Typical Sneer Fallacy

post by calef · 2015-09-01T03:13:53.781Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 45 comments

I like going to see movies with my friends.  This doesn't require much elaboration.  What might is that I continue to go see movies with my friends despite the radically different ways in which my friends happen to enjoy watching movies.  I'll separate these movie-watching philosophies into a few broad and not necessarily all-encompassing categories (you probably fall into more than one of them, as you'll see!):

(a): Movie watching for what was done right.  The mantra here is "There are no bad movies." or "That was so bad it was good."  Every movie has something redeeming about it, or it's at least interesting to try and figure out what that interesting and/or good thing might be.  This is the way that I watch movies, most of the time (say 70%).


(b): Movie watching for entertainment.  Mantra: "That was fun!".  Critical analysis of the movie does not provide any enjoyment.  The movie either succeeds in 'entertaining' or it fails.  This is the way that I watch movies probably 15% of the time.


(c): Movie watching for what was done wrong.  Mantra: "That movie was terrible."  The only enjoyment that is derived from the movie-watching comes from tearing the film apart at its roots--common conversation pieces include discussion of plot inconsistencies, identification of poor directing/cinematography/etc., and even alternative options for what could have 'fixed' the film to the extent that the film could even said to be 'fixed'.  I do this about ~12% of the time.


(d): Sneer. Mantra: "Have you played the drinking game?".  Vocal, public, moderately-drunken dog-piling of a film's flaws are the only way a movie can be enjoyed.  There's not really any thought put into the critical analysis.  The movie-watching is more an excuse to be rambunctious with a group of friends than it is to actually watch a movie.  I do this, conservatively, 3% of the time.

What's worth stressing here is that these are avenues of enjoyment.  Even when a (c) person watches a 'bad' movie, they enjoy it to the extent that they can talk at length about what was wrong with the movie. With the exception of the Sneer category, none of these sorts of critical analysis are done out of any sort of vindictiveness, particularly and especially (c).

So, like I said, I'm mostly an (a) person.  I have friends that are (a) people, (b) people, (c) people, and even (d) people (where being a (_) person means watching movies with that philosophy more than 70% of the time).


This can generate a certain amount of friction.  Especially when you really enjoy a movie, and your friend starts shitting all over it.


Or at least, that's what it feels like from the inside!  Because you might have really enjoyed a movie because you thought it was particularly well-shot, or it evoked a certain tone really well, but here comes your friend who thought the dialogue was dumb, boring, and poorly written.  Fundamentally, you and your friend are watching the movie for different reasons.  So when you go to a movie with 6 people who are exclusively (c), category (c) can start looking a whole lot like category (d) when you're an (a) or (b) person.

And that's no fun, because (d) people aren't really charitable at all.  It can be easy to translate in one's mind the criticism "That movie was dumb" into "You are dumb for thinking that movie wasn't dumb".  Sometimes the translation is even true!  Sneer Culture is a thing that exists, and while its connection to my 'Sneer' category above is tenuous, my word choice is intentional.  There isn't anything wrong with enjoying movies via (d), but because humans are, well, human, a sneer culture can bloom around this sort of philosophy.

Being able to identify sneer cultures for what they are is valuable.  Let's make up a fancy name for misidentifying sneer culture, because the rationalist community seems to really like snazzy names for things:

Typical Sneer Fallacy: When you ignore or are offended by criticism because you've mistakenly identified it as coming purely from sneer.  In reality, the criticism was genuine and actually true, to the extent that it represents someone's sincere beliefs, and is not simply from a place of malice.


This is the point in the article where I make a really strained analogy between the different ways in which people enjoy movies, and how Eliezer has pretty extravagantly committed the Typical Sneer Fallacy in this reddit thread.


