do not immediately impose on the many imperfect citizens what already belongs to virtuous citizens, namely, that citizens abstain from everything evil. Otherwise, the imperfect citizens, unable to endure those commands, would erupt into worse evil things.

-Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-21T20:17:17.273Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from stupidity. - Alex Tabarrok, The Rise of Opaque Intelligence

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T16:00:12.826Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As readers, we remain in the nursery stage so long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like; this I don't like.

For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don't like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don't like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don't like it.

~ W. H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-10T16:24:44.551Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

But no option for "I can see that this is trash and, though at present I like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to discard it."?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T16:42:44.132Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For completeness we should also add "I can see that this is good and, though at present I like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to dislike it", along with a few others. Though I think it's obvious why that one was left out.

As for your example; aside from unhealthy addictions, why would one want to discard something they currently like, even if it is trash? Some of my favorite movies are trash. I suppose one could make the argument that life is currently too short to waste on sub-par media, but that would depend on how much one's valuation of watchability depends on the artistic quality of the product. For me, at least, the entertainment value I get from a work of art is only partly related to the artistic merit.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-10T17:32:35.660Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As for your example; aside from unhealthy addictions, why would one want to discard something they currently like, even if it is trash?

For the same reason that one might want to acquire a taste for something good but presently disliked. Elevating one's taste to spend more time with the good implies spending less time with the bad.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-10T17:41:11.943Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I notice I am getting confused about the difference between liking something and judging it to be good. Is there even a difference? If there is, is the goal to consume a higher proportion of good media even if you dislike it, or more media that you like, even if it is not good?

Maybe "good", if it is to mean something different than "liked", just means "liked by other people whose opinions we hold in esteem".

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2015-02-11T02:10:23.641Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Good/trash = High status/low status. High status is probably correlated with more-or-less-objectively good things (eg it somehow makes you smarter/more empathetic/better informed), but it's also correlated with being unnecessarily obtuse (so that being able to appreciate it has signalling value).

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-11T00:24:38.972Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. I notice I am getting confused about the difference between liking something and judging it to be good. Is there even a difference?

For example, I can "like" junk food without having the slightest notion of it being "good". With media, my general rule of thumb is that "like" is something that happens in the moment, but judging something good requires that it had a positive impact that went beyond passing the time. I find that "good" things usually prompt some kind of reflection after the fact. I've also found that good media holds up on repeat viewings/readings and each time there seems to be something that I hadn't noticed before.

I hate being vague about it, but such is the nature of the beast.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T19:17:31.708Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I would use the words, judging is a more active process than liking.

My system II might make an active decision that broccoli is good for me while my system one doesn't like broccoli.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-10T19:28:43.100Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about "I can see this is trash and, though at present I don't like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it"?

Goodness is not an inherent property of the book. The closest you could get is talking about what people in general will like. Once you do that, you can get more specific, and talk about what certain demographics will like.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-02-10T20:34:11.192Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For those who believe that there is something more objective about aesthetic quality than just likeability, it usually has nothing to do with what people in general like. It's more about such things as exercise of excellence and virtue on the creator's part, and these things are, to some degree, objective.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-10T21:44:18.978Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Exercise of excellence and virtue doesn't seem objective either. I also don't see the value of a book that's not entertaining. Unless it's educational or something.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-02-11T08:02:43.737Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, whether the creator of the work exercised a particular virtue or excellent skill in the creation of the work can be reasonably objective. It is, in particular, objective in a way that the work's being liked is not: it is independent of the observer.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-11T08:42:03.631Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the virtue or skill is a given, yes. But what virtues and skills are important is subjective. Even the difference between a vice and a virtue is subjective.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-02-11T13:40:43.109Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but that's subjectivity one level higher, as it were: is quality X important? That's relative to a subject who makes the value judgment. But when X is "being liked", then quality X in itself is observer-relative, in a way that other things like the skill exercised by the creator are not (and "being liked by most people" also isn't).

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-12T03:23:40.839Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The skill exercised by the creator is every bit as subjective as the quality of what he makes. Being skilled just means consistently making things of high quality.

comment by Creutzer · 2015-02-13T11:23:00.556Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Being skilled just means consistently making things of high quality.