Some background for everyone that doesn't follow the rationalist and rationalist-adjacent tumblr-sphere:  su3su2u1, a former physicist, now data scientist, has a pretty infamous series of reviews of HPMOR.  These reviews are not exactly kind.  Charitably, I suspect this is because su3su2u1 is a (c) kind of person, or at least, that's the level at which he chose to interact with HPMOR.  For disclosure, I definitely (a)-ed by way through HPMOR.

su3su2u1 makes quite a few science criticisms of Eliezer.  Eliezer doesn't really take these criticisms seriously, and explicitly calls them "fake".  Then, multiple physicists come out of the woodwork to tell Eliezer he is wrong concerning a particular one involving energy conservation and quantum mechanics (I am also a physicist, and su3su2u1's criticism is, in fact, correct.  If you actually care about the content of the physics issue, I'd be glad to get into it in the comments.  It doesn't really matter, except insofar as this is not the first time Eliezer's discussions of quantum mechanics have gotten him into trouble) (Note to Eliezer: you probably shouldn't pick physics fights with the guy whose name is the symmetry of the standard model Lagrangian unless you really know what you're talking about (yeah yeah, appeal to authority, I know)).

I don't really want to make this post about stupid reddit and tumblr drama.  I promise.  But I think the issue was rather succinctly summarized, if uncharitably, in a tumblr post by nostalgebraist.


The Typical Sneer Fallacy is scary because it means your own ideological immune system isn't functioning correctly.  It means that, at least a little bit, you've lost the ability to determine what sincere criticism actually looks like.  Worse, not only will you not recognize it, you'll also misinterpret the criticism as a personal attack.  And this isn't singular to dumb internet fights.

Further, dealing with criticism is hard.  It's so easy to write off criticism as insincere if it means getting to avoid actually grappling with the content of that criticism:  You're red tribe, and the blue tribe doesn't know what it's talking about.  Why would you listen to anything they have to say?  All the blues ever do is sneer at you.  They're a sneer culture.  They just want to put you down.  They want to put all the reds down.

But the world isn't always that simple.  We can do better than that.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-02T01:47:45.720Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait! Before we invent more needless jargon, can we just call this defensiveness?

You're right that defensiveness comes from assuming someone disagreeing with you is a status attack (which it many times is) and therefore leads to you not taking it seriously (which is often the wrong thing to do).

However, I suspect this is a deeply ingrained behaviour in humans, and not just the result of learning.

Replies from: moridinamael
comment by moridinamael · 2015-09-02T02:09:49.397Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree. I think we should name it after an obscure deity, and anthropomorphize the effect.

"Hey, I was just offering constructive feedback. Looks like you're being influenced by Azazel again."

Replies from: gjm
comment by gjm · 2015-09-02T11:15:41.424Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps I'm just exceptionally obtuse, but it's not clear to me whether this is a serious suggestion or poking fun at those who do this (Eliezer with Azathoth, Scott with Moloch, neoreactionaries with Cthulhu, etc.).

(I think on balance it would be a bad idea, but it doesn't seem crazy enough that I'd be poking fun at it, nor brilliant enough that I can't imagine others doing so.)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-09-01T03:58:19.338Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect the anecdote about Eliezer only sidetracks your readers.

Typical Sneer Fallacy: When you ignore or are offended by criticism because you've mistakenly identified it as coming purely from sneer.

Hence the problem with sneer in actual criticism. Not that I'm opposed to sneering. Far from it. But you'd better be making solid points while you sneer. If you make a bunch of half ass points just to sneer, don't expect people to dig your one diamond out of that pile of crap. They will look elsewhere for criticism, if they're interested in it at all. And quite reasonably so.

EY writes:

But the thought that su3su2su1 could just walk through finding errors in every chapter is laughable, and since he's clearly making up most of it, you shouldn't be surprised that he's making up all of it. If somebody started posting a list of science errors by Scott Aaronson or Scott Alexander purporting to find errors in every post, I wouldn't expect to find even a single real one mixed in.

Yep. Don't expect to find diamonds in a pile of crap. Expect to find more crap.

Replies from: cousin_it, calef, entirelyuseless
comment by cousin_it · 2015-09-01T17:06:07.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what it's worth, I don't think su3su2u1's reviews were a pile of crap. I think they pointed out many real problems, not just with the individual details, but with the way HPMOR misrepresents scientific thinking as a whole. Here's an example (Ch. 96) where he just couldn't take it anymore:

Hiding from Death’s shadow is not defeating Death itself. The Resurrection Stone couldn’t really bring anyone back. The Elder Wand couldn’t protect you from old age.


Step 1- assume that the resurrection stone doesn’t work because you can’t magically bring back the dead

Step 2- decide you want to magically resurrect the dead

Step 3- never revisit step 1.


GO INVESTIGATE THE DOORWAY TO THE AFTERLIFE! GO TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT THE RESURRECTION STONE! DO SOME FUCKING RESEARCH! "I’m going to resurrect the dead by thinking really hard about how much death sucks and doing nothing else.“

I wonder if Eliezer would consider that legitimate criticism?

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2015-09-02T17:02:27.270Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think they pointed out many real problems, not just with the individual details, but with the way HPMOR misrepresents scientific thinking as a whole.

So, I think su3su2u1's strongest point is that the "Slytherin! Just kidding, Ravenclaw!" applies just as well to the story as it does to Harry; you might think it's about the application of science to magic, Harry thinks it's about the application of science to magic, but it's really not; it's about rationality, and the methods of rationality. As one of Eliezer's recent Facebook updates puts it:

In retrospect, one of the literary problems I ran into with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is that there was no clear signal until the final chapter of what the story was about.

And much of this is a meta-point, rather than explicit text: Harry, little professor that he is, isn't good enough at rationality to avoid shooting himself in the foot, because knowing the concepts isn't the same as living the methodology.

(I suspect that Eliezer agrees with a sanitized version of this criticism. To clarify, if I recall correctly, su3su2u1 identifies Yudkowsky as author as also being Slytherin, which seems to me to be its own discussion that could get prickly.)

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2015-09-02T18:44:02.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliezer is certainly more Gryffindor/Slytherin than Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff, and so is HPMOR Harry :-)

I agree that the story was intended to be about rationality (and also science, judging from the tons of science references). What it actually ends up being about is another question. To me the main theme of HPMOR is examining the hero stereotype, and it does such a great job that I can forgive its other flaws.

comment by calef · 2015-09-01T04:14:30.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect how reader's respond to my anecdote about Eliezer will fall along party lines, so to speak.

Which is kind of the point of the whole post. How one responds to the criticism shouldn't be a function of one's loyalty to Eliezer. Especially when su3su2u1 explicitly isn't just "making up most of" his criticism. Yes, his series of review-posts are snarky, but he does point out legitimate science errors. That he chooses to enjoy HPMOR via (c) rather than (a) shouldn't have any bearing on the true-or-false-ness of his criticism.

I've read su3su2u1's reviews. I agree with them. I also really enjoyed HPMOR. This doesn't actually require cognitive dissonance.

(I do agree, though, that snarkiness isn't really useful in trying to get people to listen to criticism, and often just backfires)

Replies from: RichardKennaway, buybuydandavis, Pfft
comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-09-01T08:18:36.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect how reader's respond to my anecdote about Eliezer will fall along party lines, so to speak.

My response, the moment I read the paragraph beginning "This is the point in the article where..." was, "This is the real subject of the post and will be a criticism of the person named. The preamble was written to generate priming and framing for the claims, which will be unsubstantiated other than by reference to a discussion somewhere else."

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T14:37:26.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean, if you'd like to talk about the object level point of "was the criticism of Eliezer actually true", we can do that. The discussion elsewhere is kind of extensive, which is why I tried to focus on the meta-level point of the Typical Sneer Fallacy.

Replies from: buybuydandavis, RichardKennaway
comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-09-01T20:24:08.855Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"I'm going to use Joe as an example of The Bad Thing, but whether or not he actually is an example isn't the real point."

On my meta-level point, do you see how this would rankle a person's basic sense of fairness regardless of how they felt about Joe?

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T20:34:26.703Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I never claimed whether he was or not wasn't Important. I just didn't focus on that aspect of the argument because it's been discussed at length elsewhere (the reddit thread, for example). And I've repeatedly offered to talk about the object level point if people were interested.