Just... no. I am not talking about some vague thing such as "being skilled at writing", which you might be able to paraphrase as "consistently writing things of high quality". The kind of skill that I have in mind which might confer value on a work of art is basically the ability to do something very non-trivial which need not in any way involve a value judgment. A very simple example would be to paint something with realistic lighting.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-02-13T20:01:38.851Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How is a painting exercising the creator's skill of painting something with realistic lighting (skill of the creator) any different from a painting having realistic lighting (quality of the creation)? A painting having realistic lighting is not observer-relative, but the importance of realistic lighting is. You can't objectively call the painting "good", you can only say it has realistic lighting. And given how many things there are that you can objectively grade a painting on, it's all too easy to only talk about the good qualities of paintings you like and the bad qualities of paintings you dislike.

comment by Toggle · 2015-02-17T07:54:36.888Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, virtuosity is often roughly measured by the answer to questions like "what fraction of the population could have achieved this goal?" or "how many hours of practice were required to gain the necessary skills for this?", depending on the circumstances in which the word is used. I suppose that's fairly objective, although not precise. If painter A could paint both X and Y, and many painters B, C, D... could paint X but not Y, that is some evidence that painting Y is more 'excellent' than X in some way that goes beyond preference.

It can also be used as a self-compliment on the part of an audience member; in this usage, it is implied that one must have a great deal of experience with the medium in order to appreciate the work.

comment by alienist · 2015-02-10T04:43:47.641Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Meta: How is this supposed to be different from the existing rationality quotes thread?

comment by spxtr · 2015-02-10T04:59:04.125Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The idea is that it's not specifically for quotes related to rationality or other LessWrong topics.

comment by Dorikka · 2015-02-10T04:36:29.937Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Meta

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-11T14:13:53.281Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This quotes repository is linked from the sidebar on the right of the site as the "Latest Rationality Quote" space, and quotes in it are showing up as the "Latest Rationality Quote." This is misleading, and may be because you have "quotes" in the tags for this article.

Is there any way to address this?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-03-02T21:24:55.984Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Removing the "quotes" tag would have done it, or replacing it with quotes-repository. (The issue is 'fixed' now because I made the March quotes thread, but is an issue with these sorts of threads going forward.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T12:06:42.377Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson.

I don't see a reason for that limit. Celebrating our in group is good. If you repeat this thread I would advocate to remove that line.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-10T12:17:05.123Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Echo chambers are bad.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T14:01:31.741Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cutting outside input is bad. Repeating important things usually isn't.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-10T14:22:19.132Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Lernen, lernen und nochmals lernen." -- plastered everywhere in Soviet schools.


This rule is a fence against the situation where Lenin quotes appear everywhere. You think we should move the fence, lots of folks seem to disagree.


LW is not in a lot of danger of missing or forgetting some important thing Robin/EY/Scott/etc. said. LW is in danger of hero worship, and other related cultishness badness.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T18:36:12.157Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think that LW has enough contrarianism and "Why our kind can't cooperate" describes a real issue.

LW is not in a lot of danger of missing or forgetting some important thing Robin/EY/Scott/etc. said.

Spaced repetition theory suggests that it's quite useful to repeat important things that people say.

I also consider it to be quite useful to have a debate about what bits of what Robin/EY/Scott say are of particular importance and what bits aren't. Quotes help the quest of focusing on specific ideas instead of getting lost in complexity.

Robin/EY/Scott/etc.

The rule in this thread allows quotes from Scott.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-10T19:16:21.502Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am taking my reference class and going home.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T19:47:57.934Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Spaced repetition theory suggests that it's quite useful to repeat important things that people say.

So, I think that having each LW page pull a quote from the Best Of Rationality Quotes and put it somewhere would be neat; also, we could have links to the featured articles from the Main Page on every page, so that more people will see them (and it will serve more like the Sequences Rerun). I don't think we really need to have the same thing in many places, instead of pointing to it many times; if I post Yvain's best quotes every month, that gets me a lot of karma I don't really deserve. If, every month, I find five external rationality quotes that haven't been posted here in the years and years of monthly rationality quotes, then that gets me a lot of karma that I do deserve. (And seeing things on an actual spaced repetition schedule is likely better than seeing them as frequently as people decide to repost them.)

The rule in this thread allows quotes from Scott.

I believe this has come up and the consensus (or, at least, my position) was that quotes by Scott should not be allowed in the Rationality Quotes thread.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T20:06:25.293Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

if I post Yvain's best quotes every month, that gets me a lot of karma I don't really deserve.