I'm not sure why someone's sense of fairness would be rankled when I directly link to essentially all of the evidence on the matter. It would be different if I was just baldly claiming "Eliezer done screwed up" without supplying any evidence.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-09-01T19:16:53.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean, if you'd like to talk about the object level point of "was the criticism of Eliezer actually true"

I'm not particularly interested in that. It just seemed to me that the example was the point of the article and the meta-stuff was there only to be a support for it.

I mean, people in class (d) are straightforwardly committing what one might call the Sneer Fallacy. Sneering is their bottom line, and it's even easier to sneer than to make an argument. To adapt C.S. Lewis, it is hard to make an argument, but effortless to pretend that an argument has been made. A similar sentiment is expressed in the catchphrase "haters gonna hate".

But you skip over that and go straight to a meta-fallacy of misidentifying someone as committing Sneer. This seems too small a target to be worth the attention of a post. Eliezer, on the other hand, is a big target. Therefore Eliezer, and not Sneer Fallacy Fallacy, is the real subject.

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T19:39:45.401Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, I wrote this article because Eliezer very publicly committed the typical sneering fallacy. But I'm not trying to character-assassinate Eliezer. I'm trying to identify a poisonous sort of reasoning, and indicate that everyone does it, even people that spends years of their life writing about how to be more rational.

I think Eliezer is pretty cool. I aso don't think he's immune from criticism, nor do I think he's an inappropriate target of this sort of post.

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-09-01T19:46:29.241Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Eliezer is pretty cool. I aso don't think he's immune from criticism, nor do I think he's an inappropriate target of this sort of post.

The problem is that there is no way for anyone to check your claims about the cited thread without closely reading a large amount of contentious discussion of HPMOR and all the parts of HPMOR being talked about, in order to work out who is being wrong on the Internet. Whoever is going to do that?

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T19:52:07.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I never said that determining the sincerity of criticism would be easy. I can step through the argument with links, I'd you'd like!

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-09-01T20:31:20.407Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your dedication to the cause of discerning who has rightly discerned who has rightly discerned errors in HPMOR greatly exceeds mine. I shall leave it there.

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T20:35:41.803Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Haha fair enough!

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-09-01T19:00:43.287Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect how reader's respond to my anecdote about Eliezer will fall along party lines, so to speak.

Which makes for a handy immunizing strategy against criticisms of your post, n'est–ce pas?

(I do agree, though, that snarkiness isn't really useful in trying to get people to listen to criticism, and often just backfires)

Nor, perhaps, is yanking in opposition to people's party affiliations useful in trying to get them to listen to an idea.

I'm actually all for snark and ridicule, but then you really need to be hitting your target, because it is reasonable for people to update that a criticism is relatively unconcerned about finding the truth when it demonstrates another motivation being pursued.

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-01T19:27:44.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which makes for a handy immunizing strategy against criticisms of your post, n'est-ce pas?

It's my understanding that your criticism of my post was that the anecdote would be distracting. One of the explicit purposes of my post was to examine a polarizing example of [the fallacy of not taking criticism seriously] in action--an example which you proceed to not take seriously in your very first post in this thread simply because of a quote you have of Eliezer blowing the criticism off.

The ultimate goal here is to determine how to evaluate criticism. Learning how to do that when the criticism comes from across party lines is central.

comment by Pfft · 2015-09-01T18:03:57.109Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure he actually enjoyed it (e.g. 1, 2), be it through fault-finding or otherwise...

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-09-01T14:17:37.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These seem like pretty good reasons not to sneer, whether or not your criticism is solid.

comment by moridinamael · 2015-09-01T21:15:13.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think a good five-second skill to be cultivated would be to try to identify criticism as such and buffer one's reaction to it.

The typical progression goes like this:

Sally: "Bob, your breath smells."

Bob: (automatically, pre-consciously offended and insulted before having a chance to process the information)

Bob: (tries to frame a response, not aware that he is already on the defensive and thus searching for justifications)

Bob: "I just brushed my teeth, what the hell do you want me to do about it? Also, that's a really rude thing to say to somebody."

The family of rationalist skills related to meditation might help turn this into:

Sally: "Bob, your breath smells."

Bob: (identifies this as criticism, concurrently with becoming automatically insulted and offended)

Bob: (sits with the criticism for a few seconds, attempting to view it objectively and to give time for the sense of offense to dissipate)

Bob: (proceeds with the awareness that he is probably still unconsciously on the defensive)

Bob: "Thank you for the information, Sally. I will try to figure out why that might be."

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-01T21:24:41.803Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bob doesn't sound very smart. The first question he should concern himself with is "Why is Sally telling me this?".

It might be that Sally just wants fresher air, but it might be that Bob forgot that yesterday was their anniversary...

Replies from: moridinamael, gjm
comment by moridinamael · 2015-09-01T21:39:22.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I heartily disagree, good sir. That is exactly the line of thinking that leads to assuming that Sally is telling you this because she's a douchebag and also what the hell does she know, she has body odor.

Maybe Sally is trying to be helpful by giving him information that would genuinely help him. Maybe she's being passive aggressive. Unless Bob forestalls his initial reaction, he's going to automatically act as though the latter is true, and thereby miss out on helpfully meant criticism.

The first step needs to be a pattern-interrupt, in any case.

Replies from: Lumifer, seed
comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-01T23:04:56.547Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You misunderstand me.

Bob shouldn't concern himself with the question "Why the hell is she saying this, who the fuck the bitch thinks she is?" He should concern himself with the question "Such a direct comment about personal hygiene is unusual, is there a deeper meaning behind these words?"

The first step needs to be for Bob to understand the message.

That's where knowing Sally and knowing the context become crucial. Maybe Sally is always direct and doesn't bother with such things as politeness. Maybe Sally looks pissed but Bob doesn't know why. Maybe Bob knows he's in the doghouse and that's just aftershocks from the fight they had in morning. Maybe Sally is highly stressed and is getting a bit ragged at the edges.

Until Bob understands what Sally is trying to communicate, trying to formulate a correct response is pointless.

Replies from: moridinamael
comment by moridinamael · 2015-09-02T02:18:53.056Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I see. I think we are both right. Understanding the motives of the speaker is indeed crucial to actually accepting the criticism. My assertion is that objectively considering motives is practically impossible when you haven't installed the habit of recognizing criticism and pressing "pause" on your response.

If Bob isn't really bothered by the criticism that his breath smells, then he'll have no trouble stepping back and considering why Sally said that. Maybe the bad breath example is too specific - replace it with something that it would genuinely upset you to hear. Or maybe you're more sanguine than me, and criticism doesn't bother you much in general. Criticism does get under my skin. When I'm caught off guard by it, it's already too late for me to analyze the speaker's motives, because my analysis is really just a hasty search for reasons why they're wrong. I think this is the general phenomenon that is the topic of this post.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-02T02:44:41.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Or maybe you're more sanguine than me, and criticism doesn't bother you much in general.

I don't know about sanguine, but I'm probably more thick-skinned than you. I'm not bothered much by criticism.

Maybe I'm fighting the hypothetical, but in your example my first instinct would be not to get defensive, but try to figure out what is going on. Usually there are many ways to express the same idea and the way chosen matters. I could be assuming a too Guess culture, but such a bald statement by Sally looks like a breach of etiquette and those usually have reasons. It all depends on the context, of course, but my default inclination would be to suspect that Sally is bothered by something other than my dental hygiene.

But maybe I'm a bad example -- I don't react to criticism by going into a fight-or-flight mode.

comment by seed · 2020-10-04T05:02:57.730Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bob shouldn't assume anything; he should check whether the criticism is true with an independent third party. People do lie about things like that sometimes.

comment by gjm · 2015-09-02T11:27:30.437Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quite true, but this doesn't affect moridinamael's point: getting over one's initial offended reaction is a prerequisite for answering that question as much as it is for taking the criticism at face value and learning from it.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-09-02T14:35:16.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Moridinamael's point is valid, I'm not contesting it. If you treat criticism as an attack and react to it by dumping adrenaline into your bloodstream, that's a problem to be fixed. My observation was just that what looks like criticism might not actually be one. It could be an insult, for example, or an awkward attempt to communicate something else.