It's not about posting quotes of third parties that Yvain posted in the quotes thread but choosing quotes from his other writing. Making specific choices about what of his long articles is quote worthy is a decision that adds value.

I don't think we really need to have the same thing in many places, instead of pointing to it many times;

Quoting writing often means to make a choice to select certain passages of writing over other passages. It's not just repeating the same thing.

I believe this has come up and the consensus (or, at least, my position) was that quotes by Scott should not be allowed in the Rationality Quotes thread.

This isn't directly the Rationality Quotes thread and as we are starting a new thread, it's worth to be clear about it's rules.

comment by Gondolinian · 2015-02-11T12:23:40.389Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Making specific choices about what of his long articles is quote worthy is a decision that adds value.

Perhaps we could have an irregular thread for doing just that and trying to find the best passages from LW and peripheral rationality sites?

ETA: Maybe we could also try a thread for summarizing long articles with or without direct quotes?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-11T12:27:27.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I did a while ago open such a thread and the amount of contribution it got was relatively low. I don't see a reason to have the thread separate from this thread.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-02-10T19:40:24.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you repeat this thread I would advocate to remove that line.

You might be interested in this tag, and the two threads made specifically for quoting from LW/OB. I believe there have been more recent ones--specifically, I think there was one in 2013--but I'm not finding it easily. (Every term I would search for shows up in a lot of other places!)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-10T20:02:13.065Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think either of those threads suggests that people want to cite LW/OB too much.

comment by Fluttershy · 2015-02-10T23:37:50.688Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The truth can be of use when you can see where falsehoods lay.

Don't quit on hopes or dreams when you have simply got to -

Chin up! Don't bet on sinking ships because they'll only drag you down!

You've got to keep on sailing even when you want to frown!

The world will keep on turning without matter where you land.

You might as well be running when your feet should hit the sand!

-Rainbow Dash, lyrics to Sinking Ships, a song from Bittersweet, a fan-made episode of MLP:FiM.

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-10T09:48:28.553Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

So far as this is the case, it is evident that government, by excluding or even by superseding individual agency, either substitutes a less qualified instrumentality for one better qualified, or at any rate substitutes its own mode of accomplishing the work, for all the variety of modes which would be tried by a number of equally qualified persons aiming at the same end; a competition by many degrees more propitious to the progress of improvement than any uniformity of system. - J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy

comment by Xerographica · 2015-02-10T09:12:27.708Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every society among all the different employments carried on in it as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

comment by helltank · 2015-02-24T13:30:56.039Z · score: -6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

On religion:

Faith is corrosive to the human mind. -Susan Blackmore

I've never really thought just how damaging blind faith was to my thought processes until I read this quote. It strikes a chord with me.

comment by Weedlayer · 2015-02-24T17:46:01.239Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You should definitely post the entire quote here, not just the snippet with a link to the quote. For a moment I thought the one sentence was the entire quote, and nearly downvoted it for being trite.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2015-02-12T14:06:16.221Z · score: -8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If you're offended by any word in any language, it’s probably because your parents were unfit to raise a child. They were too stupid. They should have been neutered. Because all it is is a sound you can make with your mouth. It’s not a weakness that you have naturally. When you come out of that pink ugly hole onto this planet, you're nothing but a gooey, shrinking, wrinkled ball of weakness. That’s all you are: you're weak, you're nothing but weak, and your parents look at that, and they think: “Not weak enough. We can make this thing even weaker by training it to react poorly to different sounds that you can make with your mouth.”

-- Doug Stanhope

comment by 27chaos · 2015-02-13T03:10:35.939Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even taking many of this quote's assumptions for granted, I'd question whether it's always a bad thing to be weak. Some weaknesses can be strategic - for example, building failure modes into your designs allows them to fail gracefully rather than causing a catastrophe. In this case, I think that being offended by certain words can sometimes have utility because that offense can be used productively in a few different ways.

  1. Offense can motivate people to try harder in their struggles against injustice.

  2. Offense can be useful for persuading other people of a viewpoint.

  3. Offense can cause people to act in ways that are costly but deter others from doing certain things.

The reason I make this point is because I feel that when Stanhope uses the word "weak" what he really means is "coming from a worldview I dislike". I'd be highly surprised if Stanhope was unoffendable himself, if he didn't care about other people's words or thoughts at all. Indeed, in this quote he actually seems to be offended that other people get offended, in a lovely display of hypocrisy.