Basically, before gearing up to take criticism literally, make sure it is meant to be taken literally.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-09-03T04:38:22.249Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems to me that Eliezer is basically correct on the physics. It seems to me that you and SU3 looked at a big jump and instead of trying to figure out what he was trying to say, even to the extent of following the links on the reddit thread, just rounded it off to the nearest error you had a counterexample at hand for.

I think "sneer" is a pretty appropriate description.

I have seen some criticism of the example that engages with it, and maybe it would be best to say that it is not a legitimate argument because it relies on fragile things holding when a closely related fragile thing has shattered. But that is a very different criticism.

Replies from: EHeller, calef
comment by EHeller · 2015-09-04T00:42:50.346Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't see how Eliezer is correct here. Conservation of energy just isn't deeply related to the deeper structure of quantum mechanics in the way Harry suggests. It's not related to unitarity, so you can't do weird non-unitary things.

comment by calef · 2015-09-03T23:28:28.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What precisely is Eliezer basically correct about on the physics?

It is true that non-unitary gates allow you to break physics in interesting ways. It is absolutely not true that violating conservation of energy will lead to a nonunitary gate. Eliezer even eventually admits (or at least admits that he 'may have misunderstood') an error in the physics here. (see this subthread).

This isn't really a minor physics mistake. Unitarity really has nothing at all to do with energy conservation.

Replies from: Douglas_Knight
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-09-04T00:54:14.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By that standard of admission, "Gauss the Sane" admitted that Eliezer was correct.

I was very vague because I was not interested in engaging with you.

Replies from: calef
comment by calef · 2015-09-04T01:12:47.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you aren't interested in engaging with me, then why did you respond to my thread? Especially when the content of your post seems to be "No you're wrong, and I don't want to explain why I think so."?

Replies from: Douglas_Knight
comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-09-04T01:37:30.678Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is important to make disagreements common knowledge. That would justify a comment of the form you suggest. That is, however, not the comment I left.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-09-01T13:45:43.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"That was so bad it was good."

I always identified this as (c); why do you put it in (a)?

I don't really want to make this post about stupid reddit and tumblr drama. I promise. But

Emphasis mine. I'm sure you've heard of the pattern "I'm not a racist, but--".

comment by adamzerner · 2015-09-01T22:42:41.667Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nitpick-y point/question, but regarding:

Charitably, I suspect this is because su3su2u1 is a (c) kind of person, or at least, that's the level at which he chose to interact with HPMOR.

My impression is that (c) only makes sense for things that are sufficiently bad. I'm imagining the people who watch bad movies because they enjoy laughing at and correcting the badness. But I don't recall people consuming a work that is mostly very good with the intention of finding the bad parts of it. And so with that prior, I doubt that su3su2u1 decided to read HPMOR to dissect it for its bad parts.

But I'm not sure. Maybe sophisticated people see this as a puzzle/challenge. To take something that is already really good and make it better is a task that really requires you to think and to have a deep understanding of the field.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-02T03:31:46.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Bad" is an aesthetic judgement. Different people have vastly different aesthetic tastes. HPMOR is a particularly polarizing example.

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-09-02T04:21:09.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

True. So I guess what I mean is "things that the viewer thinks is sufficiently bad". Ie. my impression is that a (c) kind of person would enjoy doing this sort of criticism for something they think is sufficiently bad. They wouldn't enjoy doing this sort of criticism for something they thought was mostly good.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-09-02T06:44:40.007Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gotcha, I thought you were making a different point.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-09-01T18:13:35.279Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Solicitin, interpreting, and handling criticism are topics that need to he included in any rationalist canon. The more I read lesswrong, the more Popperian I get.

comment by TheMajor · 2015-09-01T06:45:18.734Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was always under the impression that the particular case of watching a movie was a strong example of belief as attire - forming an opinion (and discussing it at length) about particular bits of a movie everybody watched is a good way to show that you paid attention to details and are capable of complicated analysis (disclaimer: of course there are genuine movie critics, as well as movies that are actually bad and movies that are actually good. I just think the above explains the most common scenario).

I think your general point is correct, though, but I wouldn't say the phenomenon is caused primarily by sneering. People discount opinions they disagree with in general, which includes sincere criticism, and this effect is further strengthened if they get the impression that the differing opinion is offered with insulting as a primary goal.